Saturday, January 31, 2009

The racehorse is still in the house

I've been making really good progress with Bar on the ground, amazingly good, actually. He is responsive and cooperative, and really trying to do what I ask of him, even when my directions are not very clear.

It's awesome.

But I still haven't been riding him a lot, and this week--yesterday in particular--underscored the need to get back in the not-so-proverbial saddle a lot more regularly.

Tuesday, I had a pretty good ride. I was working on flexing and one-rein stops, and having him walk and trot on a loose rein. The walking was no problem, but asking Bar to speed up on a loose rein can be an invitation for racehorse-like launches. He was pretty good that day and I got him to give me a nice (if fast) trot on a loose rein. We didn't move onto the canter because I'd already worked him over an hour--including the round pen--and he'd cooperated quickly, so we could end on a good note early on. I'd also ridden Lena earlier that day, so my body was starting to feel a bit over-worked. I'm a wuss, I know.

Yesterday was a whole other story. I think if I'd put him in the starting gates on the track yesterday, he would have left every horse in the dust. Now, the ground work went great and one of the ladies at the barn even asked me if I'd worn him out because he was standing so calmly as we talked. As if that would ever happen. I think I'd have to lunge him for hours in deep sand before he'd ever be worn out. No, I just had him calm and paying attention to me, which is one of the benefits of the ground work I've been doing.

Then I got on.

Again, he was great at the walk, going over obstacles, etc. But Bar sometimes has a bit of a short attention span, and I think he thought it was much too nice a day to be in the arena. He certainly wanted to run and would give me two steps of a trot before launching--and I mean launching--into a canter. We spent a lot of time practicing our one-rein stops. I told him he was making things way too hard. He said I was being way too picky.

I knew I couldn't give up, though, so I kept at him until he gave me one loop around the arena at a trot on a loose rein without breaking into a canter. I didn't care how fast he trotted as long as he trotted until I told him "whoa," and we stopped after that. Then I rewarded him with a walk down the driveway and a rubdown for all his self-induced hard work.

It's the first time in a long time I've pushed him hard, though this was mentally hard, not physically hard. I feel good because I wasn't scared for the first time in a long time, and I was able to stay with him and stay consistent with my commands and expectations.

It really points out how much more work I need to do with him under saddle, though. I'm still going to do the ground work, and even add new things as I go, but it's also really important that he and I both know I can control him and work with him from his back, too.

I'm going to have the biggest biceps of anyone at the barn after all this, I swear.

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