Saturday, April 12, 2014

Training is finally underway! First step toward bringing Suki back under saddle

Well, I finally don't have to say "maybe next week" to start training.  The arena footing had finally improved enough but weather and mud kept Suki and Nikki either inside or in small paddocks for turnout.  While I am grateful that they can at least get outside for awhile, the paddock does not leave enough room to get out 1400 lbs of exuberance.  There was a bit of passaging and some jumping, but not enough wide open area to really let loose.  Of course this did not deter Suki from rolling.  The mornings were cold and crisp so one of my concerns with getting Nikki out for the first time in awhile was too much playing on the lunge line in only moderately good footing.

Earlier this week I decided to bite the bullet and get Nikki out.  Snorting a few times on the walk to the arena I expected an explosion once we got started.  She was a little lookie but not super high so I asked her for a quiet trot to loosen up.  For the first time out in 32F and breezy I kept the trot slow and even in both directions.  It was a good first outing.  I decided to wait with Suki.  Perhaps I am treating her too much like fine china, bringing her out only in the perfect moments of life. I am super protective of her, but I am with Nikki as well.  It is just who I am.  This could be due to having a horse injured in a trailer accident (Jenny), a horse critically injured in a barn fire and losing a horse to colic (Jenny, at age 20).

The next two sessions were similar but on Thursday we kicked it up a notch.  The geese on the far side of the creek apparently had the same idea.  Is it mating season for Canada geese?  There was certainly something going on.  Sometimes a few would open their wings really wide and puff up, honking loudly, while the sun hit their light chests giving off a glow.  Nikki looked up once or twice but was otherwise unmoved.  Urging Nikki into a more forward trot, she became more interested in her work, stretching down in her neck and lifting in the back.  The canter transitions were smooth, but I only asked for a good forward pace once in each direction at that gait.  Sadly out of shape after several months of snowy weather and no work, I was happy to see Nikki stretch out at the walk to cool down (after a big sigh, of course).

Both girls are shedding like mad so Suki is even MORE itchy than usual.  Most people assume that she is itchy due to the areas without hair, but that is where she is the least itchy because of her awesome skin regimen.  And she has always been an itchy girl, constantly scratching her sides on any surface that would accommodate!  With all of the mud I have had to contend with mud-caked legs and in Suki's case thick dried mud on her neck.

Friday, April 11, 2014
Today's the day!  Suki knew that something was askew this morning because I took her out of her stall first.  Typically I start with Nikki so that I can get out to the arena and back before feeding time.  There are fewer distractions early, so I thought it would be best to get Suki out before any festivities started!  As I carefully wrapped polos on her front legs, Suki snuffled my hair.  While wrapping her hind legs she kept turning around to look at me.  When we were just outside the barn door she stopped, lifted her head to calmly look around, then walked forward once again.  I thought she seemed a little tense as we walked to the arena, but she looked straight ahead to the gate.  Turning her around to latch the arena gate, she started to look around a bit.  As I moved her out the circle on the lunge, Suki tossed her head a few times then lifted her tail and started into a little bit of passage.  Quietly I asked her to move forward and she began to relax.  There was definitely some stiffness to start but within a couple of minutes she appeared to loosen and the stiffness subsided.  Remaining lookie for the first few times around I just continued to move her forward and stay focused.  Although Sammy the pony (who LOVES her) called to her for awhile she only called back once.  To me she seemed a bit tense, but responded to commands without hesitation.  Finally Suki dropped her head and relaxed.  That was a welcome sight!  Looking at her coppery coat shining in the sunlight I looked hopefully into the future.  Walking back to the barn Suki was visibly more relaxed, casually looking around and swinging her tail happily.  It was a wonderful first effort!

Saturday, April 12, 2014
Thick fog blanketed the Oley Valley this morning.  At 39F it was chilly, but the sun was struggling to push through, with the hope of a 70F day.  At the top of the driveway I couldn't see the barn or the arena through the fog.   Time constraints today left room to lunge only one horse if the fog did not lift in time, and that would have to be Nikki.  I started grooming Suki hoping that the fog would lift and I could get her out to the arena to work.  Unfortunately that was not the case so se worked on stretching and moving feet at the light tap of a dressage whip.  I only have to tap her foot the first time around.  After that I can just touch the floor to lift a foot.  It helps the in hand piaffe work.

By the time I finished grooming Nikki the sun had broken through so out we went to the arena. The geese were at it again, but this time Nikki didn't even look in their direction.  Today's work was wonderful!  Fluid transitions, nicely forward in all gaits and ready to work.  I worked more on transitions today for obedience, but increased the intervals of trot to start working on that fitness level!  A few more days of lunging and Nikki will be ready to be ridden again.  It sure has been a long winter!

After Isaiah's lesson (he's starting to get the hang of diagonals!) we headed to Oley Valley feed.  As a treat and a salute to the 67F temperature, I put the top down on my car.  Bright sunshine had the dairy cows sunbathing in their fields, clearly making up for lost time.  Even passing the former Pink Star Equestrian, I was able to smile.  Foals lying flat out soaking up the sun with moms standing nearby.

Spring is definitely in the air, with the appearance of tiny buds on some trees, and fields of daffodils saluting the sun.  After this snowy, cold winter I finally truly feel the lightness of spring and new beginnings.

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