The Spring Winds Blow

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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We are finally getting some warmer weather, and of course it is accompanied by 40+ mile an hour winds.

But we got out there and had a fun ride anyways.  The barn was crowded with it being a vet day and one our boarder’s horses had a cute little filly in the night.

How could you not want to see the baby and her happy momma?

But that also meant we had nowhere to tie while grooming and tacking.  This didn’t bother Laredo in the slightest.  I parked him right next to a manure spread and just got to work.  I hardly had to correct him at all.  There was another three year old there swiveling all over the place, so it was nice to see that our training methods are working.

We rode out on the strip and had a good time.  Laredo’s energy was good.  I really think he’s happy being outside again.  I worked on staying relaxed and only being demanding if he was leaning on the hackamore.  And he hardly leaned at all.  He was also backing like a dream.  I know the deep sand can start to affect Bear’s backing, perhaps it contributes to Laredo’s too?  Impossible to know for sure, but I do know things were working well for us.

In the beginning we spent a lot of time working on softness and getting good circles at the walk, trot, and lope.  This meant for a lot of transitions as well.  He was really happy to move out at the lope and I was surprised we didn’t have any major sticking points in the circle.


As all that was going well for us, we decided to play some cow.  We’ve done this off and on with Laredo.  We usually take it pretty slow as we don’t want him to get frustrated, but today we were moving well.  The stops, backs and turns were all quite nice.  Not perfect, and we did get stuck sometimes, but overall the energy was great.  We even got to the middle on our own, well timed stop and pivot.  That felt good.

We did have a little trouble loping out during the cow game.  We got into it nicely, but then he got grouchy and kept dropping it.  I’d get him going again, but he’d drop it almost immediately.  He seemed extra worried that Steen was right there pushing us, and he even kicked out a couple times.  Robin decided to stop Steen and just let us get our lope working again.  And we did.  After that he seemed great.

We finished the ride by going for a walk around the soybean fields and over to the second strip.  Laredo is always game to go walk about.

Bringing Back the Rope

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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It was another gorgeous day, and we decided to just head straight outside for the strip.  Since I have been doing a lot of work on Bear with the flag, I decided to take the rope back out and see how we could do with that.  When we used it a little last summer, he was pretty wary around it.  Particularly if I was recoiling the excess rope on his right side.

So today we started working with it on the ground.  Right away I could sense he was better with it.  Still pretty uncertain, but nothing like before.  I patted him all around with the coils and threw a few lopes near him and over him.

When we got to the point where he wasn’t dancing around any more I climbed on.  We spent quite a few minutes riding around with me holding the rope in my right hand.  I’d just bang it against my leg or rub him on the neck and rump.  He’d increase his pace sometimes, but overall he was good.

We moved into trotting various patterns and figure-eights with me still desensitizing him to the rope.  This was the best part as he really settled into things nicely.  I think he finally figured out he could just relax and the rope wasn’t going to bother him.  I threw a few really awkward loops off his back from the walk and trot, and that went pretty well.  He was not bothered at all when I gathered the rope back up on his right side.  An excellent sign.

From there I hopped off and looped the rope around an old fence post.  I climbed back on and we worked on pulling the post going backwards and sideways.  I’d also walk around it and work on positioning Bear right where I wanted him as if we had a cow.  He was not thrilled with this, and he didn’t love facing the post, so I got a lot more practice in on blocking him with my legs and immediately shifting over to being supportive.

We never pulled the post behind us.  Neither Bear nor I felt ready for that.  Dealing with the rope and reins and weight on the rope was a lot tougher than I thought it would be.  It is not natural for me to dally the rope around the horn and ride off.  But at least we’ll have some fun things to work on.

Finally I put the rope away and we proceeded to have a more regular ride.  I think Bear was happy with this, because he was really good.  He gave me the nicest circles at the lope I’ve ever felt outside.  They were shockingly smooth and easy.  This is one of the things I’ve struggled with off and on and felt like we should have down.  It is nice to see they might be coming around.

We also spent a few minutes trotting and loping off by ourselves down the drainage.  Again, Bear was great.  It’s so fun to be riding around outside with him again.

Keeping Going

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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The sun is getting stronger and the grasses are slowly coming up.  It is definitely making it a lot easier to get to the barn.

I found Laredo snoozing in the sun.  It took a few smacks of the lead rope on my chinks to get him to wake up, but as soon as he did he came marching right over.

