Sunday, July 31, 2011

Three Bay Geldings

This morning our friend Gay was out tacking up Doc at the same time we were getting our boys ready. It was already hot and extremely humid, so Brian and I had decided to ride in the stall horse pasture with all the big shade-creating trees. We invited Gay to ride with us.

We led our three mounts out to the pasture. They are all bay Quarter Horse geldings. (Except Steen is half white and he's technically a Paint, not a Quarter Horse) which was kind of funny. The pasture is pretty good sized, so we walked the perimeter a few times, then decided to play follow the leader. I started out in the lead and Steen was very willing to trot along and go where I pointed him. Then I rolled back and Gay led for a while. Steen got a big more excited following, but was good about not running up on Doc's heels or anything. Finally Bear took his turn in the lead, and his trot is faster, so I let Steen extend his trot a bit and practiced my posting.

We then took a little break, letting the horses stand in the shade. Steen was being really good, so I took him to the clear space in the middle of the pasture where Meryl and I worked on the routine. I trotted him in a circle, then asked for the lope. He was completely unprepared, and instead of picking it up broke into a really fast, uncontrolled trot. I pulled him up and got him to focus enough to ask again. That time he did pick up the lope but he was a LOT less relaxed than yesterday. He felt like he was loping really fast and I had a whole lot of contact on his mouth.

I got a few marginal circles out him, then switched directions. He was better to the right, though still far from great. He was less obsessed with the idea of trying to run back to the other horses and more willing to lope at a more moderate pace.

After the lope he was riled, but I just made him trot around through the trees until he relaxed. While I was doing that Doc and Gay worked at the lope a bit, then Bear and Brian did. None of the horses did all that well, so at least I wasn't the only one.

We finished the ride with another meander around the pasture. Steen was completely willing to walk with his buddies, so by the time I got off he was back to being super mellow. All in all, it was a great ride. It was fun to do something completely different and with another horse in the mix.

Horseback hours YTD: 49:10

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Loping on a Loose Rein

We've had heat, but today Brian and I managed to get up and to the barn early enough to have a nice ride. Steen was an absolute model citizen all day. I don't know if he was just happy to see me after a few days off or what, but he was a total doll. After I got his saddle on he was so eager to get the bridle on that he was trying to shove his face into the headstall before I could put his halter down.

Out on the strip, he stood while I mounted and had a slightly difficult time picking up my right stirrup. We walked up and down the strip a few times and then Brian and I decided to warm up with the routine. We went through it a few times and Steen was pretty much perfect. He was willing to trot faster or slower when I asked (to keep pace with Bear), and he was quite calm about the whole thing.

We worked on the routine for about half an hour, then called it quits. Brian loped Bear for a few minutes, then I did the same. Steen was excited to take off at first, but I made him wait and he settled into a nice trot. When I asked for the lope he moved right into it and then gave me a very relaxed circle, bending nicely the whole way around. We went left for a while and then switched directions. Going right he was so relaxed I was able to completely give him his head. He kept going in a nice relaxed circle. I then got him to trot, then walk, with only verbal commands. And all this after almost a week off. He's been such a joy to ride lately. Hopefully we'll get some nicer weather here soon so I can get out there a bit more consistently.

Horseback hours YTD: 48:20

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Stormy Ride

Brian and I have a real knack for utterly miscalculating the weather on the weekends and heading to the barn at precisely the wrong time. Today was no exception.

We found ourselves with two mostly tacked up horses and a storm that rolled in and started dumping rain. We went inside and dawdled, hoping it would blow over quickly and we could get our planned ride in. The clouds lingered, dropping loads and loads of water. Eventually we conceded that even if it did pass the grass would be so slippery and the ground so mushy that riding outside wouldn't be a great idea anyway.

