Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Looking for Life

Laredo's shoulder appears to be healed, so I've had two long rides on him.

Although at first it seemed like the weeks off didn't have much of an impact on his training, after a few rides we've seen some backsliding. Our biggest challenge with Laredo is lack of energy. I don't think it's physical energy. It's more emotional energy. Laredo is soooo laid back, which is awesome in a lot of ways. But the trade off for the great ground manners and ability to encounter new things without even batting an eye is a sort of laconic attitude towards stimuli of all kinds, including training cues.

I've been spending a lot of time the last month or two livening Laredo on a lead rope. He has a tendency to drag his heels when he's being led. He's been making good progress since I've been focusing on it, so I thought this week was a good time to work on it under saddle as well.

I started off my first ride looking for a good walk. Whenever Laredo's energy level dropped, I'd bump him with my heels until he picked things up a bit. This worked really well for the first portion of the ride, and things started to feel really good. He was maintaining an energetic walk for long periods, and he was also soft to stop and turn.

Then I got a little overly ambitious and tried to play cow with Brian and Bear. This was clearly too much after the vacation. Laredo went into overload mode. He switched from stopping and backing and moving out nicely to getting stuck during his backs and stopping poorly at the walk. Stopping him from the trot was so horrendous I stopped trying it with two reins and switched to one rein stops.

We abandoned the game, but I had a lot of trouble getting Laredo livened back up, so Brian and I went for a little turn about the fields. That worked to get his interest back up. But it worked a little too well. Once when we were trotting Laredo shifted into the lope, and I went with it because it felt nice and I wanted to see if he was even on his shoulder. He was. The lope was great, and he came back fine.

Later we picked up the trot again, and again he felt like he wanted to lope. This time I didn't let him though and his trot escalated and got increasingly forward. I tried to double him a little to get him slowed down and back on his haunches. I found he was not interested in giving to the bit laterally, and when I pulled harder his motor stalled and he started kicking up behind. I stopped him with one rein, and we tried again. We went through the same sequence of events four times before I decided I'd ridden through enough bucks for one day and we would be better served going back to the barn and working on trotting there.

Laredo walked back on a loose rein, totally quiet, and when we got to the strip was happy to trot around like an angel, though his stops were still bad. I worked until we got a few good ones and then called it a day.

The second ride was similar. It started off well. I worked on life at the walk, lots of simple turns and transitions, and things were great for a while. Then it was like Laredo just decided he was hot and tired. I was having to engage my legs a lot more than I like to to keep him responding to my requests for more energy, and by the end we were both a bit tired and frustrated, though we did get a lot done.

So, I'm in the midst of developing some new strategies for getting Laredo interested and engaged and energetic. We're going to a Martin Black clinic this weekend and I'm sure we'll learn a lot there.

Horseback hours YTD: 133:45

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