Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Seasonal Greetings!


frayserstudioblogspot 

Have a wonderful Christmas and a lovely New Years - we are celebrating with our family, than going away for a trip to see the great grandparents (my grandparents) and a few days at the beach.  Copper will get another holiday that he doesn’t need, but oh well.  It will be fun - I’m looking forwards to it.  I’ll see you in 2014!

See ya,

bonita

Good ride, good ride, BAD ride!


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We have been having really good rides recently; Copper has started to soften his back while trotting for a few strides here and there (this is a BIG thing for him, being an ex-trotter, he really finds that hard and definitely prefers to power around with a locked neck, shoulders and back).  I’ve been riding in two point quite a lot to encourage this, and avoiding 20 meter circles because he just locks up when I ask him to do a full circle.

But – and here it is – the other day we had a perfectly terrible ride.  I thought I’d ride in the jump paddock for a change of scenery to the arena and to see where he was at in preparation for starting some jumping work as we haven’t jumped in - *thinks* yup, years.

That didn’t work.  Our ride quickly dissolved into a pulling battle, arguing about what speed we were going to go at. He wanted to canter, and I didn’t, so he was racing around with a locked neck at a hundred miles an hour.  I ended up hanging onto his face, because no matter how and which way I tried softening up on the reins, he just didn’t want to go slower than full pelt! 

We did canter a bit, and I managed to get a nice, soft canter, but as soon as we dropped back to a trot it all fell to pieces again.  I tried serpentines, 10 meter figure of eights, trot-halt-back up-trot transitions.  No beuno.  He wasn’t having any of it.

The goal was a soft trot (not necessarily slow, as that is harder, but soft so that I knew he was using his back properly and not resisting) on a longer rein for a more open frame.  I did not come even close to achieving that. *sigh*

So I tightened the contact and at least I could stop him from running off, but relaxed it was not.  So we went out on a trail ride.  Still trying to achieve the soft, rhythmical trot – still getting no where.  Ugh.  At this stage I was just glad that at least at the end of the trail we had some half-decent lateral movements and I could call it a day on a semi-positive note.

Sheesh!  That was not pretty.

Lesson Learnt:  Copper does NOT do “ride it out”.  If he’s tense, I can’t just ride him around and around until he relaxes.  It won’t work.  I will be exhausted long before he is, and that’s just trouble.

I need to engage his brain to get him thinking, rather than just racing around. Figures are good, but his balance is pretty good so they have to be darn tight to slow him down. And if they are too hard, he’ll just break into a canter, which defeats the purpose.

Take Away:  What I’m taking away from this is that Copper needs to engage his brain when he’s rushing – regardless of whether it’s caused by him being anxious or over-eager.  Lateral work is the best thing for this. This will be applicable knowledge for taking him to shows.

Where to now?  Well, we need to get that trot SORTED before I can start jumping.  His canter is good, and I suppose I could just canter around the place and ignore the mess that is trot, but I don’t know how productive that’s going to be, and frankly, I personally hate ‘moving up’ gaits before basics are established. And a controlled, relaxed, rhythmical trot is pretty darn basic. Anyone have any clues on how to help a trotter forget their training?? :/

I’ll keep plugging away.

See ya,

bonita

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bittersweet


Joey at his new home

So Facebook is a wonderful and terrible invention – I’ve kept in touch with the young girl (through her mentor) who purchased Joey. I saw some pictures of him today and he looks happy. Though I am glad for news of how his doing, I have to be honest. It hurts.

Apparently, he loves the bush trail riding, he’s jumping logs, and is making a great team with his new owner. That makes me happy – I’d hate for it not to be working out for him, but ouch…

My Joey Boy

I still miss him. *sniff* It’s awful.

See ya,

bonita

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Precision & Dancing

 


This wonderful display of team riding gave me the chills – a must watch!

See ya,

bonita

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Spread a Little Sunshine


Sunshine Award by Drawn2Life 
I am so thankful for this nomination for the Sunshine Award by Karen of Bakersfield Dressage – (which, by the way, I was extremely surprised and honored when she did – I’ve been reading her blog for ages and love it) of course I’m a million years behind and everyone has already been nominated. But if you haven’t and you feel like playing along; I nominate YOU!  : )

Candylei Horse Art Oil Painting

Mares or Geldings: Geldings. Mares are too moody and frankly, that’s my job. I don’t need that from my horse, or there might just be a hormone explosion!  : P

English or Western: English. Western can be fun to do every once in a while, but dressage is my passion, so English all the way.

Do you prefer "younger" or "older" horses?  Hmm. I don’t know. All of my older horses haven’t been that old and Joey at four and a half has been my youngest horse. So I can’t really judge.

Do you prefer riding or groundwork? Riding. I like working with my horse on the ground, but well, we all love to ride right? ‘Cause that’s when we get to fly….

Have you trained a horse from ground zero?  No, but it’s on my bucket list for sure.

Do you board your horse or keep it at home? I board – well, not really. I adgist my horse in 24/7 turnout. There are no stables, no barn, just paddocks.

Do you do all natural stuff or just commercial stuff?  I like all natural when I can – I am a big fan of the wonderful treatments you can find in the plant kingdom and the like. I think that they work really well for a reason. Sometimes nature doesn’t always win though, and then I am certainly happy to borrow someone’s brain and use the products that were invented to deal with things that nature can’t.

All tacked up or bareback: I love bareback for fun, but prefer to be tacked up. I feel like I have more freedom to try different things when I’m in the saddle.

Equestrian model?  No one in particular. I’m not really up on the equine sport news. Although I quite admire Mark Rashid for his horsemanship and I think very highly of Mugwump’s down to earth and thoughtful training techniques.

What's your one, main goal while being in the horse world? To improve and bring out the best in whatever horse I am working with. If one day I happen to be able to train up to Grand Prix dressage while doing that, I shall be a very happy equestrian. ; )

See ya,

bonita

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Help! My horse is herd bound!


I’ve been thinking and reading, reading and thinking, and after five or so years of riding Copper I have finally connected all the dots – my horse is extremely herd bound.

The reason it’s taken me so long to pick this up is because he doesn’t exhibit the typical behaviors you’d expect in a herd bound horse – behaviors that Joey showed.  Copper doesn’t whinny longingly or loudly, he doesn’t refuse to go out on trail rides alone, he doesn’t pace around looking for his herd, or anything like that. 

But last night I had an epiphany – Copper’s herd bound-ness manifests itself in different ways.

1. He always drags his feet when you go to catch him and bring him in from the paddock. He has the slowest walk ever; he’s coming, but he will move like molasses on a cold day. He always has the grumpiest face while you bring him in, groom and saddle – in fact the only time he doesn’t look cranky while you have him out is when you feed him.  Naturally. 

I have checked his bridling, his saddle, his feet – I don’t think he is in pain, and for me, the biggest indicator is that it isn’t pain related is that his gear has been changed and refitted over the years, but his behavior hasn’t changed. It’s gotten worse.

I could be wrong about the pain thing, but I am always looking out for that, and I think the problem is bigger than that.  I think it’s a mental thing. Pain problems are easy to solve, mind problems are not.

2. He races under saddle. He has always been like this. The minute you hop into the saddle he is off, off and away! He doesn’t like standing still for mounting, he wants to run/trot as fast as he can whether you are trail riding with other horses or alone, or schooling in the arena, or jumping – whatever you are doing in the saddle, Copper is fast.

In the past I attributed this speed to his racing history.  He was trained as a trotter for at least six years (he was foaled in Sept, 2000 and his last registered race was 2006), and that sort of conditioning will impact a horse’s personality. So I assumed that he just like racing and running.

Now? I’m not so sure. I think that Copper is simply trying to get the riding over as fast a possible so that he can run back to his herd.

3. He likes to bolt off when you un-halter him in the paddock. This didn’t used to be the case; after I leased him out and got him back unexpectedly, he started this habit. Previously, he’d just amble back to wherever the herd was, but now 90% of the time he’ll take off at a gallop.  I turn him to toward the fence and get him to tuck his nose in and down towards me when I slip the halter off, but he is really good at turning on a dime and – excuse the French – pissing off like a bat outta hell.

