Sunday was the day. At 9:30 in the morning it was already 80F, but the sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds granting a break from the baking hot sun.
Six weeks is a long time to stew in your own insecurities and it took talking everything out with the Hubby to convince myself to grow a back bone, remember that I do in fact love riding, and prepare to load Cruze (who btw is still known as Eeyore around the farm, the name just won’t die) up and haul out to Trainer’s facility to take advantage of the great footing in her arenas. The footing in my own arena is akin to cement and I didn’t think it was a good idea to test his soundness on footing that even Gem would likely have a hard time with.
Getting Cruze was easy. While Gem and Pete were on high alert the moment the trailer got hooked up, he was clueless and happily munched on the grass until he noticed me and then came walking over in his perpetually cheerful way. I almost felt guilty.
After I snapped the lead rope on he got a little curious but walked away down the hill. Until Gem called out. I have no idea what warning she called but the pliable and happily clueless gelding beside me turned into a squealing and bucking idiot. Sigh. Not the way I wanted to start this adventure. And honestly, Gem needs to get her head out of her butt. She enjoyed her job and we had so many fun times together. It is a bit insulting that she is now so thoroughly enjoying her retirement. Horses.
Fortunately for both our sakes, Cruze isn’t very committed to being naughty and a few times making him halt, back, halt and then walk on got him back to listening. He still squealed under his breath and was tense but he walked without theatrics and loaded up just fine.
The decision to haul out was a complicated one. On one hand, the footing would be better and riding him away from his herd would be beneficial for his overall behavior. On the other hand, my only other experience hauling out saw him be a total freak at the trailer, bear impossible to tack up, and overly focused on every one else and not me. Hauling out added a layer of nerves, but since I love hauling out it was a skill I needed to work on any way.
All the time out of the saddle had brought about a major insight into the workings of Cruze. He may be a brave horse in a not spooking sense, but he does still need a lot of verbal reassurance that the ground isn’t going to open and swallow him whole. Lots of thoughts to come on this topic, but for now what this meant was that I went very slowly tacking him up, talking to him non stop and gave him plenty of head cuddles. This resulted in him standing quietly, only getting a little wide eyed when I disappeared into the trailer to get a piece of tack and in general being a much more civilized citizen. This is a major win as the last time I took him out and about, I barely got the bridle on without him running off.
Off to the arena we went to lunge with Dusty as back up eyes on the ground. I get a bit overly picky about gaits and soundness and I wanted him there to make sure I was seeing reality. Cruze was a bit tense and looked around a lot, especially when someone else showed up and rode around the outside of the arena, but he listened to all my voice commands every time I asked and was in general pretty good. He did have one bucking/squealing fit when asked to trot the first time in each direction, but settled again quickly.
The best thing? He was sound both directions. No question about it sound. Perfectly sound for the first time in 3 months.
I hadn’t fully tacked him up to lunge because why bother if he wasn’t going to be sound? It was a quick walk back to tack and then to the arena once again. By now though the other rider had entered and was riding. I never know what to do in this situation. It is a public arena and she wasn’t in a scheduled lesson, but it also seems rude to barge in and start riding especially since she had obviously waited for me to stop lunging and leave to enter. With two other arenas on property, I just diverted to the warm up arena with a few fences up in a line. The footing here wasn’t as deep and fluffy, but was still adequate and it was yet another experience to lunge in one arena and ride in another with a horse in full view but unaccessible.
I mounted with some butterflies lingering, but he stood very still until I asked him to walk off. While he did keep one eye on the other horse, he did not scream out or try to run over to him. In fact, he was a really Good Boy. We walked both directions for a bit while I tested his brakes and bending ability, but since he had warmed up w/t/c on the lunge I didn’t waste much time getting to trot.
Once trotting, I was thrilled with how light in my hands he was. He was accepting a bit more contact without being fussy and was not dropping his head at all. This was the second ride in the Myler Comfort Snaffle and it has made a huge difference in his way of going. So glad I shelled out for him.
Trotting left felt great. Going right, which has been the trouble side, felt…awkward. Not lame. Definitely not the same it felt before, but not as smooth as going left. He doesn’t have the best conformation out there and with all the time off and pain I’m thinking a chiro appointment will be in his near future to help even him out plus a lot of strengthening work. But not lame which was a huge relief.
In fact, he not only felt good enough but was behaved enough to pop him over a small cross rail a few times each direction. Fun fact: this was the first time I ever jumped him in the arena and only the second time ever (xc schooling way back in May was the other time outside the original test ride) and I didn’t even have Trainer there. When Homeboy is being good I feel like I could do anything with him. It is the reason I chose him.
Cruze was great with the fence. Well, he didn’t respect the tiny 2′ cross rail at all and clobbered it pretty good, but was good on approach and the back side and after a few trips over I called it a day.
After 25 minutes he was dripping with sweat and huffing pretty good. Six weeks off didn’t do his fitness any favors, so it was time to end it even though I found myself back to where we began with me never wanting to get off him. Riding him, when he is like this, is just plain FUN. Sure, we aren’t perfect and aren’t working on anything more difficult than w/t/c and cross rails, but it is FUN. Capitol FUN. Never want the ride to end FUN. It reminded me exactly why I chose this particular horse of all the ones I tried and all the others on my list to try. He isn’t fancy and we likely won’t be winning anything, but damn is he just what I need.
It was the perfect re introduction and I couldn’t have imagined it going any better. Trainer is overseas but the moment she comes back I’ll be on her schedule. I have a lot of thoughts to write out so be prepared for that coming up.
But for now….
We are back in action!!!!!