Footing schmooting!

20 Nov

As I’ve mentioned previously, there’s no indoor arena at my barn which means we’re often at the mercy of the weather. The weather has actually been great here – we had a very hot and very dry summer, which obviously had its drawbacks, but I’d be lying if I’d said I didn’t appreciate the constantly gorgeous evenings to ride. The fall has been great as well – not too warm and not too cold (knock on wood). We’ve had a couple of snow flurries already but nothing that has stuck around (knock on wood again).

Saturday was gorgeous out, but for some reason the footing all over the barn was absolute mush. The only thing I can think of is that we’ve been getting quite a bit of frost overnight, so the ground must just be soaking it up, then when the sun comes out during the day, it melts and we’re left with mush.

Regardless of the poor footing, I had a great ride on Corona. The other girls were out as well so we decided to just have a really relaxed session 3-wide on the track. One of my friends is also in the process of getting used to the new horse, Roller, so it was nice to just bum around a bit and observe.

Once again, Corona was a gem. I was actually quite surprised because he was quite agitated when I was tacking him up. You see, Corona does not like dogs; he didn’t mind them when he originally came our way, but now he has made up his mind that he hates them with a passion. The Boss has 3 of her own – a border collie, a sheltie, and a springer spaniel. My friend has a german shephard/lab cross. They’re all great dogs and very smart, however the border collie and the shelties instincts to herd the horses are more than many can take. Heck, they’re more than I can take too, to be honest.

Four dogs running up and down the aisle of the barn is not Corona’s idea of a good time, even if he is safely tucked away in his stall. Sometimes I think he plots to get them when they’re least expecting it…he will stick his head out the door, ears pricked forward and entice one over, give it a sniff and just when the dog thinks, “Oh! A new friend!” Corona pins his ears, bares his teeth and goes for them. So far, the dogs have been lucky. I’m not quite sure how to react to this sometimes as I’d prefer no deaths on the premises, however in conversation with the Boss, she’s actually quite in favour of it and sees it as a training opportunity for the dogs to learn to be safe around horses – after all, this “hatred” is not limited to Corona, there are 13 other horses at the barn who pretty much have the same opinion.

Back to the ride – success #1 was standing at the mounting block. Well, to be honest he took a couple of steps but I reminded him to stand and wait and he obliged the second time. We have worked on standing quietly while mounting quite a lot over the last 2 years. I make a concentrated effort to stand still without moving off for about 45 seconds each time I mount. I’m  happy to report that we have made phenomenal progress that is consistent 98% of the time. Like Saturday, there is the odd time that we need a refresher, but overall, Corona is very polite and willing to wait at the block. I’m always really proud when someone else sees this and comments how good he is, because he really was a disaster in this respect when he first arrived.

We all rode on the track since the ring was far too sloppy. The footing was bad enough that we stuck to walk and trot. I continued to work on getting Corona off my leg and asking him for impulsion. He has a tendancy to suck back sometimes and be more concerned with what’s going on around him (mainly behind him) and can tune out quite easily. A couple of corrections were required, but we had a great pace going and it was consistent (success #2!).

We also did quite a bit of walking on a long rein (I’ll be honest, us human folk had a bit of a chat session!), but I was cognizant to keep my leg on to keep himself moving foward. I also added in some leg yields so that we were doing some zig-zags from one side of the track to the other. He was great about this as well and really reached for the bit as he flexed (success #3!).

I would say there was only one slight blip in our ride. My friend’s dog Gus (the shephard/lab mix) was jogging along beside us like he normally does and Corona really didn’t seem to mind. Remember what I said above – how sometimes I think he plots? Well, along we went, happily trotting along when my four-legged beast took a notion to lunge at Gus. I’m talking leaping-in-the-air-ears-pinned-teeth-barred type of lunge. Took me by total surprise, took Gus by total surprise, took the other two horses by total surprise, but everyone survived with  no harm done. Gus proceeded to give Corona a bit more space and there were no further incidents.

2/3 of us (myself included) were working within a time constraint, so we ended our session by doing some walk/trot transition exercises. I guess it was a bit of a “Simon Says” game, but this time just for transitions.  We would be trotting and I’d call out for everyone to walk. The rule was that you only had 4 walk steps before you had to be trotting again. I do this quite frequently with Corona as I find it really helps his attentiveness and also keeps me focussed.  Corona was a star and it showed that we practice this exercise, he really did out-do himself (success #4!).

After a couple of cool out laps, we called it quits for the day. Overall – a relaxed ride, but it was a great change of  pace and everyone had fun. We had four obvious success moments and just one tiny blip – but everyone survived right!?

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