These are the three main reasons I have come to the conclusion that he is, in essence, herd bound.

What do I do?

I don’t think it is my riding – I am willing to admit that we have had our share of struggles. I have really had to adjust my riding so that I am not pulling on his face, and I try very hard to control his speed with my seat.

We have been working together a lot better than previously – I have been using lateral work to switch his mind from “Charge! Forwards ho!” to “Oh, I have to think about which foot goes where.”  This has been working really well for calming him down and slowing down his trot and canter without hanging on to his face.

BUT if the underlying problem is not just “Speed is fun!  Whee!” like I thought it was, then all of these techniques aren’t really addressing Copper’s main problem.  He doesn’t feel safe away from his herd and he does NOT enjoy riding, like I thought he did.

Oh help. I guess I’m going to have to do a lot more reading and thinking, because I haven’t the foggiest clue how to go about reaching Copper and changing his mindset.

I don’t know if ground work is the answer, or maybe riding him out on trail rides and dismounting and feeding him in the middle of the ride? I really don’t know what to do at this stage, but I’m not giving up on trying to find a solution.

See, in the end, I think that Joey and Copper actually have/had similar problems. But Joey was at least willing to communicate and reach out, whereas Copper is very shut off. How do you open up lines of communication when your horse doesn’t want to talk to you? How do you begin to show them that work is good and fun and safe?

So many questions that I don’t have the answers too… I think I’m going to write a letter to Mugwump.  I need help.

See ya,

bonita

Thursday, October 31, 2013

SOMEthing is happening -


Or more accurately, some muddle is happening!

My ride on Copper today was productive, I think… I don’t really know, as I can only go off what I feel, but because I’ve only read about the results I want, and never actually ridden them, how am I supposed to know?

What we worked on:

Warm up - I let him pick the direction, the pace and gait, and only used contact to steer to keep him in the arena as it is not fenced, just denoted by poles on the ground.

Trot – Me; trying to deepen my seat and practice my half-halts. Him; shoulder-ins and leg yields at the trot as well as some figure of eights thrown in for good measure.

Canter – Me; suppleness through my shoulders, arms and wrists; activating my seat at a canter, rather than just sitting and moving with it. Him; balance, rather than racing to maintain the gait.

What it felt like:

Warm up – Copper loved this bit, what horse wouldn’t? (Well – not quite, Joey would just mooch) He chose the right rein and powered around in an explosive, fast trot.  He would slow down for the corners, but yeesh. It was messy.  I just focused on keeping up with him and staying balanced. The reason I decided to do this is because a trainer that I greatly admire, Mugwump, is great believer in getting off a horse’s face and letting them figure it out.  By all means, steer with the reins, do your figures, but keep out of their face.  The more you can do that, the less charge-y and pull-y they will be.

I think I might need to try this a few more times before Copper gets the hang of it, his first and only thought was “Yay! Running!”  After a while he seemed to calm down a wee bit, and I do mean wee, so I thought it was time to pick up contact again, and do some ‘proper’ work.

Trot – Me; I was trying to deepen my seat, but avoid the pinch-y thigh problems that can occur when you are trying to change your balance or keep up with the horse’s movement. This meant that I would open my hips and thighs, apply a little calf and gentle resistance on the reins to do my half halts. 

It felt weird to say the least. I could feel my seat bones drop into the saddle, and that was good, but pulling my thighs open to achieve that felt messy. It could be that I’m not used to the motion yet.  I have found that when you start trying new positions in the saddle, or new aids you don’t know, they almost always feel messy at first – even if they are correct. Or, it could be that I don’t need to swing my knees out so much when I am trying to open up my hips.  I shall have to experiment.

Copper; still felt excited and charge-y.  I wanted his energy to be ‘up’ but I don’t think he has the muscle strength to lift up his neck and head in proportion to his impulsion – so he had to go forwards, or else he would drive himself onto his forehand. (Much like Joey used to do.) I would half-halt and he would respond and drop his croup, but as soon as I released the resistance on the reins with the next stride, he would just explode forwards, because, I am guessing, he was unable to contain his energy.

I would fall behind his movement, and then have to rebalance, and I think it would’ve looked as messy as it felt. But we did do our shoulder-in and leg yields at a trot and those were actually the best thing for gathering him up under himself.  He certainly had plenty of impulsion! He doesn’t like circles now as they are too ‘hard’ for him in his new frame so he’ll shoulder-in out of them to avoid them.

I had to put a kibosh on that, but between all my seat/position struggles I figured it would be best to work on something that he was willing to do.  I actually got an extended trot out of him – I just half-halted, and let him power on.  He just flew! I started to get a sore back from having to work so hard at sitting his trot, so then we moved to canter.

Canter – Me; I was chanting “Supple, supple, supple” to myself, working on relaxing my shoulders and wrists, and rolling my seat up and back to activate it and control his gait.

Copper – a bit unbalanced at times, but he had some very nice moments. I only worked him on the right rein so that we could have plenty of time to warm down. As his canter is so much easier for him than his trot, I always need to go back to trot work afterwards to get him back to thinking about it.

His trot was still very energetic afterwards, but I could feel that his hind legs were reaching further underneath himself, so that is something to think about.  Maybe moving the canter work to after the warm-up, rather than somewhere at the end/middle of our training session, would be beneficial to him? It might help with the excess energy as well. 

Overall impressions – I think we are on the right track. One moment particularly stood out for me; we were working at a trot, I half-halted and released, and he stayed balanced and collected even when I moved the reins forwards to drop the contact.  He was showing true collection! It only lasted like two or three strides before he started to speed up, but it was there. 

I’d like to take that as conformation that we are heading in the right direction, even with all this muddle!

See ya,

bonita

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Facing fears – humans and horses working together


I was out on a trail ride the other week with Copper (It isn’t often that I go down to the horse yards without Isabelle and when I do it’s time to hit the trail!); and we met a ‘monster’ in the form of a mini dirt bike.

At first I was surprised at Copper’s reaction – I thought he’d be ok with them as he is ok with traffic, but maybe he didn’t expect to see it.  Anyway, it wasn’t going – thank goodness for that! – as it had broken down. There were four young men fussing over it on the side of the track.  When it came into view, Copper stopped and grew very, very tall.  I could feel his hunches dip and I knew instinctively that if anything got much more scary he would spin and bolt for home. So I twisted my fingers into a chunk of his mane, and called out to the blokes “Please don’t turn that bike on until we are well away from you!”.

Then I sat quietly. Copper started to walk forwards all tremble-y and snort-y. I felt him hesitate and encouraged him just a little by swinging my right seat bone forwards.  Only a little nudge with my seat, nothing more!  He gave the bike a wide berth and then walked away, still ready to run, but much happier now that it was behind him.

When we were 20-30 meters down the track he finally let out his breath and felt quite proud of himself!  It was rather cute. 

Copper is funny though, he’s at the bottom of herd hierarchy, but he doesn’t look to humans for leadership hardly at all.  Whereas Joey, although he was high up in the herd (second or third I think), would turn to me for guidance.

One time Joey’s trust in me was really pressed home.  I had turned him out in the small paddock that our dressage arena was in to get some grazing while I worked Copper.  He was jumpy – it was a windy day, Copper and I were in the pens a couple of meters away and he hadn’t been turned out in that area before, although we had ridden in it plenty of times.

To top it all off, a ute appeared out of “nowhere” and I could see that it had caught Joey by surprise and freaked him out.  He stood by the fence, high-headed and wide eyed, ready to run.  I called out to him – the usual soothing noises “Steady Joey, easy boy”, wondering if I needed to go over there and reassure him. 

Then he looked at me, and I could read his mind.  “Is it ok?”  he asked – clear as day.

I said, “It’s ok boy, steady”  and he just stood there, holding my gaze with wide eyes, the whites showing, while the ute bumped and bounced past him and down the bottom of the jump paddock to disappear out on to the dirt driveway we drive in on.

