Sunday, March 6, 2011

No Pics This Time

But the guys look the same.  And I'm pretty sure I was wearing the same outfit I've been wearing to the barn for a month (it has been washed in that time).

On a relatively mild Sunday afternoon we were thrilled to have the barn to ourselves.  We brought both Steen and Bear inside.  Robin stripped off Steen's blanket and shortly thereafter hopped on for a bareback ride.  I took my sweet time grooming Bear (though he was actually cleaner than the blanketed Steen).  Then we joined the others in the arena to do a little groundwork.

Bear and I have been doing groundwork off and on since we became partners back in August of last year.  We never really did it super consistently, and often we had Robin giving us a hand, so it was never a solid part of the work we did together.  But in these last three weeks we have made a nice little breakthrough.  Bear understands all the moves I'm asking of him, and he seems to enjoy thinking through them and doing the right thing.

We had one moment when I was asking for him to disengage his forequarters and he just kind of kept walking around in bad circles.  He was yielding, but not in the way I wanted.  Finally we got a few passable disengages, and then we switched to the other side.  On this side he figured it out.  And I could see him thinking really hard, "oh, this is how it was supposed to work."

The problem with the first try was that it was on Bear's bad side.  I was asking him to turn right.  He is super stiff somewhere in his body and it prevents him from being able to comfortably turn right at a certain angle.  And it is an odd angle.  He can actually turn right very sharply with no problems (Robin says it is because he can pivot on that huge haunch of his).  But if it is a little less sharp, then it hurts him.  Bigger circles, no problem.

The same thing was happening when we were doing some circling exercises under saddle.  Excellent to the left, OK to the right for awhile and then, bang, awful.  Mostly due to his discomfort.  So I'm trying to let him move in a way that is natural for him, but I'm also trying to make it look like I'm asking him to do it.  It is tricky, and sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't.  Just more to work on.

We ended our very good ride and then turned Bear and Steen out into the arena.  Both Robin and I rode really easily, and their pasture is a mud bog right now, so we were hoping they would kick up their heels a bit.  Robin started by encouraging Bear into some free longing.  He was great at it.  Steen just hung out by me the whole time.  He was not interested in playing.

We figured that was fine and then I had a turn doing some free longing with Bear.  He has certainly done this before, but who knows when the last time was.  It helped me that Robin got him started today.  Then I just worked to keep it light and easy, asking him to move around me in a circle, then stop, then come to me.  When he didn't want to come I just urged him right back into the circle.

Then he started coming to me.  It was very gratifying.  After the second time we did some leading drills.  He just followed right along.  This felt like a big deal to me because Bear is very much a 'do his own thing' kind of horse.  But today he was thrilled to follow me around.

So all in all it was an excellent Sunday afternoon at the barn.  Probably far better than a ride Friday would have been with me being tired and the boys spending the whole day standing around in the cold rain.  Now we just need to make sure we can keep our momentum up a little bit.

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