October 2, 2013

Night Riding

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”  
J.R.R. Tolkien
We went back Sunday morning to check on them and ride a little. I took her out of the pasture and led her to the barn which is the most airy and open barn I've come across. I swear I will get pictures soon. I felt weird taking them in front of the owners on day 1 and they were there again Sunday and then Monday it was too dark. This weekend I will get some pictures up. I put her in the cross ties like I have done in 5 other barns over the last 4 years countless of times. She lost her mind. She reared. She tried to spin. She splattered poop everywhere. I tried to calm her, but she wasn't having any of it, so I just tried to tack her up and move on. I put her saddle on and was stupid enough to turn my back to grab her girth and she pranced in the ties and stepped on a sheet of plastic that scared her even more and I watched as my saddle flew off her back and landed on the cement. I have just decided to sell the stupid thing and now she flings it onto the ground and scratches it! (It turned out to be ok though. I took it home and saddle soaped it up and polished the leather and you can't even tell now, but what horrible timing!) At that point I decided this wasn't so smart, so I clipped the lead rope on her and walked her out to the arena. I let her walk around and look at things and then unclipped her and clucked her up. She is sooooo beautiful to watch and she pranced around and even took off a few times bucking and snorting. After about 10 minutes, I hooked her up again and we returned to the barn where I commenced the tacking up process. She was not behaving super well, but she was a lot better and I was able to finish without incident. Darn mare!
I took the ride easy - we just walked around with the only goal of getting her to be calm and stop shaking. It took about 20 minutes, but she eventually relaxed and I called it a day. No sense in pushing her too much.
Since Sunday wasn't exactly aerobic, I figured she could do with another ride Monday night. It is getting dark so early now. Back in the crossties she went and this time she only pranced a little from side to side. No rearing. No trying to bolt. Progress. Off to the arena we went and I was so happy that the lights are bright and light up about 75% of the arena. The back light belongs to the city and it is currently burnt out, but the owner said it should be fixed this week. I have never really ridden in the dark before. Up north there are indoor arenas, so even at night it feels like day. Down here the weather is nice enough to not need to be inside, so indoor arenas are rare.
It was incredible!!! Gem was spooky and tense for much of it, but she deserved to be. A new barn, a new arena and now it was dark. Poor thing. We walked around as the stars came out and I was in heaven. It was peaceful, relaxing and exactly what I needed. She was fairly calm at the walk, so I asked her to trot. There was one spot where a gate panel was laying up against the fence and there was a bright blue barrel about a foot away from that and it was in the darker part of the arena and she was scared to go past it. I let her take her time and eventually we trotted on by with only a sideways glance and a snort of disapproval.
My only negative comment on the arena is the footing. It is sand and it is deep. They used to train western horses for reining, roping and barrels and you need deep footing for those. Deep footing is harder work and even at the slow pace with a cool night (low 70s, upper 60s by the time we finished) and barely working she was sweaty. Now some of that was nerves, but it was like running on the beach in the dry sand. She will get used to it and it will be ok, but I don't want to push her too much right now and risk straining a ligament or bowing a tendon. We will take our time to get acquainted with the footing and surroundings before I push her too much.
As I walked her back to the barn, I was so happy with the move. It was nice to go to the barn and have peace and quiet with time to bond with Gem and work through our problems at our own pace. I really enjoyed riding at night which is  good thing because I will be doing it most of the time from now until spring. 

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