Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Week in Review

And what it week it was.  I've been working hard and working out harder, and that coupled with heat and visitors made it feel like a long, packed week.  Everyday I came home I thought it was Friday, but it rarely was.  Needless to say, I didn't feel like blogging.  So without further ado, here is the past week.

Monday


We thought about skipping because we rode a lot over the weekend and the temps were in the 90s.  The 50 mile per hour winds made it feel just a little bit cooler, but it didn't do much for any of us in terms of relaxation or concentration.  Constant wind in your ears does not make it easy to focus and think.


Laredo was also worn out.  He had three long rides in a row, and on Monday we just never got into a good rhythm.  Every once in a while he would get soft or responsive to my legs, but nothing was consistent.  He also wanted to stick his head right down to the ground.  We are thinking it was due to being physically tired as he is still getting used to carrying a rider regularly.

If there were any pluses on the day it came from me riding through quite a few fits and starts.  Nothing big, but I'm not used to feeling Laredo's quick moves and jumps, so it was good for me to get used to them a little bit.  At one point I was asking him to stop and he must have slipped pretty big on his hind legs.  I thought we were going to fall, but he lept up and forward. I wasn't sure what would happen next so as soft as I could I brought his head around to his side.  Again I thought he might trip himself, but we all calmed right down.  For him, it was like nothing happened, and I was just left with a sore butt cheek from where I hit the cantle.

Thursday


The two days that followed Monday were even hotter, so we thought we should all take a break.  Thursday we got back to the normal, warm temps of June and we were excited to ride again.  Even though we only took two days off, it felt like more than a week went by.

I rode Bear in the outdoor arena and I was hoping we could spend a lot more time at the lope again.  In the beginning of the ride he was moving great and very, very soft.  Every time Robin looked over she was commenting on how good Bear looked.  He felt that good to me, too.

After our long warm up we moved into the lope.  Things then went from OK to really not so great.  I spent a lot of time moving in and out of the lope, and the whole time I was having a very, very hard time directing him.  So many times we'd get close to a gait or a fence and I would have to reach in and pull hard with the reins.  Obviously this was not helping either of us.

I tried to work through things at the trot.  We were able to retain some of our balance, but things were not as good as they were in the beginning.  Still, I kept working at the lope.  I was trying so hard not to use my hands, and I think in doing that, I was not setting my seat up very well.  Perhaps in over-thinking things, I was leaning forward a bit, and not opening up my hips and shoulders.  At one point we started getting some great turns to the right.  I kept the length of our lopes short to try and build on this.  It was mostly working, but not to the left.  When I was very ready to be done I finally managed to exaggerate my body position and really keep my right leg back and on his side while moving my hips and shoulders back and to the left.  Bear gave me a very small left circle around Robin and Laredo.  I'm sure they were helping in this maneuver, but I decided to take it and ended on that good note.

Friday


We had Robin's cousin Matt and his girlfriend Ariana visiting us from Seattle.  As we do with anyone who visits us, we took them to the barn. 

Matt and Ariana are making a video a day of the trans-USA road trip. Check them out here.
Matt has a horse hair allergy, so he mostly stayed in the background, but Ariana was interested in grooming, picking feet, and riding.

After some brief instruction, we put her up on Bear and let her wander around the arena.  Bear was good for her; he wasn't even kicking and biting at flies as much as he was with me.  He was also willing to walk around and at least try to listen to Ariana's legs.  At times he was really good, but at other times he had no idea what she wanted and he would then come right to me.  It was somewhat endearing, though at the same time I was hoping he would put a little more effort into figuring out what she wanted.

Saturday


We almost didn't go to the barn.  We were tired and it was potentially going to storm, but sitting on the couch at noon we couldn't figure out what else to do with ourselves.  So we changed and went out.

Like I said, I was tired, Laredo was distracted.
We planned to ride in the treed lot and play follow the leader.  It was my turn to ride Laredo, so I would spend almost the whole time being the follower.  Of course, the wind and new environment left Laredo rather anxious and spacey, and I did not feel very up to walking and trotting around the trees.  I really felt like I had very little control of his feet.

