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.

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