Monday, June 9, 2008

Weekend Warrior

A horse's memory is a prodigious thing. I've heard this trait likened to a scratch on a blackboard: Once it's there, you can make a lot of marks over it and minimize it's appearance, but you can't erase it.

The drawbacks of such a memory are obvious, but I must say it comes in handy sometimes -- for instance, when my training schedule has been trainwrecked by three weeks of unseasonably heavy winds and rain. I haven't stopped training entirely since mid-May, but deep mud and howling winds have forced me down to an appalling 2 or 3 lessons per horse, per week.

Fortunately for my sanity, the weekend dawned sunny and breezy. I started early with Sandstorm, reminding her of her new leading skills. She responded as though just an hour had passed since her last lesson, sweet and shy as ever she was.

From Sandstorm I moved on to ride Consolation in the round corral, then do pre-mounting work with Acey. After a quick lunch, I caught Ripple (long yearling Barb filly) for the first time in two months. She stood like an old plow horse while Travis trimmed her hooves, then aced a quick groundwork review.

And then, the real fun began. I saddled Aaruba and headed off for a 14 mile trot peppered with canters and one brief, frantic gallop when an Australian Shepherd burst from the bushes in hot pursuit. The dog loped along with us for five miles, ignoring my shouts to "go home." He was nearly hit by several cars before finally stopping to investigate some other dogs. (Please, please, even if you live in the country, be responsible and restrain your pets!)

Home again, I had just enough time to give CJ a liberty workout before keeling over from weariness, hunger, and gin & tonic deprivation.

Sunday morning, I started all over again. Despite the long disruption of my training schedule, Acey seemed ready for the big moment. [drumroll please] I climbed aboard. She hardly twitched an ear. [cease drums, cancel cymbal crash] I shifted around in the saddle, scratched her withers, and hopped off again. Thorough groundwork -- and that equine memory -- pays off once again.

The next triumph of the day came when I took Consolation, tacked up, for a walk down the road. She was so good that I decided to get on (yes, I had my helmet) and ride for a mile or so. Travis rolled his eyes when I rode into the driveway, grinning, to announce that now I can ride every day, even when Aaruba is resting. I've waited years for this!

Around 4:00, Aaruba and I left for another 17 mile jog. We tried a new route that involved crossing the freeway (on a little-traveled overpass) which he handled like a pro despite motorcycles and semis roaring beneath. In fact, the horse-eating trash can (cleverly disguised as just another trash can identical to the other fifty we passed) proved much more alarming.

Incidentally, I sometimes wish Aaruba's memory for places wasn't quite so keen. He dearly loves to explore and moves out with great enthusiasm every time we go somewhere new. We hardly walked a step of those 17 hilly miles, yet he arrived home still full of air and bounce. "The horse is fine," I told Travis, handing him the reins. "I'm pooped."

Here's hoping the weather finally has figured out it's June...


ell said...

Congrats on riding Consolation! That had to have felt SO good! Picture please!

Chris said...

Well doesn't that just sound like an awesome weekend! And very productive, too ;)

I keep thinking each time I see a new photo of Aaruba how gorgeous he is!

girasol said...

What is it with the trash cans? It's the strangest horse obsession. We even tried desensitizing my one mare for driving, by setting empty trash cans all around the ring and driving around them. Didn't make her any less wary of the ones along the roadside! Silly ponies.

Neat to read about your training progress...

Mrs Mom said...

Holy Hannah you made me tired just reading that! ;)

Congrats on the first ride!!! AND on the stellar prep work that led up to it. Wish ALL horses could get that in their lives....

Give Aruba a pat from us! Cant wait to hear more, and please, send rain this way- we are in dire need again!

enlightenedhorsemanship said...

that all sounds so enviably wonderful.
my first trainer (who was a lunatic, but still) told me that you always pick up a well-trained horse exactly where you left off (regardless of the time elapsed), and I think she's right. Judging from your experience, maybe it's the groundwork that keeps them focused?