Then the spell was broken and he went back to grazing whilst I saddled Copper.  I had goosebumps on my arms.  That was the second time Joey and I had ‘clicked’, when we had been on the exact same wave length. 

(I so wish I hadn’t had to sell him! *sniff*)

He’s the only horse I ever remember doing that with.  I’ve been able to understand what my other horses have been saying to me, but he’s the only one where it’s been like we can read each other’s minds.

Did he trust me more than Copper does?  Or was he more willing to try and communicate more clearly?

I’m thinking about this, because comparing the two stories, well, it’s two very different experiences.  Copper, in that scary situation on the trail, did the job himself.  Yes, I did encourage him, but he basically took the situation in his own hooves, as it were, and did it himself.  I didn’t feel like we were a team at all, he was not looking for guidance from me. 

Joey would do the same thing sometimes, but in situations that were really crucial – ones he felt like he couldn’t manage or didn’t understand, he would refer to me.

Was it because he ultimately trusted me more, or because of his personality – being a different kind of horse, with a different background?

Copper is a willing partner, but he doesn’t give any kind of input.  He’s just there to work, in a way.  Is it asking too much to want more?

I don’t know, but I do know what can be achieved now, and maybe one day I’ll find another Joey, and hopefully it will be the right time for us this time!

See ya,

bonita

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dissecting the Seat – Part 2: The Sitting Trot


In this series on dissecting a rider’s seat, I’m looking at a lot of different texts and articles to try and decipher the principles and practice of the classical dressage seat.  This is concerning the sitting trot with an article from the Thoughts on Dressage blog.

The sitting-trot wizard: attaining the golden seat

Executing an effective and comfortable sitting trot is probably the most difficult challenge faced by amateur dressage riders. For most, it is hard to get your body in sync with the horse while still riding effectively. It is like the old hot and cold taps, where you can only have one or the other on at one time. : )

The biggest mistake made by most amateurs is that they try to learn the sitting trot in one step. In other words, they try to go from not even being able to get in the rhythm  - all the way to being in perfect sync with the horse. Many riders try methods such as riding half a circle sitting and then back to rising, or another favorite, being lunged with no stirrups. Unfortunately, a lot of these traditional methods cause the rider to clamp up even more and give the horse a bruised back. Not ideal.

I propose a phased approach:

Phase one: Sit heavy

Before you can have the perfect sitting trot, you as a rider need to learn how to put weight in the saddle. I know many instructors say not to sit heavy like a sack of potatoes as it will not help your horse’s animation. Although this is true, I believe that UNTIL you can learn to sit like a sack of potatoes you will never learn to properly sit the trot. Many riders hover in the saddle and kind of do a fake sitting trot, which looks stilted and awkward. Technically, they are sitting on their seat bones and pinch with the knees. In order to keep the balance with this configuration their seat has to be tense and their pelvic floor raised. It is actually quite an unstable way of riding and it astonishes me that so many riders opt to stick with this method of riding. Clearly, it does take more time and strength to ride a proper sitting trot, but I believe the extra bit of effort is well worth it.

But back to sitting heavy… If you’ve gotten to the point in your riding that you either want to finally learn a proper sitting trot or would like to try sitting trot for the first time than you need to start at phase one. The basic instructions are as follows:

1. Go into a slow trot from a walk
2. Don’t TRY to sit the trot, instead focus on feeling your pubic bone and seat bones as the three point contact in your saddle
3. Once you feel your points of contact, make sure you are sitting up tall and let your full weight rest on these three points.

It is important to keep your horse slow during phase one. Again, the advice many of us get is to keep “riding the horse”. But you must be realistic. At this stage, no matter how much better it would be for you to school your horse while trying to learn the sitting trot, it isn’t going to happen. Your best bet is to let your horse go nice and slow and if possible let them have a soft long contact where they are stretching for the bit. This stretch will help lift their back, which will make it easier for you to sit. Many will feel that they look ridiculous mincing around, sitting like a sack on their horse. You must ignore this for now. You must get used to the idea of allowing your full weight to sit on your three points and by doing so your pelvic floor will relax and lower, which is essential before moving to phase two. Practice your sitting trot near the end of your ride when you and your horse are warmed up. Don’t move on to the next phase until you feel like you’ve had success here first.

Phase two: Animate your seat

Once you feel like it is second nature that you are sitting on your seat bones and your pubic bone rather than putting your weight on your seat bones and knees, you are ready for phase two.  The instructions are as follows:

1. From a walk ask your horse to go into a slow trot
2. Sit heavy as you did before with your three point contact
3. This time you are going to tilt your pelvis (think of a speed boat as it takes off, or if you do yoga think of warrior pose ed: or you can think of sitting on a ball and rolling it forwards with your butt!)
4. Now shut your eyes for a moment and feel the rhythm of the horse, count in your mind the trot steps 1-2-1-2-1-2
5. With your tilted pelvis I want you to animate your seat, not back to front but in little pelvic pushes forwards
6. As you do so you will notice you don’t feel as heavy in the saddle, but the weight that is still there should still be resting on your three points
7. this is the critical piece of phase two – STAY IN FRONT OF THE MOTION. If you try to keep the rhythm of your seat with the horse’s gait you will always be a bit behind the motion. In your mind, you must attempt to stay in front of the motion, what you will accomplish instead is that you will just be in sync. A good example to demonstrate what happens when you are behind the motion can be found when using a trampoline. Have you ever heard the term, stealing someone’s bounce? This happens when you are bouncing on a trampoline with a friend at the same time and one of you slightly bounces just after the other, the first bouncer gets a dead tramp and instead of bouncing high doesn’t go anywhere. This is what happens to your horse when you are behind the motion. You steal his bounce and you as the rider get bounced even higher.

Phase three: Lift

Most riders don’t get past phase two, but if you want to help your horse reach collection you will need to move beyond it. If you keep practicing, you can have a pretty decent position riding in phase two and feel reasonably comfortable at the sitting trot. Phase three is all about helping your horse out, where phase two is about trying not to interfere with your horses motion. In phase three, the idea is to use your seat and body to help animate your horse. Every time your horse lifts his back (and if you were posting you would be rising), you, the rider also actively lift your seat to help the horse get the maximum animation possible for that stride.

The instructions are as follows:  At this point, you are very comfortable in phase two and are in perfect sync with your horses movement. You are not interfering with their gait and you are able to stay in the sitting trot for an extended period of time. As you begin to enter phase three you will make the following changes to your approach and position.

1. Instead of simply doing the pelvic pushes to stay in sync you will now sit even taller in the saddle and actually lift your body straight up during the rise stage of the gait as though someone is pulling you upwards by your helmet.
2. As you work through this change you will notice that you feel like you are almost bouncing in the saddle, don’t be alarmed this is normal
3. you will also notice after a while that you almost feel like you are – in a sense – standing in your tack and getting more stability from your upper inner thighs than your seat, this is also normal.
4. Ultimately, you will be able to aid your horse, providing them with more balance and lift than they would offer without a rider – when this happens you know you’ve attained phase three.

I intend on trialing this process and working on improving my sitting trot seat – I will let you know how it goes!

See ya,

bonita

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Things I have learnt - Joey


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Thinking about my boy tonight and being grateful for the journey we had together.  He taught me many things:

1.  He taught me to be a better rider – I had to learn to be precise with my aids. I had to set him up to succeed.

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2.  He taught me to secure my seat… :P

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3.  He taught me that forwards is the best answer for misbehavior – by the end there was less spooking, less prop-and-whirling, less bucking; all brought on by allowing him to move forwards when he felt like something was scary or too much to deal with.

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4.  He taught me to be aware of my pelvic floor muscles and how they affect my seat; one of my biggest AHA! moments this year.

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5.  I learnt how much a horse can rely on you and trust to you lead the way.

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6.  He taught me that I can ride and train a young horse, but it takes a lot of work!

