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...
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'...