So I dragged my butt out of bed Saturday morning in order to have a decent trail ride before tackling all the other plans for the day! It was well worth it. My sister and I ran out to the ranch, hooked up the trailer and loaded up in record time, and took off to a new trail. Being new, the two horses were high as kites when we go them out. We tacked up as quickly as one can when its shedding season, and based on the continued kite-like behavior of both of them we lead them up the first hill. Now with Bear that's enough. For a forward moving and leggy horse he is lazy deep down in his heart. As soon as he's gotten his heart rate up, he's ready to settle into a more sensible state of mind. The old mare on the other hand is an endurance breed arabian and would suffer the heart attack rather than stop going! And at her age that's what we're afraid of! So at the top of the hill I get on, and Bear stands fairly well while stirrups get adjusted (mom was the last one to ride the old mare). Then we're off like a rocket! (Unfortunately!) It took Bear a bit to really settle in and relax, but he did, and he was a saint on the way back. The old mare alternated between speed walking and jigging. (Now that I have a chance to watch from behind I realize that she walks in front, and jogs in back, its CRAZY!) Luckily he relaxed enough that we didn't need her to be the sane one, and even let her walk way out in front after a while since he was comfortable following a ways behind and catching up when she stopped.
The trail was a good work out, lots of hills and switch backs. We rode for just over an hour, which was probably plenty considering the terrain and the fact that even as well behaved as he was, it was all very new and exciting for him. I'm hoping that the next time we're out we'll have more time to get out farther, and they can both relax a bit more. We did get to cross a big echoey bridge which was good, and the creek had a pretty good water fall in one spot. Plus there were a ton of other horses, walkers, dogs, and kids out there, so plenty to see and get used to. Overall it was a good ride!
Monday I snuck out there for a little bit. I only had two hours for lunch and I had already used up a chunk running errands. So I threw on the saddle and hopped on. I wanted to work on trotting around the pasture to put a little more steering on him. So we warmed up a bit at the walk and then picked a spot were we could do a big circle so that we could work on bending and moving to the outside rein. I think it helped a lot. Then we picked some straight paths to trot. He's getting so much better. Then we tried to do a couple trots up the hill, but he was not a fan! Lazy... I didn't want to push the issue because it was wet and we had a limited space to trot anyway, but we did trot up twice. Then I grabbed a rope for the old mare and started the first part of my new project. Ponying the old mare off Bear. Its not going to work great until he has some neck reining so I can steer with one hand, but I want to get him used to the idea now while he's still used to having her in such close contact. So we just did it in an area that I could let go at any point, but I didn't have to. She followed right along, and he doesn't mind the rope along his side or butt. It was a good start, and it will be very usefull someday, but certainly nothing I'll do out of an enclosed area for quite a while.
Tuesday at class we took some time to encourage everyone to try cantering for the first time. Its not the first time for Bear, but we had plenty to work on since we still don't really have canter departs down and the left lead is tricky. He was great tonight! He wasn't silly at all when we started, and we just got right down to business. Amazing what regular work over a few days will do! He's trotting out really well, and he's starting to follow more of a relaxed rythm by responding to my posting. He will transition down to the walk with just a big breath out, and he is following his nose much better. In fact I hardly remember him shaking his head or showing attitude at all tonight. He HATES me scrathing his neck while he's working, HATES it! Which is good since its a bad habit of mine to try to soothe the horse by rubbing up their neck as they trot along. He flips his head every time, like "Just ride why don't you?" He'll get me trained just the way he likes me eventually!
We still need to work moving off my inside leg, and he's still WAY too interested in the rest of the horses, but getting better. He picked up his right lead fine, and we were able to canter around really nicely. He felt balanced and athletic. Going to the left he picked it up fine but there were two horses that hadn't moved off the rail and were very pokily walking side by side, so just when I had come around once I had to screech to a halt to keep from running into them. He's got good brakes! Then he picked it up wrong, and seriously felt more balanced than on the correct lead, so we counter cantered the straight part, and came down to a trot after the first turn. Wrong again, brought him down quickly. Then we did a little leg yeiled toward the wall then asked and picked up the left lead! Great, except someone was right in the way, and even though I said coming on the outside, he couldn't get his horse to move anywhere, so Bear had another lovely halt from the canter while this horse danced around in circles in front of us! I think everyone knew I was annoyed at that point! We finally were able to pick up the left lead and canter a few laps with out horses in the way. He feels funky on his left, and leads with his inside shoulder, but its a start. Its all good experiences for Bear. He'll be well prepared for the show ring when I can finally manouver him successfully around the other greenies in this class.
Hopefully I stay consistant in getting out to see him now that the rain isn't so bad. I think I'll forgo the show this Sunday though. I really am supposed to be somewhere else that day, and I can't quite justify the long drive, show costs, and skipping out on another commitment just to get him out to have the horse show experience. I might as well wait until he at least is going along on the bit and might have a chance of placing in a walk-trot class! The problem is that I'm out of town for the April and the May dates for the show thats really close by. I'm afraid I'll regret not taking advantage of this weekend's show, but I've got so many other things going on. Plus I know he'll benefit more from me spending the same amount of money on getting out to start dressage lessons on him. (And he'd just like going for a trail ride most of all!)