Thursday, September 23, 2010

More Bareback

Work has been exceptionally busy lately, and I came home with a tingle in my throat and a small desire to put my feet up and read a book. After a brief snack, a cup of tea, and a chat with Robin, I changed clothes (into my brand new pair of real riding jeans!) and we went out to the barn.

With both of us feeling a little tired and a stiff south wind whipping across the fields, we thought about maybe riding inside. Heather had just watered the arena, and it was empty, so that made the decision easy. And to keep things even easier, we both went bareback.

After a few practice flexes I decided to see if I could leap onto Bear without any aids. He is not a tall horse by any stretch of the imagination, so I knew it was physically possible, but I didn't know how he would feel about me doing it. Plus the sand in the arena is super deep (too deep, really), and that wasn't going to help my hops. I did a few jumps near him and leaned on him a bunch to make sure he was ready, and then I went for it.

And I almost made it. I'm pretty sure I would have made it, but Bear wasn't totally certain what he should do with himself so he started to walk off. I aborted that attempt and vigorously rewarded Bear for doing a mostly good job. Then I did another false jump or two and went for it again. This time I slid aboard rather smoothly, and Bear didn't budge an inch.

During the ride Bear was OK. He was pretty interested in Steen, so things were kind of hit or miss as far as his concentration went. But I had great luck introducing some super gentle cues when asking for him to back, and I also thought I saw some improvement in his right circles. We made a lot of righthand circles of varying sizes, and he moved through them without the jerkiness he exhibited in the past few rides.

The really exciting thing is that I've had Bear for four weeks now, and look at the difference in his body.

Bear after our first ride.

Four weeks later and still sporting the leopard print, though he's got a new one on the way.

It is really a striking difference. He has gotten more muscled pretty much everywhere; hindquarters, forequarters, legs, and neck. His mane has gotten longer, too. His tail is about the same, but that is only because we gave it a little trim in order to coax it to keep growing and fill out. And he's still got a decent belly on him.

All these changes have brought on other changes, too. He is friendlier, he walks faster, and I would guess that he is also feeling better. It will be fun to watch his progress over the next many months as he continues to get in better shape.

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