Aero’s Diary

(or should I be calling this “Riding Diary?”  Eh, wait, no, that might attract unwanted attention!)

Sat/Sun Nov 3rd/4th
Once again, we had a fairly dreary weekend, weatherwise.  We could have ridden, it would have been just like riding at home, but we didn’t – why travel 2000km to ride in wind and rain and fog?

Monday was a gorgeous day, a little windy, but nice and sunny.  I spent the morning at Forcalquier market with Granny and the afternoon with my Boys.

I rode both in the arena.  Flurry was as sane and sensible as ever, but a little heavy on the forehand.  My plan was just to do half an hour or so, but I think it was more like fifty minutes because I was enjoying him so much.

Next up was Aero.  This time, I decided to forgo the lunging.  It seems like he’s just getting silly when I lunge him, anyway, and the lunging ring now seems to be a “let’s get really excited and wound up” location, so I’m going to keep him out of it for a while.  If he starts getting excited and tense while he’s being ridden, I might be more likely to  calm him down if I’m on his back, rather than if I’m on the ground in a “driving on” position – maybe.  I can always jump off and lunge or lead him around him if he’s getting silly, anyway.

Seriously. Do I look carnivorous?

It worked!  I tacked him up, took him up to the outdoor, led him round once in each direction and mounted.  Sure, he was tense, he kept looking suspiciously into the woods that surround the arena, waiting for lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) to jump out and eat him.  Fortunately, that didn’t happen, nor did Little Donkey emerge from the trees, with slavering jaws, a knife and fork in each hoof and “Aero á la Provençale” on his menu.

Nope, all was calm and peaceful.  We did a lot of walk work and some trot work, and a little canter, too, once when he misunderstood a trot request and once when an invisible horse-eating ogre came too close to the arena fence.

They got another day off on Tuesday, it was Granny’s last day and the weather was good, so we spent the day touring near Forcalquier.

On Wednesday, I took Flurry for a hack – the one where both his boots came off.  I took Aero into the arena again, and he was better again than the previous time, much less suspicious of everything, although we did have one little argument :

    “I can’t possibly bend to the right in trot on a 15M circle” 
    “Oh yes you can”
    “No!” (punctuated with little sideways skip/headshake) 
   “Yes!” (punctuated with sharp tap from right heel)
   “Well ok then…”

I’m keeping everything as easy as I can, for my sake as well as Aero’s.  The arena is on quite a slope, the footing is very deep on the downhill side and variable in the middle – we’d be trotting along on fairly firm going and then find ourselves going through a deep patch.  I find this more difficult to cope with on Aero than on Flurry, so when I know we’re approaching a deep or downhill bit, I half-halt or sometimes even do a downward transition followed by an upward transition to help him get his hocks underneath him.  I also have to focus very much on sitting up straight – tipping forward is a big fault I have, and it’s impossible to keep a horse balanced if you’re not controlling your own centre of gravity.  I can really feel my soggy tummy muscles working when I ride him!

We worked on bending – serpentines, circles – in walk and trot, a little bit of leg-yielding and had a couple of canters, too.  He seems to stay more balanced in canter, but I have a feeling he’s doing a very conservative, going-nowhere canter.

It’s great that we are making steady progress.  I think I will ask Alexandrine for a lesson soon – once I’m a little fitter and less likely to make a complete eejit of myself!

I was sick on Thursday with a migraine, so I wimped out on riding.  I did go visit the boys, picked out their feet, messed about with boots etc.

I decided to do arena with both horses again, Flurry first as usual.  He’s getting better and better, I was really pleased with him.  He’s struggling with canter in the deep patches but otherwise was super.  I did about fifteen minutes with no stirrups and felt much more balanced as a result – must do more of that.

Then it was Aero’s turn.  Apart from the horrified stare when we passed Little Donkey, he was his normal self going down to be tacked up.  He got tenser coming back to the arena, though – I have no idea why.  Still, after our success on Wednesday, I was confident and prepared to mount him.  Then I spotted someone walking towards me – it was the owner of the Lusitano filly, who had come to collect her.  We chatted for a moment, and I assured her that Aero wouldn’t be disturbed when she took the filly away.

