Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rides and Visitors and Trims

We've had a few interesting rides last week.


I rode Steen and Brian rode Laredo. My ride was fabulous.

Brian's was difficult.

We think Laredo was fatigued, both mentally and physically, and he was inclined towards distraction, jumping into the trot, and rooting.


I rode Laredo in the outdoor arena. His two days off seemed to have helped him reset, and things went quite well for us. My number one goal for the ride was to be light. Laredo is a bit of a leaner, and any time you try to get him to do something by pulling, he just leans into your pressure. I spent the day asking for things as softly as I could and just waiting. By the end of the ride he was giving to light pressure on the bit, and rooting and leaning had decreased a good deal.


My cousin Matt was in town with his girlfriend Ariana. We took them out to barn, of course. Matt is allergic to horses, but Ariana was up for a spin, so we put her on Bear. After a quick lesson she was ready to explore the outdoor arena. I kept her company on Steen and the two of us rode around for a while.

Bear was good for her. Although it is funny. As we continue to refine the way our guys are trained, it's getting harder for other people to just climb on and ride them. So much of how we ride now comes down to the seat, and really using the seat is a concept that is a bit beyond most brand new riders. There were a couple of times Ariana was making every effort to do what we had told her to do, but her seat and hips would be saying, "stand here" and her legs would be saying, "go" and Bear would opt to stand.

She wasn't comfortable with the idea of trying to trot on Bear on her own, so we had her hop down and tossed her up on Steen. Steen has the smoothest trot in the world and he's great at  following my instructions on the line. I held the end of his mecate and had him trot around in circles while Ariana rode. She had a lot of fun with that.

And I was so proud of Steen. He was perfectly behaved during the trotting. And he also taught Ariana to pick hooves and use various grooming implements before the ride. It's nice to feel our horses are completely beginner friendly and safe on the ground, at least.


We were tired, and almost didn't make it out to the barn. Eventually we motivated ourselves by deciding to do something a little different and ride in the tree pasture. We hadn't ridden out there in ages and have never taken Laredo out there at all.

Things went ok. Brian rode Laredo, and his ride started out not great but ended with some really awesome progress. Steen was distracted. A lot of the barn horses were gone at a show, and one of the left-behind horses was unhappily stuck in a stall and just kept calling and calling. This sort of thing upsets Steen, and while he didn't do anything "bad," it just wasn't the caliber of ride we've been enjoying lately.

I tried to use the trees to my advantage and we worked on a lot of trotting around the trunks, sometimes collected, sometimes not.

At times he got super soft and responsive. At others he'd get mouthy and distracted. But for the most part things were pretty ok.

At the end things were going well enough at the trot I did a little loping.

That was great going in one direction, but when I switched to the other I didn't trot enough in between and he was all over the place. I went back to trotting until we were rebalanced, and then was ready to call it a day. We headed back towards the barn. When we got near the gate out of the tree lot, Steen started to get antsy and focused on the end of the ride. So I didn't get off. Instead I did whirly-gigs. He was upset about these at first, and when I'd ask him for the hind he'd shoot his back legs out from under himself and give me several rapid, sloppy disengages with no collection or balance. So I kept asking until he came up with something better. Finally he sighed and dropped his head and started paying attention again. I got a couple good whirly-gigs, got off and opened the gate.


It was Duke Day. We got to the barn early to ride Laredo and Bear before the trim to maximize the chances for a good experience for all involved. There was a lot of activity at the barn. We rode on the strip, and Laredo was distracted. I'd get him to focus for a minute and then a horse would call or a car would drive up and his attention would wander off. It didn't help we left Steen in a side lot and as other horses came and went and got agitated about being separated from their buddies, Steen got upset. He started charging around and calling, and this got Laredo a little worried at times.

I tried to stay patient and consistent, but the ride was pretty mediocre. I took a break for groundwork in the middle. After I re-mounted things were better for about three minutes, then he got distracted again.

However, after the ride Laredo was awesome for Duke and his feet got a thumbs up, so that was great. Steen also calmed down the moment we were nearby again, and he was fabulous for Duke.

There's a good chance Laredo is going to be tender with his toes all trimmed down again, so we'll give him a couple days off and then see how he's doing.

