Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dancing in the Dark

First off...having just witnessed American Pharoah's brilliant Breeders Cup Classic win, I have to say it: WHAT A HORSE!  I just sat there grinning like an idiot, what a truly memorable and moving performance from a truly great horse.  We won't see another like him for some time.  I am thrilled for all his connections, and happy that he came home safely and capped his brilliant career off with a huge win.  What a privilege to witness this story.

So on to me...I went back to the office this week and with the changing seasons (and tomorrow's time change), this is my new reality for riding after work:

....that's right.  Darkness.  Darkness everywhere.  The one downside to this facility is that there is no indoor, and no lighting.  I knew that getting into it, and made the choice to board here knowing that I'd have to figure out the winter riding conundrum at some point.  I've lived in this area without an indoor before and survived several winters, but I was riding full time and did so during the day, when it was warmest and the ground thawed.  So now I'm left with a very serious issue of how to ride during the week with a very time-consuming full time office job, where my schedule is not my own.  I know other people make it work so there has to be a solution.  So far my options are:
  • Ride first thing in the morning (will be difficult when things get cold and the ground gets frozen)
  • Go to work early, leave early (HA!!!!!!!) and ride before the sun sets (not likely)
  • Go to work early, take three hours around lunch time to ride, and stay late at work (ideal for riding for light and temperature, but I think the office schedule/dynamics will prevent this from being a regular option)
  • Ride at night in the dark and learn to love it 
That last one Soonie and I have already done twice now with success.  With the barn lights on and the barn door open, I can see (barely) to the end of the arena so we were able to do flatwork without much trouble (and by "much trouble" I mean he could see, I kind of couldn't, but we lived).  It actually makes me focus much more on feel, which I guess is good?  Just very, very different.  Soon didn't care; the first night was kind of freaky with the deer bounding around in the nearby field, but we got over that with very little drama.  That said, soon it'll be too cold to leave the barn door wide open so I would still need to find some work lights to use outside if I'm stuck riding at night no matter what.

And to be fair, last night I did stop at the end of the ride to enjoy the view of the night sky.  Can't say I've ever done that before.  There was something about sitting on my horse's back and looking up at the stars that was especially peaceful and memorable.

...I just hope I don't have to do that on a regular basis, that's all.  

In other news, the farm is home to a Thoroughbred retraining/rehoming program and is having an open house next week.  I'm assisting with that as well as with their budding veterans program, so I'm pretty excited about that.  I got asked to do a jumping demo with Soonie, so today I set up a ground pole exercise, a simple crossrail and vertical to start popping him back over stuff, since I don't think we've jumped in at least a month and a half.  He was spectacular, as usual.  He gave me some lovely lead changes on the flat, was mostly steady and soft over fences as well (with another lovely swap when asked for).  He did try to take the flier to the first canter jump, but was low enough where I made him wait and eat it; one chip got the point across and he was very adjustable and much more patient to the rest of the fences.  We only did a handful of jumps, as I'm hoping to do more tomorrow.  Then flat this week (in the dark?) and quick refresher over fences on Saturday, and we should be very civil to the jumps for Sunday's open house. 

Perfect horse is always perfect

Monday, October 26, 2015

Back to Business

I just spent the last six weeks down in Alabama for work. This was the longest I had been away from Soon, so it was sort of an experiment to see how we both did.  I had a good friend ride Bubba when she could, so he got done a couple times a week while I was gone, and got a little extra downtime. 

Final report card:  B-, both of us.

I was okay since I was busy with classes, and assignments, and all that professional development shit, but I think my attitude took a turn around week three.  I stuck it out and did well, but I would have preferred regular pony time.  I am spoiled.  Sue me.

Soonie made it a full seven days (the longest I've been away, coincidentally) before he got Time Out.  Apparently he started cribbing like a fiend, nonstop, after those seven days and could not be convinced otherwise, so they had to slap a cribbing collar on to get him to knock it off.  I've avoided those with him only because I put one on him for about a month back in 2013, and he WOULD. NOT. STOP. CRIBBING.  It's like the strap caused more anxiety and he would honestly ignore his food in order to sit there and hang on the wall.  He was seriously unhappy and lost weight.  So he's gone without the collar ever since and been ok, but they didn't want him cribbing that much with the fall weather and the increased risk of colic.  So Dunce Collar went on and apparently he was fine with it!  Great success!

Derpy Derp
It's a different design collar and I quite like it, actually.  It's effective and he seriously hardly attemps to crib with it on.  There's a big block under the throatlatch that engages well to prevent the actual sucking of air, and the collar itself is made of wide, thick leather that has yet to rub him at all, which is nice.  He's going to stay in it until he can prove that he's over the incessant cribbing phase now that mommy's home (if that was even the issue).  If he has to live in it for awhile, I'm fine with it.

Also, I got home after the long 13-hour drive, dumped my stuff in my house, got changed, and went to go ride Soonie (because priorities).  He's been spectacular and feels great!  We've had a couple of fun hacks out in the woods (he practically dragged me to the woods, he apparently likes crunching through leaves or something), galloping around the farm, and even a very polite and lovely dressage school yesterday.  He feels the good kind of fresh, so I think the mini vacay did him good.

Unfortunately I came back from the Deep South to find a furry yak in Soon's stead, and I may have overreacted slightly...

Literally me
So yesterday, my first full day back, I bathed, clipped, and pulled Soonie's mane... Horse no longer looks feral and homeless.  Productivity, yeah!