So we climbed on indoors. I hadn't ridden in the indoor arena in quite a while, and Steen had regained his fear of the tractor, but I just let him cruise around for a while and it only took an handful of laps before he was willing to stay on the rail without much of a fight even when we came around the scary corner. We walked and trotted around for a while. His trot has gotten a lot faster since I reintroduced loping to the majority of our rides, and today was no exception. But he was smooth and responsive so it was ok.

After riding around for about 15 minutes, I taught Brian the "routine" my sister and I practiced on our last day of her visit. The indoor arena is a bit small for it, but at the trot we had no trouble. Bear and Steen both seemed to remember the pattern and we went through it several times almost perfectly, so that was fun.

Then I took Steen back to the rail intending just to trot him around some more, but he clearly had loping on his mind so I gave in and we went a few minutes in each direction. His lope was great. He was moving nicely. His gait was smooth and regular. He was upright, not leaning at all in the corners. We loped circles around Bear and at first Steen was wanting to cut the corners but I slowly managed to coax him out until he was using the whole arena. Have I ever mentioned how much I love loping?

After the loping, we called it a day. Steen dozed as I untacked and groomed the small amount of sweat out of his coat. By the time we put the boys back in the pasture, the storm had blown over and the sun was out.

Horseback hours YTD:  47:40

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Last week I finished my 30 days of 100 swings a day. On my last day I did all 100 with the 53lb kettlebell. That was hard, but it seemed like a good way to finish up the exercise.

I really enjoyed my 30 days of swinging. I'm significantly stronger than when I started and it was sort of nice just to have my one thing to do each day. But I will admit after the first couple of weeks it stopped being quite the level of workout I expected. Even when I was using the 53 for the majority of my swings, I just wasn't all that fatigued.

So, I think I'm going to take a week of working on some of the other stuff I like to do with the weights, then for August I'm going to do 200 swings a day. I'll probably have to downgrade to the lighter bells, but I'll be curious to see where that takes me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Few Good Rides

It's been hot, but my sister has been visiting and that has provided extra motivation to get out to the barn even on days I would not normally go. She arrived on Saturday, and we headed out in the afternoon. She rode both horses and they both gave her a bit of a hard time at first. Bear tried all his normal rather passive, grouchy games and it took Meryl a good 30 minutes, but she worked on him until he simply gave up and turned into angel Bear.

In the meantime, I had a pretty good ride on Steen. He was a bit excitable, but we got some good trotting and loping in.

When Meryl was done on Bear, she hopped on Steen, who immediately picked up the lope and ran down the strip. I'm not sure what got into him.

Luckily Meryl is a very experienced rider and their antics did not put her off. On Monday she and I headed out alone and had a brief, sweltering, but positive ride in the outdoor arena. Both Bear and Steen were pretty much perfect for her, but we didn't ride long due to the heat.

Yesterday we made more of an effort to get to the barn early, but it just never cooled down in the night so it was hot anyway. We decided to ride in the stall horse pasture that is fairly full of large, shady trees. Brian and I have talked about riding over there before, but never actually done it. Meryl and I tacked up, closed the gate so we didn't have any unplanned equine company while riding, and lead the horses around a bit so they could get their bearings before we mounted. Neither of them displayed any nerves at the new location. We mounted up and walked around a bit, and Bear started picking up the trot and being a tad difficult. Meryl worked with him for a while and saw some progress, so we then decided to try "the routine." The routine is something Meryl and I loved to work on back when I lived in Arizona and we had two rideable horses at home. It is basically a simple pattern we concocted at some point, done in unison, that involves mainly keeping the two horses at the same pace while working through a series of loops, cross-overs and straightaways. We used  to do it in the huge arena in the meadow down the road from my parent's house and we had enough space and steady enough horses that we'd do it mostly at the lope and gallop, with a bit of trotting thrown in here and there.

Steen and Bear have never done the routine before, and Meryl and I honestly had some trouble remembering it. Also we weren't in an arena. We tried it at the trot, and our first attempt was truly laughable. Bear was doing his sideways trotting thing. Steen was nervous about having to stay next to Bear. It didn't look like we were trying to do anything in unison.

