I’m afraid to call too much attention to the fact that I have a pretty awesome arena schedule this semester in case the arena fairy takes notice and makes sure it will never happen again.
I teach every morning at 8 AM; Mondays and Wednesdays I have another class at 1:00; Tuesdays and Thursdays I have practice from 4-6. That’s all. Fridays are, as always, a giant cluster, but the first four days of the week are surprisingly quiet–a class first thing in the morning to wake me up, get me thinking, kickstart my motivation for the day and generally make me cheerful (unless, of course, they’re riding like garbage…heaven help them then.)
So far I’ve found lots of time in the day to chase horses, do some riding, continue working on my social media empire (if you haven’t already, like us on Facebook at facebook.com/alfreduniversityequestriancenter–yes, this is a completely shameless plug. Go check out what I’ve been working on this semester because if I do say so myself it’s totally awesome.) Today, now that the ice rink outside the hay barn had finally thawed out, I was able to bring one Great Diversion, aka Withers, aka Tres, out of hibernation and into the main barn for a brief session on the lunge line.
Tres was x-rayed when the latest round of vets came through for injections and diagnostics, and his withers look amazing. Three of the “basic” fractures look beautiful and healing; the least of the displacements seems to have somehow replaced itself and the bone is stitching back together. The most insane-looking vertebrae will probably never put itself back together again but as long as the bone chip stays in place we’re doing okay. Tres was cleared for light and controlled exercise from the ground.
So onto the lunge line we went, a chain over his nose as I recalled his last moments of ground work in this arena (Rebecca and I trying to rip his blankets off as he reared and struck and spun over our heads) He has a disconcerting habit of dawdling along at the most useless speed of walk imaginable and then turning to face off–not much fun for a horse with a history of rearing on the ground–or slowly angling himself until the butt end was facing me. Foolishly unarmed with no lunge whip in sight I flapped the useless end of the lunge line at him and danced around him in circles until I got him ambling along in a rough circle. I asked him to trot and he reluctantly moved out, slowly accelerating until he gave me a beautiful circle of true trot, neck arched low as he stretched out his spine all on his own.
Then he promptly exploded, which I had been expecting all along–mercifully he chose to go forward rather than spin at me, and I diffused him quickly and sent him forward again. With one more eruption he settled down into a trot for a few more minutes, worked the other direction, and called it a day. Success. I will publicly thank Hoss and Tammy again for taking care of him for his months of layup; while leading his ground manners, knock wood, have improved astoundingly. Everywhere else (like the crossties) he’s still the same old Tres–but I least I know that progress is possible again.
I rode Playgirl in Western IV as my demo horse–fortunately, she’s very good at the exercise I wanted to show the students, opening and closing doors. On the well-broke western horses, one can manipulate them completely off the leg without touching their faces at all simply by knowing when to close a leg and when to open. In a combination of opening and closing legs I can send a horse forward, backward, turn in either direction or stop and spin. Playgirl is pretty catty to this game and made a good show of bebopping around the arena while I demonstrated what I could accomplish with just my leg. She’s also very good at jumping forward out of her tracks when I ask her to, showing how you can make a horse light to the leg rather than having to kick them forward all the time.
For everything else she was not so great–at the end, I loped her around a little bit while the students watched and I narrated the progress she’s made in two years as well as the plateau we seem to have reached. Compared to the cross-firing head-flinging wildebeast she was when she got off the trailer from Texas or whatever, she’s come pretty far. But I was distressed to find that she still can’t seem to follow her own body around, that she can’t get off my leg when I want her to, that she still demonstrates resistance all over her body when I ask her to go forward. More work is needed, clearly.