Thursday, April 05, 2012

Strange Sunday

On Sunday the horses got their feet trimmed, which was good because Steen has a bit of a tendency to over-reach and kick himself on the inside of his right front foot when his feet get a bit long. He does this mostly at the lope, but we've been working on the lope a lot lately, so he's been kicking himself more than usual. When he's due for a trim I often lope less because of this problem.

After the trim we headed out to wander around the fields a bit. The ride was going great. It was quite warm, and everyone was mellow. We went up and down the second strip, over to the three hills, and back down to the grassy area I'd loped the day before with such excellent results. So this is what I was envisioning would happen when I asked Steen to lope a circle:

But instead I got a sort of crazy horse. Steen surged into the lope and started barreling around, leaning into the corners, refusing to bend, tripping, and feeling like he was going to fall over. I tried to keep my cool and worked on doubling him at regular intervals. Eventually he settled into what seemed like a more reasonable gait. We went a few laps and I let him stop and rest for a minute, then asked him to go in the other direction.

And it was awful. So unbelievably awful I am willing to go out on a limb here and say this was the worst Steen has ever felt at the lope. (And that's saying something.) I kept at it for a while but got nowhere. He was absolutely refusing to pick up the left lead in front, though he'd get it in the back. I've never had this issue with Steen. He's one of the few horses I've ridden who doesn't seem to have a preference for one lead over the other. What made the whole thing stranger is Brian was having almost the exact same issue with Bear. We kept looking at each other and shrugging our shoulders, unable to figure out what was going on.

During the course of the lope antics, Steen kicked himself hard a few times in spite of having just been trimmed and that seemed to upset him even more. After quite a few minutes I gave up on loping and just tried to achieve some decent circles at the trot. Even that was hard.

Finally, exhausted, the four of us headed home. Back up by the barn, I asked Steen for a lope in the direction he'd been so bad (to the left) and he gave it to me. We did one lap, stopped, and then did another with similar results. But then he tripped pretty badly and kicked himself again, after which I stopped him.

Brian and I spent the next couple of days discussing what had happened on and off. I went back and forth between feeling I had been too hard on Steen once he started charging around and feeling like I didn't have much of a choice. Mostly I was concerned about the over-reaching. I'm worried some of Steen's fear of loping in the one direction might be due to soreness and fear of kicking himself.

As much as I am not a fan of "extras" for horses, Steen has had this problem all four years I've had him. It's unlikely to go away. And now that we are really ready to start working the lope in earnest, I don't want him afraid of the gait. So I came home and ordered Steen a pair of padded over-reach boots. I'll be curious to see how they affect our loping.

Ride Time: 1:20
Horseback hours YTD: 29:45

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