Friday, March 20, 2009

Testing his endurance

We had a great ride today! I took Boomer out to the big pasture so that we could ride for at least an hour so I could start to gauge his endurance. First off, he was a perfect gentleman while I opened and closed the barbed wire cattle gate. We walked for a bit and then started the workout. My plan was to just keep him trotting for an hour. He started pretty strong and was strong trotting for the first 15 minutes. It was a really great trot, long strides and fast! At first he wouldn't stay on the dirt cattle road that goes over the creek, but I got him over it slowly. He has been over that thing at least 15 times in the past. After our 3rd crossing though, he was trotting over it and not thinking twice about it! Which was especially fun because it is in a small valley and is the only 'hill work' we can get in out here in the Oklahoma plains! We trotted around the pasture for a while and he picked up the canter on his own a few times. He was manageable and calm. I was in control and he felt fine. But he still won't turn. We will be cantering along and I start asking for the turn by looking where I want to go, then I use the inside rein. His head comes in but he keeps going straight towards the fence or trees or whatever. He can canter sideways with his nose on my boot. He totally ignores my outside leg. Once I tried turning him the direction he wanted to go and I could get him to weave back and forth, but no turn without dropping out of the trot. Once he was headed towards a stand of trees and I was trying to get him to turn left but he just kept heading right. Once we were right at the trees I said whoa, and he stopped. Next, I let him walk and he went straight into the trees and started exploring. So, I am wondering if this is a behavioral thing. He doesn't want to turn because he wants to keep going in his direction. I'm at a loss on this one. Never once did he feel out of control or like he was bolting. He would stop on a dime as soon as I asked. But he just. won't. turn. I have tried a wide leading rein, I have turned his nose to my boot, I have used my legs and body with no rein contact. I don't know what else to try. I was really happy that he was enjoying our ride so much that he chose to canter. I want him to know that he can enjoy the canter and relax into it. But I also want him to know that I am in charge.

Aside from the cantering issue, our ride went super! We went around the top of the pasture about three times and the bottom about twice. We were out trotting and cantering for a total of an hour and fifteen minutes. He broke a little sweat and was calm enough to be on a loose rein trot for the last 15-20 minutes, but I don't think he was near being worn out. I have no idea how far we went, but I would guess 8-10 miles? I had a blast and I think he did too. At first he started out really 'look-y' but about halfway though the ride he became much more brave and started checking out all of the scary things in the pasture! I was especially happy to see that he had no qualms about trotting on gravel and didn't slow down or miss a beat!

I am really happy with how he is coming along and I want to start incorporating long rides like this into our week at least once or twice a week! Maybe we will start doing 1-2 times a week of dressage-y flat work and 2-3 times a week of long rides, aiming for a total of 4 rides per week.

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