Monday, February 19, 2018

It’s been a Year

….And this is the next instalment of why my pony is still the bestest pony ever...

Hanging with his bud

- Hanging with his best buddy -

The last time I posted on this blog, we had gone on an amazing trail ride, and had the best fun. So what did we get up to the rest of the year of 2017?

Well, I packed up the family and we moved overseas to Thailand.

Yeah, you did read that correctly!

We left on the 24th of April 2017, and I was going to write more about it while we were over there, but I got pretty sick due to not being able to access my treatments for my hypothyroidism - oh hey, I haven't written about that either! - so it never really happened.

All the cute

The short story is: I didn't want to sell Copper. I've tried to do that before, when I had both Joey and Copper. (remember Joey? He broke my elbow in four places... But he was smart and cute when he wasn't being a brat)

Back then I had had a lot of interest in Copper, and on paper he sounds like an ammy rider's dream. The problem is, he is in every way except under saddle.

He's got impeccable ground manners, he is an excellent doer, he's got rock solid feet, he travels like a dream, and he's quiet and reliable. He is brilliant no matter how long you throw him out in the paddock for, he will come back to you and try whatever you ask of him. He doesn't break himself very often, and rarely needs a vet.

But he's not an easy ride. He is gentle, and can't buck, won't rear. But he is sensitive. He will take off on you if you ride hanging on to his mouth.

 Who me?

It's funny how many people get on him and can't ride him for nuts. And yes, there was this one time that a lady tried him out and he came so close to bolting on her. She was literally balancing herself on his mouth right from the beginning. He hadn’t even gone two steps before he started to panic. I had to teach her how to do an emergency one rein stop right then and there.

The downside is he is also nowhere near educated enough for an experienced rider to take him on. He'd need a super special home and to be honest, I really just couldn't bear the thought of him going somewhere that wouldn't love him for what he is - an honest horse, who is willing to show up do whatever you ask (within reason of course!).

So that left me with a huge dilemma! What to do with Copper while we spend two years or so in South East Asia?

Thankfully after a lot of agonizing, I found an amazing agistment/spelling place that would take him under unusual circumstances, i.e. - his owner is going away overseas and won't be able to check up on him at all!

So we moved him out Yass way. It's an hour out of Canberra, in the middle of nowhere, but it's cheap, and he has taken to the change like a total champ!

I finally got to go out and see him on the weekend, and I was sooooo happy when I saw how good he was looking.

Conformation shot: Feb, 2018.

- Just look at those muscles tho!! He looks so, so good! -

He has been a bit weak and untoned since his bout of stringhalt in 2016 - he lost so much muscle on his hind quarters, particularly around his gaskins. They literally withered away with muscle atrophy.

But I swear he looks better than he ever has - except for the time I was riding him regularly and we had a great lesson program, his topline was perfect then... But anyway, right now, despite not being touched for a year, he looks so good.

He doesn't have that lovely topline, but he doesn't look like a pregnant land whale, so I am incredibly chuffed to see how well he has done.

And of course, I had to ride him!

I started first with a little bit of groundwork to see what he remembered (all of it – clever boy!) and to gauge what kind of mood he was in - willing to try!

So I hopped on bareback and toodled around the arena. He felt strong and well shaped underneath me, but stiff. Oh, so very stiff! We had to remember that yes sideways *IS* possible and you can move one foot over at a time. Hah!

Big grins

- Best Pony. Happy Face. -

That's to be expected, and even though he wasn't anywhere as responsive as he normally is, I couldn't stop grinning. Man, I love that horse.

We even did a bit of trotting on a 20m circle, and finished the ride off after about twenty or so minutes. Not a long ride, but so satisfactory.

I can't tell you how good it's been to be home, but it’s been made even better seeing Copper again.

If it was any other horse I wouldn’t be able to do this with him. I just wouldn’t. There’d be no point as the horse would either break themselves in the paddock, or need extra feed, or go mental being left to run wild for that long. But it’s Copper. There’s no way around it, he’s special.

He takes it all in his stride and is still a brilliant horse!

The difficulties of taking selfies with your horse. Still smiling though

- The difficulties of taking selfies with your horse’s giant mug. Still smiling though!! -

I hope to visit him at least once more before we fly back to Thailand. It's a long way out to see him, but it's so worth it.

I also have to make sure his teeth and feet checked over before I leave so that gives me a good reason to get out there, and you better believe I can't wait to ride him again.


- It surprised me to see Copper bossing about the ponies! He is usually the lowest man in the herd, so this was interesting to me. Guess he figured out that he’s bigger then they are! -

See ya,


Sunday, January 15, 2017

My horse is AwesomeSauce

I know, I know… Everyone thinks that! And maybe you don’t think that we have accomplished anything to epic from this story but for reals, he’s the best.

What did we do?


- Running braided his mane as it was hot and sunny and I’m glad I did; he was sooooo sweaty by the end! -

Oh, just go on a trail ride.

