Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Moving Shenanigans & Settling In

Shenanigans > (greater than) Settling into new paddocks. That about says it all doesn’t it?
Sunday morning, out in the paddock…

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- “Rawh! My treatz!” says Copper to Robbie, his best bud -

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- “Oh-tay, we iz fwends agin… Wut you mean – Buh Beye? I dunna get it…” -

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- “Oh, dis wut you mean… One of dese homen-beanz horse gobbling fingz.” -

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- “Srsly – agin with de clicky fing? No… Won’t smile… Wanna eat.” -

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- “Weh you goin’? …Mom! …Mom!! DON”T LEAVE ME!!! I DON’T NOE ANYONEZ HERH!!” -

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- “Told ya not to go…. *insert smirk*” -

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- “I didn’t noes fencez bit! Honest!” -

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- “Hai… I iz glad you here…” -

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- *omnomnomnom* -

So long story - everything was going really smoothly with our move...  Turns out, it didn’t quite stay that way!!  :O

We started by picking up the hire float, then fetching Copper in from the paddock.

I prepped him for travel with float boots and plaiting up his tail. Copper walked up the ramp, stopped – had a sniff and a look, then marched right on.

I was so relieved… I didn’t expect any trouble, I know he’s been well trained with floats being an ex-racer off the track, but counting it up – Copper hasn’t been out on a float in over four years!  So I was kind of wondering if he’d be easy or a bit tricky.

We got over to our new home in 45 minutes or so – and he travelled really well, no clopping or clattering around – just eating from his hay net.  I should take him out more often…  :P

He unloaded fine, we walked around and explored; said hello to new pony faces over the fences, and then walked every inch of his new boundary fences.  *phew!* That took a while – and less than half way through he was all: “Can we stahp? Bored now… I want munchies!”

Copper was looking fairly settled - still a bit stressed and anxious, but he wasn't pacing or anything. He was eating, drinking, pooping and peeing - very normal horse behaviour, so I went home to fetch a hose and come back to fill up his trough.


In the hour or so that I was gone the dingbat ran through a border fence between paddocks and ended up in the neighbour's paddock!!



He was okay, but had to be rescued by the neighbour. He ended up with some abrasions on the front of his hind cannons - right on the front/under his hocks.

There was also a minor cut that was a bit deep, it had a skin flap that I gently pulled back and flushed with a ton of betadine!

I bandaged the cut, I was hoping that would hold the skin flap on so it would reattach, but the bandage slipped down in the night and the skin flap was half attached, and half dried up when I came back out the next morning.  

I fully expected to see swelling and lameness, but he was actually pretty good. So I guess it’s all’s well that ends well – for that kind of incident it could have been a lot worse.

If it teaches him to respect the fence though, I guess that's good, because seriously horse!

Loser

Such a silly boy...

But he is all "Don't leave me!!" when I go down, so I do feel sorry for him.

Don't Leave

He's uncharacteristically clingy...

He is fretting a bit, and won't go into the actual paddock to eat. He's just staying the lane way down the front which isn’t very large, and doesn’t have much grass at all.

I mean, it's not like he couldn't stand to lose a few (Let’s be real here - a lot!) kilos, but I don't want him to colic.

I have been visiting him twice a day – once in the morning, and once in the evening for the last three days; Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, this happened:

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Yep, first ride in new place… 

There’s not much to say about it, except he was a lot more rideable than what I’d been expecting!

With a little lunge (when he was trotting he exhaled the giant breath he’d been holding… Lol) and some lateral work at a walk, he was listening and felt quite relaxed when I hopped off 20 minutes later!

I was stoked – I feel like the work we’ve be doing towards learning how to relax even in tense moments has really been sinking in! He had all his marbles, but he was nice and forward – I was thinking that this would be a great competition frame of mind. ;)

It’s all groovy baby. 

See ya,
bonita

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Wave Goodbye; We Are Off To A New Paddock

New adventures, here we come! | A Riding Habit

It is exciting and sort of scary, but definitely exciting – Copper and I are moving to a new equestrian complex this weekend.

We’ve been agisting at the same paddocks for over a decade, and it’s been great. The people and horses at our paddocks are fabulous – we all get along and have never really had any of that barn drama.

I’m going to miss them all.

Copper’s been running with his herd for years, and I know he’s going to miss his friends too.

I’m also going to miss the familiar, beautiful stretches of golden fields. But I have got to say – I’m so excited to move too.

And the whole reason we are moving?

We’re upgrading to a private, two horse paddock with all the facilities you could want for riding!

I’ve been waiting for this for years, and I’m so thrilled!

Still, saying goodbye to all this… 

Goodbye to our old home... | A Riding Habit Goodbye to our old home... | A Riding HabitGoodbye to our old home... | A Riding HabitGoodbye to our old home... | A Riding Habit Goodbye to our old home... | A Riding HabitGoodbye to our old home... | A Riding Habit 

It’s going to be sad.

