Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Big Pasture

It has been a few rides since I blogged.  They were not too exciting.  Each one seemed a little worse than the previous one.  I think it was due to two things, I was continually asking Bear to do more and more, and he was continually getting less and less food.  It seemed to make him a little spacey and grumpy.  I totally understand, because that is how I feel when I'm starving, and I would hate to have someone telling me how fast to go and when to turn when I was in such a state.

But new bales are out in the winter lot now.  The horses are still able to roam the pastures, which they are doing, but they are also spending a lot of time eating.  Bear and Steen both benefited from the food.  They were plump and pleased to see us on Saturday afternoon.  We did not end up riding that day.  Instead we were meeting our friend Jean.  She had volunteered to take pictures of us and our horses and that was the day we could do it.

We didn't really know what to expect for the photos.  Jean is the kind of person who has a plan, so we just showed up early and got the horses as clean as we could.  When Jean came she knew where we should go pose and she fixed up Bear's mane and nose.  I guess I'm just used to having him look more like a horse who lives outside than a horse who lives in a magazine spread.

The guys were funny during the photos. We were out on the second strip where the grass is super long.  They couldn't believe we wouldn't let them eat the fresh stuff.  Only a couple days on the bale and they are already pining for green.  It is going to be a long winter for them.

Today was a beautiful fall day.  Big silvery clouds, slightly windy, cool but not cold.  It doesn't get much better.  When we got to the barn all the horses were in the winter lot and eating the bales (or recovering from too much eating of the bales, as was the case with Steen).  Robin and I quickly shut the gate to seal them in there and were giddy with the possibility of riding out in the huge, hilly pasture.

We had never done it before, but we figured we would be OK as the guys live out there.  And they were fine.  We climbed on from the southwest access gate and wandered up and down the hills to get ourselves warmed up.  Steen was a little snorty, but Bear seemed to have no problem.

After the warmup we went to our usual middle pasture to work on soft feels, backing, serpentines, and whatever else we felt like.  For me the ride started to go downhill at this point.  Bear was a little grouchy about the bit despite my exceptional patience and soft hands (sometimes I know I could do better, but today I was spot on).  And when I figured we could follow the fence at a trot for a while just to relax, Bear had other thoughts.  All he wanted to do was run.  Some of the time he was moving more vertical than horizontal and trying to sneak into the lope.  Other times he was just pushing his head down and trying to power into a run.  It is always funny when he thinks he's a four year old.  A lot of the time letting him run a little is just fine, but I didn't really want to let him do that.  It isn't a habit I want to get into.

About his time Robin suggested we play cow, one of the games we learned from Buck that we tried last week to mixed success (good for her, not so good for me).  I didn't think this was the time to try again, and then she remembered the backing around a horse exercise.  Two horse stand parallel to one another, maybe 1 to 3 feet apart.  One stands still while the other one backs up and turns until they are parallel with the standing horse but on the other side of them.  Then the other horse goes.

We did it for a little over 10 minutes and the guys were pretty good at it.  Some of the parts of each back turn would be better than others, and Steen clearly had one preferred direction.  But as we continued with it, they both got better and better.  They settled down (Steen was goey, too), started thinking, and got their little job done.  We ended when they both did a perfect back and turn and knew they had done a good job.  This is definitely an exercise we'll want to keep coming back to.

We finished the ride with another turn about the big pasture.  We even threw in a back turn at one point and they both nailed it.  We decided to trot them up the other end and they were fantastic. Bear was extremely smooth and attentive.  Steen physically wanted to go, but it was funny as he was holding himself back.  Robin still had him on a loose rein.

So it was a great ride, and we're looking forward to more like it.  Afterwards we even realized we could connect the middle pasture to the big pasture to the treed lot.  That will make for a really big area of ground we could cover.

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