Dozen Rides Down…What a Stout Little Horse

I had a headache today but went out to ride anyway: felt clumsy (headaches make me feel clumsy) and awkward but kept at it until I finally had him tacked up and had mounted.  Then things improved.  Before that, I’d haltered Tigger and done the “walk over raised poles” and other exercises with him, with Rags following along and Not Helping by trying to steal treats out of the treat bag at my waist.  Rags saw Tigger getting cookies now and then and he wanted some.  So he was pretty cooperative about being tacked up.  I wore a new pair of riding tights (also Kerrits, but different model: somewhat warmer, firmer material with more compression and tighter, with two pockets but…no belt loops.)  So I stuck three cookies in one of the pockets and left the treat bag behind.

Rags felt quite energetic and eager to go, but eager meant “at a walk” which is what I wanted.   We crossed the near meadow, made a little loop up toward the #3 gabion and back to the old ditch crossing, then turned left onto the mowed path there, taking it to the intersection with the west trail up to the dry woods.  There we turned onto Center Walk, a mowed path running east/west between the Dry Woods and the Creek Woods, dividing the West Grass about in half.  Rags made no objection to my choices, as both the west Dry Woods trail and Center Walk are trails he’s been on more than once. But my plan was to pick up the Diagonal, a trail that leads northwest (in a series of curves and straights, alongside an old terrace berm) and comes out very close to the entrance to the Tractor Crossing of the (now dry) creek, near the north fenceline.   I was delighted to find that Rags was now perfectly willing to tackle a trail he’d never been on, heading away from home, a trail he could not see the end of (thanks to the curves)  until we were almost there.  He kept going at a good strong walk, ears forward.

At the end of that trail, it runs into a meeting of several others: the E-W trail that follows the line of the fencerow on the field side, the E-W trail that follows the line of the fence, behind the fencerow (and continues east over the Dry Woods hump to the highway or west to the creek and then to the west property line), the N/S trail  that parallels the east side of the Creek Woods, more or less, and the Tractor Crossing short section that leads to all the west-of-creek trails.  So there’s a comfortable area of mowed pasture grass for turning around in, which we did, then starting back up the Diagonal to Center Walk, back east on Center Walk across the front of the Dry Woods to the East Dry-Woods trail, where we turned south again, coming back into the Near Meadow.  It was a lovely ride, with Rags cooperative *most* of the way and giving me a lovely feel.  Clear sky, cool air, very slight breeze, bright sun, and just a perfect day to be outside in a big open space on a horse whose moments of “I don’t wanna” are mild  and well separated from each other.   Mostly it was a ride full of joy and gratitude: how very lucky I am, at my age and after the injuries I’ve had, to be riding comfortably  and confidently out in a big field on such a perfect day.  To see the little birds flit out of the grass and into the nearest bush or tree…and the horse not even think about spooking…to feel that confident, forward walk under me.   To hear the slight breeze in the dry grass.  To look around, seeing nothing but natural beauty from me to each line of trees.

Getting off him was harder than it has been since I started using the portable stall rail, because once I had my hand on the top rail and set a foot on one of the others, he swung his hindquarters away too fast for me to get off like that.  So I got off while he was almost at right angles to the portable stall, and did manage to get my right leg all the way over the saddle, but having to brace hard on the saddle with both arms, and keep my left foot in the stirrup and knee locked to get enough height for the right leg to clear.   But still…successful.   All R- had to do was hold the lead and keep him more or less still.   I pulled something in my hip that probably needed pulling and hurt when I was first walking after, but that will improve.  Both mounting and dismounting are working *slightly* better…just need to keep after it.   For safety, when I’m riding out alone (R- on the place but not necessarily outside)  I need to be able to get on from the ground and get off to the ground without assistance.

Yes, of course, he’s not “perfect” yet.   Nor am I, as a rider.  We do need to work on some things, and I’m sure he thinks *I* need to work on some things.   He needs a quicker and more stable “whoa.”  He needs to move his hindquarter when I signal with one leg…the direction I need for whatever I’m doing.   He needs to “stand” on command (not just stop from movement, but square up his legs and hold still while someone mounts, picks up a leg, etc.   He needs to learn how to rotate on either forehand or hindquarters precisely,  so we can proceed to handling gates as well as standing close enough to the stall or the barn lot fence for me (or a friend) to use it for help mounting or dismounting, and do more interesting things that require precision in movement.   We need to work on the early stages of dressage, not because he’s ever going to be a dressage horse, but because some of those exercises help any horse stay in balance and carry weight in a healthier way.   A horse that moves in balance under a rider is safer for itself and for the rider.

