Saturday, July 14, 2012

Getting Soft

We've had Laredo two months now, and he's settling in quite nicely. He walks up to meet us in the pasture. He's accepting of most touching on the ears and head. Getting the fly mask on and off is no problem, and Brian has been slipping the bridle off after riding.

Laredo's also really changing under saddle. I have logged just over 10 hours on his back, and Brian is just a little behind me, so together we're almost to 20. You can tell he's learning his job. He doesn't root or lean on the bit anymore. He's both livelier and more responsive. It's a remarkable change for so little time.

In the tree pasture he tends to be good near the center and distracted near the edges, when he can see the cattle off on the other side of the driveway, or the fields on the other side of the road. When Laredo sees something new and different, his inclination is to walk straight up and investigate. While this is a good quality in many respects, sometimes when he gets in this mode during a ride he gets so focused on whatever he's curious about, he can tune out the rider on his back.

My goal for today's ride was to push these limits a bit by taking him where he might be slightly distracted, then bring his focus back to help teach him that even when there are interesting things around, he's still required to listen to me. We started out with a little groundwork and some figure-eights around the trees, which got him back on his haunches right away. So from there we went wandering. When he started getting interested in something off in the distance, I'd loop him around a tree and head off in the other direction. This went really well, and soon I felt he was listening to light touches of my legs even when he was a little distracted. He was also stopping on a dime, and teetering back off super soft pressure.

From there we went back to the trees and worked on trotting figure eights for a while. We've still done only minimal work at the trot, but now that he's soft to the bit and figuring his job out, I think we're ready to step it up a tad. Trotting the figure-eights was challenging for him. It was also challenging for me. Laredo has a surprisingly lofty trot, and it's also quite erratic.

Last week we watched a video by Julie Goodnight called Balance and Rhythm in the Saddle. While I have to say it was possibly the most painfully boring video on horsemanship I've ever seen, the one thing I did take away from it was the idea of opening the pelvis to move with the horse. This is something I've already been trying to improve in my own riding. I have a slight tendency to arch my back when I start to feel a little out of control. Laredo does not yet have enough consistency to his trot to make posting particularly graceful, so I worked out keeping my hips loose and relaxed and doing the uber-exaggerated dressage sit to keep from bouncing. And it worked! I managed not to jolt at all through all Laredo's choppiness, and he started to find his feet and balance.

He does have a tendency to drop the trot, so we kept at it until we got a nice even loop around both trees without breaking the gait. Then he got a long break and lots of pets, and we did it in the other direction.

From there we went back to simpler things. I worked on yielding the forequarters, and it's neat to feel him learning that even just the slightest pressure on the reins is a block and he needs to figure out somewhere else to go. We also worked on walking a wavy line, just steering with the legs. This was good too.

So all in all it's a pretty fabulous place we're at with him now. He's starting to be fun to ride, and I'm really excited to see what the next two months will bring.

Ride Time:  0:50
Horseback hours YTD: 79:55

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