Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Starlight Finds Her Stride

I’m debating whether Starlight is fit enough for a two-hour hunter pace this weekend.  I had her on a good schedule to be ready for some September and October paces, but then the rains came and, when it wasn’t pouring, I was side-tracked by starting Dee up again.

Last night I took her out for the second time this week and decided to increase the work a bit.  More periods of trotting and cantering on the trail.
Starlight's pretty head does the Dr. Cook's bitless bridle proud.

I haven’t worked with her steadily enough in the ring for her to understand the leg commands for canter yet, but no matter.  I just say, “Canter,” and off she goes.   That’s a legacy from the round pen and longe line lessons she internalized. 

Yesterday I surprised her with a canter request where we haven’t cantered before.  Her little black ears pointed my way briefly, (“Did I hear you right?”) and off she went.  It happens to be an area where she prefers a crooked path, instead of a straight one (weeds, you know.  Eww).  So, as we cantered briskly, she was dodging weeds and I was focusing on keeping my shoulders back and my weight in my heels, since I noticed lately that I had been slouching quite a bit in the saddle.   It was a good choice of exercise for me, as that position was the best one for maintaining my balance as she practiced weed-bending up the pipeline path.

It was a hoot. 

Later, we sidetracked down to the edge of the neighbor’s animal field, a very frightening place to Starlight that contains distant, odd-looking and scary-sounding monsters (people call them goats and donkeys) and once contained two, in-your-face, barking white dogs (great Pyrenees, I think.  Herd dogs, for sure).   I always take her down there, since the dog incident, to get her used to seeing scary places and things, but the dogs have never noticed us since that one time, even though I sing very loudly to get their attention.  My choice of song is “Whistle a Happy Tune” from The King and I, thus:

Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune,
So no one will suspect
I’m afraid.

After espying the goats and donkeys from afar, we trotted through the upper field, and she remembered I had asked her to canter there last time, so she decided to beat me to the request and off we went again, lickety-split, up around the edge of the field.  It’s naughty of us both to let her choose the pace, but I could see that she had a little epiphany, that cantering is fun and easy on our rides, so let’s go!

I’m glad she is feeling more balanced and self-assured about carrying me, and based on the way she darts that chunky little black-and-white body around obstacles and corners, she could definitely do her ancestors proud in the gaming arena.  

It was a hunter-pace worthy ride, but only 45 minutes, so I’m still waffling about this weekend’s pace.  We’ll see how she does the rest of the week.

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