We woke up to snow and chilly temps, but headed for the barn right away in spite of the weather. We found the herd all tucked around the wind-block.
Steen came trucking up to me as soon as he saw us, which was just fine because although I intended to give him the day off I had a big old bowl of chopped hay for him. He’s losing weight lately, the way he always seems to do in the spring. He’s not too thin yet, but nevertheless it seems worth upping his calorie intake in any way I can.
Laredo was wet and covered in clinging ice and snow. Inside, I rubbed him down with a towel, then brushed him until he was dryish. I scrubbed all around his ears. He never pulled away. In fact, he was loving it. Definitely a good sign.
I worked him with the flag a bit before getting on. This was kind of funny. Laredo is not quite sure if the flag is a game or what. He likes to chase it and try to get it in his mouth. At one point I asked him to move and brought the flag in towards his hip and he lined up and threw out a kick with his hind leg. A minute later he tried to strike it with his front when I brought it in under chin. I both instances I just upped the pressure and moved him off. It’s so interesting to watch Laredo when he encounters new things, because his array of responses is so much more varied than our older horses. He’s still just such a kid about so many things.
I mounted expecting him to be rather fatigued from our long ride yesterday. I was surprised to find him lively. He walked out with good energy from the start, and when I asked for the trot and did some figure eights, while he could have been going faster he at least wasn’t dogging it, and he had good cadence. For the moment that is a huge accomplishment for him, so I rode quietly and enjoyed it.
I have been thinking a lot lately about cadence and rhythm, because I think they are the key to the all Laredo’s weak points, as well as the places I still get stuck with Steen. So today I was trying to think about how to encourage consistent movement. A little ways into the ride, I asked Laredo to back. He backed up softly for about two steps, got sticky, had to be encouraged to back more, then lightened up again for a couple more steps until I let him stop. I realized after we went through that sequence several times that this is a pattern for him. I also realized that in that little space between the first light steps and the last light steps, he’s getting away with leaning on the hackamore.
So I prepared myself with slightly shorter reins and asked him to back again. Once again we got: light step, release, light step, release, sticky step, fall into pressure. When I felt him come into my hands, I responded with several quick, sharp pulls on the hackamore. I was more firm than I often am, but the moment he lightened up and started moving back I went back to asking with the lightest pressure I could. We got a few more light steps, then he fell into the hackamore again. We repeated the process.
We ended up backing 1.5 times the length of the arena, but finally at the end he got the idea. He stopped falling into pressure and started preparing to take another step back every time I asked. When we got ten consecutive soft steps with no pressure on the reins, I stopped him and gave him a good long, break.
From there, the ride was amazing. He continued with a level of lightness I’ve never felt for a sustained period out of him before. We did get stuck backing a few more times, but it only took one bump to remind him why he didn’t want to lean. He continued to move out well too. We had some nice laps at the lope and some lovely sidepasses.
Midway through the ride, I picked up the flag. We worked on some whirligigs with the flag providing some impulsion. Those went pretty well, though my flag handling skillz definitely need some refinement.
At the end, we did a couple circuits of the routine. Laredo was great. The big shocker is he never seemed tired at all, even after an hour of fairly demanding riding. So I think really what we deal with him is disinterest and distraction more than lack of energy on a physical level. But we’re figuring it out.
We put them back out in the windblown snow. Maybe someday spring will come and stay.
Ride Time: 1:00
Horseback Hours YTD: 25:45