Both horses made the trip (about 6 miles from the barn) and first off got some free time, sans blankets, in the arena. Rhio, of course, rolled four or five times - he does love to roll! They tooled around a bit looking at stuff, and trotted a bit. Honestly I was expecting a bit more of a rodeo, seeing as it's been so icy and so cold lately and they haven't gotten much kicking-up-their-heels opportunities. The air quality in the arena was unfortunately poor due to the presence of some diesel fumes from a piece of equipment that had been started inside - but it made for great, interesting light for some photos!
Red and Rhio (mostly Red) have been having some separation anxiety issues. At home, I have begun handling them separately rather than together, and rode them each once in the outdoor arena before this cold/ice/snow snap hit. They are mostly out of sight of each other when one is in their paddock, and one is in the outdoor arena. When Red is the one under saddle, he tolerates being separated absolutely fine. When he is the one left behind, it is an entirely different story. Red carries on quite dramatically - which then of course revs Rhio up a bit, and he starts calling as well. Rhio had serious herd-bound issues over the first few years I had him, and I certainly don't want to regress into that issue again. So we've been slowly working on leaving Red in the paddock while Rhio does something else, although after his accident the first week we were here, I am very hesitant to actually leave the premises with Rhio. Obviously I will need to have a solution once I can actually start conditioning, as I don't intend to pony Red along all the time! And then there's the prospect of taking Rhio for a weekend endurance ride, and leaving Red at the barn.... I admit, I am already nervous at the thought. I wish I knew why/how Red got so much worse with his "buddy sourness" - although it isn't your typical case, either, because he is completely fine if he is the one to leave. Anyway, I digress.
Red was first up, and since I sprained my ankle about 3 weeks ago, I decided not to ride in my saddle, where my stirrup would likely put too much stress on my ankle. With the bareback pad, we worked about 45 minutes "schooling" - which Red clearly is very out of practice with! It took him the first 15 minutes just to settle and start listening to me and working. We worked on obedience, bending, backing - all skills he definitely has in his repertoire, but clearly needed reminding of. He likes to rush through things, and evade by tossing or shaking his head. I felt pretty good when we ended, and he wasn't too hot or sweaty (we did a lot of walk work), which is exactly what I wanted. In this cold weather, the opportunity to get them out and moving is wonderful for their mental and physical health (and mine!) but I didn't want to work them too hard and get them too sweaty and risk that heat load getting dispersed as sweat later under their blankets during turn out.
Riding Rhio is completely, utterly different than riding Red. Again, I used the bareback pad, but everything else about the ride was unique. It is so interesting to ride these guys back-to-back and feel the contrast between them so clearly! Rhio goes in a hackamore, and thus I don't have the lateral control of his head that I do with Red, because Red goes in a snaffle bit. Rhio's anxiety comes out in his feet - the more he moves them, the better he feels! So, with Rhio, my first goal is always to slow down (in an arena setting). Then, I work on his right side - bending, moving laterally to the right with sidepassing, etc - because he has real trouble moving right. He also doesn't travel straight at all unless I really, really concentrate! When I began riding as a kid, I was taught to start preparing the horse for what you're going to ask him to do next before you actually ask him. But Rhio seems clairvoyant - in the preparation, he goes right ahead and does what I am intending to ask him to do! For example, if we were moving across the arena and I intend to ask him to go to the right when we reach the wall, as soon as I think about going right, he goes right! The end result is that we look a bit like a drunken sailor if I ride him with the same pattern of intention that I ride Red. So, with Rhio, I have to really concentrate on being straight, in my body and my mind, if I want him to go straight. We work on circles (he would definitely fail geometry) and side passing and halt-walk-trot-walk-halt transitions. We did a little cantering (whee!) just for fun. I put out ground poles and we trotted over them, through them, and around them. Then we used them to practice halt, back, sidepass through each section, creating a zig zag pattern. Then we made circles around a few barrels. Can you tell Rhio is a busy, busy, busy horse? Boredom strikes early and often, and I try to keep things new and changing all the time. No drilling exercises for Rhio! Forty-five minutes of work for him (yes, with Red whinnying from the stall frequently, and Rhio answering periodically), and I think all three of us were pooped! The horses were definitely mentally challenged, as I asked them to do things we don't normally do, but that we probably should do more often! I was mentally and physically challenged (90 minutes bareback, anyone?). I am used to my rides being mentally relaxing, a form of meditation. My horses and I are partners going from point A to point B, wherever those may be on a given day, and they have certain responsibilities and decisions to make (where to put their feet, watch for obstacles, be aware of our surroundings) during a ride. It feels like when we do arena work, all the decisions and responsibilities are mine. It's exhausting!
I usually ride on my birthday, but I might not get to tomorrow, due to weather and footing issues. So, I am considering this afternoon my birthday ride for 2015. It was just a great day with my ponies. I can't wait to hit the trail again this spring, but any and all time spent with my horses is wonderful, uplifting, and rejuvenating, and the outside world simply slips away for those moments.