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7.  He taught me that even when I am ‘paralyzed’ with fear, I can actually ride through it without it affecting my riding too much.

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8.  He taught me that ground work is crucial – if your horse listens to you in hand then he is far more likely to listen to you under saddle!

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9.  He taught me how much fun it is to have a smart horse; and how hard it is to keep their brains active.

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10.  He taught me that if you push too hard, accidents will happen – you have to learn when to work through it and when to stop.

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But mostly he showed me how a horsey partnership can be – yes, we had our ups and downs, but we also connected.  And that connection is something I will always cherish. 

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Copper and I are developing our relationship further, and I am enjoying that; but they are different horses.  Sometimes I still miss Joey. 

See ya,

bonita

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dissecting the Seat – Part 1: Pulling my seat apart


I will be starting a series on dissecting a rider’s seat as I am trying to reconstruct my own seat using the practice of classical dressage. This post is kind of the beginning of where I start with a muddle as I pull my riding apart! 

I have been busy trying out a few new things with Copper – I don’t really have anything solid yet, but I’ll report anyway.  (^ u ^)

I’ve really been concentrating on figuring out my seat and what affects it has on Copper’s way of moving.  Have you ever sat on an exercise ball and tried to feel what direction the points of your pelvic bones are pointing in?

rider seat positions- Left position: rider is hollowing back and disengaging the seat.  This will make her position precarious, and she will just bounce along on top of the horse’s back, rather than influencing it.  It also means she will fall off easier!  I know, because this used to be my seat…  : / 

Middle position: rider is in a good neutral position to have an independent seat, meaning that she can at will influence the horse’s back, hind end and thus, the gaits.  She can encourage a faster pace by swinging her hips more vigorously in time to the horse’s movement, or draw up and ‘brace’ her lower back – blocking the horse’s movement over his back and causing him to slow down.  If posting to the trot, the same effect can be achieved by posting slower than what the horse is trotting.

Right position: rider has tipped her pelvis forwards, and while you do not want to hold this position all the time – i.e. as your neutral, not asking for a forwards movement, position – this is a good example of a driving seat aid.  Once the desired forwards movement has been achieved, the seat should be allowed to swing back in the balanced, even position, or the rider will be sitting too far back to follow the horses movement and will be left behind, as well as put into a chair seat where the lower leg will come forwards off the girth and be rendered less effective. -

Sitting up straight and evenly, your pelvic bones should be horizontal to the ground,  with the points of your seat straight down, vertical to the ground. Tip them forwards, like you are pushing the exercise ball out from under you, and your core should curl forwards and engage, your lower back should round out slightly as your tail tucks under.

As far as I understand from all my reading(!) that’s the seat aid for engaging your horse’s motor – his hind end.  With this aid you ask for forwards; walk, trot, and when you use one side of your seat, or rather, lift one seat bone up and forwards, you can ask for canter with scarcely any effort at all.

Breath in and up; pull your spine up from the top of your head, drop your shoulders and “hold” your breath.  Drop your heels and your weight into the saddle and close your fingers on the reins. 

That’s the aid for halt; if you ‘block’ your horse’s movement with your seat only momentarily, that’s a half halt.

Basic stuff, yet as I am working on applying it to my riding, Copper is rounding up, lifting his back and coming through with uphill movement in a way I have never would expect a Standardbred to be able to manage!

It’s true what they say that correct dressage should improve a horse’s action and way of carrying himself under saddle. 

He’s far from perfect, he does not bend his hocks enough yet, so the suppleness of his hind end is somewhat marred by a lack of suspension.  He is being to understand lateral movements, but unfortunately, he is now a little confused about lateral work and how it relates to circling.  As far as I can tell (and I’m not quite sure, because I’m a little confused about what is happening underneath me!) he is moving away from my inside leg requesting bend and “slipping” out from underneath me sideways!  Now I tried catching him with the outside rein/outside leg, but that just made him go all wobbly and crooked. 

wobbly_line - I feel like this ^ is what our progress around the arena looks like! -

So I definitely have to work on that as he is going really well in straight lines but we seem to have lost all ability to do a 20m circle! He actually does a 15m circle quite nicely.  I wonder if I am applying too much inside leg?  With all the work I have been doing to use my seat aids only, I might be getting too strong when coming back to a movement that seems to require ‘more leg’ than tracking on the outside track.

circles- This would be an improvement on the current state of our circles… - 

I am feeling all discombobulated on his back – I can’t seem to post at the moment(!!), so I am mostly working in sitting trot to feel what he is doing.  His stride is so choppy compared to Joey’s *sniff* that it can be quite hard to do that without some serious breathing out to relax my pelvic floor.  Then he gets all bobbly and wobbly as I’m trying to work out what he is doing and how my seat relates, and just – ugh. 

On the upside, I do know I am on the right track, as one of the ladies down at my yards was commenting on how nicely he was rounding up for me.  Plus, Copper himself is confirming we are on the right track – I have never felt him so uphill in all my years of riding him, so we are getting somewhere.

Then I have been acutely conscious about how my saddle tips me backwards slightly – just enough that I have to struggle to get and keep my leg underneath me, and if I lose my balance, or forget to think about it I end up in a slight chair seat. 

I’ve checked the balance of the saddle on Copper – the gullet shape matched his withers and shoulder shape perfectly, and he always get an exact imprint of the saddle (for the sweat mark) when I take it off after a ride.  His back does not seem sore at all, so I’m a bit puzzled.  My conclusion is that the saddle fits him – it just doesn’t fit me

Wintec 2000

It’s an Wintec 2000 All-Purpose, with CAIR panels, and an interchangeable gullet system. I’m not sure if it actually doesn’t fit me, or it’s giving me the seat that an All-Purpose is supposed to, when I am looking for a dressage seat?

Anyone out there with saddle fitting experience and some advice?

I did lift it at the back a little the other day, and I like the results.  It helped me keep my leg underneath me easier and I didn’t feel like I was tipping backwards so much.  I’m thinking I would like to try a riser under the cantle – just a little one to help my balance a bit.  I just don’t know if that’s what is needed, or whether I’m trying to change the balance of a saddle that is designed to give you a bit of a jumping seat. 

Again – comments would be appreciated!  I’m thinking I might need a new-to-me second hand dressage saddle if the latter is the case.  I do want to jump, so I’d keep the All-Purpose, but a nice dressage saddle might really help me with the work I’m trying to do with my seat.

So that’s the run down on my rides and thoughts about riding for the last little while – I know it’s a bit of a dump, but I do like getting it out….

See ya,

bonita

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It’s done.

 

I’ll keep it short; I’ve sold Joey. 

I believe it was the right thing to do for him and for me – he will love his new home were he can dink around as a pleasure horse – bush bashing and larking about.  He’ll be able to mooch all he wants!

I sort of thought that I’d feel relieved.  But I don’t.  At least, if I do, it’s buried by sadness.   I didn’t expect the sadness….

I really bonded with him in a way that I haven’t bonded with a horse in a long time.  I think it’s because in his own crazy way, he did actually need me, and needed to trust me.

We had forged a bond of trust which turned out to be stronger than I realized.  And I am so very sad that we weren’t right for each other right now. 

I don’t regret selling him, I just wish it hadn’t been necessary.  I miss him. 

*sniff*

Bye.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fun on Copper


Ya’know what?  I am seriously enjoying Copper at the moment… 

Today’s ride goals where to do more leg yields at a walk and try them at a trot and to school shoulder-ins as I didn’t think he got those last time. 

