Friday, February 26, 2010

We cantered!

So this blogging venture is still a novelty to me, and I think about things to post about on the daily (sometimes a few times daily). Obviously, a post about riding is due, and I imagine many a posts will be all about Caesar and our little adventures. I am, as most of you know, obsessed with him and anything horsey these days. As a kid I was horse crazy and was fortunate enough to always have a horse. We had a giant Quarter Horse/TB cross that was ever patient, albeit green (read, trained only to walk, trot, canter and halt, sometimes). When I was 6, I got my own little mare, a crazy Arab who carried me to teendom at which point driving, shopping, and hanging out became my new obsessions.

Growing up, I never had any formal training, but I pieced together the basics through reading horse mags and books. From 15-25 I carried a lot of regret for "giving up" on riding and I daydreamed about riding again, but I never really thought I would get back into. I started taking lessons at a hunter/jumper barn in the fall of 2007, leased a horse for 2 months and then, in my ever-impulsive fashion, bought Caesar in February of 2008. His original career was racing and he was successful enough to keep his job till he was 8 at which point he was trained to be an eventer. I'll fill you in on our first year together another time...

After a successful move to a new barn last May and a very good summer during which I feel we really made progress, Caesar and I hit a low point in the fall. Mysterious lameness issues plagued us in September and October(maybe laminitis, maybe just abscesses, hard to say). When we got back to training in November, we were a mess; well, I was a mess and Caesar followed suit. Suddenly turning was impossible without falling in or falling out, moving forward was a struggle--either we moseyed or rushed. I was incredibly bummed; no matter what I did, I couldn't seem to fix the issues. I was riding 6 days a week, reading as many "self-help" training manuals, but nothing really helped. Our lessons went from productive to painful. The only high points seemed to be when we were able to get out of the indoor (hard with the weather and footing being so unpredictable) and just ride out without any thought of training. January was a little better, but we still had big issues.

At the beginning of February I inadvertently gave Caesar almost a week off. When I got back on, we had a pretty decent ride; later that same week, we had another decent ride. And last week, I cantered him for the first time in weeks (we had gotten to a point where our canter transitions were a disastrous rush--a speedy trot into something canter-like. ICK!) Well, that first canter after the break was much improved. And last night I had my first lesson in 3 and half weeks, and to my delight (and my trainer's) it was rather good! The canter transitions weren't great but there was no rushing into it, and once we got going I balanced him into a nice rocking-horse canter (I love his canter; I had missed it so much!). Now, I'm hesitant to claim victory just yet, but last night was enough of a high to keep me hopeful for a while. I honestly think a huge problem was that I got so mentally stuck, and I was so hard on myself whenever I rode. Riding is supposed to be about having fun, and I had forgotten that. In the end, having Caesar is as much about the partnership as it is about the sport. Whatever time I have with him, whether in the saddle or on the ground, is precious indeed.

Riding horses is surely one of the most time-consuming and unpredictable hobbies around. Horses tend to be accident and injury-prone so you never know when you might go from riding daily to stall rest. Not to mention that partnering with a 1200 pound mammal presents many a communication challenge. Progress can be very slow, but those ah-ha moments are priceless. I was so happy to have a few last night.

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