I’ve been aching to get Lucas out of the sandbox but, as comfortable as I am on him, we’ve only had about 6 or 7 rides together, so I don’t feel we know each other well enough to wave away any chance that he could display the momentary behavior of the not-quite-4-year-old that he is. And so the ride that I had last Sunday wasn’t the lovely hack through the field for which I’d hoped.
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One thing that we all learn in dressage is to ‘ride the horse you have today,’ meaning, perhaps you were hoping to work on flying changes or lateral work, but as you tack up, your horse begins to inflate before your eyes and become ‘looky,’ which is what Lucas did. Even though that is quite unlike him, I really pay attention to how any horse I ride behaves in the cross-ties because I find that behavior tends to translate under saddle.
The one time I ignored that was on my then 4-year-old, Valentino, until I got irritated with his rigid back and periscope neck the entire ride. Frustrated, I was quickly put in my place when I finally gave up and was riding him back to the barn, only to see a young black bear come out of the woods and cross the arena. Tino had clearly been telling me the entire time that he smelled a BEAR as I was grooming him, and that there was a BEAR in the woods as he walked around the arena, his eyes out on stalks and that a FREAKING BEAR was coming towards us. With Lucas giving a big hairy eye towards the woods, I decided to longe him, then climbed up, and, as always, as soon as we went to work he was all business.
The longeing took longer than I had planned and so I wanted to keep our ride short and sweet. After a simple and obedient walk, trot and canter both ways, instead of halting and dismounting, I rode him out of the arena, up the bank and hacked down the driveway, as a compromise for the ride I had hoped for. Lucas was well behaved, felt soft in the back and just that, alone, gave me that rider ‘high’ we all hope for after a good session.
Quick note: You may have noticed that I’ve done a bit of an upgrade in my arena. It desperately needed to be resurfaced and I also brought in railroad ties to enclose it. I wanted those lovely, white planter boxes but nearly fell off my tack trunk when I saw in a dressage catalog that the price of just one was $125.00! In the spirit of "COVID-19 Creativity," I'm sharing how I made this really inexpensive version, in case you’re going stir crazy and looking for something to do.
Go online—I went to Walmart—to order these planter boxes for $16 each. (See a similar version here.) They’ve got a cross at the bottom of them, so they won’t hold dirt, but you can certainly drop a potted plant inside for aesthetics.
Next, I went to Amazon and bought a packet of 12 plastic letters for $12. (See a similar version here.) The Queen of Cheap (that would be me) took craft glue and secured them to the planter. It’s been a month and neither rain, nor wind nor being knocked off the railing by the tractor has dislodged them. Not bad, huh? Next time: Learn to crochet a cooler for your horse! (Just kidding, I am so not doing that.)