"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Barn Sunday

I hate South Florida summers. You will hear this a lot. It is the #1 reason why I keep pushing for us to move further north. It doesn't have to be outside of the state, just a couple hours north. Today was typical. 95 degrees, with a heat index of 105. Humidity at 62% (actually lower than it felt). The husband and I used to live in Tampa, and yes, it would get hot, but not like this.
I was at the barn at 9:00 am and already it felt like you were breathing through water, it was so hot and humid. On Monday we had taken the horses down to Wolf Lake, a Davie park with a lake set up specifically so you can take horses swimming. It was Lily's first time being trailered anywhere with me, and she handled it SO WELL! She behaved like a long-time trail horse, going right into the water. She did not like the bait fish nibbling at her belly hairs, and had a small bucking fit in the water over that. lol But she stopped as soon as I yelled "Whoa!" She learned that tickling did not equal hurting, and after the one time, she did not buck again, and by the end of our outing, she had learned to enjoy being in the water, staying in, one hind leg cocked, until I asked her to come back out again.

Her first water adventure!

It was a long day though, and we also spent a long time on the trails, so she received a nice liniment bath once back home and had 3 days off in a row. I longed her on Friday but she had Saturday off again (I work from 6am to 7pm, and was exhausted after work), so I wanted to longe her a few minutes before getting on to head out on the trails. It was way too hot and humid for "real" work. I hosed her down prior to her workout, to keep her cooler. We did w/t/c as a warm-up, then I attached the side reins for more w/t/c. She was beautiful on the longe with the side reins, the best she's been so far (of course I didn't have the camera on me!). Judy has me working on getting her to relax her entire topline under saddle-she has a tendency to go hollow-backed after her bad experience with the cowboy, but is learning to relax sooner and sooner with each workout. She's just starting to learn to relax on her own with the side reins. She was cute-when she's relaxed, her head swings a little to each side with each stride, and she nods with the beat of her canter. It was so humid that even after 15 minutes of working, the water had not dried off from her shoulders and rump. I hosed her down again, squeegeeing the water from her shoulders with my hand as I continued hosing her, until the water was running cold between my hand and her skin. She's such a good girl she just stood there, no restraint, without even trying to eat grass or dance away from the hose. Mark had just started tacking up Beau, his bright bay Quarter horse gelding, so I got on Lily to do a little arena work.

Pretty girl!!

Baby face

We trotted, doing large circles, until she was extending her trot and relaxing her back and neck. I really want to take her to a dressage schooling show later this fall when it gets cooler! Mark walked out with Beau as I was hosing Lily down again. We rode out. Beau led the way; Lily hadn't been outside of the barn area in over a week and she always gets a little hesitant to leave when she hasn't been out in a while.

