Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The First Cold Ride of the Year

While the sun was out and if felt good when I was walking home, by three o'clock the sun was low on the horizon and the west winds were cooling us down very quickly.  Basically, it was the kind of weather Bear thrives in.  And as a result, we had a pretty darn good ride.  None of yesterday's sluggishness was present.

Yesterday we had fun getting some good photos while out at the barn.  We don't do that as often as we should, and Robin suggested she spend a few minutes getting some shots of me.  So now I've got a whole bunch of photos of our ride.

From the beginning Bear was very soft and attentive (well, there were those moments while I was mounting where all he wanted to do was eat, but we don't have to talk about those).  Under saddle he was giving me soft feels all the time.  It was one of those days where I would adjust my reins and he would give to the movement of the slobber straps. It meant we had great collection in our backing.

We spent some time early on and towards the end of the ride backing some very nice circles.  We are much better backing to the right than the left, though.  Kind of funny, as when we're going forward we are better to the left.  Actually, maybe it isn't that funny, because my legs are in the same position backing to the left as they are going forward to the right.

At the trot he was very calm and responsive.  Like yesterday, he was working very nicely off my legs.  Today I only had the slightest hold on the reins, and I don't think I ever had to give him a short, sharp pull to keep him from over or under-bending.  And there were times I was even getting a nice soft feel at the trot.

We also worked on the same stopping exercise I wrote about over the weekend.  This time it took fewer rounds to get back to the great Bear stops, so we didn't work on it a ton (I'm trying not to get in the habit of over-drilling).  Instead we would mix it up with some long walks working on the soft feel.  Going away from the barn was a little distracted, but he would still give it to me willingly.  Coming back he was more tuned into me, and I was using those moments to ask for multiple steps at the soft feel.  Two and three steps got easy, and more than a few times I found myself counting up to seven or eight steps.  Once I got beyond three steps I could really feel his hind end collect underneath me.  I had only read about this feeling, but you can't really understand such things through reading about them.  I hope this new understanding will help me with other exercises, too.

At the end of the ride Robin suggested we give the hackamore a try.  Just so we could both see how it feels.  Bear was pretty good in letting us slip it on.  He only gave a few initial head tosses.  I worked with him on the ground and he backed up and flexed very nicely to it.

When I climbed on he was a little more uneasy, and he gave quite a few more head tosses.  Once I started asking for the soft feel and backing he got a little better.  We moved onto walking some figure eights, and he would follow my legs and then really kick in gear when the rein was on his neck. After a few minutes we were moving in and out of figure eights and soft stops with solid backs.

But at other times he would do this odd thing where his body was bending nicely in one direction but his neck was stiff and his nose was pointed out in the other direction.  We would definitely have to spend some time getting used to this, and I don't think either of us are quite ready to move beyond the snaffle right now.  But I love that my horse is OK with me doing different things to him.  After the ride he was great; he didn't mind the experiment at all.

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