Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spring Fever?

Today we got back to town from a trip to Chicago. We were exhausted, as the trip involved the arrival of our new niece and a lot of quality time with our 2-year-old nephew. But we rallied and got to the barn, and decided to ride Steen and Bear to keep things easy. We started in the indoor arena and at first were keeping things pretty mellow and low-energy. I worked more on rectangles with Steen, and also tried to start rocking his weight between different feet without actually moving them.

We worked on the routine a little, and had a horrible, sloppy run-through at the trot. So we decided to try it at the lope, and (bizarrely) it went much better. In spite of a lot of sharp turns and having to change leads twice, we made it through with pretty good synchronization. I think it was one of those things where we upped the challenge level by a lot and our horses stepped up.

Then we went outside and over to the second strip. It was the first time we'd been over there all year, and the guys were great trotting out.

We walked part-way back, then decided to trot. Bear hopped into the lope and I said we could go with that. I pushed Steen into a really pretty canter. But by then Brian had stopped Bear, then picked up the lope again, and something either got kinked up in Bear's back or he just got bent out of shape about something. He started hopping around and putting on speed, at which point I felt Steen's energy come up. He started doing the thing where he just pours more power into every stride. Pretty soon we were galloping.

I never felt out of control, persay, but I could feel that Steen was going to need to go for a while longer before I'd be able to stop him without some extreme intervention. So I said to Brian, "I'm not really in control right now. Are you?"

He said, "No, not really." So I said we'd better just ride them home. I experimented with a few pulls, but the footing is still soft and also there has been a lot of trenching work going on around the fields. There are areas that look solid but are full of sinkholes. I was more concerned about using my leverage for safe steering than to achieve a stop.

Brian, on the other hand, worked on some pulls until he got Bear stopped, and as soon as Bear stopped running, Steen came right back to me. All in all they were running for about one minute (according to my GPS report) and topped 20mph.

Once they were stopped, they were fine. I mean totally fine. Even Steen was completely willing to walk home on a loose rein.

So it was an interesting little experience. The good part was that I felt entirely ok with being on Steen in a pseudo runaway state, because I knew I could keep my seat and stay with him until there was an opportunity to get him safely back under control. It is also a good gauge of what it takes mentally now for Steen to leave and come back me. I never felt like he lost track of me completely, just that he was unable to keep himself from running.

It has been an interesting progression for me and how I feel about galloping a horse. I used to love to gallop any horse I could, even though running meant being out of control for a little while. I have never ridden a horse that can come back from a gallop without being allowed to run themselves out a bit. When I was younger, it didn't bother me to lose that control. Probably because I didn't know there was another way to ride.

Then I started to learn what it was like to actually have control of a horse, and from there I went through a phase where out of control moments were very scary.

Now I think I have reached a place where down-to-the-footstep ideal is the level of control I strive for, but it's unrealistic to think I can get there overnight, or even for many more years. What happened today wasn't ideal, but it also nowhere near a disaster. It is kind of funny that Brian and I could have a little discussion about what was going on and what to do about it in the midst of the unplanned gallop.

I think it was Ray Hunt who once was asked the question, "What do you do when a horse runs away?" He said, "You ride him."

Ride Time: 1:30
Horseback Hours YTD: 30:00

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