Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


The boys having a chat about how crazy I am.

Yesterday I couldn't decide which horse to ride (they both needed to get out) or if I should go jogging before or after riding, or at all.  I didn't have enough time to ride them both AND go jogging.  So I hatched this plan...

I saddled Rhio up & headed over to Red's barn via the back woods trails, with Kelso in attendance.  We popped out of woods and I had to dismount to open the gate, as the cows & calves are in new pasture along the fenceline of where I ride through.  Conveniently, Rhio chose *after* I'd dismounted and we'd gotten through the gate (2 hot wires) to freak out about the baby calves running about.  He's pretty ok with the cows, but those cute little buggers tearing around with their tails straight up were just a little bit of Arab overload.  He snorted and stared, and I could see his heart pounding in his chest.  But luckily he didn't try to bolt or to trample me, and we were able to hand walk along the fence to the barn.  The calves were much more of a concern than Dave & the rattly tractor/disc that were plowing up the area alongside, which is funny because of course the machinery is much more likely to cause us harm than the calves are!

Once in the barn, I put Rhio in Red's stall, stop to admire the days' old new kittens in the shavings cart, and head out to fetch Red.  I get him booted up for hoof protection on the road (Rhio was sporting his, too) and we head out cowboy-style for a little experiment.

I have ponied Red off Rhio before, just as a means to get him from his barn to mine, for example, and it has gone well in the past.  I've never tried to pony for an outing before, though.  Five o'clock in the evening probably wasn't the best time to choose, as the traffic was a bit more prevalent than I would have liked.  Both boys behaved beautifully, however, even with a truck pulling a huge boat with flapping bits passing us none too slowly.  We walked the entire shoulder of the paved road, then turned and walked along my road until we were past the house with the semi-aggressive dog who often tries to pester Kelso.  She did, and I did my best low, growly "Get outta here!" - I surely didn't need the dog going after Kelso while I was trying to stay in control of two horses - and luckily she listened (she doesn't always).  Past this house, we tried to trot and it went quite well.  I did discover that I had way too much rope on Red - when we were trotting he'd stay right up next to Rhio and I couldn't figure out what to do with all the extra lead I had (looping across my lap?  hanging down a bit on Rhio's side?  coiled up in my hand?).  Rhio tried to turn in at our driveway, but I was able to redirect him and keep going up the road.

With a few other distractions, we made it trotting about a half mile and then crossed the road onto the far part of our road.  I wasn't sure how far we'd get, but I figured it was going well and so I'd keep going.  We were walking up the first hill, as I'd discovered Red's enthusiasm for the endeavor was growing while Rhio's seemed to be waning; this led to Red being slightly in the lead, and then trying to cross over in front of Rhio, and that just seemed like a wreck waiting to happen.  At the walk, Red would stay back just behind Rhio.  Suddenly Red started tossing his head and acting strange, so I turn and see a bicycle coming up behind us.  Really?!?  Why this night would we see a bicycle?  And coming up behind us? Well, both boys earned gold stars for bicycle bravery, standing still and watching the guy pedal past.

That seemed like a good turning-around point, so we head for home.  Uh oh.  Both boys decide they would really like to go home, FAST!  I decide that we are most definitely NOT going home fast, and have my hands full containing two prancing ponies on the return journey.  We did make it home, intact and sane, and I've decided a few things about ponying: 1) the road is probably not the best place to pony 2) I need a shorter rope and 3) unless I grow a third hand, there's no point in bringing my camera!

To finish off the night, I decide to drop Rhio off at home and jog Red back to his barn, thus accomplishing everything on my to-do list in one fell swoop (kind of).  Red's actually quite good in-hand, and jogging with him certainly requires me to pick up my pace a little!  I jogged home all by myself, Kelso having chosen to stay home when I left Rhio, and got home just in time to put on muck boots and feed the horses.  Whew!  I'm exhausted all over again just thinking about it.
Our running shoes

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Maybe I shouldn't reveal my most recent air-headedness, but here goes.  Last night I was feeding horses a little later than usual, and let Cricket out into the mostly-enclosed area behind the barn to graze while I was setting up the morning feed.  I got set-up done, closed up the front barn door, and went inside.  Yup.  Left Cricket out - all night!

I didn't even realize I'd done it until I was feeding this morning and went to grab his halter from the rack so I could bring him in for his beet pulp/senior mash.  I stared dumbly at the empty hook for a moment before realizing why his halter wasn't there - because he was still wearing it, and I'd never put him back in the pasture last night!  Oops!!!!!

