Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Baby!

But not for us.  We're not quite ready for a horse baby or a human baby.  Our barn owner's recently acquired mare delivered little Whisper sometime last night.  Everything appeared to go well for both of them. 

The mom is known for throwing lots of colored babies, and this guy is a really interesting color.  He's a red dun with the cremello gene, sometimes called a perlino dun.  It give his coat a very cool creamy, silvery look.  And of course the baby is hilarious to watch.  It took him minutes to figure out how to lie down, and he has the tendency to skip the trot and just move from a nice walk into a herky, jerky canter. 

After quite a few minutes with the baby, we found our guys way out in the big pasture.  Hopefully this is where they will be for the next five or more months.  Both of them were eating high on a hill fairly close to one another and the head mare.

But they were more than a little distracted today.  We think getting turned out into the big pasture, meeting the new baby, and not being quite as close to the herd while we rode them on the strip contributed to a little anxiety and aloofness.

For Bear it started as simply not listening very closely to my cues.  Instead he would look off in various directions.  Then he wouldn't stop.  It would take many steps and repeated asks on my part to get his feet to stop moving.  This is very un-Bear-like.  He loves to stop; it is one of his favorite things to do.

Since I couldn't get his attention by taking things slowly and asking nicely, I decided to move into some work.  So we trotted for a long time.  We went through some more complicated versions of a figure-eight that included extra turns at the cones, then we trotted up and down the strip, periodically adding turns and direction changes.  He was moving well, and sometimes he would relax into things and pay close attention to me, but there was always another distraction just around the corner.

After much trotting we moved into the lope.  Initially he was moving a little quick at the lope, but he was still inclined to drop it towards the top of the strip.  I would keep him moving in a trot for a little bit and then bring him back into the lope.  It was kind of like doing intervals, and I could tell from his breathing that he was working pretty hard.

Once we got a rhythm going his lope became very fast.  Coming up the strip I could feel his body level out and his haunches really dig in and accelerate.  This was by far the fastest I had ever gone on a horse.  Thankfully he was in control and actually listening to me at this point.  We'd hit the top of the strip near the farm equipment and he would slow into a very collected lope and ease into the turn, always dropping into a trot right when I asked him to.

But after the loping sessions he would go right back to being distracted.  It was a little annoying.  He would also throw in some jigs and half-passes when I tried to bring him back down the strip.  I got through them and did my best to stay patient.  By this point we had been riding for quite a while, so I cooled him down and revisited his previous stopping problem.

I knew he wanted to be up by Steen and closer to the baby, so I walked him down the strip in the opposite direction.  While walking away from all the good stuff I would ask for a stop.  If it was bad, we kept walking away, if it was good I gave him praise and turned him towards home.  While walking towards home it was just the opposite, I'd turn him around for a bad stop and let him keep going if he gave me a good stop.  He figured it out after a few minutes, and this ended up being one of the better parts of our ride.

After the ride Bear was super excited to lounge at the hitching post and fall asleep.  Robin and I alternated grooming our guys and watching the baby.  It is going to be fun to watch him grow up.  It definitely has us more excited to get a young horse of our own someday.

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