Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Week 3 Review

It's good that the first two weeks of the year went well, because this past week did not.  I started off the week with every intention of riding on Monday.  But, before I could do that, I had to repair at least one billet strap on my saddle.  You may remember that one broke a couple of weeks ago.  Well, after my ride on Sunday, my back-up billet strap had broken too.  That caused me quite a bit of concern. and I was debating whether repairing the strap myself was a good idea.  I thought that maybe the saddle was older than it looked and the thread was deteriorating.  In the end, I did decide to do the repair myself, and I will do a separate post about how I did it because I learned something pretty important that is worth sharing on its own.

But by the time I had fixed the billet strap and done all the other things I needed to do, I was wiped out.  Plus, I'd ridden four days in a row the previous week and there was still snow on the ground in the arena, so I told myself that it was OK to skip riding.  Even though I knew that riding during the rest of the week was looking iffy.

As it turned out, Gemma's lesson was cancelled on Wednesday because the footing was bad in the arena (which meant I didn't get to ride either).  We tried again on Thursday, but there had been no noticeable improvement in the footing, so it was a no go.

Finally, on Friday, I headed out to the barn in late afternoon with the intention of riding no matter what.  There was still maybe an inch or two of snow on the ground in the arena, but the temperature was warm enough that I wasn't worried about ice.  In fact, that was why I couldn't ride in the fields anymore.  Once again, they were a soggy mess, so it was either ride on the gravel driveway or see what we could accomplish in the arena.
The arena under snow
If you look closely you can see two deer on the right toward the bottom of the picture.  There were actually two herds of about 7-8 deer each and they took off running when Nimo and I came into the arena.
I started off the ride thinking we'd maybe just walk, but Nimo seemed comfortable with the footing and as far as I could tell, the sand was holding up well and Nimo's hooves were not punching through to the base of the arena.  So I thought we'd do some Pignot jog to warm up like we usually do.  And then I remembered why I'm supposed to be riding more frequently pretty quickly.  Nimo acted like it was the hardest thing ever (which maybe the snow had something to do with) and I admit it felt harder to me too.  We took several short rest breaks, but managed to get our 10 minutes in.

Then I contemplated cantering.  We've never cantered in snow.  In fact, I think this was probably the first time I'd ever schooled in the arena with snow.  In the past, I would just write off days where snow was on the ground, but Nimo has demonstrated that he can move in the snow quite well, and I didn't want too much down time after all our recent successes.  I figured the worst that could happen was that Nimo wouldn't want to canter when I asked and that would be that.

So I asked.  And Nimo cantered.  In fact, he cantered all the way around the arena just fine on his right lead.  So I asked him to canter left.  That direction gave him a bit more trouble.  Right now, he is definitely more confident and better-balanced to the right.  So we ended up doing two half laps around the arena to the left.  Yay for cantering in the snow!

My next task was to try to work on collected trot.  Again, with the snow on the ground, I wasn't sure how Nimo would handle it, but I asked anyway.  I did get a few strides of collected trot, but Nimo was generating so much amplitude!  And he seemed to want to move out a bit, so I let him, and I got the most glorious trot ever!  I can't say for sure, but I think it was pretty close to a medium trot.  And not just any medium trot - the medium trot that super impressive, expensive dressage horses do.  The kind with extra spring and smoothness.  It was so amazing to feel it!  It was incredibly easy to sit, and I could feel Nimo's back muscles moving under the saddle.  It was a very unique experience!

In Science of Motion, medium trot is considered a very advanced gait, so I knew that it was likely that Nimo had been able to do it largely because of the snow.  I think having it on the ground was causing him to lift his legs higher and generate more activity, but I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to feel it, even if I probably won't feel it again for awhile.

I didn't ride on Saturday because my mother-in-law had come for a visit, and I'd taken her and my daughter out for several hours of shopping.  While I do enjoy going to stores to actually look at things in person sometimes, I prefer online shopping because physical shopping exhausts me.  By the time we got back, I was ready to pass out for the day and I still had lots of things to do.  So riding got postponed until Sunday.

We were expecting some really cold temperatures (for us, anyway) to arrive by Sunday night.  We'd gotten a bunch of rain on Saturday night, which had melted most of the snow, but left the arena in a swamp-like state.  So I knew that once temperatures dropped below freezing, the arena would be an ice-skating rink, as would just about everything else.

I decided to head out to the barn on Sunday morning to get a ride in before the crazy wind that was blowing brought in the Arctic.  The arena was definitely still a swamp, but I rode in it anyway.  Thankfully, the footing was still holding up and as long as we didn't turn too sharply, Nimo was able to keep from slipping in it.  We went through basically the same routine as on Friday.  Walk a little.  Pignot jog for 10 minutes.  Work on canter.  See how collected trot is coming along.  Nimo wasn't able to reproduce the medium trot from Friday, but I did notice that his collected trot seemed to have a bit more amplitude (which is a good thing!).  I suspect he remembered the movement from Friday and was trying to repeat it.  But without the snow to help him, his back just wasn't strong enough yet to recreate the movement.

Then we headed out down the driveway so we could get a little time outside the arena and get Nimo's hooves on something that isn't a bog.  Plus, I want to ride around the farm a little more frequently so we can work on Nimo's anxiety.  We just slowly walked the half mile to the main road and then turned around.  Another boarder arrived just as we got to the road, so we chatted for a minute and then she drove toward the barn.  Well, Nimo decided he'd really like to follow her truck, so I thought I would try to turn that attitude into Pignot jog.  I told him he could trot, but he had to trot slowly.  We were mostly able to agree on a pace that made us both happy, which was great.  We didn't trot the whole way back to the barn because I wanted to make sure Nimo was not working too much to sweat, but it was a great start to my plans to use the road that runs through the farm as part of our conditioning work.  Before I can do that, though, I need to get Nimo feeling comfortable enough to focus on working instead of worrying.

So I only rode twice this week for a total of an hour and a half and five and a half miles.  But we cantered in the snow for the first time and we got to experience medium trot and even a little Pignot jog outside the arena.  I'll take those little victories and hope that I can use them to progress more during the next week:)


  1. You are so brave to ride in that! I'm hiding indoors.

    1. It's less bravery and more resignation, lytha:) If I don't ride when the weather is crappy, I feel like I'll lose all my hard work and have to start over again!

  2. I just spent a week in the city of Gelsenkirchen and between my hotel and school is an industrial area, but strangely, there was a horse stable right there. Like, surrounded by nothing but industry! On my last day, there was a Haflinger and a Friesian turned out together and they were playing rough, til they saw me stop on the sidewalk and they watched me for a while. I found it funny that the Haflinger was wearing TWO winter blankets. OK it was snowing but it's a Haflinger. Thought of you and Nimo. It was a welcome mental/emotional break from my week of stress and tests.

    I grew up in an industrial neighborhood called South Park in Seattle, and swear-to-God there were horses stuck in there in people's backyards (no fields, of course). I would ride my bike to them and just watch them, dreaming of a day when I'd have a horse of my own. South Park is one of the nastiest, most dangerous places in America. Horses are no longer allowed.

    1. You have had such interesting experiences! It's amazing how horses can adapt to a variety of environments - I bet that Halflinger didn't need a blanket, though!:)