Monday, August 30, 2010

A Trio for Three

Yesterday Brian and I headed for the barn again and pulled out boys from the pasture. Bear was his usual mellow self about being caught and brought indoors. We tied up in the aisle and had just a little bit of drama when he sniffed noses with a precocious filly. She 'winked' and squealed and kicked, and he kicked at the wall of her stall in response, so we pulled him away from her and tied him up by a gelding and all was quiet again.

After that Bear stood quietly through tacking and Brian and I headed out in the company of Jean and Schooley. We meandered around for a bit, mostly walking. We headed up the overgrown pathway to the edge of Cathi's property and then turned back. I dismounted briefly to remove a piece of barbed wire from a hazardous location and while I was off Brian and Bear got a little ways off ahead of us. I got back on Steen and he switched from angel mode to "oh my god I have to catch up" mode, so I don't know if he's already super attached to Bear or what, but he pranced along until we caught up to Brian and Bear.

The ride continued quietly from there. Jean and Schooley left us. Brian and I continued on. Brian and Bear had one directional disagreement probably spurred on by the heat and the fact that Bear is quite out of shape and after many days of riding in a row, must be tired. But Brian won without much trouble and we soon finished our ride, sponged down the boys and put them back out on the grass.

So, all in all, things are still going very well. Today and tomorrow will probably be non-barn days, but hopefully Brian and I will head out again on Wednesday.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Two for Two

We've had absolutely beautiful weather the last few days. This morning was no exception - cool, sunny, breezy. A perfect morning for a ride. Brian and I woke up and attended to the puppy we're looking after for the weekend, then headed for the barn.

We found Steen and Bear grazing happily (as usual) and brought them indoors. Bear seems even more settled in today. He and Steen both stood like angels while we groomed and tacked.

Steen and Bear tied in the aisle

In no time at all we were out on the trails. I showed Brian most of my new favorite ride, though we turned back sooner than I usually do because we were mostly walking to help Bear get back in condition so it was taking a good deal longer than when I lope long stretches. Steen's such a fast walker Brian did trot to catch up a few times (and Steen had to stand and wait a few times, too).

The ride was as close to perfect as they come. Steen was a laid-back version of his usual self. He got a bit antsy at certain points, but nothing bad.

Steen trying to edge his way into the soybeans

We were out for an hour. We came home, untacked, groomed, then put our boys back outside.

Bear is not only diplomatic, but a tad philosophical as well

So, really, I couldn't be happier. I haven't had to step in and help Brian with Bear at all so far. So from here forward my focus can stay on Steen - we just won't have to go it alone so much. :)


Yesterday Brian and I headed to the barn in the afternoon. We arrived optimistically, with a bridle set up for Bear "just in case." From up by the barn we can't see the whole pasture, so we grabbed our two halters and headed out. We found Steen near the creek in the low part of the pasture, with Bear grazing on the other side with Nadir. Bear looked good, though his legs and belly were spattered in mud. He didn't have any bite-marks or bumps or bruises and he was grazing happily.

I haltered Steen and Brian headed down to Bear. Bear walked a few steps in Brian's direction and then stood quietly while Brian put the halter on. We headed up to the barn.

Once inside, Bear stood when tied. So did Steen. It was a remarkably drama-less and relaxing undertaking, having them both inside together. We groomed them and Brian tacked Bear up. He took the bit like a gentleman. Steen and I retired to the outside of the arena and Brian climbed on.

And Bear was awesome. He was quiet, responsive, and relaxed. Brian rode him indoors for a few minutes without a single problem, so I tacked Steen up and we headed out on the trails.

We kept it short and easy, since Bear is out of shape, but we rode out on the strip between the corn fields and strolled around for about half an hour. Bear was a total doll, and he also had a calming affect on Steen.

We came back to the barn and untacked. Bear refused carrots from another boarder (Steen got a double portion). We took them outside and turned them out together and our two boys ambled over for a drink of water and then off to join the herd. I was so easy, after all the challenges we faced with Sham, it was almost surreal. Day two of owning Bear and we went on a trail ride. I'm really looking forward to the fall!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Take Two

I've had a number of rather dramatic days in a row (the details or which really aren't worth blogging about) but the most exciting element of the upheaval is we have finally managed to find a replacement for Sham:

This is Bear. Yes, he's another bay quarterhorse gelding. But he's quite different. He is older and more experienced. He's also quieter and sweeter. We're hoping he's going to be a better match for Brian. He arrived yesterday (after we drove up north a couple of times to ride him and get him checked out by a vet). He is such a relaxed guy. He likes people. He's happy to just hang around. He's also surprisingly responsive and supple under saddle. So, updates to follow!

