Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Hundred-Acre Wood

I loved Winnie the Pooh when I was little. I had all of his read-along books (my audiobook obsession started young!) and I still remember all the little songs and stories.

I catch myself singing this one a lot since we moved to Oregon.

When you’re little, and you live in town, a hundred-acre wood sounds like an almost unimaginably large space. Bigger than the playground. Bigger than a rich kid’s lawn.

As an adult, of course, 100 acres is still impressive. It’s enough space that you only see your neighbors if you want to.

But as an endurance rider, I can appreciate how small 100 acres is, too. In simple terms, a 100-acre square is less than half a mile on each side. Not nearly enough space to get things done.


In fact, 100 acres is a perfectly respectable space if you can convince your horse that going around the loop more than once isn’t a special torture you devised just for him.

The “back 40” where I board is roughly 100 acres, and we can get a lot done there. Not knowing what Blue’s deal is at the moment, I’ve gone into rehab mode. This means shorter rides with specific goals.

The back 100 is great for this because it had just about every kind of footing and terrain. Blue is basically over his phase of refusing to trot in general, so now he is showing more specific things for us to work on. Namely, at the moment anyway, he has forgotten how to go down hills.

It’s always something.

I realize that the physiological basis of trouble with hills is lack of balance. Lots of possible root causes there. He’s less than thrilled about collecting up and using his hind end lately, so probably that’s the well from which our troubles have sprung.

Anyway, what happens is we charge confidently up the big hill (3/4 mile, gradual), then jog back down. Most of that jog is perfectly lovely, aside from the occasional bobble where it’s uneven and rocky. But the last 15 feet before the bottom is a flurry of stiff, hollow, awkward, bumbling steps, Blue’s rear end miles behind us in never-never land, head in the clouds, front end skidding across the gravel like Bambi on a frozen lake. It is this way every time, and I admit that it would be funny if it were happening to someone else.

Why the panic and rush at the bottom of the hill? I HAVE LITERALLY NO $&@%#ING CLUE.

What’s the plan? I’m thinking that we need to be on the hill more. Learn the hill. Feel the hill. BE the hill. Become one with the hill. AKA, we’re going to start doing stuff on the way down. Lane changes, from one side of the double track to the other. Sharp turns into the trees on either side. Stops. Backing. Rollback and canter up the hill.

Either I will make the soft-tissue damage permanent and be shopping for another horse by the time the rain starts again, or I will have turned water into wine.*

*Clumsy horse into agile mountain goat.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Still recovering or maybe just lazy

So I’m not going to Bandit Springs today. Too many things were iffy already, and my bank account settled the decision. Only a crazy person would pay for a ride and all its attendant expenses with a credit card. No amount of scenery or camaraderie should come between me and the downpayment Brian and I are trying to save up.

And anyway, Blue has been different since Sunriver. Not bad, exactly, just… not himself. When I finally got him out of the pasture after his two weeks of total freedom, I noticed that he was looking a little thin. He’s on very poor pasture at the moment, and I don’t think he got what he needed in the two weeks to fully heal. I asked Bob to increase his hay for a bit, and the hay itself is much improved now, too. Blue looks better today than he did a week ago.



The thing that has been on my mind more than the weight loss is his movement. He still isn’t back to a steady trot. He is happy to march out at a good walk, but he isn’t willing to maintain a trot for more than maybe a dozen strides before switching to something else.

Slow evening ride at Silver Falls.

I can’t SEE anything wrong. In the round pen, on the line, loose in the pasture, his trot seems normal. His legs are tight and clean. But when I mount up and ask for steady movement that isn’t a walk or a canter, he just isn’t offering it.

  • Maybe going the additional distance at Sunriver has him thinking about conserving himself, lest I ride him 50 miles on a whim every time I saddle him. Mustangs are smart like that, and he was certainly more apt to pick up the pace on the way back to the trailer than on the way out.
  • Maybe his right hind leg isn’t back to normal yet. I’ve been trying to either sit the trot or ride the other diagonal since Sunriver, but his inconsistent moment is making it REALLY difficult.
  • Maybe his whole hind end is out. He was stiff as a board when I rasped his hooves last week. Sadly, Sarah moved to a different barn, so it is a little harder to arrange for bodywork. (Assuming that I could afford it.) (Which I can’t right now.)
  • Maybe there’s a stone bruise or an abscess getting ready to surface. Possible. I’ve been riding him completely bare an awful lot.
  • Maybe he can sense that I’m hesitant to ask him to really move out because I’m mulling these things over in my mind. And he’s totally taking advantage, the little skunk.
  • Or maybe he’s just tired and needs more recovery time.

At any rate, in my effort to be more responsible with my money and kinder to my horse, I’m not going to Bandit Springs this weekend.

I hate this feeling like I’m missing out on something, but seriously, would you go if you were in my shoes?