Robin is still not well, so again I headed off to the barn alone. I had a good time hanging out with Steen yesterday, and I thought I’d grab him first so we could ride. He was happy to come to me and get ready for the ride.
It was still wet and cold and ridiculously windy, so we started off indoors. We did a small amount of groundwork, and then I climbed on. Steen went from being really relaxed to not quite so sure about this riding without Robin thing. He is by far our most sensitive horse, so I just wanted to take it slow and get us working together.
We started with walking circles. That way he could get used to my legs and I could get used to his responsiveness when the stakes were really low. We spent a while on this. Not because we had to, but because we were doing well. In both directions I could almost always have him on the trajectory I wanted. If he came off, it became a game to me to see how little I could do to bring him back. After a little while, we had a nice worn path in the arena. A more or less perfect circle.
I kept things quiet and we worked through figure-eights at the walk and trot, pivoting on all four feet, whirly-gigs (either my lean was getting better or Steen is unaffected by such things), rectangles, and backing circles. Steen was really good for all of it, and he was settling in some. Unfortunately the wind was crazy, and it was even blowing the sliding door open at times. Thankfully he never did more than look at it. He probably wasn’t as worried as I thought, it is just funny how different his movements are than Bear or Laredo’s.
Towards the end we started moving out more at the trot and did a little loping. I think he was actually the most relaxed the whole ride while we were loping. He had a nice, rolling gait, and thanks to all the circle work from the beginning of the ride, I could send him wherever I wanted just with my seat.
When I put Steen back out and grabbed Bear, the wind didn’t seem quite as bad and the day had warmed up, so I thought we’d ride on the strip. Part of it has been dug up, and there is still some big machinery parked on it, so we had to ride down lower.
Bear was moving out at a really nice walk, but then when I asked him to turn back up the strip he got a little humpy. No bucking or anything like that, but I could feel his back and haunches were completely tightened up and he was bouncing around ever so slightly. I decided to hop off and do a little more groundwork, but I couldn’t sense that anything was wrong. So I climbed back into the saddle.
For the rest of the ride he was jumpy and not the best listener. We spent a lot of time walking and trotting big ovals and figure-eights. I started to feel bad because I had to be a little hard on him to get him listening to me.
Thankfully we started to have some breakthroughs. While trotting figure-eights there were a couple spots he was diving in, and one in particular was really bad. I had to be especially careful to not yank on him and make sure that my seat was set up and telling him where to go. This was hard, because he wasn’t exactly smooth in his trot, and a few times I definitely had to give him some big pulls. But then we started going through the problem area and I could feel him listening. He didn’t get it, but he was trying, and over the next three passes they all got better.
We also had a good time moving out back towards the barn (I also used this energy in our favor to get some awesome whirly-gigs, hopefully Bear remembers how those felt in the future). He was giving me some really big trots, and he never jumped into the lope, which he kinda loves to do. I think all our work on that in the arena over winter must have paid off, because if there was ever a day he felt like he wanted to just run, that was today.
As much as I enjoyed the big, ground covering trot, I wanted to make sure he was listening. So I would periodically pick up on the hackamore, and he always softened up, collected, and dropped the pace a little. As soft as that was, he wasn’t too keen to turn back and go the other way. But I found if I had him soft and collected before asking for the gradual bend back the other way, things turned out just fine.
It was a hard ride on both of us, though, and I was really tired driving back into town. But Bear and I haven’t ridden outside much this year, and we haven’t done it alone, and we also haven’t done it in 30+ mile an hour winds when the herd was up the way running like mad. So all in all, we did pretty well.