Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Robin Rides (Steen)

I am away from Iowa City now, for a week. And I will definitely miss my wonderful horse while I'm gone. However, before I left I did manage to video myself! riding! Steen!

Well, to be honest, it's not that exciting. We were mostly cruising with no steering on my part, walking and trotting, with some bending, flexing, backing and disengaging here and there. Steen was pretty good, although it is now out there for all the world to see... standing is not his strong point (but I love him anyway).

And I would like to offer my special thanks to my mother-in-law for the soundtrack suggestion. :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

From One Extreme to the Other

Saturday I went to the barn for a ride with Gay and Cathi. We decided to venture out into the fields around the barn in spite of the snow cover, so it marked my first horseback adventure through the fluffy white stuff.

And, I am happy to report, it wasn't much of an adventure. Steen was so well behaved I actually started to worry he wasn't feeling well. He was calm from the moment I brought him out of the pasture to the moment I put him back and gave him a frozen apple (courtesy of Gay) to chew on for a while.

Steen sucking on his apple

I'm not sure what made the change. Perhaps it was our long, long indoor cruise earlier in the week. Perhaps he was just feeling tired. But given how unusually antsy he's been our last number of rides, it was pretty astonishing to take him out and find him totally, completely and absolutely mellow. Even when Chewey and Doc both started showing a little attitude, Steen was relaxed and willing to do whatever I asked.

So, who knows? Horses are nothing if not mysterious...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Still Cruisin'

Today Steen and I had our first real indoor ride at the new barn. And I must say, things went pretty well. When I first brought him inside he was nervous, as he's been lately, but a little better than the last couple of times. He was also very clean and very fluffy, so grooming was easy. Mounting went well and after anchoring myself to his bare back via my left hand's firm grasp upon his (luckily ample) mane, I was ready to go. I knew he'd be spooky, but I also knew the best way to get over everything fastest would be to just let him move around naturally in the new space. So, we cruised, just like in the old days when he was getting used to having me on his back. First we walked and walked and walked with me not steering. Gradually, the snorting and high, nervous head-carriage disappeared. We walked some more. Then, we worked on some stops, some flexes, some disengages, some backing. He was very good with all of these things. Then, I asked for a trot and he picked up a nice, smooth (if somewhat fast) trot that felt much stronger and better balanced than the last time I rode him indoors. I've noticed the same thing the last few times we've loped outdoors. I think Steen is finally experienced enough and strong enough to carry a rider well. It's a nice change.

So, we trotted and trotted and trotted. He remained a little nervous and goey so I figured I'd just let him trot without any input from me (other than the occasional "good boy") until he really relaxed. It took quite a while. In the intervening half hour or so, I practiced riding with soft eyes, pliable body, correct seat. I'm really getting better at keeping myself directly on top of Steen instead of slightly forward - towards wherever I think he's going to go next, and there is nothing like cruising to test how well I'm doing this. Left to his own devices, Steen will mostly trot in a circle, but sometimes he makes sharp turns with no warning and I always like to see how little (or much) I need to adjust to stay with him.

Finally, after over half an hour of solid trotting, Steen relaxed. I could feel him let go of his anxiety. His head dropped, he slowed down and stopped looking for a way out. I let him go just a tad longer, let him stop and praised him lavishly.

Then we did more walking, more flexing, more bending, more stopping and more disengaging. He was good at all these things.

Finally, I hopped off and let him loose to see if he would roll. He walked around the arena a bit but in the end declined to get that comfortable.

I took this a series of photos while he was thinking about whether to roll or not. First Steen standing at the door saying, "Uh, I am pretty sure this is the way back to the pasture." Then, "What are you doing over here, anyway." Finally, "Wait. I think that's a camera. I'm scared of camera's, right? Anyway, I'm not coming any closer until you put that thing back in your pocket."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Snowed Out

Steen spent most of the last week snow-locked in his pasture. The main problem was the door into the indoor arena from the pastures was covered in a huge drift. So, being unable to get him inside anyway, I didn't see him after my Tuesday visit until yesterday.

Sunday morning found Brian and I driving out to the barn. We retrieved our horses and brought them inside. Steen was a bit agitated again. I'm not sure what is behind his new-found indoor antsy attitude. I imagine it's a combination of factors, but I think one of them is the grain. I wish I could find a way to get him through the winter without having to feed him so many compressed calories...

So, we had another day of groundwork and I was pretty firm with him a lot - really making him move out of my space, and fast. And I contrasted this with a lot of standing around with me petting his rump and back. He did relax at times, so hopefully it's just another temporary problem.

I took the new camera out, too but didn't manage to get the settings dialed in quite right whilst holding a fidgety horse on the end of a rope. I did kind of like this one, though, with Cal in the background (sporting the new leather halter I gave Brian for his birthday).

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


We have a big storm rolling through this week, so I figured I'd better get out there and see Steen today just in case the roads are inaccessible for the next few days. I found him in a snowy pasture. The herds were a bit riled. I'm not sure if it was the weather or what but everyone was moving around a lot more than usual.

Doc and Chase playing... chase.

This was right before Steen galloped up the hill with a glad whinny to meet me. (OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little.)

I brought Steen indoors and he remained riled up, so I decided to just do a day of groundwork. I hadn't done that in a long, long time, and it was actually pretty fun. We did work both on the line and off, and he was really well behaved while managing to stay a little antsy the whole time.

We worked for about half an hour, then I took him back and went to get Doc.

This is Doc.

Doc is my first paying equine student. He and his owner Gail want to learn how to do the things Steen and I do on the ground, so I've been giving the two of them lessons. Today I intended to work with Doc alone but Gail's out-of-state trip got canceled so she came as well.

It is quite interesting to work seriously on groundwork with a horse other than Steen. Doc is younger (five) and much mellower in his general personality, but he's also more dominant and less sensitive, so I'm curious to see how he takes to learning and perfecting the same exercises. I intend to video some of our lessons, so hopefully I'll be able to share our progress.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Catching Up

I've fallen a bit behind on the horse blogging lately. I started with my trip home for Thanksgiving. Although I did go on one nice long solo ride on my sister's horse, Jak, it was a largely horse-free week.

We returned to Iowa and I was quite Steen-sick. We went to the barn the day we got back and went on a truly lovely trail ride. I rode Steen. Brian rode Cal. And our friend Gail rode her horse Doc. We went all over the place, and Steen behaved like a champion trail-horse. He went through mud, across running water. He reacted with calm unconcern when we saw deer in the distance. It was lovely. We rode for over an hour and a half and returned to the barn. Then, as I was leading the very calm Steen across the indoor arena he tripped and hit me in the back of the heel with his hoof. Ouch. I couldn't get my foot in a boot for a week.

However, yesterday found Brian and I out there again for Duke Day. Steen and Cal got their feet trimmed and we made plans to ride today with Jean and Schooley. We returned to the barn this morning and Cathi joined us too, riding Chewey.

We had an interesting ride. Between the fact that the two retired racehorses were a bit goey and shotgun deer-hunting season just opened, everyone was a little edgy after a while. When we saw deer and heard gunshots and realized we were surrounded by men carrying guns and wearing orange vests, we decided to head home.

Still, in spite of everything, Steen behaved quite well today.

Steen and Cal were both a little thirsty after the ride today.

Steen seems to enjoy the winter landscape.

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