Thursday, January 26, 2012

Half Thawed

The pasture is in a bit of a state right now:


So I always feel like it is a good thing to get the horses inside, get their hooves dried out and get them moving a little. Steen has lost some fitness in his three weeks of convalescence. Today my plan was to trot a lot. Instead I ended up loping a lot. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

My work on moving the front end over seems to have already helped. A month or two ago I was reading Hackamore Reinsman by Ed Connel, and he talked about how different horses are inclined to use their bodies differently from birth. He said most horses do most things decently well, but occasionally you'll see the horse that will pull out a sliding stop while romping in the pasture, and you know that horse would make a good cow-horse.

Then there is the other kind of horse -- the kind he described as reluctant to engage the haunches in any circumstances. Much to my chagrin, his description of how this horse moves and behaves when at liberty lined up with Steen perfectly. He says this kind of horse needs a lot of remedial work to learn to roll his weight back. This is one of the reasons I've been trying to work on moving Steen's front end over. It should force him to start to use his haunches.

Today, I actually felt what this exercise is meant to be like. It didn't happen every time, but once or twice instead of taking one plodding step across after another, Steen actually rolled his weight back and took multiple steps across, planting one hind foot and scooting the other around. It was both interesting and encouraging to feel.

I rode in the snaffle again, and worked more on both haunches-in and leg-yields. Yesterday I think I got a bit over-zealous with the leg-yields. I was trying to make him go down the entire diagonal of the arena. Today I realized that was too much to ask, and switched my technique. When he collected and gave me two or three steps in a row, I released and gave him a break for the rest of that lap, and picked up the exercise again only when we turned the corner and were going in the opposite direction.

Then I decided to lope for a while. That went quite well going to the left, but to the right he was doing the thing where he digs into the turns and just barrels along on what feels like two legs. When I tried to push him out with the inside rein and leg, he just leaned on me and barreled faster. So then we loped for a long time -- until he could see the wisdom in listening to my suggestion not to lean against pressure, but to give to it. It was only probably only about five minutes of solid loping, but it felt like a long time to both of us. Eventually he did stop barreling and started listening. After I got two good turns I let him stop.

All in all it was a pretty awesome ride. Steen was much softer today all around, and I was riding better. Feeling him collect and half-pass under me is pretty awesome, as is the feeling of loft I got when he started to use his haunches moving his front end around his hind. I feel like each ride lately I am getting more of these glimmers of a higher level of horsemanship. I am pretty excited to see what this year of riding brings.

Ride Time: 0:50
Horseback hours YTD: 2:05

1 comment:

  1. Ah, mud. That's pretty much been the state of things here since...I don't really remember how long ago. Sometime last year I think. And just when things start to dry out, we get more rain/snow.

    Glad you were able to get some riding in, despite the sloppy ground.

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