Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Spring in Our Step

Today was one of those very rare April days.  It was sunny, in the low 70s, and the wind was just leisurely blowing out of the south.  It was perfect for our first ride in the outdoor arena.  Bear and I have ridden outside quite a bit, but we've never been in the outdoor arena.  And this was our first outdoor ride of the year.

My original plan was to do a brief warm up in the indoor arena, but there was a young girl getting a pretty thorough lesson when we arrived.  Robin and I took our time tacking up at the new outdoor hitching post, but they were still going.  So we just decided to start outside.

While Robin climbed on Steen bareback from a cinder block, I fixed Bear's cinch and made sure our brand new headstall was fitting nicely.  Robin bought it for us a few weeks ago, but we never got around to setting it up.  The funny thing is, it is made by the same company as my saddle.  AND it is in the same stain.  So now we unintentionally match.  I must say, it does look really good.

When I climbed on Bear he was a little unhappy with things.  Perhaps it was the other horse hanging out in the round pen that was also in the arena.  Maybe it was the new space.  Or he might have just been a little upset with being so close to his herd and dinner, but not being able to enjoy himself.  Whatever it was it made for some jerky walking.  He also picked up the trot on his own a couple times.

I started on figure-eights right away hoping the pattern would calm him down.  After the last few rides I've felt confident enough to keep him trotting if he decides to jump into it.  But he did it so early I just wanted to make sure he was warmed up (he is a coming 16 year old after all).  When he picked up the trot a second time, though, I made him stick to it.

And he was very relaxed.  Occasionally his pace would get a little fast, but we spent almost the whole time in a very comfortable extended trot.

During our previous trotting sessions I would often have some light contact on his mouth to keep his speed in check and help both of us balance a little better.  Today I only used the tiniest bit of contact.  For most of our trotting he was on a loose rein and very responsive.  He would increase or decrease the intensity of his turns just by the slightest movement in my hands.  It was wonderful.

And there was no way he was sore.  He just fell right into working and got a lot of enjoyment out of it.  His trot was smooth, his stops were spot on, and he was happy to be backing or doing whatever else I asked him.  Even when the stall herd got a little stirred up with their coming dinner, Bear stood like a champ and looked to me asking what we should do next.

I think I can say this was our best ride yet.  And I feel like our riding season is just getting started.

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