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

1 comment:

  1. Side-passing is something I really need to start working on more too. Seems like every time I start, something comes up and I'm not able to work on it for awhile.

    I've never found the "make them tired" thing to work all that well. Trekker, especially, can go a lot longer than I can (he's not really in great shape...but he'll just keep going anyway). I usually go for making him "work" in different ways, which forces him to think more about what he's doing, and not whatever he was thinking about that made him excited/prancy. I don't know if this works for other horses though.

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