Grace and I had a wonderful ride this morning! Yes, it is Wednesday and I had the very rare opportunity to get a ride in before work. It was actually my part of a bargain. My boss is out of town and needs me to take his daughter to the orthodontist this afternoon. I could go on forever by how much it irritates me that driving the boss’s 12 year old daughter around is actually in my job description. For the record I am an Office Manager, not the Step and Fetch it Girl. I did agree to this when I was hired, so for the most part I keep my mouth shut, drive the kid around and charge the company for my gas mileage.
So when the boss gave me 24 hours notice that he needed me to drive the kid to an appointment at 3:00 in the afternoon, the first thing that came to mind was that he was taking away my riding time. I gave Grace the day off on Monday and had planned to ride her the rest of the week. We are headed to a horse show this weekend, and in my mind every ride before hand counts. When I started to moan and whine and stomp my feet, the boss suggested that I ride during the day before taking the kid to the appointment. He didn’t seem to mind that I would be missing time in the office doing actual work – for the company – that pays my paycheck. Who was I to argue?
My daily routine involves getting up at 4:30am so I can make the 5:45am class at the gym; from there I head to work. Since I am usually in an office building when it gets light out, it occurred to me this morning that I have no idea when the sun comes up. I had planned to get Grace out for our ride at 7:00am, but it was still dark. I tied her to the trailer at 7:30am, but still had to use a head lamp to provide enough light to wrap her legs. I went as far to have a hay bag all set up on the trailer so that I would not be accused of interrupting Her Majesty’s breakfast.
It was still crisp and cool that early in the morning, so Grace seemed to have a little extra skip in her step on the way to the arena. I actually prefer riding her when she is a bit fresh. It doesn’t take long to get her focused, and I don’t have to spend the entire ride pushing her. It also means she is sound. I don’t get that “ready to take on the World” feeling from her when she is sore.
The show’s schedule for this weekend is Reining on Saturday and Cow Sorting on Sunday. Grace knows the reining pattern, she figured it out the second time I practiced it on her. Since then I’ve been breaking it down into smaller parts. If I over school something, Grace will then start to anticipate. I even go out of my way to practice parts of the pattern in a different area of the arena than where they are in the pattern. I’m never sure if I am actually training this horse, or just constantly trying to outsmart her.
What I have not worked on for this pattern is the spins. We only have to spin twice in each direction at the beginning of the pattern. I have gone out of my way to avoid spinning on this horse. I am totally freaked out that I will wreck her left hock if I do. This morning we worked on our warm up. For the last few months we’ve been working with Sarah on more lateral work, lateral work that is off my legs and not my hands. It’s very easy for Grace to move away from the direction her neck is bent, but much more difficult for her to move in the direction that it is bent. This morning I saw a big change. She was much better moving to the left, with her head bent to the left. When I asked her to move to the right with her head bent to the right the first time, she was pretty sure the world was coming to an end. It makes sense; I was asking her to step forward and over with her left hind leg. I took a step back and broke down the exercise, asked her for a walking turn on the forehand into the bend, which she did with ease, and then asked her for the side pass into the bend. Not only did she get it, she gave me one of those “Oh, that’s what you wanted? Why didn’t you just say so?” sighs. Again, not sure if it was training, or just out thinking her. She really can do it physically, but it becomes my job to get her to believe she can. My goal is to get her there without force. If I accomplish that I promise you that my ride the next day will be even better. We continued on with our warm up, doing all the same exercises at the jog. I only asked for a few steps at a time on the side pass to the right. Little victories tend to go along way with Grace. At the end of our warm up, I went ahead and asked her to spin one time in each direction. I was rather surprised by how well she did. If I have that for the show, I will be very pleased. But if she gives me two circles in each direction I will take it. Grace needs to get stronger on her left hock before I ask her to spin on it. A schooling show is no reason to rush it.
I have one goal for the show. That is to keep my leg on my horse during the lope. For the last 10 years, every time I ask for the lope my legs automatically come off my horse’s side and stick straight out in front of me. I know I do it, my trainer points it out to me, I yell at my legs, but still they stick out. It goes way back to when I was a kid and afraid to add leg to a runaway horse. It goes way past the thinking side of my brain and deeper into some body fear issues. I have just started to make real progress on it in the last 30 days. Grace was so used to me not using my leg at the lope that the first time I kept it on she didn’t know what to do. Did I want a lead change? Did I want her to go faster? Slow down? We’ve had to learn to communicate at the lope all over again. She does seem to appreciate the longer rein length. Amazing I can do when I don’t ride off my hand! The pattern has two fast circles and one slow circle each direction. Right now that feels like an eternity to remember to keep my leg on.
No matter how my rides go, I am really looking forward to getting away to a show this weekend. I get to hang out with two really incredible horse ladies and Grace. We only have the one class on Saturday and then cow sorting on Sunday. Practically sounds like a vacation. I just have to get past that point of thinking I am going to swallow my tongue when I think of all the stuff I have to pull together before Friday afternoon. I also have a group from Korea visiting the office next week to prepare for. Throw driving the boss’s kid around on top of it, and suddenly I’m really glad I got my Grace fix in this morning!