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.

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