Horseback hours YTD: 73:20

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Focus on the Positive

It was my turn to ride Laredo again today, and I was determined to have a better time on him. I had a few things working in my favor. For one, I got new boots!

I have strange feet. They are strange for a variety of reasons, from genetics to injuries to general conformation. The upshot of all this strangeness is it's actually impossible for me to find off-the-shelf shoes that come anywhere close to fitting.

I ordered these boots a couple months ago because I got tired of the way my Ariats flopped around on my feet while I walked and flexed in the stirrup when I rode. These are semi-custom, so they actually fit my unusually narrow heel while not making life miserable for my usually wide forefeoot. They also have a respectable heel on them instead of the wimpy little roper heel my Ariats have. It took many weeks for them to be made, so I was thrilled when we got back from the barn yesterday to find them on the front steps.

Thus armed, I was sure me and Laredo couldn't help but do better today. And things started out... weird. We noticed walking up to the pasture that Steen was in with the wrong herd. He was in the "feed" lot with the five horses who get supplements once a day. Their pasture is next to the one our herd lives in. A quick inspection revealed a downed fence, likely taken out by last night's storm. Steen was very happy to see us and more than enthusiastic about getting back in with the right group of horses.

Laredo came right up to me in the pasture. At the hitching post, he was quiet. We've seen a big shift in his willingness to let us mess around his face and head lately, and we also seem to have broken his habit of chewing on his rope when he's tied. We got tacked and mounted and into the outdoor arena.

On the ground I started working on more precise movements than I've been focusing on with him lately, with particular emphasis on yielding the forequarters (since he's horrible about this under saddle). He was super soft on the ground. After a few minutes, I climbed on.

The first thing I noticed about my new boots is that they don't have much flex in the ankle yet, but other than that I liked the feel of them.

Laredo was also extra attentive to my heels today. I'm sure that wasn't a coincidence.

Things started out much like last time. He was good at giving to the bit laterally, good at giving the soft feel, but not good about backing. He was also rooting a lot. One good change was he felt really solid on his front feet, even moving in and out of the trot. His toes have grown in nicely, and also the ground was softer thanks to the rain.

We worked on the standard things, and the only time I asked him to back was each time we stopped. Starting out, this took a looooong time, but over the course of the ride he got faster about it. I concentrated on keeping my hands in the same place no matter what he did with his head. If he leaned into the bit, he got more pressure. If he tucked his chin, he got less, but the reins never got any longer until he took a step back.

The highlights of the ride were trotting and whirly-gigs. I trotted him more than I ever had, and we got into a nice rhythm a few times. With whirly-gigs, we never got a good one, but he was trying to bring his front end through, so that is a huge step in the right direction.

The low points were that he continued to root a lot all through the ride. Oh and he fell over. Because at one point we were trotting and he was so preoccupied with trying to drag his nose on the ground he forget to pick up his front feet, tripped, and went down to his knees.

Luckily he didn't go all the way down, and after kneeling for a moment got himself back up again. I had been hoping the rooting would go away if I ignored it, but after that I decided to be a bit more proactive. Whenever he got his head really low I applied a slow but firm pull up and out, making him turn until he brought his head back up to a normal level. This worked really well. It didn't take long before he put two and two together and starting keeping his head higher. I think he roots because he's trying to escape the bit, so we just need to teach him that's not going to work without causing him any pain or discomfort.

Towards the end of the ride, we stood around and watched Brian and Bear. Laredo is already a champion stander. It was years before I felt safe taking photos from Steen's back, but this guy is so mellow I snapped a few while we watched. We've decided his new nick-name is going to be Surfer Dude, because he's bleach-blond and chill.

Ride Time: 1:25
Horseback hours YTD: 69:55

Saturday, June 16, 2012


It was with some relief I haltered Steen today and tacked him up. It's going to be an interesting challenge for me these next few months. Steen seems to be hitting some kind of stride lately. Every ride I think things are fantastic, and then the next ride they are better. It's a hard act for Laredo to follow.

There's also such a massive personality divide between the two. Steen is flighty and sensitive. Laredo is quiet and mellow. When Steen is unsure or scared of something, he snorts and fidgets and bolts. When Laredo is unsure or scared of something, he shrinks in on himself, holds still, and shuts down.

