Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Friday, January 28, 2011

In the Arena #48 - Back in the saddle again

There are some days when I think I am going to die from an overdose of satisfaction. Salvador Dali

After nearly a month of bareback only, (have I mentioned how much I love riding bareback?!) I decided to try the saddle again. I think my hips have really benefited from the bareback work as I was able to let my stirrups down a notch. (jumping up and down + clapping!)

The back end of the arena presented our first challenge. It was still one giant puddle /  mud slick due to last weekend's snowstorm melting away. Val showed zero desire to work in that area. I figured this was a great faux trail ride training opportunity. I quietly persisted in asking him to go forward while not allowing him to evade with my legs, and maintaining loose but steady contact through the reins. It took a couple of minutes, but he relented and walked through very calmly and quietly.

Next, we tackled the scary side of the arena near the loud and disturbing neighbors property. The loud disturbing neighbor was in full force, banging and clanging tools, punctuated by hollering at his dog (or maybe his grandchild?)

For our last several rides, Val has been reluctant to ride on the rail in this area. Same strategy here. Quiet persistence and making the desired action easier than the evasion. I caught myself coming of off my seat and twisting in the saddle a few times... my aids were much more effective after I corrected myself. Success. I could feel how my leadership was relaxing and calming to Val - as opposed to my tendency to become frustrated, which always escalates the issues.

I can honestly say that while I intellectually understand why I must refrain from being emotional in the saddle, being in control of my emotions is one of the most challenging aspects of riding for me. I hope that someday practice will make perfect :)

The rest of the ride was a piece of cake. I've been trying to choose one item to focus on for each ride, and today's was keeping my eyes up and softly looking at my desired destination. So often I find myself staring down at Val's neck. When I can achieve this, it is almost like Val knows where I want to go before I even give him a directional aid. We finished up with some nice trot work, weaving through the cones on the buckle and some snappy transitions. We both enjoyed our work today.

After an under saddle rubdown + cookies, we went for a little walkabout - wait for it - out the front gate and off of the property!! I've been thinking Val needs to spend some time on harder surfaces to help toughen up his soles. Today was the day. We mosied down the sandy gravel road, around the bend at the graveyard, and right up to the death dealing corner of knocked over black trash cans. Val hesitated just a bit... I let him approach the cans slowly. With patience and judicious rewards, he dealt with the horse eating wall o' cans like a rock star. We proceeded down the asphalt road a good ways, found some edible grass (!), and turned around for home. On the way back, he even sniffed the trash cans :)

Scary cans are boring now

Since things were going so well, as we headed back past the gate to home, I decided to walk into the woods toward the trail head. A family of deer passed by not ten yards to our left, eliciting some heavy sniffing and a few dance-y steps. We proceeded to the trail head, and onto the trail just a bit. Since all the while Cowboy had been screaming his fool head off, we went back home so he could settle down. I have never been so proud of my horse. What a good boy!!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Happy birthday Valentino!

I foresee many gingersnaps in your future :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

In the Arena #47 - You can't have one without the other

I've read some good posts about getting in shape recently... Kate over at A Year with Horses and Carson at The 7MSN Ranch. They got me thinking about fitness, and what makes a successful fitness program, specifically riding related fitness. It's certainly that time of year, when we're stuck indoors more than we'd like, and may be dealing with holiday over-indulgences.

After putting on several pounds a year for a few many years, I found myself huffing and puffing, uncomfortable in my clothes, heading down the road to ill health. And worst of all embarrassed to be seen on my ride at the time - Ginger the Banker pony - who topped out at a strong but petite thirteen hands. Photos don't lie...

I am super lucky that my job is a physical one, because otherwise, I might be as big as a house, as much as I love eating :) I basically get paid to exercise, and much of it is weight bearing activity. (which helps to avoid osteoporosis!) For instance, this time of year, we get our mulch delivery in. Forty or so pallets, seventy bags per pallet, forty to fifty pounds per bag. I handle every one of those bags at least once. If you do the math, that's a total of sixty three tons - minimum.

Dieting by denying myself food has never worked for me. Eating is such an integral part of life, and should be an enjoyable experience. Better food choices, proper timing and size of meals are all helpful approaches.

I struggled with weight for half of my life before I had any kind of success. I've lost (and kept off) twenty pounds for the last three years. My weight still fluctuates seasonally, but the fluctuation is very minor now. Weight finally doesn't feel like an issue.