I hustle out back and glance around - no Cricket to be seen.  He clearly hung around the fence for a bit (2 piles of manure), wandered into the front section of the shelter (hoof prints), enjoyed some hay that was left out (now scattered about), and was now off somewhere.  Annie & Mo were looking toward the back woods, and the only direction he could have gone was to follow the alley between the fencelines that direction.  Sure enough, the wet grass revealed hoof impressions, and just over the rise where his pasture fence turns, there he was merrily munching the lush grass.  He glanced up at me as if to say, "Mmm! Grass!" and was happy to follow me back to the barn for breakfast.

Of all the horses to be left out all night, he was probably the perfect one to "choose."  Luckily we've had tons of rain and the grass was lush & wet, as he didn't have any access to water.  He's been free grazing about an hour a day since the grass really came in, so he's even used to its lushness.  And he's really level-headed and not particularly independent, so freaking out or wandering off weren't likely.  And, he's not too much of a trouble maker, so he clearly didn't find snooping around the barn wreaking havoc to be a tantalizing option (I shudder to think what the barn would have looked like had Rhio been left out to his own devices for 12 hours!).  Whew!  Of course I'm knocking myself upside the head for my absentmindedness, but all is well that end's well, right?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Was that the Loch Ness Monster???

Or perhaps just a really big snapping turtle?

It was SO NICE on Thursday that Red & I had to get out for a ride.  I was planning to do his right hock injection (meant to do it a month ago, but, well, stuff happens...) but we went riding instead (and he got his hock done on Friday).

We wandered over to the gravel pit and had to trot in the woodsy areas because the gnats were swarming every living thing in vast hordes (anyone ever ridden with a head net over their helmet?  I think I'm going to try it).  Poor Red's gait is pretty asymmetrical due to my delay in getting his right hock done, so the trot was not that comfortable to ride - he kept lurching me to the left.  But, he was all go-go-go and would have gladly moved out if I'd let him.  Luckily there was enough breeze to keep the gnats at bay in the open area, and we wandered around enjoying the scenery and scaring up a few deer.

Red watching the white deer butts disappearing into the woods
Headed out of the main gravel pit, I decided to take the scenic route around the backside of the neighboring, private gravel pit.  As we got close to the large pond in this pit, I spotted something which appeared to be a head or just eyes sitting on the water surface.  I just had time to form the thought, "Huh? What is THAT?" when it disappeared with the smooth easing of a confident predator, not the harried & surprised, ripple-making splash of prey.  Hmmm....  this is not Florida, so it couldn't have been a gator... but I just had the sense that whatever it was, it was BIG.  What I saw was just a tiny part of what seemed to be massive beast just under the surface.  Logic tells me it had to be a big snapping turtle (right?), but it did give me pause to wonder just how deep that "pond" really is and what Nessie might be doing inhabiting it.
Looking for Nessie
We finished our ride traversing the shoulder of the road, not making our customary turn at the gravel road, and Red decided that meant "new territory" and therefore required hypervigilance for any possible dangers.  I do appreciate his concern for our (his) safety, but, seriously, a walk down the road is generally not fraught with multiple life-endangering encounters.  The lady gardening, the neighbor's horses (& one funny looking pony mule), and the procreating turtles aren't likely to attack (well, actually, in the mule's case...). Red required lots of reminders to walk on the way home, but I think we both enjoyed our little outing.
The curious horses + mule

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

You Shall Not Pass

Impassable trail
I thought about putting sunscreen on this morning before we loaded up to check out our favorite portion of the North Shore Trail... but didn't do it.  My "farmer's tan" is well-started now, unfortunately, though with the added marks of a wrist GPS and riding gloves it should probably be called "riding tan," which is my perpetual state in the warm months, I'm afraid.  I'm thinking self-tanner may be my ticket to looking halfway normal in dress-up attire for my cousin's wedding in June!

Pre-ride, before we knew what we were getting into!
This particular section of snowmobile trail is only a few miles from Gesa's place, and is all rolling hills and high ground.  We hoped it would be dry enough by now to ride.  We were wrong.  The low spots which looked mucky & muddy were exactly what they looked like, but they were not the problem.  The problem was the unexpected sucking mud pits hidden beneath what appeared to be solid grassy ground.  Paco could pass through a section in the lead and not have a problem, while Rhio stepped just a few inches to the left or right of Paco's hoof prints and we found ourselves sucked in hock-deep.  We realized in short order that we wouldn't be able to do anything but walk, at least then when we hit the horrible bits the horses were able to scramble out.  At a gait faster than a walk, those sudden squelching, clinging, seemingly bottomless mud holes would have been disastrous.

