Today was a BEAUTIFUL sunny day - 31 degrees when I left the house, SUNNY, with a slight breeze (at least not windy!). I couldn't wait to get out and ride, the sunny day was calling my name!
Saddled up, adjusted her S-hack to what it looks like in the above picture, made a few circles at the end of the rein, flapped the rump rug, and mounted up. Took a quick spin around the barn lot to test steering and brakes and single rein stops in the S-hack, then walked down the driveway and headed South on the road.
She was pretty sticky for the first 100 feet - slight downhill to a big culvert under the road where the ditch goes underneath, that was trickling water, with steep dropoffs on either side where the road is about 3-5 feet above the roadside. I urged her past, then we trotted up the hill, and walked again when we crested the top. Then I had her walk through the snow in a little clearing on the side of the road, then back to the road past the neighbor's house, when I heard a truck coming along - we pulled off into the driveway and faced the oncoming traffic and then walked back out after they passed. Then downhill she was a little sticky again at the walk until we got level and I asked her to trot across the Polly Creek bridge (now really a glorified double culvert). We walked over into the snow on the east side, then turned back. Her nostrils were flaring from being short of breath - I know it's harder to walk in the snow, but I think it's a good thing we're both out of shape so I don't push her too hard too fast.
She REALLY wanted to trot home. I thought it crucial to make it well known from the beginning that I was the one who chose the speed. So she'd walk really really fast, then break gait, then I'd do a SRS, then have her walk on....then try to jig, so SRS the other direction....and back and forth like that for about 150 feet. When finally she was willing to walk forward quietly on a loose rein, I asked her to trot, then as we passed the neighbor's house, we went back and walked serpentines in the clearing in the snow. We walked back down the hill, where she thought about getting jiggy again, but a deep seat kept her walking, then we leerily walked across the ditch culvert, then walked laboriously up the hill, past the driveway, then it was uneventful as we walked, sometimes trotted the rest of the way to Harlan's corner. I had her walk unless she got sticky, then I asked for trotting.
She was a little faster walking home, but didn't break gait. We were about 100 ft from the driveway when a little red car started coming up behind us, so I had her trot on home. She seemed very relieved that we turned into the driveway! Haha, I really think she was afraid we'd go on past again. Altogether, it was about a 32 minute ride. Real nice.
Today I started giving her a little hay wetted down in a big tub. I set it in front of her while tacking up, and then parked her in front of it again as I untacked, brushed her, and checked her feet. I think it will be a good habit to get into doing this for training rides, so she is used to eating from the tub (and whenever she gets a chance) at rides, too.
I liked the S-hack. It's a different kind of response than riding in the halter, not better, just different. After looking at the picture at the top of this post, it's obvious some things needed adjusting - I let out the noseband of the s-hack a couple holes to lower the shanks, but haven't had the chance to try it on her again yet. Also, after the ride, the noseband of the halter was in front of the noseband on the s-hack, so I shortened the cheekpieces of the halter. Pretty pleased with my new gear, both in color and in the way they handle.