Friday, May 29, 2009

Another Competition

Monday was another competition for Ruby and me. This one was a schooling 2-phase (dressage and stadium jumping) that was hosted by my barn. It wasn't at the barn location however, so we still had to trailer over -- although it was in the same town, so there wasn't much traveling involved. It was another early morning (although, not as early as the previous two competitions had been). Luckily, this day from start to finish was gorgeous weather, mid-70s and sunny, with no humidity, so we finally lucked out in that regard.

We got to the show location early enough that I had plenty of time to wait around before I had to tack up. Of course this down time allowed for my nerves to build again, but the show was pretty low-key, so I don't think they ever got quite as bad as they had the week before. Finally it was time to get Ruby ready and tack up. I made my way down to the riding area and saw that they were allowing us to warm-up actually in the dressage ring. So I entered along with two other riders and started walking and trotting and doing figures to get Ruby listening and supple and on the bit. As I worked around the ring, I heard the dressage judge calling out, "turn him, bend him" WTF? After a couple of times around, I finally asked, "are you talking to ME?" LOL. Turns out she was schooling each rider as we came around to her end of the ring. It was a little unexpected, but kind of funny. I came out of the ring to ride around the rest of the area -- around the stadium jumping area, with the idea to work on some cantering as I felt it was too cramped with three riders in the dressage ring to do so. On the far opposite side of the stadium ring Ruby gave a BIG spook in a shady corner, she did not like that area at all. I knew that was going to be a problem later as three of the fences on the course needed to jump into that spooky corner. We came back to the area near the dressage ring and did a few transitions to canter and canter circles in each direction. That seemed to go okay and then Alison said that I could be next, if I wanted to be. I figure I might as well get it over with, so I said "sure".

Well, I felt that this dressage test was SO much better than the one the week before had been. Better also than our schooling had gone that week as well. She was responsive, on the bit and supple. I would lose the frame from time to time, but was able to get it back relatively quickly each time. Our canter transition and circle to the left wasn't too bad, and we made it back down the long side okay and transitioned back to trot in the right place. The canter to the right was rougher (as it always is), but I got the transition, maybe a smidge late, the circle wasn't great and I had a lot of trouble keeping her straight on the long side. BUT I actually got and kept the canter and transitioned back to trot more or less in the right place, so for us, that was a definite improvement. Once the test was done, the judge was very liberal with her comments (as she was with everyone) and told me that apparently I had incorrectly ridden a long diagonal somewhere, instead of a short one (???!!! how on earth I managed that one, I have no idea -- my nerves taking hold again, no doubt). She also said that I need to be more brave (at dressage, who knew?) But she also said that there had been some very good moments. More importantly, I was very happy with the test. We didn't have any of the spooking or hollow back/disobedience issues that I had experienced the week before. For the most part it was 'dressage" and not just riding around a ring willy-nilly. I was very happy with it overall. Alison also commented to me later that she felt that it had been a huge improvement over the week before. Of course, it had been scored more harshly than the test the week before, so the score didn't reflect the improvement. But it was a different judge and I wasn't all that concerned about it, to be honest. Once again I was relieved to be finished with it, but I ended the dressage part much more satisfied than I had last week.

They had decided to run the stadium jumping for each division back to back with the dressage, so I stuck around the ring to wait for my turn to jump (after trading my dressage whip with someone for a jumping bat and shortening my stirrups). The first jump on the course was a jump right into Ruby's spooky corner. As we were approaching it, I could feel Ruby slowing down and trying to evade it -- she did not want to jump towards the scary "monster" corner, no way! But no way was I letting her out of the very first fence! So I put my leg on her and we just trotted in and over it in an awkward way, but at least she went over it! The rest of the course was actually a bit ugly like that. Ruby was either frisky or spooky, we got some awkward spots, I brought her back in between obstacles to gain control, so she didn't get too strong and we just sort of muddled through. She didn't like the fences in her scary corner, but she did them. The rest she was very enthusiastic about, but maybe a little rushy. In the end it wasn't too pretty (I felt our stadium the week before had been much steadier) but we went clear, so it's all good.

