Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pros and cons of busy barns

The last two days have served as a reminder of the fact that I now board at a bigger barn than I've ever experienced before — and that there are both pros and cons to that.

Yesterday I had a lesson around lunchtime, which turned out to be a very busy time — I guess because it was a gorgeous day, and the day before had been so cold. (There's definitely something to be said for riding when poor weather keeps everyone else away.) I was the second rider into the outdoor arena, but within ten minutes' time, we had several more join us. At one point we had five or six horses in the arena at once!

Now, Panama and I have shared with one or two other horses before, but never that many. And to make things worse, one of those horses was his buddy Spaghetti, the little 4-year-old gruella mustang he sometimes gets turned out with. Spaghetti's owner, a girl in her early 20s who seems inexperienced but doesn't have a trainer working with her to make up for it, wasn't really doing much with him, so every time Panama would pass he'd turn to face us and I'd have to hustle Panama by him. I was pretty sure that Spaghetti wanted to play, and would have tried right then and there, crowded arena notwithstanding, if he'd had the chance.

Panama did pretty well sharing the arena with so many horses. Spaghetti left fairly early on, so we didn't have to worry about that particular distraction for too long. PT, a 4-year-old mare Panama also likes quite a bit, was in there with a rider too, but Panama got over that pretty quickly. I was pretty pleased with how well he did.

In truth, I'm the one who has a harder time with sharing an arena. I actually worry about it quite a bit. I'm just now learning the rules and etiquette, as I've never had to worry about it before. Also, as someone who used to be very shy, I quail at the thought of calling out "inside" or what-have-you to other riders. I'll get over it, but like most things relating to my natural shyness, it will take some getting used to.

Today was a much different sort of day. I got out to the barn around mid-morning, and already it was getting pretty busy. Today, however, everyone seemed to be on a different schedule, so there wasn't much arena-sharing going on. After snagging an arena for long enough to briefly turn Panama out with Lady, I decided to go ahead and ride. I rode with a fellow boarder in the arena, and then she invited us to ride with her in the field behind the barn for a little bit. We went out there, made a big loop, and came back.

It has been a year and a half since Panama and I have been out on the trails with another horse, and the first thing I noticed was that he was having a hard time keeping pace with the other horse. Panama likes to walk fairly quickly, especially when he is excited, and Zans walks verrrrrry slowwwwwwwly. I was having to turn Panama in circles in the arena to stay with Zans while his rider and I talked. Out in the field, I just stopped Panama when he got too far ahead. I tried riding with him right behind Zans, to see if a giant half-Fresian roadblock would help, but Panama walked almost right up his butt without showing any signs of stopping!

This was our first time out in the field, and I was pretty pleased with how well Panama did. He was a bit nervous about passing the junk pile on the back of the property, but pass it he did — the only reason I knew he was nervous was because of the way he was mincing his steps when he looked at it. I walked him past it, turned him in a circle toward it so he could look again, and halted him. He was completely relaxed now (apparently it was only a momentary concern), so we continued on.

In fact, he was so good out in the field that I think I'm going to try to ride him out there by myself on a regular basis. I suspect it's close enough to the barn that he doesn't actually feel like he's leaving home. I'm glad that he and I don't have to learn the trails by ourselves, though — there will be plenty of boarders for us to ride with as the weather gets better. And that, of course, is the biggest pro of boarding at a busy barn: people to ride with.

One final tale of cuteness to leave you with before I end this post. For a while yesterday, when PT was being ridden in the arena, she kept whinnying to the indoor barn (her home) every time she came around in her circle and could see it again. My trainer was working with her rider (another student of hers), and since Panama and I were done with our lesson, we stood in the middle and watched.

Then today, when I was riding Panama in the arena, he started whinnying to a horse who was turned out in the round pen in front of the indoor. I know he got it from watching PT yesterday, since he has never before whinnied while being ridden! It was thrilling, being on his back when he whinnied, because I could virtually feel the sound traveling through me. I don't know if he didn't realize he could until he saw PT doing it, or if he just hadn't thought of it; but whatever the reason, he clearly wanted to try it out for himself!



At January 30, 2010 at 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Riding in a crowded arena does have one advantage - it teaches you to keep your head up and look where you are going (even if others aren't). Sounds like Panama and you both did just fine.

At January 31, 2010 at 12:20 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Panama read my cues (and sometimes my mind) like a pro. The only thing he was having a hard time with at first was staying on the inside track -- we've focused so much on teaching him to stay on the rail, that when we have to take the inside in order to share the arena, he gets confused and a touch zigzaggy. But he got better after a little practice.

My trainer had a good laugh at me the first time she had me do a figure 8. I completed one half of it with no issues, but the second time I started to go across the arena, I realized there were two horses whose paths were going to intersect with mine. So instead of figuring it out and completing the figure 8, I "flipped a bitch" and ran right back to the rail like a great big scaredy-cat. :-D

At February 1, 2010 at 6:05 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Hope your new barn works out well. In no time at all though you will be whipping figure 8's all over the place!

I do hate the drama that always seems to crop up in barns.

At February 2, 2010 at 3:05 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Beth, this barn actually seems to be pretty low on the drama scale. I've been there 3 months now, and haven't seen much drama to speak of. Amazing, especially since the last two barns I was at were both Drama Central!


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