11.07.30: Ride Out Again

I missed our weekly ride with Nancy on Tuesday because of a planning meeting for the Day of the Horse, so we arranged to ride this morning instead. It was setting up to be another hot one, so we got started pretty early. There was some cloud cover, and a slight breeze now and then which made it much more bearable. Storm was stuffing his face in the hay feeder, so it wasn't far to go get him, and we got started grooming. Sadly, the days are already getting shorter and it shows in his coat which is already starting to shed out in preparation for the coming winter. Despite the hair, he wasn't too dirty so it was mostly trying to get the hair off.
We headed to the arena, and he was reluctant to get down the hill, so I figured it might be the better part of valor to start in the round pen in the event he was a bit grumpy. He didn't seem to be very well connected when we started, and set himself up to head to the right, so I sent him off. I began to ask him to engage more and really push from his hind end which he did very well. It took a long time and quite a bit of work to get him into the trot, but when he did it was quite lovely. We worked up and down through the gaits, and once he was warmed up, I began to push him to see if he could manage to get up into the canter. He never really did, but he put a lot of effort into it, and that alone was helping him to find his balance. I allowed him to come back down to the walk again, and then asked him to work his way back up through the gaits again. Again, he put in effort, but never made it into the canter, so I let him settle back down again and find his balance before drawing him into the center to change directions.
We set off to the left and got him moving out and finding his inside hind quickly enough. It took a bit of effort before he finally managed to get into the trot, but he finally managed, really working on pushing from the inside hind. We worked up into the trot, and then back down again several times before I encouraged him to really put effort to attempt to get into the canter. The result was the same, he managed to get into a much faster working trot, but never broke fully into the canter. The round pen is a pretty tight circle and with the balance bands on I didn't push him any further. We worked up into the faster speed and returned to the walk several times and then finally wrapped up in the round pen.
We headed to the arena and got ourselves organized to ride. It took a few passes before he really brought me the saddle, but I finally climbed up and settled into the saddle. We started off to the right, and made a few laps finding our balance and steadiness again. He seemed to be doing well very quickly as I tried to go through all the little bits and pieces that Kirsten repeats so often as I ride. He felt really good, so we spent a little while to the right and changed direction to the left to check in on the left side, and found the same result. I worked to try to create the sensation of keeping my left leg long and sitting to keep myself balanced appropriately on the ball.
After doing a few laps I decided to take the back band off to see how he was doing balance wise without the band. It took a bit of work to get the band off, but I finally managed to get it out from under his tail and unhooked from the saddle. We set off and I did not notice much difference in the quality of the feel of his ball and balance, even switching directions after a few laps.
We practiced for a few more minutes and then Nancy and I headed out. She asked if I wanted to brave riding around the front of the property near the road where the horses are exposed to traffic blow them on the hill, and I decided that we might as well attempt it. She recommended riding out in that direction because the traffic is coming toward them rather than from behind them, so we headed down the driveway and around the front of the pasture. Nancy asked me a question as we rode along, probably to help me think about something other than just the fact that we were riding along the road with traffic flying by at 40 miles an hourish. As we approached the end of the second pasture and headed up close to the trees towards the right side of South pasture a car came roaring up the hill, and Storm startled and hustled forward and hugged close to Julius' rump. Thankfully Julius doesn't seem to mind Storm running up his butt once in a while.
We got up above the trees and brush along the side of South where there was a bit of separation from the traffic below and Storm calmed down again. We turned and rode along the back of South and Storm had his second fright when I tried to move a (apparently) horse eating black berry bush away from my leg so I wouldn't get snagged by the rather large thorns. He again ran up on Julius' butt, this time Nancy had to ask what the matter was and I explained the horse eating bush and she laughed and commented that Julius would spook when he would step over a branch, and bump it causing something to move off to the side of the trail. We laughed and continued on around the trail, coming to the bend in the fence at the back of the pasture. Julius decided to stop and peer around the corner and so this time it was Julius' own fault when Storm ran over his rear end.
We continued down the new section of the trail and headed onto the blue trail across the creek. Nancy suggested the Storm and I try leading for a while to see how he did. We headed out in front and the first thing we discovered is that Mr. Long Legs walks quite a bit faster than Julius' little arabian legs go. I kept having to ask him to slow down a bit and relax, which wasn't doing a whole lot of good, especially when the deer flies started to get thick. He was not very happy abuot getting bit up and it took a bit of serious convincing and getting out of the flies before he settled down again. Crossed the stream again and had to wait a moment before Julius while Julius took his sweet time getting through the stream. We headed to the next stream crossing before we let Julius and Nancy take the lead again since we were getting close to the river.
