Sunday, August 26, 2012

2nd Anniversary

Two years ago today I got Bear.  He was a somewhat dumpy and out of shape horse.  At 15, he also seemed quite old.  He was still a great horse for me, but at the time we didn't know if we would keep him much more than a year.

How wrong we were.  Within a few months of clean living and regular exercise, he really perked up.  And he's slowly continued to change ever since.  I have no intention of getting rid of him now, and I just hope we have many more years of riding and learning together.

I was pretty tired from riding all three horses yesterday, so I never planned a big ride for today.  That was good, because it was raining when I woke up and continued to rain all day.   I almost lost all motivation to go out after sitting around doing nothing, but then at 4 the sun came out and the wind picked up, and it looked like it was going to be a nice evening.  So I changed clothes and headed out to the barn.

Bear was the driest horse out there.  I don't know how he does it.  Snow, sleet, rain, whatever, he always seems to be drier than the other horses.  I know he runs a little hot (which is funny, because he is sooo not a hot blooded horse), and he is also one of, if not the, head of the herd.  So maybe he just always has a good position?  Funny stuff.  Someday when we get our land it will be fun to sit on the porch and watch the guys hang out to really see what they do.

We tacked up and proceed out to the strip.  The ground was really soggy, so I didn't plan on anything too exciting.  We started by walking all the way up and down the strip.  Bear was tight on the short, steep downhill, so we did it a few times and he loosened up.

We came back up top and trotted a few figure eights and worked on staying soft.  He was pretty good, but he was exhibiting some of the same behaviors as yesterday.  The tail was still swishing more than I would like and he kept shaking the skin on the right side of his body.  It was not nearly as bad as yesterday, so that was good, but I have no idea what is causing it.

But since I planned on keeping things easy, I wasn't too worried.  We ventured back down the strip, and this time turned down the drainage.  Bear wasn't so sure about this at first, but I encouraged him to keep going.  He then proceeded to zig zag his way down to the second strip.  It was a little annoying.  He only seems to do this when there isn't another horse there.  I had him trot for a while hoping that would fix the problem, but it really just got the section over with sooner and did nothing to fix the zig zag issue..

We walked down to the end of the second strip.  This was uncharted territory for Bear and I.  We have never ventured out from the barn alone.  It seems like we would have done this earlier, but really, 99 percent of my riding is done with Robin (which is excellent, I would not have made nearly as much progress if this weren't the case). So today was our first, pseudo-trail ride.

And it went great.  Other than the weaving.  But after getting to the end of the second strip and coming back (which was totally fine) we made another trip to the end and really worked on the problem.  Before I was always using my legs and reins to adjust him, but it would usually just increase the weave in the other direction.  So this time I kept a solid leg in the middle and just asked for collection as soft as I could.  He always responded, and then most of the time he would go right back to weaving or veering.  Sometimes we were collecting every second step.

But after a short while, it got better.  Quite a bit better.  We got to a nice spot and I let him rest and then turned for home.  Of course going back he is much straighter, though still inclined to weave at times.  I have often wondered about his vision in his right eye, and this is just one other example of that as most of his veering was in an attempt to see things on his right side.

We got back to the strip and cooled down with a few circles at the walk and trot and then some no-handed figure eights.  It really turned into a beautiful night with a cool breeze, the setting sun, and some big clouds to the east.  When I turned Bear out in the pasture, he even followed me all the way through the middle pasture when I went to put fly-masks on the other guys.  So cool.

From a couple weeks ago, still looking great at 17.
And the fly-masks, I wish these were also easy, but no.  I saw Laredo drifting off to go graze in the far corners of the pasture, so I went after him first.  He stopped, saw me coming, waited, and then walked off again.  This is becoming something of a regular occurrence, and I don't like it very much. I had to walk after him a lot more than I would have liked.

