Sunday, January 29, 2012

Quality over Speed

Horsemanship can feel vast sometimes. Whenever I see videos of Buck Brannaman or Ray Hunt working with a green horse, the main thing that floors me time and time again is how fast they are. They ask for one thing after another after another, and their horses stay focused and attentive.

These last few rides I have been trying to push Steen more, but the major thing I have to be careful of is that I don't start rushing. Fantastic trainers can go fast because they are precise. Their horses are rarely confused because the rider always knows exactly what he wants and how to ask for it.

I know most of my communication errors with Steen are my fault. Some of the time I'm asking him for things I've never actually felt a horse do before, which means I am sort of guessing. When I try to go fast, I get muddled, and when I get muddled, Steen gets upset. So today I was really thinking about pushing Steen, but doing so in a slow, precise manner.

I think it worked. The last two rides have been good, but we were back to a new level of softness today. I rode in the snaffle and he was softening to the bit at the walk and trot and happily holding collection for a few steps. I worked more on moving his forehand around, and I can see he is starting to understand this exercise. When he wouldn't get it right I would not give him a release, just keep asking gently. He almost always got it right the second time.

We went from there into my figure-eight exercise that includes a trot-walk transition, a stop, backing, then jumping straight into the trot from the back. That went well, except I have to be careful not to lose the soft feel during the back as Steen has developed a slight tendency to anticipate the jump into the trot.

Then we worked on leg yields, which went really well. We're having a lot more success when moving to the right, but were getting multiple steps with collection and reaching across in both directions today.

Finally, we did more loping, and again Brian and Bear loped at the same time we did. Other than one moment at the beginning when Steen got away with a veer towards Bear, he was responsive and attentive in both directions. Best of all, he was great to the right. He wasn't leaning on me at all, so I think our little battle of wills last time worked out for the best.

We rode for 45 minutes, and everything about today's ride was a little better than our last one. In some ways that doesn't seem like such a big deal, but if I could say that about every ride Steen would be a wonder horse in no time.

Ride Time: 0:45
Horseback hours YTD: 2:50

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