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.

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