He promptly fell back asleep at the hitching post as I worked to get all the mud and grime out of his coat.  He is by far our dirtiest horse.  I’m hoping it is an age thing he will at least get over it somewhat.

Our ride was a good one.  We started indoors again, and I worked on all the things I’ve been doing with him.  We did a lot of trotting, bending, loping, stopping, and backing.  It wasn’t all great, but he is working harder to pay attention and giving a lot more energy and effort.  We really didn’t have anything great or awful on the ride, just some nice practice.

We went outside to work on the strip for a bit.  The footing was surprisingly good, and Laredo seemed happy to be outside.  We mostly continued working on the same things.  His energy was still good, and he really wasn’t leaning on the hackamore much at all.  I did have to get him off it a few times, but I’m feeling it better than I used to, and I think it is translating into him doing it less and less.

After trotting some nice circles and figure-eights, I asked him to move into the lope.  I really haven’t run with him outside too much.  Last summer and fall we did it quite a bit, but it was always in a straight line.  Today I wanted to start working in some circles.  I didn’t have any grand goals other than to just get him into the gait and keep and nice bend.  He picked it up nicely, but it was also the slowest lope I’ve ever felt on him.  Guess that is better than the alternative.

We finished the ride by going for a stroll down the drainage on onto the second strip.  He was really happy to be walking out.  We encountered three different scary tractors, and he wasn’t worried much at all.  The worst one was on the way back.  We turned for home, and to the guys, it might have felt like the tractor was chasing us a little.  His head came up and he started walking fast and dancing around a bit, but I calmed him down very easily and we had an easy walk home.

All in all, it was a really great spring ride.

Easter Surprise

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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We spent the weekend in the Chicago area visiting my family and meeting our new niece.  We also got to spend a lot of quality time with our 2 year old nephew.  It was my first time playing Easter Bunny, too.

When we got back into town Sunday afternoon we were tired and hungry, but the sun was shining and I knew a ride would be good.  Robin was tired, too, but when I suggested we just ride Bear and Steen she was up for it.  We know we can always have a good ride on those goes.

So 15 minutes after getting to the house we were headed back out to the barn.  Robin had a rough time catching Steen a couple weeks ago, but he learned his lesson and now comes right to us with energy.  Bear on the other hand seems to be where Steen was earlier.  So I had to do quite a bit of chasing to get him to come to me.  I don’t know if it is the new horses in the herd or just spring in the air, but I do know it is annoying.  Our 2 year old nephew doesn’t know that word, and I’m not sure Bear does either.

But once we started the ride things were great.  We started inside and just had fun riding around the cones and moving the big soccer ball around.  I had never asked Bear to move the soccer ball before, but I figured it was another good thing to work on in our quest for getting Bear (and by default, me) comfortable with everything.

He wasn’t too keen on it at first, and I got to work on quickly blocking with my legs and then softening up when he was trying.  After just a few kicks he got to the point where he didn’t really care about it.  He didn’t like doing it, but he also wasn’t bothered by it.

Robin and I weren’t working too hard.  We spent quite a bit of time talking to various other borders and just hanging out on the horses.  But then we’d go back and get to work.  We worked on a figure-eight exercise that involved us staying really even with each other and speeding up or slowing down when we crossed paths.  It was quite demanding, and Bear wasn’t happy with it.  But after a few minutes, Bear started putting in some serious effort to get his walk going.

After that we decided to work on the routine.  It can be a lot more fun with Bear and Steen because they know the drill a lot better than Laredo does.  Of course, we went through it and it was about the worst running of the routine we’d ever done.  It was so bad we couldn’t stop laughing at how awful it was.  Both guys were sluggish and tired, as were we.

So we decided to try the whole thing at the lope.  Really smart, I know, but it actually worked.  I had to think about it for a minute and figure out where I’d need to do simple lead changes, but it turned out there were only two. 

We backed them up and took off at the lope.  I think they were both shocked by what we were asking that they rose to the challenge.  At the end we were laughing because of how well everything went.  We only did it once, though, as we were not confident it could get much better that day.  But we’ll definitely work on keeping it faster in the future.

At this point we decided to just go walk around outside.  The footing was much better than the week before, despite some weekend rain and manure spread over parts of the strip.  The guys were happy to be out, and Bear was responding nicely when I asked him to pick up the pace.

We ended up trotting down the second strip and just enjoying the sunshine.  It was one of the best trots I’ve ever had on Bear.  We were comfortably covering ground and he was really using his haunches as he picked his way around tractor divots and muddy patches.

