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

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Riding to Music

Finally rode my horse yesterday for the first time in two weeks!

I will say: it is absolutely ridiculous how rapidly the human body gets out of shape after two weeks out of the saddle. (It doesn't help that I had not gone to the gym either; I don't exercise if I'm sick. Been there, done that and it's not worth it: it's ALWAYS meant a relapse in the past.) I was so sore after this ride! Especially my core, but I guess that means I was riding correctly.

I got to the barn late, around 4:00 pm. Lily was standing out in the middle of her field, taking a nap in the sun. The snow was in the process of melting so the entire field was a muddy mess again. For once her legs were not covered in mud to her knees and hocks; not sure how she'd succeeded at staying clean. Even her blanket was somehow clean.

I tacked her up with the Wintec, deciding we'd ride in the arena. There was a part of me that couldn't wait to go on a longer trail ride, but at the same time there was another part of me that did not want to deal with all the mud. I'll say it again: I'd rather there be snow on the ground than deal with the mud.

The arena was in dire need of being dragged, as this was the first day that the footing has not been frozen. Lily had continued her nap on the cross ties while tacking up but I still set her free in the arena before hopping on to let her get the kinks out. It was a good idea. She started out trotting then moved on into a canter. She cantered and cantered and cantered around me. I gave a hop without moving from my spot in the center of the arena, which elicited all sorts of sass: bucking, bicycles in the air with her front legs, head tossing. I continued occasionally hopping up and down in my spot until she'd gotten all the sass out.

Once she was working around me quietly, I realized that the gate to the adjoining mini paddock next to the arena was open. I walked over to close it. Lily came to a halt of her own accord and waited for me to return. The second I stepped into my spot in the center of the circle, she resumed working.

I went to town on this photo with both Snapseed and Picasa. There was a very specific shot that I was trying to capture, and this is the closest I got. I love how strong her mane has grown back; I was trying to get that instant of the canter when her mane was flying behind her, but I'm going to need a real camera for that.
It was pretty cool. She continued as long as I kept up the energy. I was trying to get a photo of her running with her mane in the wind, but did not succeed. I stopped to look at the photos to see if any of them had come out. Lily halted and snuck up behind me. When I looked up, I realized she was standing 3 feet from me. I laughed. Okay, I didn't give her permission to stop and come in. But I had stopped paying attention, which will have the same result. Since she'd thoroughly warmed up in the 10 minutes she'd been free lunging, I took her over to the mounting block and got on.

I made her wait in one spot while I set Runmeter from her back.

I worked Lily in the half of the arena closest to the gate, staying in a 20 meter circle. We started out warming up w/t/c on a loose rein, more to see where my body was at than hers. I could keep up, but could feel the fact that I was ever so slightly looser in the saddle. *sigh* Oh well.

I've told you guys how I always listen to music while riding alone. Riding and music for me have always gone hand in hand. Even back when I first started riding as a kid, I'd play specific radio stations or cassettes (yes cassettes! I'm that old!) in the car on the way to riding lessons so I could have specific songs stuck in my head to set the tone for the ride I wanted to have. To this day listening to some of those songs on the radio will bring back particular rides, horses, or entire eras in my riding. Phil Collins's "One More Night" always, always reminds me of Sweetie, a young high-strung gray OTTB mare that I used to ride during my time taking lessons with Ron back in PR. She was super, super sensitive and so eager to please (she didn't have a mean bone in her body), but it took a very quiet rider to get her to stay calm and relaxed at the canter and over fences. The summer I turned 17, she was assigned to me as my project horse both because I loved her and because I was the only one on the team that actually liked riding her. "One More Night" playing in my head was the key to getting her settled through and through. I'd breathe to the beat of the song, and she'd trot with a long smooth stride and give me super quiet collected canter on a loose rein. On the rare cases when that song plays on the radio, I like to close my eyes and remember cantering Sweetie on those warm humid summer mornings in the huge competition arena at the front of El Centro Ecuestre. The memory still makes me smile.

Talking to you all about the island lately has gotten me listening to Spanish music, which is a rare occurrence. Nope, I'm not a cocola (that's what Puerto Ricans call people who love listening to salsa music. :) It's not an insult; it's just a term.); I have very varied and eclectic tastes in music, but most of what I enjoy listening to originated in the US.

Charles has an old CD he recorded with some of the really popular Spanish rock songs that had been playing on the island in the early 2000's, bands like Los Rabanes, Puya, Fiel a la Vega. I listened to it in the car on the way to the barn. Once at the barn, I set up yet another station on Pandora for "Don Omar". Don Omar started out as a reggaeton artist and his music has morphed into something completely different. I actually really like his music nowadays, but I figured by entering him I'd get some of the more positive reggaeton songs as well. I have never been a fan of reggaeton. I like some of the really old reggaeton during its dancehall fusion phase, and I really like what modern reggaeton has turned into. But the mid phase during the late '90's-early 2000's was full of songs that were just...dirty. Tons of profanity, and talk of women as sexual objects. The beat has gotten so ingrained into our culture that you're not Puerto Rican if you don't at least feel the urge to want to dance to it. But the way a lot of the singers (if you could even call some of them singers) talked about women irritated me no end.

