Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Duke Day Ride

Every six weeks or so our farrier, Duke, comes to the barn to give the guys a trim.  And every six weeks or so we talk about riding since we have to be there anyways, but we've never done it.  There is just always a lot of commotion or we get sucked into conversations or we just don't feel like it.

But today we arrived nice and early only to find that a ton of other people had too.  So we got our guys and tacked them up for a ride.  It was a gorgeous day.  Mid 70s, sunny, light east wind.  Basically a perfect summer day.

My hopes for this ride were that it would help loosen up Bear's legs.  He is almost always tight, and it can make getting a trim a little difficult.  But he is usually a little more loose after a ride.  So we walked onto the strip and just moved around for a little bit.  He was not happy when I tried to take him down to the far end.  I think for the most part it was the bugs.  When the wind was in our face things were better.

Hoping some speed would alleviate the problem I moved him into the trot.  He was a little stiff and fast at first, but then he settled into a nice, loose rein trot.  Perhaps it just took a minute to outrun the flies.  When we went back to walking he was paying more attention to me, but the flies were still getting to him.  So I asked for the lope and he smoothly brought himself into the gait.  It felt really good.

After our ride yesterday Robin and I were talking about our loping experience.  In the smaller indoor arena, she told me how when she relaxed and took her weight off her stirrups and put it onto the saddle through the tight turns, Steen would go through them with better lateral flexion and more relaxation.  When I thought about that, it sounded like what I was trying to do yesterday to get Bear to bend nicely in the outdoor arena, but I didn't know at the time that is what I was trying to do.  So today when we loped through our turns I was conscious to be as light in the stirrups as possible and just use my upper legs to keep my butt centered over the saddle.

It totally worked.  Occasionally one of us would lose a bit of balance and I'd lean into a stirrup, then Bear would lean as a result of that.  But instead of bearing down and getting through the turn, I would go back to sitting deep and relaxed and not push with my legs.  Bear would automatically correct himself.  We were loping such great circles that Robin was just sitting on Steen watching us go.  Even one of the other boarders came by to put her horse back and she did a double take when she saw it was me on Bear.  So I guess we looked pretty good.

And that was about it for the ride.  When we took the guys inside they were thrilled to stand around for a few minutes and be doted upon.  I took Bear through some stretches with all four of his legs and just like I suspected, they were much looser than before the ride.  By the time it was his turn for a trim he was very relaxed and well behaved for Duke.  Sometimes due to Bear's tight hindquarters Duke can't bring his feet all the way up to the farrier's block, but today there was no problem with that.  So maybe we'll have to force ourselves into riding on Duke Day more often.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sweaty Backs

That was the goal for this morning's ride.  Well, more the goal for Robin and Steen, Bear and I were fine getting whatever sweat pattern we happened to get.  But Robin wanted to push Steen a bit and see how the new saddle really fit him.

The trick was the morning was really cool, and we couldn't wait for the afternoon as there was a storm rolling in.  So we decided to head out to the barn early, and Robin and Steen were going to ride in the indoor arena as it tends to be a bit warmer and the enclosed environment makes it easier for Steen to focus.

As the arena is a little small for two fast moving horses, Bear and I opted to ride in the outdoor arena.  I think the enclosed space and lack of Steen also made it easier for Bear to pay attention to me.  His turns and stops were really good.  And when we started trotting in figure eights to keep warming up he was on a very loose rein and was quite responsive to my legs.

When we started loping he was definitely into it.  We went in a large circles to the left for awhile, and then tried it to the right.  They were probably the best circles to the right we've ever had.  And I have a new theory about this.  My right hip is outrageously tight, but I've been working hard on loosening it up with some single leg deadlifts and other exercises, and it has really been responding nicely.  As a result, my hips and legs were more comfortable going to the right.  It wasn't as good as going to the left, but it was pretty nice.

Of course once we stopped that little loping session Bear was keyed up and ready to keep running.  I guess those quiet rides at the end of the week and the cool temps in the morning had him back to feeling like a youngun.  But I really didn't want to give him his way.