It was so nice we decided to trot back.  Bear suggested we lope, and I told him no that isn’t a good idea.  But then Robin said we should try for a nice little lope.  We got going and then Bear got kinked up or something.  He gave a couple big sideways leaps, and each time he landed he put on more speed.

Before I knew it we were galloping up the second strip.  Robin said, “I don’t really have control right now.”  And I told her I didn’t either.  I knew I could stop him, but I couldn’t stop him right then.

So we rode.  I gave a few short, sharp pulls that allowed me to scrub some speed off the run, but the real change didn’t happen until we hit the drainage.  I knew he’d turn left for home, so I hit him with a well timed pull on the right side.  He pulled up, and Steen was on our right, which I didn’t think about, and he almost ran into us.  The good news is that this really slowed everyone down, and we got them under control pretty easily.

After that, they were happy to just walk on home.  Silly guys.

Obviously a little unasked for gallop is never a good thing.  But I was happy with how calm I felt about everything and how it worked out in the end.  Just another good experience to have.

New Lessons

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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Lately I’ve been in one of those places with Bear where things feel like they’ve drastically improved.  I am still surprised by these feelings, but I love that they keep coming every couple of months.

The big changes I’ve noticed are in how he listens to my seat.  The hopping into the lope problem has almost completely disappeared.  He will still think about doing it, but then he always notices I am still posting and giving him the trot signal.  I think all the transitions we’ve been doing in the indoor this winter have helped me fine tune my seat a little more.  I know it can get better, but it is a good sign that Bear is following along.

The other change is just a general willingness to follow me.  Bear is very much a leader, so it has been a challenge for me to learn about horses and softness and also learn how to step in and be the one in charge.  He’s been great about filling in for me when I’m not ready for something or not making the right choice in a situation.  But lately he’s be ceding more authority to me.

I really think the flag has been a big part of this.  The last few times out I have really focused on getting him relaxed and responsive with the flag, particularly on his troubled right side.

Today we made huge strides in that department.  His pivots from right to left and left to right were almost identical. Both on the ground and under saddle.  He was not worried by the flapping flag when we were riding around, and this time I felt confident enough to keep the flag in my hand while we trotted and loped around.  He was extremely uncertain with this at first, but he stayed very attentive and didn’t do a single thing I didn’t ask of him.

We also continued to work on getting close to the wall on his right side.  I did this to put the flag away on the ledge, but also a few times just to practice it.  This is something I never used to do.  I remember a few years ago when there would be a noise or something I could tell Bear didn’t like, and I was very careful to get nowhere near that thing.

Now I am starting to notice problems and things that are difficult for him, and instead I think “I should work on that right now.”  So we worked on sidepassing up to the side of the arena and hanging out there while I fumbled with the flag or tapped on the wood and aluminum siding.  They weren’t perfect, but we were able to end on a really great note with him standing and sighing while I poked around up there.

Robin was having a good ride on Laredo, and as the sun was shining again, we figured we go take a walk in the fields.  Unfortunately it was super soft and mucky.  We got into the pasture and up to some high ground, but even that wasn’t very pleasant.  On top of that, Laredo was fixated on something in the far edge of the pasture.  We think it was a trickling stream, but we’re not certain.  Either way, we do know it was causing Laredo to dance around and not pay as much attention to Robin as he should.  She was able to work through it pretty nicely, so hopefully next time we’re out it will be a little drier.  It is a lot easier to work through things with good footing.

Turning Things Around

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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As I’ve mentioned the last couple of weeks, I’ve been struggling with Laredo.  Getting him soft and lively and just having a good time have all been a little tough.  We normally start out doing fairly well, but then the ride goes downhill after 15 or 20 minutes.  Today was a little like that, but also a little different.

We started with the flag again. I’m getting more comfortable using it, and Laredo is understanding when to listen to it and when to just let it be.  He no longer thinks it is a toy.

Under saddle I tried to keep things moving.  So I would deliberately pick an exercise or two to roll through, and then we’d rest.  Often things come apart when we’re just riding around and I’m trying to figure out what to do next.  Bear has no trouble with that, but Laredo needs a lot more guidance or he really, really checks out.

Even when we were taking our breaks we had things to work on.  I’ve introduced holding him in a flex and waiting for him to step over.