So we worked on all our usual things.  Sometimes vertical and lateral flexes were good, other times not so good.  Sometimes he listened to my legs, sometimes he didn't and jumped into a trot in whatever direction he wanted to go.  And stopping, well, there was really no stopping.  Robin had some problems with that on her last ride, and through patience things did improve some.  But today, patience was not going to work.

We decided to come up with a system.  He is very good and very soft to the bit/leg combo when you roll him into a one-rein stop. Very good.  Someone spent a lot of time working on this with him.  So our plan was to walk out, then for me to pick up on the reins very softly for a couple of strides.  If I got no response I would shift my seat very deep and ask for a stop.  If he kept going (which is what he'd been doing), I would reach in and stop him with one rein.

I got to work on it and he was ignoring steps one and two and doing a good job on step three, but after about five of these he started to get pissed at the one-rein stops.  I just kept going, but I was mindful of not pushing him into any kind of trouble.

Then a few tries after he started getting agitated he just started stopping hard when I shifted my hips.  He'd plant his feet and dig in with his haunches.  I would then have him teeter back a step or two and that was also great. I never really got him giving to the bit before those stops, but for the rest of the ride our stops were great.
 

This was  a big boost for his confidence, he started paying much more attention to me and every aspect of the ride improved from there.  And when I hopped off him to shoot a few pictures, he just couldn't get close enough to me.

 

Sunday


Duke Day.  We got out quite early and I rode Bear and Robin rode Laredo.  We figured those two would do best for trims if they were warmed up, and we were right.

My ride on Bear was OK. He was distracted (they all seemed to be, really), but we did have a good time at all three gaits, and at times we were moving really well together.  So that is something.

After the trip we pull the stick out to measure Laredo.  We measured him 6 weeks ago after his last trim and he was just a bit over 14.2.  This time he was just a hair under 14.3.  We thought he was getting bigger, and I guess we were right.  But I really didn't think he'd grow 3/4 of an inch in such a short period of time.

It has been quite an adventure with this guy so far.  We know with our other horses that progress is never linear, yet I have been surprised at how much more erratic our progress has been.  Nevertheless, we have come a long ways in just a few rides.  It will be exciting to see where we are at in another six weeks.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sometimes it is Hard to Tell

I was pretty sure Bear was sore again today.  From the beginning he was very stiff laterally, stiffer than I ever remembered him being, and his gaits were not feeling like I've come to expect them to feel.  Like last time, he wanted to pick up the trot and scoot around on the forehand.  So we spent quite a few minutes working on short-serpentines.

The stiffness started to improve after a few passes up and down the arena fence, but they never got that good.  I switched things up and worked on walking and trotting in a medium circle.  He was not excited to collect, and overall he just felt heavy to my hands and legs.

I went back to some bending exercises for a while, and things seemed to improve some.  I also got off and worked on walking a line and disengaging the hind and bringing the front over.  I didn't start the ride with this exercise as I wanted to get him warmed up first.  He was sluggish when I asked him to move, and if I got on him a little bit to hustle, he looked somewhat frightened and sore.

At this point I was getting a little frustrated with it all.  I got back on and we kept working on serpentines as well as leg yields, soft one-reign stops, and whirly-gigs.  I just wanted to run through a lot of exercises in hopes of getting him thinking about those and not whatever else he was thinking about.  I felt like I was being too hard on him, but things didn't seem to be getting worse.

Eventually we had some improved trots.  Not great, but better.  Then I decided to see how the lope felt.  As I suspected, not good.  He was forward and chargy and not all that happy to be doing it.

Again I consulted Robin (it is quite wonderful to have her to bounce ideas off mid-ride).  She could tell he was not moving nicely, but she also said he does not look sore.  In fact, she said some of his movements look too energetic for a sore horse.  So maybe his energy was just misdirected?

I decided to push him even harder.  I figured if he was really going to get sore, then I would know.  We had already been riding for almost an hour, but I spent the next half-hour moving in and out of the lope.


Finally the ride started getting better.  His upward transitions smoothed out, and we were spending more time in a balanced lope.  When we trotted I worked on keeping a nice, large circle and changing things up by zig zagging across the middle or leg yielding to the other side.  He was getting a little physically tired, but as I kept it up, he also seemed to be getting softer.