Increasing activity and controlling consumption are typical approaches to fitness. In my experience there is a mental component that is equally important. Mental energy. Focus. Focus helps with improving eating habits. Shop for and prepare food mindfully. Eat mindfully. Appreciate the look, smell and taste of the meal. Stop eating when full...

Focus is essential to riding as well. You can practice mindfulness and improve your riding skills when you're not on a horse. For example, focus on engaging the core - all day, in all activities. Focus on posture... shoulders up and back, head in line with your spine. Stand with your weight evenly in both of your feet. (not more heavily on one foot than the other which torques your hips)

Being mindful / paying attention is harder that it seems, as are all new habits. It's like learning a new language. Multitasking, in a good way. And I don't know about anyone else, but I always benefit from more focus when I ride. Use your mind to slim down, tone up and ride right - it's all good.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Get my drift?!

Say what?!

Deep s#%t!

More deep s#%t!

You throwin' that away?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

At the barn #33 - Walking in a winter wonderland

First thing this morning my friend came by the farmette and graded both the horses paddocks for me. (just in the nick of time) The first few flakes started flying around 9 am. The weatherman had said, light snow - maybe an inch or two - at most. As I'm writing this there are 3 - 4 ft drifts in front of my house. I'd estimate 8 - 10 inches of snow has fallen. My evening trip to feed was harrowing... the 30 plus mph wind blowing snow sideways across the highway... very hard to see where the edges of the road were. Very hard to see period. Thanks goodness for my pickup truck with 4wd - love you Toyota Tacoma :)

Val, Q and Sweetpea mentioned that they'd like the snow better without the wind... me too. Looking forward to photo ops tomorrow morning!

Friday, January 21, 2011

In the Arena #46 - Never let 'em see you sweat

We getting quite the bareback habit... it's been weeks since we've saddled up.

Monday's ride started off on a surprising note. Val bolted away from the mounting block - not once but twice. Strange. He has always been a perfect gentleman for mounting, other than trying to get away with chewing his reins... or sometimes refusing to walk on until he gets his cookie ;) I got his attention back on me, and mounted up. I must admit that he was very "alert", so most of the ride was spent relaxing, breathing and staying calm.

I kept him busy with lots of transitions, and was heavy with the praise. By the end of the ride Val was focused on me and we did some nice work. I tried not to think about it while riding, but I believe something is happening / has happened next door that is frightening or worrisome to him. There have been signs of an unusual amount of activity in the adjacent part of the arena for a few mornings in a row...

no helmet

On Wednesday, after a head to toe grooming session, we spent some time outside the arena, doing trail riding prep. Upon further consideration, I'm seeing the very destructive clearing next door (the other next door) in a different light. It has actually left us a 10 - 15 minute baby trail loop that is not super overgrown like our original trail. My plan is to continue hand walking, gradually venturing a bit further each time. Once we can hand walk calmly, we'll start riding it. (This will likely not be bareback)

After trail prep, I cold hosed Val's left hind, which is a tad swollen and filled in above his pastern. Cold hosing gave us the opportunity to work on standing still and ground tying. Val did beautifully (once he realized there was no grazing to be had). A productive day!


Yesterday the weather was perfect for riding. (I'll spare the details because I feel for you folks with the frigid weather!) Although there was a bit of tension at the start, we got over it quickly. We did some lovely figure eights, and leg yielded through the cones, connecting the exercises smoothly, flowing from one to another with no breaks in between.This helped Val keep his mind on business. I guess my mind was on business too. It felt great... organic. The sum greater than it's parts.

I decided to pay attention to my posture, specifically to sitting up straight, which is always further back than I think it should be. While I was in posture mode, I caught myself coming off of my seat a couple of times - "opening the back door" as my trainer would say. I capitalized on the moment by asking for the rein back. I suddenly thought about how many times my trainer has told me that you don't have to let on to your horse, that he's not doing what you intended, or that you're not where you want to be in the arena... basically don't let on that what's happening isn't your idea. Val and I struggle with leadership issues from time to time, so this is pertinent advice. And since I don't know exactly when we'll be able to get out of town for lessons again, (hopefully in February), the fact that on occasion my trainers words come to me at just the right time seems miraculous. I even asked for the trot, and did a bit of sitting - my first bareback trotting in a long time. A very satisfying ride.