A pretty pond we didn't know was there!

Spring in the Northland - see that faint tinge of green in the trees? Yup, if you've got dirty sunglasses you can't see it - but that's spring, for sure! 
Given the circumstances, we took the opportunity to thoroughly enjoy the weather - blue skies, a light breeze, flooding sunshine everywhere - and the slowly greening spring.  We spotted pretty little ponds and trail off-shoots that are all but invisible when the forest is in full-leafed glory.  We followed a well-travelled ATV path and found ourselves in the back lot (culvert storage, apparently) of the county road maintenance depot.  This was the best, firmest footing the entire ride and we got about 2 miles of trotting & cantering.  The boys enjoyed gorging themselves on the newly green grass, and Kelso had a ball sniffing, snuffling, and snorting his way through last fall's dead leaves and the new spring sprouts.
Oh I know where we are! (and the horses weren't at all fazed by the huge shiny metal tubes)

Our muddy souvenirs of the day

The boys enjoying their hay while we soaked up some excess sunshine in our lawn chairs before heading home
This ride wasn't particularly fast, or long, or difficult, but it was glorious to be out there on a mini-adventure on such a day as this.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

MnDRA I - What a Weekend!

Loop 1, about 11 miles into 15 miles (photo by Henry)
Gesa & I had an uneventful trip to Sand Dunes State Forest for the very first distance ride of the season.  Before loading up, however, I discovered Rhio in the pasture with a bloody leg.  Of course, he manages to hurt himself in the four hours between morning feeding & time to go!  The wound was small and high on the inside of his left front forearm.  Wounds always look quite dramatic on a grey horse, but after cleaning it up I decided it wasn't anything to worry about, and a quick trot confirmed no lameness, so he climbed aboard Christine's trailer (thanks for the loan, C!) and we headed over to pick up Gesa & Paco.
Rhio's wound on Saturday 
Driving into camp, we spot Lynne & her horse Niso set up just across from vet check, so swing in by them, since we were planning to camp together.  Paco & Rhio settle in to the high line, with Niso next door in her pen.  In no time, Donna, Salma, & CrackerJack arrive and set up with us as well.  Yay!  We haven't all been together since last August, so mile-a-minute talking quickly ensued, though I had to excuse myself and begin vetting horses in for Saturday's events.  Dusk set in with some beautiful clouds prompting us to preemptively cover the boys in their rain sheets.  A couple laps around camp to stretch everyone's legs (and the horses almost always drink when we get back from a walk, so that's a nice bonus), with the horses thrilled to munch the plentiful green grass (none of that at home yet!), and we were ready for the night.  Camp settled down quickly Friday night, with most everyone planning to ride Saturday (except all of our contingent - I was vetting & Gesa volunteering as scribe Saturday, Donna's CrackerJack is a few days shy of 48 months old - the minimal age to compete an LD, and Lynne & Niso didn't feel conditioned enough to compete).  We had munchies & conversation in Donna's trailer before splitting up for bedtime - Donna, Salma, Kelso & I in her trailer and Lynne & Gesa in Lynne's trailer.  Gesa & I loved the luxury of a mattress over our usual tent!
Ready for bed!
Saturday "morning" (yes, technically 4:40 am is morning, but it sure doesn't feel like a reasonable time to be awake - the major drawback of my chosen obsession is the wee hour wake-ups) came all too quickly, and I piled on a few extra layers, refilled the boys' hay bags, and dragged myself over to vet check for the rider's meeting and to vet in a few last minute starters.  By the 6:00 am start for the 50 milers, the sun was up and it was clear the weather gods were smiling upon us this day.

I was able to see Rhio & Paco on their high line all day from vet check, so I was able to assure myself they weren't getting into any trouble.  Gesa spent a lot of the day helping, but also did all the pony care while I was working (thank you Gesa!!!).  In the afternoon she saddled up for a little ride, and Rhio was unhappy to be left behind.  Besides making a pitiful racket calling for his buddy, he was good while Paco was gone.

