Category Archives: 2020 riding log

Riding log days 23 and 24

I’m getting a bit lazy about keeping up with these things. Nonetheless, riding is happening.

Day 23–3/16/2020. Western saddle and short shank curb, pasture ride

Today we rode with a couple of other people. I didn’t do much schooling and Mocha was full of herself, snorty and energetic. But we did two track at all three gaits, practiced getting over the making of faces and pinning of ears at horses coming up from behind her, and general light riding.

Day 24–3/18/2020 Western saddle and short shank curb, road ride

Somebody was a little snot for the farrier yesterday while getting the first hind shoes of spring, so today was an attempt to start working her a bit more covering ground. And to celebrate her 20th birthday. She was on her toes and full of herself today, and even after four and three-quarters miles that included trotting and then walking up a steep hill, she was still energetic and full of herself. I have thoughts about her birthday, but that’s a different post.

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Riding log in the time of pestilence…day 22

3/12/2020. Western tack, pasture work.

Another bright sunny day, though the wind was sharp, indicating that we’re going to be getting a colder turn of weather this weekend. Mocha’s shedding has slowed down after the first application of the shedding blade. That’s probably a good thing. She’s drowsing nicely at the hitching rail while I groom her, though again, the PIGS did something to set both her and the mare on layup off.

She definitely moves more confidently through the mud with Western tack on. I’m not sure if that’s due to the distribution of weight by that evil, evil Western saddle* or if it’s the back cinch. Either way, it’s a distinct difference that seems to show up in mud.

*I just left a dressage group on Facebook after going through a round of “reining is evil, Western saddles are horrible, and the horse in that video is horribly abused” (based on a liberty video that was clearly a retired older horse that hasn’t been in regular training and has something going on, whether it’s navicular, hocks, or PSSM-2 variant). Of course, I guess that “classical dressage” or at least that brand of “classical dressage” can’t tolerate any variant from a certain type of horse and particular aspect of riding discipline. When the guru of the group chimed in with how evil reining is, welp, that was the handwriting on the wall and I left. Thankfully, I know that these people aren’t the end-all, be-all of the world of dressage, though I’m sorely disappointed because I had a lot of respect for said guru. That’s diminished now thanks to the closed-mindedness demonstrated by said guru who jumped right into the bashing.

So anyway, we did serpentine work in the Evil Western Saddle!!!! and Evil Short-Shanked Curb!!!!!. Mocha was moving a little short in her right shoulder at the jog, but a spell of working serpentines at all three gaits seemed to bring her out of it. She’s still full of beans but is listening and not pulling, which is one of her habits when she starts feeling that spring goodness. Flying changes seemed to be NBD today, even the left to right which can be problematic when she’s stiff. But then, by that point she wasn’t moving short at the jog, either. We also did two-track at walk and trot, backing in a figure 8, and bowties. Then there was a stretch of transition work. She’s getting sharper at transitions again, now that we’ve been schooling them, and she’s moving off the seat and leg better.

At the end I let her gallop because the footing was pretty good. She stretched out more than she has for a long time, still accelerating as we approached the fence. I think she tends to run harder in the Western saddle.

Oh, and I found my lost phone. No idea if it works yet. Unlikely since it’s been buried in a snowbank for a couple of months.

Anyway, at the end we did a few spins. Mocha gets pretty excited about those now that we’re doing them at the end of the ride. Oh wait. I forgot. We did the EVIL SPINS!!!!! (yes, the Guru and the followers were ranting about how ugly spins looked, how awful they were, and of course they are unnatural unlike canter pirouettes) and she was excited about doing them. Yeah, I guess I’ve got her all routinized and brainwashed and programmed. Never mind that this horse is a seeker of patterns (a mindset I think is pretty common amongst any Western pattern horse) and that once we start doing something like serpentines or other pattern work, she starts anticipating the next move. Of course their dressage darlings never ever do anything like that….right? I’ve brainwashed my horse…hah! I still remember several sessions when she decided that she knew better than me what we were supposed to be doing, and blew through leg, seat and hand to go in the opposite direction from what I was cueing her to do…yeah.

And then we did tight serpentines on our way back to the gate because my brainwashed horse was still energetic and raring to go…. yeah, well, I’d been getting diminishing returns from that group anyway.

