Friday, June 19, 2009

Third Gear

I've had a good week of trips to the barn, in spite of lots of rain and sogginess. Tuesday it stormed all morning, but Wednesday I went out in the AM and found Steen covered in mud but other than that in a pretty amiable state.

I watered down the indoor arena before my ride because it was really dry, I had plenty of time and there is nothing like breathing fine dust to make me want to cut my ride short. It was well worth the effort. After a little groundwork, Steen treated me to one of the best rides we've ever enjoyed together. He was calm and responsive at the walk, his trot was relaxed (if a tad reluctant at first) and when I asked him to lope, he picked up the correct lead and held it through quite a few laps around the arena, going at a nice, smooth pace and seeming even to enjoy himself somewhat. Then I asked him to stop and he did, and other than walking a little faster for a half a lap around the arena or so, seemed totally fine with the experience. So, we walked for a while, and then tried it again in the other direction. He went just as easily and nicely, and calmed down afterwards just as quickly.

I went out again yesterday and had a similar ride, though with less walking and more loping. He was smooth and comfortable again, seeming once more to have some fun with going fast. This is such an encouraging change from the loping experiences we had last fall, where he'd get so worked up and upset when I asked for the lope, refusing to pick it up and then finally running erratically, dropping into a fast, nasty trot in the corners and then after loping staying in a state of nervous tension the rest of the ride.

I think there are several better factors in place now, but mainly, he's healthier. Most of the loping problems started when he was losing weight, and I thought then (and am quite certain now) that his saddle had gotten too wide and was riding too low on his shoulders, causing pinching and discomfort, particularly at higher speeds. Going bareback didn't help, but I think he was just too bony to comfortably carry even the weight of a rider at a lope. Of course, this is one of the reasons we went bareback and slow all winter. I have been able to see for quite a while now that he's much rounder and better muscled and the saddle sits where it is supposed to lately, but part of me was worried he'd retain traumatic associations and take a long time to settle into a willing, comfortable lope.

Now, I definitely feel encouraged by my three good rides this week. Granted, they were all indoors and it will probably take a lot more work to get him as attentive and relaxed when he's not inside, but since tomorrow we're hauling the entire equine population of the barn across town and depositing them on Cathi's new, currently barnless land, I guess we'll have a few weeks to work on just that.


  1. Heh, my guys are totally the opposite on indoors vs. outdoors. They are usually just fine in the outdoor arenas/roundpens, but being indoors freaks them out. It probably doesn't help that most the the times they've been in the indoor arena it's been due to bad weather, and there's scary noises like snow falling off the roof, or heavy rain drumming.

    Grats on a good week of riding, and good luck with the moving.

  2. Yeah, it's a little funny that he's mellower indoors, because until I got him, he never was inside at all. I think there is just less to distract him. Outdoors he's always trying to see the herd and is preoccupied with where they are in relation to him. Inside he can't see or hear them, so he just doesn't seem to worry about them so much.

    Thanks! I'm really curious to see how he's going to take the move.


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