The exact lyrics are not particularly relevant but I cannot help but hear the crooning of My Way in my head. My journey with Cricket has been fraught with challenges but every now and then, I have moments where I just know that the way I've chosen is the right way for us.
Last night was one of those moments. From the outside, it may not have been particularly impressive. But standing on the other end of the line, it was magical.
Our play last Saturday was not good. Cricket was headshaking to beat the band. Nothing I tried with her seemed to settle her down. I ditched my plan to ride and just allowed her to hand graze for as long as I could stand the cold.
Yesterday it was almost pleasant (mid 30s with little or no wind) so I decided to play with her before feeding. I started with the 12' line and some stick to me. That went well so I asked her to back and she did so with good impulsion. Sending her on the circle she picked up the most amazing walk. It had impulsion and rhythm. I've never seen Cricket walk so well on the circle. I had her walk in both directions before asking for some trot transitions. Then I asked her just to try the canter. She was so willing - trying to canter and keeping total slack in the 12' line. She managed half a lap in both directions and I decided the connection was worth so much more than the duration. I asked her to jump double down single barrels. She fudged it a few times. I repeated my request and when she put in the effort, I rewarded her with dwell time and pumpkin spice granola bars (we split them but I think she manages to weasel more than her fair share). We moved on to sideways and she was putting good effort into staying straight but also trotting sideways. Normally she leads/leaves with Z1 but not last night.
I pulled out her bag of crushed cans and we played some touch it games. I really want to teach her to retrieve. After a little touch it, I hooked her on the 22' and the cans on the 12' and we played with following the bag. I tossed it over her back and had her circling, carrying the cans and allowing them to bounce and drop and move with her. She was so relaxed about it. I circled her with it over her butt, coming down to her hocks. Never phased her.
I clipped reins to her halter and jumped on bareback (no pad). She was so light and responsive to my focus and weight shift. We played with some transitions and then some yields - FH, HQ and sideways. I'm working on her understanding of freestyle sideways. She likes to creep forward and I've allowed it so long that she thinks it's right. We're going back and politely re-defining the rules of sideways and she's beginning to understand.
After I dismounted, I played a little at liberty. She did a beautiful close - and I mean close as she was within arm's reach of me - walking circle. I pushed her out and asked her to trot. She tried hard to get really close to me and kept breaking gait. After a couple of decent trot steps, I disengaged her and called it all a win.
My plan to play every day from New Year's through spring camp has been somewhat derailed by the intense cold snap. I know most Northerners would scoff at our winter weather but we're just not used to this. Actually, I'm okay with the cold but when the NW winds blow through, there's just no way to stay warm. Even in a partially enclosed arena. So I'm going to do the best I can and as soon as the weather gets a little better, redouble my efforts.