He looks a little forward in this shot, but I think that is because he would often try to walk forward as one of his first guesses.  Funny guy, he’s not a ‘forward’ type of horse, but in this position he wants to go forward?  He did start to get them, and he would step over nicely with legs and no hands and also with hands and no legs.

Another thing we constantly work on is backing.  It used to be something Laredo and I were pretty good at, but for some reason it has been awful lately.  Today it was again pretty bad.  I was frustrated and trying to get him off the hackamore and get more lively. What I was doing was working in the moment, but it wasn’t really getting through to him.  Which probably means what I was doing wasn’t really working.

Robin was trying to explain how it was all not working out for me, and I couldn’t quite get it.  She’d do things on Steen, and I can’t comprehend exactly how it works.  Bear is not as soft as Steen.  And in some ways he is not as soft as Laredo, either.  But overall he’s softer.  So my calibration and understanding of softness and pressure has probably been steadily declining as I’ve been going back and forth between the two.

But then I kind of felt something.  I started to understand in greater depth when he was leaning and pushing against me and when he was just stuck.  It allowed me to more accurately apply force and patience.

This is when things really started to turn around.  Our backs got better, he was more willing to move out, and we ended up having a great ride.  We spent almost 90 minutes in the indoor arena, and I really had no idea we were riding that long.  I always think that is a sign of a good ride.  You think so hard when you’re practically going nowhere that you have no time to get bored.

Um, Spring Break? Hello?

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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Today we woke up to snow, and it continued to snow throughout the morning.  So we just headed out for the barn right away less we lose motivation or get stuck in the afternoon crowds.

The guys were all tucked up against the windblock.  I grabbed Bear and then got Laredo for Robin while she fed Steen some additional chopped hay.  He’s started his annual spring weight loss, so we’re trying to get him a few extra calories.

A little different than the last few days, but at least Laredo scored a premo windblock spot.

I started off working with the flag again.  From the ground Bear was a little better with it than he was a few days ago.  He moved off of it nicely (without over-reacting), and he tried hard to not let it bother him when I would randomly wave it around and not ask him to move.  I was also getting some great disengages and front end pop overs.  He’s really great at rolling back on his haunches.  However, he was quite sticky rolling from right to left.  I’ve written before about his right side, and I just don’t know if he sees as well out of it.  I really had to get the flag in a lot closer to get him moving, and he always had a look on his face like the flag just came out of nowhere.

We did work on it, but I didn’t press it too hard.  I wanted to climb on and keep using the flag, so we relaxed for a few minutes and I rubbed him all over with it.  When I climbed on he wasn’t bothered at all.

But then the tiniest movement of the flag had him dancing around a little.  Even having it on his left side he was more reactive than I would have liked.  So I rubbed him down some more, and then we walked in circles with me just holding the flag out.  When we had that going well I moved it back and disengaged his hind.  And when that worked out I used the flag to get some really nice, energetic steps over on the front end.

And finally we switched hands and started over on the right side.  Again, much more hesitant with it on this side, but we worked through things slowly.  We got to the point where I could get him to disengage his hind, then roll the flag over his head and get him to move the front end over.  No spooking or shying, just very attentive movements, and both directions felt about equal.

So we set the flag down for a while and worked on other things.  Again he had nice energy, so we worked on keeping a big trot going and then periodically I would soften him up and slow our pace down to about half of our fast pace.  When he felt really soft I threw him the slack in the reins and went back to some big posting.  He was great with it.

After a while I thought about going back and getting the flag, but Bear was not happy with me side passing him against the arena side to reach over and grab the flag.  So we had to work on that for awhile.  I had to ask pretty firmly to get him close enough to reach the flag.  I knew he was really tense and jumpy, so I didn’t even go for the flag.  I just reached near it and made some noise on the wood with my hand.  He shied away maybe five or six times.  And each time we had to work really hard to get back in position.  Eventually we got it.  He stayed still while I moved some dust around and patted the small platform near the flag.  I gave him some big pets and then we moved on.  No reason to push it all the way and grab the flag today.  Also, I was asking him to approach the wall with his right side.

Meanwhile, Robin was having a great ride on Laredo.  He had some really nice energy despite exhausting himself on yesterday’s trail ride.  We finished things up by running through the routine a few times.  We threw in some loping on the straightaways again and both guys were quite good with it all.

It feels great to have a nice rhythm going with the barn again.  And I love having so many things working for us, but also having so many things to keep working on.


Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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We had so much fun on yesterday’s ride we decided to more or less repeat it today.  It has been too long since we got out and about, so doing the same thing over again was not a drag at all.

