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



Monday, February 4, 2013

Flurries

On Saturday, it started to flurry as I was walking out of the apartment to the truck. It was still coming down when I parked at the barn. All of the horses were turned out, but for once they were in the upper portion of the field, something that I had not seen in almost 2 weeks. I was getting spoiled with not having to walk across at least 7 acres to fetch Lily...

She tried her little stunt of hiding behind other horses, despite most of the herd following me as I made my way to her, all of them thinking I brought treats. I walked right up to one of Lily's buddies, Beauty, the little black pony mare from when Lily was still being introduced to grass in the medical paddock, and started petting her. This got Lily's attention, and I stopped petting Beauty and faced Lily. She came. 

"Maybe if I hide back here, she won't see me."


"Wait...why is she petting her??" When I was giving Beauty all the attention...



The frozen chute. The chute is a wide path that connects the upper and lower portions of the field. It's usually pretty muddy, but it was frozen solid and extremely uneven terrain. Lily walked sound over it-no ouchiness at all with her newly bare front feet. But it was tough going anyway-I gave her lunge line so she could pick the best footing, but she ended up getting right behind me and following in my footsteps. :)


As we were coming out of the frozen chute, 2 of the other boarders were walking past us to get their own horses. The flurries were coming down harder by then, and I just kind of stood at the edge of the slope to the bottom portion of the field, looking at the winter landscape and grinning like an idiot. The other boarder, a lady in her late 60's who owns 2 horses and whom I truly consider hard-core (this woman rides EVERY DAY. Every single day. Right now she has a herniated disk, and she still rode. At a walk, but she still got on her mare. She's a tough one!), looked at me. "It's so beautiful!" I said as an explanation. "Don't you miss Florida?" she asked. "No! Not one bit! I love this!" I told her, and she laughed. "Well, I wouldn't mind being in Florida right now!" she said.

The view from the top of the bottom field. You can see the flurries when you enlarge this photo.


A snow-dusted Lily


Snowy hooves!


Inside the barn.



I tacked Lily up in the barn, and took her to the indoor again. The footing in the outdoor was also frozen to the consistency of concrete. There was only one other rider in the indoor, so at least it wasn't as crowded as the previous day. The footing, however, was slightly loose, but it was in dire need of a good dragging-you could tell it had also been frozen earlier in the day. I decided to keep the ride short and sweet, as I didn't want Lily getting her feet and tendons concussed on such a hard surface. 

We walked for a long time, then trotted a bit, and cantered once in each direction to warm Lily up thoroughly. Then we proceeded to do a productive 25 minutes of trotting and walking. The other rider left, and she was substituted by one of the trainers riding a student's horse. Of course, being a trainer, she was riding similar patterns to my own-changing directions a lot, circling at the ends of the arena, so it got interesting maneuvering around her. When I was a beginner rider starting out in the jumper world, I took lessons in a fairly crowded arena environment-my trainer at the time would be giving lessons to multiple riders of different levels at once. I got used to doing my thing while at the same time watching out for riders coming around in the opposite direction, and students flying over the fences laid out across the ring. To this day, I rarely ever have to call out, "Outside!" while riding-I just stay attuned to what everyone else is doing in such a manner that I can stay out of their way. 

My favorite part of the ride was when I deliberately decided to ride in the opposite direction the trainer was going. Each time she changed direction, so did I, just to keep going opposite from her. I stayed on the inside track along the quarter lines, and every time I passed her I would slide Lily over to the rail, not by letting her drift in a diagonal line, but by asking her to leg yield over to the rail at the trot. Lily did a fantastic job, and I confirmed each time in the mirrors that she was gliding over to the rail in 3 trot strides, crossing her legs correctly, no more butt drifting. It was so cool to see! She was soft and relaxed each time I asked for these baby leg yields-no overbending, no tail wringing. Each time we'd change directions, we'd go across the diagonal of the arena, and then 3 strides before reaching the opposite corner, I'd sit and ask her to leg yield the rest of the way to the rail. We did all of this a few times in each direction, but didn't overdo it. We finished up by trotting small circles in each corner, then walking out on a loose rein so Lily could stretch down. 

Afterwards, I untacked her and put her midweight blanket on (she had not broken a sweat at all with our fairly light workout), left her boots on, and decided to go for a walk in the woods with her. 

The footing was not concrete solid, thankfully, which is what allowed this to happen. It was fairly frozen, but since the ground was covered with fallen leaves, it was somewhat springy. Lily walked along behind me, and the flurries came down harder. We took the opposite direction from the one we usually do, to the right at the fork in the trail, towards the Dreaded Bridge

The snow

The bridge. This looks like a freaking painting...so beautiful!

