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.

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