I rode Laredo in the hackamore again today. I swapped out my mecate, though. I rode him in the one I usually leave on my snaffle set-up. The rope just looks so good with Laredo, I can’t resist riding him with it. (Yes, I can be that superficial about tack. :))
We had another great ride today. We had to lead them in across a sheet of ice, and we let them romp in the indoor again. Bear has this hilarious habit of rolling and then leaping up from the roll into this huge kick, landing, and racing off for the other side of the arena. He and Laredo were both really tearing it up for a while.
Afterwards, Laredo stayed a bit more keyed up than is usual for him. During groundwork he was unusually sensitive to my body language, often responding with more energy than I expected. So I was being careful to be gentle with him and encourage his efforts. One cool moment was I had him backing away from me and then I switched directions and started jogging backwards. He instantly picked up the trot to stay with me. For our phlegmatic Laredo, that was something to see.
Then when I was checking his cinch before mounting he kept turning his head around to sniff my arm. Lately he’s had a tendency to push his nose into my space more than I would like. It’s one of those tricky things, particularly with young horses. If you address it incorrectly they think you are playing. My usual response is to just gently move his head back to where I would prefer it to be, but he did it three times in quick succession and finally I decided I needed to make a point. When he came back a fourth time, I punched him in the jaw.
Now, of course, I did not punch him hard. And even if I had punched him hard I am not strong enough to really hurt a horse with me bare hand. It was a light punch, but it really startled Laredo. He took a couple steps back and I petted his neck and went back to checking the cinch, which was fine. Then I stood with him and petted him for a while.
I got on and he was super attentive. I think this was the least distracted he’s ever been for me. He was also a little tense. I had my spurs on again, so we started off with a lot of slow movement and bending until he relaxed a little. He was very soft to the hackamore from the get-go, and moving off my legs nicely.
It only took a few minutes before he was feeling more like himself. We moved into some trotting, and after a few short trots I felt like he was eager to give me a lope. I asked for one and he moved right into it. All day, in fact, he was quite willing to pick up the lope and stay in it, so that is excellent progress.
He was considerably more reactive to the spurs than the last time I used them. My theory is it’s because he doesn’t have the bit to think about. He’s also gained a little girth, and it’s pretty darn easy for me to engage them. Once when we were loping he slammed on the brakes unexpectedly and I was unprepared. My heels came up just a tad and the spurs brushed his belly. He launched back into the lope and ran around at full speed for a few laps. It still surprises me how this horse can move when he feels like it, but I was glad for the opportunity to let him discover that unplanned all-out sprints don’t get him anywhere except tired.
We spent the ride alternating between faster work and more precise movements of the feet. It’s nice to have the spur when asking his front end to move over because I can touch him in the precise place I want him to yield. He’s getting quite good at taking multiple consecutive steps with the front and the hind separately.
Towards the end of the ride we worked on transitions with Brian and Bear. I rapidly racked up a dozen of the best walk/trot trot/walk transitions I’ve ever had on Laredo. Then we switched things up to throw a little loping in as well, and I was able to get him into the canter and back out of it when I wanted within a couple strides of asking, which is the most precision we’ve ever asked him for at higher speeds.
I can tell some of his willingness to go is that he’s getting back in better shape again. He’s filled out a lot in the shoulder and the haunch recently. He’ll be four in just a few months, so it’s neat to see him reaching new levels of maturity.
After the ride, we put them back out in the ice rink. Hopefully we’ll either get more snow or spring in earnest soon. These in between phases are not great for the horses… although frozen is better than muddy I suppose.
Ride Time: 0:50
Horseback hours YTD: 8:30