Anyone remember playing Oregon Trail in computer class? (or the larger role playing version with a giant poster on the wall of your 4th grade Social Studies class?) Well, you always had a few options to take a short cut through "DEATH VALLEY" (or something equally ominous sounding) or trek your tired, hungry, cholera infect butt around the "long, safe, route."
Being the impatient creature I am I always took the short cut and I was nearly always ambushed by angry Indians. (sigh)
Having not evolved much past my 4th grade self, I find that I make my decisions similarly.
Yesterday I went out to the barn after work and having gotten there 30 minutes later than I intended, I was anxious just to tack up and get on. So I skipped any groundwork/join-up stuff and just got ready to ride. I told myself I'd do some leading exercises before I actually got on, but I didn't both grabbing a lunge line or long whip so when I got to the ring (where a semi-private lesson was underway) I gave a halfhearted attempt to start-stop-start-stop the mare and just hippity-hopped on.
As soon as I swung my leg over I knew exactly what kind of ride it was going to be - A tweedley one.
I had noticed that little sparkle in her eye tacking up, the overly alert ears as we walked to the ring, and the "I don't even see you" swinging head, muzzle smack as she looked around at all the ruckus that was going on.
If ever there were a time to stop, slow down and focus the mare on me, that was probably it, but choosing the DEATH VALLEY shortcut, I just wanted to ride. :)
Truth we told we had an okay ride. But compared to the two previous sessions with light, forward, calm energy this one was tense, a bit rushed and much, much scootier..(it's a word. I made it so). We still schooled everything we wanted to, but Prairie had her eyeball on everything but the arena - The donkey roaming around, worker-bees staining some siding, a toddler picking up gravel and hurtling it across the drive (wtf?? leash your kids...), dogs, horses grazing, cars pulling in... you name it, it was way more interesting than our ride.
I got frustrated, and then I got stiff, and you can guess how it went from there.
I think what frustrated me most is that I *saw* the tweedle, but being on "human time" instead of "horse time," I stuck to my schedule and agenda instead of working with the horse that showed up that day.
Darn it. Those damn short cuts just never. ever ever. work. (have I learned nothing from 4th grade Social Studies)
So, this morning I got to the barn with enough time to do some liberty join-up stuff and even though Prairie was calm and tuned in from the get go I didn't want to take any chances.
She didn't evade me once. She came to me instantly (I think she's figured out that is the fastest way to food), and trotted, circled, and yielded her way around the ring. Like a star. Then I tacked her up quickly and hit the ring to school some baby jumps (for our cool baby jump dressage test thing) and our First Level test.
She. Was. A. Stud.
A few bobbles here and there, but (again) when I put my leg on (like, really on) she was right there with me. Calm to the base of all the jumps and remarkably balanced afterwards. Some of our best (most relaxed) jumping I think.
Funny how after a week of jumping our dressage gets better, and after a week of dressage, our jumping gets better. That's probably another pattern I should make a note of.
Anyway. It was a great ride. Especially given that we've had two weeks since we jumped, and it was the first cold, drizzly morning since June. Mare stayed soft, and focused.
Feeling great about tomorrow...