Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Sloppy Lope

Today on the way to the barn I was making a conscious effort to think about Steen and what he needs right now. It's easy to get a little Laredocentric, what with him being our brand new baby and all. I don't want to lose momentum with Steen, though, so today I decided one of the major things Steen needs to work on is lope/trot transitions.

Of course the key to lope/trot transitions has remarkably little to do with actually loping and trotting and everything to do with being soft and supple and responsive. I spent a lot of my ride working on short serpentines and walking circles. Steen, overall, felt fantastically soft.

I loped for the first time midway through the ride, moving to the left. This went ok. I was trying to work it out so I loped one lap and trotted one lap, etc. etc.. His lope circles were actually pretty fine, but his trotting circles were horrendous. As soon as I'd ask him to come down from the lope he'd start dumping on his forehand and charging around. I was trying quite hard not to just drag on the hackamore, but rather correct him intermittently with pulls. This worked to some degree. Eventually we got a good circle at the lope followed by an acceptable circle at the trot.

We moved on to other things, including a fairly lengthy period during which we stood around and took pictures of Brian riding Laredo. After this I decided to work on loping the other direction. Unfortunately I think Steen had decided we were done. Things started off stiff but ok...

but after a few minutes we devolved into a really ugly situation where he was bracing against the hackamore and nearly falling over about once a circle...

This is right after he slipped so badly I thought he might fall over.
Note: when my self-preservation instinct kicks in, I just grab mane.

and I was trying to get him to bend without any success. After quite a few circles with no improvement, we called it quits and returned to short serpentines, which were still good. We wrapped up our ride, got caught in a brief but intense downpour while untacking, and called it a day.

Later, I tried to figure out what went wrong. I think Steen still has some anxiety about loping, and when he doesn't get to stop after loping, he stays keyed up, which makes him antsy and over-reactive at the trot, which leads to a crazy, unbalanced lope. It doesn't help that my default reaction to him being sloppy and antsy is to lose leg contact and revert to riding with my hands. I also think I've been over-using the pop-on-the-hackamore technique. At the end of our ride when I gave a pull on the hackamores, Steen would either brace and resist, or he'd way over-bend and send himself in tiny, horrible circles. A happy medium would be nice, so I just need to find a better way to get there. If I had to guess on how I should achieve that, I'd bet it has something to do with me legs. Fortunately we're heading to a Buck clinic on Thursday, so hopefully I will get some answers there.

Ride Time: 1:20
Horseback hours YTD: 54:05

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