When You Can’t Ride, You Read

All this snow and the lack of riding is driving me crazy. To make up for it, I have been obsessively scouring the internet for good reading and videos to help improve my riding. After reading multiple synopsis’ of the Isabell Werth clinic that just happened last weekend, I was very humbled by the fact that these riders struggle with issues I struggle with. Maybe not as much, or on the same scale, but the issues I have transcend my level of riding, and I find it comforting.

I love the reminder that leg goes on first and your hand closes AFTER, because the amount of times I don’t do that is embarrassing. I know I’m not the only one, and it is harder to remember when you ride a hotter horse.

You should use your lower leg for balance and to bring him back,” … “Don’t spread your legs away from him. Use your legs for the halt.”- Isabell Werth

Being independent of the reins is something she touched on, and something that I am trying to learn. I find I can go to them for balance, making me lean on them and therefore Dawns mouth, which of course makes her shoot off away from my lean.

To do that, I am going to be working on my home exercises, especially on my core. I have made a point this year to be active every day, but I am going to start ramping it up. I have been eating better and I have lost weight, but it’s always a work in progress for me and I have more to do.

The other thing I am going to do is try what Isabell had a rider do, and ride with both reins in my outside hand. Also, I plan on attempting to ride with the driving reins, because I do tense in the shoulders and tend to pull back and the driving reins can help. Additionally with my reins, when I find the right contact in the walk, I will not adjust my reins to move up a gait. If I have to right connection at the walk, it should be the correct one for trot and canter.

My final thing that I will be practicing more is my transitions. I do neglect them, and I need to stop that. I do my normal working walk, then I do my trot, then my canter, each rein and I’m done. I plan to practice not only walk/trot, trot/canter, canter/trot, trot/walk but also transitions within the gaits so we never feel ‘stuck. Planning my number of transitions, strides between them, and achieving the changes of the gaits will give me something to focus on besides constant drilling of my position and her position.

Now I just need to weather to co-operate so I can have some riding consistency!


Article Referenced: Isabell Werth Clinic

Snow(ice?)mageddon Round 3

Oh the weather outside is frightful… and nothing feels delightful with it. The weather today prevented me from getting to the barn. While the main roads aren’t the worst, side streets are as icy as can be around here, and I imagine worse out towards the barn. So I’m sitting at home grumbling about the weather.

I checked on Dawns leg last night and was very happy to see the swelling has gone down quite a bit. I hand walked her after I pulled her wraps which helped even more, then iced the leg and just wrapped it. It had the tiniest bit of warmth to it compared to the right, so it’s still working something out. She hasn’t gotten outside since it happened, and except for a 5 minute lunge to check soundness and her hand walk, she’s been on pretty strict stall rest. If it’s still swollen and warm when I can get to the barn tomorrow I’ll have to consider getting the vet out, but at least if it is something more sinister, I’m following the right protocol.

Needless to say, no lesson for me this week. I start a new job on Tuesday so my lessons will likely have to be changed around, but we’ll have to wait and see how it goes. I am pretty excited for my new job, it’s closer to the barn and better hours which means I’ll be riding at better times. No more super late nights after work for me! I think it will be perfect come summer when I can take better advantage of the nice weather.

I just keep reminding myself, only 35 days until spring. I can do it!

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I miss you warm weather. Come back please.

Not a Great Update

This weekend was not great. The weather was so terrible last week that the horses were in a couple days. It also meant I couldn’t get up to ride much before my lesson Friday. Which means I had a spicy mare to ride in my lesson that day.

Since she had so much energy, our lesson was just not great. The wind gusts were absolutely crazy, which made the windows in the arena bang and every time there was a loud noise, she scooted. We mostly worked her walk, some trot, focusing on my position and get Dawn supple. Lots of small slow circles, changes of bend, not letting her get on a straight line. It was a good lesson.

Feeling spicy

I can’t lie that I haven’t been feeling discouraged lately. I just feel like I’m riding at 25% instead of 100%, and I’m struggling hard to figure it out. I mentally want to give 100%, but it’s not translating into what I do. I am hoping it’s just winter blues, and maybe when I can get out of the arena again I’ll feel better. My coach is on me to improve, and we’re tweaking a lot of things I have been doing or using since I broke her. it’s a relearning issue, and it’s just been tough.