Once the results were posted, it turns out that we got second in our division. I can't be too proud of that because the division wasn't really all that competitive. I think we probably should have been in the division above (and we certainly wouldn't have placed as well, had we been), but I had filled out the entry form right after I had gotten Ruby and I think before I had even had had a chance to jump her, so I was being conservative. The nice thing about where I was however, was that I was done relatively early and so could untack my horse and watch the rest of the show, unwind from my nerves and relax some. Of course, since I had trailered over with the barn, it also meant that I had to stick around all day, which made for another incredibly long day, but it was great to be able to watch everyone else compete in the various divisions. And it really was a gorgeous, gorgeous day, so no real hardship to hang out in the beautiful weather.

So another successful outing for Ruby. I figure that the more of this stuff that I can expose her to, the more she'll settle down and develop a "been there, done that" attitude. I had the opportunity to go to yet another competition this weekend (Sunday), Alison suggested it to me earlier in the week (I guess there was still room on the trailer). But I felt that I needed a break from this stuff, they always end up being such long, exhausting days (and there is also the prep work required the day before). Not to mention the toll it seems to take on my nerves! Although the more I go to these things, the more I'll end up with a "been there, done that" attitude myself! Still, I just couldn't face another weekend of it again so soon.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My First Competition on Ruby

I really wanted to write about this before too much time went by, I’ve just been a little busy.

On Sunday, May 17th, I was entered in a local schooling 3-Phase event with Ruby. Our very first competition together and only my second time competing since starting my second riding life. To say that I was nervous is an understatement. I was pretty much a wreck for most of the day, a complete, blathering mess. It wasn’t so much a fear of bodily harm as it was the pressure of competing that had me in such a state. I really have to get over feeling like this, if I’m going to continue going to these things.

So, it was yet another early, early morning after a night of pretty much no sleep. And it dawned yet another rainy and miserable day (even worse than the rain from the previous week). I arrived at the barn by around 6 AM, and tried to work on getting the stains out of Ruby’s rump that she had managed to incur overnight (she had been so sparkly clean when I left her on Saturday!) I helped Megan (one of Alison’s working students/barn staff) finish up the barn chores and then we loaded our two horses up on the trailer -- she was riding “Phoenix”, one of the sale horses in the barn. There were four us going to this event, but Marilyn was bringing her own trailer for herself and her daughter, so Megan and I just used the two-horse trailer that morning, rather than the huge six-horse one.

Megan had a pretty early ride time, but my times we not scheduled to start until much later, so we had to get to the event pretty early and then I had to do a lot of waiting around while freaking out from nerves. Gawd, it was miserable! Pouring down rain that seemed to just get worse & worse, not better. We all started our morning by walking the cross-country and the stadium courses (in the rain, of course, this is getting to be the standard arrangement. I can see that I need to invest in a good raincoat). I didn’t see anything on either of the courses to alarm me, even though I had yet to ride a cross-country course with Ruby. There was a faux ditch that we would have to go over (it’s not really a ditch, just two big ground poles with mulch filled in the middle so that it looks like a ditch). I know that Ruby has given Alison a little bit of trouble with ditches here & there so I knew that I would keep that in mind when I got to that obstacle on course with her. After the course walk, I ended up standing around by the dressage rings with Alison while Megan, Marilyn, Marilyn’s daughter Emily and others warmed up and then performed their individual dressage tests. I always find it very useful and educational to watch and normally I enjoy the dressage very much, but that morning I was absolutely soaked to the skin and shaking with cold. It was not very pleasant at all. After a long time of standing around in the rain, it was time to get Ruby ready to warm up.

Megan kindly helped me tack up and mount, etc. and I made my way over to the slippery, muddy and crowded warm-up area. Ruby was pretty good about getting quickly down to work, it didn’t seem to take me long to get her round and on the bit. I did a lot of small figures to get her supple and listening. Alison then had me come a little closer to the stadium jumping ring to continue my warm-up work as she needed to divide her attention between me and the students who were ready to enter the stadium phase of the competition. I tried a canter circle going to the left and that wasn’t bad, I then tried one to the right and Ruby did this small freak-out / spook / scoot thing that was slightly unsettling. I got her back again quickly and was working her in the trot ready to try a canter again when they were calling my number for dressage – early! Yikes! Oh well, I worked my way over there and around the outside of the ring waiting for the bell.

