Sunday, March 25, 2012

Out Enjoying the Weather

Looking out the window, you would never guess it's only March. All last week our yard was carpeted in crocuses. The grass is up and growing like mad. This whole week was sunny and in the 60's.

Today we continued what we hope becomes our new Sunday tradition, which is to leave the barn behind. We did just a few minutes of warming up on the strip, then headed out.

We did the same route as last time, except we threw in some trotting here and there. Historically, Steen's behavior deteriorates on the trail the faster I let him go, so I was pleased that after our first trot he was completely content to stop and stand while Brian got off and adjusted a sock. After that, we walked back along the second strip. Steen was walking at a good pace, but he was by no means charging around like he used to.

We then ran the gauntlet that is the double track lane past the shed with the cats and Rottweiler and cattle and invisible horse-eating phantoms. Steen had three or four little balks during which he tensed or hesitated going forward, but I just let him take his time and we made it without incident. Two cars passed us on the road and Steen didn't even give those a second thought. Then there were some deer in the trees, which Steen heard but didn't see and got momentarily concerned about, but again all he did was hesitate. Finally we made it to the salad bowl.

Here we walked a lap of the perimeter, then returned to the relatively level area at the top where Brian and I took turns doing some circle work and taking pictures of each other. I worked on short-serpentines and whirlygigs at the walk, and leg-yields at the trot. Steen was a bit distracted, but we got everything done.

I asked him for the soft feel every few minutes for the whole of the ride, and by and large he was always willing to give to the bit at a light touch. I think checking in with him like this helps reassure him that I'm there too, and also gently remind him that decisions on speed and trajectory are my jurisdiction.

After our work in the salad bowl, we did another lap. Then we trotted part of the way home, and Steen stayed quite attentive to me the whole time. When I asked him to walk, he walked. And then he walked all the way back to the barn without protest.

So this is the second trail ride that took us well out of familiar territory. Again, Steen made it without a single spook or prance, let alone his old trick of attempting to turn around and go home. I'm so thrilled at this change in him. Today he actually relaxed as we got closer to the barn, instead of getting more and more wound up as we drew near home. After the ride we did a little bit of loping on the strip, and he was great about that too.

Our ride was an hour and a half long, and everybody was sweaty and tired by the end. But I think we all had a good time.

Ride Time: 1:30
Horseback hours YTD: 22:55

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