Monday, January 21, 2013

Back on the Trail (and back to the Outdoor)

It was a great weekend with the horses.  Friday I conned The Boy into coming out to the barn with me and giving me a hand scrubbing and medicating everyone's scratches.  (super helpful, also super gross).

Saturday, Supermom drove up to take a trail ride with me, which was the first time I have been able to get Pia actually out on the trails since she came home.  P was a bit of a chicken to get started, but once she got moving she was calm, relaxed and an old pro.  The only unfortunate issue was the "chicken" mode happened right at the beginning as we were leaving the property which resulted in us getting off and walking the horses to keep them moving.  Not so tragic aside from the fact that we were walking them UP A MOUNTAIN and I thought it was more than probable that I was going to suffer a heart attack before I legged back up and let the horses do the heavy lifting.  (note to self, relearn how to drive to gym).

The ride itself was great.  The ground has been mostly frozen so mud was minimal and the fog made the trees fairly pretty and quiet.  It was a great way to spend an hour in the saddle. 
Supermom's view through P's Ears
When we finally made it back, we tootled around the arena a bit and enjoyed the horses before calling it a day and retiring everyone back to some warm, dry stalls.
Supermom and cute P
She's so damn adorable when she's not actively biting you...
I was thrilled to see that Pia's comfort out on the trails is still there.  She's come such a long way from where she was when she started at Summer Camp it is really thrilling to see how much flexible and relaxed she is in new situations now.  Very proud of the little red squirrel.

Prairie's big success came on Sunday when increased temps thawed the outdoor enough to warrant a return to jumping outside.  S set a simple four stride line and after a brief warm up I began by trotting each fence individually on a large circle, then cantering each fence on a large circle.

I'll admit that I was a bit nervous about returning to the outdoor.  Prairie has been so insanely good working inside this winter, that I have been dreading what would happen when we moved back to a bigger space and no longer had confining walls to support our balance and focus. 

Prairie played to all my worries when she immediately resumed freaking out about the "scary end" away from the barn - but after 10 minutes of small circles and shoulder in, she came back from outer space and resumed working like a regular horse. 

Cantering the verticals was... easy.  Relaxed, slow, balanced.  I easily moved Prairie up to bigger distances, and easily reorganized her after each fence.  I was so flipping impressed I was beaming in disbelief.  Then we worked the line.   Something that is always slightly problematic for us.  Prairie gets wiggly, tense and just a bit discombobulated in lines more than two strides.  All of these things were true this time as well - but they lacked the blind-panic-scoot upon landing that was de rigueur last time we worked over fences outside. 

I fell back on what we learned in our grid last week and focused on low and wide hands along with a very supportive leg between fences and we improved dramatically. 

Mind you, up to this point we had been working off our right lead and jumping away from home, toward the scary end - something that always gives us better breaks and control than we we canter (/run madly) away from the scary end and toward the sweet, sweet salvation of the main barn.

Feeling bold and confident we changed directions and came at the line off our left lead, toward home... And Prairie was 100% with me.  I dialed her canter back a bit more than necessary, but we went in quiet, intending to add a fifth stride, which I ended up having to move up to.... and we came out quiet (and on the correct lead!).  Miracle.

Our other new trick was the ability to maintain our canter aaalllllll the way arrrouuuunnnnd and back to the line.  Four months ago, quietly cantering the long side was a challenge, let alone landing from a line (going home) regrouping, maintaining a balanced canter and being organized enough to jump back into the line. 

But we did, and then we started playing with our adjustability.  I opened Prairie up, we did the line in 4, then I brought her back and did it in 5.  Then we opened up and did it in 4... then back for 5 again.

MIND BLOWN.  The mare was quiet, focused and nearly had a loop in her rein the entire time.

So impressed.  so, SO impressed with her ability to take our new balance and focus to the Outdoor arena and still give me the same ride. 

It was a good horsey weekend....


  1. I have to say, I'm semi-terrified to go back to our outdoor when Spring arrives. I imagine a lot of wild cantering/galloping and me just holding on for dear life. Glad to hear your experience actually went well!

  2. Glad the girls have been good! Love trail rides!


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