Tuesday, April 10, 2012

And the Wind Blows

It was a pretty, sunny day, but we also had 30+ mile an hour winds out of the northwest.  So it was a cold wind.  Warm sun and cold wind always make a strange combination.

Robin had a lot of work to do this afternoon, so I had a rare solo-outing to the barn.  Bear was thrilled to see me.  I'm sure it helped that I was carrying some chopped hay to give to Steen.  Still, the whole time we hung out he looked content and happy.

With all the wind and being alone, I was kind of planning on a quiet ride.  I'm still reading little bits of Bill's book every morning, too, and he is always talking about slowing down.  I had a lot of things to think about regarding foot-fall and posture.  Since I knew it would be a quiet ride, I made a last second decision to try Robin's hackamore.  I have used it four or five times with a slight increase of success each time, but the last time I used it was over two months ago.

We rode out on the strip and Bear was a dream.  He continued to feel happy to be with me, and he seemed to enjoy the challenge of the hackamore.  The only thing that tripped him up and made him a little upset was when I asked him to back in circles.  I guess he just isn't used to that type of pressure yet.  But I stuck with it each time I asked for the back circle and rewarded the slightest try, be it a break in his pole in the right direction or stepping over.

I could tell I was riding so much better than I was two months ago.  On these last few rides in particular I have been working a lot at effectively using my legs on serpentines, circles, and figure-eights.  Today it really showed.  I was able to stay very light with the reins and steer him through whatever shapes I wanted.  He would still get stiff at times, but I could just wrap my leg a teeny big firmer around him.  I never once needed to give a sharper kick or pop on the reins like I often do.  Well, I don't do it often.  It has been decreasing, but I'm not sure if I've gone through a ride where I didn't need to firmly remind him to listen to my leg.

As we rode he kept getting softer.  Soft feels got better, flexes got better, and  though we couldn't get any leg yields in the beginning of the ride, in the end he starting yielding to the right beautifully.  I wish I had it on video so I could see what he looked like.  It felt better than it ever has before.  His neck was relaxed yet arced, and he was reaching over much further than he normally does.

And then I went left and that wasn't so good.  It was odd as left is usually our better direction with those.  So I spent a few minutes really breaking down in my own head what I was doing.  It turns out it is a much more natural motion for my hands when I ask for a leg yield to the right.  I also move him off my left leg, which is stronger and has better mobility.  But after thinking about these things for a few moments, I was able to make some adjustments and get a passable leg yield to the left.

I ended the ride on that note.  I know I have a lot to learn before we're going in the hackamore regularly, and I can't wait to see how we do moving back to the comfortable terrain of the snaffle.  Still, I kind of find myself thinking about getting my own hackamore set up. I wonder what color mane hair mecate would look good on Bear . . . .

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