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.

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