Dreary and grey, with on and off drizzle that I kept hoping would turn into actual rain. It was just wet enough to make the pasture too soft to ride (don't want to dig divots in the new grass), so I didn't ride, just checked on the boys. Their heads popped out of the bale as soon as I turned into the driveway and they headed up to meet me at the gate. I think they were hoping for another grazing session, but unfortunately I was running behind.
At Eric's I pulled in and parked to the sight of a big red dump truck half full of rubble and the beeping, revving sounds of a forklift's back-up warning competing with the crack and crunch of concrete at war with hydraulics. Apparently it was time for the old barn foundation next to the outdoor arena to come out. It wasn't dying easy.
I must have spent half an hour or better just brushing Buddy, who enjoyed a couple of days off and is completely back to sound. He's shedding drifts of ruddy winter coat. He leaned into the rubber curry wriggling his nose and sidling toward me whenever I paused to clean balls of hair out of the brush teeth. Shedding is itchy!
I dug my 48" girth out of storage after last week's lesson, and was pleased to find that it's just the right length. Much better than pulling Sunny's 52" clear up to what feels like his ears. I also set him up with a bridle of his own: an old plain leather headstall with an copper-mouth, eggbutt snaffle bit and split reins - I can always use one of Eric's, but this way I don't have to dig through the tack rack and readjust to fit his tiny little head every time I ride him.
Since it wasn't actually raining and the indoor was pretty muggy, I opted for an outdoor lesson even with the added challenge of heavy equipment in close proximity. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right?
I was encouraged by the fact that neither Buddy, nor Jackson - beautiful black stallion with long flowing mane & tail that Eric was riding - seemed particularly put off by the commotion. Nevertheless, Buddy was definitely UP. I don't think he's ever going to do a believably steady-Eddy impression, but I'm taking some comfort in the fact that he doesn't feel nearly as hot on top as he looks from the sidelines. I just need to ride him, not look at him. Initially he was Mr. Antsy-Dance-y complete with head-shaking and flying slobber, but overall he was also much softer and more consistent than he's been.
We did a lot of transition work. English Pleasure horses are encouraged to do every thing BIG, so Buddy's gradually learning not to BURST into a trot. We did lots of collected walk to sitting trot to working trot and then back down through sitting trot to walk. We also practiced stopping softly and then walking off calmly on both a loose rein and a collected walk. And gathering up from a loose-rein walk to a collected walk without charging off into a big trot. (I figure, if Sunny can learn to reach down for the bit and collect as soon as I sit up and squeeze my legs around him, before I even start to gather the reins, Buddy should certainly be able to.)
I rode through three big spooks brought on by the BOOOM! of concrete hitting the dump truck behind us. Assuming Eric's correct that they were typical of Buddy's response when he's badly startled, I shouldn't have any problems staying with him. He doesn't do that nasty drop-a-foot-and-simultaneous-sideways-levitation spook that leaves riders hanging out there in mid air, and he comes back right away, so it was all good. Rufus is MUCH worse. But definitely good to find out in a lower stress and less potentially embarrassing location than the show ring.
We finished on a couple of rounds of working trot that Eric said he couldn't find a fault with. Whee! Next week I start riding Buddy twice a week. Eric's going to keep working him a couple of days to continue getting his canter backed down, and I'm going to concentrate on more of what we've been doing at the walk and trot, building muscle strength and reinforcing consistency.