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Riding log–day 21

3/1/2020. Western saddle, curb bit, pasture ride.

Still bouncing back from being sick. But today was the first hot date of the season with the shedding blade, and the attempt to answer the eternal question…”is it a Quarter Horse or a big Shetland Pony?”

I got two big piles of hair off of Mocha, enough to make up two rabbits worth–and American Standard-sized rabbits, no MiniLops or Holland Lops. She enjoyed the scratching of the blade with half-lowered, blissed out eyes. Although at one point the mare on layup decided that the PIGS had done something snort-worthy, which set Mocha off as well.

All the same, after I shed the jacket because hey, today it’s spring, we set out through the mud in quest for some decent footing. Spring mud is not a novelty; the old barn had a drippy roof with slick spots so we’re both used to it. But it’s easier to deal with in the Western saddle, at least right now. We did a lot of serpentines at all three gaits–first time at the lope for a while. But hey, we had flying changes (kinda sorta a couple of times) and no irregular weirdnesses on either lead.

Mostly, though, we worked at a jog. Mocha’s back to being pretty catty in tight turns at the jog so the shoulder appears to have gotten through the worst of the winter without flaring too badly. We also worked in the bowtie at the jog, did two-track at walk and trot, and the forehand haunches turn lines. We also worked on transitions, and ow, ow, ow. They need work. Both of us need tuning up when it comes to that. OTOH, that seems to be a common March issue, so…I’m figuring things will improve as we work. They did as we went through the ride.

I’m still not pushing myself real hard with the recovery part. But it felt good to be breathing fresh mountain air, in the shadow of snow-covered peaks. Mocha is settling nicely into regular work again, which is nice to see. I’m very happy that we’re back to the type of work she was doing before the white line disease. Maybe I should have asked for it from her sooner, but somehow I just don’t think she was really ready until last year. Well, she was sick for a while, there, and had joints fusing. It makes sense.

In any case, it was a lovely spring ride and at the end of it I decided that she was more Quarter Horse than Shetland. Which works for me.

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The catching up riding log post–days 18, 19, and then sick before day 20

Yeah. I kinda slipped there after the first post after coming back from RadCon and the flying trip to Portland. I was going to write up days 18 and 19, and then bam! Got knocked flat on my butt with what I think is the flu but who knows?

Anyway, day 18 was 2/24/2020 and day 19 was 2/26/2020. Snaffle and English saddle, road rides, and the dragon was snorting. The roads are wet and soft right now and were better footing for work at trot and canter than the icy field. She was full of herself and wanting to go. I had vowed to myself that the next ride was going to involve the Western saddle and the short-shank curb. Someone was going to get her little brown rear end ridden off because she was full of herself and raring to go.

Yeah. Excellent plan. Except that when the next riding day rolled around, I was flat on my back sick. Fever and chills, headache, bodyache. Some mucus production in my nose with lovely post-nasal drip. I lay in bed for three days straight, sucking down as much water as I could, taking Tylenol and Tylenol-3, running the diffuser with OnGuard oil, and occasionally checking my temperature before the next Tylenol dose. At one point it got up to 102.5 F, and I was taking sudafed as well as hitting the asthma rescue inhalers to keep everything clear. When something like this hits, I’m team keep the passages clear as possible simply because a.) congested sinuses in me leads to a nasty circle of infection/allergic reaction to infection/infection etc, etc etc (I am allergic to upper respiratory bacteria) and/or b.) secondary bronchitis infection. So I don’t muck around with it. And I keep track of hydration and temps with my personal criteria of “okay, at this point I go to the doc.” Didn’t help that the news about COVID-19 kept getting more and more dire as I got sicker.

But after three days the fever broke, and then it was pretty much post-infection sucky post-nasal drip, cough cough cough, probable allergies flaring from something as well (I am using inhaled nasal and lung steroids as well as taking Claritin right now, yeah, I got this). Then it was a matter of clearing the brain, which took another two days before I could brain well enough to write.

The last “getting back to semi normal” piece was reminding Miss Mocha that yes, she is an owned horse, and that happened today.

So. Day 20, 3/8/2020. Short shank curb and Western saddle, in the pasture. I got the “who are you” treatment not only from her but the whole herd. Tribute of apples and carrots reminded Mocha that she was an owned horse, though when I tied her to the hitching rail, her head shot up and she stared off toward the pen where there are now, yep, her ultimate nemesis, the PIGS.