We kept at it, and things improved the second time. And by the third time Bear had learned the pattern and figured out he was supposed to stay parallel with Steen. He was also really into it. Bear seems to be the sort of horse that loves to have a job.

It was much, much nicer being able to ride among the trees so that we stop and rest in the shade, but it was still really hot so we didn't ride for too long. We worked on the routine until we could do the whole thing pretty nicely at the trot, and Bear was so proud of himself we couldn't stop laughing at him. Meryl rode Steen a bit more at the end of the ride, and he was great for her. In spite of the heat, it was loads of fun. Riding with my sister is truly one of my favorite things.

Horseback hours YTD: 47:00

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Best Ever?

It is possible that today I had the best ride on Steen I've ever had. I took my own ThinLine pad to the barn today. It's a western cut instead of english, so it fit a bit better with my tack from the start. We tacked up and I led Steen to the strip, where we did a bit more work on side-passing before I mounted. I climbed on and Steen was wonderful from the start. The first five minutes, in fact, I got a glimpse of what it must be like to ride a truly well-trained horse. Steen was walking on a loose rein and he was completely attentive. I turned him in circles by thinking about turning - not by even going to far as using my hands or legs. All it took was a little shifting in my sit bones and shoulders.

We changed directions and distractions interfered and Steen's behavior devolved from perfect to really good. We worked on trotting figure-eights and circles, and Steen was trotting nicely and not giving me the lazy bending he has the last few rides. Eventually I pushed him into a lope and for the first time ever he was actually loping willingly in a circle. He wasn't stiff on one side. He wasn't digging into the corners. He was soft and collected and felt strong and happy to be moving. When I said "trot" he trotted. When I stopped him, he stood. When I asked him to walk, he pranced but only for a second. Then he did walk.

The whole ride was like that. And it was awesome. We walked, trotted and loped all over the strip and Steen's behavior was borderline wonderful the entire time. The weather was also perfect -- sunny, in the 70's and just the right amount of breeze.

Of course, if I know one thing about horses it's that steps forward are inevitably followed by steps back. I am sure Steen and I have plenty more frustrations ahead of us. But even getting a glimmer of the horse I might end up with at the end of all this hard work is pretty rewarding.

Horseback hours YTD: 45:30

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Step in the Right Direction

We got to the barn early again today, and although it didn't cool off much in the night and it was pretty humid, there was a nice breeze that kept things from feeling too bad. I did some groundwork with Steen before mounting. I've been starting to teach him to side-pass from the ground, and he's getting better at it. We also worked on yielding the forequarters and the hindquarters. He's good at both of these things from the ground, but not as good under saddle, so it never hurts to practice.

The ride started out really well. He stood while I mounted and picked up my stirrups. I went immediately into working in a circle, and when he was lazy with his turns I used my inside leg to reach back a bit and kind of push his hindquarters around. This worked well and he stopped being so lazy and began giving me some better bends. He was also not nearly as inclined to pick up the trot unasked, so maybe some of our work yesterday made an impression.

We worked on trotting in figure eights and circles and then we got to a point where he was doing his same old thing - I'd ask him to to walk, he'd walk for two steps, then trot. So, I tried a few times to get him to cool it to no avail, then decided to lope it out of him.

In general, Steen's lope felt much better today than it has the last couple of times we've loped on the strip. He could still be stiff at certain corners, but I tried to use my inside leg at the lope the same way I had at the trot. We loped really nicely for a few minutes in each direction. Then I decided to give him a break. My goal was to walk one circle and then I'd let him stand. Steen didn't want to walk one circle. He wanted to stop, so again his response when I asked him to keep walking was to trot. So my response to his trot was to ask him to lope again. My hope was he would get tired and get the point. But Steen is in good shape right now and 15 minutes later I was getting tired and he was still prancing any time I asked him to walk. He was also starting to feel rather sloppy, and slipped several times, so I compromised by seeing if he would walk in a different circle then the one we'd been loping, and that he would do.