We rounded the bend and came closer to the river and began to hear people laughing and talking. The horses became more alert, and we could see a group of people playing in the river with several dogs. They became aware of us and made sure that the dogs stayed focused on their river games. As we passed the group a woman walking a dog came around the bend in front of us and the dog began barking at Julius and Storm. The woman managed to reel the dog in on the flexileash (just another reason NOT to have one of those things!) and managed to pull the dog off the trail and crouched down next to it wrapping her arms around the dog. Julius and Storm made their way past her and the dog (which was thankfully somewhat calmer wrapped in its owners arms) and immediately after encountered a man (must have been the husband) with a baby stroller. That obstacle was much easier than the dog had been, and the horses skirted around with slightly less angst. We continued on and encountered two hikers which we passed with a nod and hello and made our way to the end of the trail and looped around to swing back along the river. Thankfully the dog and baby stroller were no where to be found, but we crossed paths with the hikers again. We met them at a split, and they stepped off to the left, which Nancy pointed out that we wished to go that direction. They picked the other direction and we headed off again. We crossed the stream at the lower site, and again met the hikers as they came around the other side of the loop. We laughed and bid them a good hike as we crossed the trail to head back up the blue blazes towards the farm again.
We turned back into the safety of the trail toward the farm again, and Nancy told Julius we were safe now, and then laughed and commented that she didn't think he believed her. The horses found a measure of calm again as we returned to the quiet trails. We crossed the stream again, and found a quiet spot of the trail that gently curved past the stream, and Nancy asked if we wanted to trot a bit. The horses were both pretty level and calm, so we picked up a nice gentle trot, and Storm picked up a nice easy trot and followed Julius down the trail. Nancy warned us when she was slowing down, and Storm only mildly run up on Julius before I got him slowed down again. He wanted to keep trotting as we turned and headed up the hill, but we both slowed the horses to keep them walking rather than use momentum to get up the slope.
The horses both hustled through the trail where the flies tormented them again, and we headed up the long hills back to the farm. Nancy and I traded places again and Storm and I led back through the trails coming out on the other side of the farm than we left. We came out of the woods and followed the fence line around the pasture and found a couple with a young baby watching the horses. The herd followed us around the fence as we rode up to the lane and headed back to the barn. It was then that we realized just how warm it had become in the sun. The deep shade of the woods kept the temperature quite comfortable. I brought Storm around the back of the barn and slid off at the picnic table and found that I was pretty stiff on my left side, my knee and ankle were a bit tweaked. We headed into the barn and I started untacking, and noticed that Storm was breathing pretty heavily even though we hadn't worked that hard coming back in. I commented to Nancy and she suggested that I hose him off to help him cool down since he seemed to be a bit over heated. I pulled off the saddle and was a bit disappointed to find dry spots on his shoulders, mostly on the left side. I finished stripping off his tack and let him stand while I got the hose out, and then brought him out to hose him down good. He didn't object much, and I made sure that I hosed his chest and legs good to help him cool off again. His breathing slowed, and he kept grabbing at the hose to drink, which ultimately proceeded in spraying me liberally with water several times over as he mouthed at the hose. Once he seemed to be fairly well rinsed, I turned off the hose at the nozzle, and headed into the barn to turn it off at the spigot. I turned with Storm to head back out of the barn to let the pressure off the hose and Storm managed to whack his head on a storage box and gave himself a pretty sound skin scrape over his eye. He stood there for a moment with a look of surprise, and so gently led him out of the barn to release the hose. I took him to graze and scrape the extra water off of him. I checked the scrape on his forehead again and found it to be weeping and bleeding just a bit. I asked Nancy if she would hold him for a minute while I went to get some salve to put on it, and slathered him up good before putting on his fly mask again and turning him out.
I headed back into the barn to put everything away, and gathered up all the sweaty tack to bring up to the house to clean things up a bit. The half chaps, reins and balance band went into the wash when I got into the house. I should have done that long ago! I'll condition the bridle and wash his bit good, and put everything back together again. I already washed his pad last week, but you can't tell now!
Two rides in a week has to be a record! Hopefully another ride this week if the weather cooperates...
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11.08.06: Up and Down the Road to Success