Mark & Beau
Beau jumped at a branch cracking in one of the trees as soon as we turned down the street, so Lily led the way down to the park. The baby pro trail horse! A lot of things had changed on the street since the last time Lily had gone out-a guy on the street had torn down his 4 stalls and was working on getting all the wood out, there was a pile of garbage by the hedge lining another property, and lessons going on in the arena outside one of the barns. Lily had to stop and look at everything. I urged her on each time, because if I let her decide, she'll say, "I'm not too sure about this" and will quietly try to sneak back home. I didn't want to be circling her all the way down the street. Since Beau was a little more uppity than usual (he normally plods his way down the street), I took the back way into the park, down the powerlines. Beau relaxed, and walked along next to Lily while Mark and I talked.
This park is one of the only ones in Broward County with a public riding stable. They give guided trail rides on the weekends. One of our barn buddies, Dianne, who also owns Pink Slip, the barn goddess (she is a TB ex-racer, and one of my faves in the barn after Lily!), works at the park on the weekends. Our goal for today was to go to the park barn to say hi. It was too hot to do much more, but long walks are still a great way of keeping horses fit. It's so hard to keep a horse fit in South FL summers! My previous horse had stopped sweating when it started raining every afternoon back in late May-high humidity is a big risk factor for anhydrosis. Lily is hypohydrotic, but with temperatures now 5 degrees cooler (believe it or not!!) and hosing her off prior to a workout, she will be sweating nicely by the end of a session without panting like a dog.
We rode down to the barn. There is a side road that leads to it. The first time we took that route, there was a storm coming, and I was tense thinking where we would take cover if we got hit by the rain. I hate riding in the rain. I wear glasses, and when they get wet, I can't see with them on. Everything is a giant blur without them on, so taking them off when it's raining is out of the question. Lily must have sensed how tense I was, because she was jumping at everything on that route that time, very unlike her. We did get hit by rain, and we took cover under a nearby parking area for the park trucks, and afterwards she was fine. But I chose to head out this way again this time to test her, and see how she would handle it. There are palms all over the park, and their leaves fall all over the place. Most horses think they are giant horse-eating octopi lying in wait for an unwary hoof. Lily is funny about them-she'll completely ignore them if they are on a route she's familiar with, but if I take her down a new route and there's a palm leaf on the ground anywhere, she'll turn her head to look at it sideways (she cocks an ear at it and looks at it with one eye-it cracks me up when she does that), and she'll kind of dance away from it like she's never seen a palm frond before. It had stormed last night so one side of the road was strewn with them:

I made her walk right down the center, and step on all the leaves. She didn't give a hoot. :) She did do the cocked ear & one-eyed glance act at a large puddle next to the palm trees, so I made her walk into it. She liked that once she realized what it was, and her ears went up as she splashed through the water. Silly mare.
We made it to the barn and I texted Dianne to let her know we had arrived. There was a lot of people in the barn area in general, and people walked past us warily, trying to stay away from the horses' hind ends. Lily looked at everyone and everything and didn't budge.

Watching the people on the pony rides, on the other side of the barn

We hung out for awhile with Dianne, talking, then headed back home. We cut through one of the paths between the horse fields, and into one of the trails to get some shade before heading back out onto the powerlines. I've only recently started to take Lily onto the actual trails. The first 2 times she would get a little claustrophobic and would start looking into the bushes, searching for some unseen tiger hiding in the trees. She led the way this time, no hesitation.

The powerlines. Awesome fun to gallop down them!! The footing is always smooth and fast. Haven't done it with Lily yet, but yes with Pink, the ex-racer :)

The rest of the ride home was uneventful. We bathed the horses and turned them out in the parking lot to graze (turnout space at our barn is limited to the arena and a large side paddock, so of course there is no grass in the official turnouts). Lily always enjoys this.

I cleaned her stall, soaked her beet pulp, tossed 2 pads of hay in her stall, and brought her in for her lunch.

That afternoon, I decided to work with Bella. It was the first sunny afternoon in at least 2 weeks. I have been trying to work with Bella even longer than that, but could never accomodate her either because of bad weather or because I was at work.

Bella is the cutest pony. She is a double-registered Arabian/Welsh pony cross, the perfect mix of the 2 breeds. The barn manager bought her as a lesson pony from a lady that was selling her in Orlando at a big hunter/jumper show barn. Bella had a different opinion as to what her purpose would be when she arrived at our barn.

Despite her beauty and excellent ground manners, under saddle she can get quite testy. Nothing to scare an experienced rider, but enough to terrify a beginner/intermediate rider. She can get spooky if you're nervous, and if she's in a bratty mood she'll refuse to go faster than a walk, or will simply refuse to go altogether! If you insist, she will probably toss her head and try to pop up. You have to spin her around once as soon as she tosses her head, and send her straight into a trot. She usually won't test you again after that, and will be a perfect pony for you. Good luck explaining this to a beginner. I had an intermediate student that was infatuated with Bella. Bella would give her hell each lesson. I'd have to give orders and smack a crop against my leg to get her going. Basically, the kid wasn't making Bella move-it was me with voice commands. The girl still had fun jumping her, because Bella LOOOOVES to jump, but it sucked for me knowing that this girl wasn't really controlling the mare on the flat. Oh well. Bella hurt her shoulder one night in the turnout and was lame for a month, and in the meantime I had this student ride Pink Slip, with whom she had a blast. They were a good match. But I ramble-back to Bella.

