I'm too old for this

I kid. 

I'm 30, going on 31. I'm not old. I feel old though. My body is not bouncing back after being jerked around like it used to. 

Due to working full time and going to grad school (and finishing this semester!!) part-time, I have about two days a week that I can ride. Two evenings are spent in class and that leaves three evenings to do school work and un-fry my brain. Plus, my husband likes to see me. I would be at the barn every night if I were on my own. That's the truth. Or at least I like to think I would be that dedicated. 

So Dassah and I have been making do with two visits a week. Last winter I made it out with only enough time to muck her stall on the weekend. This winter I'm going to be just as busy but I have an agreement at the barn to help out whenever possible in exchange for reduced board. So I'm obligated now to be out there. The great thing is people, this barn is closer! It's only 20min away, which is a miracle. 

Dassah and I have two days a week until the beginning of May... How do you cram a week's worth of work into two days? Well, you don't. I have to suck-it-up and roll with the road I'm on. Great for me though is I got Sally O'Connor's "Common Sense Dressage" and there is a ton in there we can work on. And, my horse is a red-head mare, which means this time, this ONE time, I've got something in my favor. What is that you who-have-never-had-a-red mare ask? Her brains. She's incredibly smart. Which makes her a pain in my ass most of the time. She doesn't do tricks and isn't an escape artist, but she's very keen and quick. Bully for me! 

We're working on gaping holes right now and one of them is responding to my leg - last Sunday we worked on haunches over. This past Sunday we did again and she was right on top of it. 

She was also on top of bucking every stride of every canter we attempted. My back aches so bad from trying to sit those and push through. This from my mare who hasn't bucked like that for two years - and that was due to bad saddle fit. We have the right saddle now and last Sunday we cantered and cantered with nary a flick of the ear. This Sunday, ears back, neck braced, and plenty of bucking. I hopped off after the first round, put her on the lunge and hoped she would warm up and sort herself out. The bucking stopped so I got back on and sure enough, upon asking for canter depart, we were bronc-ing away. So we went back to the walk and trot and worked on relaxation while maintaining contact. She loves to rush when I take up contact so we're working on that. I should say, I'm breaking myself of the bad habit of taking up more contact when I want to transition to the canter. Instead, I'm keeping the same contact that I should have had the entire time. 

The more I learn about riding, the more I wonder what the hell my 4-h advisor was letting me do all those years. She was probably just trying to survive the mis-mash of horse-obsessed kids and parents who bought cheap green horses for their 10 year olds. 

I'm doing the best I can now, I'm reading books, auditing clinics, taking lessons, and getting my saddle blankets wet. I'm thinking, re-thinking, riding, thinking, reading, and thinking some more. I don't have much time so any time I do have, I need to be present and in the moment, as Mr. Morris would say, "Perfect practice makes perfect." 

Back to the story. So we did lateral movements, spirals, haunches-in, shoulders-in, 20m circles, figure-8s, voltes, and serpentines. I felt her back loosen up and she began to relax into the contact. I asked for the canter - boom, buck, buck, buck. I decided to try the other lead. We switched direction on the 20m circle and I asked again. She bunched up to buck again but I gently gave more leg and she moved forward and unbunched. It was actually a very nice canter! We moved around the arena and transitioned back to the trot. Changed rein and I asked for the canter. Boom! Buck, buck, BUCK! I nearly went over her shoulder on the last one. I was puzzled. 

Changed rein again, and successfully cantered on the right lead. Hm. Left lead no-go but right ok. We ended with a forward supple trot and stretchy walk. She didn't seem out to me (but I'm not her skeletal system) and she might have just been sore from the great ride last Sunday - no one got out Monday or Tuesday because of the polar vortex and I don't know how much they got out the rest of the week. I sure hope she feels better Saturday. If not, we've got plenty we can work with on the ground (thank you Sally OC!)

It just sucked, sucked sucked sucked. I had my hopes up after the week before and then to leave the barn having had a shit-tastic ride, it just sucks. I know this was just one ride and even the shit-tastic part of it was only a portion of that ride, but each ride matters! Each ride counts to me and I cling to it because each ride means I'm on my horse! It was just one ride but it was one of only 28 that I'll get for the next 4 months!

I'm a bit of a drama queen sometimes. Picture me fainting on the tack room floor, hand to my forehead. 

Maybe I'll use some of my vacation time to get some more time in the saddle... 


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