He never did fully improve with his lateral flexes, but his demeanor seemed better in the end.  I can't tell you how many rides I've had on Bear where I really needed to be demanding and ride hard to get through to him.  It happens over and over again.  Lately I guess I have been thinking we were not really at the spot any more and I had to pay more attention to other things.  Maybe that's not true.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Day by Day and Minute by Minute

We managed to get up quite early and head out to the barn before the heat today.  It was a little sticky when we left, but thankfully a breeze picked up and helped dry the day out a little.  We were also happy to have none of the last ride's pasture shenanigans.  Of course it helped that we were pulling Steen out with us.  Bear isn't so inclined to run after us and charge through gates.

It was my turn to ride Laredo again, and I was quite curious to see how things would go.  My last ride on him was amazing, but then the next time Robin rode him and had a less than ideal experience.  So I went in trying to be relaxed and patient with whatever I found.

We rode in the outdoor arena again.  For some reason there has been a round pen living in the middle of the arena for the last many months.  Definitely not ideal for riding. But now it is gone, so the arena feels more like a standard rectangle, and we were curious to try it out.

Laredo was a little antsy during our groundwork.  He was extremely soft backing of the slobber strap, softer than I've ever felt, but on the line he was an interesting combination of sluggish and over-reactive.  Though in many ways that is an apt description of Laredo.  It does make me wonder how many other three year olds are like that, too.

When I climbed on he definitely had more energy and a not so settled feeling.  He was walking out quite fast, but not in a controlled manner.  His gait was really sloppy and all over the place.  He was also inclined to root and chomp his mouth around the bit.  While he has exhibited some rooting in the past, he really hasn't seemed troubled by the bit in anyway. 

So we worked on short serpentines for a while.  He was moving fast and still not very balanced with his feet, but thankfully he was bending to the bit nicely.  After a few minutes his expression started to change and we were getting with one another a little better.

We moved onto some circle work and things were better.  I do find he is responding to my legs more each ride, but even in the circle he was inclined to root around and get upset by the bit.  Our soft feels were almost non-existent.  Robin and I commiserated for a few minutes as she was experiencing many of these same things the ride before.  She suggested I check out the spot where the round pen used to be.  It had left a very clear circle of grass and dirt that she was enjoying working Steen on.  I really like the idea of not using a wall or boundary while we're riding, but with the Laredo it really seemed nice for me to have a target for our circle.

I do think this change of location and focal point for me really helped both of us.  After a while his rooting went away, and he was giving to the bit very nicely when we'd zig zag through the middle to change directions.  We even started to get some soft leg yields when he was inclined to collapse the circle.  I had trouble with these in our last ride.  Our first attempts today were not pretty, but once I softened my ask and he started trying more we made great strides with them.


Initially, I didn't think we would trot much as he was so all over the place, but as we started feeling each other more, I thought I should give it a go.  In general, it felt better than our last ride.  Just like that ride, we didn't spend too much time in the gait, but when we were trotting he spent more time back on his haunches and less time getting stiff, nervous, and forward.  Also, I thought our transitions were a little faster and smoother.


One of the things Robin really had trouble with on her ride was backing.  In the beginning, this was awful for us, too.  So awful I kind of stopped working on it.  But then later when we were in our worn circle path and other things were going better, I started asking for more stops and having him teeter back a step.  These were nowhere near instantaneous, but they were getting better each time.  As slow as they were, it was fun to see him thinking through things. 


I took a break near the end to snap a few shots of Robin.  This was the first time I dug around in my pocket for the camera and photographed from Laredo's back.  He couldn't have cared less.  It did take a few patient moments waiting for a soft feel and some flexes to wake him back up, but thankfully he wasn't upset when I asked him to cool down with a few more circles and some figure-eights.  He was great with those, and he also continued to get better and better with our final stops and teeter backs.  We ended the ride on a very good note.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Back and Forth

It was a somewhat disappointing ride for all of us.  Robin and Laredo had their own issues, and Bear and I were contending with what appeared to be his sore back and distraction as well as my general tiredness.  I'm pretty sure any distraction he was experiencing came from me, though I'm sure a sore back wasn't helping him, either.

