10.09.05: A Ride in the Heat and a Walk in the Rain

Sunday, September 5, 2010
Our last day in Florida started with a bit of confusion. Anthony, Kirsten's working student had headed over to the barn to take care of morning chores before we left, and when we arrived at the barn he was no longer there. She called him, but he didn't answer his phone. Since he had the truck that we needed to be able to film from the bed of it parked next to the arena fence, we were a bit stuck. We came up with a few alternatives, but none of them were really as good as actually sitting up in the bed of the truck with the camera. We debated what to do, and finally decided that we would head back to the house, and Kirsten would give us her car to drive to the beach and we would go early, and then be back at the house in time to get things together and head over to the barn about 4 to shoot when the sun was getting lower so it would be cooler and we wouldn't have to work in the heat of the day.
We turned around and headed back home and discovered that Anthony had made it back to the house with the truck. We decided to go ahead and get the shooting over with and so we headed back over to the barn for the second time of the day.
We got set up and Kirsten decided to get started with Prima, and was pleased to find that she was not too dirty. She also discovered that a spray that was supposed to sooth her skin had done the exact opposite and given her a strange rash. Everywhere that she sprayed Prima was wrinkly, almost looking like elephant skin. Between her front legs she had a bit of edema that made her look saggy in front, the poor girl. Kirsten debated riding, and decided to go ahead and ride to see how she felt.
She got started, and commented that Prima felt wider in the front, which probably means that she had some kind of a shift after the ride on Friday. Kirsten was really able to get her balanced, and actually worked her all the way up to canter to help her balance better at the trot, and thus the walk. Prima was looking really good, and by the time Kirsten finished working with her, she was lathered up. Since she had only worked her in one direction, she asked me if I wanted to get on and work her to the left a little bit. I told her that I probably didn't have much to be able to really work her hard, but that I wanted to experiment a little bit at the trot to work on myself and try to get a feel for all of the parts and pieces together.
As I was getting myself organized, Kathleen and Alexa pulled up to work with Bri and Red for a while. Kirsten got them organized so that Jim could shoot a little bit of video of the two of them working as well, so I climbed up on Prima at the end of the arena and worked her in a small circle. She did feel different to me, it seemed that she wasn't able to hold her balance as easily as she had when I rode her two days prior, but I was still able to affect her balance to some degree. Kirsten helped coach me and correct a couple of issues that I was having. I am sure some of the struggle I was having was the fact that I was on day four of working with the horses in the Florida heat and I was fairly well fatigued even though I just started with Prima for the day. She was able to help give me some thoughts about attempting to rotate the ball using both of my legs, rather than only trying to move it over with the inside leg, but also pulling "up" with the outside leg. This gave me more stability, especially since we were on the left hand circle, which is my tougher side. She also noted that in my attempt to shift my weight to the left, I was actually only shifting my shoulders, which caused my hips to counter balance to the right, rather than keeping my weight centered to the left. Keeping myself organized in the correct position on an ever moving horse is a tough challenge!
I asked if I could work up to the trot a little, and Kirsten said yes. Of course my first few attempts were met with Prima responding with a NO. Apparently Princess Prima is discriminatory enough that she won't trot if the rider is not balanced. Its a great thing for a horse to be that discerning that she just won't go if you aren't correctly organized to her satisfaction. Eventually I was able to get myself straightened out enough that I could ask her to trot, and with a few corrections from Kirsten I was able to get her to trot. At first she would only maintain a few steps, but with some urging and several more corrections I was able to get her to hold the trot. I found that I could really feel when the ball moved between the rise and sit of the rising trot, though I was struggling to have any positive effect on the ball at the trot. We were just lucky to keep trotting. She was falling in a lot, and I had trouble keeping her out on the circle in the trot.
I quit fairly quickly because I was really hot and tired and just didn't have much left in me to keep riding. I was glad for the opportunity to experiment at the trot a bit, though I am sure I didn't do much good for Prima. As I was wrapping up Jim was able to get a little bit of footage of Alexa working with Robert Redford, a big lanky Thoroughbred that has Mr. Prospector blood lines, and is quite a handful (apparently, bucked Pat Parelli off several times, and his former owner was told "well, there are just some horses that are difficult that can't be changed..."). He's handsome, and really needs a lot of work to help develop his body so that he feels better. Alexa was doing a good job managing Red on the lunge line, and had really improved from Thursday's lesson they had with Kirsten. She had a really beautiful moment with him when they were wrapping up as he stood sweaty and panting but still very focused on her.
