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.

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