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

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