So I let him stand. He was utterly drenched in sweat and breathing so hard I immediately felt rather bad. But I know the reason Steen does misbehave so much is in no small part due to the fact that I  am rather softhearted with him and often don't work him hard enough.

After a little rest I pushed Steen into the walk. At first he didn't want to go forward and then, predictably, he picked up the trot. I wasn't up for more loping and I knew he wasn't either, so I did something I'd never done before which was to pull him down from the trot and then keep contact on his mouth even after he started to walk. I wasn't pulling, but I kept up the pressure until he was moving at a nice walk and not weaving. When he tried to stop, I pushed him forward with my legs. When he tried to trot I held him back. After about half a lap around our circle, he was over it. He was walking nicely, so I gave him his head back and after that he was completely fine. Over the next little while I moved him between the trot and the walk quite a few times. He was giving me nice turns, transitions exactly as I asked for them without any attempts to do anything I didn't ask. I took him through circles and figure-eights this way, and I dare say it was about the best Steen has ever behaved outside of an arena. So I didn't push my luck. I dismounted. Steen was drenched. Even his face was sweaty, poor guy. I hosed him down and turned him out and he rolled but didn't manage to flip all the way over.

Bear's cut looked about the same today as it did yesterday. We hosed it off again and packed it full of more Neosprin. Also, the boots seem to have done the trick. When Brian took them off today Bear's ankles were less swollen than they've been in many weeks.

Horseback hours YTD: 44:40

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Productive but Annoying

Brian and I made an effort to get to the barn early this morning, since so often on the weekend we end up letting our morning slip away and then having to ride in the heat of the afternoon. We made it to the barn before 9:00, grabbed our boys from the pasture, and started grooming. Steen was completely over the floaty thingies. He hesitated once as I led him past the pool, but I just gave him more rope and kept walking and after a moment he was totally fine, back to his usual dozing-off-while-being-groomed self.

The good news is Bear's fly boots seemed to have definitely decreased his inclination to stomp his back feet. The bad news his he had a rather large cut on his front right leg, kind of in the meaty muscle on the inside above the knee. It was pretty puffy, and also not at all new. He must have done it right after we turned him out Thursday. He wasn't seeming super upset about it, but Brian didn't ride. We went to the strip, where I mounted. Steen stood quietly until I asked him to walk, but then about two steps later he picked up the trot.

I've been spending a lot of time trying to find a constructive way to address this issue of Steen's. It used to be that he wouldn't stand still, ever, for any reason, no matter what -- whether he had a rider on his back or a person standing next to him. Three years later, he loves to stand still but I think this trotting thing is the updated manifestation of that older issue. If I get mad at him for it, we devolve into having a completely unproductive war. If I pull him back to a walk over and over, we devolve into having a completely unproductive war. If I make him spin in circles, we devolve into having a completely unproductive war. Obviously, I need a constructive way to address this.

Today I decided to continue with what I tried last ride. Every time he picked up the trot, I made him stop, back and flex, then stand for a moment. At the beginning of the ride this worked like a charm, and we spent about half an hour moving between the two gaits very nicely. When we got to the farthest away point on the strip, I made him stop and back and flex before turning around. His stops improved dramatically in a very short time. He was even tucking his butt in preparation for the backing he knew would come.

We switched to figure eights and that went very well too. He was trotting nicely on a loose rein and I was concentrating on helping him through his lazy turn by riding as balanced as possible and putting extra weight on my outside sit bone to help with the bends. I made him walk at intervals, and while he did try to pick up the trot repeatedly each time, he did concede to walk around again without too much of a fight.

