Robin has been hit by some ragweed allergies, so when I suggested a trip to the barn today, she wasn’t up for it. Thankfully she was fully supportive of me going. She’s the best.
On the way out I decided Laredo needed the ride. He got two days off and Bear only got one day off, so I grabbed Laredo’s halter and marched out to grab him. He was about as far away as he can be, and when he saw me he took as many frantic bites of grass as he could and then ran away from me. I was pretty surprised at that. It took me a moment to figure out how to react, but once I started marching after him I prepared myself to play the game all day long if I needed to. But he just went for about 20 yards before he stopped, swiveled towards me, and marched right up. Good boy.
This was the first time either of us had ridden Laredo on our own. He’s been a little distracted on our rides lately, and I had no idea what to expect from him. The strip was recently mowed, so I rode in the outdoor arena.
We started with some slightly more intense groundwork than usual. When we work through things in the circle he has a very strong tendency to look up and away from me. I used three tactics to get him back to paying attention depending on the seriousness of the infraction: a light bump from the mecate, a stop and roll over in the other direction, and a slap on the butt to move him out. After a minute of these tactics he became very alive and agitated, which is good I suppose. He was definitely inclined to pay more attention to me. Still, I made sure to give him some breaks and keep him calm as I was by myself and I also don’t want to be overly threatening. But just like usual, he would come right back down in a second. He’s so different than the other two.
The ride itself was genuinely great. We had some things that were not going so well, like whirly-gigs and consistently staying on the haunches. I completely abandoned working on whirly-gigs and even trying to move his front end over. I simply couldn’t get it to happen today.
We did focus a lot on using his haunches and staying relaxed in the trot. We had two long sessions of trotting, longer than we’ve ever done with Laredo before. We would trot in a big oval, and when he got either really forward or overly distracted by the horses in the pasture near us, we would turn in a moderately tight circle.
In the beginning we did a lot of circles, and many of those were sloppy. After a few minutes, though, we were doing less circles and much softer, higher quality circles. I’m not sure if Laredo was having fun with this as I could sense some tireds coming in, but I was really having fun. I was happy Robin gave me this exercise, as it worked quite well.
We cooled down by walking around and working on some mostly rein-less figure-eights. I think the trotting and tight circles really helped him listen to my legs. I also spent quite a few minutes asking for the soft feel at the walk. We’ve been doing this on most rides, but I haven’t been very systematic about it until today. In the beginning he was inclined to put his head down and really lean on the bit. I brought my legs in with a little action and kept him moving forward. That solved the problem. He never moved right into collection, but it got him out of leaning, and he’d usually collect a couple steps later. He got softer as we worked at it. Our ride was only 45 minutes, but I think it was demanding on him, and changing things up might have sent him into his old defensive mode of sticking his head down.
After a really nice soft feel, I asked him for a stop and got some huge, energetic, and soft steps backwards. I immediately hopped off and gave him lots of pets. It was a great day to be at the barn hanging out with him. I think it was relaxing and productive for both of us.