Winter. It is winter. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be cold. But this is like Alaska cold. Ok, maybe I’m slightly exaggerating but when you wake up and it’s 10 degrees outside but a real feel of 1, it becomes Alaska cold lol.
Because of the blast of extreme cold, the horses haven’t been turned out in a few days. Instead they have enjoyed time in our indoor arena to stretch their legs. Some horses handle this type of turnout just fine, others, not so much.
My lesson today was with the magnificent Maestro. I take him out of his stall, groom and tack him up. I hand walk him into the arena before getting on, something I’ve always done with Alfie, it helps the horses relax. I get him lined up at the mounting block when something spooks him. My trainer Kari and I really aren’t sure what it was, but he jumped, kicked the mounting block with his front left foot and then jumped again. I give a quick look to Kari who’s got a firm grip on the reins, while I tentatively get on. We walk into the arena, with Kari still holding onto the reins.
Now as much of a beginner that I am, I can tell when a horse is nervous and anxious versus when they are totally relaxed. A relaxed horse feels loose and comfortable, a nervous horse feels like you are sitting on a spring coil that is seconds away from springing open. That is what Maestro felt like. He was on edge, jerking from side to side, even with Kari holding onto him. I did my best to not be scared but I was. I tell Kari I’m nervous and the second I say that statement out loud, I think of Martini, I can always get off Maestro and get on Martini – my old familiar friend that I trust. My old familiar friend that will take care of me. And just like that, I push that thought out of my head, I’ve got to ride out my fear.
With Kari holding onto the reins, we walk around the arena in small circles. Before I knew it, Maestro started to relax, and I began to relax. After about 25 min, I was confident enough to not have Kari be our chaperone anymore. I was able to ride Maestro around the arena, over poles, we even got some trotting in.
After our ride, Kari tells me how proud she is of me. She didn’t think I would get on him after he spooked at the mounting block, but I did. Than she thought I would get off after he spooked once we entered the arena, but I didn’t. I did tell her I was afraid, but I worked through it.
Trusting these animals with our lives is not easy. Having them trust us is equally hard on them as well. When they are nervous and then the rider is nervous they feed off of that like crazy, they are wondering what big monster is going to eat them. When they are nervous, as a rider you have to be calm to help get them calm. With Alfie I’m really good at staying calm when he’s nervous or anxious, we’ve been together for over 4 1/2 years so I know what his spooks are like. I still don’t know Maestro well yet, so this is uncharted waters. But today, he took care of me when he realized I needed a bit of hand holding. And in return, I was able to get his mind focused enough on me, that the arena monsters weren’t an issue, and he came away with knowing I’ve got his back.
So an update on Alfie. The farrier came back last week to put his shoe back on. There wasn’t any abscess that we could see, the farrier believes Alfie injured himself by stepping on his foot with his other foot. Even though Alfie wears bell boots to help protect his feet and shoes, accidents can happen. Although he isn’t lame anymore, he’s not 100% sound. I walked him around the arena today and briefly trotted him so I could see how off he is. I’m hoping in another few days he will be better, soft tissue injuries or bruises can take time to heal. My fingers are crossed that he starts to improve more so that we can avoid a visit from the vet.❤️🐴