So last weekend I got another opportunity to hit up the CANTER farm. My own horse (he lives there too) felt that ignoring me was better than getting treats, even, but fortunately the CANTER herd is full of horses that WANT LOVE. WANT LOVE NOWWWW!!!!
Since no existing girths in the world fit my horse, and dealing with his shenanigans is pretty stressful anyway, I went out to the big hill and came back with miss perfectpants. I think one of the reasons I think very highly of her is that, like Canes Palace, she doesn’t get tweaked about coming in. For some reason, in the herd environment, our mares usually get a little herdbound at this farm (which usually goes away after they leave and get into a routine, so we don’t really worry about it). But this filly really could not care less. She gave one little whinny to her concerned herdmates who followed us to the gate, then was all, “curry, please. Oh yes. Right THERE. Thank you, servant.” for the next twenty minutes while I groomed her.
Interesting factoid about the farm where we keep these guys: the other boarders are mostly trail riders. They don’t just trail ride for fun, they train for it. And they train hard. They think up all kinds of wild scenarios and then prep for them. So instead of having a dressage ring set up, or a course of jumps, or whatever I might be used to, I found the ring set up for Trail Obstacle Training.
I’m not sure when you might actually encounter a 6 foot ladder with a rake and festive holiday flag propped up in the rungs. Nor am I sure when you would encounter plastic lawn chairs with craft store scarecrows in them. But the point is, there was some serious bombproofing material in the ring.
And what do I say when there’s lot of good, flapping, six foot high reasons not to ride an ex racehorse with two rides under her belt who hadn’t been touched in a month? Of COURSE I’ll get on, YAY! I haven’t ridden in AGES THIS IS A FABULOUS IDEA!
Sometimes it’s a wonder I’ve survived into my thirties.
Anyway, since I’m obviously still here I guess I can skip a lot and say it went really well. She gave everything the stink eye once, I told her it was fine, and so she decided everything was fine. She walked through the whole obstacle course with me on the ground, including letting me hold and wave the flag, and also letting me pull a kids’ wagon with a lunge line. She didn’t understand why we would want to do such a thing but decided to humor me, I guess.
Once on, she was her usual (I say that like I know her well, with two other rides. Heh.) good self, nice and comfortable, forward, happy. As you can see in my above picture, I still have some bad habits when I ride – painfully aware of this (more aware, in fact, because I am also physically weak), I mostly rode on a long rein, and spent a great deal of time holding mane as my hands are rather undependable. After riding through the obstacle course I had her step over a very tiny jump that had been set up with a number of odd things underneath it. Again, she sort of asked “why? you people are weird.” and then did it anyway.
She earned high praise from a boarder, who was impressed that a racehorse with no retraining would be better at the obstacle course than her well broke and experienced trail horse.
Because that isn’t enough, and it was a beautiful day, I decided she’d be fine to take up the hill on a little hack. She didn’t disappoint. She did get a little nervous once we were out of visual range of her field and comfort zone, but at least the “when in doubt go forward” component of my brain is still there, so we just went to work a little bit. We trotted across the top of the hill, down a slight slope (she’s very wll balanced, downhill is no trouble!), through the middle of a cornfield, and cantered up a gentle slope on the other side. On the way back she jigged a bit when I wanted to walk, so it was leg yielding* and “hey, engage!” for a little bit, which she did very nicely. Usually I feel more comfortable on those first rides if we have a buddy, and I think she’d have been dead calm in that scenario, but she was absolutely wonderful either way. No spook when a bunch of birds took off under her feet, and she was absolutely sensible even when nervous.
I felt confident enough that I rode most of the way back with no stirrups, even though she was just ever so slightly jiggling until she got back in her comfort zone. If there’s one thing I do well, it’s the “I’m a sack of flour” type riding needed for these moments.
I love this mare. I love them all, really. Wait till you see some of the horses relaxing out in those fields. They are all so nice, and so sweet! Next post will be a phototour of the new group
*I call it “leg yielding,” but I’m pretty sure my dressage instructor would hang her head in shame. Either way, it was “leg on, move sideways” and it more or less worked.