Sunday, March 27, 2011

Weekend Report

Yesterday morning found Brian and I sitting on the floor by the coffee table. His new saddle sat on top of an old sheet draped over an old comforter, upside down. Armed with saddle sponges, neatsfoot oil and baby powder, we set out to make his new ride a little more comfortable.

It was a bit hard to dump white powder into the shiny new saddle's interior, but once we got started we warmed up to the task. We liberally applied powder to every area where two pieces of leather overlapped, then shook and banged the saddle to work it in deeper. Naturally when we turned the saddle over, a fair bit came streaming down out of the cracks.

Next we oiled all the untreated surfaces underneath the saddle and wiped off the excess powder. Then we left it hanging on the banister for a day and night with the stirrups looped around a broomstick to teach the fenders to bend in the proper direction.

Today we went to the barn early in hopes of a quiet ride. The barn was hopping though, with a lame horse, a frozen hose, and a very skittish-antsy-snorty Steen. I am not sure what Steen's deal was. He was fidgety while I groomed him and once I got on, more wound up than he's been in recent memory. I walked him around for a good 15 minutes just trying to get him to settle and pay attention. He spooked a couple of times in a minor way and was stopping badly, flexing badly, and not really standing at all. He was neck-reining really nicely though, so I worked on figure-eights over the pole and some tight circle work.

Finally, he did calm down and once he did, he shifted into being excellent. When I asked for a trot he picked up his super smooth jog and stayed in it quite consistently until I asked him to stop. So we worked on more transitions. I introduced him to the idea of going straight into the trot from standing. He seemed to be pretty interested in the concept and got really into trying to do it well. He'd drop straight out of the trot when I said whoa and then stand at attention, perfectly still, waiting to trot again. All of this without me using the bit at all. He is such an odd horse. I don't know how he can go from refusing to flex to learning a completely new thing and loving it in just half an hour.

By the end of the ride, there were two little girls getting their horses ready for lessons, and Bear and Brian had joined us in the arena. (I had a head start because I didn't do groundwork or put a saddle on.) Steen was content to stop and stand in the middle of the arena as Bear and Brian worked on their trot some more.

Unfortunately, Bear was not quite the perfect horse today he was on Friday. He was ok, but not excellent. He was stopping badly, which is unusual for him, and at the trot was rather inclined to veer off the rail. Sometimes when he did this he'd execute these lovely little half-passes in a nice fluid line. It would have been beautiful had Brian been asking for them. He also threw in a couple flawless side-passes once when Brian was asking him to back.

On the bright side, Brian's saddle didn't creak at all while this was all going on.

After the ride I went over Bear's back pretty thoroughly, poking and prodding and trying to see if I could find sore spots. Of course this is tricky, since there are places on Bear that have been a little sore for a long time. The one spot on his right side where the girth sits seemed the only truly tender place on him today, and the chiropractor identified that as a problem spot for him months ago. We put the saddle on again without the pad and spent quite a while looking for pressure points and hot spots. We found nothing. Bear even started to doze off before we'd quite finished.

So, we're going to give him a few days off and see what happens. It's still a little hard with Bear because we still just don't know him like we know Steen. I think his antics today were just the Bear equivalent of Steen trying to fling the tack-locker closed every time I turn my back and refusing to stand still for more than half a second under saddle, but his overall demeanor and body-language are so mellow it can often be a lot harder to pin down what exactly is bothering him. I think today there was just a lot going on and he wasn't very focused. The freeness of his movements when he was not doing what Brian wanted indicated to me that it wasn't soreness that was causing the problems. At least, that's what we're hoping.

And of course the good thing about all this is even when Bear is being a bit naughty he's a pretty darn good horse.

Horseback Hours YTD: 7:30

1 comment:

  1. Huh, I've never heard of the baby powder thing before. I've learned lots of other little tricks over the years, but not that one. Will keep that in mind.


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