The day started a little funny.  We pulled Bear and Laredo from the gate up by the treed pasture.  We don't do that too often, but that is where the herd was hanging out.  As we were coming out Steen decided he wanted to come with and crashed through the gate.  Literally.  I hit him with it, but he just kept coming.

Once out, he proceeded to run around in an antsy state.  Eventually he ran out of that pasture and over to the other stall herd pasture to horse around with the others.  I kept following him and did my best to play 'the game' from so far out.  It was working in the sense that Steen was paying attention to me and moving off when I increased the pressure, but it wasn't working in that he never came towards me when he had a chance to.  Finally we cornered him in a dry lot and I worked him a few more minutes until he finally decided to come up to me.  Silly Steen.  He was really good when I had him haltered and brought him back to the pasture.

The running around did nothing to Bear.  As I borrowed his rope, he just hung out munching the grass near the hitching post.  But Laredo was a little stirred up. It was the most restless we had seen him at the hitching post yet.  Thankfully it wasn't too bad, he was just more excited than usual.

Out on the strip things were not so nice almost right from the beginning.  It was only a minute or two into the ride before Bear picked up the trot on his own.  Occasionally I will decided to just go with it when he does that, and today I figured I would let him trot if he was feeling good and had some energy.  But I don't think that was the case.  His trot proceeded to get rougher and increasingly forward as I let him go.

We worked a lot on serpentines in the hope of getting him bending nicely and using his haunches.  It seemed to work a little bit, but it was not a lasting fix.  We had to revert to them over and over again throughout the ride.

There were a few positives, though.  He is getting increasingly responsive to my legs, and I am spending a higher percentage of the time riding with one hand.  After a lot of bending work, we even had some good trots where I only needed one hand on the reins.

Also, he was exceptionally light when we were backing.  I could get him to back straight or bent in either direction with no problem.  He was always light to the bit and happy to move.  At one point I was even shooting pics of Robin and Laredo and maneuvering Bear around with my free hand.  He would stop and back up softly even with one hand.  That is definitely exciting.

Towards the end I decided to check out the lope.  We had been spending more time trotting with better balance, and I hoped a few minutes of loose rein running would help him, as sometimes it does.  Today was not one of those times.  He was very rough and forward in both directions, and again he gave me a lot of head tosses and hops.  So we ended that real quickly.

I was really hoping the reduced workload would be good for him.  I know it is still too soon to tell, as we have hardly spent much time getting a regular rotation going, but I guess we'll just have to keep monitoring it.

The guys, very relieved to be done for a while.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Best Yet

By far.  Laredo was wonderful today.  He walked right up to me in the pasture, and things just got better from there.  Working around his head with the flymask and headstall, grooming, and leading were all really great.

I suppose the only not so great moments occured with groundwork.  We are improving a lot with getting him to follow a feel.  It doesn't always work.


But sometimes he gets with me very easily.  Here it looks like I'm going to swing the end of the mecate, but I only brought my arm up after he didn't follow the initial feel.  It is nice not to have to swing it.


However, he does not want to back away from me unless I can get to the slobber strap, in which case he'll back away just fine.  But if I send him around me and then disengage his hindquarters, he does it beautifully and then waltzes in expecting pets.  Standing firm and shaking the rope does not deter him.  So I had to increase the pressure and send a bigger signal.

Instead of shaking the mecate to suggest he back, I'd twirl the end around and present a barrier.  This actually kind of freaked him out, and he would take off running circles around me.  He is so unbelievably mellow that it is kind of nice to see him move with some spirit.  I worked at this for a few minutes, always trying to shake the mecate less than I had to.  In the end we got to a nice stopping point when he looked to come in and I gently shook the mecate  and he took a big step back.  Perfect.

I climbed on and he was very relaxed.  His flexes felt great, and he was giving to the bit very nicely.  If I had not asked him to do anything for a few moments it would take some time for him to feel me again, but that wasn't too bad.

