Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Surprise

We spent the weekend in the Chicago area visiting my family and meeting our new niece.  We also got to spend a lot of quality time with our 2 year old nephew.  It was my first time playing Easter Bunny, too.

When we got back into town Sunday afternoon we were tired and hungry, but the sun was shining and I knew a ride would be good.  Robin was tired, too, but when I suggested we just ride Bear and Steen she was up for it.  We know we can always have a good ride on those goes.

So 15 minutes after getting to the house we were headed back out to the barn.  Robin had a rough time catching Steen a couple weeks ago, but he learned his lesson and now comes right to us with energy.  Bear on the other hand seems to be where Steen was earlier.  So I had to do quite a bit of chasing to get him to come to me.  I don't know if it is the new horses in the herd or just spring in the air, but I do know it is annoying.  Our 2 year old nephew doesn't know that word, and I'm not sure Bear does either.

But once we started the ride things were great.  We started inside and just had fun riding around the cones and moving the big soccer ball around.  I had never asked Bear to move the soccer ball before, but I figured it was another good thing to work on in our quest for getting Bear (and by default, me) comfortable with everything.

He wasn't too keen on it at first, and I got to work on quickly blocking with my legs and then softening up when he was trying.  After just a few kicks he got to the point where he didn't really care about it.  He didn't like doing it, but he also wasn't bothered by it.

Robin and I weren't working too hard.  We spent quite a bit of time talking to various other borders and just hanging out on the horses.  But then we'd go back and get to work.  We worked on a figure-eight exercise that involved us staying really even with each other and speeding up or slowing down when we crossed paths.  It was quite demanding, and Bear wasn't happy with it.  But after a few minutes, Bear started putting in some serious effort to get his walk going.

After that we decided to work on the routine.  It can be a lot more fun with Bear and Steen because they know the drill a lot better than Laredo does.  Of course, we went through it and it was about the worst running of the routine we'd ever done.  It was so bad we couldn't stop laughing at how awful it was.  Both guys were sluggish and tired, as were we.

So we decided to try the whole thing at the lope.  Really smart, I know, but it actually worked.  I had to think about it for a minute and figure out where I'd need to do simple lead changes, but it turned out there were only two. 

We backed them up and took off at the lope.  I think they were both shocked by what we were asking that they rose to the challenge.  At the end we were laughing because of how well everything went.  We only did it once, though, as we were not confident it could get much better that day.  But we'll definitely work on keeping it faster in the future.

At this point we decided to just go walk around outside.  The footing was much better than the week before, despite some weekend rain and manure spread over parts of the strip.  The guys were happy to be out, and Bear was responding nicely when I asked him to pick up the pace.

We ended up trotting down the second strip and just enjoying the sunshine.  It was one of the best trots I've ever had on Bear.  We were comfortably covering ground and he was really using his haunches as he picked his way around tractor divots and muddy patches.

It was so nice we decided to trot back.  Bear suggested we lope, and I told him no that isn't a good idea.  But then Robin said we should try for a nice little lope.  We got going and then Bear got kinked up or something.  He gave a couple big sideways leaps, and each time he landed he put on more speed.

Before I knew it we were galloping up the second strip.  Robin said, "I don't really have control right now."  And I told her I didn't either.  I knew I could stop him, but I couldn't stop him right then.

So we rode.  I gave a few short, sharp pulls that allowed me to scrub some speed off the run, but the real change didn't happen until we hit the drainage.  I knew he'd turn left for home, so I hit him with a well timed pull on the right side.  He pulled up, and Steen was on our right, which I didn't think about, and he almost ran into us.  The good news is that this really slowed everyone down, and we got them under control pretty easily.

After that, they were happy to just walk on home.  Silly guys.

Obviously a little unasked for gallop is never a good thing.  But I was happy with how calm I felt about everything and how it worked out in the end.  Just another good experience to have.

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