Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Tiny Outing

Today the sun was out, and although it was not exactly warm it felt like spring. 

Steen is shedding in earnest now. He was warm under his blanket. Hopefully he can go naked before much longer.

We were indoors for most of the ride. I started out working on figure eights with no hands. It has been driving me crazy that Steen and I still struggle with this. I can hold the reins in one hand and essentially not move, and do very nice figure eights. But if I put the reins down entirely, sometimes things are great, but sometimes our precision goes right out the window.

I have been trying to figure out where the breakdown is, and today I finally had an epiphany. I was paying very close attention to what my hands do when I ask for a turn and I noticed I have an exceedingly ingrained habit of always using a supporting rein. Most of the time it is just the tiniest brush of my rein on the neck. I don't even actually move my hand, it's just a subconscious tilt to bring the outside rein into contact. It's tiny, but it is enough to make a difference.

Of course using a supporting rein is not bad. However, I would prefer to be able to manage basic steering without that crutch. So now that I've noticed the habit I'm starting down the lengthy road of rewiring. What I am trying to do is change my sequence. Right now I seem to apply the supporting rein slightly before or simultaneous to asking for the turn with my seat/leg. What I want to do is ask for a turn leg/seat first, then apply supporting rein if the leg gets no response. And of course if I have to, come in with the leading rein.

The problem is I have been doing it the other way for decades. If I get distracted it's really easy for me to revert. Luckily, Steen is a fast learner and he's already adjusting to the idea that legs mean turn even when there's no rein on his neck. Today we had a few successful serpentines of various sizes between fails, so that is a start.

 A little while after we got on, we were joined by a little girl on a pony and her father on foot (he was giving her a lesson). Our small arena can get cramped, but I tried to think of it as an opportunity to work on our precision.

Steen was so good. He wasn't distracted by the pony. He is carrying himself so well lately. He has been a bit tight and fast at the lope the last few rides (the extensor tendon in his right hind is still not at 100% and I think it pulls sometimes when he bends at higher speeds) but today he felt relaxed and balanced. I was glad that a few extra degrees in temperature meant he was much more able to stay smooth. We worked on canter departures and short circles and precise stops. He felt entirely with me the whole time. We also worked on leg yields. I'm starting to ask him for more reach when he steps across, and today we reached some new levels of extension.

After about fifty minutes we decided to venture out to the strip for our first outside jaunt of 2013. It was super soggy and we had to navigate between puddles of water and piles of melting snow. We just walked around for a few minutes, venturing down to the first steep hill, then stopping and standing around for a moment or two. Both Steen and Laredo were quiet and relaxed, and it was great to be out in the sun.

Ride Time: 1:05
Horseback hours YTD: 18:05

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