Only a month ago I had nothing to report, and now I have so much to say but no time to actually post!
Bear is awesome! We’ve had a couple of huge events pass, first time hauling out alone to a new (and spooky) arena, first time with a different person on his back, and that person was my absolute beginner rider boyfriend! He’s been a super good sport with everything! Bear, I mean, although the BF is great with this all too, Bear is the one that is surprising me with his patience and good-natured attitude.
First of all, I’ve figured out that although I can’t drag myself out of bed in the mornings to run, I can convince myself to get up and ride. So the last two weeks I’ve dragged myself out before light to hop on for a little bit at least twice during the week. We have a short and sweet training session, and call it good. A half hour on his back is better than nothing at all! I’ve also been lunging him over the trot poles, and a little log in the pasture. It’s kind of a precursor to starting jumping later next spring, but mainly because it’ll help strengthen his body since I don’t have the time to do long conditioning rides. I also hoped on bareback a couple times, mainly to make the half-hour more of a work out for me, but also to save time saddling. We are pretty much just walking though, we are not ready to do much else bareback yet, so I take the time to practice turns and circles.
So two weeks ago, I hauled him out to an arena that offers a monthly haul-in fee to use the facility. It’s a huge indoor arena (so I can ride when it rains), a dressage court, and a smaller warm-up arena with some jumps. It’s not far, and it will be very useful when its too wet to ride in the pasture and I’m forced to haul out just to have anywhere to move faster than a walk. So we were just trying it out to see. We were there alone, it was way past dark, and a totally new place, so Bear was high as a kite to start out. I figured he would be, so we just worked through it. The indoor arena has stall on both sides, one side the open stall fronts face into the arena across and isle, but on the other side it’s the solid backs of stalls that make up the wall. That wall also has the huge full wall mirrors on a quarter of the length. Bear had never seen anything like this, and coupled with the fact that he could hear and smell horses right behind the mirror while seeing his reflection in it made for some pretty humorous reactions! We lunged for a good half hour since it was cold and I wanted to give him some good walk warm up time, and THEN get his kicks out, plus we haven’t have a chance to lunge for awhile, so its still good to work on strengthening his canter in good footing like that. By the time I got on he was happy and relaxed, but pretty hot from lunging (mainly from the prancing caused by the mirror) so we did mostly walk work, mixed with only short spurts of trotting, to dry him off. He was great. Plus by the end he LOVED the mirror, he didn’t want to leave it! He was like a parrot gazing into the mirror. That’s the great thing about him, he is way more curious than he is spooky.
Then last Sunday, I took Bear and the old mare out to the easy trails for the much anticipated “Boyfriend’s First Ride”! I taught him how to groom and tack up, and then how to get on the old mare, and off safely, then finally put him on Bear! Yikes! He is an absolute beginner, one time on a guided trail ride kind of rider, so I had no idea what to expect. He is, however, very athletic, and naturally good at everything he does! (Although I’m super jealous as well, the fact that he’s turning out to be a natural rider makes my life of teaching him on a 3 ½ year old horse a LOT easier.) We started out just ponying him off the old mare, and worked on lots of exercises in the saddle. Then we jogged a little since I can keep Bear really collected next to the old mare, then even moved out to a nice trot to teach the BF to post! They both did amazingly well. Bear didn’t mind at all having a newbie on his back. They were both so relaxed and comfortable, that I let Bear off the lead and let the BF learn to turn and stop him. We worked on some small circles out in a grassy clearing, and taught him out to back. I couldn’t believe Bear was so calm and patient, he’s clearly going to be a great match for the beginner BF, which is great because it will allow me to ride another green training project later on without having to worry about the two of them. I was SO proud of Bear, all the work I’ve done on him totally showed.
Then Saturday we tried a lunge line lesson. Bear lunges really well, but he’s a bit out of practice since I don’t really do much lunging in the uneven pasture, more just trotting him over poles with walking the other (downhill) half the circle. So I lunged him to warm up, and had the BF learn to lunge a little too. Then he hopped on Bear and off we go! I really need to think of good exercises for the rider while lunging, I know I’ve done a ton, but darned if I can remember them now! We were mainly working on him learning to post the trot anyway. Lots of “Stand up in the stirrups, and let all your weight sink down into your heels… Good! Now stay that way!” He was great, and Bear did even better, nice and calm. He broke into a canter once, but he smoothly came back down. Over all it was a great learning experience for them both. Plus it was a huge work out for Bear to trot circles with the weight of the rider in the deep sand.
So he got the day off Sunday, while I worked on setting up some tiny cross country jumps and poles out in the pasture. Some for cantering over, and some for trying some trail stuff: side passing and the like. I even constructed a sort of bridge! The pasture is full of stuff to keep the training fresh and interesting. The funny thing is that the poles are in the way when Bear gets to running around and playing, so mainly he is jumping things while running around! By the time we get to actually riding over them he’ll have jumped everything out there a hundred times! Its fun to see him play, he’s so athletic the way he changes lead and turns so easily; I really think he’ll make a super fun jumper.
My horse is awesome!