I won’t go over all the ride – it must get too long and boring to read those sort of accounts all the time, so here are the highlights in bullet form.
  • His leg yield at the walk is really getting good, his leg yield on the right rein is better than the left.  I think at one stage he might have done a half-pass instead of a leg yield because I forgot to apply my outside leg for forwards so he just went sideways! 
    (> o <)
  • He can do a shoulder in on both reins now.
  • We didn’t get to do a trot leg yield – he tends to get VERY over-excited in a trot and just falls apart, so we just did spirals until he soften, lifted his back and regulated his pace.
  • We have an ok-ish canter.  It wasn’t as balanced as it can be but he did soften at the canter and start to slow down which leads me to….
  • We did a left rein canter leg yeild! (inside track to outside track between B and M) He did fall into a trot as soon as we reached the outside track – partly because it’s hard work that he hasn’t done before and partly because I think he was surprised that a). I even asked him to do that and b). that he could do that!  It was kind of funny.
  • He can actually hear my seat aids much better than I thought he could.  I finally figured out the correct seat aid for forward (more on this in a later post) and used it to good purpose.  He gets very excited when a seat aid is used to ask for a trot, he immediately assumes I’m asking for a canter, but with practice he’ll realize what I am asking for and be calmer in his depart. 
  • He will also stop from a seat aid – I stretch up and sink my heels down and he does a lovely halt.  Not all the time of course! But he does know what I am asking, now it’s just a matter of getting the 100% response rate.
  • I love figuring out how to ride inside leg to outside rein; from our gorgeous I collected up the reins, wiggled my outside finger and felt him rock back onto his hocks waiting for my next aid! Ohmygoodness- it was beautiful!  It’s the first time I have ever felt anything like that, and I love that it came from my poky old Standardbred who could never be a dressage horse!
So that’s the run down.  Fairly long after all that – lol.  I did try!

See ya,
Bonita

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Horses & I

 

          To have a horse in your life is a gift. In the matter of a few short years, a horse can teach a young girl courage, if she chooses to grab mane and hang on for dear life. Even the smallest of ponies is mightier than the tallest of girls. To conquer the fear of falling off, having one's toes crushed, or being publicly humiliated at a horse show is an admirable feat for any child. For that, we can be grateful.

           Horses teach us responsibility. Unlike a bicycle or a computer, a horse needs regular care and most of it requires that you get dirty and smelly and up off the couch. Choosing to leave your cozy kitchen to break the crust of ice off the water buckets is to choose responsibility. When our horses dip their noses and drink heartily; we know we've made the right
choice.

           Learning to care for a horse is both an art and a science. Some are easy keepers, requiring little more than regular turn-out, a flake of hay, and a trough of clean water. Others will test you - you'll struggle to keep them from being too fat or too thin. You'll have their feet shod regularly only to find shoes gone missing. Some are so accident-prone you'll swear they're intentionally finding new ways to injure themselves.

           If you weren't raised with horses, you can't know that they have unique personalities. You'd expect this from dogs, but horses? Indeed, there are clever horses, grumpy horses, and even horses with a sense of humor.. Those prone to humor will test you by finding new ways to escape from the barn when you least expect it.

           Horses can be timid or brave, lazy or athletic, obstinate or willing. You will hit it off with some horses and others will elude you altogether. There are as many "types" of horses as there are people - which makes the whole partnership thing all the more interesting.

           If you've never ridden a horse, you probably assume it's a simple thing you can learn in a weekend. You can, in fact, learn the basics on a Sunday, but to truly ride well takes a lifetime. Working with a living being is far more complex than turning a key in the ignition and putting the car or tractor in "drive."

           In addition to listening to your instructor, your horse will have a few things to say to you as well. On a good day, he'll be happy to go along with the program and tolerate your mistakes; on a bad day, you'll swear he's trying to kill you. Perhaps he's naughty or perhaps he' fed up with how slowly you're learning his language. Regardless, the horse will have an opinion. He may choose to challenge you (which can ultimately make you a better rider) or he may carefully carry you over fences - if it suits him. It all depends on the partnership - and partnership is what it's all about.

           If you face your fears, swallow your pride, and are willing to work at it, you'll learn lessons in courage, commitment, and compassion in addition to basic survival skills. You'll discover just how hard you're willing to work toward a goal, how little you know, and how much you have to learn.
 

          And, while some people think the horse "does all the work", you'll be challenged physically as well as mentally. Your horse may humble you completely. Or, you may find that sitting on his back is the closest you'll get to heaven.
 

          You can choose to intimidate your horse, but do you really want to? The results may come more quickly, but will your work ever be as graceful as that gained through trust? The best partners choose to listen, as well as to tell. When it works, we experience a sweet sense of accomplishment brought about by smarts, hard work, and mutual understanding between horse and rider. These are the days when you know with absolute certainty that your horse is enjoying his work.

           If we make it to adulthood with horses still in our lives, most of us have to squeeze riding into our oversaturated schedules; balancing our need for things equine with those of our households and employers. There is never enough time to ride, or to ride as well as we'd like. Hours in the barn are stolen pleasures.

           If it is in your blood to love horses, you share your life with them. Our horses know our secrets; we braid our tears into their manes and whisper our hopes into their ears. A barn is a sanctuary in an unsettled world, a sheltered place where life's true priorities are clear: a warm place to sleep, someone who loves us, and the luxury of regular meals.  Some
of us need these reminders.

          When you step back, it's not just about horses - it's about love, life, and learning. On any given day, a friend is celebrating the birth of a foal, a blue ribbon, or recovery from an illness. That same day, there is also loss: a broken limb, a case of colic, a decision to sustain a life or end it gently. As horse people, we share the accelerated life cycle of horses: the hurried rush of life, love, loss, and death that caring for these animals brings us. When our partners pass, it is more than a moment of sorrow.
 

          We mark our loss with words of gratitude for the ways our lives have been blessed.. Our memories are of joy, awe, and wonder Absolute union. We honor our horses for their brave hearts, courage, and willingness to give.

           To those outside our circle, it must seem strange. To see us in our muddy boots, who would guess such poetry lives in our hearts? We celebrate our companions with praise worthy of heroes. Indeed, horses have the hearts of warriors and often carry us into and out of fields of battle.

           Listen to stories of that once-in-a-lifetime horse; of journeys made and challenges met. The best of horses rise to the challenges we set before them, asking little in return.
     

     Those who know them understand how fully a horse can hold a human heart. Together, we share the pain of sudden loss and the lingering taste of long-term illness. We shoulder the burden of deciding when or whether to end the life of a true companion.
        

  In the end, we're not certain if God entrusts us to our horses--or our horses to us. Does it matter? We're grateful God loaned us the horse in the first place.

         ~ Author Unknown

Found on Amy’s blog Slow and Steady Smiler Wins the Race, it sums my sentiments exactly!

See ya,

bonita

Monday, September 2, 2013

Quick Notes on Joey

 

After trying out some lateral work with Joey, I have discovered that he is very stiff and ‘straight’.  He doesn’t seem to be able to move his hindquarters sideways as easily as Copper does, and I can feel a lot of stiffness through his back, which would explain why he ‘locks’ up his shoulders a lot!

I’ve been so focused on forwards with him that I’ve forgotten about sideways and suppleness – thus the reason why circles unbalance and slow him down, and why he gets stuck on bending.  His corners are still good, which fooled me into thinking that his suppleness and flexibility where ok, but that is not the case.

He seemed to be able to leg yield a lot more easily in a trot than a walk, so we definitely have a lot of work there.  Joey can bend and flex around my leg through his spine and back – so we can do 10m volt├ęs and serpentine down half of the arena, but like I said – his hindquarters are not as activated as they need to be.

When asking for a leg yield it’s like your tapping against a wall – there’s no response and no softness.  He just doesn’t get it.  Yet!

Lots of lateral home work for him!  

And yes, the lateral walking warm up helped with our forwards and trot work.  (=_=); (Well, no duh Bonita!) Loosening up his shoulders, back and hind end meant that we could finish with some lovely forward trot and some quick walk/trot/walk for five strides/trot transitions.  He does a great stretchy trot after all that hard work I can tell you.  (>u<)

See ya,

Bonita

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Thoughts on Lateral Work & Riding with the Inside Leg to Outside Rein

 

First off – this post on leg yields on TB at X is a really good one; in fact, I’d even go so far as to call it a must read for any beginner/novice dressage riders (I love this new-to-me blog, it’s been so helpful!).