So we trotted.  We did lots of tight circles moving out to big circles and vice-versa.  We did figure eights.  And we did a lot of transitions and backing.  It worked a little, but I think the real truth is Bear is in pretty great shape right now, so he could probably trot fast for many, many hours.

Once he calmed down at the walk I decided to have another go at the lope.  He was immediately excited and lept right into it.  We were back to going left, and there was one part of the arena that he kept cutting off and making the turn sharper than it needed to be.  So I just thought about that section and tried to keep my body relaxed through it and push him in a way that would allow him to nicely bend through the turn.  I'm not quite good enough with loping to use my legs while we're doing it, so I was really just thinking my way through this and hoping it translated through my body.  I think it did, because we had some great turns through the "bad" spot.

We worked on this for quite a few minutes, and Bear got the point where he was dropping the lope.  I'd smooch to him and he would pick it back up, but he was definitely getting tired.  Serves him right, too.  Maybe next time he'll think a bit more before getting all goey.

We ended our ride when Robin and Steen came out the the hitching post.  Both the guys were very calm and relaxed.  Steen definitely won the sweating contest.  The indoor heat and the fact that Robin did a whole lot more loping than I did had Steen dripping from his face.  Steen's prize was a shower.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Standing Around

I guess it was a long week for me, because I was tired again this afternoon.  But it was a beautiful day, and I couldn't not go to the barn.  Bear was in good spirits and just generally happy to be hanging out with me.  We actually did a lot of standing while we watched Robin and Steen continue to test out the new saddle.  For the most part they looked good.  Steen was giving Robin some really relaxed lopes, but Steen wasn't always great as he also just wanted to come stand near us.  Understandable I suppose.

We alternated standing with some work on our steering and our stops again.  He was pretty good with both, and it was just really relaxing to be outside.  I think it was good for both of us to have another day where we didn't have to get all antsy about running faster. 

After the ride we stopped at an old bar called the Hilltop Tavern for burgers and Budweisers.  It was a great way to cap off the week.  We had never been to the bar before, and that is kind of surprising as it is right on the way home.  So we drive by it everyday.  Perhaps it will become a regular thing for us.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Just Walking Around

It was a cool afternoon, and while Robin was really excited to try her new saddle, I was a little tired.  So after we saddled up and went to the strip, I just kind of walked Bear around.  We started by going up and down most of the strip.  He didn't like this in the beginning.  He'd weave around and want to turn back, but he quickly realized that I would not give in to his desires.

Since mid-March Bear and I have really been working on faster gaits.  In fact, I think this was the first ride in three months that I did not trot or lope.  It felt kind of nice.  Especially since he has been so goey lately.

So aside from just walking up and down the strip we also took some time to work on our stops and turning off leg pressure.  He was pretty good with the former, and so so with the latter.  Towards the end of the ride he started getting better with the turns, but I think he was just paying more attention to me at that point.  I have not figured out a great way to get him to focus on me when there is a running Steen/bugs/a storm coming/etc.  This is definitely something I'll have to work on.

In my quest to keep things switched up with Bear, I'll have to remember the option to just walk around.  I think it is a nice break for both of us.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bear Thinks He's a Four Year Old

Today we went out to the barn in the afternoon.  My plan was to start loping Bear early (particularly if it seemed like he felt good) and the lope and lope and lope.  And then maybe lope some more.

We started with some really light groundwork, then did a little warming up under saddle with some focused turning off of leg cues (which went OK, I think the bugs and heat were partially to blame).  Right when that was starting to become tiresome, I moved him into the lope. 

It was nice for a few strides, but as I moved our oval out bigger and bigger it became increasingly erratic.  He'd dig in super hard on the slight rises and I'd feel his body start to flatten out, then he'd cut into the turns and come out in whatever trajectory felt best for him.  If things got a little rough or difficult he'd drop into his choppy trot for a moment, and then we'd go back into the crazy lope.

