A rainy April Saturday–horse and union stuff

The brief flirtation with warm and sunny here in PDX went wandering off the past few days. Being as it’s a set of spring storms, though, the weather fronts come through as intense showers rather than anything that can last for hours (except up at work, where the cold driving rain seemed to go on all afternoon). Last night I took advantage of the time and the relatively mild early evening to finish off waxing skis and getting them loaded up for skiing on Sunday. It’s nicer to scrape skis with the garage door open, and it’s almost like being outside.

Today was about seven hours of Pre-RA meetings–preliminary introduction to the various issues we’re going to discuss at the OEA Representative Assembly (the governing body of the Oregon Education Association–teacher union stuff, IOW). It’s my second year doing this, and it’s somewhat like watching sausage being made. I’m watching some future political careers develop, and it’s…interesting in the mix. But–controversial and sobering stuff. We’re balancing our own budget and talking priorities. Arguing over various procedural situations. Looking at a loss of 500 members next year–ouch, that could very well include me.

Yeah. Makes the recent brief flirtation with the idea of Something New even more of a wistful dream.

Afterward, I jumped in the car and drove out to the barn. It’d been light showers out there with heavy rain and lots of puddles at some point. The indoor had good footing but was a little slick, and fortunately I had the place to myself. I threw the snaffle on Mocha, hopped up in the Crates, and we went for a good hard forward schooling ride.

March and April with The Girl are times where I really can’t expect much except mileage from schooling. She’s very distractable, even when she’s not in heat, and quite goofy for her (which is more like mildly goofy in most horses, except that she can get goofy at speed.  Um. Not Fun). I tried her back in the full bridle with the romal last week, and she was pushy, difficult, and not listening. But…the pony stallion is now getting worked in preparation for driving this summer, and she was in full heat, so….

This afternoon was about mileage. The latigo leather reins on my Western snaffle setup are seven feet long, and I cross them over her shoulders.  If I need to, I can flick the dangling length of rein from one side over to pop her on the other–pretty easy flick for me, a move I’ve practiced from childhood. It’s broad, flat, and stings a little, but tends to make more noise than anything else.  The crossing of the reins means that if I want to kick her up to a long two-point extended canter set, I can get her started, pop up in my stirrups, brace my hands on her neck, and off we go. She likes these canter sets, especially in spring, and I just plain like doing them in this bridle set.  The latigo leather has just the right mix of flexibility and thickness in my hands. It takes a lot less pressure to establish contact because it has a bit of signal to it and carries a little bit of its own weight. Gregg introduced me to these reins and I love them to death.

Galloping or extended canter work is also pretty nice in the Crates Reiner. I just dropped my heels hard, got up, and let her go, pushing her into the steady rhythm. Mocha was on edge and wound up after a set of countercanter, tempi changes where I really started asking her to come back to me and not speed up, two tracks, and random direction changes at the trot and canter.

We’re not doing a lot of arena loops just yet. Eventually, we’ll get to the point where we do these canter sets between fussy work, especially as she gets back into the romal and we have to work on the more precise control of the curb. Then she’ll rack up a bit of canter time, including speeding up and slowing down the canter in preparation for large fast circles and small slow circles. What I’m doing right now is just straightforward fitness sets, shooting for a fast, extended, rhythmic canter or lope with me in two-point. Once we get back into the romal, I’ll sit down and we’ll do them like that. I don’t tend to do this sort of work in winter because of footing and other issues–but once spring hits, it’s a lot more canter sets.

It was nice doing the canter sets this afternoon, hitting that smooth extended canter, hands resting on Mocha’s withers, feet braced against the broad Western stirrups, balancing on my legs and working on my leg strength as well as hers. Mocha sprung along smoothly, snorting in her rhythmic highblower pattern (strong exhales matching her hind footfalls, the mark of a horse moving efficiently at canter or gallop). Just sending her forward, seeking a steady, consistent movement. Cantering in two-point also does wonders for the hamstrings.  Just sayin’.

Then drop down to walk, switch directions, long rein big swinging walk to air up, then pick it up in the other direction.

The canter sets work not only for fitness but they discharges Mocha’s tension after a bit of fussy collection work. She has little patience for this type of collection work in the spring, but she needs the work during this season as well.  I finally discovered that letting her blow off her pent-up tension afterwards with a good hard extended canter in both directions not only led to a horse who didn’t get as sore, but she was a lot less fussy about the collected work if she knew that we were likely to have the hard canter sets as part of our final routine. So we do a lot of canter work after the bending, flexing, and collection schooling.

Finally, we took advantage of a break between showers to hack out along the road. She got a bit anxious about the big puddle–bigger than she had ever seen before–and we spent a bit of time splashing through it at walk and trot. Then we ambled down the road and back. Coming back, we took the big puddle at a trot and she calculated, trotted in two strides, then popped off a respectable jump across the deepest section of the puddle, neat as can be.

And afterwards, after a nice roll, she had a good hard grooming while she relaxed and mooched treats. It’s nice to have a horse who likes to get out and do stuff, and Mocha is one who definitely likes to go and to work.

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