Sunday, September 9, 2012

Playing Cow

We got to the barn fairly early to meet a friend for a trail ride.  It was really cool out, and we were looking forward to a long day of riding.  Unfortunately our friend never made it out.  We tacked up and started riding on the strip thinking they would show, but no.

So we had to improvise.  We both warmed up our horses for a bit.  Bear was quite stiff, both mentally and physically, so we did a lot of circles and bends.  Once we were feeling good, we started playing cow.

We learned about playing cow at the Buck clinic in Decorah last fall.  The idea is that there is a herd (this could be a circle or a group of horses and riders or, in our case, cones), and one rider is the horse and the other rider is the cow that both circle the herd.  The cow has to act like a cow, so when the horse pushes on their balance points, they will stop or turn around or go faster.  The "cow" wants to get back to the herd, and the horse wants to keep them out. It looked like so much fun we thought we'd be playing cow as soon as we got back to our horses.  In fact, we tried once, but I know for me in particular I couldn't make any of the moves happen.  And after that we were completely lost in figuring out serpentines, soft feels, and proper flexions.  That took forever (and I'm still working on it).

But today we felt ready.  We picked our spot and went through a warmup round at the walk and trot.  Bear was not backing and turning very well, but we were having fun being a cow anyways.  When we switched, the Robin/Steen cow decided to do a lot of running.  This upped the ante quite a bit, and we soon found ourselves loping tight circles, stopping hard, and really getting into the game.

We went back and forth for quite a while, switching up who was the "cow" every few minutes.  The guys started to understand that they wanted to get into those cones so they could rest and get some pets.  I think they were liking it.  Although one time Bear and I were the cow and Bear was a little pissed at Steen and pinned his ears, moving them out of our way.  Robin called cow foul, and we had to neutralize that round.

We didn't want to overdo things too much, as it was our first time playing and we are hoping to play this game a lot in the future.  So we took our guys in and then switched to different mounts.  Robin brought Bear back to the pasture and picked up Laredo.  I cooled Steen off and then tacked him up again in my saddle.

We rode on the strip again.  Steen was great for me.  He was super relaxed and extremely soft to the hackamore.  Lately I've been riding Steen at least once every two or three weeks, and it is really starting to show as we keep getting on better and better.

Robin was also having a great ride on Laredo.  The loping continues to go great, and so far there is no sacrifice of control.  So we decided to see how Laredo would do at playing cow. And he was OK.  We kept things quite slow in the turn arounds, but other than that, we were often going for it.  When Steen and I were the cow and trotting around, Laredo was so much faster than us that we had to move into the lope to keep from constantly needing to turn around.  We had some really great and relaxed moments of loping.  Probably our best ever.

We didn't want to overdo things with Laredo here, especially since it is easy to get excited and stop riding as well as one should.  We cooled down some and moved onto backing circles around one another.  This is another exercise we learned at the Decorah Clinic.  We did it A TON last fall, but we haven't really done it since.

Laredo definitely needs the practice with bending and backing.  He's really getting the backing down, so this seemed like a logical progression.  He also seems to learn well when there is a goal and he can see the point (although as a "cow" he wasn't that excited to get into the cones, go figure).

He did pretty well this exercise, and Steen and I did, too.  Steen was backing so well for me Robin couldn't stop talking about how good he looked.  I've seen it the other way around, so I know, but it was also really neat to feel.


Robin finished up with a little more loping and trot work on Laredo, and I hopped off to hang out in the grass.  I was really satisfied with my rides, and it was such a gorgeous day I didn't mind lounging at all.

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