Monday, November 14, 2011

Soft Feel, At the Walk!

This one has been eluding us for some weeks.  Actually, a couple months.  Shortly after the clinic when I started getting the soft feel consistently while we were standing, I started asking for it at the walk.  And never getting it.  I kept it up for some time, but I just don't think I was ready to feel what I needed to feel.

Then about a month went by and Robin and Steen started getting it pretty consistently, and I will admit, I was a little jealous.  Especially when I would see Steen willingly giving the soft feel at the trot and even the lope.

Jealousy is not enough to make one achieve something.  It probably isn't the best state of mind to be in when asking for the feel, either.  But this weekend we went back out in the big pasture and Robin helped me work on it while we walked up and down the little gully in the bottom of the pasture.  The first couple times I asked for it I had to ask for a stop because we were running out out of space.  Then one trip across the pasture he gave me the biggest tuck I'd ever seen from him.

And that was that.  Every time I asked for it he gave it to me faster and faster.  There were a couple of times where I was a little uncertain whether I got it or not, but I just released and pretended like we did.  It must have worked because on Sunday he was giving it to me almost immediately.  A few times I was able to get multiple steps in a row and he was not bothered by this at all.

Both days were great rides, despite the 50+ mile an hour winds we had on Sunday.  I had never been on a horse when it was that windy.  Thankfully Bear didn't care.  I guess horses are used to being out in the wide open spaces with the wind, and if we were cowboying out in Wyoming that is what we'd have to ride in all the time.

The other great exercise we did this weekend was one I got from Martin Black.  I was reading through a bunch of articles while drinking coffee and came across a really neat one on stopping.  Since Bear and I have been working on the feel, our stops have actually gotten worse.  I miss the old days when I'd bring Bear out of the trot or lope and he would just plant all four feet right in the ground.  He was good at it, and he loved doing it.  He would always sit there and lick his lips afterwards, and I always imagined him thinking something like, "yeah, that was a good stop."

So we found a nice spot in the pasture and started trotting some pretty fast circles.  Each time we got to a spot by a big dried weed, I would get a soft feel and ask for a stop.  Then we'd back a half circle and trot off in the other direction.  Again when we got to the weed, soft feel, then stop.  At first the stops were OK, but then he improved dramatically, and we even got back to the Bear stops of old.  I think this exercise will definitely be a keeper.

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