Windy and brisk - the sun was trying, but not having much luck. I think it might have crept into the 40's, just, but it was already dipping into the 30's when I headed for the farm.
Tonight was our first indoor lesson. I warmed up (relatively speaking) in the outdoor arena, but at lesson time Eric stuck his head out of the barn and asked if I wanted to ride inside.
The indoor arena is about 1/3 the side of the outdoor, and Sunny's been under a roof about three times in his whole life. He hesitated at the big sliding door of the barn when Eric slid it back for us, but stepped up onto the concrete when I asked him. We proceeded down the aisle, with him eyeballing the horses in their stalls on either side and waiting for the ceiling to fall on him. He wasn't any too sure about shadows we cast along the walls in the indoor at first, either, but I walked him once around to check out the corners and he settled right down.
This week we tried something new - haunches in. And after a few odd fits and starts, we got the hang of it. Poor Sunny - he tries really hard, but half the time I'm still sending the wrong signals, so things turn into a giant muddle more often than not. So from haunches in, I was supposed to cue him to canter - which he was supposed to pick up. Sigh...
You'd think we'd be getting it by now, but what a mess - after several sprawly, ugly departures and dropped-inside-shoulder, corner-cutting circles, Eric found me a dressage whip to tap him on the butt with. That worked a bit better, but once he was moving I kept worrying about him charging out of the indoor and down the barn aisle - which I don't honestly think he wanted to do, he just wanted to keep looking in that direction in case there was something out there that might attack him - so I kept unintentionally shutting him down.
It doesn't help that all of the bad habits I'm finally getting fixed at the walk and trot resurface with a vengence as soon as I think about cantering. I get stiff, forget to breathe, drop my inside shoulder, give away my hands and automatically start leaning forward. Once I finally managed to sit back, keep my hands quiet, and started trusting him NOT to tear off down the barn aisle, he stopped flattening and leaning so much - go figure. We stopped on a good effort - by which point in the warmer air Sunny was good and sweaty.
Wrap-up was more half-pass practice. I'm still screwing that up as well, but at least I'm finally figuring out where my legs go - now if I could just get them both in the right place at the right time!
All things considered, it wasn't much worse than a few of our outside attempts, but at some point we need to get this canter thing clicking.
It's occasionally discouraging to watch Eric on a horse he's ridden a handful of times that's already sidepassing and loping around in lovely, easy circles - but considering Sunny's learning right along with me, we're making good progress.
By the time I'd walked him for half an hour or so he was starting to dry (and I was getting dizzy). Outside it was dark, but the temps were holding steady at just south of 40' and the wind had completely died down. I was pleased - no, make that thrilled - to find Thunder a) still tied to the trailer, b) no scuffs on horse or trailer, and c) no big hole from pawing. In fact, his halter wasn't even pulled tight. Good boy! I unsaddled, snugged Sunny into his new cooler, picked out his feet, and loaded them up.
It was an uneventful haul home this week, at least - and the cooler worked a treat - back at the farm Sunny was dry underneath but for a damp strip behind his front legs where the girth runs. Rubber curry to rub out the last of the sweaty bits, a good brushing everywhere else, and he was almost back to completely fluffy. Definitely a good investment.