Here’s an excerpt:

“I love leg yields. They are the most basic lateral movement, and for that reason, an incredible tool for green horses and riders new to dressage.  To do a leg yield is not real hard, but does require an understanding of a few somewhat complicated concepts.  Most people can relatively easily understand the concepts and how to do a leg yield, but then find carrying it out to be slightly counter-intuitive, which is what makes leg yielding such a great exercise. Once it “clicks” for a horse or rider, it’s like a big light bulb turns on, and from there the rest of dressage starts to fall into place.

The concepts that a leg yield requires a horse or rider to gain an understanding of mostly hinge around the use of the outside rein. When asking for a leg yield, the horse should be gently flexed away from the direction the horse will be moving in.  Alone, flexing the horse gently in either direction is not hard, but when adding the leg yield, the idea of bending the horse into the *outside rein* becomes critical. As the rider asks for the first steps of leg yield, just closing the inside leg is again usually not difficult for the rider, but riding from the inside leg to the *outside rein* is usually a light bulb moment. Then, after the leg yield is finished, straightening the horse not just by ceasing to ask with the inside leg, but also straightening with the *outside rein* is the final ah-ha!

What a Leg Yield Should Look Like:

When the horse does a leg yield, his body will move both forward and sideways, so if he is parallel to the long side of the arena, he travels a line diagonal across the arena.  Let’s say, for example, we are riding a leg yield from the quarter line (half way between the center line and rail) to the rail, tracking right. The horse starts on the quarter line, traveling straight forward, body parallel to the rail. The horse flexes gently to the right, filling the outside rein.  The rider can best influence the inside hind leg to move sideways as it is in the air stepping forward (vs when it is planted on the ground and the outside hind is stepping), so if the horse is walking, as the front left leg steps forward the next step will be the right hind, and if the horse is trotting the front left and right hind step at the same time, and this would be when to ask the right hind to step under the horses body to cross in front of the left hind. As the horse moves sideways, his body stays parallel to the wall, he maintains the right flexion and contact in the left rein. When the leg yield is finished, the rider straightens the horse with the outside rein and may close both legs to send the horse forwards.”…

And my favorite part: Only when the rider takes a hold of the outside rein can they catch the outside shoulder and keep it under the horse, straightening the horse so the inside hind will step under the horse correctly. The first time the rider pulls the outside rein and feels the inside hind leg step way under the horse’s body they usually go “Ah-ha!” and they understand what is meant by “inside leg to outside rein”.  The same thing will happen trying to end a leg yield. A novice rider will try to stop the sideways motion of the horse by pulling the inside rein (sending the horse through his outside shoulder) instead of straightening him with the outside rein, and again, this will be an “Ah-ha!” moment when the rider gets it right.”

I love this article, because even though I’ve done some lateral work with my instructor’s guidance, such as leg yields and shoulder in, this has really helped to solidify what I am looking for, as well as the correct aids, and method for fixing an incorrect leg yield.

Which in turn helps me to feel confident about trying lateral work in our schooling sessions all by myself! *gasp*  :P

And if you’ve stuck with me thus far, I want to ruminate on the results of trying this out on Copper last week.

When I rode Copper on Friday, it had rained buckets the night before and our arena was slush – all the other riding spaces not much better.  I knew I basically had to stick to a walk, so lateral work it was!

Copper has learnt leg yields so he had those down, although our shoulder-ins where a little hesitant and bulgy through the outside shoulder.  What I found really interesting was that as I really thought about riding inside leg to outside shoulder, I could feel him move into the contact and we had connection on the outside rein. 

It felt like I was sweeping my inside leg forwards and over, although I wasn’t actually sliding my leg forwards, that was the motion that I felt through my seat.  As a result his inside leg would step further underneath and across and I could feel him “filling” out the outside rein, resulting in a strong connection from his hindquarters to his shoulders – Copper was starting to lift his back and round up properly for the first time since I’ve been riding him! *ding*  That was a big “Ah-ha!” moment for me.

On a 20m circle, I could ‘catch’ his outside shoulder before it bulged out, and also any faster trot or canter strides. Usually I am one step behind him – he can pop into a canter pretty quickly, but I had him from the BEFORE the lift off from his back end!  I could also correct any over bend and straighten him out just by feeling that outside rein.

Towards the end of the ride he was as supple and soft as he’s ever been with me and I could tell he really liked it.  He was in tune with me, and really responding to the work.  I felt like I had tapped into a whole new Copper and was wondering why the heck I am trying to sell him!!  (> o <);

There is a lot more to this horse than I had previously realized – I’m not sure if it was just misguidance on my instructor’s part, but I don’t think either of us realized how much more Copper has to offer.  I know he’s not, and never will be, an ideal dressage mount.  He has a lot of prejudices stacked against him before he even does a test – just because he is a Standardbred!

But I will say this – while he is still up for sale (Hubs is pretty firm about the family taking a break from the work-heavy responsibility of horse ownership) – I am going to appreciate every single moment of riding him.  I intend to explore the possibilities that Copper has to offer for as long as I can!

See ya,

Bonita

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back in the saddle


So even though I’ve had a lot of interest in both the boys, plus a whole bunch of people that have come out to view and test ride, I have yet to sell either Joey or Copper.  Which may or may not be a bad thing – I don’t know!

The market is exceedingly sluggish at the moment as we are expecting a national election in September and no one want to take on any big expenses (horses included) until we see how that shakes down.

That means I have plenty of time to catch up on my riding apparently…  Well, sort of!  Time is in short supply these days (funny that!) but horses I have aplenty!

l knew I’d have to get back on Joey after he bucked me off – mostly for my confidence more than anything else.  I was going to take it slow, and ride Copper for a bit before hopping on Joey, but as it turns out that didn’t happen.

I have been back to see the doctor about my elbow three weeks ago, and they were really happy with the progress that was being made.  I don’t need surgery, or anything like that (yay!), but it’s still going to be 3-6 months more before my elbow is completely healed. 

That means NO FALLING on it!  Otherwise, it’s very likely to break again.  Not fun!

So that was why I was going to take it easy.  However, I had someone call up to look at Joey, and my demo rider wasn’t free, so guess who ended up riding Joey?  (>.>)

Really it was a toss up between the easier going, but less predictable ride (Joey) and the fresher, stronger, but more predictable ride (Copper).  And I ended up riding both of them.

Since then I have ridden Joey again – yesterday in fact – and he wasn’t as well behaved as the first time.  He was bucking, and trying to blow out through the outside rein at a canter, (which did nothing for my peace of mind, I can tell you!) but I was prepared for that, so never really gave him the chance to take it any further.  We did end on a good note; a forward  trot and then a short walk down the outside of the arena to finish off.

bucking horse

It wasn’t a long ride, but in the end I think he knew that he wasn’t going to get away with intimidating me into giving up, and that’s really important. 

I was happy with that, and I am glad I have gotten back on him, but I am more sure about selling him now.  He is just mucking around and trying to pull it over me, and I just don’t want to be dealing with that sort of brattish behavior.

I don’t get to ride often enough to really work it out of him; I don’t have the time even though I so wish I did! *sigh* 

It’s one of those awful predicaments where you sort of just have to try something new and hope it works out for the best I suppose.

At least I can know that it is definitely going to better for him to have more saddle time!  That’s a comfort.

See ya,

bonita

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What do you like most about horses?


I was reading Mona’s blog Panic and the Pony and she was talking about her struggle to find out where she wants to go and what she wants to do with her riding – ie, sell the horse, keep the horse, move barns, stay, have lessons, don’t have lessons…   All the sorts of questions I ask myself on a semi-regular basis!

Then she wrote in her post that her husband asked her this question “What is it that you love most about horses?”

I realized that this is a question I’m not sure I know the answer too.  Like most equestrians, the list of things I like about horses and riding is probably long and varied, but I do want to answer this question specifically.  I think it will help me know where I am going from here.

