Saturday, January 19, 2013

And Back Outside

Just when I was getting used to the indoors, the temps get into the 50s.  I'm not complaining, though.  And as I type this I can hear the wind hitting the house, bringing in some frigid temps.  This weekend we should hit single digit highs and the rest of the week will be in the 20s.  Normal for January, really, but after the last few winters it feels kind of extreme.

But today we took full advantage of the warmth, sunglasses, unzipped jackets, no gloves, and Robin even left her winter boots at home.  It was my turn to get back on Laredo.  It was the first ride for us outside after the second runaway, so I had that in the back of my mind.  But we started off with some groundwork and he was great.  Really attentive.  He is starting to get to the point where I can put my arm out and he will just follow a feel right into the circle I want.  It's really cool.

Under saddle he was a little more distracted.  The horses in the herd were kicking up their heals, and thanks to the nice weather, we were joined by many other riders outside.  Laredo kept his attention on all of those things before he'd pay me any mind.

He was still good, though, and we were getting a lot of things done.  But halfway through the ride I kind of got a little sick of his lack of attention and stopped putting up with it.  I should have done this from the get go, but like I said, I had that last run away in the back of my mind.  It is funny how things like that can affect your decisions.  I didn't want to make him uncomfortable and thus lead to him running away again, but letting him get distracted was probably more likely to make him run away.  So funny how the logic of horses works.  You get scared so they get scared and then you get more scared and it keeps going.  Or, you get soft or lead better and they get more responsive and attentive and so you continue to be a better leader.  It has to be one of them.

So I firmed up.  We would be going along nicely, I'd ask for a turn, and he would keep looking at the horses off in the distance.  Once I made sure my leg and body were clearly asking for the bend, I took the slack out of the inside rein, and if he didn't give at all, I yanked his head right around.  I can't remember if I did that three times or four, but it was certainly no more than four.  After that he would still get distracted, but then my shifting weight meant a lot more to him, and if he missed that he certainly wasn't missing me pulling the slack out of the reins.

We got a decently long ride in, and it did get me excited for the upcoming spring.  Last year we started venturing out pretty early in the spring, but now we know so many more fun places to go.  So hopefully we'll be getting out and about even sooner.  But next week, it will probably be back inside.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Indoors Is Not So Bad

We spend so much of the year trying to get outside.  Last year the spring and fall were so mild we were hardly inside at all.  On a few occasions we even rode inside just to do it.

Now that the weather is truly wintery (albeit still mild), I'm not minding the indoor arena at all.  The last two rides have been fun and productive.  Also a little bit longer than I thought.

Getting some face pets after some really great groundwork.
On Saturday I rode Laredo.  Robin has been having some great rides on him again, but I'm still a little gun shy on his back after his running away antics.  He was good for this ride, but it took me a while to settle in, and I think because of that he was a little less comfortable than he otherwise would have been.

I did a lot of trotting and focused on steering with my legs and bending him into tighter and tighter circles.  We'd mix that up with transitions, short serpentines, backing, and pivoting around individual feet.  We never run through all of these things and nail them.  But each ride I am surprised at how good he can be at each individual thing.  We just need to keep practicing until he's got everything dialed in.  Thankfully the practicing is fun.

On Wednesday I got back on Bear.  He is always so comfortable after riding Laredo. 

There was a period in the late summer/early fall when Laredo started to feel surprisingly comfortable to me, but then I didn't ride him as regularly due to Steen's injury.  Hopefully we'll get back to that soon.  But that meant Bear felt amazing today.  We spent a lot of time moving around with no hands just because we could.

Bear again had a lot of energy.  His trots were big and was happy to cruise around at the lope.  At one point I was enjoying a fast, high stepping trot and just steering him around with my legs and Robin said he looked a little off.  I didn't feel it, but a few times later in the ride I thought I might have.

