Monday, May 30, 2011

A Long Weekend of So So Rides

Saturday was probably the best ride of the three.  Robin and I had a family friend visit on Friday night.  He had a lot of driving ahead of him and took off relatively early Saturday morning, so we just got ready and went to the barn.  It was damp and quiet and we planned on another nice, indoor ride.

The guys were being good.  Steen seemed to be moving OK in his dressage saddle, and Bear was attentive and trotting nicely, so we moved into some loping.  Going left was by far our smoothest and most relaxed lope yet.  It was wonderful.  Going right, not so good.  I had high hopes of riding to the right well as we did it on Tuesday, but Bear was not relaxed at all.  He would give me a super jackhammer styled trot and lots of head tosses.  This would pull me out of balance quite a bit, and then when we'd finally get to loping, neither one of us was set up nicely to continue it.  We did this for a few minutes and almost got one nice session in, but we couldn't repeat it.  So we went back to the left and finished on a good note.

I was thinking of loping a little more, but we were joined by another boarder.  Three horses in the indoor arena is a bit cramped, and I'm not used to weaving through traffic at the lope.  I can do it at the walk, and sometimes at the trot, but not at the lope.  So we just cooled down and then untacked.

Sunday we woke up quite early and were very excited to get out to the barn at 8 am and have the place to ourselves.  We did, but then we were joined by a rather large storm.  Neither Steen nor Bear were feeling comfortable with all the rain and wind.  They would both be good occasionally, but then they would instantly become distracted.  I was planning on just working the trot today and maybe asking for a lope if we were all relaxed about it, but I couldn't even get anything close to a relaxed trot.  It didn't help that we got off the horses a few times when the storm was really howling and lightning was striking right outside, so we never got into a good rhythm.

Unfortunately when we were feeling at our most settled, a big wind came up and pulled at the huge door of the arena.  It made a really eerie metal on metal sound and the guys spooked pretty good.  Robin was riding bareback and ended up tumbling down into the sand (thankfully she is OK and only sustained a scrape on the elbow and some minor soreness on the right side of her body).  I stayed in my saddle and was able to bring Bear under control, but that was kind of it for me.  We had been there for almost two hours and I was physically and mentally fatigued from the ride.

On Monday we woke to bright sun and howling wind.  The guys were grazing together and happy to see us, despite the lows of yesterday's ride.  We tied up outside at the hitching post and after a bit of shuffling around Bear settled into his usual nap-like state for the rest of the tacking up.

Out on the strip they were quiet.  This was nice.  Especially since I was getting on and off a few times trying to change the way I do up the cinch and tie-strap.  I usually tie the latigo in a knot in the D-ring.  It hasn't been too big of a deal for the most part, but lately it has been bothering my knee when Bear is a little rough at the trot or the lope.  I even think it hinders my balance going to the right just the slightest bit.  So today I experimented with using the buckle and then putting the excess latigo leather through the loop up on the saddle.  It took a few adjustments, but I think we got it to work.  Bear didn't appear to have any troubles with it, and I loved the smooth feel under my left knee.  I felt more relaxed in the saddle and my left leg cues seemed to be a bit more effective, too.  So hopefully I can keep doing it this way.

As the ride went on, though, Bear got really distracted and would not settle into a trot at all.  I get tired of increasing the level of contact to keep him smooth as that really just tightens his head and neck up and does not help him relax at all.  When we couldn't trot nice circles around the cones I briefly had some luck going up and down the strip, but in one direction he constantly felt like he was going to explode into a run. Maybe he felt good, but it didn't feel good to me.  So we went back to the cones to trot around and he started shying away from one spot.  This also didn't feel good.  He'd halt his forward momentum, throw his head up and dance to the side.  This area happens to be where I often ask him for the lope.  Apparently he wasn't feeling good enough to actually do the lope as he did everything he could to get away from that spot.

After watching my frustrations Robin suggested I trot him in some nice, tight figure eights and see how he does with that.  We went into those and he did a very good job with them.  I had him on a loose rein and was able to use a lot of leg to push him through the tight turns.  He was also very willing to bend his neck and body in the direction we were going.  After awhile, he started to get a little lazy and would either drop the trot in the circles or fling himself out of the turns in a half-assed acceleration.

With a little extra leg and rein he smoothed things out again.  And when he was going nicely, I would gently direct him out of the figure eights and over to the bigger circle.  Again he would shy at that spot, so we'd go right back into working tight figure eights and try it all over again.

It never really worked, so Robin suggested I work him extra hard at the spot he was shying away from.  This was tough, and I was glad I was feeling comfortable in my seat.  I'd go through a series of tight turns with lots of leg cues and he would periodically jump up and dance to the side.  He was struggling with this, though, and eventually he got a little tired.  So I let him rest where he didn't want to be and that helped things.  Then I would ask for the big circle again and he would go back to shying away.  So more work we did.  Robin said if he does it one more time I should consider jumping off and working him very hard with my mecate.  He must have heard her, because next time we trotted around the circle he looked at the spot and moved his butt away from it a little bit, but he also kept moving forward in a relaxed trot.  I took that as a good sign and kept going around the circle.  He never stopped or jumped sideways, but he wasn't totally yielding at that spot.  We kept it up for a few laps and because his trotting was so relaxed at that point, I felt like we had finally gotten somewhere.

But man it took a lot of work. I was hoping for a nice, relaxing outdoor ride.  I guess you never know what you're going to get when you go to the barn.

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