Monday, December 28, 2009

Riding in the GA Memorial arena

Yesterday, our friend SH kindly offered to trailer Ziggy and Shadowfax over to his and DA's place (DA and SH are married and I've decided to refer to them jointly as DASH) so that we could ride in their arena. SH and Foxfire practiced tilting at the quintain while DA practiced some dressage and I just rode around getting used to my new horse.

A picture of the GA Memorial Arena from the day of its dedication. It's sort of an "L" shaped arena with a full length dressage arena on the long leg of the "L" and a short dressage arena on the short leg of the "L". It usually also has various SCA stuff set up in it.

Shadowfax was pretty mellow about the whole experience. When we first got there, I led him around to let him meet the other horses and most importantly the llama. Some horses have totally freaked about the llama. Shadowfax just sort of did a horsey version of a double take then wandered over to sniff noses with the other horses who were much friendlier than Ziggy was when they first met, and apparently much more interesting than the llama. Then SH let his dog, Archie out. Archie went zipping past Shadowfax and Shadowfax didn't even seem to notice. When Archie started chasing the guineas around and they started making a fuss, Shadowfax looked over to see what the fuss was about then went back to grazing. However, at one point when I was hand-grazing him while waiting for a spot to tie up so I could groom and tack Shadowfax, something in the grass spooked him. He just suddenly jumped and sort of twisted sideways, then stared at a spot in the grass for a second. I quickly led him away from that area, although he had already calmed down and started looking for more grass. I have no idea what spooked him. I certainly didn't see anything. But even as he spooked, he sort of twisted sideways so that he didn't run into me, so that was good.

Once Foxfire had finished grooming and tacking up Ziggy, I took his spot at the trailer. Here Shadowfax sort of disappointed me. He simply wouldn't stand still while I was grooming him. He didn't try to run off, he just kept shifting from side to side and looking around and stuff. I suppose I can't blame him too much. He was in a new place with lots of new horses and other animals running around. But it was a bit frustrating. He was, however, a perfect gentleman when it came time to pick out his hooves. For that, he stood still. Yay!!!

Once I got him tacked up and led him out to the arena, we had one bad moment when he started walking off when I was only halfway into the saddle. I managed to pull myself the rest of the way into the saddle as he was walking and then made him stop for a moment as I settled myself in. Again, I blame it on the excitement of all the other horses already running around and doing stuff in the arena, but it is something that we need to work on. Simply giving him more experience will probably help. Once I was in the saddle, he did really well. When I asked for a walk, I got a walk, when I asked for more energetic walk, I got a more energetic walk. When I asked for trot, I got trot. When I asked for stop, he stopped. And he went where I asked him to go. I didn't ask him to canter for a couple of reasons. First, the footing was a lot deeper than he was used to and I could sort of feel him struggling just a little bit with it. (He is rather out of shape. As am I.) And second, there were a couple of guys cantering around with really long lances, hitting this shield thing that would make a loud bang then spin around with this bag of sand swinging out on the other end.

An illustration of a quintain.

Shadowfax barely even noticed it, as far as I could tell. The main problem was just staying out of the other riders's ways when they began their runs at the quintain. I was also trying to stay out of DA's way who was actually working on some dressage stuff, since I wasn't actually trying to do any "real" riding. Mainly, I was just working on bonding with my new horse, letting each of us get used to each others signals and responses, exposing Shadowfax to some new experiences, and just spending some time in the saddle. When the guys were taking a break from running at the quintain, I led Shadowfax up to it. He just looked at it for a second then tried to lick the sand bag. He likes to lick things. He licks the sides of his stall after he's done eating. Every once in a while he'll chew on the wood, but mainly he just licks it. He also licks the donkeys. Well, he licks Tessla, the other two tend to move away, but Tessla will just stand there letting Shadowfax lick him. Strange.

After we were done riding, Shadowfax was much calmer while I was untacking him. However, when I was almost done, he starting backing away from the trailer and standing at the very end of the lead. I'd urge him forward and he'd take a few steps forward, then he'd back up again. I couldn't figure it out at the time, but in retrospect, it was when Foxfire had led Ziggy into the area. I think Shadowfax was worried about being trapped against the trailer if Ziggy went after him. I wish I'd figured it out at the time and spared my poor horse the anxiety, but I'll know better next time. BTW, Ziggy is gradually becoming more tolerant of Shadowfax, but they are still a long way away from being buddies.

I also figured out, too late,(or rather DA figured it out,) that we were loading Shadowfax in DASH's slant load trailer in a way he wasn't used to. When the previous owner had kindly trailered him to my house, she used a straight load trailer with an escape door. So I'd led Shadowfax in and gone out the escape door. I thought that was the only way he knew how to to trailer. So when we went to load Shadowfax in DASH's trailer I tried to lead him in through the rather narrow entrance of the slant load, and he wouldn't go in. Someone had to give just a tiny push to his rear to get him to follow me in. After we loaded him the second time to bring him back to our house, we finally guessed that he was probably used to the "point and shoot" method of being loaded into a slant load. That me standing in the doorway, trying to lead him in just confused him. Next time we trailer with DASH, I'll stand to the side, toss the lead over his neck, pat him on his rump and see if he goes in on his own. I'm betting he will.

Anyway, it was a wonderful day, and I really appreciate DASH inviting us over and trailering our horses for us.

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