I had ridden Bear a few times in a row, so it was my turn to get Laredo.  As I mentioned earlier this week, our rides have been pretty sub par.  I wasn’t too worried about riding out with him, but I wanted to get some things working for us before we headed out.

From the time he met me in the pasture I really worked to keep his focus on me.  I didn’t want him zoning out at all and getting hooked on other things.  So if his attention strayed I would gently tip his nose back to me or get him to move his feet.  If he was really locked onto something else he had to hustle those feet or got a small pop on the nose.

I carried that same mentality into the arena for our warm up, and it definitely had a positive impact.  I worked hard to pick each activity and make sure we did it with quality.  In a short amount of time we worked on flexing, backing, moving he hind and front, figure eights a various gaits, and getting a steady trot and canter.  Only towards the very end did he start to get a little sticky with his backs, but not too bad.  And I knew we could work on those periodically throughout the day.

So we headed out for the strip and walked down to the big pasture.  Laredo has an interesting history when it comes to walking down hills.  He’s not very good at it, and he doesn’t like it.  He’s been known to charge straight down them, refuse to go down them, and throw in some bucks at the top of them.  Today he started marching right down the first steep hill with no trouble.  I know he’s been getting stronger, so maybe this is easier for him.  But then halfway down his front foot slipped out from under him.  I worried for a second we’d tumble forward, but he very calmly caught his balance and proceeded on.  Very interesting.  Unfortunately the rest of the day’s down hills were hit or miss.

When we rounded the bend into the big pasture, he was a little nervous about something.  He kept looking around, and his head carriage was much higher than usual.  I would gently bend him or ask him to soften up to make sure he was listening.  He responded nicely, but it didn’t make a lasting impression.

Then he spooked at something.  He just rolled back on his haunches and launched himself to the right at the canter.  He tucked right behind Steen and stopped.  I didn’t even have time to react; thankfully everything was so smooth it wasn’t a problem.  Neither Steen, nor Robin or myself could see what was bugging him.  Silly kid.

We proceeded to walk through the big pasture and trot up to the treed lot with no problems.  We got through all the gates and then made it to the long, hilly strip heading into the ‘salad bowl.’  Again, Laredo was looking around a lot.  We had never been over here, so it was understandable.  We just kept working on some lateral and vertical softening, and he was great.


When we got to the salad bowl we also got to work.  We want to spend longer rides moving out, especially with Laredo.  So we hung out in the area trotting up and down the length of the field and walking up and down the steep hills.  He was getting more and more fatigued with each pass, but he also continued to listen to me.  Each time we’d take a break I’d have him back up or ask him to move his feet, he was always soft and attentive.

In the end we threw in a few lopes up a hill and down a long straight away.  He was smooth and relaxed, and also extremely tired at this point.  But it was a very successful outing.

On the way back he was struggling to keep up with Steen’s rather relaxed walk, so we worked on speeding up and getting some collected trots in.  He was good for that, but he often wanted to hop into the trot on his own, so we also got to work on our downward transitions.  When we crested the last big hill near the barn, he saw home and let out the loudest, most pathetic whinny I’ve ever heard from him.  Poor guy was exhausted.

Picking our way through one of the softer spots.

And we still had to go back through two more pastures, but he was all right with that.  And in the end, I think he had a lot of fun.  He was falling asleep while munching on his chopped hay, and he was totally fine with me rubbing all over his ears.

Spring Break!

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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I had a work trip to Minneapolis earlier this week, but other than that I’ve taken some days off work because it is spring break.  The weather has been nothing like spring break.  We’ve had rain and snow and single digit temps and some crazy wind that felt right out of Canada.

So when today was sunny, clear, and nearly 40 degrees, we were pretty excited.  We went out to the barn in the peak heat of the day.  The guys were dozing in their blankets and not too excited to come to us.  I had to move Bear around a little bit yesterday to get him to come to me, and he almost made it today.  But then he didn’t.  So we did a little work and then I got him.  Unfortunately, things were a little different with Steen as he got swept up by the running herd.  But he came around eventually.

It was warm enough that we tacked up outside, and both guys promptly fell asleep for the grooming.  Their coats are really starting to shed now, and it was nice to just let the hair blow around and not have to worry about it.

We started the ride inside just to get warmed up and work on a few things.  Both guys were great.  Bear was giving me some excellent lopes in both directions and was moving both his hind and forequarters around with ease.

