Friday, December 14, 2012

Easing out of 2012

It's time for the obligatory end-of-the-year retrospective post (in which I will reflect on the year in general and provide copious numbers of back-links to previous posts). I'm less than an hour away from hitting my "time in the saddle" goal for 2012, and we still have two weeks of the year left. I think it's pretty safe to say I'll get it.

Brian, on the other hand, hit his ages ago. He's about 10 hours ahead of me. This is the second year in a row he's out-ridden me, though last year it was by minutes instead of hours. It's funny. We have a lot of little goofy fake competitions going in our marriage, but I can't say it bothers me in the least that he's clobbering me in the horse department. Part of me still hasn't gotten over the thrill that he rides at all.

Plus, this year my riding took rather a blow with the whole Steen incident. Between that and Laredo's sore shoulder, there were a few times we went to the barn and I literally didn't have a horse to ride. (There were other times Brian graciously loaned me his horse...) But there were also quite a few times during Steen's recovery that I just didn't feel like riding, and opted to hang out and let him graze while Brian rode Bear.

Anyway, I'm happy to hit my goal in spite of the hiccups. In just a few days, Brian and I will head to Tucson to spend a couple of weeks at my childhood home. Our guys are going to get some time off no matter what, so knowing our goals are accomplished and there will be a break soon, our barn trips lately have been super laid back.

Today was no exception. We rolled out after work. I rode Steen. Brian rode Bear. We had a fabulous, mellow, fun ride. We played cow, did the routine, played cow some more. Both Steen and Bear were moving easily through all three gaits, nailing their stops and turns, and Bear was getting so into the game he was cracking us up.

After the play, we meandered out to the second strip and came back through the soybean field. It was chilly and breezy, we had the whole property to ourselves, and our horses seemed happy to be out with us. We inspected the new drainage ditches, went by a huge piles of coiled pipes, and took an atypical route home. Steen was quiet throughout, walking on a loose rein. He got just a little nervous about the stack of pipes, but I kept my body relaxed, steered with my legs and after a moment or two with his ears up and forward, he decided not to make an issue out of them. It was the kind of totally relaxed mini trail ride Brian and I thought we'd be able to have years ago but in reality has only recently become possible.

My oh so stylish hunting vest is here made even more attractive by being worn over the dirty orange barn vest, a sweatshirt, and my down shirt, plus a wool baselayer. Did I mention I grew up in Arizona?

Steen felt good today. Other than one or two isolated coughs, he appears to be over the cold. I did a fair bit of haunch work with him: gentle short serpentines and pivoting on the hind, plus a lot of stops. He was super soft and compliant. It's funny. I remember how confounded I was by the short serpentine when I first learned it about a year and a half ago. I couldn't get the horse bent enough, couldn't get him walking evenly in front and behind, couldn't get  him to stay alive and keep going forward. It was a frustrating, challenging thing to work on.

Today it was just easy. Our form is not perfect, of course, but Steen is so soft to the hackamore now, all I have to do is pick up one rein and push my outside leg a bit forward and he'll bend without any actual pressure on the rein. I could still feel his back is weak and so are his haunches, but after working on the short serpentine for a few minutes he was more engaged behind, so that was something.

A short serpentine from behind.

So, in spite of Steen's wreck, it's been a pretty great year with the horses. Seven months ago, we were a two horse family. The addition of Laredo has been so beneficial in so many ways. Taking on a young horse with very little training has dramatically changed the way I understand the learning process in horses. None of the challenges we've had with him are what I expected, and all the things I thought would be difficult have been easy. What we've learned in teaching Laredo has had a positive impact on how we understand our mature horses.

I have met some fitness goals as well. I have officially done both chin ups and pull ups, and I hit a new personal record a few weeks ago when I did a clean and press with a 35lb kettlbell (one on each side). For those readers who aren't into weights, that means I picked up a 35lb ball of iron up off the ground with one hand and pushed it up over my head. A couple of years ago I could barely press 15lbs; pressing the 35lb bell seemed about as possible as pressing a horse.

In short, 2012 has exceeded expectations. I can't wait to see where 2013 takes us.

Ride Time: 1:00
Horseback hours YTD: 149:10

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