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

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Under the Wild Blue Yonder

On Wednesday, between the turnout experiments and the breaking of Circe's spell, Lily and I had a solo ride.

I wanted to trot and canter. Especially canter. Especially after the awesome walk-canter transition Lily had given me on the bridle path the day before. It's boring cantering in circles in an arena, even when doing stuff like canter shoulder-ins. It's very different to actually be cantering with a destination in mind.

This is one of my favorite endurance videos. It was posted on The Distance Depot's website a couple of years ago, and every so often I go back and look at it. It is from the FEI World Endurance Championships in Abu Dhabi.  There is just something about the two girls on their obviously uber-fit Arabians cantering so easily forever and ever across the desert. Among my favorite things is the people handing them water bottles like you would get on a foot race...and the water is for the horses. The girls pour the water over their horses' necks and keep on trucking.

Just one of the many, many reasons why I'd love to try out this sport. The horse's well-being comes first.


Lily was super calm when I went to get her. I cross tied her in the main barn and tacked up quietly and uneventfully. It is open season: deer hunting started on October 1st, and all of the parks around us allow it. The night before, we had heard shots in the woods behind the barn.

Since I would be riding by myself on this day, Phoebe offered to lend me the orange horsey vest that she has for Deja, and her own mesh bright yellow vest. Lily and I were neon! The orange equine vest fit Lily and perfectly matched the new Renegades.

"I'm too sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my shirt,
So sexy it hurts!"
We rode out. Charles had stolen my headphones so I rode solo without music for the first time in 4 months. Back when I took jumping lessons, I'd listen to my favorite music in the car on the way to the barn so the songs would be stuck in my head for riding. Since it's been so overplayed on the radio, I had Katy Perry's "Roar" playing in my head. I usually change the channel when I hear it on the radio, but the song was a nice beat to imagine for the kind of ride I wanted to have.

The neighbor's mares were out in the field by the bridle path. Lily looked at them, but happily walked on. I asked her to trot up the hill, and she alternately asked to trot and walk as we continued through the pastures.

Once we reached the yard where we have to follow the fence line to reach the woods, I asked Lily to canter. Again, she picked up the canter from a walk, and we loped up the last hill. The second we reached the tree line, she broke down to a trot, then acted all flinchy about her right front. I looked down and the boot on that foot had come undone and was spinning around her pastern. *Sigh* The cables had come out completely, something which you need tools to fix, so I removed both boots and tucked them safely under a tree, to pick up on our return trip.

We continued barefoot, alternately walking, trotting and cantering through the woods. These woods are private land, so hunting is allowed at any time, any day. I was trying to get us through as quickly as possible.

We made it out into the open, crossed the small street between the woods and the corn field, and made our way towards the open farmlands.

Lily spooked once at a bird taking flight through the corn field, and I have to admit I jumped too at the sudden beat of wings right next to us. We were trotting when she gave a big startle, ducking her front end. She had a split second's pause and since I had immediately calmed down upon seeing the bird, she did too, and voluntarily trotted on.

We made it onto the long dirt road that leads to the farm lands. Redneck Park stretched out along the horizon, with soybean fields in the near distance, and the great blue sky wide and endless above us.

We moved along the grass next to the dirt road, alternately walking, trotting and cantering. Lily was happy to canter along, snorting with every stride like she always does when she's relaxed. Her stamina isn't the greatest yet (remember she was stall-bound for 4 months! This is why the vast majority of our rides right now are at a walk. We did the rehab; we're now doing the conditioning), but she was very good about letting me know when she wanted breaks, which I allowed as soon as she requested them. As soon as she had recovered, she would ask to trot again, and I would let her.

It is wonderful beyond words to have reached this level of understanding with her, where neither one of us is afraid of asking. I think of all of the jobs I've tried with her, she is enjoying this one the most. I love seeing her pricked ears in front of me and feel her relaxed and confident underneath me, a true extension of myself.

Thank you, Lily, for trusting me enough to allow this to happen.
Thank you, Liz, for reminding me that this is possible.

The dirt road narrowed and almost disappeared through a field of tall grass. We started out trotting through this field, but I let Lily go down to a walk when she started being looky about particular clumps of grass.

"Lily, grass doesn't eat horses. I'm pretty sure it's more afraid of you than you are of it...HORSES eat grass, after all."
I really had this conversation with her, in Spanish.
My mare is bilingual. :)
We walked down a steep bank onto the side of another dirt road. This one had 1" gravel spread across, which Lily found quite ouchy. There are sod fields on both sides of the road, and thankfully we are allowed to ride on the very edge of the sod.

We walked and trotted until we reached the old abandoned shed near Four Corners. We took the detour around it, through an old farm track now covered in mint (it smells lovely when you walk through it), and stopped at Four Corners. The dirt roads in 3 directions were clay - no rocks/pebbles, all good for a little more speed work. I chose the track to our left, and asked Lily for a trot. She picked it up willingly and as we neared a decent-sized slope, asked her to canter. We hit the slope at a gallop, made it to the top, and she asked to walk.

We turned around, still walking, and did a little more trot and canter on the way back.

It was glorious riding alone, just Lily and me, across green and yellow fields under that huge expanse of brilliant blue sky. The ride totally matched the song playing in my head:

"I got the eye of the tiger, the fire
Dancing through the fire
'Cause I am a champion, and you're gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
'Cause I am a champion, and you're gonna hear me roar!"

We literally retraced our steps after that. Lily had a long walk past the broken-down shed and down the big dirt road.

This photo is from the ride with Jackie and Natalie, but  it's the same route home: sod fields on both sides of a very gravelly dirt road. This is the big dirt road.
I had her canter through the field of Scary Clumps of Grass. Since we were headed home, of course she didn't even glance at the footing. Silly mare. :)

She asked to walk after that.

Lily's fast walk when she's headed home. Note the alert but relaxed ears. Average speed of this walk is 3.5 to 3.7 mph.

We walked for the next mile, all the way back into the woods. Once at the treeline, we picked up a trot again, and alternately walked, trotted and cantered until we reached the spot where I had hidden Lily's Renegades. I dismounted and attached them to the saddle for the ride home.

"Seriously?? You have to take a photo now??"
"Stop taking photos. Let's go home!"
The Renegade whose cables came undone. :( Grrrrrr!
We walked the rest of the way back to the barn. We did 5.7 miles in 1 hour and 25 minutes. (This shows how little we actually cantered: she responded each time I asked, but not for very long stretches of time at all. It will take a while before we're there.)

Lily got untacked, fed, and went back out with Gracie.

Remember how my mare used to be afraid of wide open spaces?
I'd call this ride a huge success!!

Photo by Josh Craig

1 comment:

  1. If there is one sport that would convince me to stop jumping forever, it would be endurance. I mean, look at that!! Gah so want to do it! On the other hand, gorgeous pictures--looks like a great ride :)