Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Reunited, and It Feels So Good

On Saturday, it was cold with a high in the mid-30s and the rain drizzled down steadily from a steel gray sky. Despite the miserable weather, I found myself unable to sleep past 6 am, due to the imminent arrival of the big guy.

That's right, on Saturday, Dante came home to me.

(The Brookledge trailer backs down the drive.)

As I watched the Brookledge trailer try and fail to turn into our small drive, then give up and masterfully manuever through in reverse, I was bouncing on my toes like a kid in a candy store. Soon enough, Dante's smiling face (metaphorically of course) was in front of me as the guy opened up the trailer window. He charged off the trailer like a rampaging dragon, steam blowing from his nostrils as he dragged me around.

Into his new stall he went to settle, and after about 30 minutes, he calmed enough to turn out. Immediately, he trotted up to the rise, where he could view his new domain, and surveyed the nearby herds as if he were king.

Silly pony.

(Dante enjoys his new field.)

Of course, then my truck decided windshield wipers and turn signals were for wimps, so I spent the rest of the day at the mechanic. I was able to come back at the end of the day and tried to wash out his tail from his travels.

On Sunday, we went for our first hack with our new barnmates. The hacking out here is simply stunning; we were out for at least an hour, and that was only the 'longer' hack, not the 'really long' hack.  The fields are gorgeous, the hills are gorgeous, the woods are gorgeous. Dante had the opinion that we were headed out to run cross country, and jigged for the first ninety percent of the hack. The final ten percent, he finally understood what was going on and decided to walk like a normal horse. Hopefully as we hack more and more, he will understand that XC is not at stake.

I flatted him just a tiny bit at the end, and he was absolutely lovely. I threw in most movements to test out where we were in terms of flexibility, strength, and remembering what the hell we were doing. He gave me some lovely work considering his vacation time; he obviously remembers how to do everything, although some of the lateral flexibility is missing. On the other hand, his spinal flexibility is shockingly good now.

Last night, we ventured out to do flat work at dusk, my first ride in a dressage saddle since our dressage test in Colorado. I'm playing between the Devoucoux Mendia and the Prestige 2000D. The Mendia seems to fit better, but might be slipping back and last time I used it for a long period of time, his back became sore. However, that may have simply been a coincidence, as I was not sitting the trot particularly well at the time either. In any case, until I can have a saddle fitter evaluate the saddles, I'm bouncing back and forth a bit.

At first, Dante wanted to stand and watch the deer who gathered on the other side of the fence. After about five minutes of staring without any particular distress, I convinced him that he did, in fact, need to work, and did not, in fact, need to keep an eye on the deer. He settled under the lights and we spent a long time in a low rein, working on pushing from behind. As I asked for more and more lateral work, he began to pick himself up until he was working in a nice frame without me really even having to ask. We spent a lot of time leg yielding, working on his lateral flexibility while maintaining his rhythm. Although he had given me a lovely canter tour the day before, I decided against working in that gait when I felt him getting tense as he tired.

I'd forgotten the soothing aspects of the routines of grooming and cleaning tack. I practically have the barn to myself in the evenings, and there's something calming about accomplishing each task in a methodic manner. Here's to having horses in my life again!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Marking Time

In about two weeks time, Dante will be coming to his new home at Windover Farm in Middleburg. I can't begin to explain how lucky I feel to have found this facility. It's small, private, with only a couple other boarders. Yet it has fantastic care, beautiful individual turnouts with run-ins, a full size dressage ring with lights and all-weather footing, and other amazing amenities that will help Dante and I in our quest to ride at the top levels.

(The lovely hack down to the dressage arena.)

As the time gets nearer, I get more and more impatient. At times, it often feels that I will never get him back, and that the two-ish weeks before I see him will last forever. It reminds me a lot of waiting for Christmas when I was a kid. Each delay (which is less and less each time) seems to feel like a bigger and bigger deal. In October, a too-short trim immediately delayed his return to me by at least a month; at the time, it seemed no big deal. This past week, when I tried to schedule a reshoeing for this Monday, I discovered the farrier-vet that had done his feet before would be out of town until the following Monday. A week's delay! I felt like throwing a fit, until I realized that I am a sane and rational person (right?). 

 This next week may be the toughest yet, but I will attempt to distract myself by retrieving my trailer next weekend from Destination Farm and making my first attempt at bringing it into Windover. (The one drawbrack to the farm is the tight entrance for my 26.5 ft trailer; I figure this can only force me to become a great trailer drive quite quickly!) Some of my gear is already set up at the farm; the rest will follow next weekend.

(Dante's individual turnout.)

I'm trying very hard to further distract myself by reading riding theory books. I've finished the German Dressage Federation's Principles of Riding, and have moved onto Common Sense Dressage by Sally O'Connor. It's surprising how much I never thought about theory and how much I plan to incorporate it now, particularly since I will be riding more on my own than ever before. Since I won't have mirrors, I will have to learn to feel what I need, rather than see. I've bookmarked pages in 101 Dressage Exercises and 101 Jumping Exercises, and decided to do quite a bit of pole work based on my auditing of the Nicola Wilson clinic.

In addition, I've been mostly faithfully doing the P90X workouts. When I rode a friend's horse a few weeks ago, it was almost shocking how out of shape I was. While nothing substitutes adequately for actually riding everyday, at least I can get my wind and some of my tone back. I've been at it for about 2.5 weeks now, and my body is much trimmer already. I'll need to cut back a bit once I start riding simply because of time constraints, but this is much better than starting off cold.

So here I am, marking time until Dante gets here.