Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Another long hiatus

Once again, it's been a while since I last blogged.  I've had two lessons since then — on the 16th, my trainer actually did most of the riding, because I wasn't feeling well that morning (probably from dehydration), and last week, Michael was on vacation, so he came and took videos of me cantering and jumping.  Those are the first videos we've gotten of me jumping, so it was a big deal to finally be able to see myself.

I haven't been riding nearly as much as I should — only about once a week for the past few weeks.  Part of it was Michael being off all last week — we spent our "staycation" doing projects around the house, shopping for stuff for the house, and doing stuff with our parents.  It was a lovely, relaxing, and productive vacation, but I spent virtually none of it with my horse.

I agonize a lot about not riding enough.  I meant to go out yesterday, but I had a lot of work to do after my long vacation, so I didn't make it.  And this morning, I was going to get up early to beat the heat and go out to the barn, but that didn't happen either.  (I slept nearly 12 hours last night, though, falling asleep several hours before I usually would, so I think I was just really tired — I didn't necessarily get to sleep a lot over vacation, as we were up late working on the house most nights.)

During a vacation like last week, I think I have plenty of reason to justify skipping rides or visits to the barn, but one of my goals for this summer is to start riding more often.  I've also made a major decision recently regarding my career, so I'm hoping to be able to fit more rides in — at least three times a week — as part of my "career reorganization" plan.

I'm determined to get out to the barn to ride this afternoon or this evening, especially since I have a lesson tomorrow.  I will also be sure to get those videos edited into one and posted on my blog sometime soon, so that you can see me (and Panama) jumping.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A relaxed late-night ride

I've noticed that there are certain times of the day when Panama tends to be more relaxed — or perhaps I should say that there are certain times when he tends not to be very relaxed.  Just before or during dinnertime is a very bad time for me to ride, for instance — he tends to be very unfocused and antsy around this time.

Perhaps surprisingly, late evening is a very good time to ride.  He's pretty relaxed around this time, and since we're usually the only ones out and about at the barn late in the evening, there is very little to distract him.  It feels like a special time when I ride in the late evening, since we're all alone, and he's usually so good.  I don't work him hard or anything, but we have some of our best, most relaxed rides when I go out to the barn around 8 or 9pm.

We had one of those nice rides earlier this evening, around 9:30.  Panama spooked once, when we were riding by one of the big doors at the end of the arena, and it sounded like something on the other side ran into it — I suppose I can't blame him for that one.  Otherwise, though, he was pretty relaxed.  We worked a bit more on letting go, and while I feel like we still need some more work in that area, I was pleased with what we did tonight.

Anywhere between mid-morning and early afternoon is another good time for me to ride.  I guess it's probably no coincidence that both times are a few hours after he's eaten; probably he's so relaxed because his belly is full and his gut is moving.

Do you find that you get the best rides at a particular time of day, and if so, when?

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Down time for both of us

I went out to the barn late this morning, but I didn't end up riding.  It was hot and I didn't feel like it, but I also felt like Panama and I were enjoying the down time too much to spoil it.  I groomed him — he was uncharacteristically itchy today, and really enjoyed a good currying, which usually tickles him and makes him uncomfortable — and brushed out his mane and tail.  I'm giving him a break from having his mane braided — tomorrow I'll redo it, since the braids seem to be doing a good job of keeping him from rubbing out his mane.  He was feeling a bit frisky, so I was able to clean a little bit of the crusty stuff off his sheath before he got annoyed with me and yanked it back up.  Then I put some hoof dressing on him (some stuff I borrowed from a friend to try it out), and turned him out in the yard to graze.

I'm going to try to ride tomorrow — hopefully I can get out there a little earlier, or even a little later, and dodge the heat a little better.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Letting go

I'm sorry for the dearth of posts lately.  I had a lesson and maybe a ride a couple of weeks ago, plus a visit to work with my in-laws' horses, that I didn't blog about, but most of the long break has been because I wasn't actually doing anything horsey to write about.

Tuesday evening of this week, I finally got out to the barn to visit Panama.  I didn't end up riding, just groomed him and braided his mane (he's been rubbing it off by sticking his head through the fence to graze, so I'm trying to prevent).  I did go out and ride for about half an hour Wednesday morning — nothing too exciting, just basic walk-trot-canter, and making sure he was going to listen and focus after nearly 2 weeks' vacation.  He was reasonably good, but I could detect an undercurrent of annoyance that I'm sure meant he was unhappy with me for being gone for so long.

Then we had our lesson yesterday.  We rode inside, since the weather was threatening rain (though it never followed through with that threat).  We were mainly working on my equitation, until my trainer suddenly asked me when I was trotting Panama, "What would happen if you let go of the reins right now?"

I laughed and said, "He would take off!"

I've always thought that was just characteristic of Panama, but apparently my trainer doesn't actually want him to be that way.  Go figure, right?  So for the rest of the lesson she had me practice using a couple of half halts to slow his pace, and then letting go of his face and letting him figure out on his own how to maintain a constant speed.

I was shocked to find that it worked.  The first few times I "let go," of course, he didn't realize what was going on and sped up.  But then he and I quickly fell into a routine where we could maintain the same pace without the constant contact with his face.  And, amazingly, I found that half-halts work so much better when he and I aren't engaged in a constant tug-of-war.

It may seem like a simple thing to some of you, but it feels like a minor breakthrough for me and Panama.  I'm looking forward to working on it some more in the coming week!

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