Busy week for trying new things.
Wednesday: Oh so neglected... or should I just say rewarded with a day off after his first canter on Tuesday.
Thanksgiving Thursday! No riding, just ran a 5K and then gorged myself with food!
Friday: Rode in the pasture, and was super surprised that I could even get on considering how sore I was from running without properly training.
Bear never ceases to amaze me! He really has so few rides under his belt, but I have absolutely no qualms with riding out in the pasture. Between the sense of wide open space encouraging a run away, and the many trees to scrape riders off I would not recommend pasture rides for training young or recently started horses! But Bear hasn't learned that he can get out of work by doing either of those things. Now granted, he is not the average freshly broke horse, and I understand that I'm lucky to have a guy with such a great personality, but I can't help feeling that its just so much easier to ride a clean slate! He doesn't know much, so I have to remember that I am limited to only a few things that I can ask him to do. But on the other hand, he hasn't learned bad habits, and he hasn't learned to escape work. Frankly training a horse from the start has been a far easier ride than any of my project horses. I still have plenty of time to screw him up and find ways to fix him, but for now I'm just enjoying the ride. Literally, and metaphorically.
So really I rode in the pasture because I felt he was up to the challenge, but also because without a wall to follow he has to listen to my directions every step of the way. I wanted to make sure that we work out any "who's in charge" debates (you know, when you say left, and the horse pokes his nose right and just keeps pulling) before we attempted any introductions to the trail. He was super relaxed and we walked over the poles as usual, trotted a couple of safe flat straight-aways, but had trouble with making straight lines, so we started a bit of leg yielding (moving away from the leg without the objective of turning) on the ground then on his back. So now when he starts veering or turning either from a straight line or the approach to a pole or log, he can be corrected. Well at least corrected a little, he's got the concept, but we're still working on the correctness and willingness part.
Saturday: We trailered out to the big arena, which means more lunging with side reins (his left lead was much better), lots of opportunity for riding circles, and (yippee!) we cantered for the second time! We stuck to the figure eight trick, although with an enormous ring like this the trip across the center is like an epic journey! He was great both leads, and again despite the open space, he wasn't rushing or bolting. Then since my old camera was not getting great pictures, my sister suggested getting a video, which I was thrilled with since I've been dying to get a video of myself riding for ages, and really want to be able to document his improvement. So I just did a quick walk, trot, canter on a circle (testing my luck that he'd pick up the canter without the figure eight trick so we picked his good side), then back down to the walk.
Riding videos are great, because I am always determined to work on bad habits after seeing myself do them! Feet, legs, hands, are all bad habits that get better if I'm actually in shape, but having to look at them is good motivation to get there faster. But each rider has a personal challenge, one that is unique to them due to history, physical fitness, or even body shape. Its been a while since I've shown equitation or seen a video, and I totally forgot about my rubber back until watching this! I have like a super wiggly lower back when riding, and I forget that what feels comfortable to me at the canter, looks like a spaghetti noodle riding a horse. I have a hard time finding the fine line between following the horses motion, and being too stiff while trying to straighten up and tense my abs and back to stop my mid section from bending back and forth like that! This problem did improve when I was only showing equitation in college, and showing western helped immensly. But its my biggest problem when riding because I do a really extreme version of it when landing after a jump! I just keep reminding myself the video is about the horse and his progress. Thats what I was after, and that part of it is great! Please excuse the horse standing in the middle, her rider is the one filming, and she was happy to take a nap, no safety rules were broken. Oh, excuse the rust breeches also, they were on sale, and they only get worn when the rest are in the dirty clothes pile!
After our arena session, we took the two horses down to the 1/4 mile loop that runs past the creek. It was Bear's first trail ride, although I've lead him down there before. He even put his feet into the creek and got a drink! Clearly water is not going to be an issue.
Sunday: Our first road ride. We have back roads that lead to trails near where Bear lives, so we had our first venture off the property on Sunday. We lead the two horses the 200ft down the main road (main is relative here since its pretty far out in the country) until we reached the dirt road that we'd start riding on. We normally ride the whole way, but I'm trying to be cautious here, just so I can feel like I'm riding a horse with approximatley 15 rides on him. By the time we're getting on, a horse in the pasture at the corner has come over to check us out. This gets Bear high headed and ignoring me. So I decide that I would rather not fight with him to stand still and look away from the horse while I get one, which I know he wouldn't have done. Going back to the no bad habits bubble I currently life in, I didn't want to give him the opportunity to misbehaved while mounting and burst that happy bubble. So I decide I better start off with something to get him paying attention. Something that would make him move, and coax his head back out of the clouds. We did a coupld of turns on the haunches, then forhand, then stop and back, and I did this all with my hands on the reins like if I were riding, and bumped him with the stirrups wherever legs were appropriate. While we were doing this someone going down the road actually stopped and asked us if we needed help! I just had to laugh a little... what did she think she had to offer? Even if she was an experienced horse trainer, was she just going to get out of the car and start helping?? But when I thought about it I guess I did look a little silly. One horse had a rider, the other horse had a rider on the ground holding the reins across his back and was following him around in circles. It probably looked like I was really lame and couldn't get on!
After his little "faux line driving" lesson we got on and he stood stock still until I asked him to move off. He did great, until the cow on three legs... I'm not sure why the cow wasn't using all four legs, but I think the fact that he wasn't using his fourth leg upset Bear more than the fact that he was a cow. He didn't spook, he just stopped, so we took some time to check things out and move closer to the cow before moving on. Down the hill... great, past the white rail by the pond...great, past other horses... great, then we came to the llamas...stop. His head went so high, I think he had the llamas beat! But he didn't spook, just stopped and put his scared eyes on. So I got off! Nicely and calmly, but off non the less. He doesn't spook. Ever. At anything. (Well except the horse measuring stick...) So if he's never spooked, despite the many things I've lead him past, I don't know what he'll do when he does spook! If I'm going to be given the opportunity to observe that for the first time, I'd like to be in a safe place, you know, to take notes and such, and not be thinking about all the naughty I'm teaching him by bailing now that he's hopping up and down and frantically dancing about! So we had to watch the llamas for a while. Then we had to back up so he knew that he could actually move without the evil-furry-strechted-out-circus-freaks-of-horses coming to attack. Then we had to walk to the other side of the old mare and watch from that angle, then back again. Finally when he was a little less terror struck we moved on. We were only going up the hill to the next intersection anyway, so I just walked, then we had chance to pass by them again only 2 minutes later, and that didn't really take any staring at all! So I hopped back on and finished my ride. While the old mare next to us pranced her way back home, I appreciated that Bear is too green and too young to know what barn sour is! Thank goodness for a clean slate.