Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Birthday Snow

Brian loves snow, and almost every year he seems to get at least a little on his birthday. Today we had a dusting, but not enough to clog up the roads.

Lately we've been a bit concerned that Bear's saddle might be causing the intermittent tightness he gets in his right side, so Brian and I decided to switch saddles for the day to see what kind of a difference it made. Luckily I never mind riding in the Bear Trap, and it fits Steen fine. Steen never seems to mind it either.


My plan for the ride was to keep working on the lope exercise, mixed in with other things, of course. Our first go was awesome. The second and third times picking up the lope were the smoothest departures I've ever gotten from Steen. And he almost nailed one of the stops. I felt him collect and prepare himself for the stop and I thought he was going to slam on the brakes and stop on a dime. I don't think he quite has the confidence yet though. I'm not in a hurry with it, but at least even after just a few days doing this I can feel him changing the way he thinks about stopping from the lope, which is an excellent start.

Then we took a break and worked on other transitions. I've been making a huge effort to ride actively lately, making sure my body is always moving with Steen's body. This has helped with some of the confusion we have about moving between the walk and the trot, so I continued to refine that, moving from standing to walk to trot and back down as gently and smoothly as possible.

We went back to the loping exercise, but the second two didn't go as well. Since he did so well with the first session, I stopped letting him pause between the stop and the roll back and after a few rounds this started to be too much for him. Steen is definitely a horse who tends towards the reactive, and I need to make sure to always build in extra time to keep his brain engaged. When his brain turns off, he just starts responding to any stimulus in the area, whether it's me or a current of air, and then we get to a place where I am fighting with him to get him to do what I want. Luckily I've gotten much better at avoiding this place, and leaving it when I do accidentally find myself there. When he started getting over-excited and inclined to jig, I stopped the loping exercise and we worked on short serpentines and  he got focused again quite quickly and was utterly soft with his bends.


At the end of the ride I decided to lope a bit without asking for him to stop and change direction every lap. That started off well but then he started trying to veer to the center where Bear was. So I had to correct him and that got him riled up again and then he started trying to cut corners and got a bit stiff and unbalanced, so I basically just made him keep going until he was wiling to soften back up and bend through the turns. It actually took quite a few more laps than I would have made him go otherwise. He was a bit tired at the end, but that's good for him too.

Ride Time: 1:05
Horseback hours YTD: 98:50

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