I'm way more used to dealing with Steen's personality type, which is all the more reason Laredo is a good choice for us. He'll challenge me to get to know a different kind of horse while simultaneously not being too much nervous energy for Brian to handle.

Today we rode in the outdoor arena, and things were pretty much awesome from the start. I mounted without groundwork today. I've decided I'm going to start doing this at intervals, just to see if/how it affects the ride. There was a new family out at the barn, with a little girl getting a lesson. After I mounted I sat on Steen for a few minutes and chatted with the parents. While we talked I worked on moving his feet all around. Steen's a total champ about moving his front around his hind lately. We did a series of 180's in both directions without him ever moving his hindquarters.

From there we went to whirly-gigs, which were incredible. Short serpentines were spot-on too. One of the reasons we rode in the outdoor arena was because they took the round-pen out of it, so I availed myself of the circle this left in the grass and did a lot of collected work at the trot.

Steen was soft and balanced and 100% with me.

So we moved into loping. I did some big circles, and he was feeling so balanced and correct I decided to try a smaller circle. That went really well too, so I pushed him smaller and smaller, and as the circle shrank, instead of leaning in and dumping forward, he leaned back, raised his withers and collected. The best circles came at a time that unfortunately Brian wasn't ready with the camera. We tried the same thing later, and while it didn't go quite as well, it was still pretty good:

I was also encouraged that while I was having a great ride on Steen, Brian was also having a good time with Laredo. Although they started out with a lot of the same problems I was having on Thursday, Brian did a much better job working through things than I did. It made me happy to seem them getting on so well. Because even if I blew it my last ride, I did help Brian learn an awful lot of what he knows. That counts for something, right?

Ride Time: 1:10
Horseback hours YTD: 68:30

Friday, June 15, 2012

High Hopes

After Brian's great ride on Laredo on Tuesday, I was keen to try him out Thursday. Unfortunately, I had an irritating work week, and while I wasn't aware of being tired or short-tempered when we left for the barn, I was probably both of those things. Then there were a few things that did nothing to help me snap out of it right when we arrived. Steen decided to behave like an idiot by bursting past Brian into the stall herd lot and proceeding to gallop around like a fool for several minutes. This got Laredo somewhat bothered, and even after my dear moronic paint was contained, our youngster continued to be more fidgety and restless pre-ride than we'd ever seen.

Out on the strip, things got better. Laredo and I did some groundwork and got a number of things working better than ever before. So I climbed on, and proceeded to be disappointed. I think the problem was I had gotten on expecting too much. The ride did not start off well. Laredo was still a little riled, and picked up the trot on me four or five times within the first few minutes. I handled this by either one-rein stopping him or going with the trot but making him go longer than he wanted to.

The ride continued to be just a little off, but the main issue was that Laredo was not backing. Instead he responded to any pressure on the bit by rooting and/or falling asleep.

Given the fact that I was tired and perhaps predisposed to be irritated, the rooting and leaning got to me in a way it shouldn't have. I got irritated, and instead of working on more positive things and returning to backing at intervals, I tried to tackle the problem head-on. I think part of my reason for doing this is I am used to working with adult horses who have training problems, not young horses who haven't been trained. While dwelling on something until it improves might help with an older horse, with a young one I think it pays more to get a tiny change and move on to something else.

I worked on backing a lot. I would pick up light pressure on the bit and hold and hold and hold and hold and hold and hold and hold and hold. Laredo would seem to fall asleep, lean on the bit, look at something slightly to the left, lean some more, doze off, and finally take a step back. I'd praise him and tell him how good that was, and try again.

It never got any better. Not at all. Over the whole course of the ride.

Lots of other things were going fine. If not for the backing problem, it would have been my best ride on Laredo yet. We walked some nice circles, and for the first time when I had him trotting he seemed to find a rhythm, which was a nice change. He was quite soft laterally.

But the backing. It was driving me crazy.

After a while I got off and working on backing off the slobber strap. That went really well, and after a few minutes he was moving off a feel.

I got  back on and tried from his back.

No change. Root. Lean. Doze. Stamp.

In the end, I gave up. I switched to whirly-gigs, and got a few where he actually tried to  bring his front through. Then I called it a day.