Val's left hind was swollen (no heat) again today, so I gave him some bute and cold hosed. He took his medicine like a champ, but there were some rather dra-matic treat refusals later. Oh - I guess I could take it in my mouth... wait - no, it's just too horrible - wait, I might be able to chew it with my very front teeth... I.just.can't... ptooooey! I know bute tastes terrible, I've put some in my mouth to see, but Val got over the histrionics pretty quick when the beet pulp mash showed up. I'm just sayin'...

new helmet

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mary Lou Whitney - Amen sister!!

The Eclipse Awards took place this past Monday night. Several extraordinary things happened. Two females, one human, one equine, were given the highest honor, respect and accolades that they richly deserve, by the horse racing industry.

The equine award winner, Horse of the Year Zenyatta, has been profiled on this blog before. I just wish that all thoroughbreds, racing or not, could have the exemplary life, the loving care, that she has had. Her connections are a shining example to the rest of the horse racing world.

Here is a little background on Mrs. Whitney, winner of the Eclipse Award of Merit: She was one of the founding members of the The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. She has been a major contributor to the Secretariat Center at the Kentucky Horse Park, where the Marylou Whitney Barn is located. She is an active proponent of finding retired racehorses new careers and loving homes once their racing careers have ended. Attached to each Jockey Club registration paper of every horse she breeds is a message indicating how to contact her if one of her horses needs a home.

Mrs. Whitney had the courage and class to stand up before her peers, and make this statement during her acceptance of her award:

"Being part of this horse racing family is a pleasure and a privilege…but it also requires responsibility.

Many first-time owners get frustrated if they do not achieve instant success.  However, over the years, we have all learned success—as an owner—means our horses have finished a race unhurt. All owners need to be accountable for their horses--from the beginning of their lives to the end!  We are their advocates. Together, we must fight to ensure there will never be another horse slaughtered in America!"

Congratulations Mrs. Whitney - I wish there were more like you!

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Monday, January 17, 2011

We've got style (I think)

Super cool! Gennyral's mom over at A Horse and a Half passed this award on to us today. What a lovely surprise!

So, there are 4 duties to perform to receive this award:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers
4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!

Thank you so much for the recognition OntheBit. Your blog was one of the first few blogs I started reading. I found you through TB at X. I didn't get hip to the following thing until recently, but I have enjoyed reading A Horse and a Half for quite a while.

Seven things about myself...

If you saw me, you wouldn't give me any kind of style points at all. I spend my days outdoors, doing landscaping. Man work, with men. I'm generally the lone female in any work situation, unless our client happens to be female. You should check out my hoody / sweatshirt collection. I was over the moon when I found out that there was such a thing as "lady" Carhartt. Don't even get me started about my hair, which is in a perpetual state of hat-head. I keep buying feminine shoes but don't lay any bets on seeing me in them. If I could find a way to dress appropriately as well as stylishly, I really would deserve an award.

My sideline, the occupation I went to college and accumulated heaps of debt for, is art. Studied graphic design at VCU. Presently making jewelry and doing mixed media / collage work. I'm working on an equestrian line, and an ETSY site. Stay tuned for more info - this is how I plan to subsidize Valentino - keeping him in the manner to which he is accustomed ;)

Vegetarian (lacto-ovo-pesco) for nearly thirty years. All I can say is, when I started, people thought I was crazy. Now it's all the rage. Trendsetter?! It's more about conscience that anything else. Everything is okay in moderation and I have nothing against ethically raised / treated / slaughtered meat...

I am trying to downsize my stuff, in an effort to simplify my life. Which is a funny thing to say when you own a horse. When we travel to my trainer's for lessons, packing for Val takes as long as for myself. None-the-less, I'm doing the best I can to be conscious of everything I bring into the house... (sort of).

I name inanimate objects. My favorite shovel is named "Trusty". My extendable pole pruner goes by "The long arm of the law". The hurricane blower - "A mighty wind". And the Kubota tractor I spend all summer on, affectionately called "Orange Crush". I know, I'm a weirdo, but I keep myself amused.

Without NPR, my little portable radio and headphones, I'd go stark raving mad. I love the meditative aspects of my job, but let's face it - a monkey could drive a tractor. You mow a yard once, and the thrill is gone. Thank goodness for NPR.

I'm the luckiest girl (woman) in the world, and very thankful for all of my blessings!

I'm going to modify the next requirement. My list of recently, or not so recently discovered great bloggers has been pared down due to some of them already being awarded... so, in no particular order they are:

I so enjoy following these wonderful blogs - smart, funny, inspiring. Now I'm off to notify them!


