End of a Long Week

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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We’ve barely had Zoey a week.  It is kind of hard to imagine, as it seems like we’ve gotten to know her pretty well through the vet work and groundwork and riding.  It does help that she is a fairly easy horse to work with.  She has her anxieties and issues, but she is not dangerous and she is not overly reactive.

Still, it has been a tiring week.  We’ve changed our routine a bit and we’ve had to get out there a little extra to check on sick Bear and give Zoey her meds.  But when I got home from work yesterday afternoon, I knew I still wanted to go to the barn.

I decided to start with Laredo and just tool around on him while Robin worked with Zoey in the indoor.  It was a hot afternoon.  I thought the indoor would be relatively comfortable, but it wasn’t getting any of the nice breeze.

Robin did some very thorough groundwork and had a nice ride, so I ended up riding Laredo longer than I anticipated, but we didn’t ride hard.  Most of our ride was spent working on small things.  We’ve been walking rectangles a lot more, which involves side passing.  His side passes are quite good, but I do think it has had a negative effect on moving his hind end with legs but no hands.  Today I wanted to him to really feel and think about the subtle difference in my body between moving his hind end, side passing, moving the front end, and backing circles.  So we did all those over and over again in various order.

He was really good with all of it.  His energy levels were up almost the whole time despite the heat, and I really felt like I had tremendous control of his feet by the end of the ride.  This was good, because it was a rather busy afternoon.  Robin was working with Zoey, there was a lesson on a longe line, and another person was warming up getting ready for their lesson. But I never had to worry about Laredo as I knew I could take him anywhere I wanted at anytime.

After that we switched things up for ride two.  I put Zoey back and tacked up Steen.  Robin would keep going on Laredo.  We went out to the strip and it was a really nice evening.  Steen was extremely relaxed with me.  He often is.  Until I get on.  Then we have to get used to one another again.

But not today.  I climbed on and he was thrilled to work with me.  We still had a to adjust to fit each other a little bit, but he didn’t get bothered by it.  At all.  He just kept going where my body was telling him.  If it didn’t feel right to me, I’d play around with my position or block him slightly with the hackamore and he would just keep hunting for the right place to be.

Steen is so unbelievably light, and it makes it fun to kind of play with that lightness.  Robin was having fun watching me just collect him.

But then I could hold that and move his feet around forward, backward, left, and right and he never pushed against my hands.

We also spent a few minutes loping some nice circles.  I had one spot in each direction where I got stuck.  I think I was missing a cue with my hip or dropping my shoulder.  But with how it happened, I know it was something I was doing.  Again, Steen was not bothered by this even though we got pretty close to the fence and went into the planted field once.  Oops. I didn’t drill on it, I figured we’d come back to it again at some point.

So this was by far my best ride on Steen.  Not sure how it happened, but he is just feeling extremely different.  I think every couple of months we notice an improvement in our horses, but this new feeling in Steen is the most dramatic change we’ve ever felt.


The New Norm?

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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I checked Bear’s temp first thing and it was below 100.  Very nice, considering he was just dozing in the sun on another warm afternoon.

And then I proceeded to catch Zoey.  She is not a fan of me, or possibly not a big fan of men.  It can be hard to tell as Robin is a little softer and smoother with most things horse related.  So she got pretty agitated early on in the catching process and took off out of the middle pasture with some of her new boyfriends.

Up in the dry lot we played the game for a little while.  It mostly consisted of Zoey running around the wind block and periodically failing to get other horses to run interference  for her.  At the same time, I was pretty much running around the wind block the whole time wishing I had some more appropriate footwear on.

Finally she started stopping and looking at me.  I’d immediately drop the pressure, and she’d line up to look at me.  Normally if she didn’t start to come, I’d up the pressure again.  But since we don’t want to aggravate her injury at all, we’d like to keep the running to a minimum.  Of course, it was always up to her.

So I’d sidle up to her slowly and see if she was ready to hang out with me.  The first few times the answer was decidedly no.

And then I’d move her off when she turned away and we’d go back to running around the wind block.  Finally we hit a spot where we were both tired and happy to hang out near one another.  Laredo walked up and I was a little worried he would mess things up, but in the end I think he helped.  He’s so happy and comfortable around us.  That meant I was able to go back and forth between petting both horses and Zoey didn’t end up minding the halter at all. In the end it took 9 minutes to catch her.  Same as Robin yesterday, but my 9 minutes involved a whole lot more running on my part.  And it felt like 20 minutes; I thought for sure we were backsliding.

