Sunday, June 15, 2008

Reroutes and New Riders

Things are a bit nuts in Iowa City, but I've managed to make it out to the stable the last two days anyway. I really have nothing to complain about as far as being affected by the flooding goes - I still have a home and a job and a safe place to keep my horse. However, since I can now only cross the river at one point, my route to Steen has changed.

The blue line on the above map represents the way I normally take to Steen. According to google, it is 15.1 miles long and takes 27 minutes. In my experience, this is very close to the truth.

This blue line represents how I must go now. As you can see, I have to start out driving in completely the wrong direction to get to the freeway and the one open route across the Iowa River in the area. According to google, this route is 26.7 miles long and takes 42 minutes.

So, although it's a bit of a bummer, I'm still counting my blessings. At least I can still get to him.

And today I did just that, and took Brian with me. Brian hadn't been out in a couple of weeks, and Steen has really made significant progress in that time. He followed me quietly into the barn, stood in an utterly relaxed attitude while we groomed him, behaved quite well for Brian as the two of them did some ground-work, and then continued on in a calm, responsive manner while we tacked him up, I rode him a little, and then Brian jumped on.

Steen still does have a tendency to trot quickly, and the one-handed way Brian is used to holding the reins (the only other horse he's ever ridden is Jak who wears a curb and neck-reins like a dream) isn't conducive to the two-handed see-saw technique I generally use to control his trot, so that was a little bit of a challenge. Nonetheless, Steen was paying good attention to Brian and trying really hard to do well. I couldn't be more pleased with how their first ride went. They walked and trotted for about twenty minutes, and then called it quits.

One of the reasons Steen was so relaxed was I've finally solved all our bit issues. Although the bit Meryl and I bought served its purpose in getting him to cool it with the bucking and respect me as a rider, in reality any kind of shank bit it too harsh for the kind of refining work I'm trying to do with him now. It made him responsive to a level that bordered paranoid, and obviously a horse that is paranoid is not relaxed.

So, after some failed experimentation and a good deal of reading, I went back to very nearly the most basic bit there is. A nice fat single-joint (for some reason he hates and is very confused by "comfort" snaffles with three joints) loose-ring snaffle:

He was good with it yesterday, but today he was more relaxed with me on his back than he's ever been. The biggest difference was evident in his lope. He was so smooth and balanced, I was astounded. Granted, there are some fun aspects to having a speed-demon horse, but I'd rather only have him running like mad when I ask him to.

So, things are going very well in our happy little family of three. Both the boys seemed to enjoy the day, and then Brian and I came home for tea and cucumber sandwiches.

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