Mah truck :(

So I went and rode yesterday, in the outdoor in the Imus saddle. Well, I didn’t ride much – we ended up doing a lot of groundwork beforehand, but I did eventually get to ride around. Still forming an opinion about the saddle, and I did orginally have more to say but my truck tried to fall apart on the way home.

I knew I’d been needing new brake pads soonish, but it was never a good time, what with the moving and the Champ dying and all these other miscellaneous expenses that managed to get bumped to the top of the line. But yesterday my truck started making really ominous grinding-metal noises when I turned the steering wheel, and definite bad-brake vibrations when I pushed the brake. So I worried about it all night.

We drove it over to a shop today and we’re dropping just over $1000 on it. Needs new brake pads and rotors (ffffffff), a new U-joint, and I’m getting them to change the spark plugs too. I know, spark plugs are usually a home-mechanic level repair, but the #5 and #6 spark plugs are buried deep in the block behind the front driver’s tire and brake assembly. They are due at 80k, and I was not looking forward to trying to do them myself.

Ugh.

Step 1a of Escape From The Arena is complete!

I am an outdoorsy rider at heart. Arenas are nice and all, especially when it’s cold or rainy, but I am slowly going nuts riding in circles in the arena all the time. But Dixie’s so spooky, I figure she’ll leap sideways in front of a car and it’s lights out for us.

Thus The Plan was born. I am getting in shape, and Mel does an inspirational (crazy) amount of running alongside her horse, so I figured I’d take her out a couple times on on foot. Do some walk/jogs and model calm behavior around traffic, mailboxes, loose dogs, etc. Today was Day 1.

We did 1.5 miles, round trip – not very far. But holy shit it was HOT. I am kind of a wuss about the heat; I got heatstroke when I was 16 and it took 12 years for me to mostly recover. I still can’t tolerate heat like “normal” people. It was in the 80s, sunny, and about 90% humidity – it rained a tiny bit when I first got to the barn, so that touch of rain was evaporating the whole time we were chugging along.

I jogged a bit, but mostly I walked. My head is still throbbing, which means I almost overdid it with the tiny bit of jogging I managed. And of course I wore my stupid horrible worthless Ariat Terrains, which rubbed blisters on the balls of my feet and rubbed my heels. Poor me!

But Dixie did very well, and I’m very glad I walked her out. She is very spooky about traffic, could care less about dogs and mailboxes, and does not approve of a tree that had a plastic bag hung in it. We saw one bicyclist, who predictably freaked her out, and we saw a rare carnivorous groundhog.

Our route out anywhere from the barn leads about 50 yards down a very busy road, then onto much quieter roads. I shamelessly walked her through a yard for the busy road, and on the way back the homeowner and his daughter came out. I chatted with them for a long time, explaining what I was doing and answering horsey questions. He was totally cool with us walking on his lawn, yay! It was great for her – there were lots of cars zooming by about 10′ away from us, and she went from half-panicked running in circles around me to somewhat irritable and walking in circles around me. When I believe she’s not actually scared anymore, I’ll insist on better behavior, but I won’t punish her for being afraid of stuff.

Anyway, my head hurts and my feet hurts and my horse had another positive experience. I’ll take it!

She’s had a brain transplant!

Well, either a brain transplant or I’ve finally reached some kind of tipping point with Dixie. I feel like I bumble through life haphazardly and there’s no way I have managed to be consistent and kind enough to deserve THIS from her, so it must be aliens.

Ok, today’s saddle experiment was back in my saddle, re-rigged so it uses both rings on each side. A quick google doesn’t turn up a good explanation, so I’ll give it a stab and maybe one of yall knows the name of this? You take a long latigo and run it from the front ring, down to the girth, up to the back ring, back down to the girth, back up to the front ring, and tie off there. It puts the girth a skosh further back, and it pulls the back of the saddle tighter against the horse, which is good in my case.

