Saturday, August 20, 2011

Long Lopes

The weather has been beautiful and this is making it so much more possible to have some truly enjoyable rides. Today we rode in the second pasture and my goal was the same as last time - to work Steen through all three gaits, giving him a chance to really settle at each.

Steen started out a bit restless and goey and his trotting tantrum frequency was up considerably in comparison to our last few rides. I think he's just feeling good. He's fit and the day was cool and he had a lot of energy. We walked around the perimeter of the pasture at first and then settled into a nice jog, but once I stopped him and made him stand for a few minutes he was ready to shoot out from beneath me, anticipating the lope I was going to ask for. So I made him walk around until he was walking on a loose rein without a fuss. Then I asked him for the lope and he flung himself into it, going much faster than he has lately. The herd and Bear were both having a magnet effect on him, so our loop was a bit odd. Some turns were lazy, others sharp depending on where Bear was at any given moment.

But I kept at it for quite a while and eventually he did start to settle. I made our circle larger and larger and he slowed down a bit and started to pay more attention to my leg cues. Finally I stopped him and he was good with his downward transitions. Then he wanted to stand around sniffing my foot:

I walked and trotted again, and at the walk he wanted to trot and at the trot he wanted to lope, but in each case I made him maintain the desired gait until he relaxed and then keep at it for a while longer still. When we got to the lope the second time he picked it up more smoothly (we were going his preferred direction, so I'm sure that helped). He relaxed much faster and soon we were flying around the pasture and he was feeling great. I extended our circle to use the whole space except for the one steepest corner, which meant we were  basically doing a very large triangle over varied terrain. Steen didn't have any trouble with the grades or the humps or the patches of grass the horses mysteriously won't eat so grow quite tall. He was happy to go but balanced and relaxed. I gave him his head and we loped for longer than we've ever loped before.

After quite a few laps he was starting to feel tired so I stopped him and we went back to walking. He didn't stay tired for long and we went through the whole process of settling in at each gait, then loping some more.

So, it was a wonderful ride and I'm quite pleased with him, though I did have to reinforce standing and walking a lot more than I have lately. As we get more used to moving faster I'll have to remember to make sure not to let the slower stuff slip.

Ride Time: 55 minutes
Horseback hours YTD: 54:55

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