What is the most important thing about horses to me?  I love hanging out with them, I love getting out in the fresh air and exploring, I love hanging out with horsey people, I love learning more about horses, I LOVE teaching others about horses because I love horses so much I want everyone else to love them too!

But those things are not the most important thing about horses to me… 

I do know that over my years of riding, I have gravitated towards training horses, and then I have moved into dressage as an extension of flatwork training. I know I love puzzling out the best training methods and figuring out new ways to help individual horses understand what I am asking them to do.

I also love a good challenge and the thrill of getting through it!

I think, however, that at the root of all of that – the best experiences I have ever had around horses or on horse back is when we have understood each other.

Like that time my Appaloosa mare Nikkieta and I did a perfect round of jumps.  We just hanging out in the jump paddock – I plotted a course and we did every one perfectly!  She felt like she had rocket boosters for legs!  It was amazing….  Or my last ride on her before her owner gave her away and she just did everything as I thought about it.

Or when Irish Moss and I jumped 80cm bareback – no training, no warm up with little jumps.  We just did it.  Or when we won the paddock D grade jumping competition – we were in our own little world, locked on the jumps and sailing over them!

I can’t forget that dressage test on Buttercup, one of the school horses at the riding school I taught at.  She and I didn’t know each other very well, but when we did that Novice 2A test and scored 62.8% (my first Novice test ever!).  I just remember everything flowing.  She was focused, I was focused, and it felt like we were just skimming through each movement. 

And that time when Joey and I finally clicked.  We weren’t doing anything special, just riding around.  But he finally stopped and listened to me for the first time and I just rode around with tears in my eyes and the dopiest grin on my face.  

It doesn’t matter what discipline; whether it’s ground work or riding.  When I make a connection with my horse, that is everything to me.  When we reach that point of perfect understanding. 

And I think that’s why I love training and dressage so much.  It’s about working together – partnership.  That is the most important thing about horses to me. 

So.  Moving forwards – what does that mean for me? 

I’m not really sure to be honest.  The Hubsband would like me to take a break from owning a horse and go with once-a-week lessons and perhaps riding someone else’s horse if I can find one. 

I’m really not keen on that idea.  I feel like I can’t work on a special partnership if I don’t have a partner!  Yes, I can work on my riding skills, but it’s so much more than that to me, and I’m not convinced that half an hour of riding a week is going to cut it. 

Still, my elbow has to heal yet, and I haven’t sold Joey or Copper either, so time will tell whether I buy another one after the boys sell or whether I will be *gasp* horseless for the first time in over 10 years! 

Even though I might be horseless, I’ll never be without horses.

See ya,

bonita

Thursday, July 18, 2013

No big surprise.

 

And we’re back to this again.  I’m going to sell Joey.  For real this time. 

Previously when I have talked about making this move, my reasons have revolved around doubts of my ability to train him and work out our issues.  This time however, my reason for selling is a little more than that – I now have no doubts that, in time, I could train him.  Sure, I might need advice from professionals every once in a while – I might even have to pay for that advice (sending him to a trainer or something) – but I could do it.

The million dollar question is: how long is that going to take?

I guess it’s really hit home to me that Joey is a lot further away from being the horse I want than what I originally thought he was.  He’s been semi-reliable in the arena, but any thing more than that; and I do mean anything – add another horse for example – and I just don’t know what I am going to get from him.

I just don’t have time to work all of that out with him.  And frankly, at this point in my life, I don’t want to either.  I do really enjoy the challenges of training horses, and it’s been a fantastic learning experience training my first young horse.

But when I get to ride one, two – maybe three times a week if I’m lucky, you can bet your shorts that I want every ride to be a good one (within reason of course!).  I don’t want to have to wonder what I’m going to get, I just want to get on. and. ride.  

No drama, no fuss, no hassle.

And that’s definitely not Joey’s descriptor at the moment!  So our journey together comes to an end, and I’m looking forwards to my elbow healing so that I can move onto the next chapter. 

See ya,

bonita

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Spoke too soon!

Ya'll know that whole "Joey's going really well thing"?  Welp, I spoke too soon.



He bucked me off on Saturday and I ate dirt.  Hard.

One evening and a whole day in hospital later and I have a cast on my left arm from my fingers to my shoulder.  I have fractured all three bones in my elbow - the radius, ulna and humorous, have a random floating bone chip, plus some contusion of the ligaments at the back of the elbow.  Thanks Joey...

The long story short (as I can't type very well) is that he was being a brat and didn't want to continue on our canter circle past the other horses, so spun and bucked at the same time and tossed me off.

We've hit the next level of resistance, and it's just too bad that he managed to ditch me at this point.  I don't know quite how we are going to address this, but ground work will be a big must as he is not listening.  I could theorise as to the reasons why, but when it comes down to it, he is a horse that doesn't want to work.

It's not because he's in pain - his tack fits, and his feet and teeth are done regularly.  It could be because of his past experiences, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that he is very intelligent and is extremely fond of getting his own way, and as I mentioned previously, he doesn't like hard work.    How to change his attitude there is the part I am totally stuck on.  I'm not sure where to go from here, but I will ponder and come back to that later.  For now, I am looking at potentially 6 weeks+ before I can ride again, *le sigh* so for now -

See ya!
b.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

In which I am boring…


In case anyone cares, I thought I’d better explain the lack of updates.  Basically, Joey is being well behaved at the moment, even with the 1-2 rides a week he is getting. 

I know – that’s nothing! He is handling it very well however, and we are working on forward, forward, forward.

And it’s boring.  Because I hop on, walk, trot, canter around the arena, and then I walk him out down around our jumping field and hop off again. 

That’s pretty much all we do at the moment, although I am pondering starting up some cavaletti training.  We have progressed a lot with the trust issues, but I’m not convinced that we still wouldn’t have big battles over the painted poles as he was just so consistently banged in the mouth whenever he did pole work with his previous owner.

Interestingly enough, he doesn’t seem to have any problems with logs or branches.  He does the green horse looky-loo, but will walk over them happily enough.  So maybe I should start there?  I don’t know. 

What I do know is that I really want to start lessons again.  I think I’m slowly feeling my way forward with Joey’s frame at the moment, but I don’t want to get these basic levels of the “Dressage Pyramid” wrong.  They are the foundations to everything and as I don’t know much about what is beyond the basics, I don’t really know where we are heading.  So that’s a problem if I don’t get some guidance stat.

dressage-training-pyramid

Forward is a good start, but I really want to engage his hind end, as the more I do that, the better (obviously!) he will work.  He needs to soften and give in his whithers/base of his neck and I’m not sure how to go about teaching him how to do that correctly.

Circles aren’t really cutting it for us at the moment because as soon as I start circling him, pretty much all of the forward dries up.  I have been trying to ride a ‘diamond’ shape instead, and that seems to have positive results. 

But the bending isn’t there, as the softness needed for a correct bend isn’t there.  So suppleness is an issue.  I think once I get forward working properly I can start concentrating on suppleness. 

Huh.  I guess I have more to say than I realized!

See ya,

bonita

Monday, May 20, 2013

Training Tip: Riding bareback


So Joey’s being doing really well with the spotty and completely infrequent riding schedule we have at the moment.  It’s great because I wasn’t really sure that he had the temperament for that kind of riding, but he does. 

Of course, we don’t really get any where fast and he gets totally lazy, but we are improving a little bit at a time I think.

I have even ridden him bareback for the first time!  I wasn’t sure that he’d be ok with bareback riding, but he was really good.

It took a bit of time and patience to get him standing along side the fence long enough for me to hop on, but he is a quick learner and the next day when I did it again, it was much faster. 

I trained him to stand up for mounting by leading him in close to the fence and getting him to stand right next to it.  I would be on his right side as I  maneuvered him into the right position, then after I halted him, I would go around to his left and slowly hop up on the fence. 

I rubbed his back, and croup (the point over his hips between his back and his quarters) reach over and rub his opposite side.  If he was happy with that, I leant over his back a little bit and when I thought he was ready I’d put my leg over.  If the fence isn’t high enough to do that, I’d jump and lean over his back on my stomach, then swing my leg up and over.