When I caught him, I put the mask on with very little trouble.  Then I put the halter on to do a little groundwork.  This was just impromptu, but I wanted to remind him that I am the one who moves his feet.  So I did.  And it was great. He was very attentive and full of energy.  I worked on directing that energy, and then bringing that energy down.  It was a great little session.

Until I tried to remove the halter.  He kind of freaked out at that.  I remained calm and slow with my actions and tried to reassure him, but he kept pulling away.  So each time he pulled away we went back to the groundwork.  It got rather intense, and after a while, he was breathing really hard.  I finally got to the point where I slipped one ear out, but he was still freaking out.  I worried the halter would come off, but it stayed.  So we continued to work and I was eventually able to get the other end off.  He was stiff, but he didn't go anywhere.

Instead, he put his head down and heaved a huge sigh.  I gave him lots of praise and pets.  When I walked off to put Steen's mask on, he followed me.  It was really great.  I worried that I was pushing things too far and possibly losing ground with him.  Not so.  I stopped to give him some more pets, then turned, and he kept following me. So I think that little session was very worth it.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Triple

Robin is visiting her family in Arizona, so having nothing to do with myself in her absence I decided to spend most of the day at the barn riding all three horses.  It was a breezy and cloudy day, and all the rides went quite well.


I decided to start with Steen.  He is the softest, and most sensitive, and also I have the least amount of riding time with him now.  Funny to think that, it didn't used to be that way.  For a while Steen was the only horse I rode.

He seemed happy to hang out with me.  He was soft and responsive and not at all bothered by things.  We spent a ton of time riding in circles.  First at the walk and later at the trot.  I don't think this was super fun for him, but it was great for me.  As I said, Steen is really sensitive.  So in our circles I was able to concentrate on the pressure from my legs, hips, hands, torso position and a whole bunch of other things.  If I made a change, he responded.  I think this put me in a great place for riding the other guys.


After our solo-ride on Tuesday, I felt really comfortable working with Laredo again.  We started with some more intense groundwork, just like last time, and he was much more responsive despite having his 3 year old buddy Tate working on the strip, too.  So we didn't spend nearly as much time on it.

Under saddle he continues to get more and more responsive to legs.  We spent many minutes zig zagging around the strip with only tiny adjustments from the reins.  It feels great to be able to do that with him so soon.  Steering was not one of his better qualities when we first got him, so we are definitely making progress.

Also like our last ride, we spent a lot of time at the trot.  We trotted in big ovals, we trotted in smaller ovals, we used markers for upward and downward transitions, and I continued to use the tactic of turning a small circle to the inside when he got distracted or overly forward.  This made for a rather demanding ride.  For Laredo, I actually felt great.  I was surprised at how relaxed I felt and how quickly I was able to assess what was working/not working and move into a good exercise for us.


While I was riding Laredo, I would occasionally see Bear way off in the distance watching us.  He had received pets from me in the pasture twice already today, so he was definitely curious about what I was up to and seemed happy when I finally went to get him.

On the strip he started out really sluggish with the groundwork.  We moved into the walking exercise with quick directional changes every 180 degrees (I have no idea what to call this).  This woke him up instantly.  Not only was he watching me closely, but he was putting energy into all his movements and I never had to ask him for anything twice.  It was by far the best we've ever done with this exercise.

I went back to the groundwork we were doing before, and it was great.  So I hopped on.  Bear felt lively and energetic.  He also felt very much like my horse. It was an interesting progression today.  Steen does not feel very familiar to me under saddle, but Laredo felt surprisingly familiar.  He had nothing on Bear, though.

So we started working through our normal warm up.  He was great with the no-handed steering and happy to move into the trot.  But very quickly things went downhill.  He was jerky and erratic at the trot (despite me still being able to steer him rather well, it was odd), and he was constantly swishing his tail and shaking his skin as if to get rid of a fly.  At one point he even gave me a few humped up hops.  Very un-Bear-like.

