Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Plan

As I mentioned in my last blog, I had a plan to work on our trotting for the next ride: warm up, move right into the lope for a while, cool down for a couple minutes, and then work on the trot.  And I was quite surprised when the plan worked far better than I thought it would.

I snapped a few shots of Robin before climbing on.  She got me later.
Bear was pretty good early on.  He kept trying to graze when I was leading him around, so I kept getting after him and finally I used enough pressure so he knew I meant business.  As a result, he was paying attention to me right at the beginning of the ride.

The strip was a little damp and covered with a mixture of mud, manure, and bits of hay and corn.  Not ideal footing, but we moved into the lope anyways.  It started off very calm and collected.  After a few laps I brought him down and switched directions.  Going right was downright awful.  He wouldn't bend at all, and I kept worrying we would fall over.  Thankfully we didn't.

I switched back to the other direction and varied the size of our oval as we made our way around the strip.  By now he had run enough that he was chargy and somewhat erratic with his bending, but I just kept working on it and after a few laps he settled in.  At that point I decided to keep going for a little while longer.  He was definitely getting tired and starting to drop it some, but I just encouraged him to keep going and there was no more charginess at all.

We took quite a few minutes to walk down the strip away from the barn and then most of the way down the drainage that leads to the second strip.  I've been going down there alone these past few rides and it feels like it is good practice for us.  Bear doesn't seem to care at all whether we've got another horse with us.  He does look around more, but he is listening to me so well that it has been feeling easy.

After some walking around I picked a nice spot to trot some figure-eights.  We walked a few, and then I moved him into a really easy trot.  He kept it for almost one round and then launched into a jackhammer trot that quickly turned to a lope.  As soon as I felt those front feet come up I used the one-rein stop.  It was not at all harsh, and he came down very quickly.  I think he just really wanted to run, because he clearly was not agitated at all.  Still, I gave him a few seconds to think and asked for some flexes before continuing at the walk.  All was well so we moved back into the trot and it was perfect.  No hopping or charging or anything.  He was hanging back and listening to my legs.  The shape of our figure-eight wasn't perfect, but it was pretty darn good considering I was hardly using my reins at all (I just had them in my finger tips in case I needed them).

So hardly five minutes into the trot work and I got the easy trots I was looking for last time.  I decided to make it a little more difficult and started using a bigger section of the strip and kept pushing the oval out farther and farther.  Only a few times did he start to get chargy.  They were never so bad that I had to use a one-rein stop, instead I could just apply a fair bit of leg pressure and keep him trotting in a tight circle until he would slow down and relax, and then we'd continue on with the oval.  It was great.

We celebrated our success with some more walking down the drainage and then practiced our backing.  He has been struggling with going backwards counter clockwise.  Not sure why.  Robin and Steen helped us out by letting us back around them.  They were awesome at it, and we were only good in our one direction.  But we made some progress in the other, and then we worked on it a little more on our own and I think there was more improvement.  I'm not sure what the problem is exactly, I guess he is a little tight or something.

We finished up by working on the trot a little more.  And this is where things fell apart.  They weren't awful, but Bear could probably tell we had ridden a little longer than usual.  I had to use the one-rein stop two or three more times, and I also had to employ a lot more tight turning and zig-zagging, but ultimately I got him right back to some nice, loose rein trotting.  At least I know I can take care of it in a short amount of time, and hopefully it will stop being a real problem in the near future.

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