Now I already knew about the PIGS because the barn owner had posted pictures of their arrival, complete with a disgusted expression on the face of their neighbor the sheep. Trust me, the sheep let me know of its disapproval of the new neighbors when I arrived, along with sheep’s neighbor, a mare on injury layup who was staring at the pen with an expression matching that of the sheep.

However, grain and then brushing served as a sufficient distraction. I groomed a bunny’s worth of hair off of her, then took her out to the truck and tacked her up, whereupon she once again heard (and smelled) PIGS. She danced out to the field and started blowing big roller snorts. I laughed at her but was damn glad I had the Western tack today. Climbed on, put her on contact right away, and we headed out.

I did not have ambitious schooling plans for today, but with the antics, it was clear than light serpentine schooling at the walk needed to happen to get focus and all. So we did some easy walk serpentines, then crossed to the other side of the field and did a lot of slow jog serpentines and such. Two stretches of easy lope because the footing’s mucky, the line of haunch and forehand turns, and then spins.

A couple of miles shorter than our usual rides, but I’m not pushing. The cool air was good for my cranky nasal passages, and for all that Mocha huffs and puffs like a dragon, after a couple of coughs I think she got the idea that maybe I wasn’t up for big energy. Gotta love a smart mare.

I’m not as wiped out as I feared, but I’m still on the tired side. Gonna be a little sore tomorrow, too. Oh well. Slow and steady. We’ve been through this before, with all the years I spent teaching and picked up various respiratory bugs. There was one time when my cough was so bad she would stop dead while I hacked up a lung–and she was greenbroke at the time. So yeah. Good horse, even if she is a cranky and opinionated old mare.

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Riding log day 17–Feb. 21

Riding log day 17–2/21/2020. Snaffle, English saddle. Melting snow with some ice.

Back to a reasonable approximation of normal life the day after getting back from the RadCon/Portland trip disruption. The horses were up around the fence, and Mocha’s head shot up when I called her while pulling her halter off of the gate. She walked partway to me, then waited because the yearlings had decided to mug me for scratches and beg for cookies. They got their scratches but no cookies. This batch is very friendly and social, and will walk up to me to have their heads scratched as well as their neck and withers. The fact that it’s warming up and that long hair is getting itchy doesn’t hurt, either.

Mocha’s still not releasing any more than a handful of hairs yet, but it’s clear that shedding is not far off. Her coat just has that look. I decided that the next decent sunny riding day is going to start by not just clipping her bridle path but trimming the long hairs on her throatlatch, windpipe, and chest. It’s time, and those are the places that sweat the worst on warmer days with any exertion.

We started off by shooing away a new horse who apparently LOOOOVES Mocha. He nickers at her, tries to follow us, and when she was turned loose, trotted out to join her and her buddy. She seems to tolerate him when it’s just her and Sweetie, but if I’m around and dispensing treats, ear-pinning grouchy mare happens. When we were done discouraging him from trailing along behind us, though, Mocha let it be known that she was in March Mare Mood and did not want to settle into work. She wanted to run. I did let her do two fence lengths of canter, on opposite leads, and March Mare Moment meant she wanted to take the lead SHE wanted to take, so discussions happened. Then we settled into serpentine work at walk and trot, followed by two-tracking before a spell of loose rein. Then we did a decent backing in figure 8. Even though she was grumpy about it, at least this time the circles matched…yay. Followed with spirals in and out and bowties, with appropriate long rein walk spells. Ended with the line of shoulder and haunch turns, and then it was four lengths at the canter. Of course she wanted to insist that the leads were HER choice, not MINE, so we Had A Discussion. All typical March Mare. Ended with spins, still better going to the right than the left.

But she was not gimping like last time, and she had good energy throughout.

I attribute March Mare to itchy skin and seasonal hormonal stuff. She’s sweating enough that combined with hair that’s ready to shed makes her really itchy. I pulled off her halter during the post-ride groom to give her face a thorough brushing. Horsey bliss, with half-closed eyes, soft expression, head extended toward me and leaning into the brush.

Overall a good day.

