I had a particularly satisfying lesson on the Arabian Prince last night. It was a nice way to end a day which felt somewhat off as I got into my car to drive to the barn and got more irritating once I arrived.
When I got to the barn, If found a plastic container of gasoline sitting right outside of Ace's stall. The owners are trying to get some drainage along our walkway before (a) we get any more rain and (b) they erect tack sheds. The tack sheds look like plastic numbers with a 3' x 7' or so foot print. I think my saddle racks will fit inside, but I don't yet know if we each get one or if we will be sharing them. It is going to cut into the walkway space. I usually take Ace out through the arena, but the other owners sometimes walk their horses along this path, which has the shed row barn on one side and a 6' or 7' fence on the other. I've seen a horse sticking his nose over that fence from the ranch next door, so I'm a little concerned about gnawing on these new tack sheds.
I moved the gasoline, which I didn't want so close to my horse's room. Then I went down to the current tack room, where the equipment for 9 horses is crammed into a 12' x 12' stall. The refrigerator was blocked by a large metal shelf unit about 5' long and 4' high. My tack rack, which is on wheels, was blocked by some heavy and tall piece of equipment they are using to dig the drainage holes. Why that stuff can't be put in one of the other empty stalls, I can't quite figure.
I finally maneuvered my stuff out of the tack room and got a look at Ace. He had a nice big skinned spot at the point of his left shoulder. The newest boarder let me know that the big thoroughbred next to Ace opened a gate between their stalls and hillarity (and, apparently, damage) ensued. A chain is now attached, but I've already seen Sebastian escape from that kind of apparatus into the arena, so a more secure arrangement may be necessary. I've never seen Ace with so many bite marks on his body.
I got Ace dressed while someone else was setting up jumps in the arena. I had told that person that I was about to have a lesson, so she did keep the jumps on one side of the arena. I set up cones along the other in front of the stalls and Ace did a pretty good job of ignoring what else was going on. I'm not entirely sure what the dimensions of the arena are. I think it is somewhat larger than the covered arena at Pierce. It's probably about 170' long (the approximate length of the shed row barn) but less than 1/3 of that wide, so there is room for several riders to work on the flat comfortably. The big problem is the footing. We keep picking up rocks and the owners don't have the right equipment to maintain it. Nor do they work it often enough. At least it isn't too deep and they aren't using it for burying corpses for films like the last place.
Gayle got there for my lesson and we began to work weaving in and out of the cones. Ace does not like to bend to his right. Not that he can't--he was quite capable when looking for a treat. And on a loose line, he'll bring his head around to touch my right toe and back to the left with little prompting. But he is very resistant to go straight or bend right. I think it gets in the way of his escape mode of blowing through his right shoulder. When Ace spooks, if he doesn't do the Arab squat, he drops his shoulder and goes to the right. Every time I've come off him (except for the time I passed out in the saddle), I've wound up on the ground to his left.
A large part of what I've worked on with Gayle has been learning to block or support that shoulder and keeping myself plugged in the saddle. I find it harder to plug into the western saddle than I do my Schleese, but I still feel a bit more secure in the western right now. Mind, I've flown out of both of them at one time or another, but I've got a better chance of grabbing the horn or pommel on the western.
Last night, I managed to get Ace to do what Gayle calls a "schooling trot." It's a very, very slow sitting trot with a good deal of lift in the horse's back and no drag in his feet. I actually could feel it. His walk following this exercise was much more energetic--he tends to do the march of death at a walk, and not so rhythmic as that might sound. Gayle told me that when she did it while riding Ace, she almost got him to stay in place. If we could get him to tuck his butt, we might someday see a piaffe.
Adding yoga back into my life is already showing rewards in my riding. It's hard to get up for that 7:45 a.m. class on Saturday, but it is worth it. When I follow the class with a lesson the same morning, I sit better and I am more relaxed. I really need to throw on Linda Benedik's videos of yoga for the equestrian a couple times a week (if I could only find the time or space!)