Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Few Winter Rides

So far February hasn't been quite the springboard back into an active barn habit that I was hoping for. Work is just nuts so far this year. We've been taking some steps to help get in front of the workload, but a lot of days I would have liked to have gone to the barn lately, I just had to stay home and get stuff done.

But it's ok. The footing in the pasture is still pretty rotten and the weather is bad. We're confined to the indoor arena anyway, so it's a good time for me to get a lot of work done...

Still, I've had a few good rides.


I rode Lareo on the 16th. I've been continuing to ride him in the hackamore, with my spurs. We had another really excellent ride. We started out with simple transitions, working on keeping his energy level up, etc. Then as the ride went on I got gradually more specific, asking for more precise transitions.

Brian and I then decided to play a little cow. I was curious to see how this would go. We had some great cow sessions on Laredo last fall, but the last number of times we've tried it, the game caused some implosion and shut-down on Laredo's part. So I was determined to be patient and fair, and also to make sure I wasn't sacrificing any precision for speed.

We started with Laredo as the horse and Bear as the cow, which was ok, but I could feel after a few laps that Laredo was growing frustrated. So we switched roles, which was a good decision. I was able to be more organic with when I asked for things, and we threw some loping laps in. Laredo really nailed a few stops and changes of direction. We didn't keep it up for long, but I think it was pretty fun for all of us.

Ride Time: 0:50


I rode Steen on the 17th and again today. I've been trying to think strategically about where I am with Steen. Now that he's pretty much recovered from his injury (five months later, he actually still has a small scab) and at least a good start on getting back in shape, we can hopefully get back on track. So I'm been trying to develop an honest understanding of where we are and more importantly, how that relates to my long term goals. Steen will be 13 this spring, which blows my mind a little. Luckily a horse is never too old to progress in the vaquero tradition, and just because he'll probably be in his late teens if I ever get him into the bridle doesn't mean I shouldn't shoot for it.

Steen's greatest fault (which is entirely a result of the flawed way I rode him for years) is to allow environmental factors to influence what we're doing. He's a sensitive horse, and somewhat nervy, and I've found the more I can support him, and reinforce what I'm asking him to do, the less likely he is to be influenced by whatever passing distraction might take his mind off me. Lately I've been trying to keep one word in mind when I ride him: precision.

The more precise I can be with him, the more he understands what we're working on. The more he understands, the more he will engage with our goals. Steen's greatest asset is the way he throws himself into things. He has the most "try" by far of all three of our horses. So I need to find ways to use this to my advantage.

Lately I've been working a lot on canter departures and simple lead changes. I have him to the point that I can get him into the canter on the same stride I ask. The trick now is me getting my timing right, to make sure I ask him when he's prepared to take the lead I want him to take. If I ask him in a bend or against the wall, he will mostly fill in for me even if I get the timing wrong, so I've been working on asking him for a lead in the middle of the arena, when we're going straight, and trying to get him to take the lead I am asking for even though there is nothing other than my body to tell him which lead that is.

So, we're not great at this. And by we I mean me. We tried a few times, and I kept getting the wrong lead to the left. Sometimes he'd get half of it, sometimes he'd get the whole thing wrong. He's getting better at counter-cantering, which at least says good things about his strength and balance...

In the middle of our most awkward attempts at these departures, I had another "I love my new saddle moment." I asked for one lead, and Steen got the wrong one. We then neared the arena wall and I asked Steen to go left. But he was on the right lead and I guess he'd had enough of counter-cantering for the day. He dove to the right. I blocked him with my leg, but honestly didn't expect that to be enough to change his direction, so sort of shifted my balance to go to the right. But then he did respond to my leg, and popped back in the other direction, and I lost my center.

In the winter, I ride in these insulated lace-up boots. They do keep my feet warm, but they are definitely a step down in terms of riding experience. The sole is rubber, the toes are blunt and clunky, and they just don't sit in the stirrup as nicely.

Anyway, I lost a stirrup. I was laughing and Brian was laughing at me and I brought Steen down to a trot and into a circle to regroup. I adjusted my position in the saddle back to where it should be. Just like magic, my foot went back into the stirrup. I wasn't even trying to pick it up. In all the saddles I have ever ridden in, picking up a lost stirrup requires, at best, some toe groping and, at worst, the necessity of stopping the horse, reaching down with your hand and holding the stirrup in the correct position to you can get your toe back in. In a good wade, though, the stirrup stays where it should be even if your foot leaves.

I do not believe I have ever regained a lost stirrup while trotting before. So, yay for silly milestones.

Another good change we've seen lately is Brian and Laredo are getting more comfortable with each other. We've been trying to find ways to use Laredo's natural playfulness to our advantage, and we've had a couple pretty funny moments of work at liberty in the indoor. Sorry for the blurry photo, but you can get the idea.

After the ride we put the guys back in the snowy pasture. This is only the second real snow we've had all winter. It's definitely an improvement over pools of frigid water and ice.

Ride Time: 1:00, 0:50
Horseback hours YTD: 11:35

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