Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Rough Ride for Everyone

Today, things started out promising. The weather continues to be beyond perfect. We started out with some groundwork and working on detail stuff. I had excellent success with yielding Steen's forequarters and hindquarters separately and softly under saddle.

We headed out to the big pasture and meandered out way up to the hilltop. We worked on backing half circles and Steen was awesome. I feel like something had clicked with him (or me, more likely) and he wasn't rocking onto his forehand in the turns but really using his hindquarters all the way around and moving off the lightest pressure. It was great.

We went from there into trotting, and here I was pleased to see Steen was a lot less inclined to brace and instead was tucking his head and collecting when he felt pressure on the bit. We spent quite a while trotting around on the hilltop and he was bending nicely through the turns and relaxing.

We'd been doing this for a while when I heard hoof-beats and looked over to see Brian and Bear loping around in an utterly lovely circle. I stopped and watched them for a moment, thinking how nice Bear was looking. Then they went around a particular corner and I noticed Bear was trailing his hind end like Steen is inclined to do and moving sideways with his neck at a bad angle. I didn't think much of it, turned Steen and began working on something else.

Then I heard a thud and a grunt and galloping hoof-beats. No one wants to hear this, ever. I turned and saw Brian on the ground and Bear running for the barn. Steen saw Bear too, and just as he geared up to get upset about it, I dismounted. I had no interested in dealing with a riled up horse before I determined if Brian was ok or not.

He was already sitting up and telling me he was fine by the time I got to him. He said Bear slipped in the turn, likely because he was trailing his hind out behind him and putting too much weight on his front end to make the turn. With the slip, Bear lost his balance. Brian tried to get him back in line, Bear, veered instead the other way and Brian came off. Luckily it was a fairly smooth fall on grass. Unluckily he fell precisely on his left wrist, which still hasn't fully recovered from a tumble he took off his bike last year, which was immediately followed by another fall off Bear.

But he hiked gamely back to get Bear and bring him back to the hilltop. While he was gone I did groundwork with Steen because he was pretty upset and not at all focused. He kept wanting to gaze off after Bear and Brian and once I had to actually pop him in the nose with my mecate to get his attention. But we worked until he was pretty well focused. Brian returned on Bear, who was looking nervous and contrite and possibly a bit sore in the hip.

We stayed on the hilltop for only a few more minutes, during which I made Steen stand and do short-serpentines because somewhere in the saga of Bear running away he had become obsessed with the idea of going home. He was fine standing, but he felt charged. As soon as I pointed his head towards the barn, I got the prance. I got him down off the hill by holding him in, but then as we headed up out of the gully and he was getting no better I recognized that it was time to draw battle lines again.

It took about 25 minutes for us to get to the gully back to the outdoor arena. This is a distance a horse would walk in about a minute. My strategy was simple. I let Steen walk towards the barn until he chose not to walk. When he picked up the trot, I stopped him with one rein and pointed him in the other direction. We walked away, turned back and headed towards the barn again. It took a really long time, but finally we almost made it back, and he picked up a trot again in the airlock. I stopped him, turned him around and walked him all the way back out the big pasture. As we were going back I could feel that I had won. He was listening to my seat, his head was low. He was realizing that there was no easy way out. I turned him and he walked back to the outdoor arena on a loose rein.

Then I asked him for a lope, and he was a butthead about it. He started out sloppy and fast, trailing through the turn nearest the hitching post as is his habit. He got a kick in the ribs for that, followed by another, much harder kick when that one had no effect. He then shaped right up and gave me nice circles, but they were fast and he felt like he was just charging around, so I kept him at it until he relaxed and started using his body properly. It took almost 10 minutes and he was pretty tired by the end. I asked him for a stop, then wanted to walk him a bit to cool him off. He picked up the trot and I stopped him with one rein. I could then literally feel him surrender. He sighed and licked his lips and I was able to steer him in loose figure-eights with just my legs. I kept that up until he had cooled off.

So, kind of a rough ride for all of us. I got off the easiest, and I'm still pretty worn out. It took us so long to get back to the barn, I rode for over an hour and a half, and for a lot of that riding I had to be really on the ball to make sure I was being consistent in my corrections. I hope our next ride can be more relaxing.

Ride Time: 1:35
Horseback hours YTD: 81:10

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