All too soon the bell rang and it was time for me to make my way into the dressage ring. I just have to say that performing a dressage test (for a judge) scares the crap out of me. I don’t know why, but I was such a bundle of nerves for it that I was practically hearing buzzing in my ears. Anyway, the test started out not too bad. Down the center-line and Ruby was listening, on the bit, etc. Across our first short diagonal and we were fine, still on the bit, bending, etc. Started our first 20-meter circle (trotting) and somewhere in the course of that circle I sort of lost track of where I was, I couldn’t remember if I had already had trotted the full circle and had somehow just gone around again, or what. I just did not know what I had done so far and I felt myself losing it slightly. Oh well, I figured that if I went off the test that they would ring the bell at me, or tell me once I was finished (since it was a schooling show) and so I just continued on. Ruby transitioned okay into the left lead canter and we continued the circle okay. Our canter work still isn’t great at this stage, so I was just happy to get the transition and not to have her break back to trot at any point. However, it was right around this point in the dressage test that Ruby started to give in to all the whinnying and neighing of all the horses in the trailer area just across the track. She started to ignore my aids and started calling back to all of them.

We completed our second short diagonal, started our trot 20-meter circle to the right, all with Ruby’s head in the air, back hollow, calling out to the horses back by the trailers. I tried to get her back to listening to me to no avail. It came time for our canter circle to the right, I managed to get the transition (although, I think I may have chased her into it a little bit, can’t quite remember), but at some point during the canter, she did a kind of big spook and a mini-bolt and so dressage quickly went out the window for me and I was just in horse-handling mode (trying to remain actually on the horse, inside the dressage ring and still performing some semblance of the test). I was proud of myself because I didn’t freak out or get too flustered, I was able to bring her back pretty quickly within a couple of strides and we completed the test by some miracle and without missing any of the elements. At some point though I did give up on the canter and we ended up trotting far before we were supposed to. Also, at some point during the test I had heard a bell ringing, so I wasn’t sure if that had been the judge trying to tell me that I had missed something (turns out that it had been coming from the stadium jumping ring, but at the time it threw me off a bit). So, we finished in one piece, it wasn’t pretty, but we got through it and I was just relieved to have it behind me more than anything. Alison told me directly after that she thought that I handled the spook/bolt thing very well, very professionally by bringing her back quickly, continuing on and not letting it get me rattled, so I was happier about that praise than about anything that had actually happened in my dressage test.

So, now it was time to focus on the stadium jumping phase. I was milling around for a bit and ready to go check in with the event stewards at the warm-up ring when Alison looked at me oddly and asked me what time I had been scheduled for the stadium. When I told her, she said that I was, uh, an hour early – doh! That’s how nervous I was, I had actually forgotten what division I was competing in. Sheesh. Anyway, so I went back to trailer, untacked Ruby and put her back on the trailer. The unexpected break did give me another chance to walk my cross-country course, and I was glad of it too because they had changed the markers for the bank. The first time that I had walked it, they had it going one direction, they then, at some point, had apparently changed it to going the other direction (which actually made more sense with the rest of the course), but if I hadn’t seen the change on foot, I would have gotten out there on course and been confused and possibly could have ended up off-course.

Very soon it was time to tack up Ruby again and go back to the stadium warm-up. I could feel my nerves heating up again, so I was anxious to get through the next phases so I could relax and wind down from everything. We entered the warm-up ring and Alison had me school over the cross-rail and then the vertical fence a couple of times. Ruby felt great, our jumps felt great and I could feel myself start to relax a tiny bit. Alison said that I was ready, so we went to stand and wait for our turn beside the stadium ring. Somehow I managed to get on the list to be more or less the next person to go, so I didn’t have to wait too long, luckily. This stadium had proved to be pretty troublesome to many on this day, I had seen a lot of stops and even some falls, so I didn’t really know what to expect with Ruby. Still, Ruby is a pretty honest and enthusiastic jumper and I can usually ride out a horse that gets squirrely jumping, so I wasn’t too worried. I think I was the most worried about actually remembering my course.