Goodbye to our old home... | A Riding Habit

In many ways…

Hard Hat Are"n"a | A Riding Habit

… It’s the end of an era.

Arena selfies! | A Riding HabitVeiw from our arena | A Riding HabitGoodbye to our old home... | A Riding Habit  

See ya,

bonita

Monday, November 23, 2015

Pics or it didn’t happen…

DBPT2720


So this happened at 6 o’clock Monday morning – a ride!

He’s had two weeks off due to busyness and sickness on my part - lame, I know, but at least we are back in the saddle!

Predictably Copper was stiff, a little more unco than usual, and not a very soft ride for our first schooling session back but we still had a decent ride so I was super happy about that.

I dropped my stirrups for 10 minutes and did some no stirrup walk/trotting while circling and it really was some of the best circle work, in terms of consistent bend, that we’ve had in a while - despite the two weeks off.

I know why – it’s because my hips tend to contort on a circle, and my shoulders tip and twist and basically I make it super hard for Copper to actually work a circle correctly. I don’t know why this is – my theory is that it’s because I’ve spent so many years fighting my saddle for a correct position that the muscle memory is overtaking me and making me twist up like a pretzel.

But when I drop my stirrups something magical happens and my hips suddenly start sitting where they are supposed to be! My leg drops long to balance me, so my shoulders stay back, and basically everything suddenly works!! :O

Solution: lots of no stirrup work – particularly when riding circles. At least once, each rein, every ride. The plan is to retrain my muscles without stirrups and hopefully then be able to translate that back into the stirrups later on.

After that, I picked up my stirrups again and we had a nice as-good-as-can-be-expected trot and a decent canter on each lead.

I’m pleased that the spring sillies have gone away, and that I finally have a horse with a brain again. For about a month or so there it was like riding a four year old!

I would lunge him, and he’d be physically tired when I got up to ride him, but his brain would still be skittery, and he’d be “up” – ready to spook at the slightest thing.

It was the weirdest feeling – usually when a horse is physically tired, and Copper is like this – their brains usually calm right down. But with the spring sillies, I’d be pushing as hard as I can to keep him going, yet feeling like his brain was spinning it’s hamster wheel as fast as it could…

A very strange feeling!

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So I’m very glad my pony-boy is feeling much more like himself again. Even if it was good practise working with a tense horse, I much prefer my steady Standie instead!

See ya,

bonita

Monday, November 2, 2015

One step at a time

Slowly we are pulling it together.

Our downwards transitions still suck. I need to half-halt more and keep my elbows soft and tucked by my side.

My legs are getting better, but I’m still struggling with keeping them underneath my hips.

While my core is stronger than it was, it needs to be even more stronger still. That helps me balance, and when I keep my abs switched on, so does Copper!

All that said – I’m so obsessed with this recent schooling video.

Our canter transition is awful because this is halfway through our ride, and he was tired from cantering twice before so he’s slopping along here, but it was still quiet which is a good improvement.

He’s bobbing his head about like a duck looking for food, but the connection is getting there and he’s definitely starting to look more uphill than before, and rounded too!

I love it!

I know I’m not just seeing his improvement, I am also feeling it too. For the first time ever, the other day he actually stepped under himself properly for a downwards transition from trot to walk. I felt him reach underneath himself with his right hind, and step into the walk from behind. He’s never done that before, and it felt sooo awesome! 

Just one step, but one step forwards, and we will get there one step at a time.

See ya,

bonita

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Cute Pony is Cute & New Saddle

IMG_2340[1]Hmm…  Whas dis? Licorich? -

This thing happened since my last update: we found a like-new second hand dressage saddle that works for us both. It’s the Wintec 500 dressage saddle with CAIR panels, and an adjustable gullet system that I wanted, around about a year old. And it was in stellar condition, AND it came fully mounted!

I don’t know what pony fairy was floating around to dub me with such luck, but we basically got our new saddle three weeks after that post – mid July, and we have been riding in it ever since.

IMG_4277[1]- Why iz YOU here so earlies? -

It’s certainly been different riding in a dressage saddle. In all my years riding, I have never actually had a dressage saddle, or ridden in one for any length of time.

As you can imagine, this makes all the dressage training I’ve been doing challenging in its own way, and riding in the new saddle has certainly opened my eyes to some new steps to take.

Firstly, Copper lurves it. As much as a horse CAN love a saddle! The straight cut of the saddle flaps vs. the forward cut of the All Purpose has made a huge difference in the relaxation and forwardness of his shoulder movement.

I had only walked about ten strides in the saddle when we were first checking the fit before I announced to the saddle fitter that he loved it! His shoulders where moving so freely, and there was a lightness to his neck/whithers/shoulders that wasn’t there before.

It was like he was gliding over the ground!

