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



Friday, February 1, 2013

Hard-core


That's what 2 of the ladies at the barn called me today when they saw me working a fully tacked Lily at liberty in the indoor despite it being 27 degrees outside with a windchill of 6 degrees. Honestly, groundwork and riding are the only way to stay warm when it's this cold!

It was cold enough to make Aengus, the Maryland kitten, want to bundle up  in the hoodie I had just removed!
I woke up to a white world again, but by the time I left the house at 2:00 pm, most of the snow had blown away. There was some still at the barn, but not much.

Behind the indoor. There was still snow here, where it was blocked from the wind.

The horses were all in the bottom field again. Lily tried hiding behind her buddies (I should have taken photos of that!) but then gave up and came to me on her own, ears pricked and happy.

That's her in the purple (royal!) blanket. All of the other horses were clustered by the fence because a new  TB arrived and he had just been turned out in the medical paddock next door. Lily didn't care. She just continued grazing next to Jezebel, Sally's OTTB.

I tacked her up in the aisle, and ended up sliding a wind breaker on over my clothes because the frigid wind was cutting right through every single layer I was wearing. Her legs and hooves were uber muddy, but I scraped as much of it off as I could so I could take these pics for you guys. Of course while I'm photographing my mare's hooves, the new boarder is bringing her stuff in. She must've thought I'm nuts...

She was standing even more pigeon-toed than usual here...

Left front-the more upright hoof. 


Left front, underneath. 
Right front-the flatter hoof. She was shifting her weight when I took this pic. 
Right front, underneath. Sorry about all the mud. I had scraped it off, and she managed to step on a clump anyway.  
Left hind. It looks a little bull-nosed, but it's from the flash of the camera.
Right hind. 

I decided to ride in the indoor-with the wind, it was way too cold to ride outside. I walked Lily around to let her get used to the sound of the wind howling against the building, then got on. She was very, very "up" and distracted. We circled around and went in both directions, and she was still very looky, her ears pointing every which way except at me. I brought her to a stop in the center of the arena, dismounted, removed her reins and sent her off.

She galloped around and around and around, bucking and doing bicycles with her front legs in the corners. I let her go, every once in awhile asking her to change direction. When the fellow boarders turned up, I stopped to chat with them for a bit, and it was funny because Lily immediately came to a stop in the far corner of the arena and just waited there for me to finish talking, completely relaxed with her head down, occasionally sniffing at the ground, but with her attention 100% on me. As soon as my attention was back on her, she went right back to running around! Now, however, she was turning her head midflight to look at me, as if expecting some other command. I bowed, asking her to come to me, but this only made her circle around and continue in the opposite direction. I had her work for another 10 minutes or so, at a trot, then asked her to come to me again. This time she screeched to a halt at the far end of the arena, turned and marched right over to me until she was standing at arm's length. What a good girl!!!

I mounted up again, and she felt much better after allowing her to work off all of that excess energy. We did a brief warm-up at the walk, since she was already more than warm enough, and started working at the trot.

We had to get really creative for this ride. The indoor is the size of a small dressage arena (20m x 40m), so as soon as you have more than 2 horses in there, it gets pretty crowded. We started out by ourselves, but then 2 boarders came in to walk their horses around, a farrier parked his truck in the indoor (WTF??!!) and another rider joined us.

I mean, really???
Since Lily and I kept finding ourselves limited to a 20m circle at one end or the other of the arena, we did 10-10 at walk and trot, then 20-20 at walk and trot. I then added the canter, which was kind of a challenge because my attention was on the other horses and Lily was getting confused by my mixed signals-she kept trying to trot very fast into the canter. I had to keep bringing her back to a sane trot, and asking again. After the 4th attempt, she departed correctly and gave me a very UP canter, where I could see her knees flashing in front of her! I laughed, and after 20 strides brought her back to the trot. At that moment the other rider entered the arena and it was really getting crowded, so we ditched the 20-20, and instead circled at one end at the canter, crossed the entire arena diagonally at the trot, changed direction and circled again at the canter at the opposite end. We did this a couple of times. Then we did baby leg yields at the trot off of the quarter lines until I saw in the mirrors that Lily wasn't cheating by letting her hind end trail off to the side. Then we did circle at the trot, leg yield at the trot to canter depart. Canter a circle, trot across the diagonal, and repeat in the opposite direction. That was an interesting exercise, and while there is still room for improvement with the leg yield portion of it, she did very well when I asked her to pick up the canter on the correct lead. Basically, I had to push her over with my inside leg way back to keep her butt from trailing, then as we rounded the corner, bring my inside leg back to her girth with NO pressure, as I lightly swung my outside leg back and shifted my weight to cue the canter. She picked up the correct lead every time, instantly.

