Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sweaty Rides

Yesterday was 90!  We usually only hit 90 a handful of times in July and August each year, to get it in May is crazy.  And with the cold spring we've had it felt like we missed the wonderful late spring/early summer weather and moved right into the bleghs of late August.

I shouldn't complain too much, though.  It felt good to sweat, and I was actually more comfortable riding than I thought I would be.  Bear, though, was decidedly uncomfortable.  He does not like the heat at all.  We ended up riding in the less than ideal outdoor arena because there was a semi-truck making consistent passes on the strip.  For most of the ride he was just distracted and not listening very well.  He wasn't good at the walk or the trot, and while I thought a nice lope would be good for him, the arena is not a very appealing place for that gait.

Robin was having a good ride, though, and after chatting with her I was able to concentrate on our ride a little more.  We worked on yielding the hindquarters under saddle.  While it took a few tries to get things working the day before, on this day he was yielding like he has been doing it his whole life. Which probably means he has.  So that was nice.

Then we moved into more concentrated trotting.  I've been reading Bill Dorrance's book True Horsemanship Through Feel.  I'm only in the beginning, but I already picked up a few things to concentrate on regarding my seat, legs, and how to pay more attention to the horse's movement beneath me.  So while we trotted figure-eights I tried as hard as I could to think about all those things.  I think it helped, because Bear started to pay a lot more attention to me, his trot smoothed out and his pace stayed even.  It was hard work for me, but it is something I will continue to think about as I ride and learn more from the book.  So far I recommend it.

Today our ride was almost waylaid by a storm.  Robin and I watched the radar and decided to wait it out and see if it would move by quickly.  It did.  And it was actually a mild storm, it only brought about an hour of heavy sprinkles, though the radar and warnings indicated it could have been more severe.

We were glad we waited, because when we arrived at the barn it was gorgeous.  Possibly the best riding weather we've had all year.  The temps were in the low 70s, we had some pretty clouds in the distance, and there was almost no wind. The barn was a little active, but there were no trucks about, so we were able to go back out to the strip.

Bear was good from the get go.  He was walking out nicely, turning well, and just seemed to have an overall pleased feel about him (Robin said his facial expressions were particularly relaxed and happy). When we started trotting it was smooth and relaxed in the beginning, but then it got a lot rougher.  I was trying to keep him on a completely loose rein, but he just seems to do better with slight contact.  I suppose this is not a bad thing.  It certainly helps me ride better.  Sometimes when he gets trotting fast he has a tendency for his hind end to drift out to the right, and this makes things extremely rough and lopsided for me.  Today when I collected him I was able to give a little leg cue and move his butt up underneath me.  That felt better, and it is something we'll have to work on more in the future.

Then we moved into the lope.  Bear was excited and feeling good and I could sense that he wanted to lope while we were trotting.  He really wanted to go when we were at the bottom of the strip, but I didn't love the idea of letting him run where he knows he gets to run.  So with Robin's help I attempted to lope him around some cones in an oval pattern.

He picked it up beautifully the first time I asked, and he even had the correct lead.  But around the first turn he dropped it.  Robin said we both looked good, but since the turn is at the top of a slight slope she suggested I sit as upright as possible and lean back just the tiniest bit to keep his front end light.

Following Robin's suggestions, we made it through and got a full circle on our next try.  As we continued Bear was still inclined to drop it at times in the turns, but it mostly felt like laziness.  Once I got on him and kissed again, he would keep it going.  We had quite a few sessions at the lope, and we both settled in nicely.  He gave me a great even pace, and I was able to keep him on a loose rein and just move my hips with the rhythm of the gait.

The silly thing is that I had our little camera in my pocket the whole time, so we have no pictures or video of any of this.  After we were done loping I snapped a few shots of Robin (including her awesome new pants) and then she got some of me cooling down Bear.

Both of us getting a nice relaxed turn in after lots of loping.

Bear follows me step for step after our hard ride.
And best of all, Bear had a pristine sweat pattern on his back after both yesterday and today's ride.  So now I have little doubt that the saddle is an excellent fit for him.  He even had a nice dry channel right up his spine!

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