Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Riding in my first LD event was a big step for team green to 100. With more reflection I am glad we participated in the ride instead of only volunteering because I learned a lot about what my horses need in their conditioning and home riding to be prepared for future AERC events and I don’t think I would have gained that by only volunteering. I am very excited to be volunteering with good friends at the ‘big’ Old Dominion in June. Now that I have some basic understanding of how to ride my horse, it will be good to see the other end, and how people make it through a 100 mile ride which is a big step up in every level.
Now that Faygo is in pretty prime shape and has taken me safely through the 30, it’s time to get back to Khaleesi (ms. green) and start focusing on what she needs to be ready to do an LD ride in the Fall. My good friend Kate, who is a really nice rider, came yesterday to help! She rode Faygo (who needs to stay in great shape!) while I rode Khaleesi on a nice 8 mile trek on a beautiful (if not a bit warm for the horses) day.
Khaleesi is a bit of a mess in the first 20 minutes. She wants to eat, wants to turn around, doesn’t stand still to mount, doesn’t have great steering, walks S-L-O-W… but after some insistence on my part she pulls herself together and by the second half of the ride seems like a “real” horse. Faygo of course was walking out nicely and though she was a good mover before- now she is used to keeping up good speeds and she and Kate were often a ways ahead. That is ok with me, Khaleesi needs to learn to walk out and keep up, or be left behind a bit. She doesn’t panic when she isn’t close to Faygo which I like about her, and on the way home she seemed to be able to walk faster with no trouble- so I don’t feel bad for her just “not being able to” keep up. I know better.
By the middle of the ride Khaleesi would go in front, of course Faygo doesn’t like that, but she and Kate were good sports- and I made her keep moving (none of this going in front and then slowing down the pace!). Once we were warmed up and on good footing we did a lot of gaiting and trotting in intervals, then slowing to a walk for recovery. We have a lovely gradual hill that I told Kate to GO GO GO as it’s a great spot for Faygo’s fast canter and that is like a week of therapy in about 20 seconds. Khaleesi and I followed and it’s the only spot of the ride I let her canter. It was great fun!
Once we returned to the barn we cleaned up and Kate headed to work. I tied up Faygo in the shade, grabbed a magazine and bottle of water and took Khaleesi over to the trailer. Today we were getting on- no excuses- and we weren’t leaving until all 4 feet got on that trailer. I was prepared for hours of standing around in there if need be. I never got frustrated or angry (my expectations were pretty low- that helped me stay relaxed), and I let her stand outside on the ground as long as she wanted and almost never held pressure on the line. We were parked on dirt (not grass) so there was no chance of eating, and she had to at least keep her head in the trailer.
Two feet on… that means I can take a break… right… isn’t that how we do this?
No. It WAS how we did it last fall when you were 4 and didn’t trust me. Now you are 5, and I think I’ve earned your trust. Get up here.
She stuck her head in… through the side window… smelled the floor… tried to chew on the metal… she licked her lips…
I just stayed inside, kept my body language welcoming (did not stand square on to her, did not look her in the eyes), and encouraged her to come in and join me. I sometimes read my magazine… 15 minutes… 30 minutes… 45 minutes… 50minutes… Maybe I can’t do this… Maybe I need to ask someone for help… No… it’s YOUR horse- you have to do this. You can’t expect anyone else to save you.
I sometimes pressured her more, I sometimes ignored her.
Then I grabbed a little bit of leftover hay from the weekend that was up front and she got interested. I held it where she’d have to at least get two feet on, but she could see/smell it. She stepped up two feet again and I gave her the couple strands of hay. She was paying attention now. We repeated. I could get two feet up for a few strands of hay.
Ok, so look at this little hay pile.. it’s yours if you come up here and get it!
Oh…. death by trailer or death by starvation?
She stepped back up two feet on and REACHED her neck to eat some more of the hay all the way in. (This is a start!)
They I’d push the hay just a little farther… She’d REACH in so her back feet were just off the back step. (I need something more tempting than hay! I tie her so she has to keep her head inside (all four feet outside) and get a few handfuls of grain.
I make a show of dropping half the grain at the front where the hay was and she can’t help herself. She gets three feet on in order to reach the grain better and then steps off.
That was good- and I didn’t get eaten by the trailer. Maybe I won’t die.
I dump some more grain, now this is a fun game. All four feet on… eat some grain… back off. We do this a few times in a row. She is willingly stepping right up for her grain, and doing a great job of stepping back off as well.
I didn’t close the door, and I didn’t take her anywhere. But soon… now “bad horsey” is mobile! We can’t do an AERC ride if we can’t get in the trailer! So this is another big step. I’ll have to keep working on it to be sure she loads well, but it’s exciting to know I can start taking her places to ride with friends now!