All he wanted to do was go, and not pay attention to me.  And for a little while I went with it.  But then I got a little uncomfortable.  Robin was off to the side doing groundwork and hanging out with Steen, so she could see things weren't going well.  She suggested I ask for one circle at the lope, then have him flex three times, then walk one circle. Repeat.

So that is what we did over the next hour.  It turned out to be a great idea. It did not work in any kind of magical way, and sometimes it would take minutes for me to get three nice flexes out of Bear, but it gave both of us something to concentrate on and I could see improvement happening. I would add in some trotting or longer loping sessions when he was a little more relaxed.  I'd like to say we ended on a wonderful note, but we really just ended with him doing better than he started.  Quite a bit better, but not great.

When I hopped off he was thrilled.  He was soaked all over and had foamy sweat on his cheeks and the sides of his neck.  I pulled his saddle off and passed it to Robin and Steen.  Then I exchanged Bear's bridle for a rope halter and we moved back to some groundwork.

I did not have any great plans, I just wanted to get his feet moving and help him cool down.  He had no desire to go anywhere at first, but it only took a teeny bit of firmness on my part to get the desired response out of him.  I did make the mistake of trying to add a couple new things to our repertoire.  I tried getting him to jog after me and to circle drive off the stick (not together).  He'd never done these things, and we were both really hot and sweaty and I know my patience was not where it should have been for teaching.  To Bear's credit, he really tried to go where I was asking him to, but he just didn't understand what I wanted.  And I couldn't help him understand it any better.  So we just went back to some easy leading until he was cooled off, and then I let him graze until Robin and Steen finished their ride.

We finished the day with a shower and an apple.  The guys were very appreciative of both.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

End of the Week Rides

Lately I have been getting some long rides in, but this Tuesday Bear and I had a fun, short ride, and I kind of liked the idea of having a few of those just to mix things up.

On Thursday we more or less repeated Tuesday's ride, but we were back out on the strip, and Robin was riding bareback on Steen.  Bear was very relaxed and responsive.  We started the day with some really light groundwork and then, sensing that he was rather warmed up, I asked him to start loping almost immediately.  He obliged and gave me the best lope we've ever had.  Both of us were balanced and collected.  He was also bending nicely through the circle.

We kept it up for a little while and then moved into the other direction.  Upon cuing him for the lope he dropped his shoulder a bit and then threw his head around and almost lept into the lope, but didn't.  It was a little rough to ride through, and for the first time since I've had my new saddle, I grabbed for the horn to steady myself.  It worked nicely, and Bear calmed down a bit.  His ankles are still tight and swollen from all the bugs, and he was really being so sweet that I knew he wasn't trying to get out of anything.  We did a little more to the left and then called it an evening.

On Friday I was more or less expecting the same kind of ride.  But I had a very different horse.  It was cool and dry and Bear was ready to go.  Out on the strip he was paying attention to me, but he was also walking fast and then later trotting super fast.  A few times he snuck in a few strides at the lope when I wasn't asking for it.

I really didn't want to let him do what he wanted to do.  This might not have been a bad thing, but it isn't a habit I want to get into.  And Bear picks up patterns so quickly, I don't want him always thinking we lope after 5 minutes.

So we trotted.  And trotted.  Long straightaways mixed in with lots of turns.  It was rough and fast and I was not enjoying myself a ton.  I tried to relax through it, and we did this for close to 15 minutes, but then I got sick of it.  So I hopped off and adjusted the mecate so we could do some groundwork.

We did a few simple circles and disengages and then I made him run.  He doesn't love to do it on the line, so it was nice that it was still my idea.  He moved really nicely in both directions.  Perhaps not quite as relaxed to the right in the beginning, but after a circle or two he would relax into it.  We were just about to finish up with the loping on the line when Bear dug into the turn a little too tightly and slipped on the partially wet grass.  He went down pretty hard on his right side and it yanked the rope out of my hand.  He hopped up and looked rather confused about what happened, then he trotted off of the strip and over to the gate that leads to the hitching post.

