Friday, April 8, 2011

Best Lesson Yet

After Robin's very encouraging rides this week, I went back to riding Bear.  It felt great to be on my own horse again.  It even felt good to pick his feet.  I'm still a new enough horse person that I do not expect such drastic differences between them.  But they are everywhere, even in their hooves.



Before the ride Robin had thoroughly explained all her tactics for diffusing Bear's little antics, so I was prepared to use them.  We kept things very simple.  If he veered off the rail, I would let him make the mistake and then turn him very sharply into the rail and continue on in the opposite direction.  If he wanted to change the pace, then I would keep that pace going until he was very, very ready to stop.  And the other one we threw in was to make him go backwards if he ever didn't want to start walking forward, or thought of going backwards on his own.

We started out on the rail.  He was walking nicely and showing no signs of discomfort.  Just like old times, he would veer off the rail and I'd get on him for it and turn him back on the rail in the other direction.  I only did it three or four times before he really stuck to the rail.  He would then drift off and stop paying attention in a couple of the corners, but I didn't have too much trouble correcting that either.

Early on in the ride he picked up the trot when I didn't ask for it.  Out of habit I brought him right to a stop and sat there.  Of course, that is what he wanted.  But I wasn't quick enough (or perhaps ready enough) to just go with the trot.  After that, I decided the next time he picked up the trot, we'd stay with it.

Feeling done with our follow the rail exercise, we moved to walking in figure-eights in the middle.  Bear was pretty inconsistent in the turns.  Of course, this was largely my fault as I wasn't doing the best job steering.  Robin gave us a big X in the middle of the arena to shoot for.  I though it would help things, but we had not even completed our first pattern when Bear jumped into a trot (and yes, he does have this way about him where he leaps up into the trot).

So we trotted.  And trotted.  And trotted some more.  And Bear hated it.  He tossed his head a few times, he was erratic with the pace, sharp in the turns, and he dropped it a couple of times.  But each time I had him pick it up again, and though I was a tad uncomfortable from time to time, I just focused on my posture and staying relaxed.  After a few minutes Bear relaxed into things, too.

I gave him a few minutes to walk and then we changed directions with the figure-eights and went back to the trot.  He immediately started trotting in a much more relaxed manner this second time.  It wasn't amazing, but it was quite good.  We kept it up for a little bit, and then I asked for a woah in the middle of the pattern and he stopped like his life depended on it.  Robin said she'd never seen a horse slam his front feet into the ground so nicely.

Since the ride was going so well at that point we almost decided to end things on a good note, but then I said we should trot just a bit more and then cool down.  So we had a few more very relaxed minutes of trotting in the figure-eights and then walked on the rail to cool him down.  I think for the cool down he only came off the rail once.

It was a great ride.  During no part of it did Bear act, feel, or look sore.  And Robin rode him in the same way with the same tack yesterday.  I know it doesn't mean we've solved all the problems, but I feel a whole lot better about where we're at with getting Bear into shape and out of butt-head mode.

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