We entered the ring and they rang the bell (which meant that I could start the course whenever I was ready). I rode to the first fence and Ruby popped over it and right away became very frisky and excited about where she was. I just took it slowly and quietly and brought her back to me after every fence. The only squirrely bit was this one fence that we had to ride a broken line to, I think because we didn’t have a straight approach, she was a bit unsure at first whether I wanted her to jump it. But I drove her to it calmly with my legs so she relaxed and jumped easily over it without a fuss. So 10 fences and she jumped clear! I was so happy with her and very happy with our round. Even the parts where she got a bit strong, she never stopped listening to me and each time came easily back to me. I was very satisfied with how she went.

One of the very nice things about this event was that once you completed your stadium round, you could pretty much move directly on to your cross-country. So there was no going back and untacking again and waiting around allowing my nerves to over-take me again. I went over to the cross-country steward and put my name in queue and just had to wait a few minutes for two other horses to go ahead of me. At this point, I was only slightly nervous. I think once I started my stadium round that I had relaxed. This is usually the way it is for me, once I actually start jumping, I’m usually okay. It’s the waiting around that gets to me. Well, that and the dressage (odd that dressage would scare me more than jumping). Anyway, I didn’t have to wait too long before I was released onto the cross-country course. Since this was my first time taking Ruby cross-country (as well as my first competition on her), I wanted to be conservative and take it easy so I planned to bring her back to a trot between elements. Since this was a schooling event, nothing was being timed and there were no speed penalties, so it didn’t matter how long it took to complete any of the jumping phases (as long as you were moving forward and didn’t stop before a jump). So Ruby popped gamely over everything, she would have a nice strong, rocking canter going away from each obstacle which I would allow for a bit and then I would bring her back to trot for more control. She didn’t give me trouble with anything at all, not even the faux ditch that Alison had warned might be a problem (although, I think I was ready for it, had there been one). There was one corner that we came around where Ruby did a big spook, but I was even prepared for that, I had seen the big pile of deadfall on my course walk and thought it might be a spook opportunity and since it was also coming around a corner and beside the stadium and warm-up rings, I thought that might be another element for possible acting up. So I was able to ride through it without much trouble and quickly brought back Ruby’s attention and onto the next fence that came up quickly after the spook. She just locked on and popped nicely over it with no fuss at all. So, we went clean over cross-country, with just a little bit of drama. My first CC with Ruby and it was just fine. She was bold and enthusiastic and forward, without being too strong. A great horse for cross-country!

It had been fun, but it was also a relief to be finished, especially after all of my nerve attacks. It had also ended up turning into a pretty nice day, after all the horrible rain had finally stopped (sometime during or just after my dressage test). It felt so, so good know that Ruby & I had finished our part in the competition and that our performance was relatively good, despite a somewhat disastrous dressage test. We had redeemed ourselves with the jumping and didn’t get eliminated! Nor did we (hopefully) embarrass Alison either. After untacking Ruby and putting her back on the trailer, I was able to mill around and watch some stuff without my nerves interfering and I was finally able to eat something as well. I went to the posted results and saw that somehow I had managed to pull off a 41.1 dressage score – now that was a gift! Nowhere in life should our performance in the dressage ring that day have been scored that generously. But I figured that because it was a schooling show, they were trying to keep things positive and encouraging. After all the jumping scores came in, we managed to move up to third place in our division! So we made up for our unimpressive dressage phase with our “brilliant” jumping phases – excellent. I was very, very pleased with Ruby and very happy with the results for our first competition together.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ruby's New England Debut Competition

On Saturday (May 9th) Ruby was entered in her first horse trial in New England. This was her first event since I bought her and since her name had been changed from “BeBe”. Alison (my trainer) had suggested that it might be a good idea to have her ride Ruby in few sanctioned events over the Spring & Summer (perhaps also the Fall) to give her some mileage and confidence so that she’ll be ready once I’m ready to take over. In the meantime, the plan is for me to try some schooling events with her at a lower division. This will allow me to get my feet wet with competing, build some confidence at an easy level, and get to know Ruby without a huge amount of pressure.

