Saturday, November 08, 2008

sorting from the saddle

My Thursday was spent driving to dental offices and even after the tooth had been temporarily fixed, it fell apart again before bedtime. My dentist was out of town, so now I have the prospect of another day next week spent driving and having the permanent fix done. Thankfully, I'm not having pain or discomfort, and the procedure itself is not one of the more traumatic dental procedures.

I used up some unnecessary energy Thursday feeling whiny, as I had planned to ride that day. When I got home in the late afternoon, it was sunny and there was time, but I chose to focus on what I had not gotten to do earlier and didn't make the best of what was right there in front of me.

Friday I had the choice to drive another hour and a half round trip to get the crown once again affixed temporarily, or just to leave it out and stay home to ride. I decided to ride.

Keil Bay was more than ready to be groomed and tacked. I told him during breakfast that I would be riding him, and when I opened stalls for turn-out after, he remained in the barn. He enjoyed a long grooming and checking over. I asked him the questions he loves to hear: How did you turn out to be so handsome? How did I manage to find the most handsome horse in the world to be my partner in zen?

And then we went into the arena. I needed to open the gate to the back field so we could alternate arena and hill work, and he followed. Keil Bay likes having a routine, and he seems to prefer being ridden in the early part of the day so he can then go out with a sense of accomplishment. His demeanor is entirely different when he's been ridden - there's an aura of pride, a certain air of satisfaction. He's the kind of horse that offers a reward beyond the ride itself.

Surprisingly, it didn't feel like we had been off work as long as we have. We warmed up and did mostly walking, but he was very responsive to the leg and we decided to trot and make good use of that. It was sunny and leaves were blowing gently in the air. The back field is awash with color right now, and my daughter was on her pony, so it was a joint effort. (the pony is feeling so good he kicked up his heels when we broke into a canter!)

The one piece of evidence that the Big Bay and I haven't been working were some rough transitions - especially canter to trot. I was out of balance, he was out of balance, and we kind of bumped our way back down, but even that felt good. Something to work on over the next few rides.

I don't really know why riding makes things feel so much better. It's almost like the "sort" option in the email tool kit. I love that tool. Click it and select how you want things arranged, and order appears in the inbox.

When I put riding into my day, everything seems to magically sort itself into place. I have no idea why I allow days without it! And yet I get caught up in the busy-ness of chores, the assorted minor ailments of two middle-aged bodies (mine and the Bay's), the torpor of too much to do and feeling an odd compulsion to get it all done.

My guiding rule is to ride first and then do chores, but I can get pulled away from that thinking into: just do these few chores first, then ride, then finish up. The chore list around a barn is a black hole. Get within a few feet of it and you will be sucked right in. I know this - but still I think I can manage "just these few chores."

Oddly, making the ride the goal of the day seems to melt the compulsion and I still end up getting things done. But my mood is completely different. There's a mellow feeling that pervades the work.

We had some rain this morning but the sun did come out, more lovely leaves swirled, and I made another choice to sort the day from the saddle.

Keil Bay was more than ready. We did a long warm-up with lots of walking and BIG walking to really stretch him out. I focused on a couple of things - keeping my elbows back and using half-halts.

When I started feeling him really marching and moving through, we (daughter was riding Cody today) did some focused work on transitions. I often use the dressage markers to help give me visual "points of change" so I don't have to think about that part of an exercise. We rode the entire arena, changing gait at each marker. Walk to trot, then trot to walk, and so on. My plan was that if Keil Bay didn't respond pretty instantly to my up transition aid, I would chase him into the canter, and then resume the walk and ask again.

I didn't have to chase him one single time - he was incredibly responsive and the half-halts became the focal point of the exercise, getting myself to use them clearly so he could be prepared to do exactly as I asked and we could get very crisp, clean transitions.

We did this both directions and then made it a bit more difficult. Trot to canter, canter to trot at each marker. Wow! Keil Bay was incredible. The repetition helped me get very clear with my cues and he responded on the nose each time.

I was ready to walk him on a loose rein and call it a very successful day, but of course my daughter demanded that we do a canter victory lap. So off we went. Coming down the long side on the final stretch, Keil cut the corner to catch up to Cody and we sailed over three ground poles that had gotten clustered together. Keil Bay was as happy as could be, and after a bit of walking to cool down, we called it a day.

When I went out to get the horses in tonight, Keil Bay was already up at the barn. He walked with me out into the darkness to call in Cody and the pony. We had a few minutes standing in the moonlight together, listening for hooves crunching through fallen leaves and just breathing. It's nice to get back to the connection that comes through working together.


Janet Roper said...

That says all that is good. ;-)
Janet & Shiloh

billie said...

I agree. They give so much.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Sorry to hear about your tooth. I had two temporary crowns put on last week, but at least they stayed put.
Riding is the best feeling in the world. The rule of thumb should be to always do it first thing in the morning. Otherwise it seems to be put on the back burner and sometimes things interfere so we miss it completely as the day wears on. So my motto is to "just do it". The rest of the day is always so much more pleasant after that morning ride.

billie said...

Hey, Arlene - crowns! The weird thing is that this is the real crown - it came out whole and so can possibly be re-used - so you'd think using it as a temp. would work perfectly. I think the on-call dentist didn't want to make it too hard for the regular guy to get it off so he can check it out before we determine if I need a new one or just this one put back solidly.

Anyway, you're right about the morning. In the cooler months it's nice to wait until the mid-day sun warms things up a bit but right now morning is great. Either way though, riding first is the very best plan. As you said, so many things can crop up in the course of the day.

Cheryl said...

I lost a crown, too, this week, but I don't see my dentist until Monday morning. In the meantime, I have a nerve exposed and the whole left side of my face is NUMB! Oh, brother!

billie said...

Sorry to hear that - take care until tomorrow morning!!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I would have chosen the riding over the dentist, too.

What special times you have been spending with Keil Bay. Sailing together? What magic!

I enjoyed reading your post. Thank you for sharing your momentous experiences with your horse :)


billie said...

Lisa, I know you know exactly what I mean - with your recent stories of taking Baby Doll out alone. It's such a mix of feelings: power and vulnerability, partnership and magic.