For the rest of the ride we saw drastic improvement in everything but our backing, which probably stayed about the same. When we walked in circles he was much more likely to shape his body to my legs.  If I needed to bring up the inside rein, he would tilt his nose in and collect as well.  Our serpentines started out feeling better than they ever have before.  There was still a stick when we'd go from right to left, but he was softer to my hands and legs AND we were getting more bend and more reach from the front feet.  And the serpentines only got better from there.  We eliminated the stickiness starting to go left, and the expression on his face kept changing.  He looked like he was understanding what we were doing.

In the circles we spent a lot of time working on a soft feel, briefly collecting to zig zag through the center and change directions, and occasionally leg yielding out when he was inclined to cut in.  He didn't love that, but he started to understand it a little.

We also moved into the trot.  This was my first time trotting with him.  Initially it was actually his idea, but as he is so quiet and mellow, I decided to go with it.


From that point on I would periodically move him into the trot for a circle and then ask for a soft feel and bring him back to the walk.  Our downward transitions were not very pretty.  In the middle we did have a couple that felt very smooth, but later on they went back to taking 10 yards or more to complete.  I know part of the problem is that I'm not used to his movements yet.  I'm hoping once I know his trot a little more I'll get better at feeling him down into the walk.

Towards the end of the ride we were walking up and down the fence line just relaxing and occasionally picking up a soft feel.  He was very ready to be done and kept drifting over to the fence.  As it is electric it is not my favorite thing to get close to, I started working on more leg yields.  While we could get them in the circle a little bit, he was not happy about them here.  He was actually more inclined to go into pressure and bring us closer to the fence.  I didn't feel great about that, and I'm sure he picked up on it.  Then a bird flew by or something and he spooked.  But it was the tiniest little freeze in place spook.  I still can't believe how mellow he is.  It is unbelievable.  I know there will be bigger spooks in our future, but it is nice to feel a little one first.

After the ride he was following me around and then falling asleep at the hitching post.  He is really getting so much more comfortable with us.  It kind of feels like it has taken awhile, but we've barely had him over a month, and we were out of town for a week of that.  So things are going great.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Double Double

Today Robin and I both rode two horses.  We got to the barn even earlier than yesterday, and we decided to each start with the horse least familiar to us.  So Robin rode Laredo, and I rode Steen.

I spent the ride thinking about Robin's last blog post, so I was trying my best to be as soft as possible.  Steen is so responsive (and often reactive) that you get a ton of feedback from him, so I figured it would be good to practice.  I always try to be soft with Bear, but it is different.  He's what I know, and I think I often revert back to some of my older riding habits.  Also, his demeanor and attitude seem to require that I change my levels of softness and demanding-ness from ride to ride.

Steen was his usual, somewhat nervous self with me.  He is not like this for Robin, and he is not like this when I'm around him on the ground.  But on his back, he's just unsure.  So me being soft really helped us out, and he did relax as the ride went on.

In the beginning we worked on all the slow stuff like short serpentines, moving the front or hind end, walking perfect circles, and stuff like that.  These things helped keep us calm, but when we moved to the trot he brought his head up and hollowed his back out and scooted around.  It doesn't feel great when he does that.


So we would move in and out of the trot a lot and work on bending and staying soft laterally.  Things didn't get great, but they did improve.


Robin said she thought we looked better than we've ever looked together.  That is probably true, even though it didn't feel as good as some of my rides on Bear.  We cooled down by working on some whirly-gigs (which we actually did quite well) and some leg yielding.  I kept doing those at the walk because I couldn't believe how soft I could hold the reins and just barely brush my leg up against him.  It felt really good.  I was able to stay very balanced, and no doubt that helped him move over nicely.  At the trot, yeah, not so much.  But I was happy I got a glimmer of what leg yields could be like for Bear and I.  This is one of the exercises that I think is hard for him because of his tight back, but I also think it is good for his tight back.

When I grabbed Bear from the side lot and brought him out to the strip, I was trying to keep the same idea of softness as I had with Steen, to be lighter than I need to be.

Of course, Bear was extremely distracted and not at all interested in the suggestions from my legs or hands.  I was pretty disappointed.

