As I rode the last 3 nights, it was hard to believe that it was October, and that the month would soon be over. The weather is gorgeous! Trees are in color, even though some are dropping leaves quickly. The bean fields are harvested and have great riding terrain. I took the time to admire the weather, the trees, and the horse below me.
After a weekend of a Competitive Trail Ride, I gave Finny Monday and Tuesday off. I noticed some puffiness in his ankle area and wanted to make sure he had some rest. Last week, all the outside horses were standing in wet, muddy muck, after days of rain. I noticed the puffiness Friday morning. It seemed less noticeable in the later afternoon at check in for the CTR. I watched for and felt for increased swelling and heat during the weekend. He checked out fine on Sunday. The puffiness was slightly noticeable Wednesday before my ride. I’m sure that standing in that slop all last week, along with standing 2 ½ days at a hitching post at nights, and riding 20 miles Saturday and Sunday, didn’t help. We needed some slow ride time now. I walked the field, grateful to see standing water at the orange field drains. I love walking into the water, and so does Finny. He perked his ears and right into the water we go, wading and splashing. I thought that the water on his legs will help the swelling, as long as the mud that he sinks into around the water edge doesn’t make matters worse, pulling tendons and ligaments, adding more strain to his ankle joints. But after the ride, I did notice less puffiness.
Since we had 2 days off, we walked the first field, then walked the edge of the road, stopping for bites of green grass. The next field had ditches to practice on, flat areas to trot, and a small hill to walk up. We practiced some trotting out, keeping my seat light in the cantle, as that seems to be a common thread that CTR judges are looking for. So for the next ½ hour, I 2-pointed, trotting the field at different trot speeds, building up endurance in Finny, and in my thighs! We had a wonderful time walking and trotting around that field, as ½ hour went by in 5 minutes. I rode back to the field edge, stopping to let Finny eat green grass along the way. I was following the corn field to the back edge of the field, when Finny perked up and I noticed a hunter on the other side of the tree line. I shouted, “I’m here riding a horse”, and he shouted back, “OK”. I responded “I’ll ride closer to the barn”. I’m sure there were no pheasants in that area now! I really wanted to practice on water, so we rode to the middle of that field. Going down hill, with 3 or 4 terraces, I practiced, once again, lightness in the cantle as we go DOWN the hill. To me, right now, this is a mixture of 2-pointing and heels down in the stirrups so you are pushing yourself up. I’m sure this effect is going to change as I develop the feel of what the judges are looking for, because I already felt that I rode that a little different the next day. We played in the water, then walked by the dog kennel. Now it’s time to see if Finny will stand still, if I let my 2 dogs out to run. Finny couldn’t see them, but the dogs will run around the corner where he was tied. I have a very active Springer Spaniel, Lady, and a very loveable Australian Shepherd, Posie. They came racing out of the kennel, and around the corner, and Finny just looked at them. Meantime, the Beagles that my son is raising, are just howling. “Why can’t we go, too” they seemed to cry. I know why, if I let you out, you guys are off hunting! Tonight seemed like a good time to see if the dogs will follow me to the field. I haven’t ridden with the dogs yet, and that is another goal. The dogs were too close to home and didn’t want to follow me. They were ready for supper! And Posie, the wimp, was too scared of Finny, and wanted to chase the cat up the tree. If that cat would have turned and hissed, Posie would have been the one trying to get up the tree!
The next night was just as lovely. I didn’t have as long to ride. Finny’s puffiness in his ankles has gone down a little, but I thought I should ride easy. Last night’s ride was longer. Tonight will just be walking. We did the water again. Then I found some ditches that Finny would never have stepped across a year ago. Last year, he would have jumped a 6” ditch, and big! No little jump for this 15.3 hand, long legged guy. That 6” would have been at least a 3’ jump! After the experience of this year’s CTR’s, Finny walked the ditches! Stepping down and around areas that he would have shied from last year. I feel like we are on our way to a responsive trail horse, willing to move through any area or terrain.
Finny easily walks the uphill terraces while I work on being lighter in the saddle. Finny walks slowly and with care downhill. It is harder to be light in the saddle going down hill, and it still takes concentration, especially while working on having no upper body sway! Sway??? I was told to work the hips independently, allowing the hips to move forward and backward, not side to side. This is to be accomplished while being light in the saddle, staying perpendicular to the horse. This may take some time to become natural.
Tonight, I gave both Finny and I a break. I walked around and enjoyed the warm weather while doing chores. The dogs were fed, and I turned my dogs out to exercise and run while I fed the horses. The horses in the bottom lot were quietly eating their grain tonight. 7 horses need 5 different places to eat, as some of them share their grain with their buddy, and some need to eat by themselves. I noticed that the large lot is finally drying up. The mares and babies were petted while I moved around them. The one mare and baby need their own place to eat grain. Then to feed the older gelding. He really enjoys his grain. Duke, my stud, loves his meal of alfalfa (a special treat) and grain.
Once the horses are fed, and contently eating their nightly grain, the evening becomes quieter outside. I put the dogs in their pens for the night. I walk outside and notice that dusk is approaching. The horses move from their empty grain feeders to the round bales of brome hay. The animals are settling down for the night. As I walk to the house, I stop and appreciate the warm weather. I see the changing colors of some of the trees around the house, with the varying shades of orange. I hear the combine in the distance. Within the 10 minutes since chores are done, the sun has set and darkness settles in. It is comforting to being outside at this time of day, when chores are done and everything is quiet. Horses are peaceful.
This weekend I’ll be riding a little longer, a little farther, a little harder. Come along for the ride. Brenda