Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Steen So Soft

It was back to "work" today after our leisurely trail ride on Sunday followed by two much-needed days off for all of us. I was curious to see how Steen was feeling after his little break, and right when I first got on I thought we were in for a sub-par day. Starting out, Steen's Bear magnet was at work pretty noticeably, but I worked on bending and slow stuff, like short-serpentines and whirlygigs. It didn't take long before the magnet effect was gone.

My plan was to continue on what I worked on last week, namely to switch frequently and randomly between all three gaits in a way that never let Steen start to anticipate what I was going to ask for next. This was actually challenging for me, because I'm used to setting up little patterns and scenarios while I ride. It's sort of hard to keep from doing the same thing the same way twice.

I do think it was worth the effort though. I had a great ride. We moved through all three gaits regularly, and Steen was so soft and attentive at every gait he was just a pleasure to ride. He's loping so differently these days. I would start him off in some random direction. Sometimes we'd go in a straight line, sometimes we'd do a bit U and run back the way we'd come. Sometimes we did circles. Since he didn't know what I was going to ask for, he had to stay engaged. All it took was a little tap on my outside forward leg to get him bending into a turn. He was even putting some effort into his stops.

I did have to pull out the one-rein stop four times, but each time I did he'd give this little sigh after his feet stopped, like he was saying to himself, "Dang it, I did it wrong again." But mostly today he was getting it right. I'm not sure I've ever seen him try so hard for so long as he did today.

Our highlight moment was midway through the ride. I was giving him a breather. When I picked up the reins he moved automatically into a collected frame and gave me the "what's next" signal with his ears. I'm not sure why, but I asked him to side-pass. And he did. Three perfect steps, crossing one over the others. We've dabbled at side-passing here and there, but I don't think we've ever gotten a real, true side-pass done before. The most interesting thing was how effortless it was. With all of this stuff we've been working on, the pieces were all there. We just put them together.

Horseback hours YTD: 20:05

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