I felt bad that he fell, and then I felt worse when he stepped on the trailing mecate a few times.  My intention was just to make him think and pay attention to me, he certainly didn't need anything uncomfortable to happen to him.  But that is life sometimes.  I slowly trailed after him and met him at the gate.  He stood quietly and lowered his head when I arrived so I could give him lots of reassuring pets.

I quietly led him back to the strip and then we did a little more groundwork.  No more loping, just some easy trotting with lots of disengages.  He was very quiet and attentive, so I hopped back on for a few minutes and just walked around.  He was so good I decided to see if his trot was a little more relaxed.  It probably was, but not by much.  We were back to trotting in tight figure eights and various turns, but he wasn't super relaxed anymore.  He felt good.  So at least the fall didn't bother him too much.

The most disappointing thing about the ride was that I broke our little barn camera.  I pulled it out of my pocket to snap a few shots of Robin and Steen doing groundwork, but the lens would not come out, and it was accompanied by an awful clicking noise.  Then it finally came out, only to get stuck like that.  So we will be without photos for a little while.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just the Two of Us

It seems like it has been a while, but I did go out with Robin on Friday.  I just got lazy and didn't blog about it.  I was worried about Bear's swollen ankles and decided to have a relatively easy day of groundwork.  I thought it would also help with his somewhat increasingly bad behavior on the ground.  Well, bad is too strong a word, but it hasn't been good.

We did a lot of our basic stuff, and he was really quite good.  He was paying a lot of attention to me, and he improved in all the exercises as we went along.  When we finished and I shot some photos and video of Robin and Steen in the indoor arena, Bear was standing with the kind of contentment I hadn't seen in a couple of weeks.

Then we were out of town for a long weekend.  It is always an adjustment coming back, and today was a really tiring day at work.  While sipping some tea in the afternoon Robin and I decided not to go to the barn.

But then I had a little surge of energy and thought it would be better if I got myself out there.  Robin still elected to stay home, and that was OK.  I had not been to the barn by myself since maybe October.

All the horses were in the middle pasture.  I gave Steen a few pets on my way over to Bear, who seemed quite happy to see me.  He led well, respected my space and was very, very attentive.  I guess the time off and groundwork session did him some good.

His ankles, though, are still swollen.  I asked a knowledgeable barn person what she thought it might be.  She agreed it was most likely flies, and she even thought some of the hard bumps were bites.  I thought the swolleness came from the stamping, but it is possible it came from the bites themselves.  Or both. Either way, she was not terribly worried about them, and Bear didn't seem to be either.

After I tacked him up I brought him to the outdoor arena.  We ran through a little groundwork and he was really good, particularly with disengaging the forequarters.  When I was about to mount he moved off, so I moved his feet to make sure he knew I meant business, and then he stood stock still while I climbed on.

The ride was good.  He was relaxed and pretty happy to be working.  At times he would get distracted by the herds surrounding the arena, but I guess that is to be expected as this is the first time he has ridden without a buddy (specifically without Steen) since the fall.  We kept things light and just walked and trotted in big circles.  He was good with his transitions and I was able to keep him on a very loose rein.

After we had gone both directions, we went back to walking and trotting to the left and he got very uppity.  He had the Steen problem where he just wouldn't walk more than a couple steps.  So finally when he picked up an unasked for trot, I kissed to him.  He went into a very relaxed lope.  I guess he just wanted to run around a little. 

We only went for a short while.  He dropped it once, but then he picked it right back up when I asked for it.  When I cooled him down he seemed very pleased with himself.  So he must just be feeling good.  I'll have to keep an eye on his ankles, but I think we can get back to the kind of rides we've been having lately.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Swollen Ankles

While I was grooming Bear at the hitching post he was very fidgety.  It was a warm day and I have no doubt the bugs were the culprit.  But there could have been more.  While going over his legs I noticed that the area just above his hind ankles was rather swollen.  They did not seem tender to the touch, so that was good.  I took him into the outdoor arena and did some light groundwork.  He still seemed a little bothered by the bugs and distracted, but I didn't get the impression that he was sore.  However, he wasn't moving as freely as he usually does.  His stride was more labored and less springy, also he was carrying his head a little higher than when he's normal-relaxed-Bear.