I hopped off and ran my hands all over him, checked his back and the under part of the pad and everything seemed fine.  So I got back on and started slow.  We did flexes and worked on keeping them soft and holding them for a while, then smooth and easy one-rein stops, short serpentines, various sized circles and figure-eights at the walk and trot, and lots of walking out in between.

He did get better over time.  I even ended up loping him up and down the strip and then worked him for a few short minutes in circles both to the left and the right.  He was good for those.  Quite good, really.

It almost seems like poor Bear has a somewhat sore back again. It has been so long since we've had a ride like this.  He did just have almost a week off, and there are more flies out there.  Perhaps he is stamping a lot?  Or maybe he's been getting frisky with the young horses? It is impossible to know, but I think our ride turned out OK.  He was still happy at the end, and he was in no hurry to walk away from me in the pasture.

Sorry for the long post and no pictures; it's tough to get shots when it is just you.  Also, riding three horses in a row is rather tiring.  I thought I would be more mentally fatigued while riding, but that didn't happen until I was completely done.  Then I felt exhausted everywhere.  Still, I would do it again.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Just Laredo and Me

Robin has been hit by some ragweed allergies, so when I suggested a trip to the barn today, she wasn't up for it.  Thankfully she was fully supportive of me going. She's the best.

On the way out I decided Laredo needed the ride.  He got two days off and Bear only got one day off, so I grabbed Laredo's halter and marched out to grab him.  He was about as far away as he can be, and when he saw me he took as many frantic bites of grass as he could and then ran away from me.  I was pretty surprised at that.  It took me a moment to figure out how to react, but once I started marching after him I prepared myself to play the game all day long if I needed to.  But he just went for about 20 yards before he stopped, swiveled towards me, and marched right up.  Good boy.

This was the first time either of us had ridden Laredo on our own.  He's been a little distracted on our rides lately, and I had no idea what to expect from him.  The strip was recently mowed, so I rode in the outdoor arena.

We started with some slightly more intense groundwork than usual.  When we work through things in the circle he has a very strong tendency to look up and away from me.  I used three tactics to get him back to paying attention depending on the seriousness of the infraction: a light bump from the mecate, a stop and roll over in the other direction, and a slap on the butt to move him out.  After a minute of these tactics he became very alive and agitated, which is good I suppose.  He was definitely inclined to pay more attention to me.  Still, I made sure to give him some breaks and keep him calm as I was by myself and I also don't want to be overly threatening.  But just like usual, he would come right back down in a second. He's so different than the other two.

The ride itself was genuinely great.  We had some things that were not going so well, like whirly-gigs and consistently staying on the haunches.  I completely abandoned working on whirly-gigs and even trying to move his front end over.  I simply couldn't get it to happen today.

We did focus a lot on using his haunches and staying relaxed in the trot.  We had two long sessions of trotting, longer than we've ever done with Laredo before.  We would trot in a big oval, and when he got either really forward or overly distracted by the horses in the pasture near us, we would turn in a moderately tight circle.

In the beginning we did a lot of circles, and many of those were sloppy.  After a few minutes, though, we were doing less circles and much softer, higher quality circles.  I'm not sure if Laredo was having fun with this as I could sense some tireds coming in, but I was really having fun. I was happy Robin gave me this exercise, as it worked quite well.

We cooled down by walking around and working on some mostly rein-less figure-eights.  I think the trotting and tight circles really helped him listen to my legs.  I also spent quite a few minutes asking for the soft feel at the walk.  We've been doing this on most rides, but I haven't been very systematic about it until today.  In the beginning he was inclined to put his head down and really lean on the bit.  I brought my legs in with a little action and kept him moving forward.  That solved the problem.  He never moved right into collection, but it got him out of leaning, and he'd usually collect a couple steps later.  He got softer as we worked at it. Our ride was only 45 minutes, but I think it was demanding on him, and changing things up might have sent him into his old defensive mode of sticking his head down.

