The Birthday Rides (2013 edition)

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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Somehow it never occurred to me until my birthday last year that I could give myself the day off to celebrate. In theory, a perk of running your own business is you can occasionally decide to do things like this for purely self-indulgent reasons. Of course, I almost never do.

But today, I did.

I checked my email once in the morning, replied to one message while waiting for the day to warm up. Then I went to the barn.

Of course I had to take the obligatory selfie-with-Steen birthday photo. He was not so into the tradition this year. Look at that stinkeye.

First, I rode Steen. Steen has actually been somewhat low energy lately. I initially thought it was just because he’s getting more and more relaxed with his work, and really loves his new roo-hide bosal. But the last couple days it has seemed like more than that. When the vet was out to do teeth a couple weeks ago, he also took fecal samples, and today we learned that Steen has a pretty bad infestation of worms. Laredo has a decent one too.

Knowing Steen has that to deal with until the meds kick in, I wanted to cut him a little more slack today and try to just enjoy the ride at whatever energy level he felt like outputting. I tacked him up, and put my birthday gift from Brian on my saddle.

Can you see it? Hint: It’s red.

After a warm-up, we went out and did one loop around the big field. We did this almost entirely at the lope. Steen was happy to go, so we just stayed going. I’m not sure I have ever loped him quite that far in one go before. It was fun. His lope is getting so much more balanced and steady. We can actually lope downhill without feeling like we’re about to fall.  Then we did a lot more trotting and loping around, all just undemanding, fun stuff. It’s really nice to ride just for fun every now and then.

After riding Steen, my plan was to ride Laredo and head home. But then I got into a chat with the barn manager, and because it was my birthday and I had no real agenda, I ended up talking to her for a really long time. By the time I walked out to get Laredo, Brian was done with work. So he came out to the barn to keep me company on my second ride.

I rode Laredo in my spurs. I’m still struggling with ‘try’ issues with him, and although in general things have gotten a lot better, there are moments I need to make a bigger statement with him, and I just don’t have the size and strength to do it. My hardest kick falls into Laredo’s ‘medium’ zone, which means it just dulls him. This is a big obstacle with things like lateral movement — moments I don’t have a hand free to give him a little pop on the butt with my mecate to remind him to wake up and focus.

So I’m going to ride him with the spurs for a while. I hope this will accomplish two things. 1) Get him light and lively enough so that I don’t need spurs to motivate him. 2) Get myself accomplished enough communicating with spurs that I can wear them more often. I have ridden in spurs less than half a dozen times to date. I mainly don’t use them because I’m not good at using them. I only know of one way to get more proficient.

Laredo is fat right now, which means my feet are actually pretty high up on his sides. Which means the spurs are very much there, and any sloppiness in my foot or lower leg will lead to a bump.

We were both pretty aware of the spurs throughout the ride. Laredo was more energetic and motivated from the moment I climbed on. He was far more responsive to the spurs than the last time I rode in them, which is  a good sign, overall. At first he was a bit irritated by them, but I worked on using them to communicate in ways that weren’t uncomfortable for him, and he got happier about them. And they helped a lot a few times when he got stuck or his motor died in the middle of something.

Nice soft leg-yield at the walk.

It was a nice ride. At the end we had some good loping. He was really ‘on’ by then, and I was amazed at how much trajectory control I had just using my seat and balance. We loped along the rail for a while, then did a few small circles, then did a pretty steep turn and parked next to Brian and Bear, all without me using my hands or legs, just seat.

I will say one thing for Laredo. When he’s with you, he’s kind of amazing.

In other news, Bear has also really, really been dragging lately, to the point that Brian and I have been quite worried. We had some bloodwork done when the vet was out, and his results came back showing he’s anemic again, plus has elevation of his muscle and liver enzymes. The vet sounded optimistic though, and suggested we get him back on the supplement that we gave him last time he was anemic, and this time leave him on a maintenance dose for the foreseeable future. Fingers crossed this will be the ticket to getting him back into a happier place.

Ride Time: 0:55
Ride Time: 0:45
Horseback Hours YTD: 179:50

Woh! Hey, look at you reading this entire post!

That's a bit of an accomplishment in our attention-deficient age. Kinda makes me wonder if you like to read things that are even longer than blog posts? Like ... books?

If so, you're definitely our kind of person. Which means you might enjoy a horse-centic read? Click here to read a free sample of, A Man Who Rides: a novel about horsemanship and love.

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