Then I took him back down the strip, working on leg yields up and back. He was great with this at first. Then we got to the bottom, I stopped him and suddenly he was just completely anxious to get back to the top where Bear was grazing with Brian. He wouldn't flex and starting jigging around underneath me every time I asked. Finally I got him to hold still and bend, turned him around and then he started trying to blast off back up to the barn. I made him stand until he could stand quietly. He got very angry with me and pawed -- something I'm not actually sure he's ever done under saddle before. But finally he got over it and sighed and stood, so I let him walk. But then he wanted to trot so we turned around and went the other direction.

And so on.

I do think with Steen it's largely a work-ethic issue. We get about half an hour into each ride and he seems to decide he's done and then he just puts up a fight no matter what I ask him to do. I was determined to ride through it. We worked on disengaging the hindquarters:

And walking in circles:

All with me pretending he was being good even when he was throwing his head around and acting like an idiot.

Finally, after about ten minutes of him doing everything he could to get out of continuing with the ride, he stopped with his little fit and started behaving like a normal horse again. I rode him for another fifteen minutes or so and he was pretty great again. I made him walk and trot some more circles and figure-eights and called it a day.

Horseback hours YTD: 43:45

Friday, July 08, 2011

Stronger Still

The last couple of days I've hit some new milestones with my swings. On Thursday I did all 100 swings without a break, using the 26lb kettlebell. It only took a few minutes, but by the time I got to 90 I wasn't sure I could do the that last 10. I did though, and when I put the bell down and walked up the basement stairs I cataloged all the places I thought I'd be sore the next day. Pretty much my entire body felt wobbly and drained.

But I woke up the next morning feeling fine. Really hungry, but otherwise fine.

Today I tried to use the 53lb bell for my entire workout, but I couldn't quite manage it. 53 pounds is just really heavy (a considerable percentage of my current body weight). Sometimes my biggest problem just comes down to grip. My hands and forearms feel so fatigued after a while I feel like I'm slipping too much on the handle if I get the least bit sweaty. Still, all week I've been shifting between the 35lb bell and the 53, doing five sets of 20 swings. I thought I could do small sets and manage with the 53 the whole time. My mistake was getting over-ambitious and doing a set of 20 in the middle. That wore me out and I had to do my last 20 swings with the 35lb bell.

As far as the practical results of my 100 swings a day project, I have to say they are dramatic. Yesterday I was shaving in the shower and I kept looking at my razor head because I thought the little swivel joint wasn't working. After a little while I realized the razor was fine, but my legs have gotten so much firmer, running a razor over them feels completely different. That little extra layer of softness between my skin and my muscle is gone. There is almost no give when I press down.

So in short, I'm noticing changes in every little aspect of my life. On horseback, I am increasingly able to ride in a more balanced manner and keep myself upright and solid in the saddle, particularly at the faster gaits, which in turn helps Steen move more freely.

In all truth, I am shocked at what a comprehensive transformation this one simple exercise has worked on my entire physique. I spend between 10 and 20 minutes in the basement each day, heaving a weight around, and 2.5 weeks later I think I can safely say I'm fitter than I've been since high school. I've lost exactly 0.6lbs, but all my clothes are loose. Although I can see an increase of underlying tone everywhere, I've not gained any bulk at all. I'm definitely going to keep this up until my 30 days are up, and after that I think I'm going to do a 30 day set a few times a year just to keep myself in the swing of it, so to speak.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Steen vs. The Floaty Thingies

It was pretty hot by the time we managed to get to the barn today, so we decided to tack up indoors to stay in the shade for a while. We also decided to park the boys right next to our tack locker because the barn was quiet and there is a spot to tie Bear. Steen's actually as good or better standing untied as he is standing tied, so he'll usually just chill while we groom and tack.

Today was no exception, until all of a sudden Steen just started freaking out. He was looking past Bear and out the open barn door and he went from standing and dozing to snorting, trying to run away and swiveling all over the place in roughly half a second. I gave him a moment but he did not calm down and for a while we were mystified as to what was setting him off. Until I took a closer look out the door and saw there were new yellow floaty thingies in the above-ground pool, drifting around like the horse-eating monsters they so clearly are.

