Sunday I had plans to ride with Yvonne and Laura again for one of our long road hacks. Like the last time, it had started out with Bentley and I being able to barely make it through the back of the property due to the depth and crustiness of the snow. Just as we were about to go down the hill toward DR, he put his foot a little too far forward into deceptively deep snow and couldn’t pull himself forward. That was my cue to get off and walk the rest of the snow. I got him out and we walked down to the bottom of the hill, and as we neared the creek I saw Roxy’s neon pink quarter sheet. But wait… where were they going? Did they decide that since they saw me they can start walking back to save some time? Bentley was eager to see another horse and walked a little faster, I struggled to keep up and called to Yvonne to stop. But no, Roxy looked back at us and they started trotting away with loud snorting… ok, it made sense now. Back at the barn, we caught up with the 2 and I remounted. We couldnt believe that somehow Bentley and I spooked Roxy. She is pretty much bombproof, but apparently horses and people disjointed on the trail are scary scary monsters! We had a really good long laugh about it despite me being a little tired from Bentleys fast pace to chase Roxy.
After that, Bentley became the spookster of the 3 of them. He took good jumps and snorts at every car, dog, cow, pony and bird we came across… must be spring fever despite the temps. Well, it was sunny and beautiful. The spooking grand finale came as we were on highway 50 headed home, and a cross country skier came out of the bush. A mad dash into the road (thankfully there were no cars) and a quick spin with hooves slipping on pavement had me thinking we were going down. Fortunately I was able to steer the spook back to the gravel shoulder and he regained his balance. The skier had stopped and apologized for being so loud, we explained to her it was the opposite! I may have to invest in trail bells to give to everyone I meet along the way haha.
Overall, we got some good hill-work done on the roads and I estimate we walked about 11 miles. Of course, this didn’t seem to tire Bentley out and after we left Alvin and Roxy (apparently Alvin was also still fresh and gave Laura trouble all down the driveway) we had some fun in the snow. Like usual, I let him pick his pace up the hills, but this time I also allowed him to trot in the snow since he was frisky but listening. Every so often the trot would turn to a funny leap into a snowdrift (as if he was going to canter, but lifting his front up much higher then snorting and bouncing through) but he listened to my “no’s” and didn’t continue to canter despite really really wanting to.
Despite the fact he didn’t seem at all tired by the end of it, he was quite well behaved in my lesson last night. Well, not tired, but satisfied enough with his work to listen from the getgo.
I was practicing keeping my legs on him and bringing him into contact right from the beginning. I had read someone else s blog (I cant remember who now! Sorry!) Saying that horses who are hot do well if you keep the leg on. Something about bringing up their confidence I think it was. I think it also helped me a lot because since I was focusing on keeping the leg on, a happy byproduct was I was keeping my legs more still. Well it seemed to work because we had lovely trots and canters. There were a total of 5 horses in the small arena. 2 of these horses hated Bentley, and another has a tendency to bolt and buck when its crowded (the same one that left me sprained back in the fall!). Despite lots of bad behaviors on all the other horses parts, Bentley was wonderful and we actually had some of the best canter work and transitions yet! There was even one point, when the crabbiest of all the horses made the decision to dart across the ring (despite her rider’s best efforts) so she could place herself directly in front of Bentley and kick at him… all while we were cantering. It was quite a surprise for all of us (and happened right in front of Margie). What animosity she seemed to have for my sweet boy! Mares just really seem to hate him! Margie gave him praise for remaining focused and tolerating all the goings on. I am pretty sure too, this may have been the most crowded we have ever been in the arena. Very happy with all his progress.
We ended our lesson with some jumping. He jumped enormously over our warmup cross-rail. Everyone in the class giggled at his enthusiasm. He sure does love to jump… well… loves to jump easy stuff. He has a very cute jumping style too, where he jumps normally with his front end, but kicks his hind feet up at least a foot higher than they need to be. I was asked if it was hard to sit to, but I don’t have much comment as hes still so very green and unpredictable while jumping, I find all scenarios difficult and ride very defensively haha. We tried a little course, but I gave him a whole bunch of bad approaches. My problem kept being I go too far in the corner, dressage corners I suppose? So he had lots of time to decide to run out. Once I corrected that, we didn’t have that problem anymore. The next problem came as we approached a jump that hadn’t been lowered for us (the rest of the class jumped higher before me and we decided to give it a shot anyway). He looked like he was going to jump it right up to the last second and slammed on the brakes and skidded and knocked the jump over with his chest. Even Margie thought he was going to jump it. To be fair, it was at least a foot higher than the other jumps on course and coming out of a short corner (he had run out on it a few times with my bad approaches, so I didn’t exactly instill confidence in him). Second time around, we trotted up to it and succeeded. We tried the whole thing again at canter and nailed it, even the leads. I was very proud of him, and everyone else in the class cheered for us. It felt great to end on that!
Another good thing that I noticed in our lesson is in my shoulders. Typically with my right rein, instead of bringing it right back, I pull my elbow into myself and curve my back sideways over top of it, pushing the right shoulder forward and down. I have known about this for a while and blame the twist on all the stuff I do with my right hand/side… at work I use the mouse all day, driving I am a little twisted in the body, working at the barn, its my back hand on the shovel etc. I have been making a conscious effort to improve, and I DID feel an improvement last night, particularly as we were schooling leg yields to shoulder-ins. I think the yoga class I took the night before also helped because we did a lot of body twists.
I am a little sore today, somehow in my busy schedule I am going to have to find time to get back into riding shape. If the weather turns nice, at least I will have the energy and motivation to juggle my many obligations. I know we are all hoping for spring today, but lets just hope a little harder!