I hope it is a minor issue.  I hadn't ridden him in two days, and while we've been getting some good riding hours in, they have not been overly difficult.  Robin said he might be swollen from stamping at so many flies.  That would make sense as bugs seem to be his arch nemesis.

I finished tacking him up and brought him out to the strip.  I had no plans to ride hard at all, and I was prepared to get off at the slightest hint of discomfort on his part.  We started with a little groundwork, and I thought he was moving a teeny bit better.  He was definitely paying better attention to me, so that was good.

When I climbed on, though, he was just distracted.  I had a very hard time directing him, stopping him (which is weird, as he loves to stop), and changing gaits.  We were only doing a little trotting as it seemed to help him loosen up, but his transitions were nothing like they were before.  He was actually doing the thing Steen loves to do, jump into the trot after we've come back down to a walk.  Very un-Bear.

So we kept the ride short and I finished with a little more non-demanding groundwork.  Today was a tough day for me as he was definitely not feeling great, but I am also often at a loss for what to do when Bear is inattentive.  I get frustrated and irritated with him.  This does not help me stay calmly assertive, and I think I lose a little touch in my releases.  I'm also less likely to give him any praise for the things he is doing well.

At least I'm aware of this.  Right now I'm reading Buck Brannaman's second book Believe.  I started it about a year ago, but I don't think I was ready to get into it then.  Now I'm getting some more stuff out of it.  And I'm starting to come up with a few ideas to try with Bear.  Even if his ankles are still a little swollen we should be able to work on stuff.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


The morning was wet and we also had some things to do in the early afternoon, so we didn't get out until after 2.  But it was one of those gorgeous June days: sunny, slightly breezy, temps in the low 80s.  The horses were a little lethargic from standing in the warm sun all day, but they weren't overly warm.

We continued our new routine of riding in the pasture, though they were out bailing hay.  So we should move back to the strip soon.  It will be fun to go back and forth as I think the variety is good for them.  And me.

Bear was quite distracted early on.  Turns and disengages and some of the other things I use to get him on track were not working.  So we started trotting early and I planned on moving to the lope early, too.  Before the lope, though, I thought we should work on our walk/trot transitions.  These were great.  It got Bear thinking and paying attention to me, and he seemed to be happy with the challenge.  Of course, he's always happy to slow down or stop, so I'll have to keep the transitions in mind when he's a little distracted.

Once we had some nice transitions dialed in, we moved into the lope.  He was good almost right away (I think the transitions early on helped with that).  Going right, again, was not the best.  Still, at times we had some smooth loping to the right, at other times it was a little rough.  I didn't push him on it, but we did work at it some.  Then we moved back to the left.

This time he gave me his best lope yet.  Instead of going into the jackhammer trot, he smoothly entered the lope in one stride and gave me a relaxed and collected lope, all on a loose rein.  Afterwards I gave him some big pets as a reward.  He was definitely pleased with himself.

But that also might have been where I made a little mistake.  I made a big deal of how well he did, and then we rested for a few minutes while Robin and I chatted and passed the camera, so then when we went back to work, he was not happy.  It took many tries for me to get a nice lope out of him again.  I did finally get it, but even after that the rest of the ride was a little less than smooth.  And Bear was again distracted.  Even going back to transitions didn't help calm him down.  Perhaps I should have gotten off and done a little groundwork with the mecate, but I wasn't thinking that way as most of the ride was pretty good.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Making Use of the Mecate

Saturday morning was cooler than Friday afternoon, so we decided to get an early start and head out to the barn.  The guys were hanging out together right near the gate.  They also seemed very relaxed and happy to see us.

As the hay is still drying on the strip we again rode in the pasture, but it has been fun to explore the new venue.  Today we had to kick Cowboy and Caboose out.  At first they didn't want to move, but then we formulated a nice strategy where Robin and Steen took to the middle of the pasture and Bear and I got them away from the gate and started down the fenceline toward the other gate.  They moved pretty steadily and we just slowly applied more pressure and tightened up our wall until they were out.  It was kind of fun, but I'm sure if they decided to run all round the pasture it wouldn't have been much fun.

