Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Very Windy Day

I arrived at the barn with my stomach in knots.  The wind was blowing outside (20 knots if you're a sailing fan) and the temperature had dropped.  Tessa nickered to me, craning her head anxiously to watch me as I went about puttering with my grooming box.  As I opened her stall, she stood tensed and listening, the wind groaning between the barn doors.

Once in the cross ties she wasn't moving much, but every muscle felt tight.  She didn't push into my hand the way she usually does when I curry her.  She heard the sound of another horse coming in and held perfectly still.  Then her tail swished to the side and she hunched her back and let out her mare-ness.  Oh, great.  Add to my list of things to be worried about...a mare in heat.  I went about grooming her.  Her girth area and back were sensitive and she peed four more times while girthing up.  The wind whistled through a half open door.

One of the other riders came out of the ring, leading a sweaty pony.

"It's been crazy tonight" she remarked, brushing some errant sand off her shoulder.  "I got dumped and so did Emily.  The horses are wired with this wind."

My stomach turned over.  I had left myself enough time to deal with this, so I put the pony on a lunge line and got to work.  She spooked twice, but both relatively small.  She wasn't sucking back, but there was something off about her movement.  She looked up and down and uncomfortable and wasn't paying attention.  After about ten minutes Linda suggested that we have one of the working students ride her first, just in case.  Let me just say...Best. Decision. Ever.

Working student climbs on.  After some walking and stretching, she asks for trot.  Pony sucks back and kicks up a leg.  Pony gets a tap with the whip.  And it's on.  Tessa bucking, working student tapping with the whip, Tessa bolting and kicking, working student applying whip and weaving in and out of the four horses in our relatively small arena.  At one point, the other riders give up and go stand in a cluster in the center, watching Tessa tear around at a fast canter.  Every time the whip was applied, she kicked, which meant the whip was applied again.  Five minutes later it was over.  Her transitions were smooth and easy and you could use your leg without fear of retaliation.  I was handed the reins.

I breathed deep into my belly, exhaling a big whoosh of breath.  I got on.  I kept my eyes up.  I brushed her lightly with my legs.  Suddenly, we were trotting.  I brought her back to the walk.  She marched forward and when my legs feathered her sides again she broke into a trot, reaching for the bit.

"She's sensitive!" I yelled out at Linda.

"That's how she should be!" she yelled back.

"Weird..." I muttered to myself.  But I went with it.  I had forward and I was going to ride forward.

Our lesson involved turning on the forehand.  First at the walk.  Then at the trot.  Capturing the shoulders and moving the hindquarters.  Then we walked  from one end to the other.  Halt.  Turn on the forehand.  Walk to the other end.  Repeat.  Now at the trot.  Now the whole arena at a trot, halting in the corners and pushing the hindquarters over to turn.  Here is where some magic happened.  We trotted the whole arena.  Yes, including the goat corner.  We were so busy working we didn't have time to freak ourselves out and we just went on working. Yeah for the whole arena!!  Okay, we still can't do the whole arena when we track right, but it's some serious progress.

So then we rode the whole arena at a trot with a half halt in the corner and moving the hindquarters away without walking or halting.  Now the whole arena at a trot and in the next corner push the hindquarters away and ask for canter.  Bam!  We were cantering. With three other horses in the arena.

Concentrating face.  Not from last night since she still has an Arab mane here.
The entire lesson she was forward and listening.  The few times I had to tap her with the whip, she simply flicked her tail and moved her body away from the leg.  She pushed into contact.  Steady, solid, contact in both reins.  It was our best ride ever and I can't wait to do it again.


  1. YIPPEEE!! Go Tessa!

    I told you Moon's telepathic reminder to Tessa to find her sweetness again (I mean, how else do you get to go out wandering the gorgeous trails with all that fresh grass?) would show up eventually! : ) You should be SO proud of yesterday!!! Yippee!

  2. Way to go! Love how you pulled up your big girl breeches and rode the horse you had!

  3. LOVE rides like this!! Sounds like she's coming right along :)

  4. So very happy for you! And cantering with 3 other horses in the arena? Fantastic :)