Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Playful and focusless

As you have probably noticed from the lack of updates on my blog, I haven't been getting a lot of barn time lately — partly because of the crappy weather, partly because of scheduling conflicts and work deadlines.  Luckily, we are now having a run of 50- and 60-degree days, and I have some free time at the same time, so I was able to ride yesterday for the first time in a week and a half.

I had gotten out to the barn both days over the weekend, but I didn't ride either day, because of lack of time (Saturday) and not feeling like dealing with Panama's mood (Sunday).  I could tell he needed a good run on Saturday, but the snow from the last three snowstorms is finally melting (it was too cold for it to melt much between storms), and the outdoor arena is a swamp.  On Saturday it was filled with deep slushy half-melted snow, and he didn't want anything to do with running in that, so I took him inside and lunged him in the indoor arena for about 15 minutes.

I knew he needed more than that, so Sunday I met Spaghetti's owner and we turned the horses out together.  The arena was still very slushy, but they managed to get some play time in, anyway.  But I could tell he was still fired up, and I didn't feel like dealing with it, so we didn't ride.

Fast forward to yesterday.  The outdoor arena was even worse: one giant puddle in the middle, with soupy wet sand toward the outer edges.  (It usually drains and dries up much better, but this time it had more snow than it could handle melting all at once.)  I turned Panama out and he poked around, looking for a good place to roll, but not being willing to roll in the soup.  So I took him inside, and for the first time ever he rolled on the line — twice.  Both times he went all the way over, and looked a little bemused when the line ended up over his ears.  I think he really wanted to roll back and forth, over and over and over, but restrained himself because he doesn't like rolling on the line.

It's really too bad we're not allowed to turn out in the indoor, because it was obvious he needed a good run.  When he was finished rolling, he grabbed his lead rope from my hand and started shaking it around.  He doesn't play like this all that often, so clearly he has a lot of energy with nowhere for it to go.  Then when I stopped to chat with someone, he started trying to steal the coiled line she was carrying.  When that didn't work, he started playing with the hood on my sweatshirt.  The hood on my winter jacket snaps on, and pulling it off is one of his favorite games, so he was a bit surprised when he pulled on my sweatshirt hood and I came with it!

Unfortunately, playfulness doesn't necessarily translate into a good ride.  By the time we got tacked up and into the indoor arena, it was getting rather busy, since there was nowhere else for anyone to ride.  I think we had five riders and their horses in there at one point.  Panama wasn't explosive, for which I was grateful since I hadn't had a chance to turn him out, but he had absolutely no focus.  We had numerous discussions over steering, because all he wanted to do was socialize with the other horses.  For the first ten minutes or so, I had to completely change our direction every time he got distracted, in order to remind him that I was there and he was supposed to be listening to me.  Eventually it worked.  It still took twice as long as usual for him to respond to a cue, but at least he stopped trying to follow all the other horses around!

We rode for about 45 minutes, and although it was long enough to work through some of the issues, clearly he thinks he is still on vacation.  I will have to make sure I ride him as much as possible before our next lesson, so that I have a halfway decent chance of him behaving himself.



At February 16, 2011 at 1:36 PM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Those first few rides just when winter seems to start clearing up are always difficult, because everyone is out, the ground is muddy outside, and the horses are full of themselves. Fortunately, that phase passes quickly. We had several weeks of temps in the 50s and 60s, and today we had a huge snowstorm. It's supposed to keep going all the way through to Saturday.

At February 16, 2011 at 7:51 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

That's quite a snowstorm you're getting! It was 60 degrees here again today, and is supposed to be warmer up until this weekend, when we may get a little snow. I think Panama's mood yesterday was a combination of excitement about the nice weather, and antsiness from not being ridden in a week and a half. The horses are all just as ready for this winter to be over as we are!

At February 18, 2011 at 8:08 PM, Anonymous Melody said...

What a pain! It's finally warming up here, which is wonderful, so I can ride. Hope the weather clears up and stays that way for a while!


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