So, with all this in mind, I entered Ruby in the King Oak Spring Horse Trials on May 9th. King Oak is kind of a rough event for us logistically because it is in South Western Massachusetts, over two hours away. Because of this and because our first ride times started in the morning and because we had to leave enough time to walk the stadium and cross-country courses, we had to leave the barn no later than 5 AM. Which also meant that I had to be at the barn no later than 4:30 AM -- I got up at 3 AM that morning, I think I’m still knackered from that, days later. That was pretty brutal. Anyway, after the looooong drive to the event location we arrived to miserable cold rain. Yuck. It really was not a very nice day, but what are you going to do? So we walked the stadium jumping course and I felt a sense of relief that I was not going to be riding. The course was pretty tight and twisty and didn’t seem too simple, even at this lower level. Then the rain picked up and we walked the cross-country course. We were all soaked, drowned rats and yet, I couldn’t help but get a little excited as I walked the course and went over everything, obstacle by obstacle. Where I had been feeling happy not to be riding while viewing the stadium course, walking the cross-country made me really wish that I was going to be riding that day. I felt that old thrill of adrenalin at the thought of galloping over hill & dale and jumping over stuff. I just love the cross-country phase.

Very soon it was time to start getting ready for dressage. Ruby was the first ride of our group, so we put her together in rain that kept starting and stopping. I walked down to the dressage area with Alison on her and stood by while she warmed up. This was my first opportunity to really start checking out all the variety of horses at the event, and boy were there some gorgeous ones. Huge fancy warmbloods, big rangy athletic thoroughbreds, a few fancy-looking horses of color (like Ruby), all the way down to various ponies of different types. It was a lot of fun to just goggle at all wonderful horses doing their warming up for dressage -- I just love this part about horse shows and events, and since I was not competing I could relax and look around all the more. I thought Ruby looked pretty good in comparison to most. Nice and round and on the bit. Not at all bothered by the tight warm-up area, by all the horses (some of whom were misbehaving), or by being in a strange place, nothing seemed to really phase her much. I saw one girl on a chestnut thoroughbred type that was having a terrible time. Horse spinning, refusing to go forward, the girl seemed to be having a lot of trouble handling her and seemed to perhaps be somewhat over-horsed. You usually see one or two of these at a show or event warm-ups and it’s one of those, “there but for the grace of God … “ (TG that’s not me) moments. Anyway, I thought Ruby was going very nicely and very soon it was time for her dressage test.

The trot bits I thought looked very, very good. Ruby remained very round and on the bit, bending nicely. Good impulsion through her back and hind-end. Her canter work was rougher, she still needs work here, and she even broke a little bit early on one of the long sides. But still, over all, considering how green she is, I thought it was a nice, steady test. I think it also probably gave Alison a sense of what she needs to work on with Ruby in training. The dressage judge apparently thought less of the test than I did as the score was less than stellar. Still, Alison’s comments after the ride were that she feels that Ruby is very obedient and willing, so it’s really a very good starting point for a green horse.

On our way up the hill after the dressage test I ran into Kelly, one of my riding trainers from this Winter while Alison was down in Aiken. It was really great to see her, so I stopped and chatted and caught up with her for a short while. She was there competing one of her school horses as her greenie baby who had originally been entered had ended up with a last minute injury. Anyway, I didn’t have much time to stand around as I was responsible for grooming and helping out, so I had to run back to the trailer.