Only – here’s the thing…

Copper has been chilling in his paddock for the last six months – I’ve been riding every once in a while when I can, but honestly, at this stage that’s happening once every two to three weeks – sometimes even longer than that between rides because I’ve been so ill with my Hypothyroidism.

But as we have never had the chance to ride together (we were going to a Working Eq. clinic together but that’s when Copper got stringhalt… TT ^ TT!! ) my friend K and I decided to go out on chill trail ride, just walking around for a while at the National Arboretum. We decided that we needed to float out so that it wouldn’t take so long and the ride wouldn’t go for hours. So on New Years Eve, we went riding!

I pulled Copper out of the paddock at 8:00am and he just walks right on to the float. (He’s such a good floater - last time he floated out it was our move over a year ago to our current facility.)

Then we get there an find a spot to park and saddle up. He was just  standing there, chilling at the float. He’s just soooo good.

IMG_3043 IMG_3044 IMG_3045
- Selfies with the unimpressed poneh -

I did need my friend to hold him so I could get on… That’s his worst re-occurring fault – if I don’t ride him in a while, he can never stand still for me to mount the first time.

But he let me get up okay and then we where walking! We crossed a road and where walking along the fence line of the Zoo & Aquarium. We had to cross a small rain drain that had a cage on top of it. It was on a really steep bit at the bottom of gully with blackberry brambles trailing everywhere – scary stuff! Haha!

Copper stood and looked at in for a minute or two and then was all like – “Charrrge!” He just put his thinking cap on and walked right across. I did my usual defensive mode which is slip the reins and grab a hunk of mane! (Never going to cut his mane – haha! It’s my Ohcr*pstrap)

We have an understanding - I let him negotiate the tricky bits and even if he gets a bit of momentum and has bit of a run after, or jumps a puddle, my job is just to stay with him and keep my balance so I can help him if I need too, and he takes me with him! Haha! It works for us.  :P

As we were going up the side of the gully, a golf cart came trundling down the hill on the other side of the fence, and Copper scooted past it. We almost were able to stop and wait, but then another, nosier –flappity, flappity – golf cart came past and Copper scooted up the hill away from that one too.

While I was struggling to get Copper to stop, the others were struggling to get past the rain drain; both their horses where like “Nope!” but I think when they finally figured out Copper was on the other side they both crossed in a hurry.

Then we had a super low underpass to go under, and the other girls with me decided to hop off and lead their horses because they had had trouble with that rain drain. I decided to stay on – I knew I’d be safer as Copper is brave enough to go through, but I was not at all sure I’d be able to get back on him okay!

Again, I let the reins droop a little, twisted my fingers into a hunk of mane, and he took a moment to stare, then marched right through. He did have a little spook on the other side when we got out into the sunlight, but I think that was a “just in case there are scary monsters hiding that I couldn’t see” spook – rather than one where he was actually scared!

Then we where in the grounds of the Arboretum, with wide fire trails to ride on, lovely smooth dirt roads with a light dusting of small gravel that cut between the swathes of tree plantations.

Copper started out really well, with his happy trail walk which is relaxed and forwards – but then, he started to feel – off…

I was worried it was his saddle – he’d gotten so fat that there was every chance the gullet could be pinching him. I was worried it was his boots – his feet needed doing and I had to really jam them on, so maybe they were rubbing?

I just couldn’t figure it out – he was trying to turn around and go back which he NEVER does unless it’s been like 3 hours! Copper loves trail riding, and I knew something was up, but I couldn’t figure out what.

It got so bad as we were riding up the hill that I hopped off, checked his saddle and took off his boots.

I gave them to my friend as she had places on her tack she could strap them too, and walked up the hill most of the way. Then I had to get back on Copper ‘coz I was dying! … So unfit!

We rode up to the “Wide Brown Land” statue, and hopped off for bathroom break. Then we decided to go around the holding pens on the other side of the hill so that we could leave the horses there while I ran and got us some cold cokes from the cafĂ©! (It was really hot!)

IMG_3019 IMG_3015IMG_3017 IMG_3023IMG_3037 IMG_3038IMG_3039 IMG_3041
- Up on the top of the “Wide Brown Land” hill. That view between those ears…! The best! -

I decided to lead Copper to the pens (which were much further away than I had thought… Urgh! Unfit!), and I took off his saddle and bridle when we got there, but left his halter on. (I was riding with his halter and lead rope just in case)

Then two of us went to get drinks and one of us stayed with the horses. Apparently, when I left, Copper started spazzing out and being a real hoon! He was racing around the pen, cantering, bucking, farting and being a total silly boy… He also pooped four times.

My conclusion?  He had a tummy ache… 


Because when I tacked up to go again, he was perfectly fine after that!!

I was so glad he got that all out, because then we could actually settle in and enjoy the rest of the ride.

IMG_3042 IMG_3046
- Friends on horseback are the best kind of friends for a day out exploring! -

Of course, he still walks too fast for the other horses, so I end up in the lead on my own again. I always ask myself why I bother going with other people when I end up walking by myself for the whole ride! But no; there are lots of other fun moments and times to chat, so it was good. It’s just a little bit annoying that Copper just can’t keep his stride in check so that we can be with everyone else.

