It seems like just few weeks ago I was enjoying the mild winter we were having. I was actually riding in my outdoor arena. The footing wasn’t totally ideal, mildly frozen but it was snow free and certainly rideable enough for some walking work. Temps were in the 40’s and even 50’s into December.
As if winter heard my thoughts, and probably those of many of others out there thinking the same thing, winter blew in with a fury in late December. The mountains received feet of snow in a 48 hour period. Fortunately the valley only received about 8 inches. You could almost hear the collective sigh from the skiers , snowmobilers and other winter sport enthusiasts among us. Most of that has melted now here on the valley floor and what remained, refroze, harder than cement. Ice in other areas. ever since, the mercury has stayed in teens and twenties . Regardless, I laughed in winters proverbial face and planted herb seeds anyways about 2 weeks ago. They are growing nicely in my southern window. I can hardly wait for gardening season, but I will have to wait.
In the meantime, riding at home is not an option for a while as the footing has degraded to more ice. In an effort to continue to ride, we have been hauling over to an indoor arena that is only about 1 mile up the road. It’s quite convenient. We have been going over once a week and getting an hour or so of ride time in. The going rate for haul ins around here is $15/horse/hour. It’s a bit pricey and somewhat of an inconvenience to load up and schlepp ourselves, the horses, the horse gear and all my layers of clothes over there in the name of getting an hour of riding once a week. My alternative is to board which is more expensive, about $300.00 for one month. How many times does $15 go into $300.00??? You do the math.
We’ll continue schlepping.
Our arena time was interesting the first time. I had never had Maggie in an indoor arena with deep sandy footing. She stepped into that sand and thought the devil himself was under her hooves. At first she wouldn’t move, then when she did, she went straight in the air, then she high stepped and snorted around like a hopped up, ginger tailed Standard Bred show horse. Luckily, the footing started to take it's toll and she resigned to the "weird" footing. Then came the issue with the cattle chute/pen configuration on one end of the arena, not to mention the daylight that was coming in under one of the doors and roping cattle wandering around just on the other side of that door. The owner of the facility is heavily involved in the rodeo scene and holds ropings and penning at the facility. Cows are just part of the gig.
We have been to the arena four times. The scary end of the arena gets a little less scary with each trip. Ofcourse, last weekend, we had to share the arena space with two longhorns and another guy exposing his horse to cattle.
Maggie was pretty sure she hadn’t signed up for this program and wanted to leave the scene in a hurry. We worked through it but we didn’t get much of anything else accomplished. I suppose getting her to walk up to the cattle and even moving them off (even if unintentional) can be defined as success.
I was surprised at Maggie’s reaction to the cows as she has ridden in among them before numerous times, but it has always been out in the open with range cattle. Apparently cattle in an arena look and smell a whole lot different.
I look forward to another round of cattle exposure in the arena, sort of…if for nothing else than to check it off the list of one more thing to expose her too. Overall, the arena experience has been an adventure and in the spirit of finding the good in things I think it's been a great learning experience. Look at all she has learned..
-the fake roping cattle dummy thing isn’t going to kill her, until someone moves it… then you should turn and bolt like hell to get away from it
-dirt clods that fly up from her hooves and hit the arena wall with a thunk are not worth jumping straight in the air with all four feet and nearly driving the riders seat bone into their abdomen upon landing
-Condensation dripping off the roof of the arena that land on your butt should not require a bolt and a buck that would qualify one for the pro circuit rodeo
-Arena footing is downright exhausting and it’s a lot of work to go around being tense
-Light coming in under the arena door isn’t horse killing aliens landing their mothership
-And.. last but not least, you can and will be passed by other horses who are in the arena at the same time as you, even horses going the other direction and no, you can’t turn around and follow them..(still working that one out!)
Spring can come anytime… trail riding is way less work!!!