The horses got out Saturday as the ice got a little better, but Dawn unfortunately injured herself. When I went up Saturday to ride, she had a swollen front left, just the inside of her cannon all the way down. I poulticed it and wrapped her legs. The swelling really wasn’t any better Sunday.  I gave her a quick lunge and she is sound, which is positive. I’m hoping when I get up today it’s better after another night of poultice and wrapping. Best case is she whacked it being silly in turnout, worst case…well, I’m not letting myself think of it.

Not what I wanted to see

Tonight I’ll check her legs and ride Tribute now that I have all the gear I need for my saddle, so hopefully that goes well!

Not a great post, but it is what it is right now.

Hopefully we get back here soon

My Nemesis, The Canter

It’s nothing new to say that I struggle with the canter. Like every rider, when I struggle with something I find it completely frustrating and irritating. It consumes my thoughts- I google cantering during the day, at night I ‘ride’ the canter in my mind, trying to visualize what I think the perfect canter would feel like.

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Explain this sorcery to me.

I know what I want from the canter: relaxed, balanced, easy to adjust. I have it in the walk and trot, but the canter alludes me. The reason is very clear to me: I do not reflect the things in myself that I want in the canter, which is what makes it so frustrating to me.

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Me asking for the canter

Tuesday for example- I was riding Dawn, working on a few different exercises. I leg yield her to the wall a few steps, and off the wall a few steps in the walk at both sides. I do half circles in walk and trot, figure eights and serpentines. I circled over poles, which was a predominant part of my lesson Sunday until she was calm and cool about it. I worked on my sitting trot, long sides, everything in the walk and trot I could think of. Then I asked for the canter.

jesus take the wheel

Lately I have been having excellent right lead canters, so I decided to ask for it first. It was awful,  she was stiff as a board and barely adjustable. Dawn has a powerful canter, so it’s easy for me to loose it. Then I spend a circle or so trying to get it back to me. The single most frustrating thing is point blank, I am not strong enough in my core to maintain my own balance and position.

As my coach keeps saying, Dawn can’t balance both of us. She’s not at the point where it’s possible, nor should I be asking her to maintain my balance for me. I need to maintain my own balance for her to be able to find hers at this point. So the work out regime must kick up a gear, because I’m tired of letting my horse down.

Funnily enough, Tuesday when I asked for the left canter after the right canter, she was easy and adjustable. Maybe it helps us both to get one out of the way to know that’s the worst it can get.

As I said, I google a lot to get information. I came across this article in Dressage Today and really connected to the person who posed the original question.

There was something that stuck out in the answer that really made me say ‘oh!’ and it was about weighting the seat bones and how to tell when to cue the canter.

“The leg aid should be given just as the inside hind is lifting from the ground—it’s actually at the very moment when you would begin to post“- Elizabeth Madlener

That was my ‘oh!’ quote. Really the article has great information and is well worth a read, but that stuck out to me about when to ask.

It gives me a bit of homework to think about- weight the inside seat bone, and ask when you feel like you’re about to post up. Now if I can get my balance together, we should be good to go.

Hopefully.

Polar Vortex

The single most important thing to state is that I survived. I may have complained and hid indoors unless absolutely necessary, but I still survived.

So saying that, the horses had a nice, long 2 weeks of nothing. I didn’t even try to keep up my riding, just made sure they were well blanketed and trusted my barn owner to be as amazing as she is. Dawn did have a body work session last Sunday, so I went out for that at least.

The body work was so cool. Dawn is extremely stoic and not the most reactive to things such as massage, chiropractic, or body work. For this session, I tried a different body worker who had dawn sighing, blowing her nose, and yawning like a champ. I was so excited to ride her afterwards, but at -20c without the windchill I gave up on that idea.

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The other thing I did when the weather was awful was go shopping for the horses. I ended up buying Tributes western saddle! It was on clearance, and actually quite nice and comfy. It seems to fit him as well, so we’ll be adventuring into the world of western now and hopefully get him ready for my mom to ride this summer.

