Saturday, August 01, 2009


Today, Brian, Steen and I all had new experiences. For Brian and I, it was a shared experience. We went to Catalpa Corner to watch the eventing. We had never been to a true eventing competition, so we found it very interesting. At first, we just walked around, staring at all the tall, athletic horses and trying not to look idiotic while doing so. We looked around a bit, and then walked out to the cross country course. I took my camera, and snapped a few photos. I have no idea who any of these people are....

As you can see, there was an impressive variety of jumps. We saw all sorts of things, from horses jumping beautifully, to horses refusing to jump, to one horse who went over the jump demonstrated by the light gray horse in the photo immediately above this paragraph, and then flew into some sort of spasm, bucked his rider off and then proceeded to redo the course, backwards (avoiding the jumps), at a dead run. Fortunately, no one was injured and the horse was eventually got back in hand.

Brian and I spent quite a while watching the cross country. We checked out the dressage too, but it was lower level stuff and genuinely not that interesting.

So, eventually we left Catalpa and went around the block to visit our own horse. Steen has been moved to an expansive pasture down below the pasture horses since we want him to get as fat as possible before winter sets in. He is out there with only three other horses, and it's rather a trek to get out to him. He did not deign to meet us halfway, though he did seem happy to see us. We took him back to the barn, tacked him up, and I hopped on. For some reason I didn't do ground work in spite of the fact that I haven't seen or ridden Steen for ten days or so. I should have done ground work. He was distracted and pretty opinionated about what he wanted to do. It doesn't help that doing "arena work" in areas that aren't arenas tends to be confusing, and also he's been eating as much as he cares to for days now. I think his energy level was up, his obedience was down, and he was just a little hard to handle. We went from the open area by the swing set over to the strip between the pasture and the corn field, and eventually I got off and did some groundwork in hopes he'd focus more after-wards. He was great with groundwork, and perhaps a little better when I got back on. We walked and trotted and loped and he got really excited, and by the time poor Brian got on Steen was in "handful" mode.

But they did alright. I used my body and the corn field to set up a virtual round-pen and eventually Steen stopped ignoring all Brian's steering instructions and settled into an acceptable trot. After quite a bit of trotting, Brian decided he'd had enough, and stopped. We took Steen back to the trailer. He'd gotten a little sweaty, and on the spot I decided immediately after a mediocre ride seemed as good a time as any for Steen's first bath. We led him over to the hose and thus embarked on Steen's new experience for the day. We turned the water on and started spraying it lightly towards his front feet.

At first, Steen was very much not sure about this new development. He stepped back, snorted, swiveled. Brian and I both demonstrated the utter non-harmfulness of the water by taking drinks from the hose. Then I turned the spray back on him and started letting the water mist his front knees. He trembled a little bit, and then abruptly thrust his nose forward, sticking it right into the stream. He played with the water with his lip for a minute or two, took a drink and then he was fine with the whole thing. We sprayed him down and he seemed to enjoy it. He was like an old eventing pro who'd just come off the XC course. Except as far as I know Steen has never gone over any kind of jump in his life.

We gave him lots of praise for encountering new things so bravely, even if he was rather a pill on the ride. Then we put him back in the pasture, he rolled in the dirt, and we observed something odd. Instead of returning to his little herd of three, Steen stayed at the far end of the pasture, closer to us. This surprised Brian and I, since Steen will often gallop back to the herd if they are far from the gate. Today, he didn't seem to care, and Brian commented that none of the other horses were perhaps worth running back to. That made me think about it a little harder, and I realized the three horses that make up Steen's diminished herd - Stella, Cal and the flea-bitten Arabian who's name I can never remember - are all submissive personalities, and Steen has definitely moved up on the totem pole in recent months. We came to the conclusion that Steen is the head of his little four-horse-herd, which might also partially explain his rotten behavior during our ride. He's gotten too big for his britches.

I'm not too worried though. Although I spent more of July away from Iowa than here, I have high hopes for August. I'm hoping to get in many solid hours of riding before the winter hits, and the good news is Steen has at least gotten to the point that even when he's "bad," he's rideable.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, it must be nice to have a horse not terrified of water. :) No matter how much I try to convince Trekker that water is not scary, he's just not buying it. Tranikla isn't to bad about it tho.

    I definitely find that the "alpha" horse is more of a handful than others, especially if that horse is new to the position. (Mine flip-flop roles from time to time.) Usually does get better, just takes some work.


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