IMG_2349[1]- No… I donwanna pose for a “foto” – wut evah dat iz. Put dat silly clickin fing away! *pout* -

As far as it affects me – it’s all about finding a new centre. Because the dressage saddle actually facilitates correct rider balance and shoulder/hip/heel alignment, for the first time I’m really able to focus on balance, using my lower leg effectively and working much more efficiently with my seat.

It’s so exciting! It’s so painful!! My abs, calves and ankles start burning after about fifteen minutes and by the end of our half hour session, my muscles are so fatigued I am ready to be out of the saddle!  Ha!

Dressage riding = better than sit ups.

IMG_4286[1] - Hai up der! -

I have to work a million times harder to keep myself in a correct position, but in between my bobbling about on his back, we are having some brilliant-I-can-taste-the-future-moments.

In bullet points not to bore you:

  • I got the purest trot I’ve ever had from him at least twice now; a clean, golden, perfect, 1-2 beat with soft, through back. It was magical, and I wanted it to last forever!
  • A walk that was a smooth and as rideable as butter. I can’t even – how do you describe that?
  • Even his weakest gait – the canter, is much more forward, but at the same time, less zoom-y and unbalanced. Very good.
  • When I fold at the base of my ribs, suck in my abs and switch them on, Copper relaxes his back and will connect stronger from back to front.
  • When I turn my toes in, and allow my lower calf to hug his sides, I’m finding that my lower leg is stabilizing (wonders of wonders!).
  • My position at the trot: I’m focusing really hard keeping my knees and lower legs ON his sides, and not letting them swing forwards and off. To help with this, I keep my abs on, the base of my rib cage soft and really try to keep my back soft, but straight. 
  • Because of my ‘duck butt’, what feels like a rounded back, is actually a straight, soft back and Copper really responds to that softness in my back.

All this means that I feel like we are on a new track to improving. I’m able to use my seat more effectively in a rising trot now that my lower leg is stabilized, and because of that, his gait is becoming cleaner and more controlled.

This is very exciting for me and definitely a huge break through! I can’t wait to see how we get on from here. :D

See ya,

bonita

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Saddle Fit Woes aka In Which I Need a New Saddle… D’Oh!

So I had the saddle fitter out to Copper the other day (a week and a half ago now? Gee, that went fast!) because of the way his saddle has been slipping around on me.

Basically the long and short of it is: the Wintec 500 All Purpose saddle fits him just fine. It does not fit me.

The Random Hat sits - A Riding Habit - The Random Hat sits on a fence -

I need to shorten my stirrups two holes from where they are at the moment so that my weight is keeping the saddle anchored in place as I rise to the trot/circle/go faster – as in canter –/etc. 

Ouch.  Yeah, I know I generally tend to ride long, but that is way short, and really my joints won’t like it. My ankles and knees tend to hurt if they are jammed up like that for a long time. Now from my reading I know I could potentially help this problem by purchasing some composite stirrups with a wider foot bed, but there’s also the problem of that pesky stirrup bar.

I know that’s the point of All Purpose saddles, to BE all purpose, but really, can’t I get one with the stirrup bars set back under the thigh, but with a shallower seat to get the best of both worlds??

Basically, if I want to keep pursuing dressage, I need a dressage saddle. I’m fighting with the positioning the AP shoves me into every time I ride. It’s messing with my leg position, which is messing with my seat and back. My saddle fitter told me I had a “duck butt”.  (-__-‘) Yay.

Now, to be fair, that’s partly my posture post-three babies and two c-sections. Yeah, that stuff really messes with your abs. My lower back is slightly sway because of that. So my butt is going to poke out more than is correct until I can get the abs strength back to correct my skeletal alignment.

So. There it is.

Copper's ready to hit the trails! - A Riding Habit- Wanna to do moar of dis - 

Now, the conundrum remains – do I sell the AP to fund the dressage saddle? Or do I say goodbye to my ‘new camera fund’ and buy a second saddle?

A break down of my rides usually consists of 2/3 training in the arena, and 1/3 trail riding. Yes, I would totally use a dressage saddle on the trails because why not?

But the thing is, I like jumping. Even though I haven’t jumped in years because I’ve been pregnant/post-pregnancy, had a young, green horse – Joey for a year and a half instead of Copper, etc, I still want to be able to jump.

I can’t if I don’t keep the AP. Which also could probably use longer billets on it to help anchor the saddle in place. $120 odd dollars plus whatever I need for the new girth as well as a new dressage saddle. Fabulous.

So is anyone looking to sell a Wintec 500 dressage saddle with CAIR panels, an adjustable gullet system that is less than four years old?

Because I’m looking to buy.

