Monday, April 14, 2008

How to Relax on a Sunday

I haven't ridden horseback since I moved out here from northeastern North Carolina in January 2005. So when my friend Darci asked if I wanted to go for a ride, I said "Sure!" and we set up Sunday for the big event. In preparation, I dug through my trunks looking for a pair of riding breeches (no seams are a good thing when you're planning to spend lots of time in the saddle on a trail ride), and the good news is that I can still fit in them!

I got to Darci's place around noon and found that I would be riding their buckskin quarter horse mare Cocoa. She was a very sweet girl (after she finally allowed Darci to catch her anyway). We brushed (you know, I don't think there's anything more relaxing than grooming a horse, and I've spent many, many hours grooming) and tacked up and off we went. (Okay, I had to get used to the idea of riding Western, since I was raised on hunter/jumper ponies and later in my show career turned to dressage, with very little Western sprinkled in when I showed for a woman who wanted me to do English and Western pleasure and dressage, oh, and a little sidesaddle too!) Three hours later, I had enjoyed the conversation and the scenery but my tailbones were telling me it was time to stop! Surprisingly, I am not very sore this morning, so the muscle memory must still be there.

Darci lives near Raven Rock Park (http://www.stateparks.com/raven_rock.html) and apparently you can ride horses in the park. I'm hoping we can do that some too, because where we rode near the edges of the park was absolutely lovely.

By the time we were nearing the end of the ride, Darci's mare had injured a rear hoof, so we had to run into Sanford for an EasyBoot (after Darci's DH Bobby cauterized the bleeding). Darci says she's fine today, but I guess it will be a few weeks before we can take them out again.

I had brought Lark, Pip, and Phoebe with me, and although it was getting late and chores at home were calling to me (as in it would be nice to get them done before dark, which I didn't), I decided to give them each a turn on Darci's hair sheep (three ewes and I don't know how many lambs). The sheep were very light and there was a strong draw to one corner of the pasture (where the ram and a still-pregnant ewe were housed), but even so I was quite pleased with how everyone worked. Pip has really started listening and giving me gears when I ask while he's fetching or driving. In fact, given that Twist is coming up lame intermittently, I might put Pip in a couple of her runs at the cattle trial next weekend. He's not actually ready for an open-sized course, but his inside flanks are definitely shaping up (it helps that he takes the stop before the flank most of the time now), with reluctance to take them yesterday based solely on the pressure in the field, and even then he took the flank I asked for most of the time. Phoebe seems to be going through a bit of a confidence crisis (at least that's what it looked like on Saturday at Tony and Mary's place), so I used the opportunity of light sheep and a fence line to give her a boost on her driving. With Lark I just worked on her flanks and then practiced a bit of shedding. She was coming through pretty nicely, although we're going to have to work on that whole "wrong flank" thing. She's had a problem with mixing up her flanks and so when I ask for a flank of she gives me the wrong one, I stop her and ask again, repeating until she gets it right (assuming she didn't get it right after the first stop). Well, border collies being what they are, when we're working on shedding and I flank her and stop her sometimes she thinks she's being stopped because she's taken a wrong flank when in fact all I want is a stop. So the extra flanking she does makes for a rougher shed, but I haven't done a lot of shedding with her and I think once she figures out the job of shedding, the confusion over "lie down" meaning lie down vs. an inidcator that she's taken a wrong flank will work itself out. I did some exercises where we started to push the shed sheep back to the rest of the group and then when they saw the others and started to hurry toward them I flanked her around to catch them and she caught on to that really fast. Whew! One thing I worry about with her breeding is a tendency to widen flanks under pressure, but so far she's been great about coming in and focusing on the sheep at hand to keep them apart rather then winging out wide to gather everyone back together. Overall I was very pleased with the work of all three youngsters yesterday.

Now I just need to get working on dog-breaking my karakul yearlings here--as in making them my new round pen sheep that are suitable for starting beginner dogs on. That should be entertaining! Well, and two of them need to be halter trained in the next two weeks so that they are ready to show at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival the first weekend in May. But halter training will have to wait until after my overnight trip to Atlanta (Kings Mountain actually) tomorrow. No doubt those six ewes that are yet to lamb will choose Tuesday night and Wednwsday to do so, since I won't be around....

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