Lily was trying to get fast and flat, but responded when I half-halted and brought her back. It seems like we cantered a lot, but we did not-we were cantering about a minute at a time, between the lack of space and trying to make sensible figures while dodging the other 3 horses and the truck in the arena! This is how well she was responding: normally, I would not have cantered her AT ALL in an arena of that size with one other horse, never mind 3 others.

After this, I let her stretch at the walk, then brought her back and we did another variation of the 10-10: 10 trot strides and halt for 6 seconds. Then trot again for 10 strides. We did this several times in each direction. Then I added a challenge: trot 10 strides, halt for 6 seconds, back up for 8 strides, then trot for 10 strides. SHE DID IT!!! Her backing up was smooth and steady, and she was immediately springing into the trot from the rein-back. (She likes this sort of power-building exercise and can get quite excited about them!) We did this 4 times in each direction, then I let her walk out and stretch to cool down. She had barely broken a sweat on her neck, but then again, the temperature was dropping. Looking down, I could really see Lily's breath-it almost looked like I was riding a fire-breathing dragon. Speaking of fire, while cooling down, the farrier turned on the grinder on his trucks, and Lily got to watch. She was a very good girl-she looked at the sparks flying, but didn't spook at neither the sight nor the sound. Just kept on walking.

I dismounted, loosened her girth and took her for a brief walk outside, and tried to get a decent photo of her in her velvet pad and white boots, but she kept making faces...

"You're really going to take pictures right now? Just take me into the barn and undress me." She kept trying to come to me.

"This is boring."

"Mom, REALLY?? It's freaking COLD out here!" It didn't help that I laughed at her when she made that face...*lol*

"SOOO BORED!" She even cocked a foot in this one. 

I untacked her in the barn aisle, in a different spot because her stall was being re-done: John had purchased stall mats for Lily (her stall was one of two in the entire barn without mats), and him and the guys were working on leveling the stall floor and fitting the mats. Lily was slightly sweaty under her saddle pad, so I put her cooler on and let her sit while I put Durasole on her feet, put all of my stuff away, and talked to BQ and the new boarder.

By then, Lily's stall was ready and the little bit of sweat on her back had dried, so I put her midweight blanket on and let her go into her stall to eat her hay.

I've been trying to take her sheet and stable blanket home to wash (you guys saw the sheet in the bronc riding post...it's FILTHY) but with the radical ups and downs the weather has been doing, I hadn't been able to, as I don't have backup horse clothes. BQ gave me the clear to take them tonight, as it's supposed to stay in the 20s until Sunday.

Of course, I hosed the crap out of the sheet in the wash rack at the barn-I couldn't throw it in the washer with that much mud clinging to it-then wrapped the wet thing up into as small a bundle as I could make it and dumped it in the back of the truck with the stable blanket/cooler.

It's a 15 minute drive home from the barn. By the time I parked in front of the apartment and went to get Lily's clothes out of the truck bed, the sheet had FROZEN solid. Don't ask me why, but this cracked me up. I started laughing and laughing. I just...I LOVE IT, you know? This weather. I've been wanting seasons since I was a kid and would avidly read anything about surviving in the winter-breaking ice in the buckets and troughs, not leaving wet clothes out because they'll freeze, making sure you have waterproof insulated gloves or you will pay dearly, etc, etc. It's a neverending list of things, and it's just awesome to be able to finally EXPERIENCE it, to have to go back and review all of those things I read so long ago, because I'm actually putting the knowledge to use! When you have lived in hot weather your entire life, lands of ice and snow seem like something out of a fairy tale. You know they exist, but it is something far, far away that other people experience. It's nice to finally be one of those other people. There's a certain kind of magic in finding icicles hanging from the bottom of your car, in watching the snow blow away on the wind like plumes of smoke, in seeing your horse's breath in the air as you canter around the arena. Hell, even the layers: they are a pain in the ass but it is an art to get them just right!

Lily's sheet and stable blanket are officially clean again, and will go back to the barn tomorrow. There's supposed to be more snow tonight!


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