Famous last words.  I toyed with the idea of leading Aero around the arena once on either rein, just to settle him, but decided I didn’t want to look like a Nervous Nellie in front of a stranger.  How stupid can I be?

I mounted.  Aero felt ok – until he saw his next door neighbour being led away.  He got more and more tense, staring anxiously into the woods, at the jumps at the side of the arena, at the laneway down which the filly had disappeared.  I kept as calm as I could and kept asking him to turn and bend, riding circles and loops  – I figured it would a) keep his brain occupied and b) help him stretch and relax his body which might relax his mind.

Eventually I asked him to trot.  BOOM – explosion!  A minor one, I’ll admit, but I don’t like ANY explosions!  With a squeal and a head shake, he leaped sideways and plunged a couple of times.  My first thought was to get off and free-lunge him there and then.  My second thought was CRAP I’ve asked for trot, I’m going to have to get some sort of acceptable trot out of him before I bail out and free lunge him.  So I insisted, and we got a jerky, tense, spooky couple of circles at trot.  Phew!  I halted, patted him, dismounted, ran up the stirrups, tied up the reins and gently sent him off.

Off he went, flat out, head up, tail up, snorting wildly.  I kept him moving for about five minutes (very, very hard work for an unfit 50 year old in a 20 x 60 arena!) until he seemed less hysterical.  What I found interesting was that he wasn’t staying away from the “scarey” end of the arena, in fact he seemed to want to spend time down that end.

Ok Mrs G, I thought, get your ass back up there and go again.

So I did.  He wasn’t perfect – was still a bit anxious about the woods and the jumps at the side of the arena – but we got better and better, and I think we ended up doing the best work we’ve done together since our arrival in France.  We worked on shoulder-in, with the intention of helping loosen him up.  He was good to the left but was struggling with it to the right, so my decision is made, it’s time to get the osteopath out.  Maybe his behaviour will improve as well as his suppleness!  HaHa!

As I left on Friday evening, the hill top was completely fogged in, and as I descended into the valley, the fog turned to rain.  The rain settled in for the next 36 hours, so, no, we didn’t hack out on Saturday.

The cloud and rain cleared quickly on Sunday, and we made our way up the hill to the horses after an early lunch.  Sure enough, they were both filthy, but dry, so we cleaned off the tack areas, saddled and booted up and set off, the LSH on Flurry and me on Aero (Aero isn’t up to the LSH’s weight, not that he’s fat or anything, Aero’s just a weed!).

We stuck to a known route through the forest which has well surfaced trails – after all that rain, anywhere that wasn’t well covered in stone or gravel was like a skating rink, especially for Flurry, who seems more prone to slipping than the average horse.

I was delighted with Aero.  I rode him on a completely loose rein for almost the whole ride.  At the start, his head was up, he was looking around and his walk felt short and choppy, but after about twenty minutes, I could feel his strides lengthen and his body loosen up.

Aero’s tense ears at the start

I think he is really learning from Flurry, too.  Flurry goes along like a Western horse, on the buckle end of the rein most of the time, but his head is down, his back is rounded and he is concentrating, especially on the uphill stretches.

The LSH, Flurry and some Autumn colour

We had a long, slow incline to cover, and after about five minutes of gentle climbing, Aero stretched down his head and neck and walked along like Flurry.  He stayed in that relaxed but concentrating state for ages, until we were about five minutes away from home, when he started rushing a little.

Flurry, for reasons known only to himself, got quite worried about ten minutes from home.  We were in an area that was very familiar to him, but he was tense and anxious and unwilling to go forward (towards home).  We concluded that he heard or smelt something, deer or wild boar, maybe, but Aero remained oblivious to it all and strolled along happily.  Yay!

All in all it’s been a mostly good week with Aero.  Next time I see Alexandrine, I will ask her about getting the osteopath out, but, until then, I’ll keep working away gently (hear that, Aero? GENTLY!)

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