She was still pretty unsure of me while we were grooming, but as we worked together she warmed up.  We saddle up in the arena again as she tends to shy away from the pad and saddle.  I did some work with the flag first, and I think that helped a lot.  She was inclined to shift away from it whenever it touched her, but we kept at it and she started to accept it.  So when we moved to the pad and saddle I think she took it better than she did on Sunday.

Under saddle she is soooo different than our other guys.  Little, compact, and her movements are oddly big.  She’s got a ton of leg action.  We didn’t ride for very long, as we don’t want to cause any problems to her stitches.  But we worked through some flexing, bending, teardrop turns, serpentines, and circles at the walk and trot.  She does like to reach for that bit, and during some of the trots it felt like my feet were going to skim the sand because her front end was so low.  But we kept things together, and just like with our grooming she continued to relax throughout the ride.

Then it was back out to the pasture to grab Laredo for a second ride.  Like usual, he was happy to see me and hangout.  I did quick tack up and we headed out to the strip.  My goal today was to stay as soft as possible.  This is often my goal, but after yesterday’s harsh moments, I thought it was particularly important to move things back towards softness.  I still knew I might have to back up the soft ask with a serious ask, but I kept that in the back of my mind.

From the beginning he was lively and really listening.  He was soft and quick moving back and over and jumping into the trot.

We spent some time moving out at some big trots on the strip. Never once did he feel forward or like he wanted to run away with me or even change the pace.  He was just moving with me.  It felt great.

We really didn’t ride too long.  Sometimes when things are going well, it is just easy to enjoy them and not push it.  I really don’t think it would have been a problem if we did more.  He was just happy to work today.  I’m so curious to see how our more exact riding technique affects Laredo.  It is funny how different he is from our other guys.  But that’s why we wanted yet another horse, so we could ride twice a day with a lot more regularity.


Effort

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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Robin had a great ride on Laredo Sunday.  After her energetic and surprisingly good ride on Zoey, she found Laredo decidedly lacking in the try department.  She had already decided to try him in the snaffle again, and she was happy she did.  It allowed her to correct and encourage him in a way that got him with her more than he has been lately.

I started our ride today with the same strategies.  It has been easy for us to slip into a form of complacency and just let him get a way with things.  He isn’t getting away with any outrageous behaviors, but he’s just going through the motions and not really trying.  Ever.

So we’ve decided when we ask for things we will set them up softly, then add a teeny bit more energy, and finally if he has not responded, we will turn the volume way up.  As Martin Black said many times at the clinic we visited, if you have to try a fourth time, it is only because you miscalculated on the third.  But really, that fourth ask shouldn’t have to happen.

Early in the ride we had a few rough moments, but it did get Laredo paying attention to me.  He was a little sullen about it, but he was watchful.  I tried to be careful to not push too hard, as that is never good for any horse.  So I mixed in exercises where I wanted specific outcomes (circles, moving the front end, transitions) with things that were a lot more relaxed and easy (moving out at the walk and trot and just hanging out sometimes and getting a soft feel).

After about twenty minutes I was noticing a lot more energy and effort in him than I’ve ever felt before.  We decided to have a little game of cow, and I was definitely able to use this to my advantage.  We were stopping and turning really well. Steen was of course beating us, but if we were chasing him, Laredo was moving after him with a purpose.

When we were the cow, we got to move into the lope quite a few times.  He was having fun with it.  My control with loping Laredo in circles is not the best.  So we had moments where we’d drift into the newly planted fields or come close to cutting off Steen and running into him.  But these were all good experiences.

We have learned so much from Laredo in the past year.  And the more I see other horses, the more I think he was a rather difficult horse to take on as our first 3 year old.  But after changes like these, we can see glimmers of the truly great horse he could become.

Alert, and energetically backing up (which is a little hard to capture in a head on shot)

We also spent a lot of time checking on our sick and injured horses.  Zoey’s back side is staying closed.  It is still swollen, but not looking bad.  I checked Bear’s temp right when we arrived.  I was disappointed to find it was 102, just the hint of a fever.  But it was also the first 90+ degree day we’ve had.  And at 3 PM, it was definitely HOT out there.  After our ride I brought him in to cool down inside and gave him some cold water.  When I checked the temp again it was 100.8.  Definitely a good sign.


Long Weekend

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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Robin has some better summaries here and here.  I don’t really feel up to writing about all of it.  We are pretty excited to have our new horse, but that first day was really packed.  I was excited Robin had a great ride on her.