See ya,

bonita

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Paddock Drama, Rug Monsters & Bareback Rides

I’ve been so busy running around and actually riding that I haven’t had a chance to write up any blog posts. Of course, that also means I have another TLDR right here for you…

IMG_2165[1] - I iz handsom -

So the story starts when we had a run in with some animal activists. I will try to keep it short, but the government has a kangaroo cull running in the hills behind our paddocks. It’s necessary, but some people don’t really agree. So in order to try and ‘discourage’ the culling, someone/s decided to open the gates and let our herd of thirteen horses loose.

Yes, you heard right.  They decided that letting the horses out into the paddocks was the best way to stop people from shooting.

Never mind the fact that even if the horses had decided that the safest thing to do was to run towards to the loud scary noises in the dark, (ha!) I sincerely doubt it would actually stop the work of the culling.

To add to that, the gates towards the road where open. So really all they had to do was go down the wrong way and they’d be out on the roads. At night. No street lights. In a 80 kilometre (50 miles) an hour zone.

Yup.

Want to know what happens when you hit an 800 kilo animal at 80 kms an hour? Yeah... People die. So do horses.  And I thought you were animal activists because you cared about animals.

There are no words.

But the results are that thankfully the whole herd came back, though they were panicked, scared, and more than a little freaked out.

Copper was sore, and strained in his hindquarters/loin area. He has been ever since, though he’s slowly getting better.

IMG_2167[1] - I eatz rug monstaz! Rwah! -

Then last Monday, we had a run in with the horrid rug monster of doomed!

It wasn’t good. One of the horses, a Thoroughbred called M, has string halt, and he’s gotten tangled up in one of his rugs before, but unfortunately the same thing happened again.

He flipped out. He was bucking and kicking, and basically running along on his front legs, with his back legs in the air because he couldn’t move them fast enough to keep up with the front end.

All of this started just as I was walking Copper down the lane right next to the paddock. Of course, he just about lost it himself. He stood staring and snorting, and almost kept it together, but that other horse just wouldn’t stand still, so Copper freaked too.  He spun sideways, and it would have been fine except my saddle slipped big time.

I ended up hanging on his right side as the saddle had come completely off his back and all I could think was “GET OFF NOW!”. I kicked my foot out of the left stirrup easily enough, but for one heart stopping moment I doubted that I’d get my right foot free at all. All my weight was pressing into the stirrup, making it hard to kick off.

Somehow I did get it free and I immediately pushed off Copper’s side to the ground. He didn’t realise what I was doing so he tried to take off, but I had a firm grip on the reins, so he spun around me instead.

I walked him back up the laneway as fast as I could; I had to get his gear off and help that horse who was still loosing it the paddock.

I lead Copper to the mounting log (yes, literally a fallen log we use to mount from) and started to strip off his tack. Unfortunately, I automatically started with the girth, but realized my mistake when the saddle was hanging by the breastplate alone!

I was supporting the saddle with my torso by pushing it against Copper’s side, wrestling with stiff, weighted breastplate straps and praying that he didn’t move or the whole thing would be swinging free around his front legs and then we REALLY would have had a disaster on our hands!

Thankfully, Copper seems to be mostly sensible in a “I’m too freaked to move” kind of way when he gets scared so I managed to get all the buckles undone to free the saddle and put it on the log, along with the breastplate.

IMG_2168[1]- I haz treat foh bein’ good rightz? - 

Then I led him to the arena area, which is fenced, stripped off his bridle, and shut the gate, only to find that the gate wouldn’t shut! I hastily jerry-rigged some bailing twine around the gate and clipped the chain to that in hopes that Copper would still be sensible and not test the gate’s security.

Then I ran and grabbed my halter and hot-footed it to the paddock.

By this stage M had worn himself to pieces, and was too injured and tired to move. So I crept up to him murmuring soothing noises, and offered him some liquorice I luckily had in my back pocket.

He automatically took the liquorice, though I think he hardly knew what he was doing. Then I slipped the halter on, and hastily got to work on the rug.

The neck elastic was still done up, but down around his chest, and the chest buckles where down at his knees, so I was glad I still had my helmet on!

The rest of the rug was in tatters, and tangled around his back legs. I was able to slip it down his body and coax him to step out of the wreckage.  He couldn’t walk anywhere though, so I called around, and thankfully his owner turned up pretty quickly.

IMG_2169[1]
- Stap playin’ wit that silly fing Mom an’ take I out to mah fwendz! -

In the meantime, Copper was cantering up and down the arena fence instead of grazing like I’d hoped he would, so I went back to rescue him! He was too wound up to tack up (again) and ride, so I fed him instead.

Plus, that’s the second time my saddle has slipped badly and this time was the worst. It was an extremely dangerous situation to be in.

His saddle cannot slip like that during freak out moments – that’s how we both end up hurt, or worse.

So that brings me to the next part: bareback rides.

I’ll be riding him bareback until I can get a saddle fitter out to assess the problem.

I’ve already had one ride and it was actually pretty fun! You really can feel everything that’s going on in his entire frame, which makes it easier to figure out what’s going wrong as well as how to use your body to fix it.

