I shifted my work hours so we could get out to the barn today for an early morning ride. It was still hot, and quite humid, but it sure beat the 100+ degree temps that came later in the day.
The horses were grazing in the low section of the big pasture. When we approached they were all curious, as usual, but then Bear just decided to walk up the hill right to me. I always make him come to me, but it usually requires some pushing on my part. Not today. I guess he was just happy to see me.
The treed pasture was full of horses, and since I had to be at work later, we just decided to ride in the outdoor arena. We hadn’t done that in a while, so it actually felt good to get back in there. I hopped on Bear and proceeded to give him a good warm up. His back has been feeling very loose to the touch, so it seems the new pad and the extra time off is really helping him, but I still like to do my best to make sure he has time to ease into the rides.
Part of our warmup involved walking a bunch of circles and doing some gradual serpentines. When we were circling to the right, I noticed that I was hardly using my hands at all. Occasionally I’d collect him the littlest bit to move him out to the edge of the circle again, but that was it. And this was happening so infrequently I decided to try walking a nice circle without my hands at all. So I draped my mecate on the horn and held my hands up and out so I wouldn’t use them. Our circle stayed the same. It wasn’t perfect, but it was quite good.
I felt really good about this and decided to try it out with some gradual serpentines, too. We warmed up with me riding like normal. Like always I was paying more attention to my legs and seat, and things tarted off really well. So I folded my hands over my chest and walked a bunch of figure-eights. They were not quite as good as the circle, but it is a more difficult exercise. I’ve dabbled with the no hands gradual serpentine before, as Buck says it is a definite prerequisite for making a bridle horse, but this was the first time we really got it working for us. It is funny how so many rides can feel the same and then all of a sudden you push through to a new level.
I wish I could say the rest of the ride was like the beginning, but it wasn’t. The excellent control I had at the walk did not carry over into the faster gaits. The trot started out OK, but then he got a little rough and forward. We worked on lots of bending and did some big figure-eights with trotting over a large pole. Bear didn’t love this, but it did help him and I balance more.
We only loped a few times, and for most of those he was stiff and reluctant to turn nicely. I thought it was me again, but Robin said I really looked like my body was set up for a good turn. I think a lot of it is adjusting to the hackamore and learning to listen to the quiet cues of my body when we’re going faster. I’m hoping it just takes time, because that is kind of what we’ve got right now.
Thankfully I didn’t lose what I had from the beginning. We cooled down by doing some more gradual serpentines without me using my hands, and Bear was just as good at the end as he was at the beginning.