Sunday, July 28, 2013

The One Where I Almost Get Bucked Off

There we were, loping up a beautiful grassy hill; Robin was on an energetic but attentive Steen, and I was riding a happy to be out but somewhat lethargic Laredo.  The temps were in the 60's and a strong wind was blowing out of the north.  It felt like late September.

And then Laredo threw his head down and started bucking.  I kept my butt in the seat and found myself hugging his neck trying to find an ideal moment to roll off into the long grass.  But that never came.  He got himself stopped, I sat up, and then we continued trotting up the hill like nothing happened.  Silly kid.

The only thing we can think is that his feet are sore.  Last week all four horses got their feet trimmed, and for the past many days all of them have exhibited some sign of tender footedness.  Laredo and Zoey have been affected the most (or perhaps they are the wimpiest?).  Anyways, Laredo was not spooked or bothered by anything that we could tell, but something got him started bucking.  I can't believe I stayed on, but I'm happy I did.

Me and my crazy mount.
The rest of the weekend was fabulous.  Both days we woke up to temps right around 50.  We took our time in the morning and got out to the barn when the sun was up and the breezes were cool.  We spent the better part of the day there both Saturday and Sunday. 

Saturday was when Laredo had his bucking moment.  Thankfully I followed that up with a really great ride on Bear.  We rode in the indoor so Zoey could enjoy the plush sand.  Bear was his normal relaxed self, but there was a little something extra there as well.  On our last ride I got on him a little bit for his lazy flexing and stepping under with his hind end.  I've been thinking long and hard about our rides and what is working and what isn't, and I feel like I need to just do all our normal things but really focus on energy and precision with the flexing and stepping under.  I worked hard to get his attention on those things on Thursday, and I don't think he was super happy.  But Saturday and Sunday he was light on his feet and happy to respond.  This also carried over into our backing, moving the front end over, softness to the hackamore, and upward and downward transitions.  On top of that, he was happy to be doing it.  Multiple times in the ride he'd stop for the longest lip licking sessions I've ever seen from him.

Today's double ride started with us taking Steen and Bear out and about.  We stuck to the grassy areas and walked, trotted, and loped around.  Everything was great with them.  We really wanted to keep riding, but Bear was showing some signs of sore feet, so we headed back after an hour and a half.

My second ride was on Zoey.  Robin had a less than ideal ride on her yesterday.  She seemed to be in heat and having foot issues and overall just not happy.  I had no idea what I was going to get today, but it turned out to be none of those things.

We rode inside again, and we ended up having what I believe was our best ride ever.  It is true she was still sore in her feet, so we only trotted a little and didn't work on the lope at all.  But I could take her feet anywhere I wanted.  She was responsive to my legs, happy to stand, back up, or go, and she was just listening and trying.  No antics, no squirrely responses.  She was simply happy to be with me.  And I was happy to be with her.

It has been almost three months since we got her, and I have been thinking our progress has not been that great.  But today made me realize we have made good strides in catching, saddling, groundwork, moving off the legs, softening to the bit, not moving for mounting or dismounting, and looking to her rider when she gets bothered by external stimulators.  That is a pretty good list.  I think the fact that our other mounts are doing so well makes us think Zoey is coming along slowly.  But those are extremely unfair comparisons.  We've got a vacation coming up soon, but shortly after we get back we will be putting her up for sale.  Should be exciting to see what happens.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Getting Out Alone

My introduction to horses started a little over five years ago with following Robin to the barn to watch her ride Steen.  From there I slowly learned a few things about grooming, tacking, groundwork, and later, riding.  My interest grew slowly for a few years, and eventually I ended up with my own horse.  My knowledge and confidence with horses has grown immensely in that time, but one thing that hasn't changed is I still go to the barn with Robin.  We have so much fun riding out together, and having the other one there allows us to catch things we would not see on our own and has accelerated the learning process for both of us.

From time to time I do manage to get out to the barn on my own.  Robin might be out of town or have a work deadline, but it is never consistent.  This summer I had some changes to my work schedule, so for quite a few mornings I got out to the barn early by myself.

