Friday, August 7, 2015
Suki's Big Day: Back in the Saddle!
Monday, 3 August 2015
So today I decided that Friday will be the day that I get on Suki (with a little persuasion from Louise!). It is time and I believe she is well prepared. This week I will lunge Suki on two days then before I get on. Louise will be at her head and for moral support, and Jenn will be there for moral support and to take photos. My very good friend Beth was supposed to be present also, but scheduling might be tough since she lives 2 hours away.
Monday is typically a day off for Suki and Nikki, so today I just groomed, massaged and did stretches with them. That time is very special to me. I love how they both breathe on my neck when I pick their feet and when I dig around their grooming boxes. When I turn my face toward them we touch noses. Sweet horse breath.
Tuesday, 4 August 2015
Buggy and warm. I rode Nikki and she was diving at her chest to get the green head flies. Then shaking her head violently when they landed on her forehead. Not fun, though I can't blame her! But we worked through it and had some excellent lateral work. I really considered some of the comments made by Arthur Kottas as I worked Nikki through shoulder in and half pass. Not brilliant, but good. And actually excellent at times. When I dismounted we worked on turn on the forehand and haunches in in hand. Nikki was very responsive, with only an occasional step back, which I corrected immediately. A few steps of baby piaffe and we were finished.
Full tack for Suki. We are in go mode. She seems really ready, so I just have to prepare mentally. We worked through transitions, stirrups banging at her sides and trot poles. Mounting block work was good in spite of the bugs. Suki continues to be more interested in the tall weeds by the mounting block than anything I am doing!
Wednesday, 5 August 2015
Okay. I think I want to use something to take the edge off Suki when I get on her. She seems fine, but it has been 6 years since I sat on her. Today I gave her a tube of Ultra Chill to see how it worked for her.
I gave Suki the calming paste then rode Nikki. She had some beautiful canter work, so clearly something is going right (at least today)! It is hot and buggy again, but not unbearable. I needed to work both of them so I kept the ride fairly short. It was quite productive, and that’s what counts!
Tacking Suki up one hour after giving her the calming paste, I don't really notice anything different in her mood or behavior. She is always pretty mellow during the "getting ready" process. Walking out to the arena Suki lifted her head when the mower at the top of the field caught her eye, not in nervousness, just acknowledging its presence. But that is how she has been behaving anyway. Warming up she was quite a bit stiffer than she was yesterday, but once she loosened up the stiffness was all but gone. I kept the work simple. Just a bit of walk/trot for about 15 minutes. At the mounting block Suki stood quietly, no different than any other day. My confidence was wavering. I know that calming pastes don’t work on all horses but I was really hoping that it would make a difference in Suki. Just to help ME relax more about climbing aboard! Suddenly I realized that I had not put any weight in the stirrups. Hmmm, that could be a showstopper! So I leaned all of my weight into my hands on each stirrup, with no reaction from Suki at all. Maybe it was the paste, maybe it was just Suki!
Thursday, 6 August 2015
Tomorrow I will sit on Suki for the first time since the fire more than 6 years ago. There are so many emotions running through my brain as I drive to the barn. Excitement, anxiety, overwhelming joy. A fellow boarder uses 25mg of acepromazine in tablet form prior to going out fox hunting, so I asked her if I could try it on Suki. I wasn't planning on working her today because with tomorrow's adventure that would be four days in a row for her. Janet said that it takes approximately 45 minutes to take effect, so I pulled Nikki's mane, cleaned tack, then took Suki out of her stall. Immediately I noticed a difference. She seemed very relaxed as I put her on cross ties. To test her level of relaxation I decided to try to pull her mane. She hates this! Nikki falls asleep during it but Suki body slams, throws her head, etc. I only do her mane when she has been sedated for something or with another person at her head bribing her with treats. Today, I was able to pull her mane! Oh yeah, this will be good!
Friday, 7 August 2015
Well, today is the day. I tried so hard not to be nervous as I dressed in breeches, prepared to ride. My original plan was to ride Nikki first, but the timing wasn't working out and I think I was just too keyed up, which would not have made for a good ride. So I groomed Nikki, gave Suki the ace and cleaned my tack. Suki seemed fairly chill when she came out of her stall so I went through my usual preparation with Louise and Jenn standing by. I lunged her briefly then went to the mounting block. Janet was also there, having come to see her horse just at the right time! To keep the routine the same I performed the usual mounting block exercises: snapping the stirrups, leaning over her and patting her on all sides.
I was really nervous, having no idea how Suki would react as I swung my leg over her back and sat down. Louise stood at her head holding the lunge line and gave her some sugar cubes. I took a deep breath and put my foot in the stirrup. Suki did not tense as I swung my leg over and sat down. Another deep breath and Louise led us away from the mounting block. As we walked along Louise reminded me to speak to Suki as if on the lunge. Of course I know this, but it left my brain completely!! We halted for some photos and I took in the moment. So surreal. Sitting on Suki, six years after the fire. They warned me at New Bolton (and rightly so!) that I would likely never ride her again and I accepted that. When the worst burn on her back would not heal I resigned myself to that fact. Then, Dr. Mike Fugaro, who I knew from when we were at Heather's and who guided me through the recovery process, offered to take Suki at Centenary College. He teaches there and is the veterinarian for the equine science program and the equestrian team. Mike performed a skin graft (pro bono!) and I paid to board Suki at the college. Team Suki (Becky, Sarah, Meagan and Kim) and Equine Studies students helped with the care, treatments etc. The skin graft was the turning point. Once it healed,suddenly the possibility of riding Suki again became a reality.
Louise disconnected me from the lunge line. As I stood there and took another deep breath, the tears came. The hopes, the dreams, and here I was. Sitting on her. All we did was walk. I took a little contact and she fussed slightly, so the next step is to add side reins. Steering seemed to not be great, but that was probably due to lack of contact. No hurry. First step conquered. So much support from all over the world, for me and Suki, just a girl and her horse. Thank you…..