After a really nice soft feel, I asked him for a stop and got some huge, energetic, and soft steps backwards.  I immediately hopped off and gave him lots of pets.  It was a great day to be at the barn hanging out with him.  I think it was relaxing and productive for both of us.

Monday, August 20, 2012

More Group Riding

Sunday we hit the trails as a foursome again.  There was the possibility of it being a much bigger group, but this size felt nice.  One of our friends came with us for the first time.  She was on her older, gray Arabian, and they were great.

We couldn't do sections of what has become our normal route due to the eventing competition at Catalpa Corner, but we still covered some good distance and revisited the salad bowl, which we had not been to in a while.

I rode Bear and he was really quite good.  After a long warm up we hit the treed, grassy lane and moved everyone out into the trot.  This is where Bear got really excited and sick of being stuck behind other horses.  Robin suggested I move past her and see how he went.  I did so and he went just fine.  Great even.  He had some high stepping trots to begin with, but then he really settled into a nice, ground covering trot.  It is funny, he will walk behind other horses all day long, but I guess he can't stand trotting behind others.  When we hit another section of dirt and trotted for a while we just went to the front right away and again it solved our "problem." I'll be curious to see how this goes in the long run.  I certainly don't want to be the person who must be in the front when we're going faster.  That kind of stuff gets ridiculous, but I was happy to not get into the trap I was in last weekend of pulling on his nose too much.  I don't like being there.

When we looped back to the barn the horses were all keen to turn in, but we veered in the other direction and they were all surprisingly OK with that.  We trotted up and down the big grassy hills, and this time I was in third.  Bear was occasionally getting excited, but he was also a little tired, so that definitely helped.  Steen was up front, and something in the tall grasses caught his attention and he made a big leap sideways.  Almost at the same time Bleikka and Bear also dove to the left.  No one got in any trouble.  I was actually feeling really good that I stuck on Bear's back so easily and just moved with him.  These little things on trail rides are continually boosting my confidence.

We never stopped after the little spook, we just kept moving right along.  The others got a little ahead of us, so I suggested to Bear that we lope up a small rise to catch them.  He dug in so hard with his haunches that I'm not sure I have ever felt power like that before.  I slowed him down somewhat abruptly at the top, since that isn't really what I had in mind.  So much for being low energy, I guess.

The rest of the ride was nice and relaxing.  We chatted and walked and trotted all through the salad bowl and then back to the barn.  Once there we worked on a few things on the strip and Bear was great with the no-handed figure-eights and some nice, relaxed loping.

The nights are really starting to cool off here.  It feels great after many hot weeks of summer, but it means the grasses aren't coming up like they were.  And the horses are already getting in that "winter is coming and I'm starving" mindset, so we let them graze for a while on the yummy stuff they can see from the pasture but never eat. It was such a nice morning that we didn't mind all the extra haning out time.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Laredo and the Rope

Last week, I had some really great rides on Laredo, so I was excited to get back on him today.  I also still had the rope attached to my saddle, so I figured I would start by seeing how Laredo handled it.

Like Bear, he seemed to recognize the rope, but he wasn't as bothered by it.  He really kept a close eye on it the whole time.  I started by quietly tapping at his sides with the coil.  He was very tense at first, but he never moved a foot.  So I worked my way around him, tapping various parts.  I would stick at one spot until his body visibly relaxed some, then I'd give him a break and a few soft pets with my hands.  I moved around his whole body like that until I could tap him anywhere and not get any reaction.  That only took a couple minutes.

Then I worked on swirling the rope over his head.  He was not quite as good with this as Bear, as he would side step around and want to walk away from it.  He never got as upset as Bear did, though. I know the guy who started Laredo last year ropes a lot, so he almost certainly got a little used to the rope.  But I didn't want him to think he could walk around when I was swinging the rope, so I would keep swinging and disengage his hindquarters to get him to stop, back him up a step, and then after he stood for a few seconds I'd give him some release by not swirling the rope any more.  We did this for a few rounds and then he stopped walking off.  Once that was working consistently I started to throw the loop around his legs and over his back.  He was also fine with this.

