...and then I wound up going to an amazing dinner at an awesome restaurant with our visiting Mexican and American guests...with a boss that leaned over early on and said "Stop looking at the prices, it's all on me". : ) Let's just say that I got home ridiculously late and it was totally worth it, missed pony ride or not.
So today was the last day of our meeting, which was long and arduous, especially when you're running on two night of no sleep after a week of work travel. Worth it, but still, tough. When the meeting ended I just wanted to hop in my car and head home to nap on the couch...only for one of our visiting directors asking for a ride to our laboratory...and me being the only one who lived in the right direction, meant that I was on driving duty. Again, it was great to chat with a collegue about current developments in the field, but it meant the introvert me had to spend another 30 minutes being a socialite. And all you introverts know how exhausting it can be to come up with random conversations with strangers.
When I finally got home, it was time for me to head right back out to the barn in order to make it to my lesson on time. And it was raining and there were ice pellets falling from the sky. Perfect.
Walking up the driveway to the barn, I started to feel a little better. Fresh air and a warm barn full of ponies. Two of the kids that work in the barn (one to pay for board, the other to get to ride more) were just putting away their horses and it was kinda nice to chat with them. So frequently you come across kids whose parents paid for everything to do with horses and riding. Lessons, expensive clothes, tack, showing, board, everything. But not for these kids. They muck stalls. They feed and lead the horses out and dump the muck carts. They're not worried about getting dirty. They'd rather hang around the barn then go home and watch tv. They love the horses, describing every personality of every horse in every stall. Even listening to the boy describe his ride, going on about how next week W might teach him "something called Leg Yielding, how cool is that??!" : ) Just awesome.
W showed up as I finished tacking and asked if I was going for a ride...um, Lesson? Apparently she didn't realize I wanted to do two in one week, but since she was there and had no other plans, we were on.
Let me say, there is NO scrap of thought left in my mind that Moon is a MUST work horse. Some people say that they love their horse because they can leave them in the pasture for a month, hop on, and they're exactly the same as the day they put them out there.
I think that's awful. I DO NOT want a horse like that, after experiencing Moon. What, as a rider, do you feel when you get on your horse that's been unworked for so long, and they do everything you ask of them, do it well and give you no attitude? Well, for one, why ride more frequently? Two, has my horse actually learned anything demanding enough to require muscles, attention and finess? Three, either I'm an incredibly good rider or my horse and I have no enhanced communication tools. Four, there's no progression. Nothing demanding work and focus and attention from me, to work towards progress and improved skill.
Moon is NOT the kind of horse that's the same after a month on pasture. He's not the same after 4 days without work. He's stiff, surly, irritable, tight, inverted, everything we hate as riders.
Today, after working Saturday, Sunday, Monday and heading into his fourth day in five days, he was back to nearly being Mr. DreamHorse. NOT as impressive as he was after 7 straight days of riding, but not too far off. He even stood PERFECT when I went to mount him, taking only one tiny step after I was in the saddle. PROGRESS! He was so good we started working on smaller circles at a sitting trot (15 to 10 m) leading to coming out of the circle in a posting trot, straightening for 2 strides, leg yielding to the quarterline, transition to walk, change in bend and immediately transition to walk, stride through the short side of the ring and then repeat with small sitting trot circle.
Boy oh boy. We did our best, but I must say that I'm a very tight person. I grip. I even have a very painful bruise on my inner knee to prove I pinch at the knees. Fortunately, it was so painful I wasn't able to pinch on that one side today! And it was a good reminder when I tried to! It's incredibly hard to relax and just move with the trot. Plus steer in a smaller circle!
We weren't perfect, but we made it through the exercise and saw improvements the whole way through. W was confident enough in our work that she wanted to see us attempt a canter circle. We weren't going for much, just looking to see what he was capable of. The last time we tried he was too stiff and we just ended up in a rushed trot leading to a single canter stride and a messy fall-part.
Despite my confidence, he wasn't successful on the circle. We started heading right and on three attempts he picked up the wrong lead and couldn't turn properly through the corner. Bless his heart, he never actually ran me into any walls, fabric or not.
Going left, he was able to pick up the correct lead, but we wound up with it being on a straight away, having a rather crummy attempt at turning and falling back out of it. Again, no casulties and I'm proud that he offered it to me. I've NEVER asked him to pick up a specific lead. I've never really asked him to canter a circle. And I haven't a clue what anyone before me has ever done. So I don't fault the poor guy for not being able to do it. All things in time.
So yes, sometimes when I'm gone a few days, I'm the weirdo in the arena whose horse won't even trot. But give me four days and we'll be leg-yielding the crap out of you! : )