Aww!  My lovely pony. 
It was a tough day on course for a lot of competitors, with temps in the low 70s and the perennial deep sand that Sand Dunes is famous for.  Six of the 11 starters in the 50 were pulled, mostly for lameness.  A few LDers and competitive riders didn't complete, either, and one horse had to be treated for a tie-up after completing the 25 mile ride.  I think there has been a horse treated at this ride almost every year; I think the course is deceptively challenging with the deep sand, especially when coupled with a slow, late spring that really cut in to most rider's training time.  Add to that the warm temps, which we haven't had a chance to accustom to yet this year, and it was a recipe for hot, tired horses.  Many of the horses had tight hamstrings from the deep sand, and sore shoulders were also a common finding.  All the riders did a great job of taking care of their horses whether they were pulled or completed the course.

Paco & Rhio vetted in with flying colors Saturday evening, with Rhio's heart rate at 32.  He must be getting used to ride camp (he should be, I think this is his 4th year of attending rides), as 32 is his resting rate at home, but it is typically 40 at a ride.  After getting our 52 inked in green on his rump, we settled the boys into CrackerJack's vacated pen for the night (thanks Donna! our boys LOVE to have a pen to relax in) and I watched as Rhio proceeded to immediately zap himself on the electric tape.  I felt a little sorry for him (he looked *very* surprised), but I was also pleased that he'd touched it and felt much more secure in leaving him in the pen overnight.  This is the first time he's been in an electric pen at night, without direct supervision.  I would have to say I think he much prefers a pen to any form of being tied.  He was very leery of exiting the pen, though, and Paco had to be brave one and lead the way through the gate every time.
Loving the life of freedom in the pen (but Rhio's staying safely away from the fence.)
Potluck & awards were held in our campsite, so we had front-row seats and our horses seemed to enjoy observing all the commotion as well.  Rhio was probably scoping out the potluck dishes, hoping for a taste of the left-overs!  I don't know about anyone else, but I quite enjoyed my potluck plate - dominated by delicious tacos provided by ride management.


Pre-potluck relaxation with Donna (have I ever mentioned that 60 lb Kelso is a lap dog?)

Kelso's safe spot

Beautiful Salma
I think we all tried to stop visiting and hit the sack a little earlier Saturday night, as Gesa & I were riding in the morning!  Ride weekends need to be 3 days, so we could have a whole day to relax & visit with all our ride buddies.  4:40 rolled around way too early yet again, and as I was fumbling around in the dark to get ready, trying not to wake Donna, I managed to drop a contact somewhere in her trailer.  Of course it was utterly impossible to find the tiny but vital item, and I hadn't packed any extras (won't make that mistake ever again!!!), so I was forced to use my glasses for the day.

This turned out to be more challenging than I had anticipated, as the prescription in my glasses is not the same as in my contacts. Also, as anyone who wears both will attest, the difference in peripheral vision is quite dramatic between contacts & glasses.  My exhausted, too-early-roused brain was very slow to adapt to the different visual input, and as a result I couldn't exactly "see straight" for about half of the first loop!  My glasses would jiggle a bit at any gait faster than a walk, and I had to attempt to focus on whatever horizon line I could find ahead on the trail to keep myself steady.  It wasn't as challenging as riding in the dark, but I did feel that I had to give over most of the decisions to Rhio and I knew the trail well enough I didn't need to spot ribbons or read plates (whew!).

Group shot!  Early on Loop 1, and Rhio is all business getting us past these horses without a backward glance.  Notice Rhio's forward ears (as long as I'm in front, I don't care about the other horses!), and Paco's inside ear tipped to the other horses (um, this ok guys?  Whatcha doing over there?)
The start of a ride is always a little intense with equine emotions running high, and riders' following suit (or is it the other way around?).  Gesa & I waited to let the hot shoes get out of camp, and well down the trail.  One disadvantage of the early portion of the trail at this ride is that you are able to see horses in front of you on a long straightaway not too far out of camp.  This makes life a little difficult for most of us with horses who want to catch those in front of them.  Rhio was very good, though, and we walked calmly out of camp, picking up a nice trot and all was well...until we caught sight of horses in front of us.  Bear in mind that my vision problems are peaking right about now, as Rhio's speed increases and my brain pretty much can't compensate for it yet.  Lots of half-halts (surprise!  Rhio presented me with a new behavior - a chin-tuck in response to a half-halt.  Previously he has always thrown his nose up in the air if I half-halt him and he doesn't want to listen.  The chin-tuck was new for him, but he was still listening and staying controllable so I left him alone) and Rhio, while anxious to catch & pass horses ahead of us, also stayed in his trot and said "Ok" every time I said "No" to a speed increase.  It was by no means an easy, relaxed first 5 miles, but it was pretty good.  Five miles is the magic point at which he becomes my easy, responsive boy again, instead of a barely contained rocket ship.

