It's been raining and windy pretty much all week, so I couldn't give horse lessons except for Saturday. However, that means there was plenty of time for me to ride! I figure I can't decide what the weather will be like during my endurance rides, so I might as well get experience in all types of weather that's reasonable (though, here in Idaho, the endurance season months are generally dry and sunny, though they can occasionally get windy, like on the day of my outdoor wedding reception!) I've got four trail rides to catch up on, plus one day's work in the arena....
Sunday was windy, but I went ahead and saddled up. Snickers wasn't too keen on being caught, so I worked with Flash first and did some ground driving. He did really well! He's not fast by any means, but he gets that when I pull one direction, he turns that direction, and visa versa. I did get it on video, too. I don't think he's nearly as frustrated as he was during our first attempts at ground driving, with the bridle and bit and a makeshift surcingle. The right tools make all the difference. And a patient horse! Good job Flash!
I did catch Snickers, and we went for a ride similar to our first one, to the mangled car. He really fought going out on the trail and kept turning back toward the pasture - can you say herd-bound?? - but we eventually got going after a little antsy dance, particularly when he saw the dogs at the house. It's not bad, especially once he gets going because he's a LOT better, but at first he was really fidgety and ornery (sp?). It's amazing the difference it's made to get him out regularly and work him around things he tends to be afraid of. He did stop to look at the car from a short distance and was a little shifty going past it, but all in all it really wasn't a big deal. Now that I've seen it closer, I really have no idea if it's a car or not, but it's definitely a giant heap of rusty mangled metal! We followed the trail to where it bends left at a fence, where we trotted a ways. There were a couple of shiny, flappy silver board things on the ground that he shied at, but all in all he really works through things well. Out that direction, we did see the train go past and I thought about riding all the way to it, but we came to a spot where the entire trail was covered by a mountain of tumbleweeds and decided it was probably a decent turning back point. All in all, it came out to a little over 6 miles.
Monday or Tuesday I went out there but didn't ride at all. Instead, I caught Snickers, who was being his little Prima Donna self and whinnying and dancing all over, and decided to leave him tied while I worked with Flash first. Oh my goodness he was NOT happy! Oh well - that's what a good knot is for! With Flash, I groomed and groomed him, (as usual), and then set up a bunch of small jumps for him to work over. I figured that would be good trail experience for both of them just in case we ever have to step over something. Flash was so funny! He willingly tried all the "jumps", though he knocked down every one that he could. I love it though - even when the jump was falling down under his feet and the poles on the side were falling on top of him, he stood there like it was nothing. Good boy! I definitely need a horse like that to contrast Snickers, who, as expected, wasn't exactly calm when he worked over the same jumps lol. I eventually put Flash away, and then Snickers was up, who had at least stopped whinnying constantly and was pawing instead. I brushed him down, rearranged some of the jumps, and then off we went. As we started walking up to the jumps, he suddenly realized there were all these scary monsters around him and went into "OMG" mode, dancing around wide-eyed and shaky-legged. I was patient and led him up to each one and gave him time to figure out what it was, then coaxed him to step/jump over it, which resulted in much praising. In the end, I got him to go over each one multiple times, and he didn't hesitate too much over the ones that were just low poles. He just always needs to sniff things first, but that's ok. I was so proud of him working so hard and being so "brave"! Where Flash isn't phased by really anything, Snickers has such a big heart that he'll work to overcome what he is afraid of. I'm so proud of him :) It is pretty funny to see the contrast between the two on video, since it was the first time for each of them seeing these jumps.
Wednesday was another windy day, but we went ahead and braved the weather! As I started out, there was an older gentleman starting out just ahead of us with his dog. I recognized the saddle as the one that sits next to mine in the tack room because he has the same endurance stirrups as I do. I struck up a conversation and it turns out he did do endurance, but not anymore. His name is Lou and his horse is the one that Sandy's (the lady from SWIT&DR) daughter is riding for endurance. Snickers was being a herd-bound turd again, but we got out there ok. It was hard to talk to him because we kept getting ahead of him thanks to Snickers. After a bit I said goodbye and trotted on ahead. Snickers could not figure out what the heck the grain stuff was on the ground though and kept dancing around it as I tried to get him to look at it. He seemed to do ok about the dog - he was just spooky all around though! Once we got out there a little more on our own, he did fine. I wish that was the Snickers people could see more often! He can be such a scaredy-cat at the barn, dancing all over the place. We ended up going under the power lines and following the trail left to Kuna Mora Road and then back, just over 8.5 miles round trip. Overall, once he got over the stuff at the barn in the beginning, he did great.