We went through a super hilly bit next where it was tons of steep slopes up and down ~ of course, that’s always fun, so I let him trot up those pretty quick, and the others would chase us up at a canter.

Copper figured out that his fast trot is just as fast a canter, so he mostly stuck with that, and I just stuck with him!

IMG_3063 IMG_3065
- Go pony, goooo!! -

Then we where on the stretch home, and by this stage, we were both pretty pooped. For the first time ever, Copper volunteered to drop from a trot to a walk all of his own violation! Haha!

I was pretty happy when we made it back around to the underpass, and I think he was too. We were miles ahead of my friends, when I realised they’d stoped to take photos of the tigers at the zoo.

As we where passing by, the tigers had smelt our sweaty horses and were trying to jump the fence and get at us! Of course, they couldn’t, but they were pretty riled up about us just standing a few feet away from them and smelling delicious apparently.

It took a little bit of convincing Copper to turn around up the hill to be with the others, but he suddenly realised they were up there, and he did it. Then we continued on past the storm drain back to the floats.

When we had made it past the drain, Copper stopped at the top of the hill and his head was hanging, and his legs were shaking. Poor boy was so tired!

I said – Right, I don’t care what the others think of me, I’m walking him back! So I jumped off him and loosened his girth. And he perked right up again after a couple of mouthfuls of grass.

Haha, always thinking of his tummy…

We had a bit of a ways to go, but they did think I was doing the right thing, so I was happy leading him back to the floats.

Then we all sat around eating chips, grooming the horses and trying to convince them to drink the water.

IMG_3068 IMG_3067
- Chilling with the mates after the fun; chips for the human beanz, pine cones and grass for the ponies –

IMG_3066 IMG_3071
- When he literally wants to go home and stuff his face…. -

Copper ate pine needles, hoovered up the grass and tried to eat a pine cone!! It was absolutely the funniest thing I have ever seen him do!!

He was standing there with the dopiest look on his face, the pine cone hanging from his teeth, flapping his top lip like he was trying to figure out how he could actually get it into his mouth!

I cracked up, but of course he dropped it before I could get a picture…  :/

When they were well rested and completely cooled off, we loaded them back up and took them all back home.

Copper was very happy to see his girl friend, who was neighing a greeting to him, then he got down to the serious business of putting back on all the weight he’d lost from that exercise.

Horse, you are all stomach at this point – you could stand to loose some! 

And that is the long and somewhat boring story of why my horse is awesome and I love him the bestest.

See ya,


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Facing Reality

It has been one of those years.


I know that it’s been ages since the last update and for good reason.

I have been so overwhelmed by all the drama going on that I just could not cope with riding, or anything more than feeding and grooming him. And sometimes, even that was a difficult stretch…. Yeah. It was that bad…

I really can’t go into the details, also, I really don’t want to revisit it. But in my last post (aptly titled Barn Drama), I was relating the problems we’d had at the beginning of this year with our new paddock arrangements. I thought we had gotten through it, and I had been feeling cautiously optimistic that we may have found a workable solution.

Turns out, not so much.

The subsequent incident that exploded on us in July was far worse than the one at the beginning of the year, and left me with very few options to work with. Suffice to say, we did manage to find a spot for Copper at the paddocks, but the consequences of the whole event affected him and I for months after. I didn’t ride for months, and even now, it’s not a sure thing that I will ride just once a week.

The fallout is still affecting us daily.

I don’t know if next year I will still be able to keep my horse. That’s how bad it is… It breaks my heart to even think of selling him, but I can’t see how we will get around it when winter comes.


So for now, I’m not thinking that far ahead.

I just can’t.

I can’t keep thinking about the whys, the hows, and the what-do-I-dos of keeping my horse. I’m just taking it one day at a time.


Every chance I get to ride is the best day ever, and I’m not thinking any further than that.

See ya,


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Stringhalt Attack – Part II: Barn Drama

It wasn’t enough for Copper to come down with string halt and basically be completely broken and mostly unrideable for the next twelve to eighteen months, oh no….


Unfortunately, his string halt diagnosis brought on a whole pile of barn drama that had to be dealt with as well, and that was a saga in and of itself!

The set up with the private paddocks at our facility work like this:

Someone buys into the paddock with a $2,500 deposit and now “owns” the rights to the land. They are responsible for all interior fencing, and the care and management of the pasture, barring weed spraying. They are allowed to buy and set up any structures they may like to within the guidelines; this can be as simple as a garden shed to hold tack, to a stable, muck heap, hay shed, yards, etc - the full she-bang.

The owners of the private paddock are then allowed to host a “guest” to help defray the weekly cost of agistment - or rent on the land.

I moved into a private two horse paddock as a guest, and well, ended up with a homeless horse.

