That afternoon I got home from work with cooperative weather and enough daylight left to ride. We did our usual warm-up walk, and (as near as I can recollect) I started messing with unfamiliar reins (I had swapped them out so that each pair stayed with the bridle they matched). Stella started or jigged or something, and my boot, wet and sandy, forcefully slipped out of the stirrup, which banged into Stella's side. Startled, Stella jumped, which made the stirrup bump her again, and off she went, bucking to the end of the arena. Thankfully I stayed on and got her stopped, because I think it would have really spooked her if I'd come off. Instead, I was able to stroke and calm her, and we finished our ride, including cantering, without incident.
The next day I happened to read Anna Blake's newest blog post before heading to the barn to take advantage of the improving weather. After an energetic turn-out,
|Turn-out started out calmly enough, but then . . .|
I worked on positioning my feet in the stirrups as she suggested, and what do you know; we had an EXCELLENT schooling session. I was happier with my legs and seat, and Stella seemed to be as well. I resolved to read and re-read Anna's post as a reminder until I develop new muscle memory.
The third ride in this post was Sunday afternoon. Stella was back to being a 'go-go girl' (I'm dating myself with that reference!) with lots of nervous energy, jigging and fussiness. Where was my SmartCalm mare? Perhaps I could have found her again – if I'd had time. But Rick called me from town, needing an address, and a septic tank pumper texted me that he was on his way, so I had to find something relatively positive to end on and get back up to the house. Now that I'm typing it out, I realize that those other things – and their effect on my nerves – may have contributed to Stella's nerves.
Since then, we've had rides #4 and #5. Tuesday's ride started out similarly tense to #3. Since she wanted to GO, I let her move into canter work more quickly than usual after our warm-up, and we cantered until she was ready to trot. That seemed to help, although I didn't have long to evaluate the strategy's effect since I was called upon to pick up DS from work in Portland. (I have to wear too many hats....)
Today I said "yes" to Stella's pointed desire to leave the arena and head down the road. It was a beautiful, warm, dry day. She eyed the recycling bins along the road, worried they might flap and rustle like the trash bins did on that windy day, but they behaved themselves. Further down the road, we were greeted by a jarring chorus of barking from a place that has four dogs. Stella stopped. Then their newest one, an LGD, jumped the fence and made her way towards us barking, hackles raised. I dismounted and held the reins, reassuring Stella that I would defend her if necessary. The owner came out and eventually got the dog back onto their property, so I (took a photo of Stella and)
led her past that property before remounting. We continued to the end of the lane and back home, passing the property with barking dogs again without incident. I was so proud of her!
My local Oregon Dressage Society chapter has folded, but the winter schooling show we ran for ~20 years has been picked up by another chapter and I would love to enter Stella in the Bears Above the Ground show at the end of February. In my dressage 'career' I've always set fairly ambitious showing goals and then worked towards reaching them, and that has worked for me with a lot of different horses. But Stella? I know Suzan would tell me to give her more time to grow up, and I know she's right. TTT – things take time. It's only fair to give her that.