The day was hazy and cloudy, and even though we got a nice early start it was already hot and sticky by the time we were ready to ride.  And as soon as I put my foot in my stirrup I saw a drop of water on my saddle seat.  When I climbed up another one hit me in the arm.  Nothing looked ominous on the horizon so we just started riding. 

Bear was good for a few minutes, but once it opened up into a steady rain he got very distracted.  All he wanted to do was stand with his head down and his butt to the wind (which was actually blowing at about 3 mph).  He also wanted to be near Steen.  At one point he lined his butt up with the wind and started side passing over towards Steen, who was already in the head down butt to the wind position.  It was so funny that I let him do it for a few paces, but then I turned him away so that I could choose where he went.  Still, I just redirected him and then brought him over to Steen so Robin and I could chat about the weather.  It didn't look bad at all, and even as we were laughing at our horse's desire to hunker down, it was already lightening up.

And then the rain just shut off like a shower faucet.  So we resumed our ride and got into some trots.  Bear was nowhere near as smooth as yesterday.  We would go in circles, figure eights, and then do long post to post straightaways.  Sometimes he'd give me a gentle trot, but most of the time it was not so gentle. 

Robin and I were again feeling a little sluggish and unmotivated (it was probably the sticky heat), so we traded off with the camera and got some good shots of the pasture.

Bear giving me a pretty decent trot and looking very composed.

Moving out at the far end of the pasture.
By this time we had been out a while, and Bear was getting increasingly lofty and uppity with his trot.  He picks up patterns so quickly, and he was definitely feeling like we were either at the point where we would start loping or end the ride.  The grass was really slippery and I wasn't up for riding through that at the lope, so Robin suggested I use the mecate to do some work on the ground.

When I hopped off Bear he seemed visibly pleased to get out of loping.  He was really surprised when I fed the mecate through the bridle to give me the full 22 feet to work with and sent him off loping.  He gave me quite a bit of head tossing in the beginning, but then he settled into a nice lope.  He did slip a few times, but he had no problem correcting that.  Still, I was happy to not have to ride through it.

We switched directions to the right, and if anything, he was moving even smoother in that direction.  I only asked him to lope for about two minutes, three at most, but it was enough to completely change his disposition (and get him drenched in sweat).  He was very attentive and stood still while I readjusted the mecate and reins.  After the work I climbed on him again.  He was not excited about this, but he also didn't move an inch while I mounted (which he sometimes does if I get on and off during a ride).  I was only planning to walk him down a couple hundred yard to the gate to swing it back open, but he didn't know that.

After opening the gate, I thought I might as well climb on again and walk him up the hill to the other gate.  Again he stood quietly and was very willing to walk out, but I could tell he was a little apprehensive about the situation.  I think this was good for both of us, though.  Bear needs to learn to relax and listen to what I want without guessing ahead, and I need to work on changing the pattern of our rides.  So next time maybe we'll lope before we trot.  Or maybe we'll do work on the mecate in the middle of the ride and then I'll do a whole lot more riding.  We'll see.

We ended the day by giving the guys a cool shower.  Bear showed no hard feelings for the brief, hard work I asked him to do.  If anything, he gets more relaxed and comfortable after I've been a little hard on him.  I guess it makes sense as he is such a dominate horse.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Good Gait Speeds

It was a hot Friday afternoon, and we almost didn't go to the barn.  I was really tired from a long week at work (even though it was actually only four days), but I figured I would probably just sit around the house if I didn't head out to see the horses.  So we went.  And we had a really good time.

We rode the guys in the pasture again, and they were both really good.  Bear and I spent some time following the fence to get warmed up.  Then we moved into some nice figure eights where I concentrated on turning him with one hand on the reins and leg cues.  He was very receptive to this.

Moving into the trot he was super smooth.  We went both directions, did figure eights, and even just toured the pasture with me picking whatever direction I wanted.  He never got ruffled or antsy to go faster.

