Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Trotting the Bear

I intended to go to the barn alone earlier this week, but things have actually been busier than ever for me and my business and I've been working exceptionally long days. But this afternoon I reached a point where I simply had to take a break. Which meant Brian and I headed for the barn together, both sort of wanting to use the same saddle. Ha. In the end I decided to have another bareback ride on Bear. I figure it can't hurt to thoroughly explore how he moves without a saddle before we reintroduce one anyway.

Bear was cleaner, sheds less and I was using less tack, so I beat Brian to the arena by about 15 minutes. Things started out really well. Bear felt quiet and willing and was turning, stopping and standing nicely. We walked around the arena doing nothing in particular and I was thinking, well if this is how today goes we're not going to have to work on anything.

However, just before Brian and Steen joined us, Bear decided he was done being compliant. I can only guess that he's gotten used to really easy rides and sort of having his own way in general, because all of a sudden he started resisting me in all sorts of little ways. He wasn't being horrible, but he wasn't being good either. I tried a number of different things to get him to start behaving again including, but not limited to, bending to a stop (he is terrible at this - not the bending, but the stopping), backing, turning towards the rail and turning away from the rail.

My theory (for the moment) is Bear will comply with a certain amount of being ridden and acting awesome, but then he gets to a point where he decides he's done. Once he's decided he's done he wants nothing more than to go to the middle of the arena and stop. Bear is a clever, persistent horse and he works towards his agenda in all sorts of subtle ways. But after about 20 minutes of this, I was getting pretty annoyed and Brian and Steen wanted to trot on the rail anyway, so I decided I'd let him go to the middle but instead of getting to rest, he was going to have to walk in figure eights. For a long, long time.

So that's what we did. We walked in figure eights. For a solid ten minutes. I never let Bear stop and I never asked him for anything but figure eights. About six or seven minutes in I felt a definite shift in his body-language. Suddenly he was not looking for ways out of it anymore and I could feel that he was ready to stop. I made him keep going for a good long while after that, but when I did finally ask him for a stop, he tucked his butt up under him and stopped like a good quarter-horse should.

I let him stand for quite a few minutes, but decided we had a good thing going so I might as well take it to the next level. After his ample rest, I asked Bear for a trot. I knew this was going to be a bit shoddy at first. I still haven't ridden Bear enough to really know how he moves, and he hasn't trotted carrying a rider much lately, but I was surprised that after only a couple of slightly sloppy circles, he really settled in. He was inclined to try to drop the trot a little more than would have been ideal, but other than that he felt very willing and supple. He had no trouble turning in either direction and most of the time he trotted at a sittable jog and I didn't have to make any effort to control his speed. I daresay it was actually enjoyable.

After doing figure-eights one direction I let him rest again and then we switched. He was equally excellent in the other direction. By the time we finished working that way, I'd been riding for over an hour. Bear was hot and a bit sweaty under my jeans, so I figured we'd stop on a high note.

So, I'm exceedingly curious to see how Bear goes in the saddle again, but my suspicion is that he's going to feel more or less exactly like he did today. Although he had his rebellious moments, he never once seemed like a horse who was in pain. Which is good news one way or the other.

Also, Brian had a really excellent ride on Steen. More about that on Brian's blog.

Horseback Hours YTD: 10:40


  1. Heh, horses are experts on what we might call "passive resistance". Trekker does stuff like this to Nate all the time (he's pretty much a pushover for me), and Tranikla will try to wheedle them in from time to time as well. They also really do like their routine, Tranikla will always tell me if I've ridden for longer than he thinks is "fair" (fair usually being determined by how long my rides have usually been recently). I guess that's part of their charm tho...or something. :)


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