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!