Ride Time: 1:00
Horseback hours YTD: 67:20

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Haunch Magic

I've decided there are three things I need to refine with Steen before we go back into the hackamore. These are:
  • short-serpentines
  • whirly-gigs
  • lope transitions
We've got a really good handle on the first two. In fact today we were pretty much nailing those every time I asked.

So we spent a lot of the ride working on lope transitions. Our trouble with these lies in the coming back down. Steen is usually quite good about moving into the lope, and he's good at stopping from the lope. What he's not good at doing is shifting from the lope to the trot. He stays wound up and trots around trying to jump back into the lope. It's my fault, of course. I had the habit for a long time of loping him one way, trotting him long enough to turn him around, then loping the other way.

But now we're trying to break the habit, so today I warmed up by doing a lot of work on the haunches first. This was all amazingly good. I know I say this roughly once a month, but Steen and I have reached a new level the last few rides. I feel like he finally gets what his haunches are for, and he's happy to use them at every opportunity. Short-serpentines were so soft and consistent I hardly did any. Whirly-gigs were good when I could get my act together and get the timing right when asking for the front. And loping, when I asked for it, was amazing. Steen felt light as a feather on his front feet. I never quite realized it before, but a horse that is loping a circle is physically incapable of accomplishing the turns without leaning if they are heavy on their forehand.

Today at the lope I could feel Steen reaching in with his front while he balanced on his haunches. We never got forward or chargy or tilted. It was just smooth and balanced and rhythmic.

Until we came back down to the trot, that is, at which point we always had either a few seconds or several minutes of excited-Steen-scooty-trot.

When this happened I worked in tight figure-eights until he settled down. Then we loped again.

This strategy made for a fun, fast ride. At one point I took Steen down the strip and couldn't resist encouraging him to open up on the way back. We shifted to the gallop for a brief stretch. He never stopped paying attention to me, but he was a little slow to stop from that, so that's probably something we should work on, too.

He was also incredibly soft to my legs and hands all day. One of the other things that feels different now that he's engaging his haunches more is how he moves off my leg. He can do it in a more balanced manner when he's already light on the front.

And as if that wasn't enough to make a wonderful barn day, Brian had a fabulous ride on Laredo. It seems like a lot of things just clicked for them today. I can't wait to see how our youngster feels for me when I ride him next.

Ride Time: 1:00
Horseback hours YTD: 66:15

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Some Good Hours

Saturday we got invited on a little trail-riding expedition. We headed out in the morning. It was a group of six horses and riders: 3 paints, 3 quarter-horses. Which is actually kind of funny because the breed selection of at our barn is fairly diverse. Unrepresented breeds include Arab, American Showhorse, Saddlebred, Warmblood,  Applaoosa, Thoroughbred (cross) and Icelandic Pony. There are only about 20 horses total at our barn.

I rode Steen and Brian rode Bear. It was a mellow bunch out on the trail, and we basically meandered around the fields for an hour and half. The ride was almost entirely walking. I worked on asking for and holding the soft feel at intervals.

Other than one little stretch during which he got a little annoyed at after to walk more slowly than he'd have preferred, Steen's behavior was pretty much perfect the whole ride. He was quiet but attentive. When there was space I asked for leg-yields, just to keep his mind engaged. It was fun, and we rode a few extra minutes on the strip when we got back so we could get some trotting and loping in too.

Today I rode Laredo again. He started out much softer than last time, and was really soft with flexing after just a few times.

He seemed overall more energetic today, and once actually offered the trot. I took him up on it and we scooted around for a while. He was heavy on the front-end and steering was hit or miss, but at least we moved out a little.

I rode him for an hour, and most of the time we just worked on various types of bending. Once I worked on going up and down the strip, letting him walk in a straight line and just asking for the soft feel.

When I dismounted I did a few minutes of intense ear desensitizing. I was able to touch his poll and bump the base of his ears with only minor reactions, so we're making progress there.

I was leading him back to the barn when he spooked at the flapping tarp on the rim of the trampoline that's right near the entrance to the strip. He bolted forward from behind me, and I was happy he did not run me over. But I still felt it was a teachable moment. I took him over to the trampoline and he declined to get close enough to investigate, so I started driving him between me and the trampoline. A couple of times he tried to accomplish the movement I was asking for by crowding into my space. I gave him a whack on the shoulder when that happened. After a while I could see him figuring it out. He didn't have to run. He didn't have to get upset. He didn't even have to get a smack on the shoulder. All he had to do was walk where I pointed and not come close to running me over. It only took a few minutes before he was doing that without a problem.