It’s a long and involved story, but it started earlier than the stringhalt. Previously, there’d been a few issues as we were settling into the shared arrangement – things like the owner moving horses around and not filling up water troughs properly, not telling me when the worming was happening so the worming didn’t happen simultaneously on both horses like it needs too, gates getting broken, (Copper apparently tried to jump a gate and bent it! But must have scrambled over somehow…) – incidents that can cause problems at the time, but honestly, I thought we’d moved past all of it.

When the problems occurred, I’d done my best to communicate clearly and fix any issues my horse had caused. In short, I’d done my best to hold up my end of the bargain and be a responsible guest.

However, when the vet said that Copper absolutely had to be kept off the the flatweed and needed to be penned/yarded for as long as necessary, all hell kind of broke loose and we were basically threatened to be kicked out of the paddock. I had to let Copper back into the paddocks (because someone else down there had said that would be okay to do… Um, what?! Since when do we veto vet’s orders with a random’s “advice”?) or move him out in three weeks. The situation came down to the fact that it was inconvenient for the owner to let him stay in the only yard area that was suitable, and she wasn’t happy that he had to be in there.

Past issues were dragged up again, and though I did my best to handle the situation, I knew it wasn’t going to work any longer. I didn’t want to stay somewhere where I wasn’t welcome and were I couldn’t trust the owner to deal with the necessary management of my horse in a reasonable manner.

To top it all off while this back and forth was happening – Copper developed a lymphatic systemic reaction.

IMG_1810- Wut you meenz; I iz twubble? Corz not!! Now FEED me human bean! -

It started off as a bump above his right eye, and I thought that maybe a bit of dust or hayseed from the round bale he was eating from had gotten in his eye and caused the swelling. I’d seen that happen before, the incident that developed a partial cataract on the outside edge of his left eye. I palpitated all around the eye and couldn’t see any redness, weeping, or tenderness.

The next day I came out to check on him and it had gone down, so I kept a close eye on it. Come the day after and it had drained down under his jaw. I thought that was really odd – was it an abscess that had moved? I put Tuff Rock on it to see if it would burst and drain, like what had happened when he had a possible case of fistulous withers.

Nothing happened so I called the vet – my vet was away on holidays, so I had to call someone else about it, and it was four days after the bump had first appeared. Not-my-vet was concerned it was a case of strangles…. I was like Huh???

Note that:

- Copper had absolutely no discharge from the nostrils

- No fever

- Was bright eyed and eating his food

- Swelling was only under one side of the jaw

Anywho, I then had to remove Copper into an isolation paddock as per the vet’s recommendation.

So we walked him down to the hospital paddock which is near the main office buildings and stables, and set him up in there until the vet could assess him.

Blood test that revealed nothing and a double course of antibiotics later, so – two weeks in total - Copper still had a lump under his jaw and was still stuck in the hospital paddock.

Then the day after he finished those antibiotics, his back legs puffed up like sausages from the hocks down. I took his rugs off to discover he had swollen lumps all underneath his body, and a swollen sheath besides.

I had a chat to the manager and she confirmed my suspicions that the swelling was in his lymphatic system – he had a case of systemic edema. As it was a public holiday when this cropped up, as well as a Sunday (!! Why horse, why??) we decided that we’d see how he was doing in the evening and call the vet out the next day if there was no improvement.

Copper seemed a bit down and quiet at this point, but he didn’t have a temperature, and was eating quite well. So besides being a bit moody, all his systems were functional and his vitals were sound.

I was very relieved to come back that evening to discover the swelling had gone down by half! The next day it was still there, but less and by the middle of the week he was fine again.

Ugh. Horses.

I still have no idea what caused the reaction – it wasn’t bacterial, the vet didn’t think it was viral, so??? Stress perhaps?

My reasoning was this: he has been used to a way large grazing area (up to 10 or 12 acre paddocks), a large herd and a much more “natural” way of living.

Since moving, his grazing has be cut down to 1.5 acre paddocks at most, then he got stringhalt, was yarded in a tiny paddock area and had to be hard fed with round bale hay, and hard feed everyday.

On top of that, he was now separated from his one and only paddock mate, but then even worse, he was isolated for two weeks.

After that reaction, we kept him there for a day or two to monitor him, but then we had to make decisions about whether to move him back to the old paddock where the owner did not want us, or wait it out and try to find a new paddock to move into asap.

We decided to wait it out, and after one failed match up, we finally found a new situation.

Six weeks of living in the hospital paddock, being homeless hobos, and Copper moved into a new home!

IMG_1419 (1)

Thankfully, he appears to have settled in nicely at the new place, and he has made friends with the chestnut mare who is more than happy to boss him about.

I’m happy there too – after a bit of stress and hassle getting everything organized at the new place, including a lot of flooding and swamp situations when winter really kicked in and brought buckets of rain (and we still need to sort out the stable, but we’ll get there) – I think everything seems to have worked out well.

Our new host is super lovely, and her mare is gorgeous. Copper is quite content and happy I think (he loves all the extra cuddles and treats he’s getting at the moment  : P ) and we have great facilities at our new home that are proving to be invaluable for winter.

