In the Rockies can remind one of a bi-polar, drunken wench who can't make up her mind.
Friday it was 74 degrees with a slight wind. I rode Ashke in the outdoor arena and we did nine circuits of about 3/4 of the arena at a canter in both directions. By the end of the last three circuits to the left (we do to the right first, since it is his more difficult direction) Ashke thought he was going to die. In fact, he tried to slow down and I kicked him to continue going forward at a canter, which resulted in a baby crowhop in protest. I spent the rest of my time wandering around the property, and even got Ashke to follow the trail down the fenceline and across the creek under the trees. He was a little tense, but listened well and we crossed without a single spook.
Saturday, J and I got up super early and drove to the barn to grab the horse trailer. We hooked it up in a jiffy and headed for Longmont to pick up barrels for the Working Equitation obstacle course. We made great time and ended up at Colorado Tank and Barrel fifteen minutes before they opened. Of course, the guy was half an hour late to work, so we waited for forty-five minutes. We purchased 11 food-quality plastic barrels (with brown sticky rice still in the bottom) and four food-quality steel barrels for just over $100. Three of the plastic barrels are for Rachel for barrel racing, and the rest are for my obstacle course. The steel barrels have removable tops, making them perfect for the lance pick up and return. The other two I will use to border the straw bale jump. We dropped them off at the barn, parked the trailer and left without even checking on Ashke. (T's birthday weekend and lots of stuff to do with the Madre.) Saturday's high was 76 and it was wonderful.
Today, it is a high of 30 with sideways snow and significant wind. I am not very happy about it.
N and I rode in the indoor and talked. We talked about her focus on showing, her traveling to the shows without Ashke (and at least for the first show, without me) because he is a distraction for Cali. Both she and Cassandra believe Cali will show better if we don't ride along. N wants Cali to turn to her during times of stress, rather than rely on another horse. I get that. I knew on Friday, based on their conversation during the part of their lesson Ashke and I observed, that they believed having him around was a bad idea. So, instead of J driving our truck and pulling N's trailer with our two horses loaded inside, N is going to make other arrangements.
N was pretty persistent in wanting to know how I was feeling. She was really worried about hurting my feelings in telling me that she no longer wanted Ashke to trailer out with Cali. I told her it wasn't a surprise, since I had already surmised from her conversation with Cassandra on Friday, that we wouldn't be going. It was not a surprise. My biggest issue is that I am missing riding with N. We haven't really had a lot of opportunity to ride together and most of our rides have been while she is taking a lesson. We may both be in the arena, but her focus is entirely on what she is working on.
I know Ashke really misses just riding out with Cali, and I miss riding and talking with N. I feel like a huge part of the reason I took the lessons over the winter was to teach Ashke what he needed to know to be able to canter and gallop on the trail with N and Cali. We've figured that out. I feel completely confident at being out on the trail with Ashke, at any gait, and still in control. Ashke has gained the confidence and knowledge to carry me safely at any gait and still listen to my requests. All that remains is to get back out there and have fun.
So, what do you do when your riding buddy and you have different goals for riding?
N has always wanted to show. It started with H/J and has now refocused on dressage. She has a show horse that is amazing. They are amazing together. They are going to rip up the dressage circuit this summer. They are going to attain one of N's Equine bucket list items this summer. I believe they are really going to make a name for themselves. I think they both have the talent and ability to go as high as they want in the dressage ring.
N says she really wants to make time to trail ride with us. Her plan is to train three days a week (two days of Cassandra riding Cali and one day of lessons) and then two days of trail riding with me on the weekends. But the reality is that may not happen. She has obligations to her family and if the dressage showing goes well, she is going to want to continue to focus on that. Her intentions are good, but she just might not have the time. I get that. I can wait until she has the time to ride with us.
Ashke and I are going to have to figure out a different plan for the times when she can't.
I talked to J about it and J agreed to ride trails with me. Hopefully, the boy will want to join us. Ashke is pretty solid when we are out without another horse and he enjoys trail riding with J and T. I prefer to ride with some company from a safety point of view, but there is no reason why Ashke and I can't do trail riding on our own. J doesn't mind exploring and going at whatever speed Ashke and I can manage. We had a lot of fun doing that last summer on the weekends when N couldn't ride.
J and I are also going to spend some time working on building obstacles and setting up a course for WE. Once we have the trail course set up according to the WE standards, we can work over the obstacles and I can focus on doing those obstacles well. In looking at the testing levels, I believe Ashke and I could start at the Preliminary level with some work and focus. There is a dressage portion we can work on when we have to ride in the arena, plus Ashke is going to rock the obstacle course. I have no idea when there might be an actual show for us to go to, but we can work on it until there is a show.
On the cantering front, Ashke is moving forward very well and beginning to stretch his ability to maintain the canter for longer periods of time. I don't think the issue is entirely physical. I think we are working through some mental stuff too. Today, he cantered willingly with a great upward and downward transition until I asked him to trot. It felt like he could have gone on forever. That is a great step, since he is no longer acting afraid to move forward or showing anxiety at what I am asking him to do.
He does still snort explosively and pin his ears when I ask for the canter, though.