Thankfully he still seemed to be feeling good.  He was bending nicely and moving out without any problems.  So I shifted my focus to being as firm as I had to be for as brief as I could, and then go back to softness.  The soft moments didn't last super long in the beginning, but as we rode, we did make progress.

I didn't want to ride him very long since we had a good ride yesterday, so I moved through a lot of things in a little over half an hour.  The most fun was the loping mixed in with figure-eights at the trot and some short-serpentines to encourage him to stay back and use his haunches.


I think it worked nicely.  We did more loping than we've done in a few weeks.  Both directions he felt smooth and relaxed, and with interspersing the other exercises in, each lope felt better than the last.

To cool down we revisited the 'how soft can I be' idea by walking various sized circles and figure-eights and using the reins as little as possible.  By this time he felt like a totally different horse.  He was listening to me and happy to move wherever I asked.  It is so funny with Bear, but sometimes it just seems like he forces me to make him do things from time to time.  Other days, he is thrilled to listen from the start.  I know I read over and over again that it is always the rider, but other times I'm not so sure.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Group Riding

Friday evening we received an email that there would be a morning ride at the barn.  We planned on riding in the morning anyways, so we figured we would tag along.

We arrive before most of the others, so we just did our normal thing and headed out to the strip to warm up.  Bear felt wonderful.  He was very excited to see me and hangout.  Last time I rode Laredo, and I wonder if he sometimes feels a little left out.

But more than that, he was feeling good physically.  He was exceptionally soft and willing to move out.  I figured it would be a good day for a long walk/trot trail ride.

After a few minutes Robin and I were joined by four other riders and a little papillon.  All the horses were relaxed and knew each other at least somewhat, and we marched down the strip with no problems.

Overall the ride was uneventful.  For much of it, Bear and I were towards the back and he was not super happy about that.  I guess since he was feeling so good he wanted to be moving out at the front.  But quite a few times I had to hold him back a little bit and make him wait.  He got a little pissy at times, but I just held lightly until he got over it.  I think he understood after a little while.

We wandered through some fields we've never been in and took a shortcut to the big salad bowl.  Once we were there things spread out and Bear knew exactly where we were.  I let him pick his line and he led the whole way back.  I had to work on some leg yields to let the others catch up a little.

Since we were so far out in front, we missed the one exciting moment of the ride.  A big turkey coming out of the brush.  Most of the other horses got a teeny bit excited, but it was really no big deal for any of them.

All in all, the ride was pretty fun.  Going out in a group is not the most relaxing thing for me, but I do think it is good practice for me.  And I know the diversity is good for Bear.  He certainly enjoyed himself.  When we got back to the strip we spent a few minutes trotting and loping.  He was still feeling fast and energetic.  So the reduced work-load seems to be helping him out.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Rewards of Going Second

Robin was the first of us to ride Laredo.  I certainly don't mind such things, as she has much more experience with all this stuff than I do and is probably more prepared to handle less-than-ideal situations than I am.  But yesterday I realized there were other benefits as well.  It has been more than a couple weeks since we last rode him.  Initially I was planning to ride him, but then we figured Bear could really use the exercise, so Robin rode Laredo.


That meant I got to go second again.  And I also got to reap all the rewards of her hard work.  She was able to make nice progress in softening him up the other day, but when I hopped on, I was shocked to see that he was softer flexing to the bit than Bear usually is.  He was also very attentive to my legs and willing to try new things like backing in a circle. 


This isn't to say that the whole ride was great.  It wasn't.  He is such a funny, young guy.  His attention span is short, and when he doesn't understand something he is inclined to clam up and/or just shut down.  When we were working on a set of 10 forward and back, he got a little stuck on the forward.  I opened my legs and moved my pelvis forward to let him know I wanted him to walk out.  Nothing.  I brought my legs in with a soft thump.  Nothing.  Then I opened them more quickly, and finally brought them in with a much, much more solid thump.  He perked right up, and then he clammed up and went nowhere.  I had to laugh at him for a moment, then I repeated the ask and he moved right off.  He is a fast learner, and I never had to ask like that again.