I made Steen do some backing and coming forward until he was at least no longer about to bolt, then Brian held him for me while I finished with his feet. I put his bridle on and we headed outside, where I did a bit of groundwork on the mecate before mounting. Steen was good with the groundwork, but fidgety as I settled into the saddle. I was borrowing Cathi's pad again. I let Steen stand until he was relaxed, then we started out with walking up and down the strip. When we get to the end of the area we usually ride in, Steen has a bit of tendency to want to turn tightly and trot back, so each time we got to the part where he wanted to turn around, I asked him to stop and flex a few times. Once he was standing quietly, we'd turn back. If he picked up the trot on the way back, we turned around again and walked in the other direction. This exercise seemed to work quite well as far as getting Steen to focus. He was better with the walking than he's been in a while. Then we moved up to the trot, and I'd make him walk back for a while until I asked for the trot. For the most part his trot was slow and relaxed, though sometimes he'd pick it up fast and keep it there until I checked him a bit.

After straight lines we worked on figures eights, and these were very good. I was getting nice round turns out of Steen. I got some new stirrups that are nice and wide like the ones that were on my Abetta and I can really tell a difference in my ability to relax my leg and sit correctly.

Finally, after a brief standing-around session with Bear and Brian, we loped. Steen felt good at the lope. He was still stiff and resistant when turning away from the herd, but he felt quite balanced and collected -- not doing nearly as much leaning and digging as he has lately.

Then we called it quits, and the barn had gotten busy during our ride so we led the boys to the outdoor tacking area. Steen once again had a fairly sizable meltdown about the floaty thingies. I got him past them, tied him up, groomed him (no dry spots again!) and he was still eyeing them and snorting.

I decided only a close-up encounter was going to do the trick. It took some coaxing, but eventually Steen conceded the point. They are not just not that scary.

While all this was going on, Brian was decking Bear out in some new fly boots. We put them both back in the pasture, and Steen rolled, and flipped himself all the way over. I'd never seen him do that before (and I've seen him roll a lot). I think he's getting in better shape from all the loping.

So all in all it was a rather  unorthodox day at the barn, and yet I had a pretty great ride. :)

Horseback hours YTD: 42:45

Monday, July 04, 2011

New Peeps

Today we had the day off! (Which is to say Brian had the day off and I chose not to work.) We also have some friends who have long been wanting to meet our horses, so we headed for the barn in the late morning to introduce everyone. Steen and Bear, and actually all the other horses in the pasture, were more than willing to say hello to Steve and Cody, who are both equine newbies. Fortunately Steen and Bear both have excellent ground manners at this point. Steen was very docile and responsive as he followed Steve back to the tie area. Both the boys were happy to accept grooming and pets from unfamiliar hands.

But in the end we couldn't entice either of our friends to attempt groundwork or climb on for a pony ride. They made their exit as Brian and I mounted up on the strip.

I did not use Cathi's pad again today because I figured I'd let Brian try it, but nevertheless Steen stood perfectly still while I mounted. Still, it was hot by the time we got going and I gave Brian's stirrups back and tried to use the ones from my old abetta but they were too narrow at the top so were hanging oddly and I was feeling that kind of lazy that I didn't want to lead Steen all the way back to the barn and put my other ones on. Steen and I had a brief, nice walk/trot ride in which I concentrated on keeping him relaxed and he did pretty well jogging around the strip, stopping, flexing, backing and disengaging his hind-quarters when asked.

When I got off, Brian inquired if I would like a little ride on Bear. Somewhat amazingly, I had never yet loped Bear. I handed Steen's reins to Brian and climbed into the bear trap. Insert usual comment about how amazingly different Bear is than Steen. Also the bear trap already felt funny to me, which is a good sign I suppose, as far as how I'm adjusting to my new saddle.