That night was the SWIT&DR meeting, where I sat next to Sandy and her husband. I am now an official member with dues paid and all, and I met and talked to a few more people, particularly about volunteering at the Tough Sucker in April. The lady I talked to (I believe she's the treasurer...) suggested I get my own stethoscope and learn how to take a horse's pulse, especially because that's what I'll be doing most likely for my volunteering day. Plus, then I'll get used to taking Snicker's heart rate. I really enjoyed the meeting and learned a lot (though the speaker was talking about composting, something I can't really do since I board and, though I did mention it to my dad a little, I doubt he'll ever take the initiative to do it). I'm glad I joined the club! Also, Sandy said she'd trailer with me to rides she goes to that her daughter doesn't, so maybe that will work out! I really want to get some award next year, and I think the Rookie Rider award should be easy enough to get (there wasn't even a rookie rider last year), but it would be really cool to get the rookie horse award for Snickers. That means I'll have to make going to rides a priority and maximize the amount of riding we can do! It's a cool goal to work toward!
Thursday we rode again, and it was a pretty sweet ride. I worked him a little on the lunge line first, and I think that helped him use his brain a little more. He was a lot better about striking out for the trail. It was still windy, but we just struck out under the power lines and then back again in a straight line. Past the trail intersection, the trail wasn't as good, but good enough and I could still see any holes. The best part of the ride was that we totally had a Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron moment - There was a bald eagle flying along with us! I couldn't believe what I thought I saw, so we did some loping to catch up. At one point it landed on one of the poles, and I'm fairly positive it had to be a bald eagle. It was pretty sweet :) It was a really nice ride, and the loping was great! I felt a little more secure in the saddle, something that still feels weird to me on Snickers and in this English saddle. We didn't do a whole lot, but Sandy suggested doing a variation of speeds so we threw it in there. Plus, it was pretty sweet to be loping along in the wide open with a bald eagle flying above us :D We went just over 8 miles.
Shelley called and said my tack was in, so I went to pick it up before class Thursday. I picked up the pad and breast collar, and grabbed an English hackamore while I was there. The bridle came in, but it turns out the bridle/halter combination she ordered was one of the ones that clips on the bit and the halter has a brow band on it. I wouldn't have been able to use the snap-on headstall with it, so I decided to wait until Shelley was in to figure out what I should do. Then I decided (mostly out of impatience and the weak rationale that with Snickers's bridling problem the snaps would probably cause more issues anyway) to go back and get the combo. Then, as I was pulling out, I realized that since it had a brow band, I would need to pull the halter over his head (and that's when he freaks out) in the pasture just to get the halter on, and that wouldn't go well. So I brought it back. Shelley called the next morning and is going to order the right halter for me. Hopefully it gets here soon!
We took a break Friday since he got a really good workout Thursday, but Saturday we went ahead and did a "short" ride. It wasn't raining while we were out there, but the ground was really wet and muddy. We tried a new trail going right at the first fence, which leads west. It went into the area where there was a fire - I think that may have been one of the fires last summer from this really strange electrical storm that started a bunch of fires around our house. We came out toe Pleasant Valley Road, and there is a track along the road, probably for ATV's. Either way, it was really nice and wide, as well as flat, so we went ahead and rode South along the road. At one point, there was a giant puddle that covered almost the entire track, so I decided to take advantage of it and work with Snickers on water. He was pretty funny, but so brave! It was wide enough that he couldn't dance around it, and finally realized he was going to have to go through it. He put his nose down and sniffed it a few times, blowing the water away in ripples. Finally, he decided it was safe, and took a couple of steps, then sniffed it again to make sure it was still water. He did the routine a few more times until he was all the way through the puddle, and I told him how good of a job he did :) We went a little further, loping some of the way, until we reached the railroad tracks. There was a cattle guard there that I got him decently close to, again just letting him get used to anything and everything, then turned back. I let him lope a little bit and let him lengthen out pretty fast, but then practice slowing down in between trotting and loping. I think we need some more collecting lope, which I plan on doing today in the arena. We went through the big puddle and a few smaller puddles, and he did really well! He still had to sniff the puddles every time, but didn't have to stop and sniff again once he was actually walking through them. He felt a little funny coming back, but I think that was because of the mud and that he really wanted to get back! Again, we'll need to work on some discipline today in the arena. All in all, we did a little more than 6 miles, totaling about 41 miles for the last two weeks. That's great! I'd like to average about 20 miles/week in conditioning, and so far, so good! I'm setting a goal to make it to the Owyhee Fandango at the end of May, but MAYBEEEEE we can make it to the second Tough Sucker. That might be pushing it, though, so I'll really want someone to check him out for me to tell me if they think he's ready. I should go ahead and get that stethoscope soon so I can start checking Snicker's heart rate myself and get a good idea of where he's at physically :)