Jean and Stu left today for their new digs. Their new location is about an hour and a half away. The distance is not so great that there won't be opportunities to get together in the future. She doesn't have an onsite trainer, so I gave her the book 101 Arena Exercises by Cherry Hill. She seemed quite enthused with it.
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Gem and I have been making up for lost time! I have to say though, that after not riding him for almost two months, my muscles (what few I have) have had to go through an adjustment period. I had forgotten how big he is and my inner thighs have been reminding me!
We have participated in two lessons now and we have been out on a few trail rides. Because of the varied terrain, I believe the trail rides have helped him to get back on track physically. He has been awesome out on the trail. As I mentioned before, I think we have turned a corner in our relationship and I am feeling much more confident in him and in me. Oh, he still gives me the business on occasion just to keep me on my toes, but I seem to know better how to bring him back to reality.
LA took me out on a trail ride last week. It was a beautiful day. Gem and I were the leaders. Of course, because we were leading, I tried to avoid the areas that made me nervous. :-) No such luck. LA instructed me to go to the dreaded creek.
Me: I heard the bugs were really, really bad in the forest.
LA: All the more reason to keep moving.
Me: I think it will be really slippery because of all the rain yesterday.
LA: Let Gem pick where he wants to step.
Me: The swamp area mud will probably suck those leg protectors off of your horse.
LA: Let's go. Move it.
Off we went. Yes, it was muddy. Yes, it was a bit slippery. But going through the forest without incident eased me into facing the black horse-eating mud around the creek. The mud was coronet band deep and it did get a bit close - the bush was overgrown and really tight. At one point, Gem refused and started to dance a little and back up.
Me: Holy crap! Holy crap!
LA: Push him on.
Me: I can't see where we are going!!!
LA. There is a path. Trust me. Move forward! Be decisive!
Well, I somehow convinced Gem to carry on. Then came the dreaded creek. I have to admit that it was a shadow of it's former self in the Spring, but it was still a creek. I took a deep breath and then Gem and I crossed. Yipee! And, leading LA and her mount back through the muddy path to the forest was....well....fine. WTH?! :-) The rest of the trail ride was awesome. We went through brush, mud, the pond and open spaces. Last year, my heart would have been fluttering, but not so much this summer. :-)
My last couple of lessons have been interesting. Having gone from school horses back to Gem has been an eye opener. The horses I rode in lesson had training as reiners or in dressage. Over countless years of training riders, they are very responsive to what is being asked. It's easy to ride them and it helped my confidence tremendously. Gem is sometimes stubborn and lazy, but he is much, much better than he was a year ago. He and I are so much better, in fact, that our new project is to learn how to do a lead change while doing a pattern at a lope! Cool, eh?
This week's lesson was very good. Gem was a bit frisky - head tossing and the occasional little happy dance - but it didn't interfere with what I was asking him to do. He made me laugh. In addition to the usual work, we incorporated some of the trail obstacle course into our lesson. Gem LOVES when we do stuff like this - he is easily bored with the usual lesson routine of walk, jog, lope. He's actually pretty good at backing up through the "Z" pattern of logs! It's a great exercise for rider, too. Your horse has to trust that you know where to go because they can't see behind them and you have to be able to communicate to your horse where to place their feet, when to start turning, etc. etc. Gem's feet hit the logs regularly, but he didn't move any of the logs out of place. This is one exercise that I am going to continue practicing! Side passing over a log - not so great; Gem rolls the log up his leg, puts it in his mouth and then starts to carry it. Sigh. We jumped/stepped over a cavaletti a number of times at a trot and crossed over a bridge without incident. Then LA said we were going to the Loping Field. Gulp.
The Loping Field is a small field that is completely surrounded by trees and bush. It is a natural circle, so of course it's the perfect place to learn how to lope in the open. As we walked over, LA suggested that I lope the field.
Me: Are you mad??
LA: You will be fine.
Nervous Classmate: Do it! Do it!
Me (to Nervous Classmate): Easy for you to say. Listen, I will lope in that field when you do (knowing full well that she never would).
Loping on grass instead of sand feels completely different. I am going to end every trail ride with a lope around the Loping Field. It will help my balance a lot. My goal is to get my confidence up to the level where I can lope straight through one of the larger fields. Oh, and I think I am ready to walk around the field next to the paddock solo. Yep, you read that right - solo! :-) Giddy up!!