This past Saturday it had warmed up, so I went up to get Dawn ready for our lesson Sunday. After a couple days inside, she was definitely ready to go. I ended up popping her on the lunge so she could work off some of her own steam. After that we had a really lovely ride. It could be placebo effect, but she felt much more loose and easier to move off my leg after getting her body work done.

Sunday we had a lesson. It wasn’t our absolute best work, but it was pretty darn good for as much time off as she’s had. I again had an easier time moving her off my legs, and we worked on that at the walk and trot, using quick corrections with my body when she would get quick, and focusing on my own balance to help her maintain hers.

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Pretty pony ready for her lesson

 

We incorporated some pole work, which is definitely an area I need to work on. I tend to dressage on the flat and not work on anything but that, I think the poles are a nice break from the monotony on constant plain 20 m circles. It also called out our balance- hers and mine, so absolutely something I need to do more often. Even when I do any pole work I tend to only do it in my jump saddle. I ride 90% of the time in my dressage, so I should add them in that saddle as well.

We then moved to the canter, and it is definitely still rough, but it is improving. To the left I tend to still take back with my inside hand as a way to turn her. We’re trying to focus on shifting from that, to giving with the inside and turning from the outside more. If I leave the hand- there but not holding or taking back, adding more inside leg and using my outside aids to turn. Once I can do that, I can produce a lovely canter, it just takes time to get there.

To the right I don’t have as much issue besides maintaining leg contact. Since she is a horse with a more powerful stride, I tend to not use much leg. I don’t hold with the inside hand, but I don’t support enough with leg to keep the canter. When I got the canter it was nice and lovely, I was very happy with it.

The best feeling was when we did come back down to trot, she settled quickly into her lovely trot we have been working on. That is an absolute win, because it shows me we seem to develop a balanced canter as when she comes down from it she is balanced enough to settle into the trot. So I take my wins where I can.

The other big help for me has been picturing the tempo I want. I force myself to think walk when I’m trotting, and my body does the things I want it to when asking to go down to walk. It’s really helped my half halts and I’m finally getting to the right degree.

Sunday I also decided to hop on Tribute in his western saddle. I don’t have every part for it I need, such as a cinch yet, so I borrowed stuff off my friend and got him tacked up. I haven’t ridden or worked him in months, but I hopped on him and he was great. a little up, but nothing unreasonable. The saddle is so comfortable, I’m definitely in love with it. Riding in it on my chubby thoroughbred was definitely a thigh burner though.

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Western Pony is Clearly Thrilled.

Can’t wait to get back into the swing of things this week, before the cold front comes back!

It’s all Beginning to Look Up!

I had the most wonderful weekend!

Weekends are always the most jam packed with good horse fun, obviously because I don’t have to worry about my day job and get to focus on the horses every hour of the day. This weekend in particular was a very good one for me.

Firstly, I finally got the stars aligned and had the vet out to do a recheck on Dawn. He gave her the go ahead for full work! She’s looking great, she’s feeling great, and the only thing we needed to address was her teeth. I’m excited to see how she goes now that her teeth are done, it could explain some of our recent contact issues. So I have to do up a proper schedule for her riding, now I can add in more ‘work’ and less just ‘fitness’ rides.

The check came in perfect time, because the next day I was having a dressage lesson with a dressage judge. I explained our issues, strengths, and what I wanted to change in my riding. She completely agreed with me and helped me out tremendously. Dawn is naturally athletic and forward, which is a wonderful trait, and I want to encourage her natural athleticism, but also harness it in the most positive way.

I worked a lot on adding leg when I wanted her to slow down. Instead of going straight to my hands, I would half halt, squeeze with my whole legs, and sit deeper. Isn’t it funny that she immediately slowed! We did tons of work in the walk- from halts, to almost halts, and changes of gaits in the walk, mostly free walk, working walk, and medium

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Top is from the clinic, Bottom is how I usually ride her. What a huge difference in both our postures! The top is definitely the frame I strive towards.

walk. It all made a difference when we went up into trot, because I had taught her to slow and balance off my seat and leg in the walk, it translated into the trot for the most part. The trot was still a little quick, my timing wasn’t perfect, so we did lots of walk/trot transitions which helped. By the end of our ride she was loose in her back, stretching, and we we’re both exhausted.

