It was again my turn to ride Laredo, who we have also been referring to as the dirty one. Sure enough we arrived at the barn to see him conked out on his side near the windblock, nestled into a soft mixture of mud and manure.
He rolled up onto his belly when I got closer, but he was not interested in getting all the way up. I banged the lead rope against my chinks while I was marching towards him, and he just gave me a sleepy look. It was really funny. I kept getting closer thinking he’d pop right up, but he didn’t. He just pushed his head out towards me asking for some face pets. I even put the halter on him while he was in that position. Again, no worries, he just pushed his nose right into the halter. I gave him a few more pets and then stepped away. He got up with no complaints. We like making them come to us, but this seemed like a good change for today.
As we walked out of the pasture Bear came up to greet us. It was really nice. Bear is an unbelievably friendly horse, but when I’m getting a different mount, he never comes up to say hi. He always seems more pleased to keep eating. But today he just wanted to say hi.
Laredo was sleepy, but he was also rather sweet and attentive. He kept an eye on me through all the grooming, and he would occasionally push his forehead against my chest. He also did not mind when I wrapped my arms around his head and played with his ears. That is big progress.
We got a lot of rain in the morning, and the ground was sopping. So wet we would have even torn up the hearty strip. That meant another indoor ride, but it wasn’t bad. We opened up all the doors and had a good time. Laredo had good energy and was really soft through all our maneuvers.
|The usual relaxed Laredo, except that ear and open face show how ready he was to respond to me.|
While we were riding around I told Robin about a Martin Black article I read the other night. He had a lot of cool things to say about building up a young horse’s confidence and not asking harder to get them to rush faster when they’re already doing what you were asking them to. And then Robin asked the question we are so often asking, how do you get them to speed up in certain maneuvers?
And Martin had an answer. He likes to work them on cows and let them make the mistake. When they do, they have to work that much harder to get back in position.
We don’t have cows at our disposal, but Robin came up with a good version of playing cow that could encourage Laredo to speed up in his stops, backs, and turns. We made her and Steen the cow, and Laredo and I worked to keep them on the rail. When we sped up and passed their balance point, they would stop, turn around, and take off at the trot or lope. If Laredo and I could put in a good turn, then we’d get ahead of them real quickly and just stop and rest. If not, then we had to lope after them.
Most of the time we had to lope after them, but he was also catching on to the fact that if he hurried, we got to rest. In the beginning his hurrying came in the lope departs and the running after Steen, not in the turn around. But we just kept at it for a while. Laredo briefly entered his sulky, I don’t want to do it phase. But it was mild and we just pushed through it. Eventually we got some really nice turn around and were able to stop Steen and Robin almost immediately. That was fun. We’ll definitely repeat this version of playing cow later on.
The rest of the ride we worked on moving in and out of the lope and on whirly-gigs. I’ve struggled with those for so long, but after spending a lot of time working on moving the hind and front independently (on both Bear and Laredo), I started stringing them together a little better.
However, I still had timing issues. The other night when I was falling asleep I was trying to workout the feel of each foot fall when I would get the maneuver to work. I thought I felt the horse balanced and back on his haunches when he made a short step immediately after the big step under. If that makes sense.
Today I worked on feeling for that moment, and when I got it right, sure enough we were set up for some really nice, light front end movement. Timing and balance, that’s it. Now I just have to do it a hundred-thousand more times and it will feel more natural.