Saturday, July 12, 2014

It's All About the Journey...Right?

Sunday, July 6, 2014
I went to the barn slightly later this morning (7:30) because with a start of a cool 57F  I decided to do a short run before riding.  I usually use my treadmill, for convenience and when the child is home, but when I filled the bird feeders the cool air called to me!

By the time I arrived at the barn the temperatures had begun to rise, but the low humidity kept it pleasant.  Nikki had been slightly off on Saturday, so I wanted to see how she looked before I rode.  On the way out to the arena I saw the Thistledew Farm resident Blue Heron, whom I had not yet seen this year.  Unfortunately I did not have my phone with me and was unable to take a photo.   I believe I still detected something slightly off with Nikki but decided to do a light workout. Just doing big loops at the posting trot with small amounts of sitting, Nikki worked nicely forward.  I detected a slight hitch behind when I asked for a lengthening of stride, so I stuck with straight lines and a long rein.  

My friend Julie from Florida was in the area visiting family, so she came up to see us.  I met Julie through Suki's FB page, and she had visited for the first time two years ago.  This is one of the positives that have come from the tragedy.....meeting wonderful people, either virtually or in person, that I otherwise would never have known.  The last time Julie visited Suki was still wearing a bandage over the graft site to protect it from aggressive rolling.  During that time Julie said that she noticed that Suki now has more hair as well.  These are things you can't see when you experience it every day!  It's funny....Suki is not always warm and fuzzy with people she doesn't know well, although there are exceptions.  In that way she reminds me so much of Jenny.  She too, was choosey with her affections, but after time would warm up to people.  Julie found a good itchy spot on Suki's chin, so maybe that's what won her over!  One can never tell with a diva/super model.  I brought Suki out to the arena for a short trot lunge, because  she seems slightly foot sore to me.  A nice rain to soften the footing would be welcome!  Suki is always happy to go out to the arena, which confirms my feeling that she enjoys having something interesting to do!

Monday, July 7, 2014
Uggh, today was a hot one!  Camp day for Isaiah, so I don't get to the barn until 9:10.  By the time I arrived it was hot, humid and buggy.  I was armed and ready!  Fly/bug spray, Gatorade, water.  I bring a small cooler to keep my drinks chilled.  I lunged Nikki briefly to see how she looked then hopped on. Although she looks fine, I am the overly cautious type, so between the heat and her day of looking slightly off I opted for a short walk trot session.  J was dragging the area while I was tacking up so I was able to do some nice serpentines without having to maneuver around my trot poles!  Once again the catch-22.  Hot and humid, so the need for frequent breaks but MANY green heads that attack even more while walking!  Nikki dove at her chest several times to get the green heads.  We got through a brief session but I was definitely feeling the heat when I dismounted!  But I have been trained well.  You take care of the horse first.  I quickly untacked Nikki then grabbed a Gatorade while I brought her out for a shower.  The breeze created a misting fan back onto me, which felt great!  Then we went back in the barn where I sat on a stool and sucked down a second Gatorade!  

Instead of taking Suki out into the arena we stayed in the barn to work on stretches.  The side stretches were nice and given that I have observed Suki reach around and scratch her side I would have expected nothing less!  We went out behind the barn to work on leading exercises.  This is something I return to periodically.  Suki learned this during her round pen training.  It consists of frequent changes of direction and transitions, where the horse must respond to the leader's changes in body movement.  She must also stop in the correct position in relation to my body.  When I lean back she takes a step back.  It is a great way to fine tune reaction time and also helps to distract a nervous horse in new situations.  I went easy on the moisturizer because of the heat.  Suki isn't wearing her fly sheet during the day today so heavy handed moisturizer could attract flies.  That also means a second trip to the barn later to put it back on for turnout.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Another hot one.  I absolutely hate riding so late in the morning, but that's when I can fit it in right now.  I suppose it is character building as long as heat stroke is not involved!  Another light work out was best so after a brief lunge I brought Nikki over to the mounting block.  A helicopter was circling over head and as it passed over us Nikki cranked her head up to look.  She seemed a bit unsettled by it, so I patted her neck and spoke to her (while still standing on the mounting block).  Then she started to almost tremble as the copter continued to circle.  I was beginning to think that the pilot was looking for a place to land, and REALLY did not want to be sitting on my horse if the machine plunked down in the adjacent field!  Hopping off the mounting block I hand walked Nikki around the arena, doing leading exercises to distract her from the big scary machine.  The helicopter eventually circled away from us so I got on.  In spite of the heat Nikki was nicely forward and really happy in her work.  Whatever hitch thing she had going on is gone so I added some nice forward canter to the work today.  We also did a bit of leg yielding and shoulder in.  I have several exercises that I use, but really need to add some new ones to keep things fresh.

