Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mostly Healed

Well, January has not been a great month for riding. Work has been busy, Steen has been healing, and the weather has been uninviting. So the horses have been getting some time off. Beyond making sure Steen's leg wasn't getting any worse (mostly thanks to Brian looking in on it for me), I've not had anything to do with the horses in days.

But today I was more than ready to get back out there. Brian and I decided we would go after work, no matter what, and I spent the whole day looking forward to it. After we got to the barn and brought the horses in, we turned them out for a few minutes inside. The pasture is icy, and sometimes when their movement is more confined outside they get a kick out of tearing it up in the indoor. Mostly this time they just wanted to roll.

I checked on Steen's leg. It is still a pretty deep, thick scab, but it hasn't been swollen or tender in a long time, so I think it's safe to ride on.

We saddled up and climbed aboard. I rode in the snaffle, mainly because there are a few things I sort of skipped over when I moved up to the hackamore, and I want to go back and work on them properly so I don't leave behind any holes. Plus with all the time off I figured our feel would be rusty. It was. Steen was quiet and relaxed and attentive but was slow to give me any softness at the walk or the trot.

One thing I've been thinking about in my time off is how demanding most successful trainers are when you see them working with horses. I have a tendency to ask Steen for one tiny little thing and then fuss over him like crazy when he does it right. While I do believe in positive reinforcement, ultimately I think too much praise does more harm than good. So this ride I started thinking about pushing Steen a little more. I've been asking him to move his front end over under saddle for months, and he's ok at it. Since he's not super consistent about it though, I don't push him when we're working on it. But today I decided to ask for one step, and when I got one ask for two, then three. Of course I didn't to want over-do it. After a few minutes working on any given thing I made sure to take a break and move on to something else after a particularly good attempt, then come back to that thing later.

I think it worked really well. Steen seemed more engaged late in the ride than he often does. I returned to moving the front-end over a lot during the ride, and each time he got a little better about it. I also worked just a tad on haunches-in and leg yields, both of which I've done a bit before but never consistently. The horse needs to hold collection throughout the exercise for both of them, so it is a new level of challenge for both of us.

We also loped around some. At one point after I started loping, Brian and Bear loped with us. That was fun, and something we'd never done together in the indoor before.

By 40 minutes into the ride, instead of starting to get sluggish and bored as he often does as the ride draws to a close, Steen was as attentive as at the beginning. So that's a good sign.

Mostly, though, it was just pretty fantastic to be back on my horse!

Ride Time: 0:40
Horseback hours YTD: 1:15

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