Sunday, July 15, 2012

Best Trail Ride Yet

This morning we met a fellow boarder and her friend to go out on a trail ride.  She has two, cute Icelandic Horses that live in the same pasture as our guys.  So we would have almost half the herd on the trail ride.

Since we're still adjusting to things with the hackamore, I decided to go back to my snaffle for this ride.  When I hopped on to do some warming up on the strip, he felt good.  He was soft and attentive to my legs, but if I needed to use my reins for anything like stopping, backing, or asking for a bit of collection, things were different.  He would willingly do them, and do them well, but it didn't feel the same as is has been in the hackamore.  I didn't have any liveliness there; it was almost like the bit kind of deadened him.

I've had Bear for almost two years now.  In that time I've learned a ton about riding.  I knsow I've got a million more things to learn, too, but I've had a lot of fun getting Bear softer and softer to my legs and bit.  I've watched Robin and Steen continue to get softer to the bit for a long time, and I kept thinking we were just behind.  But other times I think that Bear really can't get any softer to the bit. Sometimes I wish he could just tell me what kind of experiences he's had in the past, because he just doesn't seem as lively and soft to the bit as he does to the hackamore. I guess I'll just have to see how things transpire as I go back and forth between the two.  Martin Black does say the hackamore is the tool you use when you really want to improve your horsemanship.  I am hoping that I can use it well and it will allow us to continue to get softer. We'll see.

But back to today.  After a few minutes of warming up we all walked down the drainage in the soy bean field and then down the second strip.  One of the Icelandics was a little antsy, but everyone else was great.  We continued on to the northeast part of the property and went out the gate and onto a gravel road.  This was the farthest I've been out on a horse yet.

We followed the road a ways to an easement/trail and jumped on that.  It had great footing and we were all feeling relaxed, so we trotted down that as long as we could follow it.  Bear was moving nicely and only a little bit inclined to push forward and get up with the other horses (we were kind of in the back), but a little pressure on the reins brought him into a comfortable, collected trot.

From there we headed up a double track level B road.  It bisected a couple of huge corn fields and it felt like we were really getting away from things, even though you're never really that far from anything in this part of Iowa.  Maybe in all of Iowa.

The level B road popped us out onto another quiet, gravel road and we started heading back in the direction of the barn.  The horses were great, although they were getting pretty sweaty and tired.  I was hoping we could get up to another section of B road, but that didn't totally work out.  We ended up following the gravel for quite a while and just chatting and enjoying the day.  Finally we got to a small dirt path that angled us back to the barn.

This was the only time I felt like Bear wasn't paying a lot of attention to me.  He was definitely hot at this point, but he just kept looking at a farm on our left that was full of chicken coops.  Then a little farther on he kept looking to the right where his pasture was.  Of course, I understood his desires, but I also wanted him to keep listening should I need him for something.  So I would check in with a lot of soft feels and occasionally leg yield him from one side of the path to the other.  He wasn't great at responding to my requests, but he did come back to me each time.

We strolled back to our barn from the west to make it a complete loop.  We had no spooks or any troubles the whole time, and we made tentative plans to do it again next weekend.

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