Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hard Work

It was another really hot day out at the barn.  We are having an unusually hot streak right now.  I guess it makes sense, as I just read a headline somewhere that the past 12 months have been the hottest on record.  Still, I'm hopeful for a nicer June.  June is my favorite summer month.

Today I started the day working with Laredo.  Out on the strip we worked on walking and trotting circles, quartering, half circles, throwing the rope around, lowering his head, and backing.  The last time I did this kind of groundwork with him was Wednesday, and he was noticeably better today.  On Wednesday we had multiple times where I would offer a feel on the rope and ask him to go right and he would get flustered and take off left (or vice versa).  Today that only happened once, and almost every time he was starting to take that good deal.  It was neat to see.

Working on lowering the head and staying relaxed.
 Then we went back to our work on bridling.  Yesterday I was working on it at the hitching post, but today I just hung the lead rope over my arms and practiced out on the strip.  Just like with the other groundwork, he was better with this than yesterday.  He is a fast learner.  Within a few minutes he was calmly accepting the bit and lowering his head while my hands were still up around his ears.  Yesterday it probably took more than 20 minutes to get there.

Unfortunately the next step is pushing his ears forward so I can slide the headstall over.  He would have some mini-freak outs at that.  In my frustration I abandoned the bridle and just went to work on getting my hands up there.  I had been doing that during groundwork and during yesterday's bridling work, and multiple times I could touch his head there and rub around with little reaction.  However, I haven't gotten to where I can hold his ears for any length of time.  That is certainly the next place to go.

Thankfully Robin was about done with her ride and she said she would switch with me and work specifically on the head some more.  I was hot and frustrated, so I welcomed the change.  I took Steen from her, and swapped him out for Bear.  Laredo was wearing all the stuff I needed for Bear, so I just tacked him up on the strip.

Bear and I went on to have a wonderful ride.  Our half-circling from the ground was great.  I was more precise and I don't think he was nearly as ouchy as he was a few days ago, so it made  for some great turns.  When I hopped on I again noticed a little bit of discomfort when I'd ask for a short right bend, but again, nothing like a couple rides ago.

I think that little discomfort, and also the heat and bugs, made our ride start out not so good.  But I decided to just get focused and work on a lot of things.  He was warmed up nicely from the ground work, so after just a few minutes we started moving in and out of the trot.  Again we focused on holding collection while I would ask for something.  So when we were working in the circle I'd hold collection for an S bend through the middle to change directions.  Or I would hold collection through leg yields.  Occasionally I would just ask for a soft feel to check his readiness.  Sometimes I got it immediately, other times it took a stride or two, but anytime I asked him to hold it he was great at it.

I thought he was having fun.  He never got flustered or seemed sore after those first couple minutes.  Every once in a while I would feel him getting a little forward, so I just asked for the soft feel or some other move that would help get him back on his haunches.  I noticed I could make that change pretty quickly.  Robin talked about the dramatic difference of loping Steen off his hind end vs. his front end the other day, so I decided to work on our lope once I could feel Bear really staying back.

He did not want to pick it up.  Each time we loped I had to ask at least twice.  Not ideal, but again it was hot and we have not been in the practice of running like we should be but this is definitely something we need to work on.  We should be nailing our upward transitions.  Anyways, once he picked it up things were great.  We loped really nice, controlled circles in both directions.  Multiple times.  A few times he would turn sharper and fall forward.  When that happened I gently brought him back with the bit, but the whole time I was prepared to stop loping if that became a problem.  I think too often in our recent lopes I would struggle to fix that at the lope.  Instead I should be setting it up at the walk and trot and then enjoy things from there.

The other cool thing working for us at the lope was body and leg position.  Since the first Buck clinic I have had it drilled into me to always ride with my legs.  Close doors or open doors with the legs, and whenever you are turning, "it is outside leg forward, inside leg back." It is literally Buck's voice in my head that says that.

But then at the recent clinic one of the riders asked about leg position in the lope.  I know that it is the outside leg pushed back that shapes up the hind end to get a proper lead, but this rider asked what you do with that leg once you get going.  Buck said to leave it back there.  What?!  Sitting in the stands this sounded crazy and confusing.  I know I've been having some trouble with our lope, but oftentimes we will have a ton of fun varying the size of our circles while running in the arena or out on the strip. I would always ask Bear to change direction with the usual "outside leg forward, inside leg back."  We would get some rather awesome turns with that.  Some of which I wasn't totally ready for.

So I had to chew on that one for a while.  And thankfully the next day Buck spent quite a bit of time loping Gidget in nice circles in the morning, and then loping Arc in the afternoon.  Sure enough, I could see that he kept his outside leg just slightly back.  Since the horse is literally canted sideways when they are loping (or cantering, as that is where the name comes from), positioning your body so the outside leg is slightly back puts the rider in a position to not over bend your horse.  Or to put it another way, it keeps you out of your horse's way.

Today I tried it.  Bear stayed relaxed, my seat stayed solid, and we were all happy.  I will definitely have to keep playing around with this so it is something that we are both really comfortable with, but it was amazing how much better I felt in the saddle.

We finished the ride with some more work at the trot.  It only ended up being a 45 minute ride, but it felt like it was well over an hour.  We never stopped working to chat with Robin or just stare off into space like we so often do.  It meant we got to cover a lot of ground and get a whole lot done.

No comments:

Post a Comment