Then a little while later I definitely felt a few things.  Bear continued to move great at the lope, but occasionally at the trot he was noticeably uncomfortable.  While the indoor arena might not be too bad for me, it is definitely not Bear's favorite thing.  There is deep sand that covers a rather hard surface, and the sand gets moved around a lot.  So we are left with very deep sections, and very hard sections.  My guess is that the deep sand bothers his back and the hard sections bother his legs.  Loping is significantly less concussive on a horse's joints, so that might be while he has been itching to leave the trot lately.

As always, it will have to be something I keep an eye on and work through.  My whole goal with riding in the winter is to just keep the guys in a little bit of shape.  Generally Bear does better when he's fit, but I'll just have to make sure I'm not creating additional problems while working to keep him in shape.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Back Indoors

After a long couple weeks of traveling, we felt like lounging in our own house a little bit.  So it was a few days before we got out to the barn to see the guys.  I definitely missed them, but it was also nice to know they were getting some good time off.

Bear was definitely happy to hang out with me again.
We got out on Sunday to meet the farrier, but it turns out none of them needed their feet trimmed.  Again.  I guess something about the weather and walking around on a mixture of frozen ground and ice is keeping their feet from growing.  And we don't mind saving the money.

We let all three guys play around in the indoor arena.  They love getting on some good footing in the winter time.  Steen and Bear also like to roll as soon as they get in.  Laredo wasn't so sure, but once he got his first roll in, he didn't stop for quite a few minutes.

I did a short ride on Bear, and it felt sooo good to be on him after riding a different horse in a very, very small saddle.  Bear was attentive and happy to walk, trot, and lope around.  In winters past he was inclined to get chunky and out of shape, but I've been riding so much more this year that he doesn't seem as inclined to baloon up.

We had another short ride on Wednesday afternoon.  I rode Bear again and Robin rode Laredo.  We did a lot of work on walk/trot transitions and did a few rounds of the routine.  The tricky part with all of these was Bear.  He just wanted to go faster, and if we were trotting he was always wanting to lope. Bear expressing his desire to lope is not something new, but I have never seen him this persistent.  He was very smooth and relaxed when I would let him go, and his action at the trot was also great.  So he must just be feeling good.  I also had no trouble controlling him, and we spent quite a while cooling down at the walk with me steering only with my legs.

And that is all for the year so far.  I know I've got bigger hourly goals for this year, but I never try to push it in the first 6 weeks or so.  It can be hard to get a winter barn pattern going, and I also don't want to burn myself out on indoor rides too much.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

An End and a Beginning

2012 closed with us spending some nice time in Arizona.  People complained about it being a little cold there, but we were comfortable hanging out in t-shirts and working with Jak and Rojo. 

Jak was really the first horse I ever rode, and for a few years I would get out on him for a short trail ride whenever we visited.  On our last few visits I worked a lot with Rojo, so I had not ridden Jak for a couple years  This time I got back to working with him, and we had some fun times together working on groundwork, riding around the property, and going out for an easy trail ride.

Jak is a little guy, and to make him seem even smaller, his saddle is tiny, too.  Not the most comfortable of rides for me, but it gets the job done.

We got back home on January 1st, so Jak was the last horse I rode in 2012.  It turned out to be a really good year of riding for me.  I set out to get 150 hours in the saddle, and  I got that sometime in November.  My total ended up being 162:55.  Not a lot for some people, but enough so that I can feel a pretty big difference from where I was at the year before.  Some of the highlights of 2012:

No falls.  I'm pretty excited about this one.
Going to our second Buck clinic.
Riding and training our 3 year old.
First time riding through a bucking horse (thanks Laredo).
First big trail rides from the barn.
Going to our first Martin Black clinic.
First trail ride we got to haul to.
First time stuck on a galloping horse (thanks again, Laredo).

And there were probably many more, but those are the things that come to mind.  I am hoping 2013 is equally as good.  Once again I've decided to push my hourly ride goal out.  I figure with some work at extending my rides and getting more days where I ride two horses I can hit 200 hours.  Either way, it will be fun trying to get there.