Thursday, March 21, 2013

Softness and Life

These strike me as two of the most important elements in horsemanship.  Over the past couple of years I have been working hard on coming to understand softness.  I know I can keep getting softer (probably a LOT softer), but Bear and I have come so far in this area.

What I often lack is the life.  And sometimes I will get frustrated trying to work on getting certain maneuvers faster.  I could never do it without sacrificing softness, and many times I couldn't do it period.  Bear would just get a little fed up with my impatience and refuse to move.

But these last few rides things have been turning around.  As I blogged about recently, I have been asking more of Bear on the ground and then working to carry that energy into our rides.  But I'm not doing it at the expense of softness.

Today we continued to work on moving the front end over and lope-trot transitions.  We were nailing both of them.  Previously, I could maybe get 20 percent of our front end movement steps to have any kind of quality, but today we started getting great stuff 80 percent of the time.  And what is interesting is that Bear was moving faster and putting more energy into the movement.

I have no doubt that energy helped him out, but I was not asking him to do it faster.  That energy was coming from somewhere else.  I can only think it was from the way I was moving in and out of the faster gaits, asking for more life in the back up, and then jumping him out of his tracks.  He was giving me a lot of effort to get moving forward.

I will have to work on my timing and position, as I was only able to get him to go right into the lope once, but many times he was oh so close to hitting it.  But I don't think the gait really mattered in the exercise.  It was about him listening and responding quickly.

Last night we were watching some more of the 7 Clinics Buck DVDs and I had a bit of an epiphany.  Buck is always talking about softness and life, but I do not see him combining the two in the same exercise.  I see him do it with his horse all the time, but not with the riders at the clinic.  Instead they are working on one at a time.  I think the reason is because when you start getting them to work well independently, then you can get them to start working together.  And that is what I felt in our ride today.  In the past I was always working on soft, but then I would try to add life on top of that.  Nowhere was I really working on life on its own. 

We also had some fun playing with our new flag.  I'll have to write more about that later, but I will say Bear was pretty good with it.  I was actually surprised at how responsive and attentive he was to it.  He always looks so young when he gets a little stirred up.

Oh, and one more thing to add for our own records.  The vet was there, so we got all their spring vacs done.  All three of them were quite good.

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