That felt like enough rope stuff for us today, so I hopped on his back and went to work on all our usual stuff.  He was exceptionally light to my legs.  This has been the biggest area of growth lately.  He is nowhere near as consistent as Bear, but at times I do believe he's moving off less pressure than Bear moves off of.

The rest of the ride was just mediocre.  Laredo was checked out and not all that keen on focusing.  I was trying to think what Buck would do in a case like this, as I know he would not tolerate having a horse only give him part of their attention.  And I'm pretty sure Buck would jump them out pretty good once they started looking off.  I'm not quite to the point where I want to fully jump Laredo out (hopefully soon, though), so I started moving in and out of the trot a lot.  It didn't completely solve the problem, but it did give us some things to work on and allowed us to get a lot of stuff done.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Working on My Roping Skills

For my birthday last December Robin got me a whole bunch of awesome horse related items.  I've read many of the books and gotten some excellent use out of the spurs, but one item I have not played around with yet was a nice rope.  I often thought about bringing it out to the barn, but I also had so much other stuff I was working on I just never got around to it.

So today my plan was to just mess around with the rope around Bear and see how things go.  After I had him all tacked up I brought the rope out and Bear was not happy about it.  He clearly knew what a rope was, and he knew he didn't want to have anything to do with it.  I thought I could strap it to the saddle to get to where we ride, but he was moving around so much I figured I should work on this stuff out in the open and not at the hitching post.

Out on the strip I proceeded to hold the coiled rope up and gently tap him on the shoulder and on the saddle where he could easily see it.  I did my best to keep my body language very relaxed and non-threatening. 

Even those small movements brought a ton of life into Bear.  He was backing up fast, spinning on his haunches and staring at the rope with a wild look in his eyes.  When he got a little far away from me I would quarter him withe the end of the mecate and slowly keep walking towards him.  Eventually he settled in, but he really kept a lot of tension in his body each time I'd rub him with the rope.

When things were going well I switched sides.  The second side was better, but then at one point I went to pet him with the rope on top the neck and again he started flipping out.  I stuck with him and didn't let him get away.  It took a few minutes, but he did settle down.  He also stopped flinching and holding so much tension when I'd bump him with the rope.

I didn't see that one coming at all.  I thought for sure Bear would be fine with this stuff, but this is why I wanted to work on it.  You can't make a solid horse without doing all kinds of stuff to him.

Once he relaxed I started swinging the rope near him.  He didn't budge, though he was curious and following it closely with his eyes and ears.  I progressed to throwing a loop out next to him, then throwing loops around his legs, and finally I was throwing loops over his back and getting them on his haunch.  For all of this he never moved.

I figured that was enough for today, so I strapped the rope to my saddle, did a little more groundwork to make sure it wasn't bothering him and then climbed on.

Under saddle Bear did not have the kind of energy he did when I was working with the rope, but he was moving very nicely.  We did a lot of trotting and he was always back on his haunches and very well balanced.  We did some nice loping, too, but the rope coil would flap against my legs in a way that was making him pretty antsy.  I went back to just trotting and would occasionally reach down and flap the rope against my leg.  He started to get more used to it.

To end the ride I ditched the rope and did some big lopes up and down the strip and got some nice circles, too.  At one point we were running down the strip at a pretty good clip and we totally spooked Tate, the other new 3 year old.  Tate about lept out of his skin and went tearing across the pasture.  Bear could tell something was wrong with that and he just stopped hard and took a good, hard look at Tate.  I had never felt Bear do that. It was really funny.  And nice to know that he might choose to stop and check things out rather than pick other, more volatile options.