This just in! The Eclipse awards were announced this evening.... and horse of the year honors go to - Zenyatta! A well deserved award. Congratulations to Zenyatta and her connections :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

At the barn #32 - I get by with a little help from my friend

We didn't make it out of town for our lessons this weekend... (had to hang around and babysit - see previous post)... so I got some work done leveling the footing in our arena. Billie over at camera obscura recently did a lovely post where she talked about wishing you had your camera on hand, and not wanting to miss the action if you didn't. Luckily this day mine was in my pocket. :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

At the barn #31 - Standing your ground

One of the best (most therapeutic) things about blogging is getting to unload ideas, thoughts, feelings that you've no other outlet for. So here comes some unloading of the complaint variety.

There's been work going on next door to the farmette for a couple of weeks. The trail out to the beach is being re-routed due to conflicts between property owners. This would require major heavy-duty (probably illegal) clearing. Large equipment type of clearing, which necessitated access through my property. Initially, I was nice enough to grant access to the "contractor". I was going to be even nicer, and give him a key to the gate, so he could come and go as he pleased. That is, until he showed up the first day with a (very drunk) employee, whom he introduced as having recently been released from "an institution". His exact words were, " He's been locked up for a long time and he really needs a woman!" Meanwhile the employee was busy leering at my fourteen year old boarder. No keys for you buddy. Strike one. (edited to add: the leering employee was kicked off the job almost immediately)

Earlier this week, I took a look around to see if there was any progress, as I couldn't get a straight answer about how long this project was going to take. Our horses are pretty mellow, but loud machinery and the nearby cracking of trees being murdered has made some of our rides challenging. What did I find was the new trail encroaching onto my side along with several knocked down trees. When asked, the "contractor" admitted he had no idea where the property line was. Time to call the surveyor. Strike two.

Night before last as it was getting dark, I noticed some of the electric fence lines in Cowboy's paddock were sagging. Upon further investigation, we determined that someone had backed into the gate, pulling the posts out of true along as well as breaking the gate latch. This left the gate dangling, closed but unlocked. One push from a curious horse and it would be open. Strike three - you're out, fake contractor man.

I mentioned the broken gate he had neglected to fess up to, and then gave fake contractor man three days to get everything out - after that, access denied. This afternoon, when I went down to the barn, lo and behold, tons of progress plus equipment removed. Home run :)

Lesson... always go with your gut. I was made to feel as if I was being uncooperative by both the fake contractor and his boss - my neighbor, when I wouldn't share the key. Thank goodness I didn't. Threatening (politely) to lock the fake contractor away from his equipment in was my only leverage to get him out in a timely fashion (before something really bad happened)!


Val and I enjoyed a lovely bareback ride this afternoon. We focused on straightness and leg yields. I was reminded that when I give a lateral aid, I must leave space for Val to move into. There was some nice reaching for contact. Despite someone down the road periodically yelling at the top of their lungs and the usual dusk duck hunting (nice neighborhood), Val remained attentive. What a good boy!


Cookies please :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

At the barn #30 - Put one foot in front of the other....

A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel full of brains. Dutch Proverb

Well, my opportunity to come down to earth from our recent happy rides came sooner rather than later.

For some reason, which I'm trying not to obsess on, Val suddenly wanted nothing to do with getting into his trailer yesterday. It's been a few months. We're heading up the road to my trainer's farm this weekend, so I thought a dry run would be in order. Disclaimer: trailer loading has not been an issue for us since our first few attempts. It's gone swimmingly as a matter of fact. He practically self loads.

At first Val came halfway up the ramp - totally normal - and then the balking began. And head throwing. And dancing around with ants in his pants. For nearly an hour. I thought I had left plenty of time just in case, but it was starting to get dark. I knew the situation. I had better be prepared to be there all night if that's what it took, because quitting before Val got into the trailer was out of the question. I had to convey that thought to Val as well... "Hey Mr. Man - take your time - because I have alllllll night." Apparently I needed to practice being patient as much as more than Val needed to practice loading.

It was dinner time.... I left his blanket on... the ramp felt wiggly on the uneven ground... the trailer looks scary in the dark? Who knows. What I do know is what finally worked. I used pressure with the lead rope from side to side, releasing immediately if he gave an inch. (front to back pressure created dangerous popping up horse!) This broke his feet lose and he suddenly walked right in. I praised and rewarded him lavishly. Once more for good measure. A slight hesitation and then in he came. More praise and rewards....

