I arrived to the barn on Tuesday night at well after 6:30. Only one other person was there, and she was just walking out the door. I wished her a good night and started getting set up on the crossties. May watched me from her stall door as I grabbed all of her things, making sure she didn’t miss an opportunity for more hay I’m sure.
She was perfect on the crossties with none of the sass that had been apparent on Saturday, so far so good. I opted out of using my ogilvy halfpad. I really like it for a lot of reasons, but I feel like with May it tends to “mute” me sometimes. My body becomes less effective as a half halt, so I have been bouncing back and forth between using it and not using it. After Saturday’s ride, I figured it would be good to leave it in my tack trunk for now.
I originally figured we would ride inside, as I wanted to get a full 45 minutes ride in. However, by the time I was done tacking it, it was still really light out, so outside we went!
Most of the jumps were set up very small, maybe 2’, but height isn’t really our issue at this point, so I left them alone. We worked on some manners while mounting. May has a bad habit of walking off while I am getting on, and I tend to just let her do it. Definitely something to work on more regularly. This time I decided to try incorporating treats when I get on: one for standing by the mounting block, one for standing after I get on. May of course loves this tactic, but I am hoping it just helps her understand what I want without a tug of war when I get on.
Our warm up started with some walk/halt and trot/walk transitions until May was really listening. Before we cantered, we popped over a small crossrail and I just let her canter away. So far so good. From there, I just stayed up in my 2-point and let her cruise around a little hunter course. I kept my hands buried in her neck and let her figure out where to take off from. She went to pull me to the one oxer, so then we circled. I immediately put my hand back on her neck, let her settle back into the rhythm and approached it again. May had not issue and loped over the oxer.
Since she was so good, I didn’t really push the jumping, and I went back to the Dressage work. I got a nice, uphill forward canter, and then I just asked May to make the canter bigger. This was hard and our “extension” was barely noticeable, but she kept the rhythm and the shape, so I was happy. Unfortunately, the sun went down a bit quicker than expected, so it ended up being a 30 minutes ride instead of a 45 minutes one. Oh well, it was a very good one.
Ideally, I would never ride alone at night, but that is just part of the reality of having a horse and being an 8-6 employee. However, I do take a lot more precautions when riding by myself that I wouldn’t necessarily do if other people were around. (to note, my barn does have cameras that my trainer can monitor from her house and there is a house on the property that would notice if the whole barn was still lit up late at night.)
1. I let people know where I am. Typically, this is my dad and my fiance. They know that if they don’t hear from me by a certain time, then they need to try to get in contact with me.
2. I keep my phone close. Some days, I ride with my phone in my pocket, but a lot of days it’s just not practical. Also, I am afraid I would land on my phone and not be able to use it after that. I do wear my fitbit, which will vibrate and let me know if someone is calling. This is good if it is my dad or fiance checking in.
3. I bought the right horse. I specifically bought a horse that was not explosive, unpredictable, or young. On my (very short) list of needs for a horse was that I needed to be comfortable riding it at night by myself. If behavior starting popping up that made me uncomfortable, May would be put in full training for at least 30 days, and I would only ride on the weekend or when someone else was there.
4. I close all gates. Typically, the gate to our outdoor arena is left slightly ajar. May and I haven’t had a problem with it since she tried to run out of it at our first lesson, but when I am by myself, I absolutely shut that gate every time I get on. It’s not worth the risk and it’s not a fight I would want to have with her again by myself.
5. I set easy obtainable goals. This is not the time to try and teach my horse flying changes or how to jump through a massive gymnastic. This is a time to get the proper bend off my left leg and get her connected through the outside aids, which as we all know, can take an entire session some days.
6. I take my time on my ground. My job is stressful, my drive often involves a lot of traffic and bad drivers, and I am often tired by the time I get to the barn. However, I make myself move a bit slower at night by myself. It helps me focus on my horse on the ground. Is there anything in her behavior that makes me think we should lunge first or just have a lazy bareback day? Does she seem overly concerned about me pulling her blanket off? Barrelling forward without paying attention to these types of things definitely gets people hurt.
7. I enjoy it. My rides are better when I am in a good mood, so I enjoy my rides. The first couple of laps around the ring are on a loose rein just enjoying moseying around a bit. I understand this approach can be a total disaster for some horses, but both May and I enjoy starting out this way. I like being able to set up whatever pole exercises I want or to work on perfect circles without having to worry about running anyone over.