I think I’ll be adding bareback rides to our regular ride schedule even when I do get my saddle fixed. It’s really cool! 

See ya,

bonita

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

All the Excitement!!


I seriously can’t believe how great the rides Copper and I have had recently have been.

I’ve been riding around the arena with the biggest, goofiest grin on my face – I’d look like a madcap to anyone watching, but we are all by ourselves so…  

It started two weeks or so ago – I can’t really remember how many rides I’ve done since the last update, but it’s been a few. I’ve ridden during the week (we’re hiring a babysitter every Wednesday so I can ride – yay!) and the weekend, so we are actually clocking up some decent saddle time.

And to make it even better, we’ve had a ton of new AHA! moments – three to be exact!

All this excitement makes for an uber long post – so here’s the TLDR:

  1. Your shoulders influence your horse’s shoulders. Keep them dropped down and back, and don’t forget to turn them from your tummy when when you are bending. 
  2. Your belly button is important. Think relaxed, loose back, and supported/pulled in core. Draw your belly button back and up towards your spin to active your core and allow your horse to step more deeply underneath himself.
  3. The canter aid can be confusing, but you need to use your inside hip AND your outside leg to signal the aid correctly.

 

IMG_1838[1]

Copper’s really struggled with circles for a while, maintaining the bend from nose, through his rib cage, to his tail.  He’d lose it through his shoulders a lot – particularly on the left rein – and I thought it might have been because he wasn’t strong enough to hold it. 

Turns out, not so much – it was me! 

One ride we were gong around on the left rein and it just clicked with me that my right shoulder was hunched up and forwards – really quite tense.  Now whether that has something to do with the fact that my right ankle was twisted a while ago and my body is still trying to protect it, or that my right ankle doesn’t stretch and flex to let my heel down as far as the left one – I’m not sure.  The point is: I was unbalanced, and that had come up through my seat into my shoulder. 

As soon as I felt that, I dropped my shoulder down and back and it was like I had poked a finger in the middle of Copper’s whither and unravelled a huge knot! 

He was twisting himself up, trying to bend the way I was insisting that he should, all the while I was all crooked – blocking his shoulders from moving freely.

I started playing with my shoulders, keeping them dropped and back when I was turning, swivelling them from my tummy – and wow! A fun new button to play with!  Copper is so much more responsive through turns, and I can really feel that connection like I couldn’t before – his shoulder mirror my shoulders and vice versa.  It was a real eye opening moment for sure. Especially when I can turn him without using my reins at all - as in, he’s on a completely looped rein, and we are doing half volte turns!

We’ve actually managed to get a few steps of a true shoulder-in because of this AHA moment.  We are working on it – it’s still quite hard for Copper, but he gets it!  So that’s been really fun too.

IMG_1843[1]

Then the next button I discovered was my belly button.  No joke.  :P

Okay, so I knew it always existed, but then I found out that it can influence your horse’s back and belly too!

I tried a core activation trick I had learned in Pilates – relax your back entirely, including the small of your back and your glutes.  Then, slowly draw your belly button back towards your spine and slightly up, almost like a string is pulling at the front of your pelvis.

This “tucks” the front of your core, activating it.  Funnily enough, it has the same effect on your horse!

When I did this, I felt Copper instantly lift his back and engage his abs, and not only that, step further underneath himself. It was like lifting a dam gate and the power just flowed from his hind quarters through his back, neck and then into my hands.

It was an incredible sensation – not one we could hold on to for very long unfortunately – neither of us are toned/fit enough to keep our cores so active for any length of time yet. I’ll definitely keep visiting this one often though, it’s excellent toning for the both of us.

IMG_1847[2]

Last but not least - a canter aid breakthrough! 

So recently I read (on the Facebook Dressage group I’m apart of) a question about the canter aid.  It basically ran along the lines of “What’s the correct aid for canter? Outside leg or inside leg?”

The answers where many and varied, but it got me thinking.  It seemed to me that using the outside leg to ask for canter was less than desirable, as some people mentioned it could cause crookedness.  But it also seemed that a LOT of people also mentioned that they’d been taught the outside leg transition technique in multiple different times and places from many different instructors.

Basically, it’s one of those tricky ones where there’s a lot of conflicting information.  I’ve personally always gone for the inside aid – lifting and scoping the inside hip – what I considered the ‘correct’ classical way to give the aid.

This has worked really well for me in the past – particularly on Copper’s good side – his right lead.  He will just lift and pop into the canter if he is balanced well to begin with.

This is not the case with his left rein – I’ve really had a lot of struggle getting him to canter properly on this rein.  He will literally run himself into the ground to pick up the left lead canter. It’s so messy that motorcycles have nothing on him!  It’s also impossible to bring this canter back into balance, so obviously it’s all kinds of wrong. 