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Riding log day 16

Riding log day 16. Snaffle, English saddle. Slight and occasional gimp on right fore, but not consistent, occasional step at the trot and seemed to work out of it though she trotted off with a mild bob when turned loose that didn’t stop her from cantering on her right lead when she figured out where her buddy was. It may just testify to the need for the latest Adequan shot, which she got today. Last I saw she was assembling her Windbreak of Friends.

Fresh snow last night that thankfully waited to fall until after we got back from RadCon. New horses in the field, one of whom appears to want to pester Mocha. Well, that one learned later that pestering Mocha with a rider on her is Not A Good Idea. Mocha gets pretty enthusiastic about herding other horses if they want to chase her when I’m up. Luckily, said horse also took a clue pretty easily.

She’s not in full shedding mode yet. I managed to loosen a few hairs but no, no sign of shedding. Probably a good thing if the current long range forecast holds, especially in light of tonight’s temps that are supposed to be in the low teens.

In spite of the gimp she moved out pretty enthusiastically. We are getting better at consistent serpentines at both walk and trot, including serpentines with counterbend. Oh, there’s still a few wobbles, but judging by the evidence in the snow, we’re improving. She’s becoming straighter at the two track in walk, with less of that issue of leading shoulder than it’s been. Backing in a figure 8–well, the circle to the right is still smaller and funky, but not as bad as the last time. And the spiral in and out at the walk was a bit closer in size than it was last time. Our bowties are consistent in trot for the most part (just one stretch of one of them was a little rushy, but improved).

She was really thinking about using herself during the spirals, with the low head, focus, and light contact on the rein with a little bit of stretching that goes along with it. I was having to make some minor corrections, but a lot of that felt more like she needed the support of rein or leg rather than any actual resistance, which is good. After a week off due to convention and other stuff, I suppose it’s to be expected. But it felt good and it felt to me like she was using the exercise for what it is supposed to be. Yay.

And I am really, really liking the snow this year for how our riding patterns are coming up. I guess it speaks to the lack of actual schooling that I was doing before that I only noticed how well snow holds working patterns. Either that or I wasn’t really focusing/paying attention to the patterns in previous years, which is also possible since I was focusing on straight line conditioning then. The serpentines looked a little bit like a DNA helix when we were done with them (well, except for the later trot and canter across them), and the spirals looked pretty good. It is a lot easier to track patterns in snow than in dirt, even freshly tilled dirt. There’s a lot more contrast in snow.

Mocha felt comfortable enough with the footing to stretch out in our finishing canter. Right now I am reluctant to do schooling work in canter…but a nice rousing canter that might edge into a gallop…well, the old gal still likes that. And today’s spins to the left were much better, once I waved the right rein a little bit.

We finished off with ground schooling. She’s starting to get back to the pattern of stopping square or close to square again. Consistent work, that’s what it takes.

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Riding log day 15

Riding log day 15: bareback pad and snaffle, short pre-farrier ride.

I always like to get out and ride the arthritic girl around a bit before her farrier comes. Even though she’s out to pasture and does get meds to help with the arthritis, getting her moving beforehand just loosens everything up.

She knows what’s going on, of course. Different halter. And while I do ride her occasionally in the bareback pad, that usually comes out just before the farrier. Even though her spine has a nice bit of padding on it…she’s still a sharp-spined horse and not as comfy as, say, a Shetland.

There were drifts in the little triangle right-of-way (the old road used to have very sharp curves and is now sharp but still gentler S curves). Deeper than what we’d encountered in the pasture but a good pre-farrier workout. We’d done some warm up walks and were starting on serpentines when the farrier came. Because the main area was very icy (Mocha minced across it with the clear attitude that she didn’t trust the footing), we shod her under the patience tree, on the mats. Safer for everyone involved, and easier to clean up (although this guy is much, much neater than others I’ve encountered in the past).

I don’t know if it was the location or the workout through deeper snow, but for once the old lady was pretty chill. She rested her muzzle against my hand and drowsed a little bit. Of course she did her usual thing and touched her nostril to the farrier’s back–just that gentle brush she does to handlers she likes, and she does really like this farrier. Even if he gets after her if she’s being a stinker (which does happen sometimes).

Still winter shoes in the front only, but odds are that next time in March, she’ll get shoes on all four hooves again. Then we can start road riding in earnest.

