Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Early Winter Riding

After the cold storm, we got a hard freeze, but the last few days have been nice: sunny and in the 50s.

Laredo has put on a bit of a hay gut with his winter coat, which isn't helping with his energy level. Yesterday I worked on trotting. We would trot for a few minutes and get some good things done, then stop for a long rest. It's actually surprising how difficult it is for me to really let him rest. I find after we come to a stop I am always wanting to work on something (soft feel, yield the hind, step the front over, whatever) mere seconds after we stop. Really just sitting on his back and letting him absorb what we just did takes some effort.

But the resting is having a positive impact. Laredo did not shut down at all during the course of the ride, and although at the very end he was starting to seem fatigued, even late in the ride we were accomplishing a lot. I worked on a figure eight pattern that involved trotting one half and walking the other, and tried to make all turns and transitions without the reins. It didn't work all the time, but we had several full circuits where I didn't use my hands.

He's actually not nearly as fat as he looks here.

Ride Time: 0:50

Today we had a great ride. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we started with something auspicious  Although I didn't mention this at the time, on Saturday we had a bit of a milestone moment with Laredo. I was able to bridle him without unbuckling the headstall. I slipped it over his ears like you do with most horses. We've been working up to this for a long time, and I've found the key is taking a long, long time to sooth him between when you take his halter off and before you offer him the bit.

I succeeded in bridling him without unbuckling the headstall again today, and we headed out to the strip. There were fertilizer tanks parked all along the bean field, so we started by investigating those and doing some groundwork. Then I swung on and we walked around a little. Again, I'm amazed at how much I can use my weight to influence Laredo's direction. He's smaller and less physically developed than our other horses, and hasn't ever learned not to pay attention to his rider's position. When I shift he just shifts with me. It's like magic.

I spent a huge portion of our ride on an utterly loose rein. After lots of walking and trotting, we ventured out into the soybean field with Brian and Bear. We had a number of long, long trots, during which Laredo never got forward or chargey. I was prepared to circle him if he got too goey, but it never happened. He also wasn't sluggish. We'd go way way out into the soybean field and trot all the way back to the barn. Laredo just trucked along like a trooper the whole time. When we got to the top of the strip, I let him rest.

At the end of the day, I did a few runs at the lope. Yesterday he was great about loping, but today he was pretty tired. He picked it up okay, but didn't stay in it for long. One thing Martin Black talked about with the young horses at the clinic is to not nag them for doing what you want them to do. So when you have a young horse who isn't entirely comfortable at the lope, don't ask him to lope then kick him to keep him in the lope. Let him lope and while he's loping, remove all pressure. When he stops loping, reward him with a rest. Only then should you ask him to lope again.

This goes against what most people think. I can't count the number of times I've heard riding instructors yell, "Don't let him drop it." Today (and yesterday) I let Laredo drop the lope, and rest, in hopes this will make him more inclined to pick it up the next time I ask for it.

Ride Time: 1:00
Horseback hours YTD: 137:35

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