Round two today. Three successful loads. The takeaway... frustration gets you nowhere. And - Val can stretch his neck so very far to try and reach a bribe. (bribes don't work) Plus he gets a few extra inches with his major lips. In the midst of the drama he was cracking me up. Oh and the hierarchy of treats... horse cookies, then peppermints, then the holy grail... gingersnaps. Good to know :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

In the Arena #45 - Let the hammer drive the nail

"There is a saying in carpentry, 'Let the hammer drive the nail.' So too in riding, we should let the aids inspire the horse to respond as we wish, rather than trying to move the horse's body with our own physical effort. Dance your horse forward, do not push him." Eric Herbermann

Our second ride of the year was simply the best work Val and I have ever done together. No issues. Everything I asked for, I got. We were a team. Accurate circles, serpentines, leg yields through the cones. No balking at the deep spots in the arena, or the (formerly) very scary corner. Going both directions felt the same. Our transitions were soft and immediate. And the trot work... well I can't even think of a good enough adjective. Once again Val worked over his back, reached for contact and used his core. This makes three rides in a row. Possibly a trend?!

I guess we've had some kind of a breakthrough. I'm almost afraid to acknowledge this because I know from other disciplines that breakthroughs are often followed by new periods of struggle. It's as if you're climbing a mountain, and you finally make it to a plateau. There is satisfaction, and a little time to reflect. But there is also a new perspective of your goal. Everything looks different from here. You're basically starting over.

We're heading up the road to get some lessons this weekend. I'm figuring we'll have our opportunity to come back down to earth there. I can't wait ;)


Hopefully I'm starting a new trend regarding my luck getting hay as well. I called my supplier to see if I could replace the needle hay I threw away, with some beautiful orchard / timothy mix that they've had most of the winter. "Oh, we just sold the last bales of it a few minutes ago..." I asked what they did have, and the choices were less than inspiring. Orchard / alfalfa, heavy on the alfalfa and some straight timothy. I  reluctantly decided I could buy some of both, and use the timothy to cut the alfalfa. There is no way my horse needs alfalfa, although he would tell you different. Kind of like horse crack - he tries it and needs more NOW - nothing else will do.

Eavesdropping as I stood in line to place my order the next day, I realized they still had some of the orchard mix. "I'll take it!" I practically shouted. There were exactly enough bales left to fill my horse trailer. We should be set until May, when the first local hay will be ready. What a relief, and well worth an entire day of driving.


On Saturday we had a random sudden snowstorm. I happened to be up at the barn so I could snap some pictures of the boys enjoying the "Fifteen Minute Blizzard"...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In the Arena #44- First ride of the year = best ride of the year ;)

My knee has responded very well to (about a million) ibuprofren and getting iced frequently over the last few days, so I headed up to the barn as soon as I could break away from work for the year's first ride. I woke Val from his trance for a nice grooming, tacked up, and off we went.

Today I thought a lot about Erik Herbermann's analogy of keeping your horse, of keeping the energy, "between the riverbanks". You create the "riverbanks" with your aids. You don't want the energy to leak out laterally, so you channel / focus the energy between them. (It just occurred to me while typing this that if the energy isn't leaking out there should be more forwardness!) That was a great place to start, as Val was more of a noodleneck than usual. And I always benefit from trying to coordinate my legs and arms.

We worked on straightness - in Val's neck and our movement within the arena - utilizing the cones and staying on the quarter line. There were some nice round 10 meter circles in both directions. Our trot work was fun and enthusiastic. We were round, and Val was reaching for contact. His trot felt big... posting took less effort and when I sat the first few strides of each transition it felt like I could keep on sitting. Val was carrying himself. Best of all, he seemed like he was enjoying the work. 

I have two theories about why: One is that the deep footing I've been fretting about (and avoiding trotting in) doesn't bother Val at all - in fact it encourages him to engage his core and use his back. I think it feels good to him!