But *whew!* such barn drama!

And to be honest, I am really uncomfortable with the whole owner/guest arrangement now. Yes, at the moment everything appears to be fine, but I had thought that previously, only to be booted out of our paddock over a situation that I had absolutely no control over. You can bet your buttons I wouldn’t have yarded Copper unless I absolute had too, and you can also bet I would have done anything I could to keep him from getting stringhalt, but you just can’t control these things sometimes!!

So while I really do hope things continue to go well with our current arrangement, I am also thinking that we will start saving for our “own” paddock. One day, if we need it, then at least we’ll have that option.

See ya,


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dissecting the Seat – Part 4: Biomechanics of “Bearing Down” and plugging your seat in with the horse’s movement

Expanding from this post, a more in-depth explanation about the biomechanics of the seat and how it affects the horse’s energy an “thoroughness” in an excerpt from Mary Wanless's Article 42.


…When a rider is having this problem, I like to say "Imagine that we could perform a surgical operation, and insert a fishing rod just beneath the horse’s mane. If it had a small fish on the end of it, it would make a slight curve throughout its length. The whole length of his neck should ideally feel as if it really were hung from a fishing rod. But you may find that the rod has soggy bits, or even that it’s missing completely. What do you sense is happening here?".

People can normally answer this question very easily, and you can probably imagine from looking at the photo that the fishing rod ends two thirds of the way up the horse’s neck. What is much less obvious is that the fishing rod will also be soggy at the base of the horse’s neck. This is the part which the rider must repair first - and amazingly, just thinking like this is often enough to fix the problem! Having reorganized the base of the neck the rider can then successfully think about the top of it …

Horses find it very difficult to make the correct connection from the hind leg, over the croup, under the panels of the saddle, and up the crest of the neck. Think of this as an energy connection, or as water flowing through a hose. When complete the circuit continues through the rein to the rider’s arm and back, so that the energy received into her body rejoins the original conduit. This connection gives the rider a very correct influence, and enables the horse to seek a light contact with the rider’s hand, and, potentially, to "sit himself down". How wonderful horses look when they achieve this! But it requires very skilful, correct riding, and the lengthening of the horse’s spine mirrors the "use" which people aspire to when they have lessons in the Alexander Technique.

This horse breaks the circuit both at the base and at the top of the neck. He also is not "sitting himself down" – if anything I think he is raising his croup to evade this demand. Instead of maintaining the correct connection whilst shortening his whole frame as he would in collection, he has scrunched his neck backwards whilst lifting his croup. So things have gone rather awry - and as always, the rider is unknowingly playing a part in allowing this to happen.

She too has lost the ideal connection in her own spine, this time by stretching it too much and in the wrong way. From her waist she has separated both halves of her body, drawing her ribs up and stretching her legs down. If we could see the shape of her back, I am sure we would find that it is hollow. However, we all hear so much about "growing up tall and stretching your legs down" that our rider will almost certainly believe that she is sitting correctly! But I like to think of riding as a martial art, and this is not the stance used by good martial artists, who understand that this kind of stretching renders you much less stable and effective.

If you stand in a martial arts position and then exaggeratedly grow tall and lift your chest, you will find yourself all but holding your breath. You will also feel very tense and unstable. Then drop your ribs down towards your hips, so that you remove the hollow from your back. (Doing this sideways on to a long mirror will give you the clearest feedback.) For added strength, you can then engage your abdominal muscles in the way I call "bearing down". Cough, giggle, or clear your throat, and then maintain that muscle use. Your major difficulty might then become breathing, for to bear down continuously you must use diaphragmatic breathing, which only seems to come easily to people who run, sing, or who have learnt to play a wind instrument.

Many people who "grow up tall" are shocked by my insistence that they need to drop their rib cage. By comparison, they often feel slouched or round shouldered – so they are convinced that this new idea must be wrong. Some have heard the idea from the Alexander Technique that they should think of themselves "being pulled up by a string attached to the top of the head". These words, however, are intended to describe a much more subtle expansiveness through the whole back and neck, which is not the same as this hollow backed version of growing tall.

The version of "stretching your leg down" which accompanies the wrong way of "growing up tall" becomes an attempt to get your knee beneath your hip to and make your whole leg vertical. This usually generates a strong pressure into the stirrup, which pushes the heel down and forward. If you are sitting in a chair as you read this, push one foot hard down into the floor, and realise how doing so tends to lift that side of your pelvis. Your body is obeying Newton’s third law of motion, which states that "every action has an equal and opposite reaction" ie. every push down will create an equal and opposite push up. This is one of the main reasons why people usually sit to the trot better without their stirrups – for they cannot then push down on them, and do not experience the straightening of their joints which then sends their backside up out of the saddle.

