I’m not sure who said this first, probably Ray or Tom, but I know I’ve read it from a lot of people, most recently Martin Black. We found some great write ups of some colt starting clinics he put on a few years ago (click on the forward arrows to get through these if you’re interested).
I had fun reading through them, and I took away a lot of things, but the big one is the reminder to constantly strive to do more with less. For some reason this is an easy thing for me to forget, despite having encountered it many times. So today I went out to the barn ready to get Laredo and be as soft as I could, but also as firm as I had to be.
I think it worked. Overall we had a fantastic ride. Laredo was happy to see me and extremely relaxed for grooming and tacking. He keeps getting more relaxed about this, and today we even had a barn worker hanging around his hind end untangling and rewinding up hoses. He was great.
Out on the strip he was energetic with the groundwork, but also attentive to me. He is not looking off for the herd as much as he used to. When I climbed on he just felt great. He’s getting so soft to the bit when we are just standing there or backing up. Sometimes I just want to do those two things for a while and call it a ride.
But then I get curious to see how he will respond to my legs. So we walk off and work on circles and figure-eights. This is where I really started working on doing more with less. I concentrated very hard on where my upper thighs and sit bones were in relation to the amount of turn I wanted. I also worked to keep my shoulders at the same angle and make sure that I was not pushing my weight forward and making it tough for Laredo to stay back on his haunches. This is stuff I think about a lot, but it is also easy to have your attention pulled elsewhere.
It is also a lot of stuff to think about, and at times it didn’t really feel like I was doing “less.” But as I was hardly using my hands at all, it probably felt like less to Laredo. At least I hope it did. Of course, it didn’t always work. At times we would be going straight for many steps while I made sure my body was clearly saying turn. Then I’d come in a little firm with the rein and Laredo would move on over. I thought I was doing this a little more than I should, and I ended up talking things over with Robin. But in that little break, Laredo seemed to get it. The next few times things got better. And after that, they just kept getting better.
We thought about playing cow again, but we didn’t want to tax Laredo in that way too much. He’s not quite ready to be pushed on his turns. Or rather, I’m not ready to get myself set up under pressure. That’s the real truth. He’d turn on a dime if someone like Martin was on him.
Anyways, we still wanted to challenge him and give him a job, so we decided to work on ‘the routine.’ We sat in the middle of the strip and reviewed our pattern, then backed them up a few steps and moved into the trot.
The first round wasn’t too bad. There were a few things that bugged me, but as Robin pointed out, it was our first run through of the day AND we’d never done it with Laredo. So things looked beter after that. But our second round was stellar. I couldn’t believe how good he felt. All the work we had done with the turns earlier in the ride really paid off.
We probably should have stopped there, as rounds three and four left something to be desired, but it was all good practice. And good fun, too.
Laredo and I ended up doing a little loping, too. The first time we did it, Robin and Steen happened to be off the strip getting some water out of the car. I didn’t think this was a big deal, but apparently it caused Laredo to take off like a bullet and really dig in. I’d only felt such power on Bear before. We quickly got to the top of the strip, and he was not slowing down like he normally does. I didn’t want to do anything traumatic to him, so I very lightly doubled him with the left rein, and then moved to a double with the right rein. I slowed him up a good deal and kept him back on his haunches. I still had to do a couple more light pulls before we bent into a nice circle at the trot. I think it was a good experience for us, and Laredo didn’t seem bothered in the slightest.
We had a few more sessions of loping, but they were quite uneventful compared to the first one. He is getting better at picking it up. The first day we loped I was trying to think about what lead I was asking for, but I had to move my legs around so much I completely lost track of that and just hoped he would pick it up. Today we came around a turn and stayed very balanced. When I asked for the lope my left leg was a little bit back since we were coming out of the left turn, and he picked up a perfect right lead. So it won’t be long before we’re doing more with the lope, too.
Today was really a great ride for us. Laredo had a ton of fun, and I really felt like I was able to ride well and support him. It is a pretty neat feeling. He was also pretty tired at the end.