I'm officially done with another block as of this morning and am starting a new one (nutrition and toxicology) this afternoon. Thus, a blog post.
On Monday I had a ride scheduled with a boot client whose boots kept coming off at the canter. The idea was that we would ride together on the trail and I would watch them to get an idea of what was happening.
Everything went well. I killed wasp nests, cleaned out my trailer, loaded Farley (thank goodness she still remembers how to load in a trailer and hasn't regressed to naughtiness of when I first got her with all this time off), was only 15 minutes late, and managed to find a place to park the trailer. (BTW - the trick of making up a really wet, elyte rich mash for the horse to drink/eat in the trailer really works!). M* was all saddled up and ready to go. I made a few boot modifications and went up to get Farley. Whoo hoo!!!!!!
Until I realized that I was missing a critical piece of equipment.
Umm...that would be my saddle.
I had just picked up the trailer from my parents that morning and in the hustle and bustle of trying to get it cleaned out and stuff transferred around, the saddle never made it out of the trunk of my mobile tack corolla.
No spare available either.
I took a deep breath and decided to do this thing bareback.
I put on my helmet, and took off my expensive (gifted) sunglasses. Knowing me, I'd fall off and break them in half. I also at the last minute remembered to take off my Crocs and put on "real shoes" for this deal. I was a bit rattled I suppose. :)
I reminded myself that Farley had only bucked me off once --> during a jump lesson.
I briefly regretted my choice of riding tights that were very thin cotton things, and I won't even TMI my readers with my even more regrettable choice of underwear. Let's just say that it wasn't exactly bareback riding attire.
I ignored the fact that I haven't done any real bareback work since before her injury almost 18 months ago. And since I have cantered her exactly once undersaddle since the injury, it goes without saying that I wasnt all that confident that I could stay on bareback through anything but a jog at this point.
I also decided to ignore the fact she hasn't exactly been an angel on the majority of the trail rides.
And that there are lots of nice pointy rocks on this trail. Which alternate with hardpacked gravel roads.
So off we went.
At one point I suggested that I ride up ahead and then stop and have M* canter towards me so I could watch the boots, but for some reason, instead of actually putting this very sensible plan into action, I found myself looking at a stretch of gravel road and actually saying the words "let's canter".
And Canter we did.
I was even able to look behind me and down to watch my clients boots (BTW --> issue resolved, they stay on beautifully now).
Was it the most graceful ride I've ever had? No. Did I have one hand wrapped in mane with my bicep fully engaged, sucking me against that wither? Absolutely. Did my butt stay on that mare through walk/trot/canter/hand gallop? Yep. Even through spooks from random objects at a canter? Yep. Did I even trot and canter some single track? Yep.
In short, I did a conditioning ride on the trails bareback.
I will say that by keeping one hand in the mane, I sacrificed some control over speed and and direction. As good as Farley has gotten at one handed reining, I'm just not as effective at speed when telling her in no uncertain terms we are NOT going to jump that puddle and she CANNOT do something nasty to the mare next to us. But since I didn't die (or fall off) it was probably worth it :).
I'm so proud of us both. That partnership that was built over many miles is still there. My fat a$$ (and yes it is --> that's what sitting here and not studying will do to you) still knows how to sit deep and go. And that amazing thing was I wasn't even sore the next day --> a bit of pressure soreness in ummm...sensitive areas....but no real muscle pain from gripping. Which means I was actually riding more or less correctly!!!!! Theoritically.....if I get a girth gall and still have 10 miles to go at an endurance ride, I could have a glass of wine, slip off her saddle and still make it. Realistically I should take ibprophen instead and jog it! But I'm just sayin'
Even more exciting --> Farley's feet are OMG so good right now. She was trimmed that morning and I mentioned to the trimmer that she is so sound at a trot over gravel. It's amazing. At Oroville (where I rode), I got confirmation of that --> not one sore step at any speed, over gravel roads. Later on the single track we had big 'ole rocks of all sizes and she didn't even hesitate. After the ride there wasn't one split, crack, or chip. It was absolutely freakin' amazing. I've vaccinated less in the last 18 months than I ever have because I haven't traveled anywhere, and I think that was a HUGE part of it. There's no other explanation. I've ridden her less, she's just come out of winter/wet weather. The only good things have been a decrease in vaccine and wormer frequency and very consistent trimmer that isn't me. She's due for her vaccines and a worming and truthfully I'm a bit nervous about it. Will I lose her awesome feet? Obviously a dead horse does me no good and being a responsible boarder means that I WILL vaccinate and worm, but I'll be doing what I can to minimize the impact.
A note to all horse professionals --> Cookies work.
Farley, although pocket sized is not a pocket pony. She doesn't introduce herself and can be a bit standoffish to people. Although I feed her by hand a lot and we've shared more than a handful of apples and granola bars, she doesn't nuzzle for treats.
My trimmer makes a point of feeding cookies to her when the visit is done. I've thought it was a nice gesture, and Farley likes cookies so I've always given permission. I think the trimmer has trimmed Farley 3 or 4 times? At the end of this visit (I think visit number 4) she was actively going past my shoulder to go up to him and mug him for cookies. At first I couldn't figure out what she was doing...but apparently she has figured out that this guy that she sees every 5-6 weeks gives her 2 or 3 cookies at the end. Horses are way more smart and have better memories than I give them credit for. Who would have thought that a handful of cookies over the span of 5 months could have made such a difference in her attitude towards this one person? As a vet I'll definitely be asking my clients if I can feed a cookie or two after the visit. If I practice equine vetmed. Which I'm definitely NOT doing. I swear.