Unfortunately, Bear was not doing so great for our ride.  We mostly just tooled around in the indoor.  I had put the snaffle back on because he had a cut under his chin and the knot in the hackamore would aggravate it.  In some ways it was fun to feel the differences of everything in the snaffle v. hackamore.  But it other ways the ride was no fun as Bear was just not himself.

He’s actually not been himself, to varying degrees, for a few weeks know.  The biggest indicator of how off he was came when we saw our new horse push him against the fence and kick him multiple times.  Bear is really great in a herd.  He used to be a stallion.  He knows how to move horses and he knows when he should turn and walk away.  But yesterday he was just stuck there as she kicked him over and over again.  He stumbled away, and it was clear he was in a lot of pain.  I felt so bad for him, and there was nothing I could really do.

We did check on him and make sure the wounds were not too bad.  He was bobbing his head and just spacey.  He wouldn’t eat, and he was not really worried if other horses would take his food or not.  Our new mare was one of the interested parties, and when I shooed her off, I saw a really big gash in her right hind.

So we had the vet in.  It was a while stitching up the new girl, and we had Bear up, too.  He just hung out while he waited his turn.  When the vet started checking on him he wasn’t too concerned.  But then we found out his temperature was 105.  Dangerously high.  So we pumped him full of antibiotics and probiotics and took a blood sample.  But that was all we could do at the time.

This morning I got up early and drove out to the barn to check on him.  It was a cold night, and I found him in the middle of the second pasture, just hanging out.  This worried me initially, but as I walked up I saw him grab a few bites of grass.

He was happy to see me, and I brought him in to give him another dose of probiotics and some of his vitamins.  His appetite was much better.  And I was happy to find his temp was between 100 and 101.  When I put him back he was even moving horses again.  So I felt a lot better.

It is scary to think what might have happened if we didn’t get the vet out yesterday.  Maybe he would have been fine.  But maybe things would have gotten really bad.  At the very least we’re going to start keeping regular tabs on our guys’ temperatures.  It’s not like you can feel their foreheads or they can tell you they don’t feel well. 

Robin was out again in the evening and Bear continues to act more like himself and his temp is hovering around 100 and 101.  Hopefully that means he’s on the road to recovery.


Is Four Too Many?

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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We just hit our one year anniversary with Laredo and being a three horse family, and now we are considering a fourth.  Truth be told, we’ve been talking about it for some time.  There are days at the barn where we just want to put our guys back and grab another one.  This doesn’t work well with three as someone always gets a lot longer ride time.  With Bear and Steen both getting older, it doesn’t seem fair to ride them into the ground.

And so began our search for a possible fourth. We were looking for a middle aged (5 to 9 years?) stock horse that knew some things but needed a lot of miles.  Ideally we would be able to keep this horse for a few months and then sell it in the late summer or early fall.

Many would call this a flip, and I guess that is what it ultimately would be.  But that’s not really our goal.  We want another horse that can teach us some new things, and hopefully in that time we can leave the horse in a better place than we found them.  We’re not out to make any money on this deal, just learn things (and, um, hopefully not lose any money).  We could also see ourselves doing this kind of thing more in the future.  Not being pro trainers or anything, just people with some good experience who can maybe help out some other riders and horses.

So we started looking for this ideal horse.  There weren’t many for sale in our area that seemed right in terms of what we wanted and what we were willing to pay.  So we put an ad on Craig’s List and wow did we get some responses.  Turns out there are a lot of horses out there in need of a good hand.  Many people don’t feel like they can keep their horse, but they also don’t feel like they can sell them in their current state.

We spent many days this week looking at five different horses.  All fit into our basic criteria, but as with all things horse related, there were quite a few surprises.  Two of the five could not even be saddled without throwing some bucking fits.  And while we were curious to see what it would be like to work through these issues, we really don’t want to be problem horse solvers.  And we don’t want to get into dangerous situations if we can help it.

Some of the horses were hard and heavy, some slow, and some were sensitive.  It was actually really hard to decide on what to do.  We almost considered extending our search, but honestly, horse shopping is exhausting.  And it was already taking time from our other guys.  That is not something we want.  This should add and supplement our current routine, not alter it in a negative way.

