Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Last week was a sparse one as far as horse-time goes, but my mom did get to come out to meet and ride Steen, so that was excellent. They seemed to get along well.

After my week of traveling, visitors, extra-long hours at the gallery and some impromptu night-time socializing, I threw a sleepless night into the mix for good measure. So, when I finally dragged myself out to the barn Saturday afternoon I was feeling pretty worn out. That, combined with the fact that I hadn't even seen Steen since Monday led me to decide to spend the day on groundwork instead of riding. And it was great fun. I'm becoming a bigger and bigger fan of groundwork. As Steen learns the exercises better, he can do them faster with subtler cues. He pays such good attention to me when we are working, and seems to really have fun waiting to see what I am going to tell him to do next, and trying to do it right. At times he is so receptive to my body language it almost seems like magic. I pulled some poles out into the outdoor arena (it was a beautiful day) and worked on making the exercises more difficult by using them as obstacles and guides. It was a great deal of fun, and just what I needed to unwind.

Yesterday, I went out in the morning, and it was another absolutely beautiful day. I decided to use the saddle again. Although my heart will always belong to riding bareback, I am trying to keep myself from settling into a pattern. I noticed as I rode in the saddle yesterday that already my bareback tilt is back - just a slight tendency to lean forward - and as Steen can still be a bit clumsy while carrying a rider, it is important for me not to throw extra weight on his front legs. So, I just need to keep changing things up on myself to keep from forming habits, and concentrate on posture at all times.

Anyway, the ride was good and Steen was very well behaved - I think more relaxed than he's ever been in the outdoor arena. Also, he is getting oh so much better at standing still when I'm mounted - though not so much when other people are mounted. Still, I read back through this blog the other day, and I can't believe the distance we've come in less than six months.

Now, I am looking forward to a few weeks of highly enjoyable horse time before it starts to turn cold.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

More Bareback

Since the ground was still rather damp today, I went bareback and indoors again. This time I was not alone in the arena, but shared it with another horse and rider. It is always nice when this happens because it is good practice for Steen in the art of paying attention to me when there are other, potentially rather more interesting goings on to pay attention to. As usual, we started out with some ground work, and then we started the ride. We did a lot of walk and trot, and he was trotting in a very relaxed manner right from the start, which was nice. Then the other horse got a different rider, who somehow made the other horse rather agitated. The other horse commenced to do things like lope sideways (very slowly, as he's been trained hard-core western pleasure) and back up for long stretches in spite of the riders efforts to make him go forwards. This horse's agitation was soon communicated to Steen, and he started trotting faster, though I was still not at all of the impression that he was particularly agitated himself.

This went on for a few tuns around the arena, until Steen and I went by the open side-door of the arena. I believe (though am not entirely certain, as I was facing forward at the time) that a horse who was occupying the pasture outside (and had intermittently been trying to get into the arena while we rode) did something to startle Steen. All these variables added up, and Steen did something he hadn't done in a very long time. He broke, unasked, into a very fast lope.

Luckily, I regained control quickly, and stopped him. I then proceeded to let him walk and calm down a bit, until the other horse and rider finished what they were doing.

As much as I don't generally approve of my horses picking up fast gaits without my explicit suggestion they do so, in the end, I was quite pleased with Steen for his brief rebellion today. As, after my initial surprise, his sudden increase in speed gave me no difficulty either in keeping my seat or bringing him to stop, it didn't upset me but instead eradicated my lingering hesitance to lope bareback on Steen. I celebrated my happy clearance of the last hurdle between me and my ability to do everything I want to do on my new(ish) horse by loping a whole lot more after the other horse left the arena.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Soggy Ground

We've been getting more rain here. Unfortunately, rain means a soggy outdoor arena, and to preserve the grass out there, barn rules tell us to ride indoors when it is wet. I left work on Wednesday feeling a little bummed about this. The indoor arena is not bad - it is just smaller, dustier, less scenic and less... outside. However, during my drive I came up with a way to make it less boring. When I got to the barn, I brushed Steen, picked his feet, and led him into the arena. After a bit of ground-work, I put his bridle on, and hopped on bareback.

I hadn't ridden bareback in quite a while, and so it was a very nice change. The one thing I still haven't managed to recreate here in Iowa is the freedom of riding I used to enjoy in Tucson. Wednesday's ride wasn't quite as good as heading out my parent's gate to enjoy the wealth of trails at my immediate disposal, but it was very nice.

Steen started off a little nervous, but soon relaxed. At times, his trot is becoming almost jog-like. Of course, at other times (like when someone drives the mower through the barn aisle) it is not at all jog-like. So, staying on him without a saddle takes some concentration.

Today, I am very sore. This reminds me that I am not in as good shape as I could be. An hour long bareback trail-ride, mostly going at a trot or lope, used to leave me barely even fatigued. Now a little walk-trot ride in an arena leaves me with quite a few very indignant muscle groups. Not good.

So, I am going to ride bareback more often.

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