After too short of a break, it was time to get Ruby ready for the Stadium Jumping phase. Finally, the rain had stopped and the sun had even came out (of course by then I forgot all about the sunblock). What had started out miserable had actually turned into a beautiful day. Anyway, the stadium warm-up was a bit nuts! Very small, too many horse vying for the three warm-up fences, everyone going every which way. I sure was glad that I didn’t have to navigate it! Ruby remained pretty un-phased by it all and I’m sure Alison has seen it all at this stage, so their warm-up remained relatively uneventful. The Stadium rounds started for our division and I got to watch some of the rounds while waiting for Ruby’s turn. Wow, not one horse that I watched got around clear. The course was pretty tight and most of these were big thoroughbreds who wanted to fly around, it just wasn’t the ideal layout for them, so there were stops and rails and horses running around with their heads in the air, it just was not very pretty. Then it was Ruby’s turn. Well, she just went around so neatly and handily, the first horse to go clean in the division! I do think her “type” of horse had an advantage on this one though, in a jumping field those thoroughbreds would probably have been more in their element. Anyway, it was announced later that there were only three clears rounds in our division (and Ruby was one of them!) Her wonderful jumping round made up for the less than wonderful dressage score and she moved up in ranking quite a few places as a result. It was also on her start of her stadium round that I got to hear her new name announced for the first time, “Ruby Slippers”. It gave me a little bit of a thrill.

A bit later it was time to start getting Ruby ready for the Cross-Country phase. During this warm-up (in a much bigger area than the Stadium warm-up had been, thankfully). Ruby seemed to be getting a little excited about the jumping and made a few big leaps over the test fences and seemed to be a little bit rushy with excitement. Very soon she was off on her cross-country round. The course was big, it started in a field and then went up a hill and through the woods, so I was only able to see the first two jumps and the last jump from where I stood. But what I saw of her round looked very good. She was not spooky at all (some of the horses had been spooking at the fence judges), she seemed to want to jump everything and seemed extremely happy overall to be out and on the course. Horses seem to either love cross-country, or hate it. The ones who hate it usually feel anxiety about being alone out there and may never get over it. The ones who love it are usually happy and brave and in their element. I would say that Ruby seems to fall into the “loves it” category. Probably all of that foxhunting in her previous life helped her attitude some. In any case, Alison came in and said that Ruby had another clear round and that she had gone very, very well. There were some moments where she would break to a trot while Alison balanced her, but this doesn’t count against you, well, unless you manage to incur time faults along the way.

All-in-all, I have to say that I was very pleased with Ruby with her first New England HT. When it was all said and done, she placed fourth in her division! I think Alison was pretty happy with her too. Most importantly, she was happy and enthusiastic and confident during it all, exactly the experience we wanted for her. In addition to the competing bits, she was very good about trailering, hanging out in the trailer during the day, walking around with me while I hand-grazed her beside the competition areas (so that I could watch some of it). Not too spooky or fussy. Just a wonderful horse to deal with all day.

It was an exhausting day though. Up around 3 AM, at the barn by 4:30 AM. We got back to the barn after it all and then of course had to care for the horses and muck out the trailer. When I finally left the barn a terrible storm was starting (we were lucky not to be driving the horse trailer through it), lightning directly overhead, sheets of torrential rain so heavy and bad that I actually decided to get off the highway, I was that freaked out. I finally made it home at around 8:30 PM. A long, long exhausting day. But a very productive and satisfying one too. In some ways it got me a little excited for competing myself, in others, it was a nice way to be a part of the event without that stress and pressure. Overall I was very happy with the outcome for Ruby!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Ruby at a Horse Trial

Some proofs of Ruby (when she was "BeBe") at a horse trial in Georgia in March. The pictures can be seen HERE (there are 21 in all).

Hopefully, I'll have some more after this Saturday where she is competing at King Oak. Alison is riding her and I will merely be a spectator/helper, so no pressure on me! (Well, no pressure except to try and get her clean!)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Ruby's Baby Pictures

Ruby's former owner was kind enough to send me a couple of baby pictures!

How freaking cute!

Seen walking into work this morning:

A man wearing a suit. Now that's something you don't see everyday (nowadays anyway).

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Another Weekend with Ruby

Now that I've gotten a chance to ride Ruby for a couple of weeks, I am getting to know her better and am really enjoying her. And I just love her personality!

