Monday, April 6, 2009

Quite the weekend, quite the lesson.

I didn't bother going to the barn on Friday night. I was sick. I don't take many days off from mucking stalls and taking care of the horses, but this one was definitely necessary. I was weak from the flu and rather unhappy that I couldn't go to see my girl.
I did go to the barn on Saturday, even though I could only carry a water bucket with assistance and felt wiped out after the short walk from my car to the barn. Stella gave me a few squiggles to make me feel better. The dogs tried to knock me down in order to make me feel better. Abby and Jack were glad that I was home, to say the least. There was a 4-H meeting at the barn, so I sat through that. We planned a few things, mostly fundraisers because we need money for State.
Of course we'll be having a bake sale, as we always do. We sell immense amounts of cookies and cakes to people who swear they're on diets, diabetic, members of an anti-cookie cult... They love the cuteness of the kids. The people at the feed store are also really great to us and they come out constantly to stock up on snacks. We might have another yard sale, which would be great because I should really de-clutter my living area. Our last yard sale was a huge success, and it was a whole lot of fun too. One of the parents suggested that we simply collect donations in front of one of the grocery stores, adding that we should wear our show clothes. Well, at least I had the gall to volunteer for that one... Seriously, I've worn my show/riding clothes just about everywhere: rest stops, just about every store in town, college classes, advising meetings, office hours, fast food restaurants, sit-down restaurants, doctors' appointments, emergency room, convenience stations, neighbors' houses, public speaking events, you name it. It doesn't bother me in the slightest. The meeting was painless, and the braiding clinic that followed wasn't too bad either. I already know how to braid and band, so I just sat back and looked at the horses. A couple of the younger kids experimented with giving the patient Tina an atrocious mohawk, I brought in (and actually ate) some chocolate chip cookies, said goodbye to Stella, and then had to leave because I felt like I needed to pass out on my bed.
I passed out on my bed for an hour or so, and then I think I went back to the barn. Yeah. I think I did. I obviously don't remember much of it.
I do remember Sunday, though. Sunday was a pretty good day. I went to the barn and cleaned plenty of stalls, despite still feeling weak and fatigued. I longed Stella for a bit, but she was being lazy. I let her quit and instead turned her loose in the arena while I set up some ground poles. I used the longe line as a lead and worked some showmanship with her. We did lots of setting up, backing, pivoting, and standing for the judge. We did a little trotting, but I saved most of my running for the ground poles. I walked and trotted her over them several times. She was so good. She didn't look at them twice, just trot trot trot trot. I would've led her over some low jumps, but I wanted to save my energy for riding and not hauling heavy standards across the yard and into the ring.
Our ride wasn't bad. I mean, Stella wasn't bad. I was the typical person trying to get over the flu. The posting trot nearly killed me. I was panting for breath. The canter wasn't so bad though. Cantering is a lot easier, though, at least in my opinion. At least with Stella. She was very energetic. She wasn't uppity, bad, or out of control. She was just slightly faster than normal and moving powerfully. We had a lot of fun, but the ride was cut a little short because my stomach was unhappy and all of my muscles were screaming at me for making the stupid decision to ride. I'm glad I did, though.
After our ride, Stellaphone got her first real bath of the season. I scrubbed her down with a brush and lots of good-smelling shampoo until all of the spots that are supposed to be white were actually white. I also washed her tail and mane until they were gleaming a gleaming platinum, and I sponged her face off to remove most of the dirt and stains. She had a lot of slobber around her mouth from our ride, so I took care of that. I even wiped out her nose. During her bath, she kept raising and lowering her head while snorting. Occasionally she would start to tremble, taking a step or two back. I really don't know if I ever found out what was bothering her. She used to be terrified of the black mats that we have the horses stand on for their baths. When I tried to lead her onto the mats last summer, she reared up, pulled away from me, and fell onto her haunches. She was okay, but very dirty and even more in need of a bath once I caught her. She's just silly like that. Someone had thrown their jacket over the fence rail, but that wasn't it. I also moved the ground poles away from the mats, but that wasn't it. I even got to the point where I was picking up clods of dirt and small twigs, but those weren't the startling objects either. I think the bucket, which was filled with a white, foaming mass, was the problem. I moved that and she stopped trembling, but she didn't stop snorting and moving her head up and down to get a better look at something. I just didn't want her to start pulling back; I wanted a nice, relaxed bath that could reinforce the "black mats are good" idea in Stella's head. It was a good experience, too.