We crossed the highway bridge, manned by a caffeinated cop & a cruiser with flashing lights at either end, and made our way through the housing development to reach my favorite section of trail at this ride. The new obstacle for the day was a lawn sprinkler on full blast, spraying an arc of water & mist into the air and across the road.  Unless he encountered one before I bought him, I can attest that Rhio has never seen a sprinkler before.  I simply asked him to move to the opposite side of the road, and we passed it with no trouble at all.  Good boy Rhio!  Paco followed suit, though the guy riding behind us had more trouble I think.  Shortly after the sprinkler, there was a house & a living room picture window barely containing a frenzied dog barking & barreling into the glass; I'm quite sure there wasn't anyone left asleep in that house!
Having a bite to eat midway through Loop 1 - in our coveted pocket of space! 

And onward through the sand.
By about half way through the first loop of 15 miles, the horses were spread out enough that we had our own little pocket and were no longer catching other horses or being caught.  It is my favorite part of a ride when we have our own bubble of trail and have no interaction with other horses on the trail.  I know for sure in such instances that we are "riding our own ride" and not being pulled or pushed by another horse's position ahead of or behind us.  Rhio & Paco have done so many miles together now that their trail relationship is effortless, both for them and for us.  We are free to chat and to enjoy the scenery, soaking up the joy of time spent on the back of a good horse with companionable trail partners.

Both Photographer Bob & Photographer Henry (volunteers! wow!) were out in various spots on the trail capturing our horses' beauty in action for us.  I can't even adequately articulate how much I love having pictures of my horses at a ride.  I am incredibly biased, of course, but Rhio looks absolutely fantastic in these photos; they are the best photos of him doing his job and loving every minute of it.

Loop 1, about 4 miles from camp (photo by Henry)

Walking in to camp at the end of loop 1 (photo by Bob)

Gesa & Paco eager to go at the start (photo by Bob)

Riding with heart rate monitors was really helpful at this ride.  Gesa & I know how the boys' usually run, and we were able to monitor them closely during a markedly more challenging exertion level than we've asked of them yet this spring.  In the deepest sand, Rhio's heart rate ran about 10 points higher than normal for whichever gait we were in.  He recovered into the 80s within moments to a minute of dropping to a walk, even in the deep sand.  Paco, however, would not drop below 100 while walking in the deep sand, but would immediately drop once we hit firmer footing.  This was especially useful information to have as we came in the last mile of the first loop.  Rhio would have been fine trotting the whole mile, and the walk from the end of the trail through camp to the timer would have been enough recovery for him to be at criteria by the time we handed our card over for our in-time.  By watching Paco's monitor, though, we knew that Paco was still working hard enough to keep his heart rate just above 100 bpm and therefore we walked the whole mile and he was able to recover to criteria just a few minutes after arrival.  I think if we hadn't used the monitors, we would have trotted more of that mile and Paco would have taken longer to pulse down at the check.

After our hold, we completed our exit exams with flying colors.  Rhio had an astounding CRI of 9/10, meaning his heart rate was 36 bpm before trotting 250 feet, and 40 bpm one minute later.  Both 36 & 40 bpm are normal equine resting heart rates.  He was exhibiting pretty much complete recovery from the first 15 miles.  I do not push my horses, but I do kind of wonder what he is capable of.  I don't train *that* much - this is mostly his natural athletic ability.

Last minute adjustments before heading out on loop 2

Off we go on loop 2, scuttling out of camp at a good clip to maintain our little bubble of trail as a pair of LDers and the first group of novice competitors were set to head out just a minute or so after us.  We did a lot of cantering, which my horses seem to prefer in the sand - and taking off on loop 2 at an easy canter with forward happy horses is such a rush!  Gesa & I were both grinning & laughing with glee, and that feeling persisted throughout the 10 miles (well, actually only 9 according to my GPS) of the second loop.   We mostly trotted & cantered, with both horses drinking long & deep at a muddy puddle, and before we knew it we were done!  We could have been the only two out there, as we didn't see anyone the entire loop.

