Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sweet Sixteen

Today was Bear's sixteenth birthday, and I'm happy to report he doesn't look or act that old. 

We started the day off by giving them both a little chopped hay.  The pasture they've been hanging out in for a week or so is a little thin, so we decided to supplement their diets a bit.  Plus it can serve to calm the guys down.  With all the herd stirrings, construction, and wind, everyone is just a little antsy.

Robin and I took our time grooming and tacking them up.  Bear was a little fidgety, but nothing like yesterday.  And halfway through he started to almost fall asleep.

Lately I have been reading up on saddle fit and position.  Yesterday I put Bear's saddle on just a teeny bit further back than I usually do.  It seemed to be a good thing as he was moving exceptionally well.  I decided to try the same position again today.  It can be a little tricky for me because bear has a bit of a short back and the saddle is a little long, so I'm inclined to put it too far onto his withers.  But I might have found the sweet spot as he was again moving free and easy this afternoon.

We took the guys out to the strip and set up four cones straight up the middle at varying distances.  Bear was not happy that I wouldn't let him graze.  It took awhile for me to keep his head up and move his feet around before he would stand quietly and let me mount.  Once up he was also not inclined to stand.  We worked in figure-eights at one end and after a few minutes he was calming down.

Then we moved into the trot.  He was giving me a very relaxed jog in the beginning.  In the figure-eights it just felt like we were floating through the turns.  Then we worked in big circles and later in ovals.  After a little bit of that we moved on to trotting the full length of the four cones.  On these long straightaways he would occasionally get going pretty fast, but I could usually bring him back down with a little light contact on his mouth.  Other times he would be on a super loose rein giving me a very smooth trot.  I think we just need to spend a lot of time moving at the gaits and he will get better at figuring out what speed I want him to be at.

All the trotting was making him tired and relaxed.  Robin was on Steen bareback and she would spend periods of time just watching us.  She kept saying how good he looked and then asked if today could be the day to ask for his lope.  I've been thinking about it for weeks.  I just wanted a day that he was responsive and a little tired after a lot of work.  Today definitely fit that criteria.

I kept doing the big long straightaways.  One way was slightly downhill and the other slightly uphill.  He would go fast on the downhills as that was also in the direction of the herd.  So after we came around the cone and headed back up I kissed to him.  He perked his ears up and started moving into a rather fast trot.  He certainly knew the command, but he seemed a little surprised that I was asking for it.  It is also possible that my body language was not clearly asking for the lope.

I smoothed him out and just went out and back at the trot.  The next time coming back up the gentle slope I kissed again.  He briefly gave me the jackhammer trot and when I kissed once more he bounced into a very smooth and easy going lope.  We went up to the cone and I brought him to a trot and headed back down again.  We just did one more little loping session after that.  By this time we had been riding for an hour and my hips were a little fatigued from being stretched out over the saddle.  I cooled Bear down with some tight circles at the walk and he was great.

After watching my successful lope, Robin decided to do a little outdoor bareback loping on Steen.  They both looked really good, and Bear didn't care at all when Steen was loping right past us.

Once the ride was over we decided not to let them graze, but I did give Bear my apple core as a little extra present.  I gave Steen some as well since he deserved a party favor due to his good loping and overall relaxed demeanor all afternoon.

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