Remember when I said omeprazole was ordered so hopefully that wouldn’t be a long time coming? Definitely jinxed it. It’s been on back order; hopefully it will be here on Friday.
I say hopefully because the last three or so rides with Joker have been… interesting. We settled into a groove in late November as long as he wasn’t the only horse being ridden indoors. At the beginning of December, we went on our first trail ride with a group from the barn and he did super. You could tell he really loved being ridden out as opposed to indoors. We went about 3 1/2 miles in an hour (there were people in the group who were only comfortable with walking) but it was heavenly to me.
Last week, I rode him three days – two nights in the indoor plus one mini trail ride. Each ride was progressively more tense. I had a half-day at work last Friday so another lady and I decided to take advantage and go for a trail ride in the same area as before. It took me a solid five minutes to get Joker off the property – he just planted his feet and said “No, thanks.” I tried an opening rein, pony club kick, circling, zig zagging, letting the other horse go first. Nothing. Finally, I think he just got tired of me and moved off. He wasn’t up or tense when we set out but when we got to the field across the way, he checked out. The trail ride only lasted half an hour because his behavior was frightening the other lady. To me, he wasn’t being a nightmare (I spent almost a decade riding green beans). But to be fair, he was jigging and being looky and pulled some hard stops every once in a while. I told her I was fine and that I would definitely let her know if I felt like we were in any danger. This was this lady’s third trail ride I later learned so that explained her apprehension. Joker was pretty lathered when we got back; note that he didn’t break a sweat on our first trail ride and it was twice as long.
I gave Joker the next day off and went back out on Sunday with another woman from the barn who agreed to trail ride with me. It’s been 60 degrees in December (Northern Indiana) which is ridiculous so I wanted to take advantage of it. We went a different route and Joker was slightly jumpy but much better although he spent most of the ride pretty up though. We got caught in the rain so headed back to the barn to finish our ride. Joker was tense and bracey inside so I tried to do some suppling exercises and used some trot poles. He improved after a while so I called it quits.
He got Monday off which brings us to Tuesday night’s ride. He was in the cross ties alone again which seems to be happening a lot lately. He pawed and weaved but didn’t rear. He was pretty squirmy to tack up and gave me some hard looks when I was slowly tightening his girth (anyone else hearing the screaming ULCERS yet).
Someone else was just leaving the arena (with a super cute Oldenburg gelding) when we got in and Joker was none too pleased. I worked with him on the ground a little first on the lunge and then yielding various parts of his body. He was a little up but listening.
So I got on. And sigh. And ow.
He was a freight train. He was yanking my arms out of their sockets for the whole 30 minutes. He acted like he wanted to be a run away train so I decided, why not, I’ll just let him go. So up into a canter we went (it’s really too small to gallop) and I pushed him out and while he grunted and stayed stiff, he didn’t let any squirrels out. So we trotted some then cantered some and I tried to work in a lot of transitions to get his mind and body unwound.
Nothing. I could hear him grinding his teeth (in a hackamore) and his back was like a two by four it was so stiff. He was spooking at things that have been in there since he’s been at this barn and tried to outright bolt twice. I’ve never heard a horse grunt almost the entire ride. And grind their teeth without a bit in their mouth. When I could finally walk him a lap without him trying to boot scoot, I called it a night. And immediately texted Elise, “Please tell me the omeprazole is off back order soon.”
It sounds really rough but in reality I’ve been having so much fun. We’ve had some pretty bad days but we’ve had some good ones sprinkled in too. Being back in the saddle has been like coming home. Even when I’m having to get after him or preparing for sillies, I’m having a blast. My body somehow remembers all of this. Sure, I’m no equitation queen and may never be again, but I know I’m not riding like a complete sack of potatoes and I’m really proud of that. My husband has come out once or twice and taken video and I kind of do a double take. Is that my stable lower leg? Wait, my toes aren’t turned out at the canter? Hold on, he looks that nice going around? It’s really reaffirming.
I’m not a personal trainer so take this with a grain of salt but I’m attributing my relatively quick acclimation to riding again to the hard, hard work I’ve put in at the gym over the past two years. While I haven’t been able to ride much before Joker since college, I’ve been hitting the gym hard. Five days a week at 5AM. I lift weights and I run and I do some exercises my physical therapist gave me to strengthen my hip flexors for riding (she rides too). I’m no body builder but I’ve spent two years methodically lifting and conditioning myself.
And damn, I gotta say, I’m not as weak as I thought I would be in the saddle. It was mainly about getting the balance right and the minute feeling of where to put/move/keep your body in different gaits, to ask for leg yields, etc. I still have a long ways to go to be technically correct again and that’s ok.
If the omeprazole comes on Friday like it’s supposed to, we’ll start Joker on it over the weekend. I’m going to give him a week off (the weather is finally getting back to season normal 30’s) from riding but go out and spend some down time with him. Hopefully after a week, when I go to ride him next, his tummy will be feeling a lot better. Fingers crossed because I hate fighting him, especially when I’m 99% sure he’s in some degree of belly pain.
On a much happier note, husband agreed that we could drive up so I could ride Nibbles this weekend. I haven’t seen her in person since the show in September and I haven’t ridden her since July (!?!?!!). I’m out of my mind excited. First of all, I feel completely prepared because I’ve been riding several days a week. I know I can do this. Second, I get to ride my horse. Third, I’ve never cantered her before (when I backed her, we only made it through walk and trot before she went to Elise) and I’m super, super excited to feel it. Fourth, I get to ride my horse. Fifth, MY HORSE.