Thursday, July 22, 2010

And Again!

Today I went to the barn and found Steen and the pasture herd were back out in 15+ acres of grass. He and his buddies had clearly been gorging themselves for many hours, and as a consequence he was a bit gassy and grumpy when I brought him indoors. He was also stiff in the hind end from our ride yesterday, so I took it easy on him today.

It is really interesting for me to see how Steen has changed in the 2 years I've had him. When I bought him I didn't know nearly as much about horse nutrition and weight. I thought he was on the thin side, but it didn't quite register with me that he had been at least somewhat malnourished for a significant period of time. I had this vague thought that he'd fatten right up on a good pasture.

Steen on the day after he arrived. The main thing I find shocking now is how big his head used to be in comparison to his neck.

As anyone who's read this blog knows, it has not been that easy. But today I looked at my horse and realized he's actually starting to resemble other horses with quarter-horse/paint bloodlines.

The other benefit - he's now a lot more comfortable to ride bareback.

I think it just takes a long time to change a physiology, and we'll see how he does this winter, but I'm hopeful the worst of our weight problems are behind us.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

So Far So Good

Today I was at the barn at 8:00am and Steen and I had a lovely ride. He was very relaxed and already more responsive than he's been the last few times I rode. We stayed indoors and I went bareback (I'm still having issues with my foot), but he was more willing to stop and stand and turn than my last ride. We worked on walking and trotting, and he did a very good job holding a nice, smooth, steady trot. I've also been working on bending him around my leg in a circle exercise and he was doing really well at that today.

We've got a couple new horses at the barn - Zulu and Caboose. They belong to Cathi who owns the barn, and they are both untrained and skittish. For now they are occupying the run up against one side of the indoor arena, and they are very curious about the things I do with Steen:

They stare at me while I groom him and pick his feet and I walk over intermittently to say hello. Sometimes Steen get's jealous when I take their picture:

But he knows I love him best, so it's OK.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Plan

Lately my days have gone something like this:
  • 6:15: Wake up. Think, "I should go see Steen today."
  • 6:30: Have coffee and hang out with Brian. Eat breakfast.
  • 7:30: Check email. Get sucked into doing something for a client.
  • 8:00: Think, "I will go see Steen just as soon as I finish this one thing."
  • 9:00: "Almost finished."
  • 9:30: Get diverted onto different project.
  • 11:00: Answer phone call.
  • 11:30: Think, "Wow, it's gotten hot out. I should go to the barn soon."
  • 11:45: Leave computer with intention of going to barn. Realize it is lunch time.
  • 12:00: Fix lunch.
  • 12:30: Get frantic phone call/email from client. Fix problem.
  • 2:00: Go to meeting.
  • 4:00: Think, "I don't like going to the barn in the afternoon." Decide to go to barn tomorrow.
Needless to say, this is not a good system. So, yesterday I've decided I need to schedule Steen as if he is a client. My new goal is to go to the barn three mornings a week. The only way it seems possible to accomplish this given my personal inability to set work aside once I have started it is for me to leave for the barn when Brian leaves for work - before checking my email. If I can get to the barn by 8:00, I can be home by 10:00 and that should leave me enough time to get my work done on any given day. Working until 6:00 some days will be worth actually getting to see my horse again.

Yesterday I implemented my new plan seamlessly. Steen and I had a good ground-work session. Today it stormed. But I am still optimistic this will work.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Two Summer Rides

I have actually been getting out to the barn more than I've been blogging about getting out to the barn, but still not as much as I'd like. Last week I decided to saddle Steen up and take him outdoors for the first time in a long while. The results were a tad disappointing. I know I've been lazy with enforcing manners lately, and that Steen hasn't had consistent work for a while. I know our relationship has swung back a little too far to the buddy-buddy side of things, but I had higher hopes for having some fun out and about anyway.

That said, Steen wasn't bad. He just wasn't good either. He never spooked or bolted or even shook his head or fought the bit or did any of the things he does when he lapses into what I consider his truly "bad" behavior. What he did do was try to go home. A lot. It seemed like every few steps I had to pull his head back in the direction I wanted to go.

I know the reason Steen wanted to go home was because he hadn't been out and about for a long time, and I know the only way to get him over this particular hurdle is to take him out enough to get him to the point that he is comfortable leaving. Still, for some reason his turning around really got to me that day. I got off and did some groundwork with him, and he was very keyed up and energetic on the mecate. I got back on and did a lot of trotting in straight lines with light contact on the bit. He was better doing that, perhaps because we had a goal. Sometimes I think that is what gets to Steen about our the wandering route we take when we leave the barn. We don't have a pattern and we don't have a particular destination, we just sort of meander around all these different areas and I don't think he can see the sense in it.

At any rate, by the end of the ride we were both tired:

My foot was hurting and somehow the low points of the ride impacted me on a more emotional level than usual. We left town for the weekend, and in the end I didn't go back for several days.

I finally went out again today and decided to ride indoors and bareback again, and work on all the things I've been neglecting. Like circle work and flexing and stopping and standing (all things Steen was not doing at all during our outdoor ride). Things went better indoors, as they always do. He responded well to the circling, as he always does. I've noted before how bending him around a leg seems to both relax him and engage his mind. So, I don't know how I got out of the habit of reinforcing all this stuff, but I feel better after today. After just half an hour of work at the walk and trot he had suppled up a good deal and was more engaged with me than his surroundings. I just need to keep in mind that training a horse is really a life-long process, and at two years in with Steen, I could be doing a lot worse.

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