Saturday, February 26, 2011

Winter Continues

After a brief respite during which Steen got to go for a few days without his blanket and it almost felt like spring, the weather has turned unpleasant again. Last Sunday was wet and chilly and we headed to the barn for Duke Day. Bear and Steen were both soaking and filthy and when we brought them inside and turned them out in the indoor arena. They both rolled and then proceeded to run around like mad, making their previous romps look pretty tame. They also kept it up for quite some time. Bear even fell over trying to dig into the turns too hard, and then proceeded to blame his mishap on Steen, punishing the poor innocent victim by chasing him around and trying to bite his butt. Everyone at the barn was quite entertained.

Eventually they ran themselves out and they were both good when it was their turn for the farrier. Duke even confirmed that Bear's feet are significantly harder and healthier than they were when we got him, and that letting him go barefoot has certainly had no negative impact on his overall health and probably some positive results. Brian has noticed that Bear is also more willing to walk on gravel lately and the outsides of his feet are chipping less, so that is definitely good news. I don't have anything in particular against shoeing horses when necessary, but there is no doubt it is simpler (and less expensive) when they can go without.

Bear does, however, seem to be having territorial wars with someone in the pasture. Every time we see him he's got a new bite mark somewhere on his body. They aren't serious wounds, but they do make him look a bit hen-pecked. Luckily he is always sweet and patient for application of antibiotic ointment.

Yesterday I gave Brian another lesson, starting off with Steen's bridle on Bear just to zero out our variables. Things went much better this time. Bear still showed some inclination to toss his head every now and then, but this didn't actually seem connected to the bit at all. He'd do it when asked to turn right, primarily, often when Brian was only asking with leg cues, and usually only for a moment. He's still stiff in that direction, which is probably the root of the problem. Hopefully the long walking rides will help.

After Brian got off I also did some free lunging with Bear, to allow him to move around and kick up his heels without being constrained by a rope. He actually seemed to have fun with it, and was willing to work in circles around me, stopping and going on cue, even though he was technically free to run off and stand in a corner. And I'm consistently surprised at how quickly Bear learns and how much he really tries to figure out what he's being asked to do. There's been a dramatic improvement in the quality of the groundwork between Bear and Brian in the last few weeks. So I think that's a good sign. Hopefully with continuing consistent exercise, Bear will supple up.

And although I've made a few solo trips out the barn in the last ten days, I actually haven't ridden. Maybe this weekend.

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