Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Windy and Colder With Horses

Today it was cloudy, chilly and windy - wind chills were in the 40sF.  Tomorrow's going to be windier - with gusts to 60mph - and with  rain likely.  I figured that I'd better ride while I could.  I didn't ride Dawn - I usually don't when it's very windy as she can be very unpredictable under those conditions.

The mares and geldings (not including Drifter who's on solo turnout due to his aggressiveness towards Pie) swapped pastures today.  This meant that Drifter could no longer see the mares easily from his pasture - he was beside himself and did lots of running and calling.  He did settle down eventually.  He seems to have virtually no interest in socializing with the two geldings, Pie and Scout, and only views them as rivals for the affections of the mares, whom he seems to adore.

So riding Drifter today presented some challenges - it was cold and windy, he was worried about the new pasture arrangements, and the mares' pasture is now the one adjacent to the arena.  All matters for high levels of distraction.  My objectives with him under these conditions were simple - to establish that we can work (if only a bit) under these conditions so that working just becomes a matter of routine, and to have things go reasonably well - no meltdowns or acting up.  If that meant that all we did was walk, that was fine by me - I was determined to ride the horse I had today and not some imaginary horse that wasn't there.

Drifter was extremely fidgety on the crossties when I was grooming him - it was a sign of the weather and his mood.  We did some leading work in the arena so I could gauge his level of distraction and excitement - he was very distracted and somewhat excited but was able to respond to my asks so I mounted up.  He was fairly tense and desperately wanted to run down to the mares - I could feel his level of tension and didn't want any explosions.  So we did what we were able to do and considered it good - lots of circles and serpentines, some backing, all at the walk.  So long as he was able to walk in a fairly relaxed manner, we walked in a straight line; if another horse screamed, or he was distracted by the mares moving around their pasture and his head popped up, we circled, with no constraint on the outside rein so he wouldn't feel trapped.  I also was careful to keep my legs off him as he was already pretty forward as well as tense.  He managed to hold it together and do everything I asked, although there were a couple of moments when "the horse is thinking about leaving" (to quote one of my sidebar posts) - before that thought could fully form and turn into action, we would circle until he was able to be with me again.  I was proud of him for being able to do that much under such weather and mental conditions.

Then I rode Pie - he was also pretty up due to the weather, but also very responsive.  We rode in the arena and had a nice but not too long session - I'm gradually bringing him back into work.  We did a fair amount of figure work at the walk and trot as well as some backing and turns on the haunches.  He was a very good Pie.

Not too bad for a windy and cold day with horses.

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