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.

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