Monday, October 30, 2017

I Venture Back into the Arena

I Venture Back into the Arena

For those of you that have followed my adventures for a long time, you may remember that Cole and I have had some issues in the arena.  In the early days, he took to bolting away from the scary corner whenever he heard a noise--or just felt like it.  It happened enough that I learned to just stay on the safe side of the arena until he seemed calm.  

After months of riding him in there, we finally worked it out, and I could ride him through the scary corner without any fear.

Then we spent a summer trail riding.  The following fall, I found myself back in the arena--with the same problem.  I got anxious about it, and we ended up back on the safe side until we worked it out--many rides later.

This has happened every year, since.  Last year, I was determined to be brave, and took him to the scary corner early in the ride--he bolted.  I was back where I started.

This is really my problem, not his.  I am a good enough rider to handle his bolts.  I either catch him in the first stride and stop him handily or, if he catches me by surprise, I can certainly ride a brisk gallop to the other end of the arena.  After thwarting him a few times, Cole gives up.  He only wants to please me--he’s just that kind of horse.  It’s all in my head.

Consequently, my first ride in the arena of the year is a big deal.

Ellen and I had hoped to ride in the park, but it was cold and rainy.  It wasn’t a hard rain.  If it was warmer, we may have hit the trail, but it just isn’t pleasant for anyone when it is cold and rainy.  It was time to tackle the arena.

I decided to be cautious and try not to think too much about it.  Cole was very excited when I led him towards the arena.  As a clicker horse, he likes to go where the treats are plentiful.  He parked out, bowed and then he was ready for fun!

I mounted up, and he went right into the silly walk.  I clicked him for it, and then told him it was time for regular walk.  We headed right to the scary corner and did a full lap without any problems--and I didn’t break out into a cold sweat.  That was a very good start.  I went back to the safe end and walked some circles.  Ellen was already trotting around with Dante.  I think she was showing off

I ventured off to the scary end of the arena, again.  Cole was fine!  I went back to the safe side and did more walking.  Brenda joined us on Archie, and he was perfect, as usual.

After about 10 minutes of walking around, I knew it was time to trot.  Archie and Dante were doing their slow, quiet trot--making it all look so easy.  If only that was what I had to deal with.  Instead, I have the Big Trot!

Yes, Cole has a completely different trot, and it isn’t easy to ride.  It is my fault--when he offered it, back in the early days, I clicked and encouraged it.  His trot is big, powerful and beautiful.  He seldom does it on the trail, unless he sees someone and wants to show off, so I get way out of practice over the summer.

I braced myself, (which you have to do or you will lose your seat,) and he launched.  It was big, it was powerful and I assume it was a beautiful trot, but it wasn’t out of control as it sometimes is when he is excited.  I did half a circle, exhaled deeply and he came to a lovely halt.  I had my horse back.  Of course, he got clicked.

We practiced our circles on the safe end.  Before I knew it, we were doing full circles.  I had to keep an eye out for Archie and Dante.  Since they go so much slower, it is easy to get in their way.  This keeps me focused on where we are and in the moment.

I even threw in a shoulder-in at the trot just for fun--and it was his best--ever!

I didn’t trot on the scary end, but by the end of our session, I was walking through it and trotting back to the safe end.  Everything went so well for our first ride in the arena since March.

As the ride wound down, it was time for Cole’s favorite time of the ride--TRICKS!

Tricks really just consist of side pass, turn on the haunches and the hardest trick of all--backing up.  Since I click him for his tricks, he just loves them.  He will do them all day if I let him.  Trick time is a great way to end a surprisingly successful first arena ride.  

I hope it will be a while before the second one...

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My Ride on Starry D

I had the opportunity to take Starry for a ride with Ellen and Dante.  I didn’t know how he would do.  Would he be willing to take the lead?  Would he get stuck going backwards?  Would I survive his trot?

Starry has the worst trot--ever.  He has an incredible amount of bounce and it is somewhat irregular.  Of course, you have to post, but posting isn’t easy.  The faster he goes, the easier it is to post--the main reason we don’t want to follow pokey Dante.

When I mounted Starry, we were in the lead.  I asked him to walk a few steps and clicked him.  I did this a few times to accustom Starry to the sound of my click which is different from Kevin’s click.  He understood, but once Dante caught up with us, he refused to take the lead.  Dante had to go first.

Halfway down the hill, the trail gets a little wider and the far right end has a very small tree that you can go off the trail, go around it and go back on the trail.  This is a place where we can often trick Starry by stopping and hiding behind the tree.  Of course Starry can still see us, but sometimes he will still pass us and take the lead.

It worked, and we were in the lead.  Starry marched down the rest of the hill, into the river and to the trail on the other side.  This was an accomplishiment in itself.  There have been more than a few incidents where Starry gets halfway up the river bank, realizes he isn’t in the lead and stalls out or starts backing up.  It is too narrow to pass him, so that leaves Ellen stranded in the water until Kevin works it out.

Another place that Starry has problems at is just coming out the river to head down the trail.  When I reached that spot, I woudn’t let him pause.  Instead of waiting for Ellen, I kept him marching down the trail.  When I would feel him slowing, I squeezed my legs to keep him moving.  I did click him a few times for walking well.  When I saw that Ellen made it across the river, I started trotting.

Since Starry knew that Dante was back there, he didn’t want to trot fast, at all.  The slower he goes, the rougher his trot becomes--and I was having a hard time finding his rhythm.  I decided my best bet would be to only trot short distances, wait until Ellen gets closer and trot on ahead.  When I was walking, I woould intermittently click him for forward movement.  Starry and I were gettng along quite well.

This is how we handled things until we got to the next river crossing.  We decided to turn and head towards home.  Starry wouldn’t take the lead, but that was no surprise.  The turnaround point is one of his troublespots.  We let Dante go in the lead and started to trot.

I wouldn’t let Starry follow directly behind Dante--I had him offset to one side.  Dante trots much faster on the way home--particularly on that section of the trail.  Still, he wasn’t going at top speed.  Starry started inching up.  Before we knew it, we were right next to each other.  He had done this on the last ride with Kevin, so that was what I expected.  I squeezed my lega to ask for more speed.  We started gradually passing!  At a trot!  Shortly after taking the lead, we reached the spot that we planned to stop, so we did.  Starry was in the lead.  I asked him to walk--and he did!  He led all the way home.

We had decided to pass up home and go a little the other direction.  Before I reached the river bank that I planned to pass instead of go down, Starry figured us out and stalled.  I couldn’t get him to take a step forward.  We can’t figure out how he knew we weren’t going home.  Dante had to take the lead.  We passed up home.  I tried to get Starry in the lead, but it just wasn’t happening.  We ended up turning around and going home.  Starry was happy to lead across the river and up the hill to the barn.

He wasn’t perfect, but he did pretty good.  I just wish he was easier to trot, and we would have done a lot more of it.  It is always fun to ride another horse, and Starry is pretty awesome.