Saturday, June 27, 2015

Getting Closer to Riding Suki!

The Oley Valley seems to have skipped the lovely spring (aside from a few days here and there) and jumped to summer.  Heat, humidity and bugs.  But just as we must deal with subzero temperatures, ice and snow, so we must overcome the effects of heat and flies.  As I sit in my favorite blue chair writing, my hilltop view has changed from leafless trees covered in snow backed by mountains, to lush greenery and colorful flowers.  But with the heat outside I find myself reflecting on the winter and half wishing for my snowy view.   Of course that would mean that I wouldn't be riding so I guess I will just have to adapt to the heat and bugs!

Several weeks ago…..
Nikki worked beautifully today!  It was already quite buggy so after a night outside I felt that a 5 minute lunge was enough time for Nikki to stretch without a rider.  From the moment I put my foot in the stirrup I knew it was going to be a good ride.  Nikki stood quietly at the mounting block and moved off at the slight touch of my leg.  After a warm up of trot serpentines on a long rein I moved on to lateral work.  I always begin with a bit of leg yield to get the sideways movement going and gauge Nikki's response time.  In spite of the rising humidity she was happy in her work so I was able to keep the ride short (in spite of my desire to want to ride FOREVER!!).

Miss Suki, on the other hand, was quite distracted.  After calling to her friends a few times she appeared to settle into her work.  Or so I thought.  Suki's giraffe imitation was quite impressive, though not conducive to work!  After letting her warm up at the trot I added a lot of transitions between and within gaits to get her attention back to me.  It worked reasonably well, but it was just one of those days!

I am so behind on my blog, with no real excuse.  Just the business of life.  So this will be a short entry, summarizing the events of the past few weeks.  Then my goal (really this time!) is to post weekly.

The bugs are incredibly aggressive already!  There were a couple of nights that were cloudy with rain possible over night so I put Suki out without her fly sheet.  I did it several times last year and all was fine.  The opening of the grafted area on her back is no longer a concern, but I don't want her to be exposed to the sun for a couple of hours before it sets.  After the second night I noticed numerous rather large bumps from bug bites all over her body.  Se didn't seem to be bothered by them but this is the first time  have ever seen Suki covered in bug bites.  Back to the fly sheet.  I bought the inexpensive Saxon fly sheet which is very light weight, but also tears easily.  Another problem with this sheet is the ability of the sun to penetrate through to Suki's back.  Last year Donna, my phenomenal blanket lady, sewed a light weight cotton panel inside across the top of the sheet, protecting Suki's skin.  So we still have the advantage of the sheet 's coolness, but added protection to the sensitive scarred skin.  I had her do it again so I will use it on the hottest days.  Nikki too, has been bothered by bug bites.  Several weeks ago she had huge bites in her mane up by her ears, then on her forelock.  At this point she seems to be much better, so hopefully we are past that for now.  One problem that Nikki has not had this year is gnat bites on her belly.  Typically at the start of bug season she gets multiple bug bites on her belly resulting in a large swollen area.  Not this year!  Instead she had the big crusty bug bites!

Saturday 27 June, 2015
So here I am again, a week since that last post.  We have been very busy since that time!  The bug bite issue has subsided, thankfully, and I have even been able to turn out Suki naked on occasion again.

Nikki's lateral work is really improving, and in spite of some hot, buggy days she has been quite willing to work.  We had a brief issue with sticky trot-canter transitions, so I changed up our exercises a bit.  The first day she was not happy about the rapid succession trot-canter/canter trot transitions but when I went back to canter at the end of that session she moved right off into canter at the slight touch of my leg.  The next day she was only sticky on the first transition.  I gave her a chance to redeem herself with another transition and she moved right off into canter.  Then going to the right she did not hesitate.

I have also been focusing on shortening and lengthening of stride with the hope of also starting half steps.  Now, granted, she is not ready to do piaffe, as her collected work needs to become more advanced, but the half steps will help with the collected work.  Nikki is funny.  When she is asked to do something unfamiliar she makes a face.  I know this because her ears twist in an unusual manner.  She is not pinning them back.  It is more like she is thinking, similar to when a child sticks out their tongue while focusing.  But she tries and then gets it.  Of course it is not perfect the first time, but she understands what is being asked.  Isn't that half the battle??

One day while I was adjusting her side reins I put down the lunge whip and had to re-wrap the lunge line.  Nikki looked at me and sighed.  My immediate thought was: "housewife rider!!" which is how Andreas Hausberger refers to people who are unable to hold on to all of their equipment while making adjustments.  Speaking of my most favorite trainer in the world, I may not be going to New York in July to audit his clinic.  So far I have not been able to find a place to stay.  There are some nice looking inns 30-40 minutes from the clinic site, but nothing closer.  And after checking on two of the nicer ones the dates I needed were not available.  In early August, Arthur Kottas (former chief rider of the Spanish Riding School) is conducting a 3 day clinic in southern New Jersey.  This is, of course much closer to where I live.  I'm just not sure.  I really like Andreas and the way he teaches.  Now in theory Arthur will be teaching in the same classical method……

Suki has been progressing nicely toward our July 9th goal of riding (Yikes!  That is coming along rather quickly!)  She has been demonstrating stiffness but, typically works out of it for the most part.  Each week I work her in hand and on the lunge line.  It is so exciting to have progressed to a saddle!  I am still not certain if I will ride her in the treeless dressage saddle, but it is a great transition from the surcingle.  From the first moment I put I on her back she has been a star!  I keep thinking about the very first time I sat on her when she was 3 years old.  It was the most amazing moment!

Friday After lunging I walked her to the mounting block.  To my surprise she spooked at it a little!  I let her sniff it then turned her around and approached it again.  She wouldn't step right next to it but I prized her and let her stand quietly.  Next time she was a bit closer.  Then she stood like a champ.  I lifted the saddle flaps, patted the seat and leaned over the saddle (not lying across, just leaning).  As you can see from her expression, she is quite concerned about the process!  Such a surreal moment.  Suki in a saddle and bridle and me on the mounting block.

So many emotions…excitement, happiness, anxiety.  But that first day in ICU I never in my life would have thought that Suki would even wear a surcingle, much less a saddle.  I never expected to be discussing the prospect of sitting on her again because it never mattered.  It only mattered that she recovered and was happy and healthy.  The criticisms over my decision to save her and stand by her do not matter.  In my heart I know I did the right thing.  Suki has fully recovered and is the picture of health.  And as for her happiness?  Well the nicker that greets me every morning (alone with Nikki's) tells me that she is quite happy!  And still a diva.  I don't expect to go into full training mode with her.  The process will continue according to her needs and best interest.  Life is full of questions.  One day at a time is all we can do.  Every day is a gift.