While I was riding Laredo, Brian rode Steen. It's always interesting for me when other people ride him. Our last few rides he's been so mellow, it's surprising the way he gets so nervous when anyone who's not me climbs on. He was good for Brian, but over-energized at times.

However, Brian handled it really well, and he and Steen seemed to eventually come to understand each other better than they ever have before. So that was good to see.

When I was done with Laredo, I switched to Steen. He was fabulously warmed up and really, really relaxed with me in the saddle. We spent some time watching Brian and Bear.

But we also worked on transitions in and out of the lope a fair bit, plus whirlygigs and short-serpentines. These last few rides he's figured out how to keep his weight back on his haunches while moving his front end. When I ask him to disengage the front without the hind, I can feel him reaching out and back with his leading front foot, which allows him to keep his hind foot planted so he can pivot. It's neat. I've never actually felt a horse do that before.

He was being so good I felt like I shouldn't ride him too hard. Luckily, these days Steen loves to stand.

Saturday Ride Time: 1:30
Sunday Ride Time: 1:40
Horseback hours YTD: 65:15

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Subtle Makes Supple

One of the reasons we got a third horse was to help us break out of the mental ruts its so easy to fall into when riding the same horse all the time. And I have to say, it's working like a charm. After my ride on Laredo on Monday, I approached my next ride with Steen from a rather different angle than I otherwise would have. Mainly, I was reminded by Laredo how important it is to be soft. Softer than you think will work. So soft you think they might not be able to feel you.

Because they're horses. They can always feel you.

Steen just turned twelve. While in some respects he's the same goofy guy he's always been

in others I am really starting to notice his age. I'm sure being around Laredo in all his youth is making Steen's increasing maturity even more noticeable, but the Steen of today bears only a passing resemblance to the horse I bought four years ago. Sure, he's still kinda emotional and he's still prone to over-reacting to corrections; he still trips a lot when he gets agitated. But he also spends a lot of time dozing at the hitching post and he always thinks at least a little now before he reacts. He's got more wrinkles around his eyes and on his muzzle, and the skinny problem is pretty much gone.

Today getting on Steen after riding Laredo felt like switching from my brother's 1985 Toyota Landcruiser (no power steering, literally weighs a ton) to a Ferrari. Ok, maybe not a Ferrari, but at least my 2004 Honda Civic (light, agile and can be steered with two fingers).

We started out the day with a little groundwork, and asking him to back off a feel. He did that quite well. He's also stepping under better when I quarter him, and I'm able to disengage his front, then his hind while walking in a straight line and keeping him moving back and forth in front of me.

I got on and tried to continue with the lightness. We worked at first on whirlygigs, and I had Brian watch me because the last few rides I've been unable to figure out what is happening. It's been feeling like Steen has been stepping under, but he hasn't been really loading himself back on his haunches, which doesn't allow me to bring the front end through.

Brian watched me once or twice and said Steen was stepping under behind, but he wasn't stopping his forward progress while doing so, which left me with nowhere to go.

Oh the joys of having someone to watch and offer feedback. After that I checked Steen's forward momentum a little when asking for his hind, and pretty soon we were doing a lot better. If I could just get the timing right when asking for the front I think we'd nail them every time.

From there we worked on more little stuff, like a nice, fluid one-rein stop, side-passing, and bringing the front 360 degrees around the hind. All of these things are easier now that Steen is engaging his haunches more.

I did some work walking and trotting in a circle, throwing in directional changes with collection, and leg-yields. We picked up the lope briefly a few times, then came back down to the trot and kept working.

After the trots we went back to moving the feet, and I got some of the best side-passes and leg yields Steen has ever managed. With side-passing our timing is still a bit off between the front and the hind and we can get crooked at times, but he's taking nice big steps and holding softness.

We also worked intermittently on short serpentines, and these were super soft as well. He was bending off less pressure and balancing better through the turns.

