Two fantastic rides this weekend. Two very different rides.
Friday after work I was feeling kind of tired and irritable, which is the wrong frame of mind for taking out on the road for mileage. But I knew I needed to ride: Blue is getting F-A-T these days. I'm constantly tweaking his diet, but since he arrived malnourished, we haven't quite figured out what he needs on a day-to-day basis yet. So right now he's probably getting a bit more than he needs... grass hay, pasture, beet pulp, Life Design senior, and half a cup of flax seeds with paprika daily. Believe it or not, up until a few weeks ago we were putting Cool Calories and canola oil on top of that.
On the upside, Heather tells me that he has started frolicking in the pasture (i.e., tearing around like an idiot), so I think he must be feeling better than he was when I got him. I just keep telling myself that all that feed is going somewhere. On Friday, it went toward arena work.
I tend to get bored in the arena. To keep myself involved and to enforce some kind of structure on the ride, I played an episode of This American Life on my iPhone. The purpose is to keep my mind and body relaxed by distracting me just the right amount, while also making it clear when I have been riding for an hour. When the episode is over, we cool down.
I put Blue in the German martingale, and we began some very basic gymnastic work under light contact. Blue tends to stay bent to the left, so my goal that night was to get one good, even, consistently paced volte to the right. And I got it eventually.
The hour went by fast for me, because I was incrementally asking Blue to pull himself into some semblance of a balanced frame. We had moments, friends. It was a start. By the time Ira Glass was signing off, we were doing neat figure-eights, flexed but not braced.
Blue and I both took Saturday off. My back was killing me (probably because I went for a run Friday night), and I spent most of the day flat on the floor listening to college football. When Brian got home, we went out on a date, which I only mention here because between dinner and the movie we had some time to kill. We went to a bookstore and Brian bought me this:
We didn't get home until well after 1 a.m., but I still stayed up and read the first 20 pages or so. Obviously Blue is no dressage horse, but the advice and some of the exercises that Becker recommends are within his ability now. And others we can work towards. Everything is focused on creating that lightness and oneness of purpose that makes riding so fantastic... on the rare occasion that the stars align that way.
And I have to say, Sunday was one of those days when things just felt great. I took Blue to the lake for a little alone time, just the two of us. I wanted to get him out and let him work at his own pace instead of trying to keep up with Bunny or thinking about how he could cut corners to get home.
Was it the weather? The day off? Some unconscious dressage-by-osmosis from the book? I don't know. But Blue and I were rock solid and full of energy. Nothing could spook him—not mountain bikes, dogs or deer leaping up from almost underfoot—not even Dean's horses calling to him as we bombed down the road next to Mill Creek. Blue attacked every hill with equine zeal, and I just focused on staying out of his way.
I wasn't GPS-ing, so I don't know what our actual speed was. And really it doesn't matter anyway. We were moving at a speed that made us both happy and got us home with plenty of daylight to spare.
Light skies, light hands and light hearts. It was a great ride.