I couldn’t figure out how to fix this canter depart. I toyed with the idea of ground poles or trying to train him to walk-canter depart which I’ve read can be easier for the horse to pick up, but really I wasn’t sure if these ideas were the best…

Spoiler: walk-canter depart when the rider doesn’t know how to ride a walk-canter depart, let alone train one, doesn’t work. I tried and we failed miserably, so I didn’t push it at all.

On a whim, I decided to try the outside leg ask with Copper today.  OH.  So THAT’S how he’s been trained to pick up canter!  It was not as neat as the inside hip scoop, but that doesn’t surprise me in the least.  Those canter transitions only happen when he is super balanced, on the aids, soft through his back and listening.

…So the inside hip scoop aid is something I have to work towards –not something I have right now.

This is a BIG game changer….

I was thrilled at how easy the canter transition was. It can be so hard to get him to canter if everything’s not already perfect, and he had been rush-y and spooky our whole ride.  When he’s like that a canter transition is a disaster – no matter which rein you are on. It’s like picking between an earthquake or a tsunami.  Six of one, half a dozen of the other and completely catastrophic!  So we literally never canter unless the ‘conditions’ of horse’s mood, schooling session, and weather are all in order.

This canter aid felt so ‘right’ for us, however, that I even switched reins and put the game face on to try it on the left rein.  AND IT WORKED!!  I was so shocked, but we got it without any scrambling and held it!  Of course, he was still leaning in a little, but it wasn’t too bad and I influenced him into balance with my seat. 

Then I was all “Is he really on the left lead??”  (That’s how rarely we canter this lead – I couldn’t even tell… (>_>)”…)   So I went to change rein and he freakin’ did a freakin’ flying change!!  A full-on bouncy, complete with back legs, freakin’ flying change!!  We even had, like, a whole right lead canter stride after it before we fell apart like a hot mess!!!! 

Of course I praised him like mad, because even though that was not what I was expecting and I was so not ready for it, he did it cleanly, and he was trying really hard to do the right thing for me.  *squeee*   I even have that little bubble of joy and pride welling up in my chest as I think about it.

My horse is a champ.

IMG_1845[1] - I iz champine! -

AND THEN (if you are not already dying at the length of this post already!) we went on to do some awesome trot work!  His stride was really free and relaxed, his back was up and soft and we had some great walk-trot and trot-walk transitions off my seat. 

I was really impressed by this because he’s usually so worked up after cantering that it’s really hard to get him back into a ‘soft’ frame of mind for any trot work. He is usually all “WHHHEEEE!! I wants to rhun forevah naow!!!”

And noted, he still did have that, but the fact that I was able to get him to find his marbles (brain) again was pretty dang cool.  That’s also something we’ve been really struggling with  - also adding very much to my reluctance to canter, because once we did I felt like the chance for any quality work afterwards would fly out the window and we’d be struggling to regain rhythm and relaxation for the rest of the ride.

Not so anymore!  We are FINALLY at the stage where I feel we can start working on the canter and not just the walk/trot. 

It’s only taken – oh, about a year….  Wait, nope – a lot longer than that!  Ever since I first started riding Copper I’ve been waiting to get to the stage where we could finally work on his canter!  And that would be over ten years now…  However, since I seriously started to pull apart my riding and try and figure out how my seat/body influenced Copper – that’s been about a year, and now I feel like that’s the point when I really started to ride.

The rest of the time – that’s just been sitting on top of a horse.

I can’t tell you how epic it feels to finally reach this stage I’ve been waiting for.  It’s like sunshine and cotton candy, and all the stars in the night sky wrapped up inside of me, waiting to burst out. 

It took a long time to get here, and I know there are mountains more to conquer, but right now I’m so thrilled that we’ve got so far.  Copper’s not a dressage horse, but we are riding dressage together anyway, and it’s a good thing. 

See ya,

bonita

P.S. – Jane Savoie breaks the canter aid down in the beginning of this video, and really it’s both – inside seat bone/leg AND the outside leg.  I guess in the end it’s really about how you look at it, and what clicks for your head.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Third Ride Postpartum – Turning Circles!

IMG_1645[1]I love the listening ear!  - 

I’ll keep it brief because, let’s face it - walk work is booorriiinggg to anyone but the avid dressage enthusiast… 

But that’s where we are at.  So the latest ride consisted of – and I’m sure you’ve guessed it - perfecting our 20m circle.

Copper has struggled with the 20m circle for a while; keeping consistent bend through out the circle and not losing it by popping out his ribs or shoulders 3/4 of the way around.

At first I thought it was a strength issue, that he wasn’t strong enough to keep carrying his weight in his quarters and step deeply enough underneath himself with his inside hind, but now I’m wondering if it wasn’t a suppleness issue all along.

He isn’t strong at all at the moment, he has no topline and hardly any muscle tone. He’s in a total paddock-kept state. Yet we got the best 20m circle work I’ve had from him for a while.  Yes, it took a lot of goes around before we completed a perfect 20m circle on both reins without losing the bend once, but we did get there!

