Friday 3 February 2023

The Clingy Babysitter

 Where did we leave off?

The new indoor arena still isn't ready - although we should be just days away. The hope was to be able to ride in it this weekend, but unless a whole bunch of people show up to work on it in the next couple of days I think it will be early next week. 

We were rewarded for having to deal with a freezing cold December with one of the nicest Januarys I can remember. That meant that I got about 8 or 9 rides through the month on Cisco over at the neighbor's covered track. 

We didn't do much on most of those rides. There were a few rides where we mostly walked - Cisco has decided that tracking left is an excuse to have a bit of extra sass. Only tracking left. Right, he's rock solid. Don't know why, this is new. 

We spent a lot of time walking to the left, waiting until he lengthened his neck, used his back and didn't feel like he had springs in his legs with every step. When he relaxed, I clicked and he got a treat, and this actually seemed to help him figure it out very quickly. 

We also mostly walked on one ride where Cisco had to do babysitting duty. On a very windy day, I was joined by two other ladies, one riding a sassy senior mare and the other riding a young green Friesian, neither of whom had spent much time over at the track. We didn't experience the Christmas trees that lined the track blowing over, unlike another barn mate who returned as we were heading over, but the permanently installed car wash strips at one end of the track were terrifying to the other horses in my group. Cisco marched right past the blowing strips. I was quite proud of him.

That pride ended on our next ride, where Cisco turned into a clingy stalker horse. My mom had come out with me, and had brought Phantom over to the track while I rode Cisco. He was beside himself knowing that Phantom was over there somewhere, but he couldn't be next to her. Phantom couldn't have cared less about her little brother and was perfect for my mom to drag around. Cisco actually wasn't bad once we went faster than a walk, but he definitely kept one eye on the lookout for Phantom for the whole ride. 

Another reason that we didn't do very much is that the track was quite dusty. Winters in the prairies are very dry. Any moisture freezes. You can't add moisture because it will just freeze and turn the footing into cement (or an ice rink). So the payoff to having an outdoor surface that is soft and fluffy is that it is very, very dry.

If you were riding by yourself, it wasn't too bad. But if you were riding with others, once you went any faster than a walk you had to space yourselves on opposite sides of the track so that you didn't end up in the cloud of dust that the horses raised. With Cisco's respiratory issues last summer, this is the last thing that I wanted to deal with. 

Although it has been nice to have the track as an option and get some saddle time in, it isn't ideal. It's only 10-12 feet wide - about the width of a barn aisle. You are stuck on straight lines. Nothing wrong with that, until your horse takes off on you and you can't throw in any sort of steering to get them back under control. Or so I'm told - it didn't happen to me, but I know a couple of other riders had some problems. Advantage - fat, out of shape and thus easily tired Andalusian-cross.

You'll notice that I haven't ridden Phantom yet this year. She needs a chance to get some of her sillies out in a controlled environment before I'll hop on her. She is not easily tired, although she is definitely out of shape. She also has a history of tying-up in the spring so I always make sure to start her back very slowly. Once the arena is ready I'll get her going again.

When not riding, the ponies have been enjoying standing on the Surefoot pads a few times a week. Cisco has been starting to show a difference in his posture after standing on the pads and walking with a much lower neck. Hopefully, this will translate over to ridden work (although I doubt it). Phantom has been happy to use the pads as an excuse to have a good nap.

A down-stretcing Llama.

That gets you caught up! If all goes well, next week I'll have some riding updates and maybe even some video!