Saturday, May 24, 2014

Dancing into spring

The Oley Valley has finally unfolded into spring.  We have been enjoying bright blue sky and moderate temperatures, with a few exceptions.  The harsh and prolonged winter delayed spring, but finally we are surrounded by lush green fields and beautiful flowers.

The girls are back to work and that makes me smile.  Although I am a bit behind in training compared to where I had hoped to be, we are making progress!  Nikki came back to work nicely after her lengthy hiatus and continues to improve in fitness and technical effort.  Suki's work is at a slower pace, but that too is picking up.  And she seems to enjoy it, which is what matters most.

Sunrise is early now, so when I have the opportunity I ride at 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning on weekends.  I never sleep late anyway so I'm not missing a sleep-in on the weekend!  It is the perfect time of day to ride.  I love how quiet everything is, with only the sound of birds, an occasional whinny and my foot steps crunching in the gravel.  The mornings have been blissfully cool at 50'sF and I am going to appreciate that before the heat of the summer takes over!

Sunday, May 18, 2014
Nikki worked well this morning.  It was cool and favorite type of riding weather!  Nikki was a little heavy in the canter transitions so I made big loops in the arena with multiple transitions.  While I succeeded in lightening her in my hand, she started to anticipate canter transitions during the trot work afterword.  To remedy that we went back to some walk trot transitions.  I felt a little tension but after just a few minutes Nikki began to relax underneath me and soften in the hand again.  In spite of that this was good energy and even when there was anticipation of a movement she waited to be asked before proceeding.  I finished with big loops in a stretchy trot getting nice suppleness in her back and relaxation in her neck.  Jen came out and took some photos, including some great candids!

I was going to work Suki as well, but she the small chip in her left front foot had become larger so a thorough grooming was in order instead.  The skin on Suki's back appears to be quite strong, and even though it is scar tissue she can still feel a fly when it lands on her back!  Now that I have switched to fly sheets it is critical that I don't skip days of moisturizing.  The regular sheets and blankets seal in the moisture, but the open mesh of a fly sheet tends to encourage drying.  I have an outstanding skin care regimen that I use with Suki, developed after much trial and error.  Olay sensitive skin with sunscreen for the face and ears, and Aquafor petroleum based moisturizer for everywhere else.  I have tried more expensive products, but this system works well, and Suki's skin looks amazing.  (hmmm, perhaps I should use this regimen myself....)Exfoliation is performed almost every day.

Next up was to tackle Nikki's seriously over grown mane!  Unlike most horses she hates the lower half of her mane being pulled but is perfectly fine as you move up her neck.  So relaxed, Nikki is, that she actually drops her head and dozes off!  So instead of a stool for the 17.2h girl, I end up practically on my knees!  Jen was still there so she held Nikki and kept her occupied for the difficult part.

I wouldn't say I waited TOO long to do this....

Better, huh?  Not to worry, I fixed that part by her withers!

Suki will be next!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Nikki had the day off yesterday, after a productive three days of work.  I tend to do three on, on off with her as it seems to keep her happy.  Today after a brief lunge and a trot warm up on her back I decided to do a nice forward canter around the arena in two-point.  Well, as two-point as one can be in a fairly deep seated dressage saddle!  Ears forward and a twinkle in her eye, Nikki embraced my offer to go.  As she can be a little lazy at times I was surprised at how eagerly she moved on.  It felt great!  I am certain that we were both smiling just a bit!  I kept reaching forward to pat her neck, and she just seemed to be having a great time.  Given how Nikki was anticipatory following canter work on our previous ride, perhaps this was not my most brilliant idea,  but I wanted to give it a try.  I used to do it with Jenny all the time because after her trailer accident and subsequent hock surgery, it helped to loosen her up before performing the more collected work.

