Saturday, July 9, 2011

No Riding

Robin and I got up nice and early (for a Saturday), enjoyed our coffee and breakfast, and then got to the barn before 9.  We hung out with our barn owner for a little while and watched Whisper and his mom NOT interact with all the new horses they were turned out with.  With as interesting as that little guy has been on his own we thought for sure things would get more exciting when he met the others.  I guess today was not the day for that.  Later in the morning we did see him try to play with Chewie, a big thoroughbred, but Chewie would have none of it and put Whisper in his place.  After that he looked very docile.

The morning was nice and cool, and we enjoyed the breeze while we tacked up at the hitching post.  Early on I noticed a cut above Bear's right, front knee.  It had a little bit of dried blood underneath it, but it didn't look too bad as it was on the fleshy part above the joint.  However, his knee was a little puffy.  It must have happened Thursday evening or early Friday, because it was very crusted over.  I decided to leave it for the time being and give it a thorough cleaning after a light ride.

But we didn't end up riding.  When I put Bear through some light groundwork I noticed one stumble on that front leg and a little bit of favoring it at other times.  There was absolutely no reason for me to push things, so I just left Robin and Steen on the strip and we went back to the hitching post to get his would cleaned up.

Bear was a pretty good patient.  Lately he has been especially sweet and endearing.  Like he just can't get close enough to me.  So he was quite good when I started rubbing soapy water over the wound.  It certainly irritated it some and he would occasionally pull his leg up on reflex, but he knew I was trying to help him.  I also hosed it down with some cold water, and I think that helped the swelling in his knee a little.  We finished things up with a little neosporine and then went back to the strip to get a few shots of Robin and Steen.

They were having an OK ride, and the light was not great for photography, so I mostly just let Bear graze.  I used his distracted state to get a somewhat decent shot of his wound.

Depending on the swelling in his knee, I probably won't be able to ride tomorrow.  Either way I'll want to check things out and make sure it is clean.

I did manage to get a little more productivity into our day.  Bear really didn't need to eat more, and I was getting bored, so I decided to walk him down a narrow strip of grass that has corn on one side and fence on the other (with big silos and farm equipment on the other side of the fence).  We sometimes take this way to get out to the trails and what we call "the second strip."

Bear was pretty good with me leading him through this.  His head was up and his ears were forward, but he wasn't extremely comfortable.  It was funny to think back on our first rides together when he wasn't phased by anything.  But I just don't think he was with it enough to notice what was going on.

At least today he was looking to me for direction.  And when I asked him to walk in a few circles, stop, and go backwards, he was watching me very closely and responding in good time.  All in all we only did this for about 7 or 8 minutes, but I think it was effective.

Oh, and the fly-boots.  I think they were good.  He was still wearing them and he did not seem at all bothered by them.  Also, while we were tacking up he only stamped his rear feet once.  That is a huge improvement.  So I put them back on before putting him out in the pasture.  He only gave us a few goofy steps before returning to his normal gait. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Poor Bear

I went ahead and made him look like a fool in the hopes that he would be more comfortable.  I've mentioned before that he hates flies (with a passion), and he is always stamping away with his feet.  So much that his hind ankles have been swollen for weeks.  It makes me feel bad.  Thankfully they aren't super tender, and he hasn't showed anything close to lameness while we have been riding.  So I got him some fly boots to see if that would solve the problem.

And they look ridiculous.  Of course there were some solid ones available from other brands, but these got the best reviews.  I had my choice of plaids, including a pink plaid, but I thought a hunter plaid would be the least offensive.  It is hard to say whether or not I was right.  They do look bad.

After getting them on he was standing very comfortably if not somewhat stiffly.  When we started walking he was not too happy.  He tried kicking them off and jumping out of them a few times, but then he gave up and let me lead him to the pasture.

He would sometimes move a little awkwardly while playing with the herd, but by the time we were getting ready to leave he more or less looked comfortable in them.  I'm hoping these silly boots help with the discomfort he's been experiencing.  Time will tell.

Bear did feel a little bit better knowing that he wasn't the only ridiculous horse out there.  Some of the horses in other pastures have neon fly sheets and things like that.  But today Steen was having his own problems with floaty toys.  Right, like the kind you find in pools.  They have been there for a little while, but apparently he had not noticed them until today.  And it freaked him out a little.  More than a little.  I've seen him freaked out, but this was very odd.  Robin's got some interesting things to say about it, and a few goofy pictures of him getting over it, too.

Oh yeah, and we rode.  On the strip.  Bear and I mostly trotted.  Nothing exciting to say about that.  But we did spend a little time following the corn.  He improved with each passing in that he would stay closer and more parallel to the corn and also more relaxed.  And we had a couple of brief, but powerful and fast, lopes coming uphill on the strip.  I'm hoping to get to where we can easily move in and out of the lope up and down the whole strip.  I think we're almost there.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Holiday Visitors

Monday we had a gorgeous sunny day with bright blue skies.  The temps were warm, but not hot, and I didn't have to work.  Robin and I went out to the barn in the middle of the day to meet a couple friends of ours who rode their bikes out.  Steve and Cody have been curious about our horses since we got them, but we haven't been able to introduce them until now.

Neither one of them have any real horse experience, but they were happy to join in with the grooming.  Both our guys are super relaxed, and a good double grooming is one their favorite things.

Out on the strip Robin showed them some of the cool groundwork tricks that Steen knows, and I hopped on Bear and showed them all the gaits (well, not the gallop). Thankfully Bear gave me a wonderfully relaxed lope, so that was nice.

