Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Confident Suki Emerges Through Patience and Steady Work

As we hit mid-September on the calendar I watch the hours of daylight fade and changing shadows of the sun.  I don't really mind when darkness arrives early, except when the only time I can ride is late afternoon.  Our arena does not have lights.  The part I hate most is the later sunrise.  I can still go to the barn early, groom both horses and be ready to ride or lunge once the light is sufficient.  But it is definitely more difficult to get started.  I always rise before the sun, and use that time for writing, running on my treadmill (though the sad, broken toes have curtailed that!), read peacefully in my favorite chair or catching up on favorite television shows that I have DVRd (I am a total Project Runway geek! And Chopped, Master Chef, Top Chef!).

Early next week temperatures will dip into the 40sF over night, so the girls will start to wear sheets at night.  Yes, some scoff at this, but Suki gets cold because of lack of hair across her back, and she does not have a thick coat of hair.  She never has.  If I don't start to dress Nikki early enough she will grow a bear coat!  I would prefer not to body or trace clip her but want to be able to ride through the cold months without having her finish with a thick, wet coat!  Last year I was quite successful, but alas, winter riding in an outdoor arena came to a screeching halt!  Many say that this winter will be the same.  I will just hope for the best!  Plus, I was always taught to start putting at least a sheet on horses once the temperatures go into the low50sF.

The work has been going well this week, but my toes still scream inside my boots!  Suki and Nikki are enjoying the cooler temperatures and their work reflects that.  On Wednesday, (10 September) Suki was a little silly about her surcingle.  She was fine when I put it on, but started to hump her back when I started to lead her out of the barn.  I walked her a little more to see if she was just stiff, but it continued. I always check the skin on her back, so I was confident that there were not any abrasions.  There also did not seem to be any pinching anywhere, and it was certainly not too tight.  Putting Suki back on cross ties I removed the surcingle to check again, and to reset the gear.  When she still seemed uncomfortable I removed it and brought her out to the arena, thinking maybe her back was bothering her, or something else.  On our way out the door she did a couple of arabesque stretches.  Once in the arena she lunged beautifully with no sign of discomfort.  Maybe she needed to do her stretches?

Nikki was slow to start that day as well.  Maybe it was something in the air (the onset of winter?? !).  Once she warmed up she was fine and worked nicely through a basic session with a small amount of lateral work.  I added more counter bend when tracking left, because she seemed to be a little over bent and tilting her head slightly.  A few times around and with 20m circles on the counter bend and she was fine.  I am wondering if it was due to my compensation for the pain in my left foot?  Anyway, I will be more conscious of that in the future so as not to cause problems!

Thursday, September 11, 2014
Nikki had the day off but received a thorough grooming.  Suki received a full spa treatment after standing in the cross ties for 20 minutes wearing her surcingle.  This did not please her so much!  Not because she was uncomfortable....she was bored and kept begging for treats, making faces at me and rolling her eyes.  Then I took her for a walk out back while wearing her gear.  She was fine.  I have no idea what happened the other day!

Saturday, September 13, 2014
Gloomy, chilly autumn-like morning, threatening rain. I was hoping that it would hold off long enough for me to ride Nikki and lunge Suki.
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The drizzle started while walking Nikki out to the arena, becoming a more steady, light rain whole I was riding.  I had shed my jacket and the rain was chilly on my arms.  This was quickly forgotten because Nikki was phenomenal!!  The wind blew and and the rain came down, but Nikki was focused with good energy.  Everything worked.  Nicely off the leg for shoulder-in into half pass (even on MY bad side!).  We did working, medium and collected gaits with quick, soft responses.  I finished with stretchy trot serpentines and a lovely stretched walk.  So we were both a bit soggy at the finish.  We were also both quite pleased with ourselves!  My timing was perfect, because shortly after we returned to the barn the rain came down in heavy sheets.  Nikki loves to have her face rubbed with a towel, so I took a clean, fluffy towel and massaged her head until it was dry.  This usually makes her fall asleep.  When I removed the towel from her face, Nikki kept her eyes closed, lip drooping.  Such a funny girl!

The rain stopped again while I was grooming Suki so I put on her bridle and out we went.  Although it was still quite breezy, Suki was focused with the exception of a sudden look at a horse rolling in the adjacent field!  I guess she had one eye on that field.  That was at the start of our work, so I was sure to keep her attention after that.  I primarily worked on transitions within and between gaits.  I can't wait to add the side reins to really get some collected work in there (yes, I had planned that for this weekend, I know).

I left the girls tucked in there stalls with hay, cozy comfy when the rain came down cold and steady later that afternoon.

Sunday, September 14, 2014
43F this morning!  Yikes!  Suki was in her heavy fly sheet over night but Nikki was naked.  It looks like evening temperatures may stay in the 40sF so turnout will probably switch from night to day soon. And it will be time for sheets.


Nikki had a lunge session today because I wanted to work on a bit of collection and transitions, and be able to see how she responded.  I can feel how she responds but I wanted to see it.

Suki wore her surcingle today.  I did see a slight stiffness when she first moved out but it quickly resolved.  The footing was very nice from yesterday's rain providing a nice springy surface.

I am liking the calmness in Suki's eye.  She looks confident, the way she did before her melt down many years ago.  I know I have been proceeding very slowly with this business of riding her again, but when I see that look, I know I am on the right track.  It is in her best interest to be 100% ready for a rider, physically and mentally.  That is the way I have been taught.  Every horse is different, each progressing at its own pace.  It is critical to read the individual, and to not skip steps with any horse.  Suki was so easy to start the first time but I am careful because of what happened when she was pushed to quickly by the trainer that I was working with at the time.  I have referred to this several times, but it makes me mad (at myself) because I knew better.  We will get there.

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