I put the stirrups back on too >:(

She’s still in heat but she managed to walk down the aisle without stopping to pee for every horse on the way. She was actually pretty sprightly and alert when I rode! I didn’t manage to get her attention at first – lots of wandering around aimlessly. She meandered to a stop by a little spilled hay FOUR times, and every single time I just locked the reins so she couldn’t drop her head to eat it and waited til she decided to pay attention to me again. The fifth time I got annoyed – locked the reins, nudged her side with my leg, then kicked her when she ignored me.

That got her attention! But here’s the crazy part – she didn’t flip out and bolt into a wall. She didn’t suck up behind the bit or try to rip the reins out of my hands. She settled down and started working for me.

I finally got her on the bit, too. She has decided that it’s ok if I hold the reins with enough tension that they don’t flop in the wind. See what I mean? Aliens have transplanted her brain.

We’ve got a long way to go, but I feel like we’ve finally made a big step in the right direction.

Anyway after I rode I yanked the saddle off and hopped back on bareback. Just cause. I didn’t post any more about riding bareback the other day because it was such a non-event – I got on, she was mildly confused, we walked around, I got off. Did the exact same thing again today.

I swear to god, if I’d tried to get on her bareback a year ago or 6 months ago and my foot had whacked her butt on the way over, she’d have thought I was trying to kill her and spun/reared/bolted. I’d have ended up in the dirt just like Julian. But lately it’s ok if I do strange things to her.

I have been on Cloud Nine all day, yall.

You win this round, Princess…

So I had a clever idea – I should ride without stirrups a bit, as a compromise between riding bareback and pounding her back with my buttbones, and riding with stirrups and not improving my balance. Clever, yes? I thought so.

Dixie is in heat again, but – I hesitate to say this and jinx it – but she’s not losing her mind. She wanted to stop and flirt and pee for every horse in the barn, but she didn’t have that crazy edge to her. Perhaps we’re really getting somewhere!

I pulled the stirrups off the old saddle – they hang directly on the bars, so they’ll come completely off – and stuck the saddle on my princess. She patiently waited at the block while I tried to figure out how to get on without stirrups. If she were shorter, or if she wasn’t a living creature, I could’ve made it just fine, but I hesitate to fling myself at her like she’s a rock climbing wall. So I got mad and decided hell with this, I’ll just give her a bath.

I scrubbed at her tail for like 10 minutes – got lots of yellow suds, but no huge visible change overall. Her mane cleaned back up nicely! I put gobs of conditioner in her tail and very gently finger-combed it while it was conditioned, just to get it straightened a bit and get the dead hairs free.

She doesn’t pose well, unfortunately. Also I only really scrubbed her mane and tail. It’s all such a exercise in futility. (Cue ominous foreshadowing music…)
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Sulky stare.
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Then I realized I’d have to come home and blog about how I could not climb on my damn horse – who stood like a ROCK – without any damn stirrups and I decided we’d go for round two. I let her dry off mostly while she hand-grazed, then we went back in and I put the saddle on her again.

If the block was one step taller, no problem. If I was a graceful nymph who could vault lightly up there, no problem. I tried variations on flinging one leg over (got stuck on the cantle) and the belly-flop scramble (stuck in the belly flop). My amazingly patient mare just stood there, kind of confused about this strange new ritual but remarkably content to let me act like a retarded monkey.

Then I got super frustrated and yanked the saddle off her back and went storming back to the tack room, to grab Sara’s saddle and just ride, hell with this no stirrup learn to balance nonsense. When I came back, seconds later… she was on her back.

My wet white horse was on her back in the stanky arena sand.

Rolling. Gleefully. Really grinding it in.

I threw up my hands and put her back in her stall. You win this round, Dixie. Tomorrow is a new day.

Here’s the aftermath:
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Yippie!

I just rode my silly mare BARE BACK. I swear I’m gonna write a big post, with pictures, real soon but I had to tell yall that.