Sunday, October 2, 2011

Indian Summer

Yesterday was the first of October, and while the temperatures only got up into the mid 60s, the horses were hot.  Their dark, fuzzy, winter coats have been coming in for weeks now.  Little do they know most of next week will be in the 70s, and possibly even the 80s.

On Saturday I had to stop part way through the ride and take my long sleeve shirt off.  The guys did not have that luxury.  Instead they labored up and down the hills of the big pasture under the warm sun.  After a bit of trotting as part of our warm up, Bear and I crested the big hilltop, and he was breathing so hard you would have thought I had been loping him for an hour.

We hung out up top and watched Robin and Steen way below us.  Steen has been a bit of a pill lately on these pasture rides, and yesterday Robin and I decided to more or less each do our own thing.  I wanted to concentrate on my timing and also do some exploring with Bear, while Robin wanted to keep Steen both relaxed and under control.

My ride was excellent.  Bear was responsive when we did serpentines and backs and back turns, and he was totally willing to go with me to the far ends of the pasture so I could pretend to check the fences.  That is until we got a little too close to home (or a sometimes stopping point) and I then turned him back down into the low part of the pasture so we could keep riding.  That didn't make him happy.

He gave me lots of jigs and hops and fast starts and a couple half-hearted spins.  Nothing super serious, but not the kind of things I enjoy.  Although I should say, my seat felt awesome.  For some reason I was very calm and in control of the whole situation.  If things got going faster than I liked, I just pulled him into a one-rein-stop or forced him to go to the exact spot he was jigging away from.

Bear was a little surprised by this.  Over the past year that we have been riding together, he would often be able to do things that would rattle me.  Usually they would result in our ride coming to a quiet end, and he would be done.  But yesterday I just made him keep doing what I wanted him to do.  He wasn't sure how to take it, so initially he was frustrated and jumpy, but then he settled and got back to being responsive.  We ended the session with some great groundwork where I was able to get him to pivot on his hind end. There was no question that I was in charge of his feet.

Today was similar to yesterday weather wise, but the horses were quite different.  Steen was excellent.  Robin has had some tough rides lately, and she was thrilled with how relaxed he was.  Bear was OK.  He seemed a tad sluggish and maybe a little sore in his hind feet.  He was not very good when I picked them out before the ride, and both the big hills and the quick turns on the hind end when Robin and I played a cow game seemed to bother him.  It is possible these cooler nights where he does nothing but stand at the bale get him pretty stiff.

Still, we had some good times on the ride.  We practiced backing around each other a little more.  The guys are getting super comfortable with this. In fact, they are so comfortable they don't mind brushing their butts against the other one's head.  This makes it a little difficult to capture in a photo, but Robin got a decent one of Bear and I.

Up on top of the hill we worked on our serpentines and getting some nice trots.  Robin said we looked good, but it didn't always feel good.  Bear was a bit fast and tight in his turns (particularly when he was turning towards Steen).  I just kept him going and wouldn't let him turn as sharp as he wanted to.  It was good practice for using my legs and reins.

He started to get it and gave me some soft bends in medium sized circles.  Of course, we kind of had to make our way back towards Steen and Robin, so instead of trotting straight over there, I more or less serpentined him in that direction at the trot.  He was extremely responsive through this exercise.  It completely took his mind off Steen.

We ended the ride with both guys walking pretty quietly back to the outdoor arena, our stopping point.  I was even able to get some nice, soft feels from Bear at the walk.  This has eluded us these past few weeks.  When I ask for it he does get very responsive, and he often pricks his ears right up as if he is waiting for whatever I will ask for next.  This is excellent, of course, but I've still been hoping for a nice little head tuck.  At the end of the ride today he gave it to me a few times, so I think it is just something we'll have to keep working on.

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