We will definitely have to keep up with the rope.  It was fun to work with, and though it kind of sounded like I was throwing some decent loops around his feet and butt, that isn't true at all.  These were some of the ugliest loops imaginable.  I'm hoping some of it is due to the stiffness of the new rope, but I also know I've just got to practice with it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Today's ride put me at 101 hours for the year.  That is not a lot by many counts, but considering 100 hours was my goal last year and it took me until early December to hit it, I'm feeling pretty good with where I'm at.  The saddle time has really helped me out a lot as I'm continuing to feel more and more comfortable when things aren't going as nicely as they should.  I also feel like I've got better body control in some of the slower and more refined maneuvers.  There is no substitute for time.

But today's trail ride was just so so.  It was one of those rides where I could look back and see how far we've come and how well we are doing but also notice lots of other things that we need to work on.

Our main problem today came when we were trotting on some of the long sections of trail.  I just could not keep Bear from springing forward and dumping around on his front end.  This has not been a problem for many weeks, and when things resurface they always become extra frustrating for me.  Other than frequently taking the slack out of one rein and then later the other to double him and get his weight back on his haunches, I didn't know what to do.  It would work for a few strides, but that was all.

These are such tricky things, too.  I do not feel the need to dictate the way Bear moves at all times, but today I wanted him to be a little more back and supple and with me, as we were riding with a new rider on a young horse that we have never been out with.  Also, Steen was just wound a little tightly this morning.  It was the most antsy he has been in probably over a year.

Those were really the extent of my problems.  Certainly not a big deal, but afterwards I feel a little bad, like I was using the hackamore more than I should have.  Bear seemed fine with it, and he never stopped responding to me.  He just didn't stay in the frame I would have liked him to be in.  He was happy to walk out, not bothered by cars or mini-bull dozers, and he wasn't even all that inclined to push towards home.

I'll probably take a few days off now.  It will be good for Bear, too.  I got a lot of riding in the past four days, and I even broke my rule of not using Bear three days in a row.  So it is possible he was not feeling his best.  It is always hard to say.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Musical Horses

Today we changed everything up.  I rode Steen, and Robin rode Bear.  She hadn't really ridden him in forever, so she was curious to feel how he is doing in the hackamore.  And after that we moved right into a second ride with Robin going back to Steen and me jumping on Laredo.  Again we had perfect weather, so it was easy to spend a ton of time at the barn.

This was my first time riding Steen in the hackamore.  Our last ride together was so so, and the last person who wasn't Robin who rode Steen in the hackamore also had a less than ideal experience.  But I went in relaxed and just planned on not letting him get upset with me. 

From the beginning things were great.  We were weaving around the strip with little to no rein aids just like I do to warm up with Bear.  He gave me some super slow and relaxed trots and was happy to tuck his head and collect for me.  It was really funny to feel his slow jog again.  On our last ride he was trotting pretty fast and stiff the whole time.  Not today.  Since Steen is slightly uphill, it makes it feel like you're trotting in a summer lounge chair when he busts out his Western Pleasure jog.  We also worked on moving out a little more and getting some really nice leg yields.  He is so soft with this maneuver.

Since things were going so well I asked him for a little bit of loping.  He wasn't too keen to jump into it initially, but eventually I got him going.  I probably do quite a few different things to ask for it than Robin does.  I got the wrong lead a few times once we did get going, but it was great to run around on Steen.  I'm pretty sure the last time I loped on him was almost four years ago when I would ride Steen in the indoor arena at the old barn and not worry about steering him.  Now that I know so much more about horses (and have fallen a few times) I can't believe I did that.

At one point Robin hopped off for a few minutes and Steen was ready to be done.  This was probably the worst part of our ride.  He started pushing through my legs and forcing me to come in a little harder, and then he'd get mad at me for doing it.  So I slowed things down and we just worked on walking in circles.  He didn't like that at first either, but then he kind of got into it.  We started curving through the middle to change directions and then moving in and out of the trot and everything was back to normal.

It was definitely the best ride I've had on Steen ever. We'll have to play the horse swap game again some time.

