Sunday, April 7, 2013

Longer Rides

Today was perfect.  Sunny, in the 60s, and almost no wind. We got out there with a plan to enjoy all the horses.  So I started on Steen.

Last summer I was riding Steen once every two weeks or so, and we were often having a good time together.  But I had not ridden him since his fence accident.

He is definitely the most different of our other horses.  He has a lot of energy and is the most emotionally and physically sensitive.  He is also the only one who is built very even, or perhaps even slightly uphill.  So every time I climb on him I really have to adjust a lot.

We spent a while just walking around, stopping, backing, turning, and getting used to one another.  He was happy.  When we started trotting, though, he was a little less happy.  Not bad, but many of his sticking points started to come out.  He was dropping his shoulders in the turns back for home, and he would often bulge his front shoulder out towards his herd and/or away from the big tractors.  All signs that he might have been a little less comfortable with me than would be ideal.

So we worked on those things.  It is a lot easier to problem solve on a horse that isn't yours.  I don't have the emotional baggage (for lack of a better term) with Steen that I do with the other two.  So we just rode around trying to figure out how we could best keep Steen listening to me and back on his haunches.  With lots of bends and blocks, we got it figured out.  And after that, he settled in a lot more.

We didn't ride very hard, though.  We spent quite a bit of time watching Robin and Laredo.  I was lucky enough to be watching when Laredo had his attempted run away.  Robin shut him down pretty hard.  He threw in a few little bucks and kicks, but really, there was nothing he could do but go back to loping nice circles.  Steen and I just watched and worked on our backing.  He's got the softest most energetic back up I've ever felt.

We finished the ride with a little loping.  I'm not sure I've loped circles on Steen outside.  I know I have when we've played cow, but with another horse there it is a lot easier.  Especially since I'm pretty sure that other horse was Bear, and Steen has no problem loping away from Bear.  Anyways, today we had to work a little to get used to how I ask for the lope, but we got into it with no problems.  I think overall our circles at the lope were better than the trot.  Steen was really nicely balanced.

After that I gave Robin both horses and went to get Bear.  He was snoozing in the pasture pretty close to the strip, and when he saw me coming he actually nickered and started walking right up to me.  I know I've been having some great rides on him lately, but it was nice to see he was looking forward to going out, too.

We tacked up again and took the round about way to the salad bowl.  The guys were really relaxed and happy to be out.  They weren't even bothered by the guy in the huge tractor burning piles of tree stumps.

We walked and trotted on over to the salad bowl.  I wanted to just spend a bunch of time riding around there and seeing if we could use the big middle area to work on loping some nice sized circles.  Bear was warm and relaxed, so I figured it would work OK.

He moved into the lope real nicely.  Since we had so much space I just worked to keep him in a real gradual bend.  Occasionally we would drip up the hillsides a little bit, but that was really fun.  I'd never loped down hillsides like that before, and Bear was really smooth about it.

Going to the right was particularly nice.  He would open up a little when we were pointed towards the barn, but I started working on keeping him collected going that direction, and he always responded to light pressure on the hackamore.  Then I'd keep us moving out away from the barn.

To the left he was not quite as good.  I'm not sure if I was a little uncomfortable up there or if Bear was looking around more since Robin was loping her own circles at the same time.  So we just kept going for a while until we both settled in a little.  When I stopped, Bear was soaking wet.  He's still got a bit of winter coat on him.

We took a short break on the top of a hill and watched Steen and Robin.  It was fun to see them way below us.  The salad bowl is really big, and it will be fun to do this a lot more.

When we got back to the strip Bear and I worked a little on our back up into a lope depart.  The first few were pretty sloppy, but then he pulled one out so big it startled me.  I was laughing while I leaned way back in the saddle.  He came right down and we called it a ride.  I'm looking forward to working on those a little more.

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