Today we headed to the second strip again, and my plan was to keep things quieter and less demanding. We rode through the hallway of terrors with Bear leading the way. Something about the large stack of hay bales got him a bit concerned and he scooted into a little half bolt, but Brian got him back in hand quickly. Steen barely reacted, which I found surprising.
We mapped the second strip using a satellite image and discovered it is 1/3 of a mile from end to end. We walked out to the end and back once, then trotted three lengths continuously to get in a solid mile. Both Steen and Bear were quite good through all of this and Steen wasn’t nearly as inclined to trot fast. We settled into a pretty easy pace and went back and forth and back.
Finally we stopped to let them rest. As usual, Steen stopped just fine but I knew by his ears and body-language that staying stopped wasn’t going to work just yet, so I walked him in circles. At first he was a jerk about this, trying to turn towards Bear all the time. I tried to stay relaxed and focused on using the bit as little as possible. It is easy when he’s being unresponsive to revert to using the reins as my sole means of communication which only encourages him not to listen to subtler cues, so I tried to ride well, engaging my seat and legs. After a few very sorry excuses for figure eights, I got him turning nicely to my leg cues. He was still distracted but he did relax and soften as we worked on circles. I also made him stop and flex a few times to see if his attitude about standing had changed, but it hadn’t.
We walked back to the near end of the second strip. Steen only picked up the trot a few times and each time I just turned him a circle away from the barn and then he’d be content to walk again. We reached the near end and I stopped Steen near where Bear was standing, and he then did stand quietly until I asked him to move again.
We trotted another consecutive mile, and the horses only got more responsive and relaxed as we went. At the end of the mile we stopped and dismounted and let them chill out for a few minutes. I’ve read this helps horses learn to relax when they are out and about. We also seized the opportunity to take some photos.
We remounted and decided to head back. Once safely home I worked Steen at the trot for a few more minutes. He was sour about it at first, wanting to be done, but again I concentrated on riding with my legs and seat and pretty soon I had him going nicely in a pretty little figure eight. So I hopped off.
I began to lead Steen back to the barn. He got a bit ahead of me so I shook the reins and told him to back. He did back, then sort of freaked out, hopping around and swiveling and snorting. I did a little groundwork with him and he calmed down, but wouldn’t go backwards. I couldn’t figure it out until Brian said, “I think he stepped on his tail.”
We took them inside and sure enough, as we walked a little chunk of tail hairs started to hang lower than the rest. I pulled them free. There are 19 full-length hairs. I braided them together and I think I’ll make them into a bracelet. And I’ll trim a few inches off Steen’s tail (again) tomorrow. Poor guy. That must have hurt a good deal.
Ride Time: 1:10
Horseback hours YTD: 59:25