During this whole time Laredo was in the side lot hanging out.  He is mostly fine by himself, especially since there are pastures of horses on three sides of that lot, but at other times he got a little upset at being left out of the fun.  He would hang out at the gate and try to get out, then pace around in circles.  When we finally came to get him he walked right up to me and couldn't wait for me to get the halter on.  Such a funny youngster.

When we got back on the strip, though, he was not so into the "work" thing.  He was checked out during our groundwork, and I had to give him a few more pops than usual (which I don't like doing). Thankfully it got him thinking again.  But then when I went to mount, he took a few steps away.  I moved his feet, and then he stepped away again.  This happened four or five times.  Finally I made him back up a long way and he just stood while I mounted.  This has not been an issue for us at all, but like the little bucking episode a few weeks ago, it just feels like he might need to try things out sometimes.  I don't know, but at least we worked through it.

Under saddle he had a ton of energy.  He was walking out and ready to go.  I started out by doing some short serpentines to make sure he was supple and paying attention to me, and then we moved into some bigger exercises.  He was giving me better whirly-gigs than the other day, probably because of the extra energy.

When we started trotting he gave me a few energetic strides and then settled into a beautiful trot.  It almost felt like he was just waiting the whole time to get to the trotting.  We did some nice figure-eights and zig zagged around the strip with excellent control.

Lately Robin has been trying to explain to me that my hands get too far apart when I'm riding to give subtle cues and then make things happen when I need to.  I knew it was happening, but I thought it was kind of supposed to be that way with where I was at with my horses.  I didn't always do it, but maybe the transition to the hackamore and then the new horse got me into the habit.

Either way, it was working a little bit, but at other times it was totally failing me.  So yesterday and today I worked harder at keeping my hands close together and giving softer cues with my hands that would encourage the horse to tuck their chin a little bit and break through the loin into the turn.  Laredo is very inclined to break at the poll, so this was really working well with him.  Plus I had better leverage to work with in case he decided to blow off my cues, but that was happening much less than it usually does.  That probably isn't a coincidence.  The changes made for some really relaxed trots and I was able to move him in a much more precise manner.

Because he had so much energy I spent a lot of time trotting with him.  We worked on a walk/trot transition game where Robin and I rode in an oval and tried to stay on the opposite side of one another.  We had designated spots for upward and downward transitions.  Laredo was sloppy in the beginning, but then he figured things out and we got really smooth.  When we changed direction we had a few issues with downward transitions, but we were also able to work through those.

We ended the ride by broadening Laredo's horizons.  We walked up and down the strip a little farther than we normally do and then turned down the drainage that leads to the second strip.  Laredo was loving it.  He was moving out with a lot of energy and his ears were pricked forward the whole time.  He is a very curious horse and so far doesn't seem inclined to spook.  We turned around near the end of the drainage, and the funny thing about the little adventure is that he was not at all excited to be going back over familiar territory.  Most horses get pointed toward the barn and can't wait to get back.  Not Laredo, he wants to move out and explore.  We'll see how this plays out as we keep working with him; he could make quite the trail horse.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Break in the Heat?

As we are on "vacation," we have been lazy about getting up and out to the barn.  Thankfully our time off has coincided with a nice break in weather.  Today was absolutely perfect; blue skies with puffy white clouds, temps in the 70s, and a light north wind.  And we took no pictures.

We rode on the strip again, and it was Bear's turn.  I almost went with Laredo again as we had such a fantastic ride yesterday, but I don't want too many days to go by without Bear getting some exercise.  His back has been wonderful, and he is looking really good right now and I don't want to mess with things while they're good.

Plus he was excited to see me.  It always feels good when your horse wants to hang out with you.  But once we got out on the strip Bear was s l u g g i s h.  It wasn't until I started demanding more of him at the trot and loping up and down the strip that he woke up and gave me some energy to work with.

And the big thing we worked on today was listening to my legs at the lope.  We've had great speed control loping in the hackamore lately, but we haven't had the best directional control.  He has been inclined to veer from one side of the strip to the other.  Today he was really bad about it.  At one point we were loping to the left then the right and then the left some more.  It kind of felt like we were pinballing down the strip. 

