I was wrong! I said I wasn't going to get to ride on Monday....well, turns out my volunteering was canceled, so now Monday evening was free. Not only was Monday evening free, but the arena down the road was open for use, as well!
So, I fixed up supper: chopped onions, sauteed in olive oil, browned deer burger, added a jar of tomato sauce, almost a pint of salsa, 2 cans of beans (kidney and black) and minced some garlic in my cast iron dutch oven. Put the lid on, stuck it in the oven at 250* and voila - supper would be ready when I got back home!
Then as soon as Matt got home he hitched up the truck to the trailer for me, while I caught up Arabee and brushed the mud off and saddled her up. It's only 1 mile to the arena, so I thought I'd try hauling her with the saddle on this time. It went fine - no issues, but I would not likely do it for longer distances. Pulled up, unloaded, and put her in the arena and tied her up while I shut all the gates. It was 4:52pm.
It took her about 20 minutes of walking around and seeing all the sights and free-longing in the arena before I felt like I had her attention even somewhat enough. So I girthed up and got on, started walking around but I felt like a fly on her back - she was paying me no mind! So.....I got back off and free-longed some MORE (next time I will bring my longe line!!). She looked absolutely GORGEOUS - sleek coat, lovely arched neck, ears at attention, tail up, smart gaits....just b.e.a.u.t.i.ful! I kept her moving until I got an ear.....which took a very long time (it seemed like). Part of the problem was (I think) that she'd not seen another equine animal in....well, a very long time - not since I took her to the vet last fall. And also someone had come to bring some of the horses into their stalls for the night, which she thought required super-high alert. Ha.
So finally I got back on, and she just was "up" still....so I tried using seat, hands, legs, voice to get her mind on me. No luck. Darn! I was thinking my arena session hadn't turned out quite the way I wanted it to! Well, I thought - this just isn't safe - I was riding a stick of dynamite with a short fuse, which was making me scared, and tense, which in turn was making her even more nervous (you know how that goes...). So I got off again, and went to go get something to work her brain.
This place is wonderful, they have barrels, a mailbox, a basketball goal, poles - many different obstacles which are used for the therapeutic riding program. I chose barrels, as they are much less tippy. So I lead Arabee up to the barrels, and pushed one over on it's side (she nearly left the county!) and started to roll it (kick it) to the middle of the arena. I encourage her to touch it w/ her nose, and push it with her feet. Repeat this process 3 more times, only with less jumping back and snorty behavior. Apparantly, she'd misunderstood my request, because at one point she made a flying leap from a standstill over the barrel! I was very impressed - she went from stock still to cleanly flying right over the barrel - I was equally glad that I was standing out of the way at the time, as well!
Anyway, I got 4 barrels out, and set them up in the center of the arena in a square. I used them to bend around, to walk circles, and figure 8's and a variety of patterns around. It worked well in getting her brain focused on something other than ogling all around. Once she was focused, I worked in trotting the diagonals, and trotting in a circle around all the barrels, but my square was too small to do that successfully. So I hopped off and moved them out to make a larger rectangle, and we did the same thing as before only at a walk and a trot.
She gave me some really nice sitting trots, but anytime we'd get out farther than 15-20 ft from our barrels she'd quit focusing on me and start watching the arena walls. At one point, at the trot, she tossed her head, and the rein flipped over her ear (she really doesn't care for having her ears touched) which got me thinking uh-oh...but it turned out just fine.
It was a good evening. Started off sorta rocky, but I was able to get her focus on me, and she performed really well after that. My biggest concern/frustration right now.....is.....does her saddle fit!?! I honestly don't think it does....at all...visually it seems like a nice match along the front, width-wise, but there is NOT enough wither clearance. She's been giving all-over body shakes a lot, too - which could be caused by fly-season...OR poor saddle fit. When we rode on Saturday she was extremely hesitant/reluctant to go downhill, even a slight downhill, and when I take the saddle off there's an awkward bump (it is swelling, or is it muscle tightness?) just in front of the saddle by her withers. I need to try to check saddle fit without the pad - I have an extremely thick coolback pad - it doesn't leave much room. So anyway....I'm just hoping things are not what they seem - a better-fitting saddle is not even remotely in the budget right now, but if her saddle fits her as poorly as it seems to, I'm either looking at keeping to a walk on perfectly flat ground for extremely short periods of time, or....riding bareback. Neither of which are particularly appealing! So we'll see - I won't ignore my horse's well-being..........but for right now I've got my eyes squeezed shut, fingers in my ears...pretending I don't see what is right in front of me......