If Joey moved forwards before I hopped on, I’d back him up and then take him around and line him up again.  If he’d swing his hind quarters away, I’d push them over again, and then take him around and line him up again. 

Putting him back in the place I wanted him to be is an important step before lining him up alongside the fence again because I want him to realize that moving forwards or sidewise isn’t going to get him away from the spot I want him to stand.  I also do this if he tries to move away while saddling or bridling him, and it’s a great training tool under saddle if he won’t stand still.

He is a bit nervous when I’m riding him bareback, but he listens to me – for the most part!  He did decided to see if he could try it out and refuse to walk on and away from all his mates in the paddock, but I soon squashed that idea.  Thankfully where I’ve been doing the bareback riding really is an ideal area to try it out in.

Basically the herd is in a big paddock up the back of another paddock that is next to two other big paddocks.  There is a narrow laneway that runs down the middle – it has a paddock on either side.  This laneway allows you to get access to the paddocks up the back. 

It’s a five to ten minute walk to get down there, so it’s a nice stretch of enclosed area that has lots of soft, squishy grass for emergency dismounts! I walk down, fetch Joey out of the paddock (I bridle him rather than riding in a halter – I don’t want to lose all control thankyouverymuch!) and ride him back down the laneway.

Oh, and I definitely wear my helmet! 

I am really happy though, because I think that we are making progress and building trust by experiencing different situations and scenarios together - like bareback riding.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ll be able to take him out on solo trail rides soon, which is a huge step from where we were when I first got him!

Next up: taking him out in the trail and getting him used to competition atmosphere. 

See ya,

bonita

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My First Ride Back After Having A Baby


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And it was great!

For all those new mothers who might be wondering about how/when to get back into horse riding; you can skip down to the end of the post where I put in the TMI details about my *ahem* condition when I went riding…  For the rest of you that might be squicked out by that kind of thing, feel free to skip those paragraphs!

Back to my ride: I ended up lunging Joey before I rode him as he seemed a little fresh when I pulled him out of the paddock, but it wasn’t long before I was up on his back.  Yay!

He felt pretty good – like I thought, a bit fresh and forward, but not stupid so that was actually ok.  

I warmed up at a walk and we did some outside track work (not a single spook – we’ve beaten that boogey side!  Double YAY!) and some serpentines, then we went to trot work because he kept asking to go forwards!

I was really excited by his trot because he was lifting up through his whither/shoulders, and I could feel his hind end rocking back.  He was actually off the forehand, and starting to move uphill!  I am sure that this is a result of keeping steady, consistent, and elastic contact with his mouth.  It’s allowed him to start working through his back, rather than jamming up his head and locking his neck and shoulders.

By lifting up through his shoulders he can work from his hind end, and activate the power there to eventually begin collection. Of course, at the moment his frame is still very open, and he still doesn’t like circles, so we have a long way to go as of yet. 

I am going to devise a new training routine for him though as I have bought a couple of books on the beginning stages of training for dressage.  I am itching to see how we get on from here and will definitely keep you updated as to how he goes!

See ya,

bonita

- Personal details below for postnatal women who want to know when to get back to riding after child birth -

I rode Joey at four weeks and two days after giving birth vaginally to my daughter.  I had had 2nd degree tearing of my perineum that was almost third degree, and as a result had a lot of stitches!  I think I had 7-8 stitches or more down there… 

It had taken about two weeks before the bruising and the swelling went down, but I didn’t have a long 3rd stage (pushing) in my labor, so it may take longer for that to subside if the 3rd stage is long.  Also, I didn’t end up with any hemorrhoids which are quite a common if you have a long 3rd stage.

Physically I still felt a little stiff and tender, so I definitely took it easy.  I think I only rode for 20-30 minutes.  Emotionally and mentally, I was fine – although tired, and that’s something to consider as well.  Particularly because if you are all over the place mentally, there’s an extremely good chance your horse is going to pick up on that.  It’ll only be a matter of your horse’s personality as to whether your emotional state will affect him a lot or not at all. 

In the end I just think you really have to listen to your body and follow your instincts.  Also, don’t let yourself get carried away.  I loved riding again, and it’s easy to get caught up in that, but I had to remember that it’s not just my downstairs that has to heal, but my abs as well. 

The abdominal muscles separate during the pregnancy, and now have to get back to together, as well as regain their strength and fitness! That means I just don’t have the core power that I need to ride, and yes, I was sore afterwards/the next day.

My pelvic floor and abs felt that 20-30 minute easy ride, I can tell you!  Keeping it short and sweet helped minimize the next day fall out.  This is also pertinent if you are not sure how well behaved your horse may be.

I would keep any long/difficult riding for a much later date – your body needs time to heal. 

Oh, and one last note – whether you are breastfeeding or not, make sure you wear a really good, supportive bra!  Wear two if you have too, but make sure those puppies don’t bounce around because that’s going to hurt…  ; )

If anyone has any further questions, feel free to email me/comment – I would love to help any new moms get back into the saddle!  : D

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Wise Words for Bad Behaviour


“Offering a horse productive guidance before or during times when a horse becomes distracted (or worried) can be a fairly easy way to not only get a troubled situation under control, but also build trust and confidence in both horse and rider. It is a matter of the rider staying focused on what they would like to achieve and helping the horse get there, instead of focusing on the horse's worried or distracted behavior and trying to stop it.”

Mark Rashid ~ Considering the Horse via Panic and The Pony

See ya,

bonita

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Baby News




She finally made it!  

Isabelle Patricia Joy was born Thursday last week after a loooonnggggg 4 and a half days of prodromal labor.  So far I am tired, sleepy, tired and oh, so hungry{!}, but very, very happy.

Our little family is taking a while to adjust to the new baby, but Theodore is a super big brother.  I love how sweet he is whilst interacting with her ~ cuddling her, inspecting her hands and feet, patting her head if she's crying; they are so adorable together!

() ~ 

In the mean time, I am positively itching to ride again, but well, it's going to be a bit of time before that happens....  Still, I'll be up on Joey's back as soon a physically possible!  Can't wait!!

See ya,

bonita

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Nice Surprises


I went and visited Joey for the first time in three or so weeks on Friday, and was pleasantly surprised that he seemed genuinely happy to see me!  I am used to a very "business" like relationship with my horses; for instance, Copper is really only close to affectionate when you have a treat in hand. 

Not that he is unhappy to see you, he's just very neutral, this-is-a-horse's-life-so-let's-get-on-with-it.  In fact, he really only ever gets enthusiastic out on the trail.  I think it might be an ex-racer trait, but that's rather by the by.

It was sweet to find that Joey is more friendly and affectionate ~ he actually seems to miss me!  I love that, it's new to me.  

Plus, I was really happy to see how well he's been going for the girl that has been riding him for me.  She's only been able to ride him once a week, and before I was trying to lunge him twice a week so that he'd be okay to ride for her. 

However, I haven't been able to get down there (darn babies that won't come out ...  *sigh*) to do that (hence the not seeing Joey in three weeks thing) so I was a little bit apprehensive as to whether or not he'd been behaving himself.  I need not have worried though - he was doing just fine!   His rider has been able to throw the saddle on and go, not even needing to lunge, which is great. 

It's a real improvement in his attitude as he used to have a tendency to be spooky and bratty when not worked more regularly.  He'd shy, and generally be stupid, but he was doing really well on Friday - even with all the distraction of other horses working in the arena around him.  (There's usually no one around when you ride at my adgistment because there aren't many horses that are worked regularly in these paddocks, and everyone who does ride is on a vastly different schedule.)

I am really happy, because of course I am glad I didn't sell him after all!  Thankfully, he's coping well with his current schedule, and on top of that, he's improving attitude-wise, so I really couldn't ask for more. 

It's great seeing him do so well, but of course I now reeealllllllyyyyyyyy want to go riding...   
40 weeks +2 days down.  Hurry up baby!  I want to get back on my horse! 

See ya,

bonita 
  




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