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Riding log day 14

Riding log day 14. Snaffle bridle, English saddle. Mid-30s F, 2-4 inches of snow over ice.

I missed a couple of regular riding days due to weather, meetings, and doing the sale thing at Hurricane Creek Grange this Friday and Saturday. That said, the conditions on Thursday were downright crappy, and even though Wallowa County missed a lot of the nasty flooding that hit Pendleton, Walla Walla, Stanfield, and Hermiston (and which shut down I-84, which is only open now as a detour due to washouts), it was still of the sort that after my Soroptimist meeting at noon, I wasn’t about to strap on the chinks and ride in rain with melting snow and ice. Friday, I was at the sale and searching out flood videos on Facebook as the implications of what had happened in Pendleton became more clear. Saturday, I was at the sale again. So today was really the first day to ride for me since the weather went cockeyed.

Mocha was being standoffish and her buddy got on my stinky list by encouraging her to walk away. We did a somewhat longer straight line stretch because of the length of time away, and because I wanted to get a sense for the footing. In some places there’s ice under snow, in others it’s not as icy. Plus a long section of trot is a decent warmup.

So yeah we did the usual serpentines. My eye is getting better at being more consistent, though the counterbend segments are still smaller and wonky and need work. Two-tracking. Long rein walk, then gather the reins and back in a figure 8. That…needs work as well. Not Mocha–she’s back in the groove and doesn’t throw her head up to resist and bend as much as she used to. But while the first circle backing to the right was pretty decent, the second circle to the left….needs work. Pilot work.

Then we worked in trotting serpentines, then did the bowtie trot exercise, with appropriate walk breaks in between. The bowtie is becoming a relaxing trot routine for her, because she drops her head and picks up a consistent pace throughout. So it looks like I can ask her to do a bowtie when she’s tense at the trot, and she’ll slip into a relaxed mode because this is supposed to be a relaxing exercise with a consistent pace. Yay!!! After that we worked a spiral in and out at the walk. Once again, the circle to the right is very nice and reasonably precise. The left…oh, that so needs work. Again, it’s the pilot error. Nonetheless, she was also stretching and relaxing into the spiral, just as I’d hoped. What trotting we’d done to this point had shown a mild soreness in her right shoulder. She was doing everything right…I just wasn’t as accurate (circles become ovals to the left, or so it seems, both forward and backward).

Another walk break, and then the canter sets, with plenty of walk between. Still four sets. Footing was not such that I wanted to work on canter serpentines, and with shoulder being cranky I didn’t think it was particularly a good idea. Straight line canter, though, with me up in the stirrups and off of her back, hands on her withers like I’m galloping a racehorse? Yeah.

On the way back we did the half turn lines–forehand to haunches, ending with two full turns on forehand and haunches at the end, in both directions. And then we did spins. She’s getting evasive and self-protective spinning to the left, moving her hind end around too much. But the difference between a greenie and an experienced, finished horse? I waved a rein end off of her right side after the unsatisfactory three spins to the left. All of a sudden I  had LOVELY spins. MARVELOUS, CORRECT spins to the left. No, girl. Gotta do it the right way. If you don’t do it the right way, you’ll end up hurting yourself.

I thought those were still in the old girl, especially since she is whipping them out hard and fast in the other direction. She just needs to practice them correctly.

Then we did some ground schooling with the same issue on the ground, only forehand turns to the right and haunches turns to the left. All require her to use that right shoulder, so we’re gonna slow things down and take it piece by piece.

All the same, it was a nice riding day. The next two weeks will be funky due to convention and travel, and then hopefully the weather gets better and we get more training time in. Soon it’ll be time to add in conditioning rides as well. Looking forward to that. Right now it’s pretty much just maintenance schooling.

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Riding log day 13

I know, I know, I keep promising other blog posts and then here I am with yet another riding log post. Sorry not sorry. A lot of effort is going into juggling stuff right now. But tonight I stepped out on the front porch to watch sparkling crystal snowflakes idly floating down and hearing nothing but the roar of Prairie Creek. So very nice. The second or third best part of the day, behind what it felt like after spending some time on the acupuncture table and what this blog is about…today’s ride with Mocha (the acupuncture part may switch places…).


