Friday, April 06, 2012

A Ride in the Trees

Wednesday was windy and a little cool. While tacking we noticed the stall horses were out in the big pasture, so access to the treed lot was clear of both equine obstacles and mud. We hadn't ridden out there since last fall some time, and Brian and I both wanted to work on slow stuff, so we headed over after we finished tacking and grooming.

Earlier this week Brian and I watched one of Buck Brannaman's colt-starting DVDs. While his videos aren't the most slickly edited pieces of media ever created, it does hold true that every time I read something or watch something by Buck, it gives me some insights. I came to the ride on Wednesday realizing it was going to be hard to get Steen to walk a perfect circle with me riding him if I had never achieved one from the ground. So we started out with more than our usual groundwork. I had Steen walk on the end of the mecate, and every time he got distracted and looked away from me or cut a corner on the circle, I either tipped his nose in with the rein or pushed him out with some pressure.

Steen didn't really like this. He's been getting away with the same lackadaisical attitude about groundwork for a while. But the big moment came when I was asking him to back at one point and he didn't get out of my way fast enough. The end of my mecate caught him on the end of his nose. I never intend to do this, but one of the rules I try to follow is that it's Steen's responsibility to get out of my way, so if he's too slow, there are consequences. I've probably hit him in the nose five times in the four years I've had him, but Wednesday marked the first time I hit him twice in quick succession. Again, it was not intentional, but boy did it have an impact. Steen rocketed backwards so fast he looked more like some sort of crab than a horse. It actually made me feel really bad. I let him come back to me and gave him some big pets and apologized. But after that he was really paying a lot of attention to me. He was a little antsy, too, and inclined to trot on the line. I let him realize I wasn't asking him to trot. When he was calm again, I climbed aboard.

What followed was an interesting ride. I was focused on the quality of our circles, and keeping a consistent bend through Steen's body at all times. Steen was a little distracted and at times annoyed at me when I bumped his nose in after he lost his bend. But over the course of the ride he did seem to focus. When he cut in on the circle, I collected him and leg-yielded him back out. That worked really well.

After a long, long time at the walk, we transitioned from walking circles and figure-eights to trotting rings around the trees. I had promised Steen no loping (the new boots will be here by our next ride) so we just roved around and worked on bending and collecting at both the walk and trot. Then I watched Brian lope Bear for a while. Steen was happy to stand around spectating.

I still get a sort of thrill about the fact that Steen will now willingly stand still for long periods of time, and not care while I fumble around with a camera whilst sitting on him. And Brian has been doing so well lately and gotten to be such a competent horseman in his own right, I don't spend as much time watching him as I used to. So it's always fun to park out for a few minutes and watch him work with Bear.

After the ride, both the horses were super relaxed. I poked around Steen's legs and he certainly has no swelling or bruising from the over-reach problem, so I'm hoping it's more a mental issue than a physical one. At any rate, we'll see how the boots fit, and what impact they have, in the near future.

Ride Time: 1:25
Horseback hours YTD: 31:10

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