Sunday, November 24, 2013

Riding requires acceptance of the elements

Thursday, November 21, 2013
It's cold this morning.  The thermometer on my car says 23F while waiting to put Isaiah on the school bus.  The barn is down in a hollow causing the temperatures to dip 3-4 degrees. Obsessively I watch the numbers drop as I head down the driveway toward the barn.  19F. I think I can, I think I can......My first thought of an "out" was frozen footing.  I marched into the arena to test it.  Footing fine.  Looking up to the sky the clouds cleared a bit and the sun warmed my face.  Maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all!

Of course once I start to set up my equipment I begin to warm, knowing that riding will not be so bad.  The winds are low and being greeted by those heartwarming nickers of my girls I set to work.  Yesterday I made cookie dough for 6 different types of cookies.  The Christmas Boutique at the church is this weekend and for once I actually have time to contribute!    Today I will bake and Friday I will finish cookie prep to deliver Friday afternoon.

In spite of the cold temperature I had a delightful ride.  I was sure to warm up Nikki carefully on the lunge allowing her to really stretch and get her muscles moving and warm.  The sun felt warm and the breeze was light so I peeled off my coat before mounting.  I have never really been able to ride in a winter coat, plus I begin to sweat after just a few minutes in the saddle.  But that was always in an indoor school.  When I was riding with jess she always scolded me as I peeled the layers during my ride, then thrust my coat at me once I dismounted so that I would not "catch a chill".  I always marveled at her ability to ride in snow pants and parka.  For me, it is impossible to feel the horse when I am too bulked up in clothing.  But when you are JR and ride as though you are one with the horse, the feeling is evident through all of that clothing!  I do miss that part of boarding at BHF.  Most days I ride alone with only my own motivation to train well.  Riding at BHF there was almost always someone else in the arena, and on early weekend mornings it was often just me and Jess.  She did not miss a trick so I was always on top of my game, welcoming her casual tidbits of advice as we rode side by side.  Seems like a lifetime ago....  But I have always put plenty of pressure on myself to not just succeed but excel.  Now that I am riding more that feeling is returning and I love it!

During my ride the fox hunting ladies came down the driveway.  This was later than their usual preparation time to leave, and the wrong day.  My car was parked in a spot not amenable to J hitching up her trailer, but they were at the barn to trace clip their horses and pull manes (Nikki needs to have hers done again....maybe I can sneak her onto the cross ties!)  Walking into the barn I laughed....they picked the coldest morning thus far to perform their clipping!  But they were riding as guests with the Radnor Hunt on Saturday, so their boys were to be spiffy and ready!

Friday, November 22, 2013
I woke to rain hitting the skylights in my bathroom...not the start I was looking for since I wanted to ride!  Optimistically dressing to ride, I drove Isaiah to his school bus stop.  The rain stopped and started with temperatures in the low 40's which seemed somewhat chilly for Nikki to get wet.  I too, need to invest in good, full wet weather gear, since there are no dressage barns with indoors closer than 45 minutes away from my house. Arriving at the barn the rain had stopped once again, so I prepared to ride.  While tacking up Nikki it started to rain hard again, but I had already committed and figured the rain would stop, which it did.  An occasional soft drizzle did not dampen the spirits of our ride.  Nikki worked happily, but I kept making absurd accuracy errors.  Coming down the center line I thought I was turning at the normal spot, but kept narrowly missing the mounting block.  Same with when I put Nikki through the trot poles.  Very strange!

Continuing my ride I was pleased with Nikki's lightness, and did my "bow tie" exercise with some slight variations.  I honestly don't remember if I created this exercise or just modified it.  On the long side I ride straight, then perform a volte back to the track.  Going straight for 10 trot sides I do the volte back.  Sometimes instead of straight back to the track I leg yield.  Other times I ask for canter transition at the track, do another 10 meter half circle back to the track and either do a simple change, counter canter or back to trot.

Nikki finished nicely with a good stretchy trot in both directions.  Gathering my lunging equipment I noticed that the mounting block had been moved from the grassy edge of the arena to the track.  I was not crazy!  The arena had been slightly cut off, affecting my space coming down the centerline onto the track as well as my turn after trot poles.  I promptly moved it back....

Back to the cookies....successfully completed and dropped off at church social hall.

Saturday, November 23, 2013
A chilly start with winds expected to pick up by late morning.  But Sunday would bring 35 mile an hour winds and a high of 25F, so that was the day slated for no riding!  I like to ride Nikki 3-4 days in a row hen give her a day off.  That seems to keep her happy and in good work.  Today is day 4, so the timing is right!
Another lovely ride.  Nikki was light in the bridle and worked nicely through lateral work.  The mornings are so peaceful, so I am able to focus.  Today Nikki's canter work felt rushed to me so I asked for transitions on the 20m circle to adjust balance.  The arena had been dragged so the entire space was empty, enabling me to work through a variety of figures.

Checking my time (Isaiah's riding lesson at 10) I decided to work with Suki in hand behind the barn so that I would have time to do a full moisturizing session. That is especially crucial  in the cold weather, most importantly her neck and face.  Heavy blankets keep the skin on her back moist.  I think she really needed a lunging session, because she seemed a little stiff to me.  Moving on to stretches instead, I could see her loosen up a bit.

Isaiah is progressing nicely in his lessons and has now moved from 30 to 45 minute lesson.  The wind had picked up a bit for his ride, so we need to make some clothing adjustments for next week!

I went back to Suki and Nikki around 4 PM to add a layer for the cold night ahead and a Sunday of fierce wind and low day time temperatures.  The fox hunting ladies returned from their day with the Radnor Hunt, having been gone since 7:30 in the morning.  I give them credit!  J is in her 70's, and Reggie a bit younger.  But they go twice a week, enjoying every moment.  Sometimes it is a bit of a comedy routine to watch them hitch up the gooseneck, or back it in, but I mean that with full respect....

Sunday, November 24, 2013
As I write this morning it is 6 AM.  The wind is whipping around the corners of the house as I sit in the family room by the fire.  Quiet and peaceful.  No riding this morning so I will pick up my knitting to work on the scarves that I will give to Isaiah's teachers as Christmas gifts.  How I cherish the early morning hours and the silence.  Alone with my thoughts.  Well, Ripley has gone back up to join my husband in bed and the cats have settled in spots near the fire......

My only plan for going to the barn today was to check the girls to be sure they were warm enough and give them kisses and treats.

Peacefully they grazed, having finished the big piles of hay placed in their field this morning.  It was almost 3:00 but I decided not to bring them in.  A quick check to make sure they were warm enough, plus some hugs and treats!  They are both wearing Rambo heavy blankets with a medium sheet on top!
My beautiful girls......

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