I almost called it quits after half an hour as I was physically and mentally tired, but I decided since things were going so well I should give him a day where we lope for just a brief while and then calm things right back down.  So I asked for the lope going in a circle to the left.  He didn't pick it up right away.  I actually think he was so relaxed that my kiss startled him a bit, but he picked it up on the second ask.  It was smooth and relaxed and after just 30 seconds or so I brought him down to a nice trot and then to a walk.  It was are smoothest downward transition yet, and I think Bear really liked going fast for a few seconds and then stopping.
Bear's been getting increasingly affectionate lately.

After we put the guys back out to pasture we stopped by to say hello to Whisper.  He's almost a month old now and getting much bolder.  He does not appreciate people walking right up to him, but if you get within four or five feet and then look away, his curiosity gets the best of him and he walks right up to you.  I got in some good pets (and a little tug of war as he's not great at handling pressure just yet) and then we went home to enjoy some cool showers and cold beer.

Whisper was clearly not so worried about me that he couldn't check out the camera, too.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Loping in the Pasture

When we pulled up to the barn I was excited to see that the strip had been cut.  I wished I had a camera with me during our last ride because the wind made the grasses look really cool against the horses' legs.  They were almost up their bellies in some places.

But the grass on the strip is going to be used for hay bales, so it is drying, and we couldn't ride there.  Instead we decided to ride in the middle pasture.  I rode in there twice late last spring with Steen, but neither Bear nor Robin had ridden there.

It was a very warm and sunny day with only a light breeze.  The guys were both a little phlegmatic as a result.  They did perk up some when we got on them.  Bear seemed totally fine to be riding in the pasture.  He was a little distracted by where all the other horses were and perhaps because I was riding him in "his" space, but he did start to closely listen to me and gave me the nicest trot early in the ride.

Due to his sometimes high, rough trot, I had decided to work on posting.  I've only done it a few times, so I'm really not that great at it, but Bear seemed fine with me steering him in a big circle while I tried to get my hips into the rhythm of his trot.  Sometimes I got to where it felt pretty good, other times it just felt awkward.  All in all, I think it was better than some of my other attempts, so I think I will periodically keep it up.

Since he was moving so nicely I asked him for a lope and he picked up the gentlest outdoor lope yet.  But then he got excited, and that brought on the rough trots.  My practice posting at the smooth trots did not prepare me for the big rough trots, so I just rode them out in a way that made things easiest for both of us.

When we were relaxed I'd ask for more loping, when the lope felt awesome for half a minute or so I would ask for the trot.  We kept this up for half an hour or maybe a bit more.  Most of the time we were trotting, but we got a lot of loping in.  He even did fairly well loping to the right.  He never likes picking it up and almost always give a big head toss right when I ask.  I try to ignore it and just ask again.  The second or third time I ask he picks it up like there is no problem.  It doesn't feel as nice as when he is going left, but we are both settling in.  Due to the size of the pasture, I was able to keep him in a circle that was as big or small as he wanted.  I think this helped with the relaxation a little bit.

Because of the weather and the long periods of moving fast, Bear got extremely sweaty and tired.  Towards the end of our loping he was getting a little upset about it and he'd drive me into a sharp corner and drop to the choppy trot.  I couldn't let him get away with that, so I just calmly moved him back out to a nice sized circle and kept him loping.  He totally gave up on trying to get out of anything, and we ended the work portion of our ride with a very nice lope and a very willing and responsive Bear.

I'm hoping our lope will get good in both directions over time.  We've seen Bear have a number of issues that he has overcome in the nine months that I've had him.  First he would not tolerate trotting or loping on a longe line, now it is no big deal.  Then his trot was almost always uncomfortable, and now he is completely capable of giving me an excellent trot.  When we started the lope it was super fast and almost impossible to get a right lead.  Now we're going in both directions at a more controlled pace, but things are not quite consistent.  I've got time, though.  If we were able to do things quickly all the time, then it would be harder to come up with things to work on. 

As a reward for his hard work, I gave Bear a nice shower afterwards.  He loved it.