On Friday I went to the barn in the late afternoon after work with the thought that I'd do a little ring work, however, one of the barn girls said that Alison had planned to ride her (the first training ride of May). She was running a little behind, so it was perfect for me because I could watch the training ride and then ride Ruby directly after Alison. I helped the barn girl tack her up and then we brought her down to the ring. Alison rode her for about a half an hour and stated that she definitely was in need of a bit of a tune-up. She got her going nicely and on the bit and then I was able to get on. Alison was riding another horse after Ruby but took the time to coach me a bit while she did so on how I was handling the contact with Ruby. There was something about this informal, but one-on-one coaching that helped this click for me -- and I'm not sure what it was, but I started to get it. Ruby accepted the contact, stopped the head-tossing and the head-in-the-air / hollow-back thing and became round for me. When I trotted and I lost the roundness, I would bring her back to a walk and regain it before trotting again. After a while I was able to retain it pretty consistently at both gaits. I would lose it, but could get it back quickly enough. When Alison was finishing her training ride on the other horse, she made a comment that she would now leave me alone so I wouldn't feel scrutinized, but really, I had actually enjoyed it and had gotten a lot out of it. I can't say that I want to be coached like this for every ride, but I did appreciate it on Friday. Anyway, at the end of the ride I worked on some canter transitions in each direction and then called it a day.

On Saturday I made arrangements to meet a barn friend and go for a trail ride. Despite all dire weather predictions of rain, the day was glorious! Sunny, blue skies, warm, but not hot. Just perfect for riding. There weren't even any bugs around! Just a wonderful day to take a long trail ride. I've been riding with Steve and his wife Jennifer in various lessons since I started at the barn, so it was nice to do something a little less formal for a change. Steve and I were both a bit clueless about the trails. I knew how to get to them from my experiences last week and knew some of them, but not enough to know with 100% accuracy where they all lead or which branch is ideal, but that was fine -- we spent a lot of time exploring and figuring out where everything went. We rode for about two hours and ended the outing with a trot through the apple orchards where the apple trees are starting to bloom, it was really lovely! Ruby was even better on the trails than last week, completely solid, no spooking at all. Happy to walk or trot or canter on with just a little nudge. She also went up and down steep hills willingly and was hardy enough to pick her way through rough footing without hesitation. It was just a wonderful way to spend a Saturday.

Today, after a crappy night of sleep, I lacked much motivation to get going for most of the day. I went back to bed in the mid-morning and milled around for the most of the day looking at the gloomy sky and wondering if the rain was going to come. Finally in the late afternoon I decided to go down to the barn. On the drive there it started to rain and I almost changed my mind, but it remained only a drizzle and had actually stopped by the time I got there. I started again with Ruby with the same work we were doing on Friday. I had her walk for a good long time doing various figures, 10-15 meter circles, serpentines, figure-8s, until I was satisfied that she was bending, round and consistently on the bit. Then we moved on to the trot. When I felt that I was losing the roundness, I would go back to the walk and re-establish it. This seemed to work very nicely with Ruby and I felt really encouraged with how nicely she went for me with our work. I also kept in mind what Alison had mentioned to me about my hand & arm positioning and made a point to be conscious and aware of what I was doing. One of my bigger sins is not keeping my fingers closed around the reins and not keeping my thumbs on top, so I tried to be very particular about this today. All-in-all she was very, very good for me. The head tossing was minimal, the more we worked, the more I was able to get her round and on the bit, I was very, very encouraged and happy with her! I kept the canter work to a minimum, just throwing in a few transitions in each direction towards the end. Her canter is definitely better to the left than to the right, but we have plenty of time to work on this in the future. Lastly, at the very end of the ride, I worked on some lateral work, mostly just some leg yielding at the walk, and she responded very nicely to my aids.

So after a couple of weeks of being with Ruby and riding her, I have to say that I am very happy. She is so sweet on the ground (and quickly becoming a barn favorite) and she is very, very agreeable under saddle, even though she is green. I feel very encouraged so far and happy with my decision to buy her.