Sunday, February 05, 2012

Outside!

There was a new chiropractor at the barn today, and her treatment involves working with the horse and rider under saddle. We did not feel we needed to get any horses adjusted, but we hung around and watched for a while, then rode.

Since the indoor arena was in use, we went outside. The footing was not ideal. We rode on the strip, and things were mushy. It was our first ride outside in months, so I was curious to see how Steen behaved. All in all, I think he did about as well as I could reasonably expect. When we were in or "comfort zone" he was great. He was attentive and it was nice to feel the extra energy. Between the deep sand in the indoor and the contained nature of that environment, he does tend to get sluggish inside. Outside he had a bit more verve, which translated into him putting more effort into some of our exercises.

However, pushing past the comfort zone did cause some back-sliding. It was nothing bad, just a tendency to focus on wanting to head back to the barn. So I spent a lot of time working on fairly demanding trotting exercises outside of the little bubble on the strip he seems to consider "safe" just to try to engage his mind to the point that he would stop thinking about the barn. This was challenging. I was trying to ride really well and use my seat and my legs to stay in touch with him. It is so easy for me to revert to using my hands when he starts to lose focus, and when I do that he has less to listen to and immediately gets more nervous. We did get some good work in. I got the soft feel at the trot a lot, and did achieve some figure-eights that were consistent both in speed and shape. He was also stopping and standing quite well all day.

At the end of the ride we met up with Brian and Bear and the four of us walked all the way down to the end of the strip and back up. I had been feeling a bit disappointed that Steen had not behaved a bit better overall, but I was actually pleasantly surprised by these last few minutes. Steen walked the whole way down and back with his head down, clearly very relaxed. We walked all the way back up to the barn without one attempt to pick up the trot. He wasn't even doing his power walk.

So, in retrospect I feel better about the ride than I did when it was going on. I can't reasonably expect him to go outside and not worry about anything after so much time in the indoor this winter. I do hope to really work on his ability to ride out without anxiety this summer though.

Ride Time: 1:00
Horseback hours YTD: 7:25

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