It is definitely different going out by yourself.  And early in the morning things are so unbelievably quiet.  Only once did I see another person, and she was just finishing up barn chores and leaving when I arrived. 

In the early morning the horses tend to be clustered up and dozing.  Quite a few times I have come across some hard sleeping horses.  We go into that pasture so much they don't mind us at all. 

I rode Bear on all the mornings I got out there.  A few times he was stiff from sleeping, but he was always happy to come with me.

Our rides were fun and relaxed.  We'd work on whatever we needed to work on out on the strip (getting soft, bending, staying relaxed in the lope) and then head out to explore the fields.  This is very new for me.  Years ago I envisioned myself getting out on the trails, walking, trotting, and loping around all the fields.  Just me and my horse.  As a biker, skier, and runner this kind of riding made perfect sense to me.  But doing it was far harder than I thought.  It took years for me to fully understand how a horse moves and thinks and to develop the coordination to communicate with them in a manner that is both reassuring and firm.

I probably arrived at that place earlier than this summer, but as I mentioned, I was almost always riding with Robin.  So this summer when Bear and I started getting out on our own, it felt like the most natural thing to do.  We could move out down the trail with no problems.  We even encountered some new territory together, spooked a turkey, and nearly stepped in a big hole.  And none of these were problematic at all, just part of working through things with your horse.

I know for some, getting out alone with your horse is no big deal.  Perhaps it is something you've always done, or you are fearless, or whatever.  But for me these rides have been pretty big, and they've opened a few new doors in my relationship with Bear.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Photo Dump!

So having four horses has been interesting.  We're learning tons and getting a lot of ride time in.  The only thing that is suffering is my blogging.  When you are almost always having two rides each day, it makes it hard to come home and formulate your thoughts.  So here are some highlights.

Bear had an owie under his chin earlier this spring, so we spent six weeks riding in the snaffle bit.  It was a fun refresher, though I'm really happy to be back in the hackamore now.  I think he is, too.

We spend a lot of time working on getting Zoey comfortable with things.  This includes face pets.  Initially, she was not into these at all.  I had to hold the rope halter to keep her from getting away from my rubs.  Now she can't get enough.

Bear and Steen can't get enough of us, either.  They've been very excited to see us almost everyday.  Bear has even started nickering to me in the pasture.  And if he can see me riding another horse in the outdoor arena he'll throw in a nicker, too.  It's quite endearing.

We've been out exploring in the fields more than ever.  There are some new strips of grass we can get to.  One includes a loop through a hilly soybean field.  We've taken to doing laps there, loping up the steep hill, trotting across, walking to the bottom, and then trotting back to the big hill.  Needless to say, the guys are getting pretty relaxed about moving out in open spaces.

Sometimes Robin and I play fun mirroring games.

And other times we just sit on our horses and chat.

My mom came to visit and had some great rides on Steen.

And we even got her up on the kid.  Before she came to visit her riding instructor asked who she would ride, mom said, "I don't know.  I've ridden Bear and Steen a bunch, so probably one of them.  I know I won't be riding Laredo."  He he.

Bear seems to be completely over his anemia.  He's loose and energetic and really fit right now.  We're having some of our best rides ever.

Zoey has a tendency to get stuck in situations, so we really do a lot of bending.  She's getting better.

Robin's mom came out to visit, too.  We did a nice trail ride and Bear was great for her.  Unfortunately we only got this one picture, but she was nice enough to take a whole bunch of pictures while Robin and I rode around playing cow.


I think the biggest thing we've learned from Zoey so far has to do with groundwork.  We've always done it, and we know how important it is.  But Zoey has shown us that we have not pushed enough when we need to push.  So we spend a lot of time with her and the guys getting them troubled and bringing them back down.

This isn't the best illustration of that, but we've been spending a lot of time with the flag, the tarp (finally got that out there) and the rope.

Hopefully I can get into a little better blogging rhythm now.