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.

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