We managed to get up quite early and head out to the barn before the heat today. It was a little sticky when we left, but thankfully a breeze picked up and helped dry the day out a little. We were also happy to have none of the last ride’s pasture shenanigans. Of course it helped that we were pulling Steen out with us. Bear isn’t so inclined to run after us and charge through gates.
It was my turn to ride Laredo again, and I was quite curious to see how things would go. My last ride on him was amazing, but then the next time Robin rode him and had a less than ideal experience. So I went in trying to be relaxed and patient with whatever I found.
We rode in the outdoor arena again. For some reason there has been a round pen living in the middle of the arena for the last many months. Definitely not ideal for riding. But now it is gone, so the arena feels more like a standard rectangle, and we were curious to try it out.
Laredo was a little antsy during our groundwork. He was extremely soft backing of the slobber strap, softer than I’ve ever felt, but on the line he was an interesting combination of sluggish and over-reactive. Though in many ways that is an apt description of Laredo. It does make me wonder how many other three year olds are like that, too.
When I climbed on he definitely had more energy and a not so settled feeling. He was walking out quite fast, but not in a controlled manner. His gait was really sloppy and all over the place. He was also inclined to root and chomp his mouth around the bit. While he has exhibited some rooting in the past, he really hasn’t seemed troubled by the bit in anyway.
So we worked on short serpentines for a while. He was moving fast and still not very balanced with his feet, but thankfully he was bending to the bit nicely. After a few minutes his expression started to change and we were getting with one another a little better.
We moved onto some circle work and things were better. I do find he is responding to my legs more each ride, but even in the circle he was inclined to root around and get upset by the bit. Our soft feels were almost non-existent. Robin and I commiserated for a few minutes as she was experiencing many of these same things the ride before. She suggested I check out the spot where the round pen used to be. It had left a very clear circle of grass and dirt that she was enjoying working Steen on. I really like the idea of not using a wall or boundary while we’re riding, but with the Laredo it really seemed nice for me to have a target for our circle.
I do think this change of location and focal point for me really helped both of us. After a while his rooting went away, and he was giving to the bit very nicely when we’d zig zag through the middle to change directions. We even started to get some soft leg yields when he was inclined to collapse the circle. I had trouble with these in our last ride. Our first attempts today were not pretty, but once I softened my ask and he started trying more we made great strides with them.
Initially, I didn’t think we would trot much as he was so all over the place, but as we started feeling each other more, I thought I should give it a go. In general, it felt better than our last ride. Just like that ride, we didn’t spend too much time in the gait, but when we were trotting he spent more time back on his haunches and less time getting stiff, nervous, and forward. Also, I thought our transitions were a little faster and smoother.
One of the things Robin really had trouble with on her ride was backing. In the beginning, this was awful for us, too. So awful I kind of stopped working on it. But then later when we were in our worn circle path and other things were going better, I started asking for more stops and having him teeter back a step. These were nowhere near instantaneous, but they were getting better each time. As slow as they were, it was fun to see him thinking through things.
I took a break near the end to snap a few shots of Robin. This was the first time I dug around in my pocket for the camera and photographed from Laredo’s back. He couldn’t have cared less. It did take a few patient moments waiting for a soft feel and some flexes to wake him back up, but thankfully he wasn’t upset when I asked him to cool down with a few more circles and some figure-eights. He was great with those, and he also continued to get better and better with our final stops and teeter backs. We ended the ride on a very good note.