The ride out to the barn was quiet. I have felt sort of "off" for the past few days, just out of sorts and not myself. Snappish, cranky, just generally grumpy. It was a good holiday break, if a little busy, but aside from maybe a lack of sleep, I can't really figure out what my deal is. I thought about not riding and just spending the day on the couch with a book, but I missed Champ, and I get so sore when I miss a week of riding, so I went ahead to the barn.
Nobody was there when I arrived, which is often the case early in the mornings. I noticed Keepsake, the venerable 26 year old pony belonging to my instructor's son, was laying down in her stall. She stood up shortly after I got the barn doors open, and she was filthy. It looked like she had rolled during the night. After a while, she lay back down. This wasn't typical behavior for Keepsake, so when Kathy arrived and the pony was still down, she called the vet and her son. All the other horses and ponies in the barn were all a little disturbed by this, and were acting out.
I groomed Champ, and he flicked his ears back constantly as I brushed his back -- also not typical behavior for him. He seemed flinchy and unsettled, moving constantly in the cross-ties, pawing the ground, squealing when I brushed his belly. Once I got him tacked and ready, I went out to mount in the yard and ride to the ring, but the minute I weighted my foot in the stirrup, he shrieked and dodged away from me. THAT has NEVER happened before, and I wasn't sure of the reason, other than he was feeling upset about Keepsake. Horses can be like that sometimes, sensitive to other goings-on in the barn. I've never known a horse to NOT be sensitive to a rider's or handler's mood, so I am sure I had something to do with the shenanigans, too. I really doubt he was ill or in pain. And I know I'm not THAT heavy!
Eventually, I did get mounted and up to the ring, but the entire time, I could NOT relax. The ring was nearly underwater due to a huge amount of rain the night before, and I was cold, and felt like I just shouldn't be there. I kept thinking about Champ slipping and falling down in all that slop. He was also not in the mood, as he kept trying to leave the arena, and was avoiding my leg aids and generally being a dork. I wear spurs when I ride him, and I lengthened my stirrups to dressage length (for me, Kathy likes me to ride shorter, but I don't love that unless I'm jumping), so I know I wasn't unintentionally jabbing him with the spurs. We did some walk and trot work, some spirals and some figure eights, and we cantered both ways of the ring once before I started to feel really anxious and unsettled. My right ankle was killing me, and it felt unstable, so I asked if we could stop. Half an hour of riding is better than none, I guess.
While I had been riding, Kathy's son, Travis, showed up and actually got Keepsake to get up and start walking around. Champ seemed really happy to see her as we walked back to the barn. I didn't want to get off, what I really wanted to do was walk and walk, but I didn't. He got lots of pats and treats after I untacked, and he let me hang on his neck for a while and just hug him, which was something I needed. I really love this guy.
I don't know why I feel so anxious lately about riding. Maybe it's because Wren has taken a couple of falls recently, one off of Champ after he took off with her (after she started screaming and scared the life out of him!). One of my biggest fears is getting run away with, and sometimes I feel like that is happening even when it isn't, and then I get nervous. Long, long ago, I went on a trail ride which turned into a downhill horse race, and during which the bridle broke, the bit flew out of the horse's mouth, and I lost my balance and flew off the horse, only to land on my back on a woodpile behind someone's shed. I don;t really think about that too often, but it may be a root cause as to why I have such a hard time feeling a sense of control and relaxation.
I LOVE horses, and I WANT to ride well. I don't want to be anxious. I'll get there.
In other news, I finally got the tattoo I have been planning for a couple of years. I love it.
This is the mug, by Barbarah Robertson of Dragonfly Arts Pottery. she is a high school friend of my husband's, and made this piece especially for me:
I drink my coffee from it every single morning. My new favorite mug!