Sunday, April 6, 2014

Rainy Day Woman

If it isn't snowing, it's raining, and if it isn't raining, it's below freezing, apparently.

Dear Midwest,

You have been doing a lousy job of PR. "Ohio is so beautiful in the spring!" they say. "You will love all the dogwood blossoms and warm weather!" they say.

Uh huh. Snow, ice, rain, and freezing: I can think of one day I've been here that hasn't been the case, and that was last Tuesday. The next day was a 30 degree drop in temperature and rain.



Anyway. Lex has had kind of a boring week. It's been raining--and, in some cases, thunder storming--and so she didn't have much turnout last week. She gets notoriously cranky when she doesn't get turnout, and I couldn't even hand-graze her because of the constant rain. So gross. One day I put her out in the indoor with my barn owner's TB gelding (they're turnout buddies ordinarily) and they ran around together and blew off some steam. It was great until a huge thunder clap sent them both into a tizzy and I started imagining horses jumping out of the indoor or running into walls, so they both came back in.

I lunged Lex on Friday, because it was just raining and not storming. In fact, there was a break in the rain, although it was windy as hell. I had every intention of riding her, so we went into the indoor and got down to work. I thought she'd buck and act silly and generally let it out, especially given that the wind was distracting me so I'm sure she was noticing it, but she was quite chill. I was actually kind of worried! Was she colicking!? Bad reaction to her spring vaccines??

Nah. She was just quiet. I think she is, actually, growing up.

I didn't end up getting on her because juuuuust as I was wrapping up the short lunging session, an enormous dramatic storm blew in on that wind. She probably would have been okay, but I was the only person on the property and didn't want to risk riding my green hot worry-wart thoroughbred who hadn't been turned out in days alone in the indoor during a thunder storm. Then, by the time I got her untacked and groomed, the storm stopped. That's how Florida storms operate, and in Florida I'd probably have just hand-walked her in the ring until it ended, but my experience so far with Ohio is that the rain is constant. Fooled me. Oh well.

Yesterday, though, the little girl had to go back to work. She'd had about five hours outside, but gain, I thought perhaps she'd be silly or hot. I put her on the lunge line to let her warm up and stretch and she was almost lazy. She'd go forward as asked but then sometimes be all, "walking is nice!" or "I'm done lunging now." I know my horse well enough to know that if something is wrong, she is not stoic. She bucks and pins her ears and tosses her head and refuses to do as asked. So nothing is wrong, I don't think. She's just, like... relaxed. In the words of Shangela, Hallelu.

Sorry not sorry. I love RuPaul's Drag Race.

 To clarify/recap: I don't use lunging to "get the bucks out." I think that's horrible and counter productive. I do lunge this horse in particular for several reasons: 1. To warm up her back before I sit on her--she is a thoroughbred mare, and we can't get mad at her for being a thoroughbred mare. She's cold-backed and I don't blame her. 2. To warm up her brain before I sit on her--she is a thoroughbred mare, and thus she worries and feels like she has to take in her whole environment and figure out where the dragons are. Lunging gets her mind in gear because she has to listen to me. 3. To help with her balance. This is key: She is green and extremely sensitive. Anything I do on her back causes her to adjust in some way. So I want her to figure out her balance without me bothering or adjusting her. This is paying off in HUGE ways, especially at the canter. 4. To make sure she's moving okay. I worry a lot about soundness, especially after everything we've been through. If she's off, I want to see it before I climb up. 5. So she can stretch. She LOVES to trot with her nose to the ground, and when she gets to that point on the lunge line, I know we're close to done lunging and about ready to get on, but I let her trot a few stretchy circles first so she can get herself ready for a rider. She tells me when she's at that point.

So yesterday we actually spent a lot of our lunging time at the walk, because I wanted her to focus on moving where I put her and not cutting in on the circle to the right. If she wasn't feeling too wound up to begin with, we can accomplish that just as easily at the walk as the trot. Then I hopped on and we had some nice trot work. A little tension here and there, but she was being steady and quiet enough that I could really focus on my own position, especially my dastardly weak right leg. The pieces are coming together. Then, because there were people milling about and she was being good, I was like, no time like the present to get some canter work in. We started on the left lead, her good side. I grabbed the martingale strap with my outside hand, the way D always has me do, and focused hard on staying with her in the canter depart and not touching the reins.

Several weeks ago--we've made progress!


Y'all, I almost wept. The left lead canter was the best I've ever gotten from her. She never got rushy or worried. I could circle, go large, whatever, and the canter stayed the same. As long as I kept my weight in my heels and my shoulders back (NOVEL CONCEPT) my horse stayed soft and lovely under me.  It was a magic carpet ride, and I had to make sure I didn't make her canter too long. After a little walk and trot to the right, we worked on that side. It wasn't as good, but I knew that would be the case. The excellent news is, it was never death-defying. A little rushed at times because of balance issues, but if I just kept my damn shoulders back, it made a huge difference. It is my fault when the canter doesn't go well, and when it is good, it's because she's thinking and trying hard. I love her so much.

A little more walk and trot work after that to get the fun cantering times out of her mind, and then she got a good 30 minutes of somewhat muddy hand-grazing for being such a super star.

I love this horse so much. It's kind of insane. But I know y'all can relate.

1 comment:

  1. Boo weather - hope that spring arrives soon ... but in other news - Woohoo sounds like you guys are doing fab!