The only downside of the day was he was really bothered by the flies. Usually he doesn't get as irritated by them but we haven't found or replaced his flymask yet, so maybe that's contributing.

Ride Time: 0:50
Horseback hours YTD: 62:05

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Dun Rusty

Today we decided it was high time to get back on Laredo. Sure, we still have some ear stuff to work through, but our few intense sessions had a big impact. Lately it almost seems like his reaction to stuff around his head is more of a habit than a real issue. He "forgets" to react more and more, and when he does object to our touches its in a pretty mild way.

On the way out to the barn we were trying to decide who each of us should ride. This can be a surprisingly tricky question at times, but finally we concluded Bear needs to get back in shape and Laredo needs to get his education going in earnest. So that decided things.

I didn't have any trouble getting the bridle on via the method of unbuckling it and rebuckling it like a halter. I got on in the indoor at first, but it was hot and dusty in there and Laredo felt quite fine. After a few minutes of walking around, I got back off and we went out to the strip.

We definitely lost some softness in our time off. Starting out asking for flexes there were some pretty long periods of time where I just sat holding pressure on the bit.

He's such a mellow character. His default response to confusion or uncertainty is to just slow down. This can make for some pretty sluggish moments.

It's interesting riding a horse that genuinely hasn't learned to give to the bit. It's easy for me to see the faults in Steen, but seriously there is nothing like getting on an uneducated youngster to make me realize how much Steen knows and how good he is at most of what we do. With Laredo, you have to be careful not to pull too hard, because too much pressure just makes him lean. Of course I was trying to keep things light anyway, but once or twice when he was rooting I tried to fix the problem by increasing my pull. Yeah. That doesn't work at all.

The ride had several phases. At first I felt like I was riding a horse that was asleep or didn't have a brain. We moved from there into more mediocre territory, managing to walk around and more or less go where I indicated. We worked on short serpentines and those were horrible. We did some one-reins stops and disengaging the hindquarters, which were surprisingly awesome.

Once or twice Laredo got a little annoyed with me, and that was actually kind of nice. He started walking faster and the extra energy gave me something to work with. Since I spend so much time riding Steen, who never has any shortage of energy, I sometimes don't relate very well to the problem of bringing the life up in the horse. I think Laredo is going to educate me on that point.

We had a few periods where things switched over into going well. I started using my legs more (and by more, I mean using them with more force than I do on Steen) and that seemed to wake him up and help direct him a bit. As he woke up to my legs, he softened to the bit and for a while he was flexing and softening at the poll really nicely.

The other great thing is his feet seemed much much better today. His toes are getting longer, and his sole is wearing down a bit which is getting it off the ground a little. He's completely fine at the walk now. I trotted him on the mecate after the ride and he only took a few steps that looked a little off. Hopefully a few trims from now the tender tootsies will be behind us.

I rode for an hour, and although it was a lot of work for both of us, I think we got a lot accomplished. Oddly, he's not at all bothered if you touch him on the head and ears when you're on his back.

Also, the massive pasture is working its magic on him. He's turning into a bit of a chunker.

After the ride, he was super latched onto me. He was soft leading back in, and even when I got him back out to the pasture and took his halter off, all he did was follow me around until I left.

He's such a kid. It cracks me up.

Ride Time: 1:00
Horseback hours YTD: 61:15

Monday, June 04, 2012

Just Like Old Times

Today Brian and I were both still pretty worn out, so we decided to do something we hadn't done in a while: leave Laredo in the pasture and just ride like we used to before the baby came.

Of course we gave him his hoof supplement when we went out to catch the other horses. He seemed pretty happy with getting treats but not work.

We got Steen and Bear tacked up and out to the strip. The big change of the day was both Brian and I had new bits. We bought ourselves two nice, simple Jeremiah Watt egg-butt snaffles. I've noticed Steen lately has a tendency to sort of pop his loose-ring snaffle in his mouth when I'm asking for collection, and sometimes get himself a mini-release when the rings shift. Plus with teaching Laredo now, consistency is going to be important. Brian and I were both riding in bits we purchased before the clinic that changed everything, and back then we weren't working towards a particular goal. We're thinking these will work better for us, and will hopefully be the last snaffles we'll need for a while.