In the end, we went with the last horse we visited.  I suppose that is often the case.  She is a short little AQHA bay roan.  Seven years old.  She was started as five year old and then hung out for a while.  Over the last few months she has been in a lot of work with a trainer who focuses on eventing.  She’s soft to the bit, but also overly reliant on it.  She is a little bit nervous and shy on the ground, but she also knows her job when it comes to riding.  She can get forward in her gaits, but she doesn’t want to run away with you or take charge.  We think she has  the potential to be exactly what we’re looking for. And we know no matter what, we’re gonna learn a lot in this experiment.

She gets delivered this afternoon.  And then all we have to do is name her (right now they call her Shorty, ugh, how demeaning) and ride.


One Year Later

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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We’ve now had Laredo for exactly one year. At times it has been rough, but it has also been extremely educational.

In that time we’ve gotten over the ear issue, had a few bucks and runaways, taught him how to lope some circles, and become close enough that he will sometimes run to us in the pastures.  He has helped me become more patient (still got a ways to go on that one), understand serpentines better, feel what it really means for your horse to lean on your hands, and highlighted exactly how much my seat and legs can get in a horse’s way.

Today we overall had a great ride.  And all the things we did, we could not have done a year ago.  It wasn’t a particularly special or fantastic ride, just a good ride to keep us moving on with our training.

We focused on moving out at the trot and then slowing down and relaxing in the trot.  Laredo is getting more sensitive to how our seat dictates speed.  He will sometimes get that feeling like he wants to run somewhere real fast, but lately he has just been coming right back to us before that happens.  A couple weeks ago I had to bend him pretty hard if he felt like he was going to take off, now I can just sit a little differently, or pick up a soft feel, or if really necessary, pick up one rein and ask for a slight bend.

It was in some of those gradual bends going up and down the strip that I noticed a problem in my seat.  Overall we were getting some great turns at the trot today, but occasionally going to the right I would get Laredo into this frame where it felt like he was yielding his head, neck, and hindquarters very softly, but his shoulder was just bulging through.  It made no sense considering how well he was listening.  So I really concentrated on what I was doing, and sure enough, my outside leg was coming off him a little bit in that turn.  So he was finding a small space, that I was unknowingly opening, and trying to stay in it.  That’s extremely good stuff.  And when I was able to close that door slightly, he stopped doing that.  No big deal.  Another moment of it always being the rider.

 

We spent a few minutes working on our lope, too.  He was happy to move into it and gave me a real smooth and relaxed lope.  There were a few spots in our turns where he’d get stuck and come out of it.  It’s possible these are somewhat related to the above problem, but at this time I was aware of that and I was going into the turns as set up as I possibly knew how to be.  After many circles we were able to hold the even pace all the way through, both directions.  But even when we got stuck in the turns, I could just pick up the inside rein and he’d follow that feel right out of the turn.  He’s always been soft laterally, but since we started working hard to get him to stop leaning on us (as slight as it was sometimes) we’ve seen some drastic improvement.

It was a hot day, so we didn’t ride too long.  They were tired and sweaty by the end, and he was totally loving the neck rubs.

 

It took a little while to really get comfortable with him, but now it is even kind of hard to remember those first rides.


Out and About

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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I thought we’d be getting out there on the trails more regularly this spring, but we really haven’t.  Even today it almost didn’t work out.  We didn’t want to ride inside again, and we figured the surrounding areas would be too wet for our normal working rides, so we planned on an easy trail ride.  But it was sopping.  Muddy B roads and standing water in some of the drainages we like to walk through.

But we still did it.  And it wasn’t too bad.  Bear didn’t love the B road on the way out, but thankfully it was nice and sunny out and the road was already in better shape when we came back.

We spent most of the ride walking, though we did trot through some fields that were new to me.  Robin had been on them before.  They are nice rolling hills with multiple grassy lanes looping through them.

They’ll be a great place to spend more time moving out.  I was still trying to keep it easy on Bear today.  He was moving pretty good, but when we would stop I think his back was a little fatigued.

We also did some exploring around a pond and a section of woods that leads to our vet’s eventing course.  The guys were great poking around all the stuff.  Steen was the funniest.  He was as curious as Laredo is.  Usually he’s pretty skeptical, but today he was just relaxed and trying to go check things out.

The whole ride was fun and relaxing. A perfect Sunday, really.


Taking it Easy

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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We had another big, cold rain storm come through.  Robin was nice enough to run out to the barn Thursday night to blanket the guys and let me get a workout in.  Things were still wet on Friday, and we didn’t have much end of the week motivation.

But today we got up in the morning and went out to the barn early. It was still cold and wet, but we were happy to be out there.

