Saturday, April 2, 2011

Back on Steen

Wednesday we went out to the barn early in the afternoon in hopes of a repeat of last Friday's great ride.  Bear was sluggish in the beginning, and even not all that excited to leave the bale and follow me.  But once we started groundwork he came around.  He continues to get better at responding to what I ask.  Or maybe I get better at asking it.  Either way, we are seeing improvement.  Particularly in his relaxation during circle work.

Under saddle things started out good.  He was his usual quiet self going through our walking warm-up.  It was a pretty, sunny day and we had all the doors open in the arena.  During one pass by the big door we heard a horse whinny outside, Bear lifted his head semi-quickly, and then bolted towards the middle of the arena.  Thankfully my new saddle held me in place, but this was more than a little disconcerting.  It was very un-Bear-like.  Sure, he's jumped off before, but never like that.  He is perhaps the most dominant horse in the pasture, there is no way a whinny like that would worry him.

We continued to walk around for a bit, but he then had a few other starts and was just not acting like himself.  Robin volunteered to ride him to see if we could determine if he was sore, or just being temperamental.  He didn't want to let her on, but she got up there and bounced around a little and the saddle didn't seem to bother him.  She walked around and then asked him to trot for a while.  He did it, but you could tell he was hating it the whole time, and he just wasn't moving like he was the week before.

After the ride we took the saddle off and thoroughly examined his back, but we couldn't detect any immediate problems.  Then we explored other parts on him and found a very, very sensitive spot on his right side.  Right in the ribs where the cinch goes.  He's been sore there before, so we're going to give him some rest and see if the chiropractor can offer us some more specific work and exercises on this particular problem (rather than the general soreness old Bear gets). 

We had not been out very long, so I decided to jump on Steen.  He did not seem to mind my new saddle as we walked around the arena and even did a little trotting.  I was shocked at how different Steen felt.  I really haven't ridden him since maybe June.  He was quite relaxed, but even a relaxed Steen involves a lot of jerky motions that I do not experience on Bear.  So that, coupled with a very busy barn that afternoon and the surprises from riding Bear, meant I didn't feel like riding for very long.

On Friday both Robin and I had the tireds and decided to skip the barn.  Instead we went out this morning and had the place to ourselves.  We planned on letting Bear rest, so I went out and grabbed Steen as I would use him for my lesson.  It was fun to tack him up again.  I spent so much time doing that years ago, and today he was extremely calm and relaxed.

Again I used my saddle, and he seemed to like it.  We did a lot of the usual things I've been doing with Bear and then moved to the trotting.  His trotting was very eratic, so in some ways it did feel a little like Bear's.  But Steen can be sensitive about his mouth and I never knew if I was giving him too much pressure or not enough.  At times he would settle in, at other times, not so much.  All in all I spent 40 minutes and it was good to get used to him again.
After my ride I encouraged Robin to get on and enjoy herself.  She had tried out my new saddle before, but she hadn't used it on Steen.  Like me, she was surprised at how different it felt on him than it did on Bear. 

Steen was thoroughly warmed up for her, so after a few laps of trotting she asked him for the lope.  She probably hadn't loped on him since the fall, but he did really well.  We had the good camera out with us and I snapped a lot of shots.  You can see more at her blog.

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