When I looked out the window at 6AM the air looked still and cold. From the windows in the front of my house the mountains were a kaleidoscope of color, a sure sign of autumn's arrival. The house held a slight chill compared to other mornings because temperatures had fallen to the mid 30'sF over night. I hadn't put on the heat because I love when the house is a little chilly. Sleeping is more comfortable, and I can always pile on more blankets. To be honest, the temperature in the house was actually one degree higher than what we set the heat at, so it wasn't actually cold. It just felt different this morning. Fortunately I had washed one of my heavier barn/riding jackets yesterday so I was fully prepared for a chilly morning at the barn.
The temperature dropped from 36F to 33F as I drove into the hollow at the farm. That's pretty typical, but it still caught me a little by surprise. I was glad that I had dressed appropriately! Suki and Nikki began calling to me immediately. I slipped my hand under each sheet to see if they were warm enough. They were nice and warm in their heavy sheets over night! I checked the arena footing to see if it was crunchy. The rain Friday and saturday night had made the arena footing wonderfully soft, but the low temperature and moisture in the ground can produce a layer of slightly frozen footing. It seemed fine so I set about my morning routine.
By the time I finished tacking up Nikki I had shed a layer and the air felt wonderfully cold on my cheeks as we walked out to the arena. Nikki walked out of the barn quietly next to me, our breath making steamy clouds in the gray morning light. I expected her to be silly on the lunge because of the temperature change but she worked well without even a squeal! A flock of geese flew overhead, but they were heading north, so apparently they are not yet ready to jump ship!
I felt bad that I had not brought a cooler for Nikki because it was still quite cold when we finished! I threw one of the fly sheets over her back to keep her muscles warm, which seemed to help. My original plan was to turn out Nikki naked and Suki with her fly sheet because temperature was supposed to go to 65F. Then I would go back in late afternoon to dress the girls for the over night cold. But it was still overcast and a breeze had picked up so I put Nikki's sheet back on planning to check to see if she was too warm when I finished with Suki. She was comfortable when I finished so the girls went out with their sheets on The day remained overcast, breezy and chilly and night temperatures are expected to be near 32F with scattered frost. The horses will be in over night so I did not have to fret about my decision!
Suki used to hate working in the wind, but seems to have overcome that! In spite of the cool air and very breezy conditions (the wind had picked up a bit more by the time it was her turn) she worked well and focused. Today I asked her for walk-canter, canter-walk transitions. Started off a little rough but then became much sharper. That made the trot-halt, halt-trot transitions better as well. Suki gave a nice neck stretch while walking out to finish with a nice long stride and swinging back. Tail bouncing happily.
Monday, October 7, 2014
Cold morning, at 34F, but I will most certainly look back at this morning and consider it a warm one once winter sets in! I turned my face to the sky allowing the cold air to hit my cheeks. I wanted to linger outside for a moment but I could hear eager voices calling to me from the barn.
I did a basic work out with Nikki and some stretches with Suki. It is going to be warm today so back to fly sheet for Suki and naked for Nikki. See what I mean? The blanket dance!
Tuesday, October 8, 2014
Today was one of those wonderful training days. Nikki was sharp through the trot poles so I jumped off to increase the distance between them. The first time through at that distance she pricked her ears SO far forward then floated through which a huge stride! Very cool!
On my way back to the barn I thought I saw the resident Blue Heron come in for a landing. Once I untacked Nikki I grabbed my camera and went out into the field to get as close as I could without scaring her....unfortunately I was not able to get very close.
While I was grooming and tacking up Suki for her lunging session (no, not the saddle, still the surcingle) they came into the barn to feed. Nikki is used to working while the others are being fed, or being out in the arena when the feed buckets are going into the barn. Suki, not so much! She was actually quite well behaved and only paced slightly while on cross ties. Outside she got right to work. I put her through the cavaletti also, and at that distance I REALLY had to run to keep up. Suki clearly loved it giving a head twirlie after the first time through. Seeing such obvious joy in her is such a thrill for me, having come so close to losing her.
Friday, October 10, 2014
Today I did something with Suki that I have not done in over five years. When we were finished with the lunging session I walked her up to the mounting block. She kind of gave me a look, but stood quietly while I climbed to the top. It was a bit high for what I wanted to do so I moved her back near the steps and stood o the middle one. From there I leaned against her by the surcingle. Suki turned around and looked at me but continued to stand quietly then turned to face forward again. I patted and praised her then gave her a sugar cube. Next I leaned partially over her, patting her other side. Again she turned to look with a calm eye and back forward again. More praise, and another sugar. I made a huge fuss over her which of course, she enjoyed. But apparently I had forgotten to give her the sugar while we stood by the gate, so she gently tapped my pocket as a reminder.
The magnitude of those moments did not hit me until I was driving home. How many times had I stood by the mounting block next to Suki preparing to ride. Seems like a hundred years ago. She calmly accepted this next step with confidence. And then the tears came.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
After yesterday's chilly rain, today started with 34F. I admit, I was a bit cold when I first arrived at the barn, but anxious to get started with the girls. Fortunately the rain ended early enough yesterday for the horses to get out a bit. Suki apparently had a good old time running about. She loves to kick up her heels! I expected both horses to be covered with mud this morning but although it was evident that they rolled, they were kind enough to do so in the grass. It was also evident that they had both been flat out in their stalls last night; covered head to toe in shavings!
Nikki was slow to move out of the barn but once we were in the arena she was eager to work. All of her work today was light and forward with smooth transitions from behind into a soft hand. It was awesome! Nikki was pretty pleased with herself. She knows when she has done well. While I unlatched the gate she leaned her face on my arm. Not looking for treats. Just leaning. Such a sweet moment....I love that girl!
Suki, as usual was not thrilled that everyone else was out while she waited for her turn to work. Nikki was relaxing in her stall, but would soon begin to demand breakfast. Suki should have been thrilled....at least her breakfast had not been delayed by work! Surcingle on we walked out to the arena. Suki is in heat so she called to a few horses and walked out to the arena with her head held high (I felt very small, indeed!). She wasn't nervous or anxious just lit! I think the cooler temperature (although it was probably up to 40F by then) and the horses in the fields were making her a little high. In spite of all that she walked to the arena without a misstep, another sign of her renewed confidence. Once I moved her out on the lunge, however, she gave a head twirl and launched right into a canter. Not a panicked, quick or unbalanced canter. But I always have her walk around a few times especially now that they are in the barn over night. Suki came right back to walk when I asked her to then walked quietly, though distracted, until we started the rest of the work. She lunged really well in both directions with great energy, amazing length of stride and suspension. When I asked her to slow the gaits and shorten the stride she did. However, she was a wee bit distracted the entire time. Nikki called to her once or twice and Suki started to answer back but stopped when I growled at her. Likewise, when I told her to focus she listened. But I was really pleased with her. And her breathing came back to normal quickly. I carefully check Suki's back after each session that she wears the surcingle. No problems so far. We are really on the right track. She is a special horse in many ways, but her courage and attitude continue to amaze me. I am lucky to have her in my life.