If It Is Important, Do It Every Ride

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Today we were short on time.  Work was busy and we also had an early evening social engagement.  So I was the one to dash out to the barn in the late afternoon.  Robin was at the barn yesterday getting all their feet trimmed, and Steen’s shoulder burns were looking a lot worse.  I wanted to make sure I could check on him and also look at a cut he’s got near his right, front hoof.

He was excited to see me and came walking right up.  I slipped his halter on and then walked around the herd over to Bear and Mo.  Bear turned and ambled right up to me, too.  I led them both in with no problem.  I curried Steen down a little bit (it was evident he had been rolling a lot) and tended to his sore shoulders.  They appear to be drying and flaking off some, and he wasn’t bothered by me rubbing ointment into them.  Hopefully that is a good sign.

Then I quickly tacked up Bear (thankfully he was almost totally clean), put Steen in the side lot, and rode Bear in the outdoor arena.  I really didn’t have much time at this point, so I just went through what I thought was important.  Dan John, one of my favorite people trainers, is always saying “if it is important, do it everyday.”  And if it isn’t, well then don’t do it.

As we got going I tried to think of all the things I think are important.  We worked on softness, bending left and right, one-rein stops in each direction, backing, backing circles, turning on the hindend, trotting out and in circles, transitioning in and out of gaits, and loping.  The one thing I did not include but probably should have done for just a minute in the early part of the ride was the short serpentine.  I know we can still do more work on that one, but we do have it going pretty well most of the time and as a result I haven’t been in the habit of hitting it every ride.  I probably should do it every ride, at least for a little bit. We did do some gradual serpentines with no hands, though.

It is surprising how much you can run through in a short amount of time.  I did all of the above, with some nice quality, in less than 20 minutes.  It does not give you a lot of time to really work on any one issue, but as training is about accumulation, it was a productive ride.

When we started loping things were going mostly good, and we still had a few extra minutes, so I did actually spend a little time working specifically on the lope.  I was practicing keeping a solid seat and really directing him with my legs.  That was going pretty well, but at one point Bear was cutting across the middle and we were going to have a hard time keeping our circle going, so I picked up the reins, dropped to the trot, and took off loping in the other direction.  It was a perfect simple lead change.  I decided to keep going with these for a few minutes.  They went really well.  I had never worked on these in the hackamore, and hadn’t done them at all since the spring. 

They are physically and mentally demanding for both the horse and the rider, so Bear and I had a lot to concentrate on, and I think that allowed us to get into a nice groove with the exercise.  We weren’t always nailing the lead changes, but many times we could drop to the trot for just a second and he would already be shifting his body to pick up the next lead.  This worked best going from a left lead to a right lead, and I’m rather certain the problem with the other direction lies in my tight, right hip.  So I know where to keep working.

We briefly cooled down, untacked, and then I led both guys back out to the pasture.  This was probably the busiest and shortest trip to the barn I’ve ever had, and it was still surprisingly relaxing and productive.

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