So, I suggested to Bear that we walk and he was not impressed with my suggestion. We've become increasingly convinced that Bear is a man's horse, and also the fact that I tend to intervene with him only when things are going badly hasn't particularly endeared me to him. But I asked a little harder and he complied and before long I pushed him into a lope.

Bear has a nice, agile lope, and he proved this to me by loping in very, very small circles. I worked on sitting in a balanced manner and encouraging him to broaden his radius. He did eventually agree to do this and we went nicely for a little while, but it was hot and I didn't want to push him so I kept it short. Still, it was fun and reminded me that I should really make an effort to ride Bear more often.

Horseback hours YTD: 42:10

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Easily Swayed

Cathi (who owns our barn) has mentioned a few times this particular type of pad that she got and loooves and highly, highly recommends. But I must admit that I am not the sort of person who has a very easy time lending much weight to other people's opinions of things they have purchased. I think this is because I have sort of an inborn anti-reaction to any kind of advertising. For instance, say I am in a store and I am going to buy something and I must choose between two brands. If the only thing I am aware of to differentiate the two products is that I have seen an ad for one and not the other, I will buy the product I haven't seen advertised.

This is because I find advertising and hype offensive on a fundamental level. I make my consumer choices based on fact, multiple unbiased reviews, price, and other such weigh-able variables-- not glitz, graphics and attractive models, or 'this changed my life' type testimonials, thank you very much.

So whenever someone starts gushing to me about this awesome new thing they bought and love, I am immediately suspicious. But, Cathi showed me where she keeps the fabulous pad, and told me to try it out whenever I wanted. She said to just put it between my normal pad and my saddle and see what I think. So today, I did.

I can't say it miraculously transformed my horse into a well-trained, rational creature. I can say that I think it had a positive effect on our overall ride. Steen stood perfectly still while I mounted and picked up my stirrups. This was a bit of a relief to me, since he has been a tad shifty since I got the new saddle. Then we started out with the ride and the first 10 minutes Steen was wonderful. He was walking and trotting along with his head down, his entire aura one of relaxed, collected, attentive contentment.

But, Steen is kind of spoiled these days and after a short time started getting preoccupied with the idea that it was probably time to stop. He communicated this opinion by attempting to veer towards the herd and then, when I turned him the other direction, picking up the trot. So I pushed him into a lope and we ran around for a while. The lope was nice, but he was  being a pain about the turns. We loped and loped and loped and he got pretty tired and was settling in.

So I let him stop. Then we stood for a while, and when I asked him to move around again he didn't want to. When I made him he launched himself into full riled-up Steen mode. So I decided I was just going to make him trot in one big circle until he gave me a consistent trot and nice turns.

Twenty minutes later, we had made some reasonable progress, so I asked Steen for a walk. He complied eagerly, but then wanted to stop entirely. When I wouldn't let him, it was back into his defiant trot. So we trotted our circle for quite a while longer.

In the end, he was coming around. We finally achieved a few circles at the walk. In spite of his antics, Steen was moving very nicely. I think all his issues were in his head. Still, at one point towards the end someone in the neighborhood either set off a firecracker or did something very loud with some massive machinery. Steen heard it and spring-loaded himself to bolt. I had enough time to shorten my reins before he... didn't go anywhere. I could actually see him decide not to spook. Which for my silly, emotional Steen is a pretty big deal. I was proud of him.

In the meantime Brian was spending some time trying to convince Bear that corn is not scary. They were mostly successful at this, but at times Bear was pretty suspicious of the tall green stuff.

Finally, we dismounted and headed indoors and I pulled the saddle. A perfectly even sweat pattern met my eyes. And Steen wasn't even that sweaty. So, while I am pretty sure the new saddle isn't causing Steen any pain or problems, if I can obtain an even sweat pattern so easily, I can't think of a reason not to. So, I might be buying an Ultra Thin-Line pad of my own.

Horseback hours YTD: 41:45

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