Monday, September 14, 2009

Hunter Pace Day

I am excited like a kid on Christmas morning! I get to the barn early to groom Mira and get everything loaded. Such a pretty mare! Doc loads first then Mira hops on without batting an eye.

The night before I learned there was a change in partners and I would be riding with a different CANTER volunteer with a more experienced horse.

The grounds are lovely and it is not too crowded, a perfect first hunter pace for Mira. With all the excitement Mira reverts a little and takes a few tries before opening her mouth for the bit then it’s off to the warm up ring. I realize in the ring we need more work on moving off my leg but all in all she is very good and we walk, trot and canter. She gets a little upset when Doc leaves the ring for his team but nothing crazy. What I like best about Mira is even if she is not sure
of something she trusts her rider.

Jesse and Mojo show up and our team is off. My plan is to walk, trot and canter, but not jump. This is a big exciting day for Mira and I want all to be positive. Well, we do cheat and walk over one ground pole. We trot and walk for the beginning of the course then are joined by a third CANTER rider. We approach a long stretch of open field and decide to canter. Mira canters beautifully along side the two other horses, calm and steady and slows to a walk when asked.

There are trails, jumps with flags, other horses and two stop points where the horses rest and riders get water. Mira handles everything fine. We canter again and once again she is calm. I am so impressed. The other 2 riders are taking jumps here and there. We have one last stretch of field at the end of the course. We are going to canter again and I did ask for a faster transition, we were heading “home” and one of the horses was a little bit ahead of us so this time Mira took a little hop or two then sped up faster than expected. I smiled a little because she must think she was supposed to catch the horse in front of us! But as soon as I said “easy” and did a little give and take with the reins she slowed down immediately. What an awesome mare she is! Mira was very brave and well behaved. Most of all I think she thoroughly enjoyed herself. Whoever adopts this mare is getting a real gem!

To Jump or Not to Jump

I have not jumped Mira so decide to take her to the big arena before the hunter pace. I set up three jumps, well sort of jumps, at three different areas in the arena. One ground pole, one pole about 5-6” off the ground and then a third pole maybe 7-8” off the ground.

Mira does the first two great at a trot although sloppy with her back feet. She isn’t too sure about the third but does go over. Good Girl! This is where I should have patted her neck and called it a day. But she is so easy and did I mention I used to show hunters? I get a little jump happy and decide the third jump needs to be a little bigger. So…we add a white pole at the base and set it just a smidge higher. As we trot up to the jump I am thinking ooh fun this is more like it! Mira apparently thought it looked more impressive too and decided to swerve around and I ended up slowly falling in the dirt. Not a bad fall just a lose your balance embarrassing kind of fall. Mira stops and looks at me like, “What are you doing?” Ahhh, now I remember what happens when you skip steps with young horses and ask too much too soon. Darn, now I
have to get back on and go over the jump! My bad. We trot again and Mira is an angel and pops over the jump. Thanks Mira for covering my mistake! An extra Stud Muffin that night and realistic jumping expectations from now on.

On another note, some updated photos of Mira!

A Ride in the Pasture

You ride in teams of 2-3 for the hunter pace over a cross country/trail course so our team of 2 decides to hack in a large pasture near our barn for practice then do a short hack after on some open trails.

Mira walks over quietly and we walk, trot and canter in the pasture with Claire and Doc a big Bay OTTB. This is a new place for Mira but she handles it just fine. We decide to ride the horses around the

Mira gets a little nervous at one point when Claire has to dismount to open a gate then walks Doc into a small indoor area to mount. It was bright outside and dark in the indoor so in Mira’s defense it did kind of look like Doc disappeared into a big dark hole! Just a little
confidence building needed.

Then we go on a little hack on some open trails. I see Mira’s ears prick forward like radar at a vehicle parked on the side of the road, but no spook and she calmly walks by. She has been following, but we take the lead for a while after Doc sees something scary. Mira and Doc
make a good team! We turn around and trot on the grass path and Mira is very enthusiastic and enjoying herself but totally responsive to slowing or walking. We are heading towards the barn so I am very proud of her. Another good ride!

Third Ride in the Big Arena

Some of the CANTER riders decide to go to a hunter pace and suggest I take Mira. Let me clarify this will be at a local farm that has a summer riding camp for girls so we are not talking hard core! I realize if I am going to do this I will need to ride Mira more this week so we’re off to the big arena after work. Mira is a trooper walking over. Our CANTER Director Pam comes along to see Mira’s progress and we walk, trot and canter and add trotting over ground poles too.

We are still riding a little later in the evening when I realize the herd is being turned out. Hmmm, hadn’t thought about that? The pastures are directly outside the arena fence. Some of the thirty or so horses that board are turned out in the evening. It probably was a total of about 15-20? horses that were being turned out. How would Mira handle “the herd”? Mira did look at the horses walking, trotting, cantering, some quiet some noisy and was a total pro! Not fazed by the commotion! I get more and more impressed by this mare every ride. She just doesn’t see the need to get worked up over anything.

Second Ride in The Big Arena

A beautiful Summer day so decided to go to the barn after work when it’s cooler and ride Mira again in the big arena. Tacked Mira up and rode over. Unlike some of the other thoroughbreds off the track, Mira does not need longeing before riding, kind if nice!

Rode Mira over this time but the gate was closed and couldn’t maneuver enough on her(gotta work on that backing!)to open the gate so dismounted and got back on standing on a fence(did I mention the fact that I am a “mature” rider?). Mira seemed happy to be working and again responded to voice commands and aides very nicely. We did walk, trot and whoa both directions and some bending and circles. She is building her stamina and really is honest. I wonder what her canter is like? I decide she is doing well enough to try and ask for a canter from a trot. What an awesome mare! Very comfortable canter and so calm and steady and lowers her head nicely. I am so happy with this mare! Did someone say Stud Muffin?

First Ride in The Big Arena!

The barn where our CANTER horses are boarded has a round pen, trails and a large outdoor arena across the street at a second larger barn which boards 30 or so horses.

To get to the big arena you have to walk in between two pastures, cross a road, walk on a path along an even bigger pasture next to the road then go in between two barns to get to the arena. In other words, many scary things for an OTTB!

I hand walked Mira over for our first ride and she was alert looking around but very trusting and willing to please. She stopped to look twice, but then moved forward when I asked. She stood still for mounting and walked calmly on the rail in both directions. We did some circles at a walk, walked and whoa, then trotted in both directions. Such a good girl!

I decided to ride her back to the barn and she was calm. She got a little looky when a large truck drove by and did seem relieved to see her galpals in the pasture but such a calm good girl! Lots of Stud Muffins today!

Our First Ride in the Round Pen!

Mira has been so calm to work with and is longeing under tack so I decide it’s time to ride her. Our first ride was in the round pen. She stood like a champ for mounting and acted like she had done this forever. Mira stayed on the rail and was responsive to voice commands and didn’t get funny when I applied light leg pressure. She has a naturally low headset and is so level headed! We walked and trotted and she was very well behaved. Surprise of the day…she has a very nice
“jog” and is extremely comfortable to sit to. I wonder will she always be this easy?