I need to get stronger and quicker at mounting and dismounting…and be able to do it from the ground.   I need to re-develop accurate, precise, independent aids, to help him learn what they mean.  But these gaps in his training (common in a green horse) make him more interesting to work with than a perfectly finished horse with machine-like responses.   I need more strength, especially core strength, and more flexibility.   And I need to lose another 15-20 pounds of fat (somewhere in there, replacing some of it with muscle in the right places.)

I check his back after every ride (palpating the muscles on either side of his spine from withers to and beyond his sacro-iliac joint, and then down his rump) and so far he shows no soreness after the rides…he came to me with a pristine “young horse” back and I want to keep it healthy.  Today he was *just* beginning to sweat under the saddle when we came in after something I think was  between 3/4 and 1 mile.   No discernible soreness in his back.  His coat, though very dusty (thick winter pelt, is what he has)  even after brushing, is soft and glossy in the sun.   He picked up his feed pan (rubber) and sort of waved it at me….”See, human?  It’s empty.  I licked it clean.   Put something in it.”   I said ” You’ll have to wait until suppertime.”  This did not please him, and never mind how many cookies he’d had at the end of the ride.

But my headache was getting worse with the bright sunlight, so I went in, took an Excedrin, drank a very rare Coke (extra caffeine can shorten the time before the Excedrin works) and lay down with the sleeve of a flannel shirt on my eyes.  Thirty minutes later I felt much better…good enough to go back out and feed them at their usual time.  They both tore into their sloppy wet pellets with vigor.  I filled the low water tub and carried out “supper hay”.    Because the hay nets, in spite of Rags working on first one then the other off and on today, aren’t empty, and it’s not supposed to freeze tonight, they’ll get night hay in flakes on the ground, not 3-4 flakes crammed into hay nets.  The headache wasn’t completely gone but also not intrusive.  R- made biscuits (distantly related to scones, for the UK contingent, but lighter and more fragile) to go with the big soup.   Yum.  Now it’s getting on toward time to put out the night hay, so before then I’m going to leave this and do something else.


16 thoughts on “Dozen Rides Down…What a Stout Little Horse

  1. Wish blogs had a “like” option, like Facebook does! Glad all is going so well – you’ll get there! And I agree, dressage work is good for all riding horses, even if you don’t intend to do more than hacking out – helps them learn the aids and respond to them without their being obvious!

    1. Annabel, I can’t remember…have I mentioned my experience at the Royal Windsor show back in the early 2000s here? Beth and I took the train down from London for a few hours of it, when I was in England for the Clarke Awards (which I didn’t win and didn’t expect to, but just being there…!!!) We enjoyed all of the show that we saw, but there was one particular thing that has stuck in my mind and heart ever since. I don’t want to repeat that story if I’ve told it before here, but I’ll write it up and stick it in if I haven’t. I had become a convert for “simple” dressage before that (watched my first horse, 18 at the time, *change his shape* over six months, though it wasn’t all about dressage.) But that day I watched a miracle happen in the ring with a very unhappy horse and a former British Olympian dressage rider judge. It was the most intense lesson I’ve ever had and it lasted at most 2 minutes.

      1. Annabel, I wrote a far-too-long comment in response to your saying you hadn’t heard that story yet, and made it a new post instead.

        The hunting experience was from an earlier trip in January 2001. My first trip to the UK was the Glasgow WorldCon in 1995. The 2003 trip was when The Speed of Dark was up for the Clarke Award.

        I would love to be able to get over there every other year or so, but it’s not possible now and I don’t know if it will be again.

    1. Thanks, Caryn. It was a blue-ribbon day. I hope tomorrow will be another one. Sunday I felt “meh” (partly weather) and today was wet and chilly…could NOT get warm though it wasn’t nearly as cold as it had been. Not a good riding day for those used to hot & dry. I remain amazed at the English riders I follow on You Tube, who do indeed say they don’t much like riding in a wet cold wind…but do it time after time after time. Hardy folk. I’m sure Canadians are the same.

    2. Case of having to – if you didn’t ride out in the rain and wind, you never would! Or only very rarely. Not that I ride – I had the usual lessons when I was young, but didn’t enjoy it, so gave up. I’m about the only one in the family who didn’t ride, though!

