My last two posts have included picture of the first time I rode Aria when she got back home. However my current riding area is rock hard and not level thanks to El Nino so I’ve been looking for alternate places to ride 4-5 days a week. On my way home Wednesday I stopped by the Holly Oaks Arena that’s about 1.5 miles from my house. It’s been there for years but I never see anyone use it. Naturally I assumed it was because the footing sucked.
Turns out, the footing is actually great. I hadn’t stopped by the place before so I thought it belonged to the housing division that was built behind it but it was actually built by the Ramona Trails Association Volunteers. They keep it maintained regularly too. That’s awesome for me because I had been calling around getting daily and monthly trailer in rates at all the local barns but this little gem is right down the street and free!
It’s huge, which is no surprise. It looks like it was built for running barrels. I think barrels and gymkhana are the most popular activities around here. Well, actually I think people like to trail ride more than anything. The arena is stocked with barrels and cones for running patterns. There’s a bunch of hitching posts littered around the space, a shaded picnic table at one end, ample parking, and a 60’ round pen as well.
A couple of people were riding when I pulled up and I asked them if they would mind if I joined them. They didn’t so I headed home and grabbed Aria. She decided she didn’t want to get into the trailer. With some persistence I did get her in, though she did smash me against the wall once when I tried to clip her in. This is new behavior for her. I used to lead her into the trailer with no issue and now she acts like it’s a scary thing. It’s possible that the quick self-load session we did has made her nervous. It’s something I will have to work on because I like knowing my horse will go in reliably and at the moment getting in the trailer is the only way she’s going to get ridden.
When I pulled up to the public arena the two people that had been riding were preparing to leave. I don’t like riding alone but the arena is well situated. It’s by a road that is highly trafficked during rush hour. It’s also next to several homes that look over the arena. All the hustle and bustle is great for safety and for desensitizing Aria to a lot of different things. I tacked her up and she led into the arena with no fuss, however when the other people left and she started calling for her new long lost friends that she didn’t even know. Haha.
I started lunging her and other than calling for her “friends” she was well mannered and responded well. She wasn’t stiff so I didn’t ask her to walk for very long. I had her trot for a long time because she was mimicking a giraffe quite well. I had just gotten her working nice a low when a jogger ran by. She bolted, tail flagged, snorting and I just laughed. I’m an awful ‘mom’. I did eventually get out a whistle, her cue that she’s okay and should settle, and she calmed down into a trot for a moment before she saw the jogger again and took off. The second time she settled much better and I didn’t laugh so much.
Once the terrifying jogger was gone—can’t blame her really. Who runs for fun in all that spandex?—I asked her to canter. She moved out willingly and gave a few bucks and jumps but it didn’t take long for her to remember her motto is: lazy. Once we got to that mindset I knew she was good to ride. Our first challenge was the mounting block. It was outside of the arena and the arena gate is on a tension system that automatically closes the gate. I got on her and sidled up to the gate, touching it and moving it a bit. She wasn’t too worried about it but it’s a small space with a trashcan (yes, we did back into it. Twice) on one side and the mounting block on the other. I opted for using my ‘whip’ (it’s a piece of PEX pipe with some electrical tape on each end) to open the gate. It sort of worked and we made it through. Maybe I’ll bring some baling twine next time to hold it open.
I only asked her to walk around the part of the arena we lunged in. Once she seemed good there I put her on the rail and intended to do a whole lap before starting. Intended is the key word because half way down the arena we encountered a horse eating barrel. All that backup work that P has been doing with Aria paid off because she motored backwards and it took me a few moments to sit back and push her forward. I made her pass the barrel and leg yield towards it before I rewarded her by turning her back towards the area she was more comfortable in.
We did some busy work to get her mind focus on me and not the scary things in and around the arena. Leg yields, reversing, and turn on the forehand (those are now suddenly gone). When she gave me a good forward moving leg yield I gave her a quick break before picking up a trot. Her trot work was nice. She was rushing and being a total noodle at the start but we eventually worked it out and she was moving forward in a nice working frame by the end. I felt that was a good place to stop because we had already been working over an hour according to my watch.
A couple of cool down laps around the arena, suddenly the barrels weren’t scary anymore, and I hopped off. For her first time out in a new area she had done really well. I praised her a lot during the cool down and she ate it up. I untacked her and then we wandered around the property to get the pictures I’ve included in this post. Then I had to get her in the trailer. It didn’t go that well but she did get in twice for me. Though I had serious doubts about the second time. Haha. Just means we have some work to do! It was a great first outing. I couldn’t have asked for better.