My first step into the barn is greeted with the sweet smell of horses, a smell that speaks to my deepest soul of home and love, mixed with the dry scent of grass and alfalfa hay. Today, the underlying bite of ammonia tells me the stalls have not been shaken down and the shavings still hold the overnight contents of the horses' bladders. Ashke is head down when I walk up, but his deafening whinny greats me as he hears my footsteps despite the hay he is busy devouring. He meets me at the door, hay straggling from his lips, his eyes quizzical as he greets me with his obligatory nose shove. I strip the fly mask from his face and give him a good rub around the eyes and the sides of his face.
I can't tell you how happy it makes me to have Ashke greet me at the door, to whinny when he sees me or hears my voice or my footsteps. I love that he doesn't try to avoid the work or the contact with me. Today, he let me work my hands down both of his hind legs. I did the lift and release on his left and just a squeeze and hold on the right. I really think the right leg was tangled in barbed wire and although I don't think it hurts now, I do think there is residual emotional pain.
Today, we worked the round pen for maybe ten minutes. His trot was relaxed and he attained a rocking horse canter. After lunging him in both directions, I got on him and we walked and trotted around the round pen. Ashke did great. He finally worked forward at the trot and didn't try to run out from under me. It was a solid, collected trot. I was so happy. After we went in both directions at the trot, I got down and waited for Nicole and Callie.
Callie is a three and a half year old Friesian/Paint mare. Nicole is at about the same point in her training that Ashke and I are in ours. We had made arrangements to ride together, partly because we are interested in doing the same types of riding and in part because we share a similar philosophy. Ashke loved working with Callie. We did walking and trotting in the big arena. Ashke was engaged and interested. I was telling Nicole that I was struggling to get him to move at a collected trot with me and she suggested that I start posting. Posting helps with timing and would also be much easier on Ashke's back than sitting the trot. Strengthening his back has been a focus for me for the past nine weeks and anything I can do to ease the pressure on his back is something I am interested in.
I told Nicole that I had never posted before and had no idea how to do it. She talked me through the process and then got on Callie and showed me. Posting is a riding method where the rider lifts up their hips in time with the horse's trot (Nicole explained that you pelvic thrust up toward the pommel of the saddle). When you are riding in a big circle you post (lift up) as the inside foot hits the ground. It is easy to get the rhythm and very obvious when it you are doing it wrong. The posting is done with the thighs and knees.
Did you get that? I had to squeeze my knees and calves against Ashke and then lift my butt and belly up about two inches and then down again every two to three seconds in time with Ashke. It would be difficult to make that move with my broken and out of shape body on something that wasn't moving, let alone control my horse while doing it.
Nicole said I did a great job and that Ashke dropped his head and mouthed the bit in response to the release of pressure on his back. We trotted several circuits around the arena while I posted. It was easy to tell when I was doing it correctly and when I wasn't I sat the trot for two strides and then started again.
Can I tell you how bad my hips and thighs hurt tonight? Those muscles I bruised several weeks ago are in pain and I have strained back muscles. The outside hip flexors are very sore on my right hip. I can't wait to ride some more tomorrow and work on my posting.
After working in the arena, Nicole and I rode out and around the farm. We went across the road and then made our way around the edge of the stable on the road. Both horses did great. Ashke was so well behaved I was happily surprised. He seems to take leaps and bounds with his understanding.
Nicole and I have another play date tomorrow. I will also post pictures, since we are now at 18 weeks. J and T are going to bring out their bikes and ride while Nicole and I are riding.