I'm glad this genre has evolved into something so much more positive and just fun.

We warmed up to Prince Royce's Stand by Me (*Edit: I've added links to the music on YouTube since I realized that the videos don't show up when viewing this post on mobile media.)

Most of you have probably never heard bachata music. This really is Ben E. King's "Stand by Me" but sung half in Spanish and set to a wonderful bachata beat. I love this version and I love the video. Makes you want to snuggle up to your partner on the dance floor while letting your feet do their thing. Great song for warming up in the saddle!

I picked up a contact with the reins and started to focus on bend, to the beat of Don Omar & Daddy Yankee's "Hasta Abajo" remix:

This is modern reggaeton. The beat is perfect for posting the trot!

Kathy arrived home and she stopped by the arena to say hi. We stopped to chat; I think we talked for a good 15 minutes. I hadn't seen Kathy all week! By the time she turned to go into her apartment, I had cooled down. Lily was fine with going back to work, but I actually considered calling it a day!

We had just stepped out into a trot when chaos ensued.

There are several apartments on the property, including Kathy's in the main barn and a bungalow next to the boarder barn. A family with children lives in the bungalow and they were just arriving home as Lily and I had started trotting. Mom was in the car, while the little girl jogged in front of the car with a giant plastic trash can in tow.

The sound of the trash can's wheels on the pea gravel driveway scared Lily shitless.

She turned away from the sound, bouncing up and down in a sort of ballet dance on her hind legs. I wanted to shout to both the girl and Lily to stop at the same time. There was one split second where nothing would come out of my mouth. What ultimately came out was, "WHOA!!!!"

To my utter surprise, Lily stopped. Stopped dead, all 4 feet on the ground. She stood shaking as the little girl continued running past us, her mom in the car behind her. They didn't even notice that anything had been amiss. I made Lily look straight ahead, away from the source of disturbance and breathed.

I could feel Lily's heart pounding against my legs through the saddle, but she looked forward like I requested and stayed with me.

Oh, did I mention I had not worn my safety vest? Yeah, wasn't wearing it.

Once the little girl with the trash can was out of sight, I gave Lily her head, rubbing her neck and telling her what a good girl she was over and over. She stretched down, gave a big sigh, and we went back to work.

She looked over towards the bungalow a couple of times as we trotted past the corner of the arena closest to the driveway, but I chose to completely ignore her "pointing" as a way of reassuring her that there was nothing to worry about. It worked: she was able to return her focus to our session.

6 months ago, this mare would have freaked out and not stopped when I asked her to. 6 months ago, she would have been so frazzled by this sort of incident that the entire workout would have been ruined because I never would have been able to get her attention back to me.

She let it go!

We finished the workout with trot/canter transitions in a spiral: we'd trot spiraling out, then canter spiraling in. She was so good for this exercise! We did it first in one direction until she was solid on the aids, bouncing up into a round, rocking canter and smoothly coming back down to a trot when requested while maintaining the bend throughout the spiraling. Then we reversed and repeated in the opposite direction.

 This exercise was done to Daddy Yankee's "Limbo":

I've loved this song since one time Pandora played it while I was doing canter sets out by Four Corners on Lily.

End result? Lily lifted her withers, arched her neck and powered into an awesome ground-covering trot that she was able to maintain for several laps around the arena in both directions.

We called it a day and walked out on a loose rein. We rode an hour total but the pace was pathetic after stopping to talk to Kathy (I forgot to stop Runmeter), so I'm not even bothering mentioning our mileage!

I treated Lily's legs for the first time all week. I was really happy to see that the scratches had not made a return (*knock on wood 3 times!!* I'd been worrying about this all week with the intense cold we had) but she got sudsed with anti-fungal shampoo anyway and I applied Corona ointment to her coronet bands and pasterns, the areas most likely to get chapped.  I need to buy more Desitin.

I hugged her and thanked her again for listening to me in the arena before setting her free for the night.


  1. Wow! Good mare. Shows how much trust she has in you, which is an awesome thing.

    It always amazes me that people don't pay attention to their surroundings. I have always felt hyper-vigilant, unless I am somewhere totally safe, and even as a kid I paid attention. You'd think someone that lived at a horse barn would have figured out that something like that would scare a horse. And could kill the rider. I'm glad you didn't get thrown without your vest on.

    Give Lily extra carrots from her auntie Karen

    1. Ugh, there've been problems with this particular family in the past. Our BO is not a fan of them because the woman is absolutely clueless when it comes to the horses. I'm just glad Lily listened; I was shocked! So glad I'd been practicing "whoa" with her for the last few months!

      Definitely wearing the vest ALWAYS from now on! This was the first time in months that I'd chosen to not wear it, figuring it would be fine because we were in the arena...Ha!

      I will definitely give Lily extra carrots from her auntie Karen. :)

  2. I love love love riding to music...

    Good girl not losing her s**t over the garbage can!

    1. Music really does set the tone for the entire ride. And yes, she was a really good girl over that garbage can!