09.06.23: Must not have been too bad

I headed down to the barn to ride in the evening, and started grooming Storm in his stall while Nancy finished up the evening chores. I slathered more Swat into Storm's ears to try to combat the gnats that had eaten raw spots on the inside of his ears, and got him ready to ride. He fought me some when I put the bridle on, so I made mental note to work on that more the next time I had the chance.
We headed down to the arena and I was pleased to note that the letters that I had set out were still on the fence rails from the week before.
I brought Storm over to the fence and climbed up and asked him forward to get on. He offered the saddle to me on the first request, which was nice. So we started into our figure 8 pattern walking, and he quickly fell into rhythm and we worked on establishing balance and asking him to keep his own balance. When concentrating on steering his ping pong ball rather than muscling through things it became noticeably easier. We were working in the opposite direction on the 8 just for a change, and I was still having some problems in some spots. I finally managed to make the end of our 8 more round, and keep the diagonals straighter before heading into the curves. I experimented a bit, and found that it was actually easier to keep the 8 narrower, and not ride all the way to the fence.
Once we settled in, I asked him for the trot on the diagonals, and things went backwards a bit again. In thinking through things, I seem to be over thinking the trot at this point. There is so much to remember, especially maintaining straightness and balance are added to the equation rather than just my own personal balance. I'm going to have to experiment more and see what it takes to get through that. Since the rising trot requires being able to shift weight left and right on the rise, I have to maintain power and balance on my left side, which triggers my safety mechanisms in my brain to protect that knee, which is causing problems. Storm was abruptly dropping the trot again, though not as bad as it had been.
After a few loops of the 8 trotting on the straight, I decided to regroup and walk for a while again. As we slowed down and began to refocus on the walk, I noticed a deer at the edge of the trees behind the arena, just a few feet from the rail. I tried to scare her off by blowing, but she just started at us, even as we walked right by the rail, she continued to eat. Another deer came out near the gate of the arena, and crashed around as we walked past. Storm's head went up, and I just asked him to drop his head again, and we continued on. The deer finally faded back into the woods, and we continued on our ride.
We worked for about an hour and a half before I finally decided to head back in. We were doing very well, so I stopped by the fence and picked up my carrot stick, and then walked to the gate. I managed to push open the gate, and then asked Storm to step forward and push it open further so that we could walk through easily. We headed up the hill, and he kept diving for the grass in the process. I managed to get up the hill without too much trouble, and dismounted by the back of the barn.
We headed into the barn, and I was a little frustrated to find a slightly dry spot on the right side. The left was nice and sweaty under the saddle but the other side was not so good. I am sure that it is just due to the experimentation that I am working through. Hopefully it will fade quickly as I get more practice time. I finished brushing Storm off, and chatting with Jeanie, before heading to turn Storm out. We walked into the pasture, and I let him drink before he turned and headed down the fence line with a purpose. I thought he might roll, so I walked with him. All the sudden he stopped, and parked out and peed. I had been wondering if he had to go when we were in the arena, and had given him a break to stand for a bit, but he didn't take the opportunity then. He finished his business, and headed off again and found some grass to graze on. I turned him loose, and started back towards the barn, but found his nose right at my elbow the entire walk back to the gate. I gave him a good rub before heading out of the pasture, and turned to look one last time as I walked down the barn aisle, and he still stood staring into the barn as I headed to put things away.
Whatever we did, it must not have been too bad if he followed me all the way back to the gate.

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