Just… Not… feelin’ it

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My original riding plans fell apart for a few reasons. Then I woke up to dark skies and light rain (of course. It’s rained every day this summer) and though I knew it was supposed to clear up, I seemed to have a hard time re-grouping. After stalling with PR work, grant paperwork, answering emails, cleaning the refrigerator… this may be my passion- but even when I’m not in the mood… we’ve set goals!  I put on my big girl riding tights and went to the barn.

I decided that it was too hot at this point to grab Faygo, and since I had the whole afternoon, Khaleesi is the one who needs longer miles right now. Thankfully the girls came running down to see me (I may not have had it in me to go find them). Still moving slowly, I tied Khaleesi in the shade under the apple tree and we groomed for almost an hour where she relaxed and stood quietly half asleep as I braided her mane.

Finally we got on the trail- and today I decided to try out the english spurs I picked up. I have never used spurs before, do not plan to use them forever, and they are not intended for getting speed or forward motion, but for better communication. Occasionally she needs to focus ahead, or move over, and very occasionally she still throws a mini-tantrum and doesn’t want to go forward (this happens less and less each day) but now I ask her, kick her, kick her harder, kick her even harder, then pull out the ‘popper’ and insist. What I hope is that the spurs will make it so I don’t need to kick her so hard with my heels and keep her more sensitive on her sides by having a better tool WHEN I need it. Considering I found a simple pair for $5 it seemed worth trying them out.

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What I noticed first is that I had to pay a lot more attention to making sure the spur did NOT touch her when I didn’t want it to. That wasn’t difficult, but it made me more aware of where my legs were, and I thought it’s probably good that they aren’t giving odd random signals even without a spur- a whole new awareness that I hadn’t really paid attention to before. Where are your legs & feet anyway? Seems obvious but….

I purposely used a spur on her only a handful of times in a 10 mile ride. I felt it was worthwhile yet not overbearing or harsh. More often at the beginning part of the ride than toward the end (when she’s happily moving home and doing almost whatever I ask of her). Because we rode alone I had less need to move her over and not “trail-hog”, or allow someone to pass us- and more needed to keep her focused forward and keep moving as we started out. (She sometimes lolly-gags, looks all around and still occasionally stops and tries to convince me to turn back home in the first 15 minutes or so). If she’s getting too focused in other directions I tap that side, first with just my leg, then if she doesn’t change, lightly with the spur to get her attention back in front of her. I may use it more riding with others to keep her more focused on me and what I’m asking than distracted by other horses around her.

IMG_0671Otherwise I’m still frustrated at the slushy trails because we really aren’t making the MPH I’d like to see. Footing is just not good for most of my trails. That means that we have to move when we can, and it’s just more work and less fun to have to be constantly changing up when it’s safe and not safe, sometimes only getting a few trot steps and then another muck mess to slip on through at a walk. What happened to the carefree summer riding days when the biggest concern was that your dogs can’t find water on the trail?

I’m not worried about our August ride, that we won’t finish (though that’s entirely possible). When we rode the 6 mile loop with Carrington and Abaco at camp creek we hauled pretty quickly and she had a blast trotting and cantering after already completing a 13 mile ride with the group. When there are other horses around and the excitement of an organized ride presents, I have all the confidence she’ll pick up her step and she certainly can do it. I want her fitness level to have the ability to keep up with the drive she’ll have that day by moving quicker now. For the moment we just have to do it in small spurts. We’ll just call it interval training I suppose!

On the positive side, the weather turned out beautiful for the afternoon. We added an extra section to our ride loop that took us backwards (meaning not the direction I usually ride the trail- not that I rode her backwards) up a wooded steep mountain pass without trail that was mushy, grape-viney, and harder to pick through than usual and she navigated it like a champ. I have yet to throw her a challenge she doesn’t rise to and am still pleased with how she’s turning out. I worked her hard- navigating slippery footing, then we trotted and cantered whenever we were able, and she really did well.

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Once again, the only ride I regret is the one I don’t take- and we had a great afternoon.

When I go into the field lately, sometimes I walk part way up the hill as the girls come down, and Faygo usually passes me right by and heads to the feed dishes. Khaleesi on the other hand sometimes walks at my shoulder- I stop to look at her and she stops as well. I move and she moves. I walk to the water trough (to turn off the water) instead of to the feed dishes and she follows me there first… sometimes when I leave she stands at the gate watching me go. The days when she is my shadow are incredibly special to me (then sometimes she’s the one herding faygo to the farthest corner of the field where she thinks I’ll never find them… ) though I can always walk over and catch them, they don’t always come running.

Wednesday I rode Faygo. Mostly a fast walking pace to get out and about. However much I enjoy Khaleesi, I still feel my soul mate in Faygo- for better or worse some days! This is the second time I’ve put a grazing muzzle on Faygo. I don’t leave it on more than through the day or overnight, and no, she’s not “fat” right now- but I can’t feel her ribs and I know it will be harder for her in the heat to have even a thin layer of fat over her creating insulation.

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Right now it should be easy with a once or twice a week “diet” to pull her back just a touch and she should have an easier time riding and recovering when she’s closer to a perfect 5 on the body scale as she was in April. Right now I would call her a 6 (which for a pleasure horse is absolutely healthy and fine). Khaleesi is probably a 5.8 in truth, but she’s getting ridden more, so I’m hoping she’ll come down a touch from the workload which is heavier this summer than Faygo. Also, Khaleesi doesn’t struggle in the heat the way Faygo does.

Bay and Gray… night and day… two completely different animals, completely different experiences in spending time together- both amazing in their own right. If there is one word to describe it, having two mares as good as they are… I’d have to say Lucky.

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Lucky me.