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."

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