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.

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