Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Busy Week

The weather has remained shockingly nice for early October.  The days are getting shorter, but the temps have stayed in the high 70s and even low 80s.  The leaves keep getting more colorful, and the farmers have been knocking down the crops.  This is always one of my favorite times of the year.

On Monday we had a rather unusual ride.  Robin has some nice clients that she has worked with for a few years.  They mainly do wedding and other event photography, and in addition to helping them maintain their web presence, we have passed a number of clients back and forth.  Robin has always wanted some fun shots of both of us riding our horses, and they were the perfect photographers to work out a trade with.

Initially they thought we wanted something like an engagement shoot.  No, no, no.  We told them to wear their grubby clothes and be ready to follow us around the pasture while we did our normal thing.  They were thrilled with this.  James got his start in sports photography, and he loved being out in the gorgeous weather snapping some action shots.  All in all they filled four memory cards with photos.  The horses were great, too.  Steen always hams it up for the camera, and Bear seemed to approach it like it was some sort of job he had to do.

Unfortunately we've got to wait a few weeks for the results, but we think it will be well worth it.  And in the meantime I got a ton of pictures of today's ride coming up.

The other rides this week were also quite nice.  And then on Friday my parents came to visit.  We got a little bit of a late start going out to the barn that day, and only Robin and I ended up riding.  But my parents were thrilled to see the horses again.  They usually come visit pretty regularly, but this time a year went by in between visits.  So the last time they saw Bear he was brand new to us and still looking and acting a little dumpy.  I was very happy they got to meet the real Bear this weekend.



Then today we got out for a nice, long ride.  My mom came with and we ended up putting her on Bear for over an hour.  It was wonderful.  Bear has developed a bit of track record for not treating new riders very well.  He gave my sister Christina an awful time.  He was not happy at all when Jean rode him.  And Meryl had to work hard for over half an hour before she could get him to even remotely come close to walking or trotting in a straight line.  And Meryl and Jean are good riders.

Of course, Mom is a good rider too, but it was still with some hesitation that I held Bear while she mounted up in the treed lot.  The guys are really comfortable out there, and we hoped Bear would be fine with some easy walking around and a little follow-the-leader at the trot.



Things started out great.  Everyone looked relaxed and happy.  Then there was one period where Bear started giving Mom a very active trot with lots of sharp turns.  Robin noticed that her stirrups might have been a tad long, and thus created a little extra leg movement that Bear was responding to.  Turns out she was right.  We shortened the stirrups and Bear was able to more clearly understand what Mom was asking of him.  So he was truly great for the whole ride.  He constantly looked to her for cues and never got pissy about anything.



And he had the most earnest and enjoyable look on his face.  Robin always talks about the various expressions Bear has when we ride.  I can't see any of them, so it was really fun for me to watch him have a nice ride.



In the middle of the ride Robin and I traded spots, and I got to climb on Steen.  I have hardly ridden him at all since April, and as usual, it was a big surprise how different he felt.  Even asking for things like the soft feel or a back were quite different.  But he was also really, really good.  Mom and I walked and trotted around the big field and just chatted about stuff.  It was very relaxing.



After the great ride outside Mom was feeling pretty confident and wanted to try some loping.  She has been traveling so much lately that she has missed a few of her lessons back home, and even some of the lessons she has made have not included much time at faster gaits, so she was excited to get back to that.  But, we didn't want to press our luck too much.  So we went in the indoor arena for that.

I was worried again that Bear would get a little pissy.  Afterall, the ride was about our normal length, and we had to dismount and walk back to where we always untack.  But he calmly walked into the arena and just got to work.  It took Mom a few tries of feeling him out before she could push him into the lope.  And he was definitely a little tired, because he wanted to come over to where I was standing to stop, but Mom just kept at it.  Without much trouble at all she got him into a lovely lope and was able to keep him moving smoothly in a circle, even past the spot where I was standing.



The only troublesome spot turned out to be at the far end of the arena where Bear would dig in and do one of his really sharp turns each time they got to that point.



But Mom was able to cruise through all of those.

We all had a great time, and Bear loved hanging out with Mom.  We ended the day with a few apple pieces and some nice grooming while we stood in the breeze.  I couldn't be happier with how nice the ride turned out.

The other new thing we did was start Bear on a supplement for his joints.  It also includes a little probiotics, which is supposed to help older horses digest their food a little bit better.  Bear is prone to getting tight in the hind end, and he's also a big pooper.  Usually three times a ride, sometimes more.  So I'll be really excited to see how this ends up helping him.  He loves the taste of it, and we've only given it to him twice, but today he was just so good I can't help but wonder if he was already starting to feel just a little bit better.  It seems fast, but the stuff we ordered got excellent reviews, and many people remarked that they could see a difference in their horses in less than a week, so I'm being optimistic.

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