Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Hind End

We had to delay our barn outing this afternoon, as a storm rolled in right as Brian got off work. We consoled ourselves with the knowledge that it stays light late this time of year.

It turns out it was worth the wait. By the time we reached the barn, temps had fallen and there was just enough breeze to keep the air moving. I went into the pasture and Steen nickered at me when I reached him. I am completely certain he's never done that before. It sure warms the heart to feel like your horse is happy to see you.

The footing was great on the strip, and after our last ride in the outdoor arena I was really appreciating the extra space. My goal today was to keep Steen focused and to pay a lot of attention to his hindquarters. I once read the phrase, "If you control the hindquarters, you control the horse." It's definitely true that when Steen is resisting, he does it with his butt. His main thing today (as with the last few days) was he will let his hind end trail out behind him in the turns when we are turning away from the herd.

So, my first step was to combat this problem. We started with figure-eights, and I found it wasn't that difficult to correct the lagging in the tight circles. I just had to use some leg to bring his haunches back under me. Still, I didn't feel like I'd solved the problem - more like I was managing it.

We switched to working on circles, and the problem was notably worse. Since I was asking for a softer circle, he could really be lazy with his hindquarters. At this point I started getting a bit annoyed with him, and asking him firmly with my leg to bring his butt under me where it belonged. At one point I dug in firmly enough with my heel that he picked up a trot. I made him bend until he stopped trotting and then we tried it again. I tried to think about driving him through the turn with my seat and not expecting him to do what I didn't want him to do. Lo and behold, he was either chastised or made focused enough by my focus that he went through the turn perfectly.

And after that, no more problem. We walked in circles and figure-eights. We trotted. We went back to walking after trotting with no attempts on his part to trot. But during all of this I was thinking about my seat a lot, and about using my sit bones before me legs, and my legs before my hands. It's interesting to see how willing Steen is to respond to this.

He also stood like a champion all day. I was very much enjoying my new pants, which are such a step up from my old jeans I can't believe I waited this long to upgrade.

Towards the end of the ride I just sat on his back and watched Brian lope Bear in circles and offered some pointers here and there. From time to time Steen would turn his head around and I'd pet his face. I even took photos from Steen's back and the buzzing and clicking of the camera didn't phase him in the slightest.

Meanwhile Brian proceeded to have the best lope on Bear he's ever had. The two of them seem to be turning a corner and getting along better and better.

Horseback hours YTD: 23:05

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