The other is that discovering and treating Val for this "needles in the hay issue" over the past few weeks has strengthened our relationship... the trust he has in me. No kidding, he voluntarily comes over to the spot where I take care of his mouth every evening, patiently waits and stands ground tied. He keeps his head low and within reach while I'm working on him and seems to get great relief from the process. Tonight I finished the treatment by repeatedly rinsing his gums with a diluted Listerine (vet recommended) solution after the saline rinse. He didn't bat an eyelash. I was impressed, as Listerine (the brown kind) has a pretty harsh flavor. I can barely keep it in my mouth :)

So even though I'm distressed that Val has been so uncomfortable, something good seems to have come from the situation. I confirmed the dentist's recommendations with our vet today, and feel confident that Val is on the mend. I tried to get in touch with the man who grew the hay to let him know about the foxtail issue, but low and behold, his phone number has been disconnected... I sure am tired of throwing hay out money down the drain!

Monday, January 3, 2011

At the barn #29 - Danger lurking in your hay... am I the only person who didn't know about this?

Although Val's mysterious gum issue doesn't seem to be getting worse, it's not going away. I have (temporarily) replaced the nibblenet with a couple of easier to eat from hay bags. I've been feeding his beet pulp from a ground pan so he doesn't have to mash his face into it as he gobbles his evening meal, and I've been steadily treating him with my go-to home remedy - warm salt water rinses - after gently brushing his gums with my soft rubber dog toothbrush that fits on the end of your finger.

Being the consummate worry wort that I am,  I've been contemplating whether to go off island to see the vet. Then I had a brainstorm, and emailed my future new natural balance horse dentist on the off chance that she might have seen something like this before.

BINGO!! She emailed me right back and said it sounded like foxtails in his hay. She's seen a ton of horses afflicted with mouth trauma due to foxtails this year. Immediately I knew that was it. I remembered noticing the fluffy little seed heads when I first got this hay. Turns out it's infested with them. The hairs sticking out from the seed head are like little cactus spines. They often lodge in the horses mouth / gums / lips and create inflammation and potentially infection. Sounds hellish doesn't it?!

And I wasn't far off in thinking that the nibblenet had something to do with the situation either. Because of the way Val grabs hay from the nibblenet, he apparently was driving the little spines right up into his gumline. The dentist said that my treatment was exactly right, and that the condition will eventually subside on it's own.

I'm so bummed that Val had to go through the pain and suffering. If there were a bright side to find, I guess it would be that Val pretty much showed me he was having a problem, and where. And he has been exceptionally cooperative about getting treated. We've definitely bonded over this toxic weed situation. It has deepened our relationship. But it's still a drag. You can believe I'm going to let the hay farmer know what he was selling. And from now on I will be the

major pain in the butt every bale inspecting hay purchaser!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Getting old sucks, but it sure beats the alternative...

After our fab ride on the final day of 2010, I was so looking forward to starting 2011 in the same way. Something about the symmetry appealed to me. We were expecting temps in the sixties, sunny with no wind. I had plans to ride, and afterwords start moving the composted manure to it's next location, my first garden on the new property. Basically a whole day spent at the barn.

Instead, when I woke up Saturday morning, my injured knee had swollen up overnight to the size of a softball. It was super stiff - no straightening or bending, and very uncomfortable to walk on. Out of commission. I spent the day, other than walking the girls and taking care of Val, on the sofa, eating handsful of ibuprofren + icing and elevating my knee. (which apparently I should have done from the start!) I had worked and ridden twice since I hurt it with not much ill effect. I definitely didn't realize the extent of the problem.

Enforced idleness is hard for me. And sitting on my butt all day gave me plenty of time to think. To think about aging... about how much time there is left to accomplish my riding goals... will physical limitations slow me down, or stop me? Heck, not only my riding might be affected, but my ability to take care of Val. How long will I be able to sling 60 lb bales of hay, 50 lb bags of feed, or even lift my saddle to tack up? I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it, and I hope that it is still far in the future. I've been fortunate to have exceptionally good health up to now. My confinement to the couch reinforced the importance of preserving it.

So, since I didn't put a leg over Val this weekend, I'm going to savor Friday's ride. We breezed through our warm-up. Val was super relaxed - snorting and blowing from the get go. We achieved some lovely forward walking - eight on a scale of ten. Smooth transitions. And finally, gorgeous, energetic trot work where Val was round. Working over his back, using his core, and reaching.

It occurs to me the less than ideal footing I've been complaining almost non-stop about reticent to do much trot work in probably has a lot to do with it. The sand in our arena is so deep in some places that Val has to engage his core and use his back just to move through it. It's a good workout. I can barely push the manure cart there.

This was the first ride where I've felt the possibility of what Val and I can do dressage-wise. A glimpse of how it will be when we put it all together. And it felt great. I can't wait for our next ride.
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