So we worked on it at the trot.  We focused on leg yields, and I also put him in a lot of situations he doesn't really like and made sure I held him there with my leg.  It is times like this when it is nice that Bear doesn't like being too close to the farm fields, because that gives me a lot of space to work with.

He didn't like it at first.  When I had to really remind him that my outside leg was there and he couldn't go through it he would shake his head at me.  And then all of a sudden he settled into it.  We moved back into the lope and, tadda, no problems.  We proceeded to lope some pretty nice circles.  At one point, we even jumped in with Robin and Steen and we were all running right next to one another.  It felt pretty neat.

We also decided to get back to the routine.  We go through spurts of working at it.  Sometimes it can get a little boring and we aren't sure what to do with it, but we made it much more difficult today.  We added some loping sections, and we also worked hard to keep our circles the same size and have the horse who was supposed to lead through one section move out at the trot while the other was back and more collected.  We certainly had some sloppy moments, but we also had some really good parts where we were all lined up.

This was also the first ride Robin and I did together in our hackamores.  It is one of those things that is not a big deal at all but kinda neat at the same time.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Surprise Riding Time

We were planning on a trip to Arizona this week, but the flights were not in our favor.  So we ended up staying with my parents for a few days and then heading back to Iowa City.  I could have gone back to work, but I already changed my calendar.  And besides, I've got tons of vacation time. Still, you would think with all the time off I would be able to keep up with my recent rides.  Guess not.

Last Thursday we had a really pretty afternoon, so we decided to get out after I got home from work.  Unfortunately, it was one of those nice days for sitting around, not so nice for riding.  The guys were hot and sluggish from standing around all day.  I had kind of forgotten why we weren't riding much in the afternoon's lately.  This is why.  Still, Bear and I had a good time.

Then Saturday we got out early before driving to Chicago.  It was sticky and hot, and the guys got covered in sweat.  It wasn't our best trail ride.  I was exhausted from a hard workout the day before, and we headed out in the opposite direction we normally go.  The guys got a little excited about this, and then it took quite a while for them to settle back down.  By the time they did I was pretty much ready to be done riding.  Poor Robin, this might have been the first time ever she was up for doing more than me.

Now we are back in town.  We took a cloudy day off to lay around the house, read, drink tea and just veg out.  It felt great, and I wasn't in the mood for riding anyways.  Then today we finally got back to the barn.

I rode Laredo.  It had been a while for us, and our last few rides have been highly mediocre so I felt ready for a good ride.  Robin has been having some good rides on him, and today I could feel that.  I think I was also in a good frame of mind to work with him.  He was also prepared to work with me.

We started with our usual slow stuff.  He was moving off my legs very nicely.  We've also been spending more time moving his front end over and building up to some whirly-gigs.  Those are still hit or miss, but he is collecting really nicely and he seems to enjoy the challenge of them.

When we started trotting they felt like our best trots ever.  He was relaxed and staying back on his haunches.  There was no sign that his feet were bothering him, and for the most part, he was really listening to my legs and rein cues.

Of course, at other times, he would brace up and ride right through my cues.  I'm still trying to keep him relaxed at the trot, so I give him a few seconds to see if he'll figure it out. 

We trotted a lot today.  Because of how our rides worked last week and us being out of town, Laredo had a week off, and I think he might have gotten a little out of shape.  Perhaps because of this, our downward transitions were wonderful.  At one point I asked him to go from the trot to the walk, he tripped a little, stopped hard, and immediately shifted to backing up.  I couldn't help but laugh at him.  I also asked for another step back just so he didn't get the idea he could make the decisions. 

This was pretty close to how the ride ended.  It was definitely one of our best yet.  It is funny to see his two steps forward, one step back kind of progress.  Thankfully there have been a lot more forward steps so far.