Saturday, September 18, 2010

No Falls, No Bucks

That's right, no bucks. On Thursday there was a buck, and I was able to stay on. So now I can say I've ridden a bucking horse.

It happened in the indoor arena. It was just Bear and I. We had done our usual warmup of lots of walking and easy circles, stops, and flexes (still working on the snaffle). Then the plan was to cruise at the trot for awhile. I figured it would be a nice way to really get to know Bear's trot and see how he is inclined to move.

The cruising started out alright. Then Bear got a little confused. Then he started trotting over to the arena's exit and stopping by the gate. I would get him off the gate and keep him trotting without much of a prompt. But the fourth time it happened he moved off sharp and fast and threw in a buck. Maybe two, I wasn't sure.

I reined him in and flexed his head to the left to make sure he wouldn't buck again. When I looked down at his face it was apparent that he was already back to his super calm self and was showing no signs of anxiety or agitation. Nevertheless, I decided to get off and not press my luck. Three falls in quick succession is not something I want achieve.

We exchanged his bridle for a rope halter and long line and went outside to do groundwork on the strip. Our groundwork routine is pretty rusty, so I didn't spend too much time working on the new things. Instead we kept it simple with him moving out of my space and then coming to me when asked. If he didn't come, I made him work on the line until he was ready to come to me.

At this point Bear was definitely nervous. I think he knew he shouldn't have bucked, and he was probably expecting some punishment. Maybe harsh punishment. But that is not what I wanted to dole out. I wanted respect, not fear; so I didn't press him too hard, and I went home to think about the events of the afternoon.

After much contemplation and discussion with Robin, we figured the likliest answer was that he was a little sore and possibly confused by the relatively new bit and the new concept of cruising. After I thought about it, I realized that Bear was not doing well turning right. A few times when I asked for the right turn, he jumped into a trot. When we were on the lead line, I couldn't get him to go around me to the right, and I tried pretty hard. And when he bucked, it was immediately after a sharp right turn.

So I gave him Friday off, and on Saturday Robin and I went out to see how he was doing. There were no apparent signs of soreness, but he is definitely stiffer going right than he is going left. So we had a super non-demanding day on the strip. Robin hung out bareback on Steen and gave Bear and I a little lesson. That way she could really keep an eye on both of us.

And it was fun. We did some simple drills that involved following the fence and stopping at a post of my choosing. We walked in lots of circles in both directions. And we did some figure-eights. In between we did lots of standing, flexing, and backing. Bear was not great at everything, but he was relaxed. And we could see him trying and slowly limbering up on his right turns. I'll have to be aware of this and keep going slow with him.

We also got a lot of cool pictures. It was a cloudy, fall day, so the light was pretty good.

Robin's got some more cool shots on her blog.

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