Friday, April 26, 2013

Five Years

I got completely taken out by a virus and was down for the count for about two weeks. My primary symptoms were weakness, lightheadedness and vertigo, so riding a horse was out of the question.

However, today I was finally back to feeling good. Also, it was a special day. It was my 5th anniversary of owning Steen.

In some respects, it's hard to believe it's really been five years. In others, it's pretty evident. I'd like to say the big change is in Steen. It is true that in the last five years he's changed from an underweight, uneducated spaz-case into a pretty darn solid hackamore horse.



But really, it's me who has done the changing. When I got Steen I was under the impression I knew a lot about horses, and it only took him a few weeks to teach me I was wrong about that. Realizing I was in over my head with him is what pushed me to look for more information, and in searching for a good system I finally found the tradition we follow now, which gave me access to knowledge that has allowed me to communicate with Steen in ways I couldn't even imagine five years ago.

We rode in the middle pasture for the first time this year, and when I climbed on in this different space it made me think of how it used to be such a big deal to change anything about my routine with Steen. Today we were out in the open and the wind was blowing like you wouldn't believe. But this kind stuff just isn't a factor with our communication anymore. That's not to say we get through every conceivable situation without a single hiccup. The difference is now when we hit a rough patch I know how to work through it, and I see it as an opportunity to fix something and make Steen a more solid horse while I learn something about what went wrong and why.

Today Steen was all around just a bit stiff on the hackamore starting out, and a bit more inclined than usual to get distracted. So we worked right off on stopping. Steen will always stop, but his conformation doesn't lend itself to nailing the stops, and it is an effort for him to stop with quality. He is not always inclined to put that effort in. So at the start of the ride I worked on the set and turn. This basically involves trotting or loping a horse out, and then sitting deep to ask for a stop while simultaneously taking the slack out of one rein. If the horse does not stop, you apply one hard pull to the hackamore. Calibration is important here, because you have to make sure you come in firm enough that the horse stops. Then you drop all pressure  on the nose, move their front around their hind and trot off in the other direction

Steen is a sensitive horse, and he doesn't like getting pulled on, so it didn't take more than one or two pulls to remind him how important it is to keep his mind on me. From there, he was a lot softer. We went on to more of our usual, less demanding things. We trotted and loped the entire fenceline in both directions, we loped circles, trotted figure-eights, and worked on leg yields and sidepasses. He felt very solid, and some of our lopes were just incredible. To have him in that wide open of a space and be able to open him up and really ask him to move out, and then feel him soften and come right back when I change the energy in my body is really pretty great.

We had a good long ride, enjoying the sun and being outdoors. Both Bear and Steen were great, so we decided they deserved a little fresh grass. We rode out the big pasture and stopped for a while to let them graze on the strip.

Ride Time: 1:20
Horseback Hours YTD: 41:05


  1. Congrats on five years! He looks so much more mature now than he did back then.

  2. Thanks Lauren! We've both matured a bit (hopefully). :)


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