Sunday, April 07, 2013


The sun was out today, and we waited for things to really warm up before heading out to the barn. Our plan was to do a double ride, starting with me on Laredo and Brian on Steen, then switching to me riding Steen and Brian riding Bear. We planned to do the first ride on the strip and head over to the salad bowl for the second.

One of the interesting aspects of boarding at a facility attached to a working farm is you never quite know what's going to be going on any given day. Today we pulled up to find three huge pieces of machinery parked on the strip, right where we usually ride. At first this was annoying and disappointing, but while we groomed the horses I made an effort to adjust mentally to their presence and by the time we got out to the strip I was ready to think of it as an opportunity rather than a hindrance.

We started out doing groundwork near the machinery, making the horses lead between us and the tractors, and otherwise get used to moving in their vicinity. Laredo, being a highly inquisitive three-year-old, was more curious than nervous.

At the Martin Black clinic, someone had a horse who was really inclined to spook, even at familiar objects. They asked what to do when a horse wanted to look at something. Martin said, particularly with young horses, you get them brave by allowing them to approach an object they are uncertain of and conclude that it is nothing to worry about. He said as long as a horse is walking directly towards something with its ears up, he will let it approach. What he won't do is allow the horse to stop, shy, or wheel away, and he won't force the horse to get closer than it wants. He said if you do this consistently, a horse will soon learn to march right up to something its unsure of instead of trying to run from it.

With this in mind, Laredo and I did some close up inspection of the equipment after I got on. More than anything he wanted to stand around and nibble the tires...

So pretty soon we moved on to other things.

For most of the ride, we just did stuff near the equipment, but after awhile I decided to use it my advantage. I started trotting figure-eights around the two largest pieces of machinery. It was kind of fun to have a real obstacle to work around, and I think it helped Laredo be more interested in the exercise.

After a few laps trotting, I started asking for a lope on the straighter parts of the figure eight. This went well. Laredo went into the lope nicely and between the machinery without a second thought, and came back to the trot when I started posting.

We took a break (I must admit I really enjoy watching my husband ride my horse, and spent a fair bit of time doing that and taking pictures) and worked on other things for a time. Today I was trying very hard to be soft with Laredo. We're working on speeding him up, so it can be easy to get quick to hurry him. Today I wanted to see what we could accomplish if I gave him just a little more space between asking and insisting. Overall I was very pleased with how soft he was, particularly backing and stepping the front over.

Eventually we went back to our obstacle course. I started asking for him to lope an entire circle around the biggest piece of equipment. These went well at first. We got two circles that were quite nice. But Brian and Steen were down the strip, and it was a hot day. Laredo started being not so keen on continuing with the exercise.

Laredo always has a bit of a pull in that direction anyway, and with Steen and Brian down there, this was stronger than usual. On our third circle he dropped the lope, and I had to work a little to get him back into it. When we came around the corner and were pointing towards Steen and Brian, he tried to veer in that direction. I blocked him without any trouble and we went back towards the barn. But then he dropped the lope again and kicked out when I asked him to get back into it. When we went around the turn that time his pull towards Brian and Steen was stronger.

By that point I wasn't going to let him stop until we got another nice circle, but the ride was getting rough. He kept dropping or nearly dropping the lope, kicking out and getting wadded up when I made him move out again, and finally when we came around that turn again he leaned on the hackamore and surged for Brian and Steen.

I was prepared for this. Laredo doesn't attempt full-on rebellion very often, but when he does he gives it his all. He's succeeded in running away with Brian twice, and I was determined not to let him get away with that again. As soon as I felt him gather himself and start to bolt, I sat back and pulled. With the way he was already trying to lean, I knew I was going to have to apply a lot of force if I wanted to be effective. So I basically pulled as hard as I could. I don't think I've ever done that to a horse before. Brian happened to take a photo right at the moment I engaged the hackamore.

The pull worked, but only barely. I got him stopped but not turned. So I backed him up and made his life miserable for the ten seconds or so during which he was not going forward but was still intent on his agenda of escaping down the strip. I backed him until he was soft, turned him around, and pushed him back into the lope.

Fortunately, the lesson took. Laredo loped a beautiful circle, smooth and even, with no stiffening or veering at all when we came around that corner. I stopped him and we rested (facing away from Brian and Steen). I think I was breathing harder than he was.

Then we went the other way, and it was soft, smooth, and even.

By then we'd been riding for about an hour. We did a few things to cool down, and Brian handed me Steen and went off to get Bear. I untacked both Steen and Laredo and rubbed them down while Brian got Bear from the pasture and cleaned him up. I turned Laredo back out, put my saddle and hackamore on Steen, and we were off again.

We headed for the salad bowl. Steen was already well warmed up from Brian's ride, and super quiet. We ambled over, taking the long way through the pastures. Once there, we both worked on loping circles. This is something we've both struggled with in the past: taking our horses entirely out of their comfort zone and asking them to focus on both moving out AND paying attention.

It went really well. We've never worked them in this area before, and they both had a tendency to be a bit uneven about pace and inclined to veer towards the barn or each other, but this stuff was very minor. Both horses stayed soft and responsive and entirely controlled. Overall we were both really happy with the work we got done.

It was such a fun, relaxing outing. The salad bowl is huge, and it's neat to have such a large space to work with. Best of all was how comfortable we all were. We plan to make this a more regular part of our riding routine.

Ride Time: 1:00
Ride Time: 1:15
Horseback Hours YTD: 36:00


  1. I hate those moments of 'I should have stopped at two circles' because then you end up in a fight! If only we could read our horses minds and quit while we're ahead!

  2. So often I have wished for just five minutes inside a horse's head... :)

  3. I just found your blog tonight. I have read a few of your post and really love them. I love that your husband and you share this passion together. I really like how you put your ride time at the end of your post. (I might have to steal that great idea). Continue on the journey and enjoy the ride.

  4. Hi Cowgirl! Thanks for stopping by and saying hello. I still can't get over my luck that I ended up with someone who can share horses with me. And actually tracking my ride time was something I learned from him. I find it's so useful, particularly over time, to know how much I'm really riding.


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