This bodily use opens the angle between the leg and the body too much, and it plays into the horse’s evasive pattern. (It would take me too long to explain to you exactly how this happens.) So to change her horse, this rider needs to change herself, completing her part of the circuit before she can complete his. I would like to see her bring her lower leg back underneath her and lighten her pressure into the stirrup. Creating a vertical shoulder/hip/heel line will make her feel as if her heel is back and up, and the change will probably horrify her! She also needs to spread the weight which does go into the stirrup over the entire width of her foot, and not roll her ankles over to weight the outside of the foot. The next step is to think of the thigh and calf making an arrowhead shape, in which the knee is the point of the arrow. This means that she will no longer be "stretching her leg down" in the way she is now.

Simultaneously, she needs to drop her ribs down towards her hips, and to take the hollow out of her back. This too may horrify her. It is as if she needs to shrink both ends of her body towards the middle – and into a martial arts stance. Then she is in a position for make the "fishing rod" idea work for her.

How to feel the “bearing down”: excerpt from Article 37

With your seat bones pointing down and your feet flat on the floor, put one hand under your sternum, and put the thumb and first finger of the other hand each side of your spine at waistband level. Then clear your throat. You should feel your muscles push out against your hands. Put your hands on your sides and repeat the experiment. Then place the fingers of one hand half way between your belly button and your pubic bone, and clear your throat again.

Sam is riding as if she is doing this permanently. I first called this use of your abdominal muscles ‘bearing down’, although I now think that ‘bear out’ might have been a better term, since it does not make you sit heavier. Wherever you have soft tissue, i.e. in the entire band around your waist between your ribs and your hips, and all down your abdominal muscles from your sternum to your pubic bone, your guts push against your skin. Think of pulling your stomach in, making the muscles into a wall, and then pushing against that wall. It is as if your torso were a jam jar or a baked bean tin, and the contents of the tin are under pressure, pushing against the edges, but without deforming the shape of the container.

The next difficulty arises with the need to breathe and bear down both at the same time. This requires diaphragmatic breathing, which will be familiar to you if you have learnt to sing or play a wind instrument. In this, the ribs expand outwards but do not lift up: think of the air being drawn down into your abdomen, as if pair of bellows down there was sucking the air in.

Bearing down whilst breathing well is a big deal for most riders – I suggest that people practice whilst driving their car, for this has to become a way of life…


I’m delving more into the biomechanics of riding, because I believe that a lot of what I am reading here I have either experienced in person while playing around with my seat connection on Copper, or it is something that I need to experience because it’s a missing connection.

The subtle feedback of a horse’s energy into your body as you position your skeleton in different ways – releasing some muscles, holding others – is a endless book to learn from. But I am trying to read this book all by myself and if there is insight to be found, I am more than happy to learn elsewhere!

More pieces of the puzzle are falling into place.

One thing I do know more and more for certain from this journey I’ve been on: THE RIDERS WHOLE BODY INFLUENCES THE HORSES WHOLE BODY

… How I breathe, how I tilt my head, hold my neck, bend or straighten my wrist, shift my left seat bone, etc… It’s a matter of learning where to place each individual part of me so that it is most effective in influencing Copper’s energy and movement. 

The riding masters know that, I wish that more teachers would teach that instead of focusing so much on the horse. Get the rider right and 90% of the work is already done.…

See ya,


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Stringhalt Attack – Part I: All the Flatweed

This story has been a long time coming; it’s rather involved and I’ve been so busy managing Copper that I simply haven’t had time to write it. It’s also the reason I’ve been so quiet on this blog…

Ever since March our whole routine has been turned upside down because Copper contracted string halt. It was only a fairly mild case with grade 1 lameness and slight paralysis on the right side of the Sternocephalicus muscle (the long skinny muscle under the neck from jaw to chest). But if you didn’t already know this; string halt sucks

* * *

Stringhalt is a sudden flexion of one or both hind legs in the horse, most easily seen while the horse is walking or trotting. It is most evident when the horse is backing up slowly, turning on the affected leg, or suddenly frightened. It can involve one or both hind legs of the horse. It is a spasmodic contraction of the lateral extensor tendons of the hind legs.

Australian stringhalt

Australian stringhalt was described and differentiated from classical stringhalt in 1884.[3] Australian stringhalt is differentiated from classical stringhalt by the severity, occurrence of outbreaks, distinct seasonal pattern and the ability of affected horses to recover spontaneously.[4] This condition is characterised by the sudden exaggerated flexion of either one or both hocks. This form of stringhalt most commonly occurs in the summer and autumn while horses are out on pasture. Epidemics of Australian stringhalt are usually witnessed during drought or abnormally dry conditions.