I hand grazed Stella for a little while, which she enjoyed. She was very hungry the whole time I was working with her on Sunday, so I made sure to give her extra hay before I left. I hugged her lots before leaving, as always :)
Today I feel a whole lot better, and I think I'm almost back to normal. I rode Rascal again in today's lesson. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I actually felt pretty good about myself after the lesson. He was kind of a tough ride, but we stuck it out and had a nice time.
On the flat, his walk and trot were lovely. His saddle, obviously meant for dressage, was also lovely. His canter wasn't terrible, just very, very fast. I had some interesting moments, to say the least. I tried him on a looser rein at first. He was wearing a simple snaffle, so I assumed maybe he's like Archie and just wanted a softer hand and looser rein. He literally took it and ran. He needed me to hold him at all times instead. One time, I got up behind Bugsy and had to make a decision--fast. I was blocked by a jump, so I either had to risk ramming into Bugsy (Not fun, it's happened to me while I was on Stella...) by staying behind him or risk my own seat and/or hitting a jump standard by turning sharply and cutting the ring. I chose the latter, and, boy, did I really risk my seat! I was expecting a much slower turn, but Rascal did almost a 90-degree turn the instant I asked him to go toward the center of the ring. I really fought for my balance. Then, I had a run in with another girl who was cantering a smaller circle. I joined her circle and we both tried to fit into a small hole between two jump standards. I was going to go back to the rail, but someone showed up on another pony and I just couldn't do it. I just followed behind the horse and it felt like I wasn't going to make it. This time, I ended up standing in my stirrups, once again playing with my balance. It would've been a lot easier if I'd been on a slower, more controllable horse. Teresa's been making a point of putting most of us on faster, more advanced horses this semester. It's definitely making for lots of learning, and that's great.
Jumping Rascal was also really interesting. I popped over a smallish fence to start, and Rascal did a good job with it. I did something strange, I don't even remember what, but it was fixed by the next lap and next pop over the fence. We did that fence a few more times, and then we added another to it. Rascal did them both quite nicely, but he didn't want to stop after the first fence...or the second. It just took a bit to bring him back to the trot once he landed and decided to canter off. The second fence landings made for some pretty epic riding. Rascal just took off each time. Once, I had to do some serious sinking to stay on. After the jump, I turned Rascal hard to keep him from charging through the fence. The sinking was the only thing keeping my butt in the saddle when he made some barrel-racer-esque turns.
Our best go was the second before our last. He calmed down a bit and came back to a halt in a very reasonable amount of time. Our final go wasn't that bad, but it was a little crazier. It was still fun.
I asked Teresa about class for next semester. The only way I can repeat the Intermediate class is to go into my Latin class completely dressed to ride and then making a run for it as soon as class lets out. I could always go back to Hi-Elementary, which wouldn't be all that bad of an idea, really. It'd be the confidence boost I said I needed. I can pop over a crossrail comfortably on any horse with a shred of sense. They don't do too much more than crossrails and tiny, tiny jumps in that class. I honestly wouldn't take the class if I had to go down to Elementary, though. I just wouldn't. Basically, I take these classes to keep me in shape for Stella and to teach me how to jump for Stella, mostly the latter. They don't even do crossrails in Elementary (Not saying they should... Not saying anyone who can't ride without stirrups and reins should...), so it'd be a waste of my time and money.
I also don't think I'm ready for Advanced Equitation. I might repeat Intermediate a couple of times and then try.
An older man who rides at the school's barn was watching our lesson and said that I stuck with Rascal really well, particularly with our final jump. A girl in my lesson also complimented our ride. It made me smile :)

No comments: