Monday, October 14, 2013

Progress all around!

The weather in Berks County has decided to take a major turn toward Indian Summer, so we are just trying to go with it.  I am glad that it was a little cooler for Dressage at Devon.  This weather would have been brutal!
Saturday, October 5 was the worst, and even though it was barely 7:30 in the morning gnats swarmed around my face during Nikki's much-abbreviated pre-ride lunge!  As I mounted the aggressive little bugs flew into my eyes and nose, so after one lap of walk around the arena we set to work.  Trying to keep Nikki as busy as possible I worked on a variety of figures, constantly changing direction, transitions within the gaits and between.  It was a surprisingly good ride in spite of the conditions, although walk breaks brought the gnats back to us with a vengeance, so those breaks were brief!  Nikki's canter definitely needs work, but today her transitions were sharper when I worked the trot circle spiral in and leg yield out, then ask for the canter as we hit the 20 meter circle point.  I guess it is the positioning of her body and my aids during the leg yield on a circle that is making it easier for her to step under and lift more into the canter?  I finished with allowing her to stretch down on a long rein in the rising trot which was better to the left than the right.

I went over to Oley Valley Feed for some supplies enjoying the view of the changing scenery as autumn rolls in.  The tall corn plants go from a lush green, then fade to a crisp tan as the farmers cut them down.  Many turn up at local farm stands being sold as decorations along side colorful mums, straw bales and wide variety of pumpkins.  It is my favorite time of year, and I must confess, I am a pumpkin hoarder!  Every variety, size and color will turn up at my house arranged in colorful displays with other gourds, leaves, etc both inside and out.
As I head out the trees on the mountains are beginning to show some colorful leaves and with the air conditioning blasting in my car I can almost pretend the air is crisp also!  Passing the quilt shop (which now offers basic sewing lessons, hmmmm.....) the parking lot is packed like I have never seen it!  The dairy farm on the other side of the store must have just completed a milking session because the girls were walking out to the field in single file.  I marvel at their patience; horses would never exit in such an orderly fashion!

Sunday morning started with a heavy fog and mistiness which kept the bugs down a bit.  Nikki flops her ears when it is rainy and we were both a bit damp following that ride!  I lunged Suki also, but without equipment.  She was sharp on her transitions and her starting stiffness was less noticeable and cleared more quickly.  I kept everything very forward for the most part but then worked for a bit on walk-canter, canter-walk transitions.  We finished with some leading exercises on the way back to the barn.  She got a little pushy, so I added several quick changes in a row which brought her right back.

Bringing the girls in each morning is one of my favorite ways to start the day.  Well, I guess my day doesn't actually start then.... It starts with getting up for a short run, followed by waking up Isaiah and heading out to the school bus.  The bus arrives at 7:25 so I can head right to the barn if I am working from home that day.  With the horses on night turn out during the summer and early fall, they are typically still outside when I arrive.  The bug or temperature situation is usually obvious as I drive down to the barn along Suki and Nikki's pasture fence line.  If it is bad they follow along to the gate, sometimes trotting or cantering.  On beautiful mornings both raise their head to acknowledge my arrival, but return to grazing immediately, requiring me to fetch them.  But I always smile as I catch my first glimpse of them.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013
The remnants of Tropical Storm Karen have blown through our area providing much needed rain and leaving cool temperatures and autumn breezes.  All of my pumpkins look a little less out of place now!  Our barn is now switching from night turnout to day turnout.  Because the rain ended fairly early last night Suki and Nikki were out over night in the paddock as their field was too wet.  I was surprised to see them out but I know they were happy about it.  If I had known I probably would have dressed them differently.  But of  course, they are fine.  It's funny when they are out in the paddock behind the barn, because the back door of the barn (yes, it is latched) is one side of the paddock.  So as soon as I open the door Suki sticks her head in and Nikki is standing right behind her looking at me.  They are so cute!

I didn't have a lot of time this morning so I was only able to lunge Nikki and groom Suki.  Nikki was very good, but I had anticipated that she would be a little up, given the 20+ degree drop in temperature!    In spite of the very heavy rain the arena drained well, so that was not a problem.
When I pulled off Suki's sheet, I hung it on her door.  As I turned around the sun cast its rays on Suki's hip and I was able to see her brand is usually not so easy to see!

As I continue to work on the book I am often amazed at how raw the emotion regarding the night of the fire and Suki's first year of recovery remain after four years.  I thought that by now some of those early memories would not cut so deeply into my heart, but it continues.  Sometimes it catches me off guard.  When I watch her floating across the field in an extended trot, or racing Nikki to the gate, sometimes I pause for a moment and am reminded about how close I came to losing her.  Then, watching her and Nikki together, my two divas out in the field, makes me smile.

October 10th and 11th brought very heavy rain so Suki and Nikki were in the barn for two days.  They did get out for about an hour in the paddock on Friday, so that helped a little.  But they were two VERY cranky girls!  I went to the barn both days to groom them and get them out of their stalls.  The sound of the rain on the barn roof and horses munching on hay made for a peaceful setting as I set about my grooming tasks.

On Saturday the sun returned, but the fields were too wet, so Suki and Nikki were in the paddock all day.  But at least they were outside!  I went over in the morning and after I worked with Nikki (mostly lunging with a brief ride following).  The arena had some puddles and while the footing didn't seem terrible, I didn't want to take any chances with slipping. I decided to lunge Suki to take the edge off before she went outside.  Suki was well behaved walking out to the arena, but as I turned her around to close the gate she let out a big squeal!  Uh oh..... She walked for about 3 steps, twirled her head and set off into the trot.  Another three or four steps and woohoo a buck then a full blown capriole.  I managed to settle her fairly quickly and asked for a busy sequence of transitions.  Suki threw in an occasional head twirl, but a growl from me brought her back to attention.  In typical Suki fashion she had a very definite swagger to her stride while we walked back to the barn!

On Sunday the field was ready for them to go out again and they took off galloping and bucking, followed by a series of rolls.  Happy horses!

Monday, October 14, 2013
I had a phenomenal ride on Nikki today!  She was in a happy mood, and although she started a bit heavy in my hand, within a few minutes she was light in the mouth and moving beautifully off my leg. Taking advantage of the good energy I worked on the medium gaits (trot is really coming along, canter improving).  Nikki's lateral work was really lovely today, so we were both happy at the end of that session!  Even my challenge with the right shoulder in wasn't evident.

For Suki I did a short lunge followed by some in hand work.  She was a little fussy about that but I think I need a few lessons myself t get her past the basics.  She naturally does most movements pretty easily in hand, but i want to be sure they are correct.

I think in a couple of weeks I will be ready to add the side reins to the surcingle on Suki.  I just want to make sure that she is strong enough in the back and hind end before I increase the difficulty in her work.  The addition of side reins will require that Suki really push from behind into the "hand" so it is critical that she be physically prepared for it.

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