Sunday, July 21, 2013

And the Heat Hits

It's been a hot week, with heat index readings into the range where they recommend you be careful with your horses. The nights haven't been cooling off, which means they don't have a chance to recover from the brutal days. We've been taking it easy.


It was Duke Day, and all our horses were due for a trim. We got out to the barn early and took Steen and Bear on a trail ride. We hadn't ridden all week, and we spent a few minutes warming up on the strip. Since I've been using Steen as a lesson horse, I'm noticing he is often rather dull to my subtler cues when I get on. I've been spending the first five minutes or so of every ride recalibrating him a bit. Typically, Steen is quite good at moving off my leg and giving to light pressure, but it is amazing to see how quickly he will lose that when he's ridden by someone who hasn't learned to be consistent with releasing yet. I've found if I am a bit persnickety with him from the moment I get on, he'll be through the dullness and back to the soft horse I'm used to in short order. If I kind of try to ease him back into a more responsive mindset, it will take the whole ride to get anywhere with him. So I start off moving quickly through all our basic maneuvers and demanding some quality from him right off the bat.

My other new thing I'm doing with Steen is mounting him from the right. Believe it or not, I had never mounted a horse from the ground from the off side in my entire life until Saturday. My primary reason for doing this is I can tell my left stirrup leather is starting to get just a tad stretched. I figure if I mount and dismount from the wrong side every time I ride Steen, that will start to even things out. But I will admit it was an embarrassingly clumsy first time. All my muscle memory was misfiring. Luckily Steen was not bothered as I awkwardly heaved up.

The trail ride was good, if not quite as fabulous as the last couple. We moved out a lot more, loping along the open double-track side by side for the first time ever. A few minutes later we encountered a heap of tires, and these bothered Steen a bit. So we stopped and worked on not trying to bulge or turn away from them. I pushed Steen harder than I ever had before when he's been troubled by something on the trail, blocking his attempts to turn or back pretty firmly, and pushing him until he would go forward and sniff the tires. At which point he, of course, realized they were no big deal. We walked quietly around them in both directions and moved on.

Ride Time: 1:20


I rode Zoey in the outdoor arena. I did some work with the flag at the tie rack before I tried to saddle her, touching her all over with it until she could stand without flinching. She was good, never tried to escape the flag. And then when I saddled her she took the saddle without a single step. But this continues to be her most inconsistent and sub-par thing. She just gets nervous when she sees the saddle coming. We've made progress, but we're not done yet.

Our ride was good. She took all the groundwork very well, and by the time I got on her back she was quiet and relaxed. The only bummer was she was a tad tender from the trim the day before. I chatted with the farrier about the state our horses' feet were in (way too long), and we're going to change the way we do things. He comes to the barn on a schedule because he lives pretty far away and it's lot of driving for him to do just one horse. But we have four horses now and we're probably the most active riders at our barn. For most people it doesn't matter that much if the timing isn't ideal, but for us it does. He said next time to call him and he'll come out for just us.

It's been dry and the ground is hard, and both Zoey and Laredo were tender (we didn't ride the other two so don't know of they were). This is the first time in five years with this farrier that any of our horses have ever been tender after a trim, so I tend to blame the conditions.

Anyway, Brian was on Laredo. We did some work in the outdoor arena at the walk, and decided to play a little slow-mo cow. This went surprisingly well. Zoey already stops with her hind, and she moved her front end around nicely. Since we were only walking it was very slow and pretty boring, but it was a good way to work on some precision.

Then we decided the sand in the indoor might be nicer on their feet, and went inside. I wanted to check out Zoey's lope. After walking around a few laps in each direction (she felt fine), I moved her onto the rail and asked her to speed up. There was a piece of PVC pipe set out a little further down the arena. We'd walked over it in both directions so I didn't think it would be a problem, but as we came down the rail and I asked Zoey for some speed, she got super confused. She latched onto the PVC pipe, clearly thinking she was supposed to jump it. Her whole body went rigid and I could feel the anxiety come up in her. She couldn't decide whether she was supposed to trot or lope, and ended up doing this weird, scooty compromise that somehow wasn't either one. We reached the pipe, she flung herself over it in a pretty tidy leap that would have cleared an actual jump, then went fast-trotting off down the opposite rail.

As soon as she'd latched onto the pipe, I'd decided to just leave her alone and let her do what felt best for her. I stopped her after her hop and petted her, but she was keyed up for the first time all day.

The people we bought Zoey from bragged to us that they'd had her jumping over 3.5'. Zoey is a green, sensitive horse with slightly pigeon-toed front feet and a flaw in her front left pastern. I can't believe anyone with sense would jump her at all, ever, much less when she only had a couple of months riding under her belt. We've seen evidence that she was pushed too far too fast through all of our work with her, but this was a glimpse of a whole new layer of that. It's sad to me that so often a willing horse is taken advantage of. They end up confused and anxious, and oftentimes injured because so many people don't seem to realize that just because a horse will do something doesn't mean that's the right thing for that horse to do at that time.

Anyway, sorry for the rant. We went back to trotting and she calmed down quickly enough. I tried to get her into a lope but she was tired by then. When I asked for speed (avoiding the PVC pipe) she moved into this long, low extended trot that was possibly the fastest trot I've ever ridden. I decided that was effort enough. It was stifling hot in the indoor arena and we were all sweat-slicked by the time the ride was over.

Also, tiny puppy:

Ride Time: 0:30
Horseback Hours YTD: 103:55

1 comment:

  1. I've been mounting from the right for most of the summer now. Both me and Tranikla have some lopsidedness, and this seems to help me straighten out a bit. It might also help him (since I'm mounting on the side of his stronger forefoot), but I think it's mostly for me.

    Poor Zoey. I hate it when people push their animals too far too fast as well.


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