Friday, November 04, 2011

Fabulous Lope

The weather has continued fair but Brian and I have been a tad sick. I don't get sick often, and sometimes it seems like I get almost sick. That's how I've been this week. I don't have any overt symptoms, but then when I exert myself I bit I revert briefly to feeling awful.

 It was also the busiest week the Brown Wing Studio has had in several months, and while this is a good thing overall, it meant I worked a few 10 hours days. It's hard to fit a horseback ride in when that happens.

Today, though, Brian and I were determined to get out there. The weather was nice when we arrived. Steen is not nearly as into the bale as Bear is, which means he comes to me when he sees me during the winter. That's always nice, even though I know the behavior will disappear as soon he's back out on 13 acres of lush grass in the spring.

We rode on the strip again, since recent rains made it pretty much the only usable space other than the indoor. Steen started out a bit sluggish with groundwork, but I made an effort to be patient. Sometimes when I ask him to move back off the slobber strap, he'll tuck his nose really nicely but then not move his feet. I often then pull harder, which is the impatient way to respond, I know, but it's often hard to wait when I know he knows how to move back. Today I waited, though, and sure enough after a few seconds standing with his head tucked he moved back. We did this a few times, as well as working on yielding the forehand and hindquarters separately. I don't know if the groundwork was responsible for the ride that followed, but whatever happened, I'll take it. Steen was great. He was focused and willing, not at all sluggish. He almost never tried to veer towards Bear or the herd, and he only picked up the trot unasked twice.

But the nicest thing was his lope. We had been trotting figure-eights and I was steering him almost entirely with my seat and he was listening like a dream. I switched into doing a larger circle and I could just feel that I could push him right into a lope. It wasn't that he was thinking about loping, or expecting me to ask him, it was just that he was ready. He was balanced and attentive, and so I leaned forward a bit and gave him a squeeze and sure enough he gave me about the most beautiful transition I've ever experienced on him. The lope was awesome. Our lopes recently have been hit or miss, sometimes with Steen barreling around in circles, veering towards Bear at every possible moment, dumping on his front-end in the turns, etc.. This lope was nothing like that. I never had to check his speed or correct his balance, I just let him lope on a loose rein. And while Steen and I have achieved this before in the indoor arena, or for brief intervals between less beautiful circles, this time he was balanced all the way around every circle. I continued to mostly steer him with my seat and my legs, and when I sat up and shifted my weight back in the saddle, he transitioned back to a trot.

We went the other way and things felt even better. We moved down to trot a few more figure-eights, then moved back into the lope again and he took the whole thing with grace. He still has a tendency to trot fast and with his neck braced after I ask for the downward transition out of the lope, but that's probably my fault, born of hanging on his mouth too much back when Steen was in his, "I might slow down, I might not" phase.

After the ride, I let him graze for a while. He's gotten a bit thinner since they came off the grass, so now I'm trying to keep on eye on things to make sure he doesn't lose too much weight, and trying to figure out when or if I should blanket this year. We'll see how it goes, but if he gets much thinner I'll probably throw the wug back on him.

Ride Time: 1:00
 Horseback hours YTD: 88:05

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