Affected areas in the horse[edit]

The long digital extensor muscle (usually in the hind limb) is the muscle that appears to be the most affected by this condition.[3] The most severe muscle lesions have been found within the long and lateral digital extensors and lateral deep digital flexor. The location of neuromuscular lesions in Australian stringhalt may be explained by the susceptibility of longer, larger myelinated nerve fibres to injury.[4] Regenerating nerve fibres with disproportionately thin myelin sheaths are more common in the proximal parts of affected nerves in horses with Australian stringhalt. Distal axonopathy occurs most severely in the longest nerve in the horse.[5] The cause for this distal axonopathy remains unknown.[4]


Horses affected with this condition rarely recover without surgical intervention, although there have been some instances where horses have recovered without treatment. The recovery time in affected horses can range from three months to three years.[3] Horses may be affected so severely that euthanasia is necessary. It is unknown how long it takes for clinical signs to develop after the exposure to the cause of the condition.[3]

The majority of horses affected by stringhalt are dependent upon pasture for nutrition.[3] Removal of the horse from its original paddock containing low-quality pasture, weeds and native grasses, along with dietary control, was the most common and successful treatment. Lateral digital extensor tenectomy has also been used as a treatment by veterinarians with a success rate of just over 50%.[3]

Phenytoin has been used in the management of Australian stringhalt.[6] Two weeks after treatment with phenytoin, significant improvement was observed in the gait abnormality of horses affected with Australian stringhalt at the trot and canter, but no significant improvement was observed at the walk or while turning.[6]


- H. radicata is linked to some cases of stringhalt in horses. -

The most common plant species that have been found and identified in pastures where affected horses were located include: flatweed (Hypochaeris radicata), sheep's sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and couch grass (Elymus repens). The type of nerve damage sustained in horses with Australian stringhalt suggests a mould toxin (mycotoxin) or a fungal 'poison' found in the soils may be a cause for this condition. Mycotoxins can directly affect the long myelinated nerves in the hind limbs.[3]

* * *


Pasture looking just fine… *sigh*  -

Which is a long winded way to say that Copper had to be locked up off his pasture effective immediately and started on handfeeding 24/7.

When we moved to the pasture, I had an idea that the forage was a mixed bag - there seemed to be a lot of tussock grass, a variety of weeds and other native grasses.

However, what I didn’t realise was that there was also a TON of flatweed in that paddock until in the late summer it was popping up EVERYWHERE. Basically, at that stage in the season, the paddock was tussock grass and flatweed. And horses don’t eat tussock grass. So.

It just didn’t click that Copper was in danger from all that flatweed until I was sick for a week and couldn’t visit him. During that time he didn’t receive any of his hard feed with his Equine Vitamin&Mineral supplement, which includes the necessary magnesium, vitamin E and selenium that helps to treat/manage stringhalt.

Looking back, I think he might have actually had a touch of stringhalt for awhile, but didn’t fully succumb to it until he didn’t have the minerals to help his body process the toxins.

He had had a touch of the hind leg contraction when backing for several weeks before then, and was stiff when moving off after standing still for a prolonged period. But he had also been a lot more stocked up in the hind legs since moving to the new paddocks, partly from his injuries when running through the fence, and partly from standing around a lot more.

And to be honest – he’s getting on. 15 rising 16, so I put it down to old age I’m afraid. Especially when he didn’t have any trouble moving sideways, and the backing up was only an issue if he wasn’t warmed up and had been stationary for half an hour or so while I groomed him.

The signs were there, but they were so slight, I really didn’t twig to what it might be…

Not until I finally got out to see him again. We were going to ride in another W.E. clinic that weekend, but when he was walking up to me from the paddock I could instantly see he was off. Majorly off in both back legs.

I caught him, and hoped that maybe he’d thrown his back out again (he does that from time to time as he’s always had weak loin coupling and every once in awhile when he’s been a doofus bombing around the paddock he’d tweak his back, then be fine in a week or two with a rest.).

But nope. When he got closer, I could see the characteristic jerk, jerk, jerk of the hind legs as he walked and it didn’t take more than a little ask for a hind quarter yield (not good), and a back up (can’t do that) to be 98.5% sure he had stringhalt. Bilateral lameness and the convulsive movement where both pretty telling. *sigh*  

The vet came out the next day and only confirmed what I’d thought. He ordered that Copper wasn’t to even breathe flatweed, and he was to be put on the fullest dosage of Equine Vit&Min, which is 80gms a day. The best they can do for stringhalt is treating with magnesium, vitamin E and selenium. Beyond that, there’s an anti-spasmodic drug injection if the horse is so convulsed they can’t move. I’ve seen cases that bad before, but thankfully Copper never came near that.

I was allowed to ride him as long as he could bear my weight and walk. As movement is also encouraged to help treat stringhalt (it helps retain muscle memory and rebuild the tissue connections that are attacked and destroyed by the toxins) I knew I would keep on working him to whatever capacity he was capable of.

-  One from the other night… A pony and a mountain view.  -

Turns out, that wasn’t much… 

…Story to be continued, as it’s still a long one…

See ya,


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Our FIRST Clinic – An Introduction to Working Equitation

12799174_593737914115708_199299912647194149_n - Concentrating very hard on circling through the triple barrels -

This happened on the 28th of February, 2016… Wowee, that was too long ago! We had a fantastic time at the very first clinic either Copper or I have ever attended!