The footing in the arena was much better today since we had a little rain and the arena was dragged so I  brought Suki out to do some work.  The softer footing is definitely better for her.  She worked really beautifully with nice even movement.  The bugs were getting worse so I kept the workout to 15 minutes, with only a few breaks because of the attacking greenheads.  This gave me an opportunity to observe Suki's fitness level and breathing.  Her stamina seems to be improving steadily and I did not detect any issues with breathing in spite of the humidity.  That's a good sign!

I had lunch with Bobbi today.  The timing with relation to the anniversary of the fire tomorrow was accidental.  We only talked about it briefly, thank ful that our chestnut mares survived.  Bobbi's horse, Whisby did not suffer burns like Suki did, just some ember dot burns but she has had other lameness issues related to the fire from breaking through a fence and running for miles through roads and fields with Suki.  So there are constant reminders for Bobbi too.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
I went over to the barn at 5:30 before Michael left for work because Suki was naked and the sun was already out!  The temperature was cool so the girls were not so thrilled to come in!

Five years since the fire.  You've come a long way baby!

Thursday, July 10, 2014
Late start but not a bad day for a ride.  I did a bit of lateral work with Nikki  then took her for a short walk outside the arena.

Instead of lunging Suki today we worked on stretches.  Then I put the surcingle on her and walked around a bit.  Progress.  One step at a time.  She still turns around and looks at me when I put on the surcingle....kind of like she thinks I have lost my mind and have forgotten that she doesn't get ridden!

Saturday, July 12, 2014
Got a slightly later start again (7:00 instead of 6:30) but I was snugged up in my big comfy reading chair enjoying a Mary Cassat biography and had a hard time tearing myself away!  I paid for it though....the temperatures were rapidly rising and I made the error (once again) of wearing a T shirt instead of a tank top.

The girls were ready to come in, and in fact, as I came down the driveway Suki and Nikki were standing head-to-tail swishing flies from one another.  They had separated by the time I got out of the car so that photo op was missed.  Instead, this is what I saw:

They were happy to come in as the flies were just starting to get a bit more aggressive.  Nikki was up first, so I just did a brief lunge to let her loosen her muscles then got on.  She was really funny at the mounting block.  After i put the reins over her head she leaned her whole face on my chest and gave a big sigh.  I massaged her ears before I got on, which she loves!  Nikki was definitely in work mode, nicely forward and very responsive.  We worked on serpentines at the trot with a walk transition as we crossed the centerline.  At the canter I did shallow serpentines to give the effect of a bit of counter canter.  Good stuff!

I did a nice lunge session with Suki, but the bugs were getting a bit worse once we got out to the arena. She was a little stubborn about the trot to halt transitions but we worked through it.  Then I told her to "back" with my voice and she did!  Lots of praise for that one.  I had never tried that before with her on the lunge!  On our way back into the barn a HUGE horse fly was hovering around her butt so I made her trot in!  I am going to have to consider shoes for Suki.  her feet are getting a bit chipped from working.  Maybe just front shoes?  Tomorrow I will put on the surcingle and walk her around a bit.

While I love the training part of riding I am beginning to miss competition more and more.  I haven't competed in awhile but even taking Isaiah to the schooling show had me wishing that I was going down that centerline as well!  And reading The Chronicle is sometimes excruciating!  People always talk about the journey, and yes, the journey is rewarding and important.  Having always loved the progress associated with bringing a horse along through the levels, I have also loved the thrill of victory (agony of defeat not so much, but it IS a huge part of learning, and yes, the journey).  The barn fire made me appreciate the journey more, although it has been a different kind of journey, managing Suki's recovery.  This journey has been quite rewarding because she was brought from the brink of death back to 100% healthy.  I have learned a lot during the last five years.  I have learned that I can't control everything, and sometimes you have to accept help, and this does not mean that you are weak or incapable.  Some things just require help.

The current leg of the journey is the attempt to bring Suki back under saddle.  I have accepted that this may not be successful, and while it would be disappointing, I know that what is most important is what is best for Suki.  This journey is also different from most training journeys because it is a recovery.  Most of the time when horses are injured and you are bringing them back to work, the journey part is to make sure that you do it carefully and do not rush.  So the journey is still vital, but the outcome is most important.  The recovery portion of this was conducted slowly and with purpose.  That part of the journey is over, and the result was a major success.  Right now my work with Suki continues to bond us further, but the journey's end point remains a question mark.

With Nikki my goal is to get her ready for competition so I can get out there again!  And while training has its ups and downs I am keeping my eye on the prize.  While my current goals are not as lofty as they once were, that will likely change.  When I think about riders who have won Olympic medals, I am sure they will say that the journey was amazing.  But more amazing than standing on the podium with the big prize around their neck?  Hmmm....  

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