Sunset Gallops

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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Lately I’ve been having this strange experience of feeling like I only have one horse. This isn’t true, of course. But we’ve worked out a deal with Brian’s student, K, and she’s riding Aiden three times a week, twice on her own, once in a lesson with Brian. This is great for her as she’s wanted to get more riding in but isn’t quite ready to go ahead and purchase her own horse. And really, Aiden is so solid and settled in by now, he doesn’t need the kind of training or conditioning we were focused on getting him when he first arrived. So while I’m still riding Aiden once a week or so just to make sure he stays in working order for K, he’s not a focus for me at this point.

Brian riding Laredo past the grazing Aiden.

There is Laredo, too, but I haven’t ridden him in months. With Bear gone and Nevada barely started, Laredo has become Brian’s defacto permanent mount for the time being. With the push to get Oliver and Aiden as polished as possible and one of them sold, Nevada has gotten a good chunk of time off. Our initial plan wasn’t to even get Brian a new youngster until right about this time of the year, anyway, because we knew he wouldn’t have time to focus on her until one of our other projects was off to a new home.

Little miss cutie pie. And my husband. He’s cute too.

Lately Brian has been bringing Nevada in again and getting back to the groundwork. He’ll probably start riding her more again soon. But it’s going to be a while before she’s a horse he can just get on and relax. As much as we like working with various project horses, we also both like to have one horse each that’s more in the ‘refinement’ stage of things. Laredo is definitely in that category now, so it’s good he and Brian are getting a long stretch of quality time together.

Still this means, after a summer of feeling like we always had a ton of horses to keep up with, I find myself back to mostly hanging out with my trusty Steen.

These two guys.

This is not at all a bad thing. One interesting result of getting to know so many other horses and really working with a variety of temperaments and education levels is I am more convinced now than ever that Steen and I are just a really good match. This is true on everything from sensitivity level to temperament to size. Oliver, for instance, was a bit wide for me. When I rode him, the knee issue that used to bother me a lot before I discovered Wade saddles (or, more specifically, pre-twisted stirrups) had a tendency to reappear. And as we’ve cycled through more horses, we’ve discovered that some horses just seem to do a little better with one or the other of us.

I do think any good horseman can get along with any horse, but some pairs just seem to click more quickly and easily than others. For me, it is awfully nice to always have a perfect match to come back to.

Some nice trots.

After a couple successful months in the two-rein, Steen and I are back in the hackamore for a while. I switched back for a few reasons. One is that the fall is always a bit hard on Steen. He always loses weight when the nights start to get a little cold, and this often coincides with him feeling a little lower energy under saddle. I supplement his diet and this year we’re having some blood-work done on his as well, just to be sure it’s nothing more than his typical seasonal swing.

While I’m like 90% sure he’s totally fine, there is no doubt riding in the two-rein is still a challenge for both me and Steen, and it feels like too much to ask of him when he’s not at the top of his game. I also felt like (as ever) I learned a lot from our period in the two-rein and it revealed some things I still need to polish up in a hackamore.

So we’re back in the hackamore for now, and we’ve been having some incredible rides. Brian and I recently watched another Richard Caldwell video in which he’s riding a horse that is just so unbelievably soft and balanced and fluid in all his movements. I’ve been working on a lot of his exercises with Steen, and we’re getting to new discoveries every ride.

Brian on Laredo, K on Aiden. Steen ears.

The last few weeks, Brian has been giving his lessons in the evenings. While he and K are doing their thing, me and Steen are left to our own devices. A couple of these evenings our barn owner has been out riding too, and she’s goaded me into some fantastic gallops. This past Tuesday, the beans were down. We went out and opened our horses up, running them on the diagonal of the biggest field on their land. It was the longest gallop I’ve had in years, and it was super fun. Then the barn owner and another girl that was out with us continued on. I turned Steen around and we had the most fantastic easy canter along the waterways back to the barn. The sun was setting and moon was rising. Steen was relaxed and willing and with me. It was the kind of moment that makes you feel like you’ve been given a gift.

Horseback Hours YTD: 194

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