The stream


We were standing by the bridge. I was letting Lily look around and settle a bit.


The flurries were coming down thicker here. 


The water was running fairly high through the stream beneath the bridge, and Lily became uneasy as we drew closer to it, continuing to follow behind me, but zig-zagging as we drew closer. She looked so pretty with the snow coming down-in real life she stood out against the whiteness. 

I crossed the bridge with her, after making sure it wasn't frozen underneath the light covering of snow, and Lily followed me without hesitation. We made it to the other side, and I had her stand and look around while taking some more pics. 






Still a little insecure, as you can see by her "question mark" ears (one forward and one back), but much calmer than before-she was choosing to stay next to me and her eyes were soft and relaxed.

By then she was really starting to settle. I crossed back over the bridge in front of her, and once on the other side, started to uncoil lunge line to send her across first. Lily became antsy when she realized what I was going to ask her to do, and tried to pretend she thought I was asking her to lunge, but I brought her back to neutral, had her stand in front of the bridge quietly for a minute, and sent her. She hesitated for a second, then went, all on her own, while I gave her more lunge line and followed a horse length behind her.
 
Crossing in front of me. The bridge was too long to send her all the way by herself. She was watching me as she went first, ear cocked towards me. 


This was very cool-according to Karl Hempfling, driving a horse from behind like this is the most difficult way of "leading" a horse. At some point I will properly reference him, as I can't find his book right now in the mess of boxes after the move! Lily made it easy, though. This is the first time we have attempted this in this manner. 

We crossed the bridge a couple more times, sending Lily across in front while I followed behind. 

 Crossing back over the bridge.  She was looking straight ahead but with an ear still pointing at me. Each time she went with more and more confidence, until by the last time she was enthusiastically popping onto the bridge, ears pricked, expression happy. "I can do this!"


Safe on the other side of the bridge


I stopped and bowed, and she turned and came on her own. Note the slack in the lunge line-I didn't pull her towards me.

We then made our way back to the trail, and walked back to the trail head, but continued on to the first ditch, which was now also dusted with snow. The footing was hard, but not slippery, and I tried to send Lily first, but she did not like the fact that it looked different yet again. I had her stand and stay, then crossed first, in part because I wanted to make sure it was as safe as it looked. When I turned around to look back at her from the other side, I had to grin: she was standing there, ears pricked forwards, 100% of her attention on me, as if she had studied closely how I had gotten across. I asked her to come, and she confirmed my suspicions by choosing exactly the same path I had chosen to cross the ditch! She literally stepped in my footprints! 

We continued on to the second ditch, but the stream that now crosses through it was half frozen over, and the banks were hard but slippery from the snow. I didn't want to have her lose trust in me by sending her into a situation that might be very dangerous for both of us, so we swung around and headed back. 

I had her cross the first ditch by herself a couple more times, then we walked back to the barn. All of the horses had been brought in from the field, since by then it was downright snowing. I removed Lily's boots and picked her feet, and got these shots of her hind hooves for you guys:

Left hind. You can see the remains of the old puncture wound in her frog. Her heels look faintly purple/pink due to the remainders of a previous application of Durasole.

Right hind.

Compare to the way they looked in FL. The old puncture wound in her left hind frog is almost healed-it's probably 1/4" deep now-more an indentation than the hole it used to be at its worst (at the time of the posting I linked back to, the hole was well concealed by the ridge across the center of her frog. Now you can see how big it was underneath that ridge!). I can scrape it with the hoof pick now and she doesn't care. Her white lines are still a little bit stretched, but she actually has a hoof wall now, whereas she barely had a wall before! Nothing special has been done with her hinds, other than the current trimmer's work, my touch-ups, applying Durasole to her soles, frogs and heels, and Magic Cushion to the left hind, which we discontinued a while back. 

Into her stall she went with a big pile of hay. She has lost some weight over the last couple of weeks, what with the true cold we're currently having and getting back into a more consistent work schedule. She still looks great, but I'm able to get her girth a hole tighter than usual. I told BQ and she is increasing Lily's evening hay to see if that helps. They feed whopping amounts of hay-exactly what I would feed with this weather. I love how BQ offered to first increase Lily's hay vs increasing her grain. 

It's nice to finally board at a barn managed and owned by real horsepeople.

A snowy arena. We'd had almost an inch of snow between the time I arrived at the barn and the time I left.


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