Kirsten pulled Mick out and got him organized to ride, after a long debate over whether it was the right choice with his poor wrinkly skin. Her ride on Mick turned out to be really good, he was trying very hard and seemed to be more stable than he was a few days before when we rode. She was actually able to take him up into the canter, with the purpose of developing the trot and walk to a higher level of collection. She wrapped up and worked on his back up and step forward holding the level of balance. She asked me if I was interested in riding, but I passed knowing how tired I was, and how hot we all were. She got him untacked and hosed him off good while we wrapped up everything and got things put away.
We headed back to the house again to get things organized and take a bit of a side trip to the beach to say we've gone. We got some clothes into the dryer, and Jim took a quick shower to cool off a bit before we headed over to the beach. Hutchinson Island is the closest place, and we zigged our way across the flat country, and over several channel bridges to get to the ocean. There were little parking areas between the big condos and hotels, and we followed the boardwalk over to the beach. The beach was not too wide, and sloped fairly steeply into the water with the waves only breaking for about 15 yards. The water was emerald green, and despite one walker's comment on our way out, the water didn't look churned up to us at all from the passing hurricane a few days earlier. There was some red seaweed, and the sand was rolling in the waves a little bit, but it looked so much more beautiful than the beaches further north. The water was balmy and comfortable, though with the rough surf, and fairly steep drop I didn't feel comfortable enough to swim. Wading was a welcome relief to the heat we had been dealing with. We walked the beach for a ways, and then returned to the truck and took a drive up the road to see what else there was to see. The condos and houses were amazing tucked between the high-rise buildings. It was also interesting to see the storm shutters closed on many of the apartments and rooms, I suspect that some are probably closed all summer until the snow birds return for the season.
We drove back home, and crossing the high bridges could see rain in the distance, and ran into it not far from the beach. We managed to make it home in a lull in the rain, and got inside before the serious storms rolled in. Kirsten and Roger ran to get River and Milogro from the pasture behind her neighbor's and got them in just as the skies opened up. We hung around taking care of laundry and packing for a while. The rain puttered out for the most part, and so Kirsten decided to run back to the barn and put some ointment on Prima and Mick to try to help their sores, and to long line Jasper. I pulled my barn clothes back on and we headed over. Poor Mick had open sores on his chest just in front of where the girth was, and it was obvious that rubbing the ointment on was painful to both off them. We let Jasper finish his dinner while we salved Prima and Mick and then got Jasper all set up to long line. Since the arena was so wet from the rain, we worked him in the grassy area between the arena and pastures.
Kirsten set me up to get organized and showed me a few things, and then handed the lines over to me. It took me quite a few laps to work out the kinks and keep him from drifting too far into the middle of the circle. She kept guiding me until I was able to put the pieces together and we started getting wider and more consistent circles. She left to go switch hats when it started to drizzle in the sun again, and Jasper took that moment to manage to step over his rein. As soon as I realized it, I asked him to whoa, and he did so on the spot. I came up beside him and rubbed him to tell him he was a good boy, and then worked on getting the rein on the correct side of his leg. I had that one straightened out, and was just about to step back behind him when he managed to pick up his other front foot and get it inside the rein, so I had to straighten that one out, too. About that time one of the gray stork birds wandered out of the arena and into the grass pecking for bugs. Jasper and I swung around the circle and headed towards the bird and I lost sight of it in front of Jasper. I was getting a little worried, when finally it wandered out from in front of him on the right side and Jasper immediately took a right turn to follow it. I had to scramble to stay to the outside of his path to help swing him back out onto the circle. Apparently he likes to chase birds. We worked for several more laps and really got into a groove when Kirsten returned. We were all thoroughly soaked by that time, and so she swung open his pasture gate and gave me instructions to swing him around and point him straight into the pasture, and prepared me in the event that he attempted to jump the puddles that were inevitably right in the path of the gate. He took one more aim at a bird before I swung him around to the right and aimed into the pasture. He did very well, though he dodged the puddles pretty neatly, but thankfully didn't jump forward as Kirsten thought he might. We got him into the pasture and took off the lines and bridle and turned him loose. He sauntered off to the grass and we packed things up.
Everything was pretty well ready to go, though I had to throw all my clothes that I was wearing in the dryer, and set my shoes and hat out on the floor in front of the box fan to try to get them to dry good before they had to go back into the suitcase. Not long after we got back, Roger arrived for dinner and we had baked chicken with cheese and a salad for dinner, and perfectly sweet watermelon for dessert. It was nice to lounge on the porch in the cool of the evening for our last evening.
It was a good trip, so much learned it will take me quite a while to digest everything!

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