I decided to ride Bear again just to keep checking him out.  We rode inside, and I had no intentions of working on anything fast.  Our arena has some kind of mixture in the sand that soaks up moisture and keeps the dust down.  We had a new treatment not that long ago, but with the new storm, the sand was holding a lot of water.  So Bear and I spent a long time warming up by just walking through the puddles and mixing them into the sand.  It was kind of fun, actually.

From there we did a lot of bending.  Like the other days, he was much stiffer going left than right.  Often he would move his feet when I asked him to flex to the left, and other times he wouldn’t move his feet at all when that is what I wanted.  We worked on both of those things a ton, and they did get better.  But even still, at the end of the ride the left side was lagging behind the right side.

I didn’t want to aggravate him too much with me making the decisions of where his head should go, so we started walking some circles and just trying to get a nice, even bend.  This was going so well I put the reins down.  From there I decided to make each circle smaller than the previous one and just really take my time encouraging Bear into tighter and tighter bends.  All without reins.

I was surprised with how small of a circle we could get in each direction.  He was bending nicely and reaching evenly with all four feet.  It was some of the best no hands riding we’ve ever done.  I never picked up on the reins once, and he was very soft to me encouraging more bend or keeping him from collapsing too soon.  I think he enjoyed it as much as I did.

By this time we had been riding for a while, and I was running out of slow things to work on.  Robin was having a good ride on Laredo, and she suggested we just switch.  We hopped off, pulled our saddles and jumped on the other horse.  It took about 90 seconds, and I don’t know why we don’t do this more often.

I had fun watching Robin and Bear.  They don’t ride together very much, and it is rare I get to see the expressions on Bear’s face while he’s working.  They both looked rather cute.

Laredo was good, and had nice energy, but he was also touchier than I’ve ever felt him.  He was moving out a lot, but he was going back and forth between being too responsive off my leg or dull to my leg.  I can only think he was so attuned to Robin that my riding style and leg placement was jarring to him.

Over the next half hour we were able to work through it.  We got some nice trotting and loping in, and we also worked on the same circle exercise, but I needed my hands with Laredo.

By the end I think he was enjoying working with me.  Over the past year it has been funny working with him.  We often try so hard to keep him interested in what we’re doing.  All of a sudden he is just a whole lot more into it.  I’m not sure if it is a maturity thing, and improvement in our riding, or what, but I do like it.  And I hope the trend continues.


Checking Things Out

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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Today would be my day to ride Laredo, but most of the day I kept thinking I owed Bear a soft, easy ride to see if we could find what was bothering him.  Robin suggested I just do both.  So I did.  I groomed them both up, tacked Bear and put Laredo in the big side pen near the arena.  He was quite curious to just check out the new space.

I hopped on Bear and he was OK.  He was happy to see me when I pulled him out of the pasture, and he seemed to be walking out nice.  He was still stiff, particularly going to the left.  We worked on that for a little while and then checked out the trot.  Not great, but better than yesterday.  I thought we should check out the lope briefly.  He moved into it really nicely, but there was one stretch along the field that he did not want to stay on.  He would cut hard to the right and go for the fence.  I had to work pretty hard to keep him from doing this, and it made for a rough ride.  I was not always successful, either.  Going the other way we didn’t have that problem, but there was a particularly sticky spot where he wouldn’t bend to head back in the other direction.  Robin said it looked like he would make the turn on his forelegs, swiveling his hind end over with each step.  I guess that is what it felt like.

We stopped there, as I really didn’t want to keep going with things that were not working.  I was happy he was overall a little better at the walk and trot, but loping was not good.  Robin and I talked about it for a while, and we came to the conclusion it could be from my riding.  When his lope gets big and rough (mostly when he wants to go somewhere other than where I want to go) I don’t ride as well.  I tend to slide around a lot more and my butt can slam into the saddle quite often.  This was actually happening a lot last Friday when we rode in the middle pasture.  We were loping a big trapezoidal pattern, and there were a few spots where Bear was pushing out and I had to really use my legs to keep him where I wanted him.  As a result, I was popping up and slamming down on his back from time to time.

We’re not a hundred percent sure this is the problem, but from where we’re at now it seems the likeliest culprit.  I’ll have to give him some time off, and when we do ride I will probably have to stay out of the lope until we’ve got everything working well for us again.  It is a bummer.  I certainly don’t want to hurt my horse, but I also need to work on riding rougher lopes and keeping us going where I want, and that will be hard to practice without doing it.  I know the greats say you can get a lot done at the walk, so I’ll just have to see what I can come up with there that will help us out with our faster problems.

