The First 100

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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2014 is the 4th year I’ve kept track of how much time I spend riding. In retrospect, I rather wish I’d kept records when I was younger. I’ve been riding for about 22 years. It was just weekly lessons until I got my first horse in 1994. After that, I definitely rode a lot. What I don’t know is how much ‘a lot’ really was to me back then.

However, my unscientific memory notwithstanding, I believe I can safely say I’m riding more now than I ever have before. Maybe even a lot more. And, sheer hours aside, I am definitely getting more done with horses than I ever have in the past.

What’s interesting is how what feels normal can change. In 2011, my goal was to spend 100 hours horseback. That year I logged 109 hours. It was a stretch, and I was thrilled. This year, I’m already at 101. Here’s how those hours break down across horses:

We had a pretty interesting weekend at the barn. The farrier came on Saturday. The herd was out in the big pasture, so Brian and I decided to ride out and drive them in. The horses were hanging out in two groups when we got out there, so I worked on getting one moving while Brian went after the other. I had more success than he did, and got my group into the second pasture without too much difficulty. Then I went down to help him, and we got the rest of them up.

Steen did well with this. The horses were not all that keen to move, so getting them started was the hard part. I was swinging the end of my mecate in one hand and holding the reins in the other, and he stayed pretty with me when I needed to change my angle or sidle up to someone to encourage them to get moving or change direction suddenly to turn a horse back. He did end up a tad worked up by the end, but never to the point that he was leaving me mentally or couldn’t stand quietly with loose reins when I needed him to. I think his agitation was more due to the fact that the quality of my riding was suffering a bit because I had so many things to think about.

After getting the herd into the winter lot, we rode in the second pasture for a while. Steen settled down nicely, and we worked on some big trots and canters. Heading towards the barn at the canter, he felt like he wanted to go faster, so I worked on asking him for more speed there. This is something Joe Wolter talks about — making what the horse wants to do into your idea so that it becomes productive. Then, after quite a few big, fast laps, I asked Steen to stop where I’d usually been asking him to speed up. He complied off my seat alone. So that was cool. I am feeling lately like I’m finally really riding the canter well, and this is making my transitions a lot better.

All four of our geldings got their feet trimmed, and all four were fabulous for the farrier. We did a quick ride on Oliver and Aiden indoors, but we knew Oliver got kicked in the herd on Thursday, and might be sore in the right hind. Duke also cut away the last leftover sole flaps from Aiden’s abscess, and said he might be a bit tender back there for a day or two. So we kept that ride short. Duke also showed me how the abscess had basically consisted of Aiden’s entire sole. I asked him if it was likely he’d had it for a long time, and Duke said it was quite likely. So it’s possible that the locomotion stuff I’m still working through with Aiden is more a learned defensive behavior than a result of anything he’s feeling now.

On Sunday, we rode out in the trees for our first ride. I had the two-rein on Steen. Now that he’s pretty comfortable in the headgear, I need to work on me getting more comfortable. Riding in the trees was perfect, because there are all sorts of minor obstacles, but plenty of space. We kept the ride slow. I worked on finding a handhold that feels natural, and shortening the romal reins up a tad so the spade engages a little closer to the bosal. But mostly, I worked on steering off my seat and legs, as usual. I think it was a good ride for both of us. I noticed as we walked and trotted around that a surprising amount of tension was leaving my body. Pretty much all of this was just due to how much mental energy I was spending on doing the right thing with my left hand. No surprise, but the more I relaxed, the more everything came together.

After the first ride, we rode Aiden and Oliver in the outdoor arena. Except we switched. I rode Oliver and Brian rode Aiden. This was pretty fun, as I’ve only ridden Oliver twice since we got him. Bran’s gotten a lot done with him since my last time on him. It kind of felt like getting another new horse. He was still a little tight in the hind, so our ride was mellow, but boy does he move off the legs in a way he totally did not before.

Brian had a really good ride on Aiden, too, and they worked a lot on the trot. Between getting into better shape and the work Duke did on his foot on Saturday, I think Aiden is feeling good. He was looking pretty balanced going both ways, and it was neat to watch him and Brian working together.

Brian and I both had fun, and decided we’re going to swap our strings at this point. I’ll focus on Oliver and Steen for a few weeks while Brian sticks with Aiden and Laredo.

Horseback Hours YTD: 101:00

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6 years ago

Wow, Aiden is looking a lot better!

I'll admit I'm still kinda jealous of how much riding you guys do. I've logged over 150 hours of "horse time" this year, but probably only 30-40 of that is riding. (Someday I'll start tracking riding separately, but for now I think it would make me too depressed.)