After a short walk break I moved on to trot work.  This time Nikki did not try to anticipate canter.  In fact she was quite ready to work, moving quickly off a light leg and softly into my hand.  I incorporated a bit of leg yielding and while Nikki was awesome moving off my left leg, I encountered a little bracing off my right leg.  This is more my issue than hers, so I dropped my irons and received a better response.      Changing the bend briefly in both directions I was able to get a few steps of half pass, something we had been working on prior to the ice age winter of 2013/14!  Nikki LOVES doing trot poles so I worked her through them a few times, finishing our ride with a big stretchy trot.  I believe she was quite pleased with herself!  Once dismounted I gave her big face rubs and an eagerly awaited sugar cube.

With the farrier due out on Thursday I elected to wait to lunge Suki.  That chip bothered me, and now that the chunk had come off I was not willing to worker.  In just two days time her feet had gone from reasonable to chipped.  Looks like we are back to a five week schedule!  That is pretty consistent for both girls...five weeks.  I am still hoping to avoid putting shoes on Suki, but we will see how that goes! Instead I chose to work stretches and a few leading exercises.  These are always helpful as they keep the horse's response time sharp.  Suki did well with her work but was more focused on going out than anything else.  To compensate for that I made frequent changes in my requests, forcing her to pay attention.  It worked, and when we were finished she let out a huge sigh!  So dramatic!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014
I managed to sneak in a ride on Nikki before the rain.  After a stretchy warm up and a bit of forward canter, I worked through transitions within the gaits.  Pleased with Nikki's response I kept the ride short.
In hand work with Suki included a few steps of piaffe, which she gave willingly.  I worked her in the paddock behind the barn, and she listened well in spite of Sammy the pony watching and calling to her!

Occasional showers were forecasted for the day but with temperatures warm enough I let the girls go out.  It s nice to not have to worry about a bandage on Suki's back, making turnout in light rain acceptable.  The wet fly sheet was removed when she came in for the night, so Suki got to be naked for a change!  That is only allowed while in her stall or being worked, but I know it must feel great to her!

Saturday, May 24, 2014
Beautiful morning!  Cool and breezy.  My favorite!  Arriving at the barn by 7:15 the girls called to me as I walked in.  I love hearing their voices in the morning.  My entire day is brighter!

Nikki first.  Clearly she was sleeping on a manure pile in her stall, given what was stuck to her.  With shavings in her mane and tail i knew that she had a good night's sleep.  My girls love their sleep time in their stalls.  Nikki was a little girthy this morning, which surprised me since she had yesterday off.  I am always very slow and careful with girthing, but perhaps she was not quite awake enough!  I lunged for just 8 minutes (4 minutes per direction) enough to get her stretching and loose.  Wonderful energy once I was in the saddle, and ready to work.  Today I did quite a bit of lateral work after a big trot in serpentines around the arena.  Shoulder in on the quarter line then shoulder in to a few steps of half pass.  Spiraling in at the trot and leg yielding out with a canter transition upon reaching the 20m circle.  I like this exercise and so does Nikki.  Once again I finished with a stretchy trot, and this time a walk up the driveway (I was SO brave today!  Oh, and Nikki was too!)

Feet done on Thursday, Suki was ready to be lunged.  She knows that when the polos go on there is lunging involved.....note the "game face"!

After a snort at the mat in front of the fox hunting ladies' trailer, we had an uneventful trip to the arena.  The breeze had picked up and Suki's ears were pricked forward as she marched to the arena......clearly ready to work!  Dapples shining in the sun, Suki walked quietly on the lunge to stretch, while Nikki called to her from the barn.  I find it amazing that Nikki misses her....Suki is really not always kind to her baby sister.  I worked a lot of "forward and back" at the trot and Suki was definitely up for it. That girl just takes my breath away.  It is heartwarming to see her so happy and healthy, doing what comes natural to her.  I laughed when she dug around for sugar cubes (yes, she and Nikki know the routine!) and love how proudly she walked back to the barn.

This July 9 marks 5 years since the fire.  Five years since the day when Dr. Kelly Kalf said "she lifted her head and we never looked back".  And every day, we continue to look forward.

No comments:

Post a Comment