The weather is slowly improving and so is our motivation. So this week we got out to the barn on two afternoons.
On Wednesday I rode Bear. He continues to come in feeling good and loose. The blanket has definitely been a smart choice with all the cold and damp weather we’ve had lately. I suppose next winter I will almost certainly be blanketing him for all of it.
Our ride was not only fun, but very productive. There are a few things I have been working on a lot with Bear that are just so so, and I want them to get a lot better. The first is lope/trot/lope transitions. I can always get a good stop out of Bear, and I can usually bring him out of the lope pretty well. But too often he will want to dive for the center of the arena or very quickly leap back into the lope. On this ride we spent a lot of time moving in and out of the lope and trot. Initially he was inclined to keep hopping back into the lope, but after a while he started to settle in nicely. A few times he started to pick up the lope, but I just kept on posting and he brought himself down to match my rhythm.
Since we were running around quite a bit it was nice to have a quiet exercise to work on so we could ‘rest.’ My other big sticking point with Bear is getting him to pivot on his hind end and step his forequarters over. So often he want to either rock forward or turn in a way that involves moving both the forequarters and the hindquarters.
From watching our Buck videos and getting some help from Robin, I developed a nice plan to block him but also encourage him to be in the correct frame. Ideally I could keep my hands out of his head completely, but since he really rocks forward a lot, I started putting just the littlest bit of energy into the hackamore to discourage the forward movement. If he doesn’t rock back off that, then I set him back three or four steps in a less than gentle manner.
This proved to be really effective. Bear had to think pretty hard, and at a couple points I could see him getting just the littlest bit frustrated. But then we started getting some great energetic steps over, and you could see he was pretty proud of himself for figuring it out.
Thursday was our anniversary. We’ve been married for four great years, and for the past three we have always been able to celebrate with an afternoon ride before going out for a nice dinner. We were lucky to have a really pretty afternoon. Sunny and even a little warm.
I rode Laredo, and I was really excited to have a good ride with him. Robin has again been getting some really great things out of him. But I have been struggling a little bit, and today turned out to be another struggle.
When I climbed on he was really good and responsive. He would move off my seat, and if he drifted off the wall or too close to the wall I could very gently get him back with just a subtle shift of my weight. Unfortunately, this didn’t last. He started losing interest really fast, and then when a young girl on a pony and her father came to join us, Laredo was very distracted.
At this point I struggled to keep him soft, get him to back up, and get him to listen to my seat. Again I got some good pointers from Robin on backing, so I decided to work on that more than the other stuff.
Laredo and I used to have such a good back up working for us, but lately it has been getting worse and worse. He will lighten up to the softest pressure, but often when I ask him to back he gets stuck and then just leans into the hackamore. Robin suggested I work a steady slack and pull rhythm to encourage some response and life from him. It totally worked. I had to practice my timing quite a bit, and to use the reins in that manner was a little awkward for me, so I had to spend some time figuring out how to set everything up.
It was nice to get some good responses out of him and get him paying attention to me again. We ended the ride by heading outside for short turn on the strip. The ground was still sopping wet in most places, but there was enough good footing to move around. Laredo was his usual relaxed and curious self outside, but I was also happy that he kept listening to me the whole time. I could back him up, move him over, and move in and out of the trot with no troubles. Like me, I think he was just happy to be out.