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

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