More photos and info can be found on Brian's new horse blog.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Two New Gaits

After I spent last week house/puppy-sitting and thus not getting to the barn, Steen and I had another good ride today. We did the same route again, and he was a little better behaved the whole way around. We walked for most of the ride, and I loped him again for two sections of the route. After the second lope he was inclined to prance, so instead of getting him frustrated by yanking on the bit constantly, I worked on pushing him from one side of the grassy strip to the other using my leg and a little contact on the bit. He yielded beautifully, so I'd just push him back and forth across the margin a few times until he calmed down. I think the yielding helped engage his mind and once he started thinking again, he stopped prancing.

I must say it is very enjoyable and exciting for me to have loping be a regular part of my ride experience again. Steen's lope is very fast and energetic at this point and he gets riled up after we run, but I've never worked him consistently at the lope before, which means no one has. So I'm looking forward to getting this gait dialed in a bit better (even if it comes with its less desirable cousin - the prance).

Friday, August 06, 2010

The One?

Today I finally went to the barn again. Steen's feet were trimmed on Saturday, but we were out of town half of Friday and all weekend, and the insanity of a few rush jobs coinciding with our trip kept me chained to the computer all week.

However, this morning I woke up to see a cool, sunny day out the window. I ate breakfast and got in my car.

Since our last long ride I've been playing more with the idea of a route that involves two large loops instead of one big one. The main reason is there is simply no way to do a loop around the barn without riding on gravel more than I want to. So today I implemented a new experiment - something sort of like a gigantic, lopsided figure eight.

Steen was nervous setting out again, and reluctant to leave, as usual. I ignored his antics. I must admit after our grand adventure on Monday I trust him more. If he didn't come apart that day, I doubt anything in familiar territory is going to put him over the edge. So, I nudged him past the farm equipment (it rearranges itself slightly every time!) and up and down our familiar strip, then I crossed the road and went into the margin of another field I rode once before with a group, almost a year ago.

And here, we really started to have fun. Steen was a bit fixated with the fact that he could see the barn, so I decided to do some trotting and loping to give him something else to think about. I wasn't sure how he'd handle running all alone in a mostly unfamiliar space, but he went great. He did get pretty excited and was inclined to prance on the way home, but I took the indirect way back and by the time we reached the barn he was walking again.

So, I am hopeful. The ride took 45 minutes, was almost entirely on grass and good footing. I could even extend the route some if I wanted to. Best of all, I think it will be really relaxing, easy and fun once Steen gets used to it. So, perhaps I've finally found my groove here in Iowa.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Uncharted Territory

A week ago Monday I decided one of my biggest problems with Steen is that he and I still don't have a "ride." With all my previous horses I had access to miles and miles and miles of trails, but there was still just one ride I did most of the time. It varied slightly per horse, and it was my go-to circuit I could dash around in 45 minutes or so.

The problem for me here is I don't know the land around the barn. By the time I got my first horse in AZ I had biked and hiked every trail within a large radius of my house. Here, the only places I know are the ones I've already gotten to on horseback, and there aren't many of them.

Last week I told myself I just have to explore. Even if this means going out alone on a horse whose behavior on trails is far from docile. The truth is I see the value in arena work, but I'm never going to love it like I love a good trail. I have been feeling increasingly frustrated with my riding set-up lately.

So, I pulled up the satellite function in google maps and planned a route that went in a loop along the margins of corn-fields and returned to the barn after just under two miles. Then I planned a back-up route that consisted of mostly gravel roads, in case some of the "trails" I saw online weren't passable.

I set out and things did not start well. Steen was jumpy and disinclined to leave the area around the barn. Once I got him past all the scary farm equipment behind the machine shed, he improved for a while, then deteriorated once we got to the end our familiar grassy strip between corn-fields. In fact he got so worked up at that point I considered turning back. But I didn't. I kept on.

Not long after, we left Cathi's land, and that's where the real adventure began. Two gates, one "no trespassing" sign, two groups of three huge dogs, two SUV's, a swarm of biting flies and the necessity to revert to the back-up route later, Steen and I finally made it back to the barn. We'd ridden about 3.5 miles, half of that on gravel. But he'd weathered the chaos so well, I could hardly believe it. His behavior was by far the worst in familiar territory, but as soon as we got off into land he'd never seen before he seemed to relax and trust me to get him home.

Nevertheless, it was not a good route. There was way too much gravel involved, and not enough fun landscape. Steen is not shod, and his feet were a bit chipped by the time I got him home. So, then I had to wait all week for the farrier to come fix him up before I could ride again...

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