Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sick Week

It figures that just as the weather turns awesome I would catch a cold. I spent the week pretty much not functional. On Friday, I finally dragged myself out to the barn and rode Steen during Brian's lesson. Which mostly means I sat there watching while Brian taught.

Brian's student, K, rode Oliver. We thought it would be an interesting experiment to see how he did with someone who is more of a beginner. Brian's student is one of the gentlest, softest people I have ever seen on a horse -- to the point that sometimes he has to tell her repeatedly that she needs to come in a little more firmly. And she's usually riding Steen, who is one of the most responsive horses around. Oliver is also super soft, so it seemed like they might be a good match. And they were. The ride went great. K had a nice time, and Oliver was as relaxed as I've ever seen him.

Brian has 24 hours on Oliver now, and I have 2. You can really see the change in him. He's just looking so much better, and he's really starting to understand what we want, and settle in.

Today I rode Steen again, then Aiden. The horses got let out into the big pasture on Friday afternoon, and both yesterday and this morning the herd was really kicking it up. They love to get out on the big rolling hills and just gallop madly around. It's good for them, and it's always fun to see.

I was afraid Aiden would be a bit tired today, but he actually felt perkier than he has in some time. His back is also finally starting to feel stronger, and he had much better energy all around than he's had my last few rides. We had some really nice trotting, and one little canter in each direction. He had a way, way, easier time getting into it than I've ever felt before, and our balance was better both ways.

I've also been working a lot on stopping our last few rides. When we got him, he was one of those horses who would kind of stop eventually at some time more or less around the time you asked. The last few rides, I've been asking him for more precision. Today, the ride started out with good stops. Then, when we worked on trotting and loping for a while, we lost them a little. So we polished them up again. By the end of the ride Aiden would stop on the same stride I asked, no hands needed. It's always pretty cool with a big change like that clicks in.

After nearly an hour in the arena, we went out into the tree pasture for a while. Aiden continues to just be totally chill about exploring new places. Where Oliver gets just a tad antsy when we push his boundaries, Aiden is not bothered. Last week I even brought the tarp out and rubbed it all over him, drove him with it, opened it up and led him across it. Not a problem.

So, I'm enjoying my Aiden time. Due to the abscess, he's quite a ways behind Oliver. I've got 11 hours on him. Brian has 2. Nevertheless, he's starting to feel pretty different as well. He's such a sweet horse. He's getting pretty hooked on to me lately. When I come and go around the pasture and the hitching post, he's always watching in this quiet, "just let me know if you need me" kind of way. It's really endearing.

For some reason, though, Aiden is way behind everyone else on shedding. And seriously, he still needs to gain like 500 pounds. But we're making progress.

Horseback Hours YTD: 85:40

Sunday, May 18, 2014

More Youngsters

We spent Saturday with more young ones - this time of the human variety. Brian's sister came to visit, bringing along her husband and their two children. Their son is three and a half, and their daughter is just one. We, of course, had to take them out to meet the horses.

We had beautiful weather, and the horses were out on the grass. Steen and Laredo were happy to come in and get some extra attention. It's funny. With Bear gone and Steen coming 14 this year, he's starting to seem like the old guy of the group. Fortunately, he and Laredo are both quiet enough to be very safe around the kiddos. We said hi to Oliver and Aiden in the pasture, but we didn't bring them in.

The pony rides went well. I rode around with Gaby in front of me for quite a while. This isn't exactly what Steen and I have been practicing for, but these kinds of events sure are easier when your horse steers nicely off the legs. Gaby was happy to snuggle up against my stomach with one of my arms around her. She was really digging the ride. She would point and laugh, lean down to pat Steen's neck, and crane to look up at me at intervals.

Bradley wanted to ride both horses. He got solo time on both Steen and Laredo, as well as some riding in front of both me and Brian. He did not get to steer, but I taught him to say giddy-up and woah. He got a kick out of 'making' Steen stop and go, but I vetoed his requests to go faster than a walk.

Jen and Jason rode as well. Jen preferred me to stay in control, so I had Steen walk and trot circles with her on board. Jason was game to get on and pick up the reins. It was his first time on anything other than a rented trail horse. After a five minute crash course, he was getting along with Laredo quite well. It didn't take long before he was walking and trotting around, stopping with seat only,  and stepping the front and hind, all with Laredo seeming happy as a clam.

So, it's always neat when your horses prove themselves to be safe and steady for other people. At one point during grooming Bradley actually ran right under Steen -- between his front and hind legs. He did it so fast, none of us had a chance to try to stop him. Steen's reaction was to twitch an ear. That kind of moment is why you spend so much time teaching them to be gentle, but still it's a relief when something like that happens and your horse just handles it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Another Girl

Today, we bought a horse.

Yes. Another one.

It was kind of an accident. The plan was to just go visit the breeder we got Laredo from, and see what he had in terms of unstarted two-years-olds. The plan was we'd look them over and hang out with them a little, and then maybe go back in the fall and pick one out.

