The hardest part about this time of the year is the shorter daylight hours. Since I have to go home and take care of my animals after work, I run out of time to ride in the park. In the beginning of the month, I would rush out and take a quick ride with Kevin—just barely getting back before it was too dark to ride the guys home on the street. I don’t mind the darkness—it is sharing the road with cars that bothers me.
That leaves me the loop and the arena. It is so hard to ride, inside, when the weather is nice, that I have mainly been on the loop. It is about a quarter mile long and is in the back of the property. When our trail rides first started to get too short, I would tack on a few trips on the loop to lengthen my ride.
In the beginning, Cole was a handful. He felt like I was riding a stick of dynamite, but to tell the truth, he never did anything truly wrong. He did some prancing and walking with his head way up in the air—waiting for a reason to dash back home. That is one of the reasons the loop can be tricky—the barn is in sight.
To counter his mood, I did a lot of walk/whoa transitions. I clicked him when he was good, and that got his attention on me. Once I had his attention, we practiced leg yielding and shoulder-in. I still find shoulder-in difficult if I don‘t have a wall to guide me, but we were doing something lateral.
After a few weeks like this, I had a day I couldn’t get on the trail at all. It was just way too cloudy. It was too dark to ride on the street before I even started. I would have to do my whole ride on the loop.
The big surprise? He was fine. That day, we were able to add trotting when we are going in the direction away from home for the first time this fall. I’ve had little trouble, since.
One day, it started to pour just as I was going to go ride outside with him. It seemed like hail, it was so loud on the metal roof. I had to ride in the arena for the first time this fall. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was in the arena. Consequently, Cole was very, very excited about it. There was one other horse in the arena, the rain was deafening and Cole wanted to perform.
Just leading him around it was a problem. When he wasn’t doing a very enthusiastic silly walk or trying to stop and bow, he was bucking in hand. I really didn’t appreciate that. I tried leading a couple laps and then gave up. It looked like I would have to ride if I wanted to get anywhere.
Remember when I talked about riding a stick of dynamite on the loop? Multiply it by 10 times and that is how wound up he was. Just as on the loop, I tried walk/whoa transitions with clicking good behavior. It didn’t work as well, this time. I stayed on the safe side of the arena; doing circles, and the woman I was riding with stayed out of my way.
After about 15 minutes, I decided to try trotting. I warned my riding friend. Cole was still very excited, but I thought if I could trot, it would give him a direction for his energy. Yes, it did. He trotted so big and so bouncy that I nearly flew right off. I think I went 5 strides and I asked him to stop—and clicked for the stop. My riding friend was amazed at what he did. She had never seen his show-stopping show trot before, and this was the show trot on steroids.
I spent the next 10 minutes or so working on trotting short distances on the circle. I eventually was able to do a half circle at a time, but it wasn’t easy. He did have 3 different bucking episodes that I had to manage. The woman I was riding with had seen me get bucked off MerryLegs, both times, and I told her I was just trying to prove to her that I can ride a buck. (Of course, these were nothing like MerryLegs’ bucks.)
By now, the rain was abating and my nerves were shot. My friend finished up her ride, and Cole calmed down a little since he was by himself. We just walked, practiced side passing and turn-on-the haunches (his favorite.) I made it a total of 40 minutes and called it a day.
I haven’t been in the arena, since. I know I will have to, soon, but hopefully I can let Cole run around it, first, so get the excess energy out. It is amazing that he would get so excited about being in there. Hopefully, he will adjust to it in a reasonable time like he did the loop. Otherwise, it will be a very long winter…