Riding log day 13. Snaffle and English saddle.

Mocha was grumpy and I was grumpy. I’m not sure why she was grumpy, except that the yearlings started pressing in before we walked away from the herd, but she was grumpy. Me, I was grumpy because of delivery problems with some books coming in and neck pain that just decided to show up this week. Ugly neck pain. Arrgh.

Anyway. We had some discussions about where I wanted her to stand during grooming and tacking. I noticed she was still kind of stiff along her back after Saturday’s ride. Nonetheless, we headed out. Footing had improved since the temperatures had dropped and we’d gotten more snow. I took her out to the far riding area, and asked her to trot once we passed the arena. Then we dropped down to a walk and did the serpentines at walk and trot, followed by two tracking. And there was a backing figure 8 in there, as well as a couple of bowtie patterns. I’m getting a notion to try turning the bowtie into a star at some point…what a quilter thing to do, because there’s several different possibilities that could end up making some nice patterns in fresh snow…but I digress. Still, the notion of translating some quilting patterns into schooling patterns is…um…interesting to contemplate.

Then we did the zigzag trot and turn exercise. Somewhere in the mix we did a line of canter serpentines. But she was getting rushy heading into deep snow, that same left-to-right lead change that can be difficult. So after that line we dropped back to walk and trot work, saving the canter for the very end where we just did a straight-line stretch and extend on each lead. That rushiness told me that she was struggling a little bit with the snow depth, so why push it?

On the way back we did some spins. She’s wanting to move around too much when spinning right-to-left. But I finally got some correct spins out of her in that direction. But it’s not just spins I have to watch with her. It’s the regular forehand and haunches turns. At some point she gets anticipatory and wants to step out of them. I just have to remember to slow down, take a deep breath, and focus on what she is doing.

After untacking and grooming, we did some showmanship schooling. I’ve been doing this all winter with varying degrees of intensity…mostly alternating rate of walk speed and halting to move into standing square. Lately, I’ve upped the ante a bit, with doing forehand turns, haunches turns, and sidepassing in each direction. Yeah, I get a bit of the horsey equivalent of the eye-rolling teen with this stuff. But I notice that she is paying more attention to me when I’m leading her around. Pairing the ground schooling with schooling under saddle (as opposed to mostly hacking and occasional schooling) helps bring out her old self. And even though she’s giving me the ‘tude about it, I think she actually likes being back in the working structure. She’s a lot more relaxed this days, and I can’t help but think it’s a factor.

Yeah. An old show horse is sometimes still a show horse.

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Riding log day 12 and the January summary

2/1/2020–Snaffle and English saddle. Road ride, approximately 6.5 miles

The mileage on today’s ride is about two miles more than we’ve been doing in the field, but somebody is clearly not just fat but fit. We had unseasonably warm temperatures and the pasture was water over ice, so I opted for the road. Mocha was immediately energized…boy, was she ever energized. It’s been several months since we’ve gone down the road, it felt like March instead of February, and we had a steep rise in temperature followed by (tonight) a swift drop.

Of course, this meant that once we were on the gravel road, there were Many Scary Things. Lots and lots of Scary Things. Then again, she was already UP, as characterized by her sticking her nose into an empty tub of vitamin mix by the pasture gate (something she has seen many times before, and licked mix out of herself) and snorting that deep, roller snort that means This Eats Horses, Be Alert. I was rolling my eyes because she had her nose deep inside the Scary Blue Thing, but also fully aware that it was going to be A Ride.

Which it was. We ended up making many circles in certain places because she wanted to be silly. Some were understandable and others were being reactive for reactiveness’s sake. Luckily the gravel roads are sufficiently soft that we could trot and canter in stretches, as well as work schooling figures. The bowtie pattern is one where she’s clearly starting to settle into as relaxing…yay.

So. Eleven rides in January, one an indoor ride, ten outdoor with schooling. We’ve been able to work at all three gaits. Mocha’s demonstrating energy and a certain degree of fitness, which makes me wonder if she just needed to put on that extra fifty pounds, at least for winter. I lost about a week and a half due to being sick the first part of the month. Not sure if I’m going to get many more rides in during February than I did in January. Besides weather weirdness, I have a bazaar that will eat up two days, a science fiction convention, and a quick trip to Portland. But we shall see.

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