It was a one day clinic - Introduction to Working Equitation. We started out by learning the history of W.E. and how it came about, and then we moved into the practicalities of how W.E. competitions work – the levels (Introductory, Preliminary, Novice, Medium, Advanced, International: Debutante, ?, Masters), the structure of the trials (4 stages to the competition – Dressage, Ease of Handling*, Speed*, and Team Cattle Trial) etc.**

Next it was time to mount up for the “dressage-ing” portion. We started out as one big group, walking around the arena and halting, moving on, crossing over the diagonal to stretch and release the horses backs.

Then we moved into 5 meter circles on the outside track, and loosened the horses up even more. The whole group started to look really rhythmical and unified turning our circles in synchronization – it was actually really cool! Then we started trotting, and we did 20 meter circles at each end of the arena.

Copper started out super stiff over his back, so much so I was wondering if he was lame(!!) but by the end of this session he was so soft and light. It was so fantastic!! He felt great and I was really enjoying the workout. Then we stopped and did individual sessions for 10 minutes where we ran through an entry level W.E. dressage test.

Unfortunately, by the time Copper and I had our turn, Copper had cooled down and was definitely “done” for the day. One of the side effects of  always working in 20-45 minute sessions – he’s convinced his legs stop working after that length of time unless we are out on the trail!

The meant we spent the better part of our session just loosening up again – we didn’t really get a good run through. I was a bit concerned about how he’d go in the afternoon session because of this, but as it turned out, he was fine.

We broke for lunch, and ran out to pick up Subway, scarfing it down in the car as we rushed back to tack up….. Lol! I’m never prepared food-wise, but oh well.  We made it back in time, ready to get stuck into the fun stuff – the W.E. obstacles!

12801656_593738090782357_1710742294844914256_n- Not melting down juuussttt yet… Wait for it! -

Copper took it all in his stride and I was really proud of him! He did so well with everything – even the bull and the garrocha pole. The only one he had a bit of a melt down with was the gate. We’d get two thirds of the way through the obstacle, but after I had maneuvered him up, unlatched it, turned-on-the-forehand through the opening, he just didn’t want to back up the final three steps so that I could close it again. Gah.

Anyway, I ended up having to turn him in a circle up to, and away from the gate, come back along side it, pick up the rope (yeah, it was two jump standards with a rope – not an actual swinging gate) and back him up to latch it. You are not supposed to let go of the rope, so that’s the one obstacle we “failed” and couldn’t complete, but you know what? That’s really not bad at all!!

We did the bell, the side pass pole, the L corridor, the stock pen, the double and triple barrels, the slalom, and the bridge, as well as the gorracha and bull. 

After we had all had a chance to play with the different obstacles there, and have some instruction on how to do them, we then got to do little individual run throughs where we strung some of the obstacles together.

This time I learned my lesson though – I spent five minutes or so warming Copper up before we ran through it, and he did brilliantly! We did the bridge, the slalom, the bell, the L corridor, the triple barrels and finished with the bull. We got told we had a “score” of seven (out of ten – “reasonably good”) *fist pump* and this made me really grin…

It was smooth, easy, Copper was having fun, and we were concentrating and oh – it was brilliant! I reallllly enjoyed it, and I could tell Copper did too – even if he was pooped by then (hehe, I was too!).

12802939_593738037449029_2046125034342873650_n- Picking up the ring from the bull with the garrocha pole – it takes a lot of concentration! -

By end of it all, we were both utterly out of energy and all the moves, but it was. so. good.

Copper really calmed down with the work, I could feel his brain settle and really start to work. All of the horses were really listening at the end of the day, and I could feel that Copper could see the “point” to what we where doing. He really enjoyed the thinking aspect of tackling the obstacles – he loved the work I was giving him.

I loved it too – the fact that this combines the best of dressage training (lightness, harmony between horse and rider, feel and more!) plus, fun stuff in the sandbox?? I’m all for it!

I’ve toyed with the idea of eventing before, trying to combine dressage with other kinds of fun, but Copper can’t jump sticks tbh, and doesn’t really enjoy it either. He races because he’s uncertain and scared, and so I get uncertain and scared, and…. We’d never jump anything higher than beginner/Intro level.

But W.E.? I can see us doing a lot more with this. We might even learn how to chase cows!!  Haha!

Plus, I personally believe that W.E. marries the work and principles of dressage far more deeply into the fun side than eventing does.  You can’t do W.E. without the classical dressage training, it just wouldn’t work. The obstacles are specifically designed to test a horse’s balance, collection, lightness in hand, and ease of handling - which I’m not saying that eventing doesn’t do - just not in the same way, or to the same extent. :D

Basically, I’m a fan and I can’t wait to do more WE.

See ya,


? I missed that level’s name, but there is one. (-__-)’

*The obstacle course is run twice – once, you and your mount are judged on how precisely and easily you do the course (which can be any variation of any of the 19 WE obstacles, taken in a certain order), and the second time is the speed trial – where you want to get through the course as swiftly as possible.

** For more information please see

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