Sunday was cold by my new SC wimpy standards: 40 and windy. The original plan was to trailer out somewhere and get the first trail miles in since Pow Wow the beginning of February. As I lay in bed that morning listening to Wyatt playing downstairs with Dusty, I ran the numbers in my head:
- 1 hour to get to barn, catch Gem, groom, attach trailer, load and head out
- 1 hour drive to trails
- 30 minutes to tack up and get on her
- 2 hour ride
- 30 minutes to untack, cool out, offer water and feed mash
- 1 hour drive home
- 30 minutes to unload and get home
- Total: 6 1/2 hours
Wyatt went down for his nap at 12 and I took the opportunity to sneak to the barn to try to do something with the mare.
Spring has fully sprung here in the SE and the pastures are greening up nicely.
As the wind whipped through my riding tights, I briefly debated on throwing her into the round pen for some work and avoiding riding, but I eventually got my head out of my butt and tacked up. She has already shed out a lot of her winter fur, but she is getting those annoying seasonal alopecia spots again this year. They are definitely not as bad as last year and are more like a thinning in areas, but if you know to look for it you can see the extremely thin regions. I need to research this a bit more and figure out if there is anything I can do to avoid it.
I read this really great blog post from Team Flying Solo about being a more positive thinker when it comes to riding. I encourage you all to head over a give it a read. Basically she is challenging everyone to get rid of any negative thoughts when it comes to riding. Instead of getting on and saying "Gem will not spook at that bush today" which only intensifies the anticipation of bad behavior you should think "We will ride around the tracks today calmly". Its a perception thing. Read her post to get a better explanation.
So as I swung my leg over Gem I thought very clearly "We will trot and canter around these tracks bravely today" and headed down the long hill to the gelding's track. And you know what? We did! I asked for a forward trot and off she went. We even passed a shiny helium balloon stuck in the fence without losing it.
The positive thinking wasn't the only thing I changed for this ride. I did two other things that helped out a lot as well:
- I sang. Off key, out of tune and badly, but I sang. I did this during the first part of Pow Wow after we left our husband/wife couple to go ahead and were left alone in the woods. My legs were screaming at me, I was getting a horrendous rub from something on my knee and Gem was being a twit. I started singing up beat songs out load and it got me into a great rhythm and I think helped Gem too. So I sang "Heartbeat Song" by Kelly Clarkson as we started off and posted along with it. It helps to distract me from my surroundings and focus on riding more actively. Gem responds super well to it.
- I kept more contact on the bit. I have always given Gem a super loose rein when on trails. She seems to prefer me staying out of her mouth and out of her way. I can't remember the ride where I started doing this, but it was a pre Pow Wow conditioning ride when she was being absolutely pig headed about spooking at every single branch, twig, stump and leaf she could find. I eventually just kept a light, but firm contact and she responded by being braver and more forward. To start Sunday's ride I did the same and she strided out fine.
After a second loop around I let her stop to graze and then we headed back out going backwards. Sometimes at this point she will let me know that she thought we should be finished and so once I felt myself tensing up to prepare for it, I reminded myself of my positive thinking goal and restated my plan "We will ride around calmly" and began to sing again while picking up more contact. She made a small fuss, but moved forward and off we went.
By this time she was acting a bit tired which is sometimes more mental than physical, but she was also huffing and puffing a good bit. I asked for some pretty strong canters up the grassy lanes and when I felt her drop on the forehand I knew she was tired. I decided 3 times around the 2 mile track was plenty after basically 2 months completely off. As we came up the last long, steady hill to the barn I asked for a gallop and she gave it although a little hesitantly. We flew up that hill and I know I had a massive grin on my face. By the top she was really huffing and had worked up a sweat even with the cold wind, so I let her off and stopped there.
It was a fantastic ride and I just hope I keep these things in my mind when I ride in the future.
So what were the minuses since that was a great, big, fat plus?
The first was the seasonal alopecia coming up again. Argh.
The second is her feet. I need to dedicate a whole post to it. This is the first time in 5years I have worried about her feet for real and I am not happy about it. I have a new farrier coming out tonight which is a big deal for me, so look for that coming up as well.