Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sometimes I Just Want to Trot

I was out of town the last couple of days for work.  It involved a long van ride to Minneapolis, a night program talking to lots of people, staying up way past my bedtime drinking beer with some of my fellow travelers, a restless night's sleep, and another long van ride back to Iowa City.

When I got home yesterday I just wanted to have a quiet, easy ride on my horse.  He had two days off, and I know he needed some more grooming as he would really be shedding, and that was the big thing that pushed me out the door. The weather helped, too.  And my wife, she always helps.

But despite what I wanted, Bear would have none of it.  I would get a few strides of relaxed trotting, and that would turn into some big, ground covering trots, and shortly thereafter shift over into the pre-lope hops.  I am happy to say I never let him lope (though I was often tempted, he was giving me the kind of hops that suggested he would oh-so-smoothly shift over into a nice lope). Instead I resolved to work through this.

I know "this" is really all my fault.  We've been doing a lot of running lately, and some of that has included me listening to Bear's suggestions that we lope.  It has all culminated in less time at the trot, and less time at something clearly translates into a less refined version of that thing.  It has been a while since I had some truly nice, loose rein trotting around the strip.

So when he would give me the pre-lope hops, I would demand a stop and then make him back up, all the while giving a soft feel.  When he was relaxed we would walk forward, and when that was going well we would try the trot again, which usually required another stop a few strides later.

I ended up repeating that a lot.  And asking for a stop was not the best way to do things.  He was completely not set up to go there, so they never worked well.  I should have used the one-rein stop, like Robin does, but for some reason I wasn't.

Still, we did make some progress.  Trotting away from the barn got quite good, but going back, that never got good.  And at one point I was trying to focus less on speed and more on direction.  I kept the loose rein and really focused on my legs.  I would send him around in tight circles and figure-eights, and the whole while he just wanted to leap into a lope and run back to the barn.  It was some of the twistiest, fast direction changing riding that I had ever done.  I am happy to say that I felt comfortable through all of it, so that is something.

Once we got through some of that I decided to walk him back up the strip to a spot we are quite familiar working in.  At that spot I established a very nice figure-eight pattern at the walk, and then we moved into the trot.  Things went quite well here.  So well that I branched out and started trotting in different shapes.  Of course, things deteriorated again.

I regressed to a nice sized circle and just focused on bending and even pace.  It sounds so unbelievably simple, but these "simple" things are often the hardest.  Robin had such a good ride that she had been done for minutes, and I just kept riding around and around looking for that good circle.  I didn't even want perfect, just a good one.

Finally we got somewhere, and we stopped.  I knew Bear really wanted to go over to Steen, so I decided to test out how well we were doing by asking him to short serpentine over there with only a super loose rein and my legs.  I should know better than to try such things at the end of a ride when I finally got somewhere with my horse, but this time I got lucky.  I have never felt Bear move in such tight turns on a loose rein.  He was totally willing to follow my leg cues in whatever manner of bend I asked for.  It was excellent.

Needless to say, we will have to spend a lot of time working on this trotting thing.  But I have a plan.  The next ride I think we'll do our nice, walking warm-up, and then we'll move right into some controlled loping.  After that, we will  cool down for a minute or two and then work on the trot.  I think it will put both of us in a better frame of mind for the gait.  I'll let you know how it goes.

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