  2. When Elizabeth is happy, and Rags and Tigger are happy, this reader is happy too.
    I am also celebrating my great achievement this weekend, having my fussier cat (actually she is just more discerning) find the chopped “people food” I prepared for her an acceptable meal. Baked chicken, absolutely plain. With zero cans of an acceptable cat food on the shelves at the grocery stores for the last two weeks I will be continuing the experimenting. I know she loves shredded Italian cheese and chopped cheddar. She even comes when I call “cheese”. Next I think it will be roast pork. Beef has been naaah. Straight tuna? Nope! Ground turkey? what is this? what would we do without our animal friends.

    1. A cat that doesn’t like tuna…that IS a picky cat. At least she likes the chicken. Sorry your grocery isn’t stocking the right stuff for your cat, but good for you, for experimenting and finding out what she’ll eat.

  3. Glad you were able to have a nice ride even though you had a headache.

    We love scones with soup, specifically cheese scones made with half wholemeal flour, very tasty and surprisingly light given the wholemeal flour. They really don’t work as well with all white flour, the texture ends up claggy, which is the last thing you want in a scone.

    1. Dear Jazzlet, now I need a recipe for cheese scones with wholemeal flour. For some odd reason, it’s become difficult to find any type of flour other than ‘all purpose’ in my local grocery store. My go to bread with soup is based on what my mother and I have attempted to work out was my grandmother’s recipe for corn bread. Granny didn’t use sugar in her corn bread. And unlike many recipes now a days, it doesn’t have jalepenos or anything else that is spicy. It’s baked in an iron skillet that has been preheated with oil; Granny used lard in her day. I gave up on making what we all biscuits, Mom says I play with the dough too much and that makes them hard. I couldn’t master pie crust either. Those things take practice. Where I live in western AZ, most of my friends make tortillas or fry bread. Making good wheat tortillas is a skill that is “all in the wrist.”

    2. Claggy? Not familiar with that word…does it mean kind of wet, or doughy, or uneven clumps? Or too dry, or….???? (All guesses…please help.) I’ve never tried to make actual scones…grew up with my mother’s biscuits. My husband and I both observed biscuit making (he in Alabama, me in S. Texas) that sound very much alike–made quickly, baked quickly, eaten mostly at once. My mother cooked for her family after her mother died (when Mother was 14) and made two large pans of biscuits every morning for breakfast.

      I ate a scone in England (good, and obviously *related* to our biscuits, but sturdier and withstood being spread with things, and one scone was treated as a serving. It was larger (though not double the size) of our biscuits and tasted “richer.” Biscuits are eaten in multiples, usually. My guess is that a scone has more shortening in it, but I could be wrong.) Do you have a recipe for those cheese scones you mentioned?

  4. So glad that the riding is going well.
    I’ve been treating myself to Paladin’s Legacy. Love it even more if possible than the first time I read it. This time its been the audio version except for book 4 whose reader was unbearable. I keep hoping that the producers would reissue it with one of the other readers they used for the series. (I still think it was a terrible idea to use more than one reader for the series. And three is beyond the pale.)
    I marvel at the elfin names – how did you ever come up with them. And Arvid is the best.

  5. “R- made biscuits (distantly related to scones, for the UK contingent, but lighter and more fragile)” – I think I know what you mean. My grandmother, and after her my aunt, used to make us “cheese biscuits” which are biscuits in your American sense. She made them with egg yolks, while putting the egg whites into making meringues.

    1. The typical biscuit is made with flour, baking powder, some shortening (can be vegetable, like Crisco, or butter) and milk (or buttermilk, or cream if you use “self-rising” flour.) My mother (and the woman R- watched make biscuits many a time–a Mrs. Coker, a neighbor) did not put eggs or egg components in plain biscuits. Scones (we looked up recipes for them last night) do have egg, and butter, in addition to the flour and baking powder, and may use cream instead of milk. They have more structural integrity than biscuits, which come out of the oven ready to shatter. Self-rising flour supplies the baking powder, and cream supplies the shortening and the milk together, so there are recipes for “two ingredient biscuits. My mother learned to make biscuits with flour, lard, baking soda, and milk, but in my childhood made them with a “biscuit mix” (Bisquick or Pioneer) and milk only. Biscuit making is quite unlike bread making, in that the dough is shaggy and quite wet, and needs to be kneaded, but more by folding than deep and vigorous kneading. My mother had great “biscuit hands”–she made the dough lightly and quickly–but her bread hands weren’t as good as mine.

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