Monday, June 13, 2011
Pure. Unadulterated. Joy.
Other than feeding, I've done little with my horses in weeks. It's been unseasonably hot and muggy and just the act of toting feed pans and filling hay nets was enough to have me drenched in sweat. At 9 o'clock at night.
On Thursday I noticed the air seemed less thick and Cricket wasn't sweating from just standing in her stall. I decided if Friday held the same, I was getting on my horse.
Well the weather was beautiful - hot but not humid - all weekend and I rode all three days.
On Friday, we just rode in the paddock. I didn't want to bother with anything too specific, so I just put a bareback pad on her and asked her to move around a little. We did mostly walk but a fair amount of trotting - at least considering my trepidation about bareback and the fact we were "outside." I actually had fun trotting her up the small rises in the paddock. We played approach and retreat, stepping up onto my new pedestal. It scares me to no end when she steps up there. Twice I asked her up and just scratched her and that was enough.
Saturday, I brought Cricket and her BFF, Etruska, out to play a little. We did a little stick to me and some tandem circle game. I find it interesting that Cricket will offer and maintain a canter on this type of circle game but it's like pulling teeth to get her to canter any other time. How interesting! I put my bareback pad on Cricket and ponied Etruska around for a little. There were a lot of other horses and Cricket and Etruska were very good. On a whim, I parked Cricket and asked Etruska to circle around us. It was a little challenging to get Etruska to understand what I wanted but once she got it, she gave me a beautiful trotting circle game. Then I asked Cricket for a yield on the hindquarters to follow Etruska around the circle. That was incredible! Cricket had a harder time to the left but to the right she gave me a full turn and Etruska maintained her trot.
But all of that pales in comparison to Sunday. I've decided it's time to push my boundaries again and start riding Cricket out of the arena more. When I audited Carol's Super Camp, I was so jealous of the folks out cantering in the field. And I thought, as I watched, "I can do that." So it's time to put action to thought and get out there.
Our pasture for the boarder is about 6 acres, cross-fenced to make three larger fields and one smaller "catch paddock." After saddling Cricket, I walked her out to open the gate between two of the fields. At the back of the top field I used a ditch to mount up and we rode back towards the barn to meet up with the other two riders. Cricket showed no signs of spookiness or nervousness and I was pleased.
We started with some trotting, following the fence line. The entire field is terraced and so we had the fun of going up and down some gentle rises. I was happy to feel Cricket work to maintain the trot but not rush as the terrain undulated. We rode out to the back field and did some free-form trotting. Cricket was pretty attentive and pretty relaxed so I was feeling good about our ride.
I don't know when we started cantering. I want to say I asked for it but maybe she offered and I agreed. Who cares! The point is we started cantering out in the field. It was a little helter-skelter for awhile but it didn't take long to introduce some discipline to our ride.
I think Cricket enjoyed cantering up the terraces. It was a total rush to feel her power up the incline, even the small swells of the terraces.
I had two separate sessions of working some circles and simple lead changes. In the second session, I was able to let go of the rein and really ride her freestyle. That was cool to feel the trust and communication.
When we were ready to wrap up, the barn owner cantered off to the gate between the fields to close off the upper field. I followed and urged Cricket into the canter. My intent was to head down the long fence line, all the way to the corner of the second field. Cricket slowed at the gate and broke gait one other time but I just urged her to turn loose and she did. The last stretch of fence line, it felt like she was flying. I could feel the wind in my face and I was probably grinning like an idiot.
As we approached the corner, I rated her back down to the walk and turned and headed back to the other riders at the gate. I just dropped the reins over the saddle horn and let her walk. When I met up with the others, we turned to the barn and I walked Cricket all the way back. Not once did I need my reins, not once did she dive for grass. Come to think of it, I don't think she dove for grass the entire ride. How interesting!
I have waited years for that ride. It was worth it.