Back to

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lightenting Crashes

We had a nasty storm last night. It had been gloomy all day long, but I really didn't think much of it when I loaded up the car with clean horse laundry, Turi and me. It drizzled my whole drive, but again it is spring in Chicago. It has been cold, but again it is spring in Chicago and completely unpredictable. When I arrive at the barn I go straight to Gramarye's stall, as I haven't seen her since last week. The barn is closed on Mondays and then last Tuesday the vet gave shots, which meant she was off Wednesday. I rode on Thursday and she was good, but then I went to Michigan to celebrate my Mother's birthday as well as my parents 45th wedding anniversary. I did ride Zion over the weekend, but that is another story. Back to Gram, she was very happy to see us, and very calm, especially considering she has pretty had about 10 days off of the last 12, our riding has been sporadic at best. After some quality time in the grooming stall, and lots of kisses and treats, it was time to make a decision. She was so good, I thought, what the heck, I will just get right on without lunging. The first 10 minutes were pretty good. She let out baby bucks and head tosses, but that is pretty normal for her if I don't consistently ride. We did walk, trot, canter in both directions, our normal warm up.
Then the big storm hit! The indoor is very well insulated so you never really hear the storms, but last night, it was as if there was not an ounce of insulation in the barn! The crashing and flashes of light it was first caught Gram's attention, then the hail came crashing into the side of the metal barn, and then the Pièce de résistance the metal doors lifted out and banged back into the metal walls. I could sense Gram's eyeballs rolling back in her head.

So I thought to myself, the smart thing to do is to calmly get off her back. So I kept talking, trying to talk over the sounds coming from mother nature as well as the barn boogie monsters. I pat her neck, and slowly leaned forward to test if she would explode. I toook my time and carefully lifted my leg cautiously, but ready to be put right back in case I needed to hold on, and then past the point of holding on positioned myself for a dismount that would hurt the least if she took off. To my shock, she stood like an old pro. Once my feet were firmly planted on the ground, I gave her a good face rub, and plenty of praise. Not a second later Gram lost it! She started screaming, the barn was also, so I couldn't really blame her. The loudest crash yet, and Gram wanted to take off. Even though she was about to lose her mind, she was very aware of where I was, and I think tried not to hurt me. Last year she would have just bolted for fear of her life and no regard for mine. Needless to say I was proud of my big girl.

I decided to let the storm pass over a bit, and then brought her back into the indoor to lunge to get some kinks out. She was good, jumped and kicked a couple of times, and then she was ready to work. Since it was a stressful night, I let her end without getting back in the saddle. We spent some more quality hand walking time, and then I put her to bed. Even though we didn't accomplish much, I was so very proud of her growth and maturity to handle herself while a huge storm lingered above us!

Friday, April 1, 2011

We like our work

Gram has been absolutely fabulous lately... I hope this doesn't jinx things! I have been getting out the barn regularly, so that probably helps. Last night she was a little wired, so I wasn't sure if that would cause our good girl streak to come to an end. To my surprise she was better than ever. When I arrived at the barn, she had a sad look, I had come right at feeding time, so she was not given her food. Everyone else was chopping away and I walked up to her stall, my heart felt for her. I gave her hay and a couple of handfuls of grain. She was very grateful, but still looked hungry. She was a big girl though and let me take her from her stall. I tacked her up rather fast, for the first time in a two weeks she was not completely caked with mud. She was very alert and even a little spooky. I took her into the indoor and she was literally afraid of her shadow. She quickly worked through it, but still felt like she might explode. Not the horse show explode from two years ago, but still anxious. She let out a couple of mini spooks and then a couple of little mini bucks in the canter stretch, but that was about it. It was more of a head down and little jumps, not a real buck... the kind that makes you giggle because it is playful, not angry.

I started to pick her up and work on transitions. I pushed a little more and asked for half steps. She actually produced a couple of nice strides without anyone on the ground, so we stretched again and took a walk break. I picked her back up and ask for half-pass and they were much better. She was lighter in my hands, and completely listening to my seat and leg. I was almost shocked at first. The transitions early on seem to be the key to getting her prepped. I do lots of trot halt, trot off again, sometimes I through in a rein back, but I am always leery of how much ask for the rein back, I don't want her to think that is what she needs to do every time, she needs to wait for my leg to go back. Lately, she has been getting a little "stuck in gears". When I first ask for the transition from trot to halt, she wants to get stuck behind my leg. It normally take a bit of gear grinding before she realizes she needs to stay in front of my leg. Normally the gear grinding takes shape in a back step, then a jump forward and up, into the trot. It is am honest mistake as far as I can tell. Afterall, I am just asking her to stop and then trot off again. :)

When then worked on our canter transitions. I am determined to start putting the flying changes on her over this summer. She was so great in the canter last night, I didn't want to stop! WE have been working on canter serpentine's with simple changes on the centerline. The first couple are normally really bad, but not last night. Like Gymnast she was sticking every landing and then departing again light as a feather in my hand. Normally she becomes more of a barrel than a feather. She is getting stronger, and really understanding her job, which makes my job with her fun. After we nailed a few simple changes into the light connection, I put her quarter sheet back on and called Turi dog into the arena for some happy dog in the sand running. Turi was happy in her dog bag with my heavy jacket draped over her. When she tried to come, my jacket stuck to her puppy harness, which caused the jacket to "move" on its own. Gram was slightly freaked, but Faible was snorting from her stall. The more Faible snorted the more Gram tried to fit into my pocket. But my big girl didn't do anything stupid, she just looked very alert... she wanted to run away, but instead stood there with faith that I would not cause something to hurt her. It was cute to witness. Gram and I then chased Turi around a bit which gave Gram time to cool down enough to be untacked and eat her dinner. All in all it was a great night, and made me love my girls just a little bit more than I already did!