Then our visitors took off and we proceeded to have a regular ride.  Bear was excellent for almost the entire ride.  The only moment when he was "bad" occurred after we had all walked down the strip and were coming back up to the top.  Bear was shifting his body in every way possible to get behind Steen.  I wouldn't let him.  He wasn't unhappy about it, he just seemed confused, like that was the place he was really supposed to be.  So I took him out of that situation all together and turned him in a bunch of circles.

It was definitely an odd moment, but other than that, we had a great time.  He was leg yielding better than ever, and when I worked on pushing him out to the end of the strip without any company he was not nearly as weavy as he has been recently.

We did not ride very long.  I was excited about how well behaved Bear was, and Robin was having some stirrup issues (her new ones should be here any day now).  I suggested she hop on Bear and see how he feels.  She had never loped him before, so she decided to give it a go.

Bear was not excited when Robin got on.  He is used to her riding him only when he has been bad, but today he was good.  Nevertheless, he did not want to walk where she asked him to go.  So she just pushed him into the lope and he complied.  But he ran in the smoothest and smallest circles I've ever seen him lope.  They got bigger and more relaxed in time, but Robin didn't push him as it was getting to the hottest part of the day and we were all about done.

In the near future we will have to have some horse trade days.  I have not ridden Steen much at all.  And I don't think I've ridden his lope for two years now.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Vacation Rides

We've had some hot, hot days here this past week.  It has made getting to the barn after work a little difficult.  And the guys would have hated us if we made them work hard in that weather.  So Thursday morning I took an impromptu mini-vacation from work, and Robin and I went to the barn.

It was cool and hazy and relatively bug free.  Well, not bug free, but there weren't hundreds of bugs around each of us.  Despite the better bug conditions, Bear and I were feeling a little disinclined to work.  We mostly walked up and down the strip and worked on our steering off leg cues.  He was so so for most of it with occasional moments of excellence.

We also spent a bit of time watching Robin and Steen.  They were having a great ride, and it was fun to watch Steen easily move in and out of the walk, trot, and lope.  Of course they did some standing around, too.

The morning jaunt made the rest of the afternoon at work feel super easy.  Unfortunately I couldn't swing the same thing for the other hot days of the week, so we had some down time.

But now it is a three day weekend, and the temperatures have cooled off considerably.  I had an enjoyable morning with coffee and breakfast and the Wimbledon finals.  Then we headed out to the barn around noon.

It was cloudy and there was no breeze to speak of, yet we found the entire herd lined up behind the wind block.  It was really kind of funny.  Steen came out first, and then when Bear heard my voice he came sauntering over as well.  He looked genuinely happy to see me, and he acted that way all day, too.

We started our day on the strip with some groundwork on the mecate.  I forgot to mention it earlier, but on Thursday I noticed Bear often doesn't like going too close to the corn.  I sometimes think he doesn't see as well out of his right eye as it only seems to bother him on that side.  So we started our groundwork with me leading him around the edge of the corn field and brushing right up against the tall stalks.  For the most part he didn't mind.

When I worked on sending him through a small space between me and the corn he was less excited about the exercise.  He started by tucking his butt up and quickly scooting through.  When I'd ask for a direction change (which he has become quite good at) he would stop and give me the "nuh-uh" look.  So of course I would make him go and praise him when he did.  Since it didn't bother him when I led him by the corn we did that for another minute and then tried the sending exercise again.  It started fast, but after a few tries he was walking by the corn with his head held low and relaxed.  Great progress.

I hopped on and walked him around for just a few minutes, but since our groundwork was progressive and slightly vigorous, I felt OK asking him to lope almost right away.  He was excited to jump into it, but neither of us were really relaxed.  I was using Robin's stirrups as I let her borrow my nice, fat ones.  I didn't like these as much as my feet moved too much and I found it difficult to apply small amounts of force to the stirrups.  With the fat ones I can easily keep contact and push hard if I need to or just hold them in place.  With  the skinny and thin stirrups it felt like all or nothing.  I'm sure I would improve my feel in time, but we've got another set of fat stirrups in the mail, so I should get mine back soon.

Despite the less than ideal relaxation we stuck with the lope anyways.  Bear got tired (it was humid), and that allowed both of us to relax a little more.  After we got a few nice circles in a row I asked him to walk, and he was thrilled.

Robin was dealing with a semi-riled up Steen, so we let them have the top part of the strip, and we proceeded to walk down to the other end.  Bear has been really weavy when I ask him to go away from the barn, and today was no exception.  I decided to ask for the trot as sometimes I can actually control his direction a little more easily at that gait.  This worked pretty well as he was not excited to move away from the barn so he gave me a really smooth trot.

We would work on some leg yielding at the bottom and then walk back up the strip towards Robin and Steen.  Of course this would excite Bear and he would occasionally hop into the trot.  I would gently steer him back the other way until I got a forward moving smooth trot, and then we'd try to walk back to the top of the strip.  He got the idea eventually, though he would also start veering on the way back up the strip.  Mostly he would veer away from certain "scary" patches of purple flowers or veer towards his herd on the other side of the fence. I did my best to keep him straight with my legs. For the most part it worked.

We finished the ride by walking right along side the corn in both directions.  He seemed pretty good about it and would only get hung up on one spot.  I don't know what was going on there.  But all in all it was a really relaxing day at the barn.  I was super tired before we went, but I was glad Robin urged me out the door.