And boy, was his walk ever so lovely afterwards. His back was soft, rounded, and supple, and I could really feel him reaching underneath himself with his hind.  The quality of his gait was 100% of what he can give me right now, and I was so chuffed!

It’s like sitting on a marshmallow that can read your mind! The connection was unbelievable and that’s what I love about dressage.  Really. 

Circles. So simple, yet so darn effective when done correctly that it just blows my mind!

Oh, and it was hard work for me too!  I could feel my abs after that ride with just the right amount of I’ve-been-working. So far, there hasn’t been an regression on my healing after having Little Pumpkin, so that’s a good thing.  We are both on the way to getting fit again!

See ya,

bonita

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The First Two Rides After a Baby

I got to ride my horse again!  It’s been months since I last rode – three months, three weeks and one day to be exact – but who’s counting?  (┛◉Д◉)┛

IMG_1583 -  “Hai Mom!”  -

Here’s a brief history of my other “horse riding after babies” experiences to fill in the back story. You can skip if you want to, or have the TLDR version:  I’ve had three children, two by caesarean and one by natural delivery.  After every birth I’ve needed time to heal before I could ride again, but it did vary as to how long that had to be.

When I had my first baby – my son, who is now 3 and a half years old – I rode six weeks after he was born via emergency caesarean.  Of course, in typical over-achiever fashion, that was too soon and I found myself quite sore in a not-so-good way afterwards even though I’d only walked and done tiny bit of trot on Copper for about 20 minutes.  I then had to wait another two weeks before I could hop on again to give myself time to recover from the ride. 

With my second - my two year old daughter – she was delivered naturally, but came out pretty quickly in the end which caused tearing that needed stitches. I rode my horse Joey at around six weeks postpartum –and wrote a post about it here. I could get back in the saddle sooner with the natural birth, and probably would have been even faster to get back on if it hadn’t been for the stitches.

Baby number three was born by another not by choice, but necessary, caesarean.  This time I was so grateful that it wasn’t an emergency situation, so thankfully the trauma from the whole delivery hasn’t been as big of a problem like my first birth turned out to be.

This is actually really important, because if you don’t acknowledge your mental state from the birthing process, good or bad, you can end up burying a lot of emotions that need to be processed. I say need because your life will be effected by emotions that aren’t dealt with. Your thought processes, your attitudes, your relationships – yes, including those with your horse – will be effected.  I found this out the hard way after suffering from PTSD and PND for six months after my son’s dramatic entrance to the world.

This time around, I made sure to give myself as much time to heal as I needed before swinging back into the saddle.  It’s been a lengthy process – I wrote up the recovery plan details so that I could keep track of them – but it definitely included snuggles with the horse and grooming sessions to get my pony time in and keep my sanity while I waited to ride again.

Back in the saddle after baby number three:

So at seven weeks and four days postpartum I finally rode Copper!  Yay! I was this excited to be back in the saddle – exhibit A:  Biggest grin ever!!
\ (*≧▽≦)ノ

IMG_1586

Of course, he’s lost ALL of his topline and muscle development that we were starting to get last year. This means we can only do very gentle rides consisting mostly of walk work, lateral work to stretch, and loads transitions to keep his back swinging freely to establish good contact. This isn’t really a problem though, because I’m just as unfit as he is so we BOTH have to ease our way back into it so we don’t get injuries!

Keeping that in mind, our first ride on Friday was a gentle tootle around the arena.  We bent deep into the corners, working on the three-stride corner. Then I had him do some shoulder-fores, leg yields, and transitions from walk to halt.  We did do a few minutes of trotting. I didn’t ask for anything more than rhythm while trotting, because that’s all he has to give me at the moment.  He’s lost a lot of strength and can’t really hold any bend, but I did get a few moments of a nice lifted and connected back which was great. We ended with some smooth leg yields and called it a day. It was lovely!

IMG_1587

I could feel my abs and inner thigh muscles the next day, but in a good, you’ve-done-some-exercise way, not a Ouch! You’ve-over-done-it way. This had me cheering so I just had to ride again on Sunday.  Maybe it was too soon, but I just can’t keep away now!

This ride was not as pleasant though because Copper really wasn’t feeling it.  He was happy enough to see me - he whickered hello and came striding up to me with pricked ears and that soft eye “I’m glad to see you” look.

But then we had an argument over mounting. I insisted he keep his feet still and he was all “Nope! I’m outta here!”

We were still debating where the feet had to be -

Copper: “Back a bit?” 

Me: *taps dressage whip on flank* “No. Here.”

Copper: “Sideways? Ooh, I know! Forwards twenty steps!!”

Me: “Wrong answer horse!”