We finished in 6th & 7th positions, though we were 1:40 behind the winner.  We stood for Best Condition anyway, knowing that we had no chance of winning the award, but as good practice for our horses and because neither Paco nor Rhio had ever stood for a BC exam before.  Unfortunately, it did require the dreaded weigh-in, which I detest, but I just claim a heavy saddle.  Rhio looked good, but Paco was a little muscle-tired.  Both horses ate, drank, and rested while we started to break camp as the increasing clouds began to sprinkle and finally out-and-out rain on us just as we were loading horses & the last few items were being shoved into the tack room or truck.  Why is it that our neatly organized bins, bags, & boxes are always in compete disarray and the whole lot of it barely fits back into the rig when we leave?
All done! The boys are resting while we hustle to get camp cleaned up & packed before the rain really starts.
The truck battery was dead, but the ride manager was able to give us a jump (thanks, Theresa!) and we were on our way home, slightly damp and a titch smelly but oh-so-proud of our ponies.  I had so much fun at this ride, despite all the small troubles like a lost contact and the usual sleep-deprivation.  Thank you to all the ride managers, volunteers, fellow vets, riders, photographers, and everyone else involved in this incredible sport.  Here it is a week later, and I am still feeling the euphoria.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Packing for MnDRA!

The first ride of the year is here!  Yippee!  I *think* I have all the essential horse & human items packed, and I know someone in camp is bound to have an extra of whatever it is I forget.... so it's time to finish up food prep & get Kelso's stuff ready to go and the rest of the dogs' stuff organized for the doggie care crew (thank you Kristi & Christine for watching the fur balls while I'm gone!).

Rhio and I are going with Gesa and Paco to this ride, planning to ride a 25 mile Limited Distance on Sunday.  It will be Gesa & Paco's third LD ever, and I am vetting the ride as well (Friday night & Saturday), so we will ride together Sunday.  The weather forecast is amazingly good (all appendages duly crossed), but I've got tons of layers and lots of outerwear packed for all of us.  And sunscreen.

Rhio & I have been riding mostly 50s last season, and I intend to do the same this season.  However, this ride is the first of the year, and I never know what kind of spring we'll have for training.  Since I have to commit early to which day I want to ride (because of the vetting), and we only have 50s on Saturday, I usually think of MnDRA 1 as a conditioning ride exclusively, and plan to do 25 conditioning miles.  This year, according to Rhio's log, he's had 95 miles of trail/road work plus arena work.  He's looking and feeling fantastic.  He could probably do a 50.  But, we are having saddle issues, so that alone is enough to make me want to keep our effort to a 25 this ride.  Plus, this way Gesa & I get to ride together, and that will be so much fun!  And that's the point of this sport for me - to have fun and enjoy the day & the trail with my horse.

We had another lesson with Abby last week, and I have to say that Rhio is already improved.  He is using his body better, and we even worked in a snaffle bit, and it went GREAT!  I was happy.  I used Red's bit, at Abby's suggestion, which is a Myler comfort snaffle.  Rhio has worn it before, and as with any bit, he was always tense & unhappy with it.  Abby suggested I adjust it more loosely than I typically adjust a snaffle (no wrinkles), so that it provides zero "contact" when he is just carrying it.  A normal adjustment, with a wrinkle at the corner of the mouth, is in effect a mild contact all the time, regardless of what you are doing with the reins.  Rhio does not like that at all, and it was very interesting to note that when I first mounted, he was tense, worried, "hunchy," etc - basically telling me in no uncertain terms that he was *not happy*.  After a few minutes of just letting him walk around, he settled and relaxed, and was never tense or worried again for the whole session.  We did a whole bunch of different things, keeping his busy Arab mind engaged, all of which were designed to get him to move his body.  Rhio goes straight really, really well.  Rhio doesn't bend very well at all.  He doesn't get his hind legs underneath himself to drive, and he doesn't move his shoulders laterally.  He's never been asked to, and frankly, it's easier to just go in a straight line.  It's been such a learning experience for us both - me to learn to ask for these things, and what it feels like when he does it, and him to gain confidence that he *can* do it.

My childhood riding instructor would have been appalled, but I spent an hour looking at my horse, not keeping my eyes up and looking where we were going.  GASP.  Thanks, Abby - we had fun & learned a lot.  And what's more, we were even able to repeat some of it on our own!

I know we'll both enjoy the trail on Sunday, and I'm looking forward to working on our "yoga," too.
Next post will be a ride report!