I guess we should have known better. Things did not go according to plan. This morning we purchased this little girl:

When we sent Bear to Miracles in Motion, we thought Brian might click with either Oliver or Aiden and take one of them into the role of his primary horse. But while they're both really super nice horses, neither one has started to feel like 'his.'

So, he's going to start from scratch. This filly is (kind of) broke to lead, and she's had her feet handled a little, but that's all she knows. We bought her so fast because the breeder intended to send her to a trainer in the next month or two, and we really want to do the whole thing this time.

She's going to stay with the breeder for another few months. We'll bring her to our place when we get either Oliver or Aiden sold.

More pics and info about the parents on Brian's blog.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Summer Groove

Summer seems to be finally here in earnest. I got out to the barn multiple times during the week (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.) Which was good because it means Aiden didn't get the whole week off.

 No, of course I am not looking at my phone while sitting on a horse I've owned less than two months with the reins draped over the horn. Who would do such a thing?

This weekend we rode all our horses both days. Saturday I had a really great ride on Aiden. We went out to the tree pasture for the first time.

Brian and I have been watching a video series produced by the Eclectic Horseman called Horseman's Gazette. We started from way back in the beginning and have been watching our way forward in time. The videos are pretty interesting, featuring a range of horseman and craftsmen. In the early ones, Richard Caldwell was still alive, so we've gotten to see some great snippets of him.

But the new person I've been getting a lot out of watching is Joe Wolter. Several of the videos involve him working young horse with cattle, and the most recent one showed him doing groundwork and settling exercises with a young mare with a lot of pent-up energy. What has struck me so much watching Joe is how patient he is, and how he supports the horse by setting things up and leaving her room to try.

This is, of course, what I'm always trying to do, but how well I succeed tends to vary from moment to moment. On Saturday with Aiden, I backed off a lot on my groundwork. Watching Joe work his mare, I noticed how little he did when asking for the front and the hind. Now that I can move a horse's feet around pretty easily, I think I've become a bit too quick to do so. If every time I ask for a horse to change direction I micromanage him through the movement, he's never going to figure out how to accomplish it without my help. As Martin Black says, "The horse knows how to be a horse better than I do."

So my work with Aiden was focused on leaving him a lot of leeway. And on Saturday, this worked great. He was really with me, and he seemed to be meeting me halfway in everything I asked of him. Our work at the walk and trot was great. He still doesn't feel awesome at the lope though. He'll go, and it's fine, but it's hard for him. He's still just really, really out of shape. So I haven't been doing more than tipping him into that once or twice a ride.

We were rocking the figure-eights around the trees, both at the walk and trot.

On Sunday, things weren't as good. He was more distracted, which meant my gentle suggestions followed by room to explore led to a bit of him blowing me off. I think he was pretty fatigued, physically. And I also think I left things a little too open for him at times. Nevertheless, it was a great weekend on Aiden. He's proving to be just so quiet and gentle. Now if his topline would just fill in a little . . . .

In other news, we went and visited Bear on Saturday. He was looking very happy and chilled out, and the people at Miracles totally adore him there. So that was great.

Also, Oliver is growing his coat back, and it turns out he's a roan. Who knew?

Also he's lost a fair bit of weight and gained a fair bit of muscle and is starting to look pretty darn good.

Horseback Hours YTD
Steen: 47:05
Aiden: 9:25
Total: 82:45

Monday, May 05, 2014

A Good Gallop

We spent the weekend out of town. We went with Brian's fabulous parents to the Kentucky Derby. In spite of the rather mixed feelings I have about the horse racing industry, it was definitely a fun weekend.

Today, I headed out to the barn alone in the afternoon. I found a very filthy Steen.  His feet were basically pure mud blocks. I spent a long time grooming him, and had to spray his legs off with the hose to even get him passably clean.

I was pretty tired, and wasn't sure I had the mental focus to work on anything super demanding and specific. So I took Steen out into the big pasture and we just moved around a lot. We trotted and cantered all over the hills and along the fencelines. I worked on an exercise Martin Black likes, which is basically just cantering in a really big circle while trying to keep the horse's nose tipped in and their back and jaw soft.

Steen was in a relaxed mood. I was asking him for speed and we were alone, but he stayed super chilled out. Finally I decided to open him up a bit. I pointed him towards the barn and told him to go.

I used to gallop my horses all the time. I almost never do it anymore. I'm not sure why. Not only is it fun, it's good for horses both physically and mentally to run as fast as they can for a short while.

Steen got pretty into running for a moment. We raced down off the hill in the big pasture and up the incline towards the tree pasture. About halfway up he started to run out of gas, and he was happy to stop, turn around, and walk on a loose rein back to the barn.

Once back in the closer pasture, we trotted and cantered a little more. But the sprint had left Steen rather tired, and it was starting to get late. So I hopped off, let him graze for a moment, and we called it a ride.

Ride Time: 0:25
Horseback Hours YTD: 76:35

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