It was also an exceptionally gorgeous June day.  The temps were in the high 70s, the sun was shining, and there was no wind.  Literally no wind.  It was kind of amazing.  And it was the only not so ideal part of the ride.  It meant we had a lot of bugs out.  Laredo, like Bear, is very bothered by bugs.  They seem to like his skin and coat, and he always has a few splotches of blood on him where horse flies have been nibbling. These distractions do not help him do (what seem to me) simple things like keeping an even bend in a circle or moving off my leg pressure.  Thankfully he always comes around with a little reminding.

All in all, we had a great time, and it was super fun to ride him again.  Towards the end of the ride I hopped off him to shoot a few photos of Robin.  He followed me around the strip like a puppy dog.  I decided to climb back on for just a few more minutes, and while he didn't seem too thrilled about that, it was exciting that he felt so much more normal to me than he has recently.  It will be exciting to keep getting to know him more and more. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Out of Shape Already?

I guess it has been a light month of riding.  With a visitor, a vacation, a new horse, and a 60th birthday party, Bear ended up getting quite a few days off.  That, coupled with thick, lush grass, meant Bear added quite a few pounds of fat and lost more than a few pounds of muscle.

So this week our rides were a little unexciting.  Both Monday and Wednesday we worked on the strip, and both of those rides were almost identical.  I am happy to report that the second ride was a little better than the first.  It is always nice when that happens.

I opted to keep the ride a little bit lighter in terms of mental difficulty, and a little bit harder in terms of physical difficulty.  Little being the key word there.  We spent most of each ride working in the trot.  We'd work on trotting nice circles, bigger ovals, and occasionally going up and down the fenceline.  Bear was definitely tired.  He wasn't doing any of his normal antics like shying at the bean field or weaving down the strip.  I just don't think he had the energy.


I was disappointed to find he was somewhat dull to the bit.  Two weeks ago we were getting back to some amazing softness, but I guess hitting our stride and then taking more time off is not the best way to make progress there.  Still, I was thrilled to see that he was extra soft to my legs.  When we would take a break from trotting I would ride around one handed (and often not even using that hand) and ask Bear to weave in and out of figure-eights and various sized circles.  It was pretty fun.

Each ride I also got in a little loping.  On Monday he was not happy about it at all.  When I asked he gave me quite a few head tosses and even what felt like a few hops and pivots off his hind feet.  I really didn't know what was going on, but it didn't feel too bad so I just made him lope.  Once we got going he was pretty good.  A little stiff down near the gate, but mostly he felt smooth and relaxed.  Wednesday he didn't throw a fit at all when I asked for the lope, he just moved into it nice and smooth.  Both directions.  I was especially pleased with this on Wednesday as I was having some difficulty keeping him back on his haunches.  I almost didn't even ask for the lope, as I have definitely learned than an unbalanced horse at the trot is not going to be good at all in the lope.  But I decided to at least give it a little try.  I was happy I did, as things felt nice.

Robin had a pretty good time getting Laredo going again.  It will be nice to get into a rhythm of riding him regularly.  I'm hoping it will also allow me to keep Bear in good shape but not over ride him.  Two weekends ago we rode three days in a row, and that has not been good for him for quite a while now.  So my new rule is no more than two Bear rides in a row.  Period.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Little Break

Last week was a short one, but it was also unusually busy for both Robin and I.  And coming off the long weekend at the barn, we didn't end up going out to the barn at all.  This weekend we were also out of town, so the guys got a lot of rest.

It was nice to just get out and see everyone; they're all looking a little plump right now.  The grasses are long, and they were all hanging out in the low section of the pasture just eating.  We brought out Bear's vitamins as well as a new hoof supplement we're going to try on Laredo.  He's a little flat footed, and his front feet are somewhat tender. 


Bear and Steen came walking up to us right away, but Laredo was a little more hesitant.  Once I started feeding him his little pellets he was quite interested, though.  He couldn't get enough; he just kept trying to lick my hands.


Next week my work schedule changes and things should be a little more regular.  We've got our big trip to Colorado done with, and we should be able to just get into a great summer barn rhythm.  We've still got so much stuff to work on.