Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What Horse is This?

Today Bear came to me.  It is definitely a milestone, but there is still more to work on.  He was not very far away, and he wasn't eating.  He was also potentially bothered by the flies.  Nevertheless, when I was walking up he saw me, and when I got to the gate he was already walking over to greet me.  It felt pretty nice.

It was a gorgeous day and we rode in the middle pasture.  I had planned on continuing to get used to riding with a much looser rein, but I didn't really have any concrete plans.  I was feeling very tired and sluggish after work, so I was just kind of going with the flow.

Initially it didn't start out so well.  Bear was antsy and jumpy and not looking comfortable.  Robin has a new pad and has been playing around with getting her saddle to rest on Steen's back a little more evenly.  Today she decided to go without her thinline and I though I might try the same.  I was actually surprised how much more I could feel his back through the saddle.  I thought that was a good thing, but Bear was not a fan.  I went back for the extra pad and Bear's demeanor changed immediately.  So I guess I will stick with it.

But despite going back to the extra padding, Bear remained exceptionally responsive today.  More responsive than I've ever felt him.  If I moved my legs in any way he was searching for the right answer.  This is certainly a good thing, except for the fact that I tend to make quite a few mistakes while riding.  So at times it was leading to some rather interesting patterns and 'circles.'  At one point I was heading these responses off by getting on the reins too much.  I thought I was making my corrections slowly and carefully in a way that Bear would understand, but Robin pointed out that though the reins appeared and felt loose, I was more or less leading him around by the slobber straps.  Which he was totally responding to, although he wasn't understanding it or liking it very much.

So I often had to slow things down so neither one of us would get upset by things.  That definitely worked, and I have got to keep it in mind.  But it is so hard to slow your approach down and stop things if they aren't going well. Hopefully the more we do it the more of a habit it will become.

I got to practice this multiple times today when we were working on our lope.  We worked off a very loose rein except when Bear would drop his shoulder and stop bending.  I'd try to correct first with my legs.  This often worked, but many times Bear would over-correct, which led to some difficult moments in the saddle.  Other times I would use a single, sharp correction on the bit to encourage him to stay back and bend some more.  Today he was exceptionally soft to the bit, just like he was to my legs.

 Bringing him up and back with the inside rein.
Coming off that last turn, back on our haunches and with a loose(r) rein.
But overall, he was not loping easily.  It is possible that he has gotten used to loping with some pressure on the bit.  A lot of times he was moving his head around as if he was searching for some contact.  I know a lot of the loping pictures I have show me with more contact than I would like.  I certainly wasn't riding with  a ton, but there was probably enough there that Bear was getting used to relying on it.  And who knows what kind of habits he got used to before me.

Us loping last June in the same spot.  My reins are not tight, but the slobber straps are definitely pulled back.
 We cooled down with some more circles and figure eights and various patterns.  Even after our eventful loping he was able to calm right down and get back to listening to my legs.  I tried to keep my reins on the saddle horn and we were able to ride like that about 80 percent of the time.  Hopefully we can work to get that even more consistent.

Robin thinks Bear's recent responsiveness is because he is just now realizing that when I do something, I do it for a reason and he needs to pay attention.   I joke all the time that he feels like a four year old.  But again, the way he was searching for answers and kicking his heels up made me think I was riding a super young horse.

All four feet off the ground.  There were more than a few difficult moments in today's ride.
Despite all our antics, the little pasture herd couldn't have cared less.  And I love that my horse comes right back down and is eager to hang out with me.

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