Friday, February 03, 2012

Finding the Haunch

I've ridden three times since my last post, and each ride has been a bit better than the one before. I've been thinking a lot about precision, and keeping Steen in that delicate place where he is relaxed but still energetic. I've also continued to try to emphasize exercises that force Steen to engage his haunches, and I think these are really starting to pay off. Today we had a fabulous ride. It's the kind of ride I didn't even know was possible a year ago.

When we were riding on Tuesday, Bear got big compliments from another boarder when Brian realized just before mounting that he'd forgotten his spurs. So he left Bear in the arena while he went back for them. I was already riding, and Bear stood quietly without budging an inch until Brian got back. The boarder who saw this was impressed, which got Brian and I speculating whether or not Steen would do the same thing.

Today we decided to video our ride, and after we did groundwork I went back to restart the camera. I thought it would be a good test to see if Steen would stay put if I left him there.

He tried to follow me three times, but I gently put him back was and walked off again. The fourth time, he stayed.

And by the time I got back to him he was just standing there dozing as if he was hobbled. He'd entered this super relaxed mind-set that carried into the ride.

The other thing I've been working on a lot is moving through the soft feel into genuine collection. We do this on the ground as well as under saddle.

And he's been decent about it for a while. Today, though, we reached a new level of responsiveness. I particularly noticed it working on leg-yielding. He was willing to collected off of the lightest pressure on the bit, and when I put my leg on him he'd stretch out and reach across, floating sideways across the arena. I even had him doing zig-zags. I actually think he likes this exercise. He seems to enjoy the challenge, now that he's understanding what I want.

But as wonderful as the leg yields were, perhaps more exciting today was how he was stopping. For the first time ever we nailed a stop from the trot. He's still stopping more on his front end than I would like, but he's doing it much faster than he used to, and rolling back on his haunches immediately after the stop. Oh and his backing was awesome too. He's finally reaching and taking nice, long, relaxed backwards steps.

The only thing that was sort of step down today was the lope. I think he just had a lot of energy from getting two days off, and our arena is small for a horse his size that's going fast. I also asked for the soft feel at the lope for the first time today, so that might have been contributing to his confusion a little. But after our mediocre lope he went right back to being awesome about everything else, so I'm not going to hold it against him.

Monday Ride Time: 0:55
Tuesday Ride Time: 0:35
Friday Ride Time: 1:00

Horseback hours YTD: 5:20

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