Best yet!

Well, sadly the OCTRA ride last weekend was cancelled due to the extreme weather we have had.  While part of me is sad, part of me is also happy that we didn’t have to trailer up in the rain turned snow and camp out all wet and cold.  Then the competitive part of me also is happy too because I didn’t lose miles compared to everyone else by opting NOT to get wet and cold.

So what does one do with a weekend off?  The weekend was covered at work so I started to make other plans.  The plan was to pretend like we were going to a training ride regardless.  We tossed around a few ideas and settled on going to Dufferin on Sunday, but late Saturday night Linda and I changed our minds and decided Bentley would come to Halton Place for a ride around the property.

Early Sunday morning, I found that the person covering me was sick.  While I wasn’t expected to come in and do everything (which is good because I had NO transportation in the morning!) I was just asked to do the night feed, perfectly easy since I would be there anyway!  So that was a stroke of good luck all around, signs of more positive things to come.

I hung out at Myrddin for a good part of the morning, cleaning my locker in hopes of finding my Garmin.  Still no luck, I think it may be lost forever.  Bentley’s fan club giggled over how silly he looks in his shipping hat and boots.  All fun.  Bentley loaded up quite quickly with a bit of help from the dinner bucket, and we were on the road, and at HP by 1pm.  He hopped right off and happily looked around his new surroundings.  I knew not to bring him into the fancy barn since if he saw it, he might decide its his new home!  However, he did settle into Sables stall immediately and happily finished her leftover breakfast.  Very fortunate he is so accepting of trailers and new places.  So long as there is food, hes good.

We didn’t get our ride started until 2pm, Sable was super muddy.  It started off well, Bentley was lookey at a few things, but nothing we couldn’t get past. We walked around the 1 mile road loop to get used to it.  From there we moved into one of the sand rings, testing to see how soggy the footing was.  The best footed sand ring has the SCARIEST monster in the middle, it did have to be the most terrifying thing Bentley has ever seen, so I couldn’t blame him for the canter-halfpass-backstep circle we performed on a 40m circle around it.  Better prepared for the next time past it, I circled and figure 8ed just in front of where he first threw the fit, slowly creeping over but keeping his mind occupied on bending and following my direction.  Then we passed it with nothing more than a look, and completed more circles and 8s on the opposite side.  After that, no more problems with that OR anything else!   Even got right up beside it, I didn’t make him touch it with his nose however (my usual ask when something scares him) since it WAS so scary, standing beside it calmly was accomplishment enough. It was a pile of jump standards, poles, and barrels all piled up together covered in 2 large blue  and white tarps, flapping in the wind.  Easily 6 feet high.   Yup, scary monster!  I will have to take a photo of it next weekend.

We picked up the trot, and of course I was expecting sillies.  He hasn’t been ridden outside in about a month (bad footing) and it was a new place.  Pleasant surprise however, he was wonderful!  Head low, neck round, light in my hands and moving forward but not rushing.  I felt like we could have aced a dressage test right there, it was beautiful.  We worked some of our favorite figures and he was supple and willing.  I tested different feels on the reins and found the right level of contact for him and memorized it.  Wonderful accomplishment!  We never get to make tiny adjustments like that in the arena.

We left the sand rings, and I think that was when we decided to go off the roads and around the perimeter of some of the fields.  Linda showed me a few of the good hills, wow will they ever be great conditioning once they firm up and we can trot them.  We also went down a path to a large apple orchard.  Mmmm.  Mid-ride snacks come August/September?

Next we did a few more loops of the road, this time trotting and adding in a bit of canter.  Much to my surprise again, Bentley was just wonderful!  I expected him to be rushy outside the ring, but instead we trotted along, relaxed in contact as he gave big sighs.  This is the first time to my memory he has sighed while trotting, he was very much enjoying his time outside the arena – relieve the cabin fever, and I think all our schooling and ground play has helped too.

The canter also surprised me, not that it was wonderful (because we have been having at least a month of wonderful now) but that he happily went back to trot when I asked, kept his head down through the transition, and just stayed in the lovely calm trot until the next command.  No trying to convince me that life would be easier if we just cantered all the time.  All the while, the breeze blew his mane over his lovely arced neck in a fabio-esque manner. What a pretty picture it must have been!

Later in the canter, I wanted to test something out.  We have been getting the leads 99% of the time in our work in the arena over the winter (something we had trouble with in the fall) but I wasn’t sure if he actually knew what I was asking, or if he just picked up the lead with the help of the walls.  So having lots of nice straight road to test, I asked for the left lead.  Correct!  Back to trot.  Right lead.  Correct again!  So very proud of him!  And as mentioned before, did this all while totally relaxed, sighing, and with light aids.  At no point in our ride did I ever have to get tough on him.

What I haven’t mentioned yet, is some of the less than relaxing circumstances our riding partner brought.  Sable has decided she does not like Bentley at all, and throughout our ride she made grinchy faces at him.  Several times veering into him with snarly teeth.  We aren’t sure if it was her hatred of Bentley or she was just frisky to be out and relieved that her saddle issues were fixed, but she also gave Linda a run for her money with head in the air, big trots, bucks, unexpected canters, and just being a pain overall.  All the while Bentley is happily trotting beside her, with what I imagine were his rolling eyes at her behavior.  The cherry on top was in our last canter where Sable let out a buck, twisted, and kicked at Bentley.  Her foot raised ABOVE his ears (thankfully missing his head) and she was twisted almost sideways.  Thankfully Linda had a firm grip on the “grab  bar” pommel and stayed on, but it wrenched her back.  Good riding, naughty mare!

We finished by wandering around the perimeter of some more of the fields at a walk.  Overall our speed was pretty slow but we got almost 8 miles in.  Not the 25 we were planning, but a fun first ride off property, and nice to test out in the safety of my “barn home away from barn home”  We are hoping to bring Bentley down several more times through the season on the weekends I work, so we can ride with Linda on my lunch hours.  Also, alternate bringing Sable up to Myrddin to join our weekend hack group.  Looking forward to a long season now that spring is finally here!

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