(This was written almost three weeks ago, but wasn't published because I wanted to add pictures to it. That hasn't happened, so I'm just going to publish it super late so I can get caught up.)
I rode four days this week - in the new indoor arena!!
It opened on Tuesday (Feb 7) for us to ride in - we got the message as I was driving out to the barn after work. The whole thing isn't fully finished - there are still some things that will be completed through the spring, but the riding area was ready to go!
There weren't too many of us that rode on the first day, and all the others that did finished before I went in, so Cisco had to put his big boy pants on and do it alone. We did some groundwork before using the fence rail to get on (very awkwardly) and pretty well just walked.
It went much better than I expected. Although Cisco was very concerned, he kept his brain in his head and for the most part walked like a regular horse. Well, unless we turned from any direction toward the gate/entrance area - then he tried to break into a trot and throw his shoulders at the exit. His lack of confidence comes out as being gate-bound, which really isn't super fun but is super annoying. I can measure his nervousness by the number of poops he does, and for the fairly short period we were in there, he had four poops, so he was pretty worried. But overall, I was happy with his first ride in the arena.
We also ended up by ourselves in the ring the next night. We did a bit more trot, which tired him out a little bit (he is so not fit) and that negated some of the desire to want to leave. The trot started in full drama llama mode, but by just concentrating on the rhythm he started to relax and lengthened his neck. He gave one big spook though - not at the door with the creaky hinge that was opened and kept creeping me out, nor at the people that went up the stairs and were happily greeted by their dog as evidenced by the sound of happy dog feet in the apartment at one end of the arena. No, it was as we were trotting across the diagonal, and I think that he saw his reflection in the window next to the door in the middle of the long side. He teleported about six feet to the right, I lost a stirrup and was sitting way off to the left, but thankfully he always stops and lets me get back in the middle of the saddle again. This was a three poop ride.
My Thursday ride was timed so that I could ride with others, and give Cisco a chance to relax in the arena with the company of other horses. It worked. He walked in, looked around all bug-eyed, realized he wasn't alone, and immediately chilled. We were able to walk on a loose rein right away, and there was very little gtfo towards the gate. He felt a bit stiff at the beginning of the ride, but got better and better as the ride went on. Only two poops this time.
Our next ride was on Sunday, again with some other horses in the arena, so Cisco was nice and relaxed again. Part way through the ride he really relaxed, and the last part of our ride he was soft, bendy, responsive, and trying really hard to stretch his neck forward and down. I was really happy with his try. It was also the seldom seen one poop ride. We don't have these very often. I got lucky and one of the other riders picked my poop up before I got off, so I didn't have any poop to clean up!
Phantom also discovered that she was expected to come out of full retirement on Sunday. She hasn't been ridden since October as I wanted good footing to let her loose in before I hopped on. She had a bit of a play earlier in the week, but was huffing and puffing after a short run so I ended it before she was really ready to be done.
The plan was to mostly walk, maybe throw some trots down the long sides if all was going well. Of my two horses, the one who is going to be 20 this year is the one that I don't trust at all. She'll bolt with no warning, and once she's started she gets a bit ridiculous.
After 15 minutes of a very quiet walk, we shuffle jogged down a long side, walking through the short end. As we turned the corner I shortened my reins, Phantom trotted three strides, then tried to dive into the middle of the arena. It took me a couple of minutes to shut her down, with lots of surging into the trot, before she could walk like a normal horse again.
After a few more minutes of very quiet walking, I thought I would try one more time. Slow trot down the long side, walk, and another couple minutes of surging into the trot before we could walk quietly again. It went pretty well just how I thought it would.
So, it was a good start in the new arena!