Monday, June 30, 2014

Lesson #109 & #110: The Downsides of Summer

Another double blog instalment! Last Thursday, I didn't have a formal lesson and instead, went out on a hack with J and G. It's fly season in Ontario, everybody. I didn't realize that or at least didn't realize how bad it could be. My past experiences with the bush and flies was fairly limited to a small facility and we never went out on hacks. The horses there were typical schoolies and were used in many lessons a week so someone else was usually first at getting them fly sprayed etc. Since moving to Gosling Stables, that has changed and there are so many more opportunities to learn about caring for the horse and what exactly is involved from a rider. The facility (in terms of number of students/boarders going through) is much smaller and more of a family atmosphere so riders have many more opportunities to "get your hands dirty" and do it all.

Getting back to the ride... I didn't realize what a challenge it might be, with a sensitive bossy-pants like Ariel sans fly spray (newbie mistake!). I didn't realize it right away but as soon as we entered the bush, Ariel lost her sh*t. She was bunny hopping and stomping her feet, shaking her head and telling me she wanted to just go home (sounds a little like what I'd do...). It made for a frustrating, nerve-wrecking first part of the ride and I was really not having a good time because it's impossible to out-muscle a +900lbs animal that had her thoughts centered on NOT being itchy. Challenge accepted, Ariel. I was determined to get through this hack without losing my cool or tumbling off, again. I had to be reminded to keep my heels down when Ariel was yanking her head down and trying to scratch against anything she could. Eventually, we came to a semi-mutual understanding where I compromised and let her walk through the tall grasses when we could, but did remind her that we're going my way whether she likes it or not. It was a challenging hack because I had more focus on trying to maintain my butt in the saddle and also keeping Miss Ariel's mind off being so darned itchy. To try and alleviate the itching for her, whenever I saw a bug land on her neck, shoulders or rump, I was killing these critters. When we did emerge from the bush, both Ariel and I were covered in spots of blood where I killed the bugs and both itching like we took a liberal tumble through a patch of poison ivy.

I have not since stopped itching and there are red welts and my knees look chewed up. By Sunday, I was determined to get fly spray and not head back on a hack until we were both generously coated with fly spray. But, bugs weren't the problem, come Sunday... the heat and humidity was thick and I was sticking to EVERYTHING I had on, and Ariel was taking a nap in the cross-ties during tack-up. When K, +ADW and I entered the ring (thank heavens we weren't riding outside...), the three of us were just standing there with our horses looking like the lesson had just ended. LOL. Not only were the horses ready to call it a day, but we were already drenched in our own sweat!

Getting started was tough for everyone... the horses weren't the only ones who didn't feel like working. The warm-up was practically not necessary with the heat lingering in the air which was actually a good thing because we quickly moved into the canter. Ariel is falling in on the right rein even though I was using as much inside leg as humanly possible! I think I'll try a "pulsing action" with my leg instead so that she doesn't have the opportunity to lean on my leg while I'm trying to get her to straighten up, and even MORE prep time before getting into corners. This was a rather fruitful lesson because next, I'm told to canter into the vertical jump and just ride it through again and again... it was the perfect height of low intimidation so I wasn't cursing while riding into the fence. I managed two very successful rides over the jump even with a crappy turn in and a shorting of the end of the line. I was very pleased with myself and realized that at a canter, everything comes sooner! You have little time to think about what's coming up next and just have to react. It was exactly as I needed. Next, we get into the simple changes again... and let me tell you, it was a miserable mess for all three of us. The horses were taking short corners and the nice plump 8 turned into a very skinny linear looking 8. So, gears down and we trotted the pattern instead. Hopefully by next lesson, that figure will look as intended and at the canter.

I finally made the effort to download a photo (not mine) of Ariel for those who are curious about this sassy little mare that has been teaching me so much about patience, listening, communicating clearly and just learning about horses and riding.

Ariel sussing you out.

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