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

Friday, March 1, 2013

Weird Mare Day

It was cold today, colder than the forecast was saying it was (high 40's my ass), overcast and windy. There was an inordinate amount of people on the streets when I left the house at noon to go to the local Petco to buy my cats' organic grain-free food (yup, we don't eat organic, but the cats do...) and it seemed like everyone was in a bad mood, including the cashier at the store. It kind of reminded me of South FL...

At the barn, everyone was miserable too. Everyone is tired of the cold. Personally, I think that if it's going to be cold and dreary, it should be snowing. EVERYONE here hates the snow. I love it. It covers all the brown dry dead vegetation in sparkly clean whiteness and makes it all look absolutely beautiful...

It did not snow today. I had been hemming and hawing about whether I should ride or not, debating about having a snaffle bit session with Lily or trying out more doma vaquera-ish stuff (yes, the video inspired me), but in the end, my tired self won and I arrived at the barn having decided that I would take Lily for a long walk in the woods. I figured we could go to the field where Charles took photos of us a while back and maybe lunge her on the hill to do some conditioning. Plus it's a FIELD. Might as well start getting her used to it-maybe we can ride out there more.

Lily tried to run away from me again in the field, but then gave up and stood waiting while I went up to her. She was SUPER fidgety in the cross ties, not letting me groom the mud off her face, stepping away from me every time I approached her with the brush, and trying to turn her neck around to look behind her at the horses in the arena (believe me, if I cross tie her to face the arena, she will find a reason to turn her neck the opposite way! We've done this before). These are little things, but they drive me crazy because of what they mean: she is in a flighty herd-bound mood. I was really glad I'd decided to not ride her-she would have been a handful.

I took her on the trail with her rope halter and the lunge line, and she was all prancey and snorty as we walked down the path, turning her head around to look at the old house in the woods that she's seen 10,000 times, and in the process getting into my personal space. We did a lot of side-passing, stopping and backing in this part, and she also got elbowed in the neck a couple of times. This is SO unlike her.

We made it to the bridge, which we crossed uneventfully, and jogged together up the road that leads to the field. I had Lily carefully walk down the initial steep slope of the track, and once we were on flat land, we ran-me sprinting, and her doing a really nice extended trot next to me.

I then chose a spot on the flatter portion of the slope where I lunged her w/t/c. She was a good girl, distracted but listening, and was also very sane about the whole thing, actually breaking to the next slowest gait when coming down the hill. I allowed this to protect her legs. We haven't done formal hill work in a long time.

Walking, distracted.

Slow trot. It's funny how the tension in her doesn't translate at all into photos! She looks positively bored in this one. She was not!

More forward trot

I worked her for 10 minutes, then we walked back to the track and made our way over to the creek crossing. It was a little less muddy than the previous time we had come this way, when Charles had ended up taking Lily by the reins and leading her towards the stream.

Lily became very nervous as we got closer, trembling visibly. She is getting better about the sound of rushing water, but this part of the creek is wider and deeper, so the sound is louder. All I wanted was to get as close to the water's edge as possible. I had an idea of trying to send her across, but the mud was quite squishy and I was wearing muck shoes, not boots, so while I didn't think we'd be able to achieve my goal, I at least wanted her to walk through the mud and realize that streams don't eat horses. At least, not small streams... Lily would come up next to me as we inched closer to the water, then try to cut across my path to my left as if we were lunging. This made me really irritated-the footing was slippery and deep, there wasn't enough room for this kind of stunt, and I was trying really hard to not step in the water in the tire tracks, so I made her back her little butt right back across to my right. I finally made it as far as I could without sinking ankle-deep into the mud, and not expecting much, gave Lily lunge line. She completely surprised me by stepping cautiously forward, without hesitating and with no urging, until she was right at the water's edge, where she stood all by herself, a good 20 feet in front of me, and stared at the other shore. I called her back before she made the decision to turn around, and gave her lots of praise!

We returned to the field, where I lunged Lily another 10 minutes in a flatter portion. One of my feet got tangled in the long flattened grass as I was walking while lunging, and I fell to my knees, which scared Lily. She tried to take off as I said, "WHOA!" and she actually responded-she stopped, and then came to me all by herself. What a good girl!

We resumed lunging and finished our 10 minutes with no further mishaps, though she continued to look off towards the woods and the top of the hill.

I was trying to get a photo of how well she was using herself as she went uphill at  the canter, but the phone's camera's timing was off. Lily was really reaching up under herself going up. 

Afterwards, we made our way back on the track, but I decided to take a detour to see if we could find a narrower, less muddy way to cross the creek. We walked into the treeline and followed the stream. I was walking very carefully here, as you could tell by the appearance of the grass that the river had overflown at one point and run through here. I was expecting bogs and pockets under the footing, and was keeping a close eye on Lily's feet as she walked next to me. If her hooves were to sink past her coronet bands, we were bailing on this little mission. She paid no mind to anything, not even being particularly careful herself, as she kept trying to crane her head around to look behind us, almost smacking me in the head a couple of times. I had to push her away from me more than once. She was driving me crazy! She never does stuff like this.

I did find a spot where we both could have crossed, but the bank leading to it was super iffy looking. There was a drop in the terrain into this bank, and the bank itself looked like grass covered in mud from the stream.  I had Lily stand and I stepped carefully down first. There was a little bit of give in the footing, but it seemed dry and secure, so I stopped and  turned to watch Lily. Knowing that this was my cue for her to come, she lowered her head to look at the footing, then reached forward with a leg and followed. I watched her hooves as she walked around me, but as she came over to my left, stepping lightly and quickly, I saw the fraction of a second when her legs started to sink. I leaped back onto secure footing, and Lily jumped also, to land right next to me. I checked her legs-she had sunk fetlock-deep before we had turned around. I had a feeling she would have sunk farther if we'd hesitated. Yeah-not trying that one again.

That was a close call...

Staring off at the hill, right after a little mini-adventure. I still don't know why she was so wired and distracted.

I managed to catch her as she gave a big blow/snort in this one!

We walked back to the barn. She gave my right arm a workout as I kept having to stop and make her back up, but we made it in one piece. I hosed Lily's legs off and confirmed that everything was fine under the layer of mud she'd acquired.

Back at the barn, Cat, a big laid-back warmblood mare, had spooked in the outdoor arena during a lesson, and Melody, the most chill mare in the barn, was pacing and fidgeting to the point where everyone thought she was colicking. She was not-she was just worked up, but no one could figure out why. Her owner tried riding her in the indoor and she also spooked, which was something she had never done before. Tina took Daisy, her 30-year old retired mare, out of the field to a patch of grass over by one of the gelding paddocks to groom her and hand-graze her, and Daisy was also spooking for no reason.

It was definitely a weird mare day. I felt better knowing it was not just my mare that was acting out of sorts. Lily has her days, but she usually settles eventually-I don't remember ever seeing her this wired for so long. I was glad I didn't ride. Back in the field with her buddies, I had expected her to gallop back out to them, but she simply walked away from me to join her friends.

Weird. And it was not a full moon today.

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