At this point, Laredo was running and bucking up a storm in the side pen.  Guess he was done being curious about the space.  I went and put Bear in the pen and grabbed the kid.  I sprinted right up to me, but then he immediately calmed down.  I even pushed things a bit by bridling him in the pen rather than our normal spot.  He was great.

He did require a little more groundwork, though.  Guess some of the spiritedness was still there. Once I hopped on he was great, though.  He got a little distracted by some farm machinery driving around in the distance, but I never felt him want to leave me.  When we were trotting he was really listening, so our last ride made a good impression on him.

He was super soft with his backing, circles, and lateral movements today.

We spent a large part of the ride working on bending in a nice teardrop shape and going off in the other direction.  This didn’t go very well, because neither one of us are good at it.  Laredo tends to lose all his speed in the turns and/or fall onto his front end.  My problem is getting timed with the feet and going from too soft to too hard.  The turn is so short, I think it makes me rush things.

Over time we both got a little better, but it wasn’t great.  We’ll definitely have to keep doing that.  One nice thing is Laredo really didn’t mind the drilling.  He really used to check out and get grouchy about that kind of stuff, but lately that has been less and less the case.  I guess he is just getting more mature and understanding the goals better.

He was also great when we started moving into the lope.  We got some nice big circles in both directions.  He was soft to the hackamore and happy to run.  We only had one moment where we got stuck in one of the plowed rows in the field.  He wouldn’t come out of it and kept charging ahead faster.  I just had to pop him a little harder and we came right back into the strip.  Typical Laredo, he wasn’t bothered by it at all.

We ended the ride by going to explore in the fields.  On the second strip we decided to move out at the trot.  Laredo was giving me a big but controlled trot, so we just went with it all the way down the strip and onto the new section of drainage that leads off the property.  We turned around and kept trotting for home with no problem.

Back on the second strip we decided to check out a new spot that was recently cleared.  It looks like a short road with a bunch of trees on one side and a big berm on the other that is much taller than our heads.  At this time also walked by the tiny little creek.  Laredo heard he noise and leaped to his right.  For some reason the sound of running water really got him going.  Steen was just fine, but I had to bend him a few times before I could encourage him to get closer to check it out.  Ultimately he was pretty curious about it, but he never fully relaxed near the stream.  Guess we’ll have to work on that.

He stayed a little excited as we walked on and checked out the new area, but as soon as we rounded the bend and saw home, he slowed right down.  I swear he is the only horse who does not want to make a b-line for the barn.


An Adult!

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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I had to ride Bear today as it was his 18th birthday.  I was hoping I could write about our awesome ride and how good he was and young he still seems, but I can’t.  He was kind of stiff and antsy.  I spent most of the ride trying to figure out if he was doing this on purpose or if he was not feeling quite right.  As the ride progressed, I felt pretty certain it was the latter.

I noticed Bear’s antsyness almost right away.  He was somewhat reluctant to walk down the strip and was weaving all over, so when he doesn’t want to somewhere at a relaxed walk I usually make him trot.  He was fine picking that up, but from there on it was a constant struggle to keep him from jumping into the lope or falling onto his front end and giving me a very jerky trot.

We spent a lot of time trotting in circles and figure-eights just trying to keep things steady and even.  We could achieve it sometimes, but not most of the time.  I also really wanted to check out his lope, so we kept working at the trot a loooong time until I could get some nice movement.

Finally we were ready to lope a few circles.  Going to the right wasn’t too bad, but then it took us a long time to get set up to go left.  And once we did, it was not very good at all.  We only made a few circles before I noticed I was not going to be able to keep him balanced on all four feet.  The grass was dry and slick, and I knew we were pushing things.  The last thing I wanted was for both of us to fall down on his birthday.

So we stopped.  And I had to stop working on a few different exercises with him today because they were just going so bad and I was getting frustrated.  We couldn’t back well or do serpentines well.  We just didn’t have much going for us.  We finished the ride by just walking around a lot, and that seemed to go well.  He was much happier with that.  Robin said he had a not so happy look on his face for most of the ride.  Almost as if he was upset because he couldn’t do the things I was asking of him.

It is pretty disappointing because we’re coming out of the winter where we did a lot of good stuff and I thought he was feeling great.  We haven’t had any sore back moments in months.  Thankfully he was still super happy to hangout with me.  When we put them back in the pasture he stood around for a while, but when I moved off to snap his picture he just looked at me and then came right back up for some ground level face pets.  Funny guy.