- when my phone rang.  Turns out the little Pumpkin had decided that she wasn’t going to have that two hour afternoon nap I was sure she was ready for after all and I needed to come home stat to feed the baby.  *pout*

So I finally put an end to the discussion and managed to mount him without him moving. (Still have to work on the feet moving once I’m in the saddle though.  He’s not rock solid like I want him to be.)

He was off and away, and when I tucked my feet into the stirrups Copper nearly jumped out of his skin!  He really had a kink in his back and he took off trotting, wanting to canter.

I only had five minutes to ride at the most, so I let him trot on. Trying to get him to walk then would have just made him explode because he would have felt trapped. I kept him at a moderate trot with half-halts on the outside rein and a steady one-two sit trot rhythm with a weighted seat.

We did some bending all around the jump paddock, and his head was bopping all over the place – he didn’t want to come into contact. I encouraged him to stretch down with a loose rein walk.  That slowed him down enough to do some leg yields, some more loose rein walk, and then finally we finished with a less tense horse and two nice leg yields – one in each direction.

He was happy when I dismounted though.  I guess he was feeling that ride we had had on Friday too, because I’ve never felt him have such a big ‘hump’ in his back before. He was so tense! It was one of those “I’m riding a nucelar bomb that’s about to blow” type rides! I debated getting off, because I’m not fit enough to ride through any shenanigans, but end up staying on because I felt like we could work through it if I was tactful and stayed out of his face.

IMG_1595[1] -  “Meee?  Tense??  Nawww….”  -

And I’m glad we were able to do that. It was good practise.  It helped me figure out how I need to ride him through those stressful moments so that we both feel safe. 

Despite that last ride, it has been so awesome to get back into it, and now we just need to work up our strength.  Lots of hill work here we come!

See ya,

bonita

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Coming Back to Horse Riding after a C-Section Delivery

IMG_1398[1] - Waiting at the gate. Copper’s happy to see me! -

It’s been a while hasn’t it?

I have been to see Copper twice since Charlotte was born, but as I haven’t been cleared to exercise yet I haven’t been riding.

To be honest, I haven’t really been up for it anyway.  Charlotte was born by caesarean section due to some complications, and while she has been happy, healthy, and growing like a weed, I haven’t been recovering so quickly.

It’s been four weeks and one day since she was born, and I’ve spent the vast majority of that time in bed. And I’ve needed to, otherwise I get really sore through out my core and back, and across my wound. And (TMI alert!!) I make my bleeding start up again and usually it’s quite heavy when that happens.

My body is really shattered, and it’s going to take me quite a long time to recover.  Probably a least a year before I’m back to full strength.

In the mean time I am doing all I can to aid the healing process.  I’m taking Arnica tablets three times a day, rubbing my belly and scar with Arnica cream every day.  I wear a support bandage 24/7 to help my posture, and I’m taking my supplements as often as I can.  Which should be every day but let’s face it – I’m nursing around the clock and I can’t remember what day it is, let alone what my daily routine should be!

As far as physical recovery goes, I have an exercise routine mapped out to help my core knit back together with my pelvic muscles. I’ve started with Osteopath treatments to wake up the severed nerves and muscle and make my body realise it can knit those together again – not just healing them separately.

Then I plan to do Feldenkrais – which is a method of training yourself through repetitive movement patterns to be aware of the way that your body moves and holds itself so that you can retrain bad habits and create better function.

After I’ve started with the Feldenkrais, I want to pick up some Pilates to start working on regain my fitness, then after a few months if I’m feeling strong enough and up to it I would like to take up Kettlebells or Ballet!  I haven’t decided which yet – and I might end up doing both.

It certainly will be fun to pursue these new forms of exercise, but it’s all because I want to be fitter and stronger so I can ride better.  That’s what it’s ultimately about for me.  

IMG_1399[1] - Happy pony! -

Dressage.

Riding my horse to the best of my ability. Improving my health so I can get the most out of each ride. That’s the end goal, and I’m excited to see how my cross training improves my horse riding.  I think it will be beneficial to my flexibility and range of movement which I hope improves my dressage seat. 

I will have more updates once I get started with my exercise routine and hop back on Copper.  I think it’s a good idea to keep a record of this journey as it’s a fairly big one in terms of where my body is now and how much it has to heal, and of course, how that’s affecting my riding in the mean time. 

Just so you know, Copper is as happy a clam chilling out in his paddock with his herd.  I’m the one who’s missing the riding!

See ya,

bonita

Monday, February 23, 2015

Welcome To The Newest Member Of The Herd

Baby Charlotte | Lavender & Twill

i ♡  i

We are delighted to announce the birth of our baby girl:

Namplate 
Head: 35cm
Length: 53cm
Weight: 4.175 kg or 9lb 3oz!

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for Him.”
~ Isaiah 30:18 ~

i ♡  i

See ya,

bonita

Thursday, January 29, 2015

*surrender*

Surrender

Yup.  This is about the sum of it.

See ya,

bonita

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