I also put my mane-hair mecate on my snaffle set-up, where it will stay until I'm ready to go back to the hackamore. I gave it another soak a week or two ago, and it is so supple now I can hardly believe it. I've liked it since I got it, but I'm a little bit in love with it now. Other ropes just feel dead and limp.

So there we were on the strip with all our pretty equipped and our pair of bays.

I was mostly trying to get the feel of the new bit. It did feel surprisingly more solid and more precise. I started out with a bunch of short-serpentines and slow maneuvers, and for the most part things went well.

Steen is finally starting to learn to get his weight off his inside front foot so he can reach with it. It helps I'm finally riding him correctly through the short-serpentine. I'm also working hard on not pulling, just guiding his head into the bend with the rein and using my outside leg to tell him shoulder to come through.

I also worked a lot on the trot, with a little bit of loping thrown in when things felt nice and balanced.

Laredo stood at the fence for quite a long time watching us work. Hopefully he picked up a few pointers.

Ride Time: 1:00
Horseback hours YTD: 60:15

Sunday, June 03, 2012


Usually this time of year I experience a bit of a lull with work and so I can do things like ride a lot and take short vacations but still stay on top of things with my clients. Not so much this year. I'm juggling more projects than ever before and I have a waiting list that is several months long.

While this is a good thing for all sorts of reasons, it's not helping me stay caught up with my blogging.


We brought everyone up to the barn at once again. They are all getting pretty used to each other now, and are content to chill at the hitching post.

I rode Steen on the strip. Our ride was quite similar to Saturday's. I rode in the snaffle, and worked a lot on short-serpentines and keeping Steen back on his haunches. We also continued to work on collection and balance. We trotted a lot of circles, and I worked on taking Steen past his comfort zone on the strip and keeping him focused even when he wanted to start to worry that we were getting too far away from our normal territory. Overall, it was a very positive ride.

After riding Steen, I worked with Laredo. We did sound groundwork and some work on the ear/head issue.


I started out working with Laredo and his ears and kept that up for a long, looooong time. We worked on dropping the head, getting the brace out of the neck, accepting contact on the forehead and poll.

We had some good moments. I worked in particular on keeping his neck softer, which in turn makes him less stiff and more accepting of contact in places he'd prefer we didn't go. There were a number of periods where he was allowing me to touch him on the poll. Of course these were interspersed with periods of irritation and backsliding. There was no doubt I pushed him a little further than we have before on this issue, and it was pretty exhausting for both of us. Still, overall I felt I managed to address the problem in a positive manner and make some progress.

Then I grabbed Steen with the intention of having a short, relaxing ride. I rode in the indoor arena, mostly because I thought the level footing would be good for short serpentines. I started in the hackamore, and I don't know if I was tired or Steen was off or if it was some combination of the two, but I couldn't get a decent short-serpentine to save my life. I got off and put the snaffle on, but things did not improve. Steen was forward, distracted, over-reactive to my legs, hard on my hands and erratic in all his gaits and responses. What was supposed to be a mellow, easy ride turned into me just trying to get something good to happen so I could get off.

I haven't had such an awful ride on Steen in months and months. I'm sure it was my fault. I think I was just too tired. I've been fairly demanding since the clinic and I've changed the way we do a few things, and trying to use the hackamore before we've really hammered out the proper method of doing a short serpentine in the snaffle was a mistake. Then I got irritated and Steen got frazzled and the rest is history.

So, it was a pretty hard day at the barn and I went home to a massive stack of fairly stressful work. On Friday, we headed to Chicago for my father-in-law's 60th birthday bash.


We got home from Chicago in the afternoon. It was a way busy weekend, and Brian and I were both too exhausted to feel like tackling a ride. However, we wanted to see the guys. We ordered a hoof supplement for Laredo last week that has a reputation for helping horses get over tender feet. It had arrived while we were out of town, so we were keen to get him going on that. We headed out just to give Bear and Laredo their supplements and check on things.

We found them looking fat and happy in the pasture. Steen lost his fly mask, but otherwise everything was in order. Laredo is growing. He's put on some length, a fair bit of girth and perhaps a little height. He was happy to eat the hoof supplement and hang out with us.

It was good to see them. I'm hoping to get a few rides in this week in spite of the crazies.

Horseback hours YTD: 59:15

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