So we headed out to the strip.  It was soggy in spots, but other areas were completely dry.  We walked on down to the end and saw the open gate leading to the big pasture, so we turned in there.  The guys seemed excited to be out.  Bear was walking out like a champ, and Steen as exceptionally relaxed.  We have both had rides where they are a bit of handful in the big pasture, but we had nothing close to that today.

We walked across the length of it and trotted up the narrow chute that leads to the treed pasture.  As there were no horses in there, we opened that gate and poked around in there.  When we got to the end of it, we decided to just keep going.  So we went out the final gate and crossed the road to the strip of grass that leads to the ‘salad bowl.’

Hanging out on the strip that leads to the ‘salad bowl’ behind us.

As we started up a hill we spooked a small herd of deer in the nearby trees, but it was no big deal to the guys.  So we asked for a trot and proceeded on to the salad bowl.  Bear was moving out and frisky, but he was always balanced and back on his haunches.  I did ask him to slow down a few times, but that was it.

We trotted along for a ways, including down some short, steep hills (which we usually walk), and then we moved into an easy lope to gain the next hill.  I didn’t know Robin had dropped back at the time, but she moved Steen into a fast, yet controlled lope to catch right up to us.  We stopped at the top just to hang out and look at the scenery.  Despite this being our first trip out for the year and opening them up a bit, the guys were as calm as could be.

We stayed in the salad bowl for a short while and did some more trotting and loping, and then we started back for home.  We did a mix of walking and trotting.  It felt really good to just move out for a while.  On the way back Bear was not giving me the same energetic trot as he was in the beginning, which is good.  I don’t want my horse making a b-line for the barn.  Instead he settled into a nice, relaxing trot.

Back in the big pasture. In the background you can see some of the tiling put in last fall for better drainage.

The whole ride was fantastic.  It was definitely cool by temperature standards, but with the shining late, March sun, we felt plenty warm.  And the guys were breathing hard and really sweaty in the neck and haunches.

It has been a really slow start to the year in terms of rides and hours, but we have been getting some quality work in when we do ride, and this mini-trail ride felt like our reward for those arena hours.  It is supposed to snow this weekend, but hopefully more of these rides are just around the corner.

Softness and Life

Novels for Horse-Lovers

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

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These strike me as two of the most important elements in horsemanship.  Over the past couple of years I have been working hard on coming to understand softness.  I know I can keep getting softer (probably a LOT softer), but Bear and I have come so far in this area.

What I often lack is the life.  And sometimes I will get frustrated trying to work on getting certain maneuvers faster.  I could never do it without sacrificing softness, and many times I couldn’t do it period.  Bear would just get a little fed up with my impatience and refuse to move.

But these last few rides things have been turning around.  As I blogged about recently, I have been asking more of Bear on the ground and then working to carry that energy into our rides.  But I’m not doing it at the expense of softness.

Today we continued to work on moving the front end over and lope-trot transitions.  We were nailing both of them.  Previously, I could maybe get 20 percent of our front end movement steps to have any kind of quality, but today we started getting great stuff 80 percent of the time.  And what is interesting is that Bear was moving faster and putting more energy into the movement.

I have no doubt that energy helped him out, but I was not asking him to do it faster.  That energy was coming from somewhere else.  I can only think it was from the way I was moving in and out of the faster gaits, asking for more life in the back up, and then jumping him out of his tracks.  He was giving me a lot of effort to get moving forward.

I will have to work on my timing and position, as I was only able to get him to go right into the lope once, but many times he was oh so close to hitting it.  But I don’t think the gait really mattered in the exercise.  It was about him listening and responding quickly.

Last night we were watching some more of the 7 Clinics Buck DVDs and I had a bit of an epiphany.  Buck is always talking about softness and life, but I do not see him combining the two in the same exercise.  I see him do it with his horse all the time, but not with the riders at the clinic.  Instead they are working on one at a time.  I think the reason is because when you start getting them to work well independently, then you can get them to start working together.  And that is what I felt in our ride today.  In the past I was always working on soft, but then I would try to add life on top of that.  Nowhere was I really working on life on its own.

We also had some fun playing with our new flag.  I’ll have to write more about that later, but I will say Bear was pretty good with it.  I was actually surprised at how responsive and attentive he was to it.  He always looks so young when he gets a little stirred up.

Oh, and one more thing to add for our own records.  The vet was there, so we got all their spring vacs done.  All three of them were quite good.