After being stuck in the indoor for a long Minnesota winter, 16-year-old Emily Kelly’s first “outside” ride of the spring is always rather exciting. At least she lived to tell about it.
I don’t know about the rest of the world, but up here in Minnesota, our summer started the second week in March with weather in the upper 70s and low 80s! In the last month we’ve seen all of our snow melt off, the outdoor arena has dried out, the green grass has come up, and the first thunderstorm of the year arrived! March also brings salvation (a.k.a. Spring Break) for those of us lowly-people who are still in school, and with that comes tack-cleaning, baths and spunky boys (the four legged kind).
Do anyone else’s ponies go slightly psycho as the spring weather sets in? Mine sure do! My first venture into the outdoor arena each spring definitely becomes less of a venture and more of an adventure. After each of my thoroughbred Harvey’s “spring flings,” I come back the next year thinking, “I learned all the tricks to solving this problem last year; it should just be a piece-of-cake this time around!” And then I get on and find myself with an entirely new set of problems, with none of the same solutions as the year before… *sigh* time to start the learning process all over again!
Two years ago we had a little episode that involved me (stupidly) deciding to take Harvey out on the grass path that follows the long dirt driveway down towards the road. Well, needless to say, he thought a monster was definitely hiding in the previously tasty pine trees and soon we were galloping back up the driveway again towards the barn. All I could think was “thank goodness for Pony Club making me learn how to ride in a makeshift galloping position in my dressage saddle!” as there was no stopping that pony until he was certain he had gone far and fast enough to leave the monster behind!
After a few more, er, controlled rides we headed to our first JDRP (Junior Developing Rider Program) clinic with Becky Holder for the year. The clinic was a day of stadium/gridwork and a day of cross-country (both outside) and as far as we had come from the lovely gallop up the driveway, we still had a few bugs to work out during the clinic (not to mention that it was my first time taking Harvey cross-country!), but we took the rest of the summer in stride with lots of leaps and bounds (well aren’t I just punny today?)!
Last spring was much a repeat of the previous one, contrary to my “I’ve conquered every little bad behavior he could possibly dish out” attitude. Thankfully, I chose to start my outdoor riding in the outdoor arena rather than the driveway! A fifteen-meter circle became my best friend (enemy??) as I struggled to keep Harv in a semi-controlled canter for weeks on end. Eventually we progressed out of our endless canter circles and were able to add an 18-inch vertical with a pole on the ground to said circle! Yay! Or so I thought….
The pole we had set eight feet in front of the jump was apparently the new groundline rather than a canter pole, and off we went leaping into the air! Again, the progress went wonderfully throughout the summer after our short-lived “spring-fling” and we finished the season out very solidly competing novice and schooling training level with some prelim combinations thrown in there!
Fast forward to this spring. Yesterday was our first venture to the outdoors, and what would you know, foot-perfect ride! We were even able to work on our canter lengthenings, shoulder-ins, leg-yields and haunches-ins! Car buzzing down the driveway right next to us and a cat running out right in front of us, no problem. Is it possible, dare I say, that Harvey has… grown up??? I’m trying not to get my hopes up and settle into the idea that we will not have any problems this spring, as I’m sure something will turn up at some point. But for now, we shall start adding a few jumps and hopefully head out to school a little cross country before our fist clinic in May!
On another note, only 20 days until we pack up the car and head down to Rolex, something that always leaves me hugely motivated to set those riding goals just a bit higher and get a move on!
Saddle up, keep riding and most importantly, keep reading!