About a month after she arrived at the barn, we took her to one of the small local shows. I didn't realize it was a hunters only show until a week before the event, when I had to scramble to get a cheap hunt coat and show shirt. Then I had to review the hunters rules. I have always competed in jumpers, and in Puerto Rico the hunters division didn't even exist-we just had equitation over fences, which I guess is similar enough. I hated equitation-too subjective, and that whole thing of counting strides was so difficult at the time. I was 14.
Counting strides between fences now was easy, so I figured we could do it without making total fools of ourselves. All we wanted to see was how well Bella would behave at a show, so we could use her for the kids. My one concern was that all we had at the barn to jump were 4 cavaletti. I would stack them up to make two 1.5' jumps, but I knew that the smallest jumps at the show would be 2'. Bella was so confident over fences that I figured she must've jumped at least 2'6" regularly, but it felt weird going into a show not knowing for sure. And without a trainer!! I had never shown a horse all by myself.

Bella in perfect form at the horse show

As it turned out, we had a great time at the show. Bella was awesome, and we won grand champions in the 2' adult division...against ourselves! There were no other competitors! Even the judges joked about it over the loudspeakers.

Bella,Grand Champion
After that, I started the new job, and then Bella injured her shoulder, and it's pretty much been 4 months since the pony hasn't been used regularly. I always feel bad, because she's a good pony, she just needs a firm confident rider.

About 6 weeks ago, I started working her on the longe to get her used to having a job again, and she was SUCH a BRAT!  She had gotten into the most annoying habit of divebombing (also known as yanking your arm out by plunging her head down suddently to eat grass), and of course I had the brilliant idea, the first time out, to longe her in the front pasture by the street. She would NOT go, and was completely disrespectful, refusing to obey commands and trying to eat grass like she hasn't eaten in a month (she's fat, too, btw). Until the longe whip came out. That got her going, and she had a good workout. By the end of the session, she was bright, perky, relaxed and enjoying having a job again.

After that, she had a dose of discipline every day I was off from work. And then my work schedule changed again, I had less time, and then it started raining every afternoon. So no consistent work for Bella for 3 weeks. Today I tacked her up and longed her for about 10 minutes prior to riding her. She doesn't go into the arena except when she's ridden, and if she hasn't been ridden for awhile, she will be a little spooky. Today was no different-we warmed up in the center of the arena with walk and trot, but as soon as I moved her close to the arena wall, she would randomly bolt & take off at a gallop, continuing the circle. I worked her in both directions until she was calmly trotting by the wall. Then I got on. By then, pretty much everyone in the barn had tacked up and had walked into the arena, a highly unusual event-it is very rare when those of us who ride are able to ride at the same time. There were 4 of us in the arena at once, this hadn't happened since the Christmas holiays! It was fun-Dianne was on Pink Slip, Matilda was on Big Boy, Elisabeth was riding Crissy, and myself on Bella. Bella had a couple of hissy fits, but we know each other and she knows she can't get away with stuff when I'm riding her, so she would always keep on working as soon as I put her in her place. We had fun-w/t/c, and then Elisabeth and I started riding around the arena like a pair, trying to keep Crissy & Bella next to each other at the trot & canter. While doing this, a couple showed up at the arena entrance, and I heard the barn manager telling them about Bella. As it turns out, those people wanted to lease a horse and a pony, and were so impressed by Bella under saddle, that they paid for her lease right on the spot! Of course, when I asked the barn manager later, they were leasing the pony for their 13-year-old daughter. Who's a beginner. And who gets to give her lessons? Oh! That would be me.
Here we go...
At least it was a productive day! :)

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