Friday, December 31, 2010

The End Is Nigh!

Of the year, that is.

Right now we're getting a mix of sleet, hail, and fluffy snow and coldness. Can't ride Royal until Monday because of his chiropractic work. So, I thought I'd write about a fun day we had this year. There's another barn a mile north of where Royal lives that has a cross-country course. The day before my birthday, they had an open schooling day. I'd been debating all week about whether I should go to it. On the one hand, I didn't have any tests that week (so no hard-core studying), the weather was forecast to be wonderful, I didn't really know when I'd be able to do any X-C schooling for a while, and the barn is close enough that I didn't have to trailer him there. On the other, Royal was very out of shape and I'd have to ride on the highway to get there. But, that morning I decided to bite the bullet and try for it. If I had to lead Royal along the road, that was fine. So I gathered up my helmet and protective vest and went out to the farm. I had debated whether to use my bridle or hackamore and decided on my hackamore since it has a built-in leadrope and I thought that would come in handy.

I did end up leading Royal most of the way there. Being a Sunday morning, the highway wasn't terribly busy but people were mowing their lawns, burning leaves, and we encountered a couple of very vocal Labradors. Also, about 1/10th of a mile from the stable, I realized my cell phone had fallen out of my pocket. We'd mostly been walking through ditches over piles and piles of dead grass so I didn't think there was much chance of finding it. So we continued on. As I walked up to the barn, one of the volunteers asked:

"Did you walk up here along the highway?"
"You're nuts."
"You're telling me."

She offered to trailer me back when I was done, but I declined. I wanted to at least attempt to find my phone. I handed in my registration stuff (somehow that stayed in my pocket) and started riding in the schooling arena. Royal, being the social butterfly that he is, wanted to meet all the other horses, so he wasn't really listening to me. I just persisted and used my reliable "Royal! Pay attention and relax" tools, mainly figure-8s. We did a lot of figure-8s around the schooling jumps, which was fine since I was the only one in there. Once he calmed down and stopped fighting me, we went over some of the jumps. He very much enjoyed that and was very obedient so I decided to go out to the X-C course.

Oh boy.

Royal was fine at first, but then he started throwing a tantrum because there were two pastures full of horses next to the course and he wanted to meet them. I tried to ride him through it, but then he started threatening to rear, so I got off and started working his ass from the ground. And he worked. I sent him over every jump in sight, including the big tables and tire jumps. I also sent him into the water and he had fun splashing around. Once he was calmer (and also somewhat sweaty), I got back on and did more figure-8s, this time around a log and a canoe jump. He settled down, but I was kind of wishing I had my bridle since he was not being very sensitive to the hackamore. We went over some logs and roll-tops and also up and down the small banks. Our last thing was a log to roll-top combination which Royal did very well.

I lead him all the way home and found my cell phone! It was in a nicely mowed patch of grass, lying neatly with it's front screen facing up. And it still worked too. Once Royal and I got home, I gave him a good brushing (he had sweated quite a bit) and lots of cookies. I think we could actually compete in some events in 2011, if I could arrange to school at the other stable 2 or 3 times in the spring.

Since this was primarily a learning experience for me, here's what I learned:
1. Most people try to avoid horses on the road. Some do not. They will hopefully crash and wreck their fancy stinky muscle car.
2. I should try to trailer in next time I go to the barn (Lots of reasons why I didn't that day).
3. Hackamores are not the best tool for X-C riding on a tantrum-throwing horse, but it's still possible if not entirely pleasant.
4. Royal jumps stadium and X-C fences the exact same way. An odd combination of a springy deer jump with bascule and power mixed in. And, he can also jump Training Level tables from a walk.

So, all in all, a very good day with a (mostly) good horse. Hopefully next year more will follow.

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