Sunday I rode her lightly, working on the same feel from the Saturday. I would have given her the day off, but she had felt good enough to keep going at the end of Saturday and I wanted to really reaffirm what we learned for my own knowledge. I also did a bit of lateral work; just some leg yields both directions.

The other exciting horse thing was starting Tribute back! He worked so hard this summer, and we had such a struggle with his feet, allergies, and saddle fit that it was just in his best interest to give him time off. I ended up giving him about 2 months- most of October and all of November, and pulled him out yesterday to pop him on the lunge. This is also the third time he’s worn the new saddle that I bought and had adjusted for him. Also happened to be the first time I have seen that horse stretch his neck down at the walk and trot. I’m hoping that means he likes his new saddle!

This weekend I have a lesson Friday, but it’s a pretty calm weekend compared.

Post Black Friday

Anyone else going through post Black Friday shopping haze?

I woke up this morning and checked my lists of stuff I had purchased over the past few days, and while it isn’t terrible, I did do a decent amount of damage. I plan on doing a haul post so I’ll keep it all a secret for now- but I managed to get a balance of things I wanted and things I needed. I also got all my Christmas shopping done, so all in all it was a good shop-a-thon!

The horses have been good. I spoiled one with a new blanket, and I like it so much I plan on getting another one for the other horse, you know, because matching.

I had a lesson on Dawn 2 weeks ago, and was supposed to ride in the clinic then the Saturday. Unfortunately, during our lesson she looked a little worse for wear and I decided to pull her out. It turns out her toes were too long, and with the ice and no corks she was slipping and sliding which I think hurt her a bit too. I got her feet done the Saturday and rode her Sunday and she was back to her usual self.

Then last week she lost a hind shoe not once, but TWICE. In her STALL of all places (both times!). So the farrier tacked on a few more nails, I put on bell boots, and *knock wood* we’ve been good ever since. It has to be the corks, it’s the only difference on this horse who has lost a shoe only once before in her life. She just doesn’t lose shoes generally, and the only change we made was the hind corks for the ice and snow.

I had thought to pull her hinds for the winter, which is what I usually do, but I have found since putting them on she is stronger and surer with her hind end. I think with her SI being weak, they add a bit of support that she benefits from. I didn’t want to ask her to

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Dawn post farrier, looking and feeling good!

work and it be hard for her without the shoes, so I kept them on. I’ll have to wait and see how it goes. On one hand, they greatly improve her riding work, but I don’t want the cost to be lost shoes, brittle hooves, or stepping on a clip and having a worse problem.

The plan this week is to ride Monday, Tuesday, and possibly Wednesday. Then day off Thursday, regular lesson Friday, and then I have a dressage lesson with the same clinician Saturday. She very kindly has offered to come back from a small group. Hopefully Dawn stays sound!

I’m trying to decide when I’ll bring Tribute back to work. My plan was to wait for the arena to be finished, because riding 2 horses is enough work at 8 pm without having to walk outdoors in the dark to an arena and back. I would like to start him back shortly though.

Hopefully all my new stuff comes soon and I can do a haul blog!

 

Winter Blues

Winter weather has arrived full force here. There’s good and bad that comes with it, like that first ride through fresh, snowy trails, or the fact that it’s dark at 5 p.m now. It hasn’t snowed enough yet for me to enjoy riding through it, just enough snow to be an inconvenience. The real tough part is the darkness- it’s messing with my mind.

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Anyone else feel like this?

The early sunsets have been killing me, all I feel like doing when I get home from work is going to sleep. The last thing on my mind has been driving to the barn, tacking up, and making the walk to the indoor. The arena attached to our ring is currently undergoing some renovations, so we have been having to head up to the other indoor for rides.

I have actually enjoyed riding in the other arena, it’s allowed me to meet some different people that I wouldn’t if I wasn’t forced to ride up there. Also it’s a little bigger than the indoor attached to my barn, which has been a nice change. It’s exposed us to riding with larger groups of horses as well, and Dawn’s brain has remained mostly in place when horses are coming and going, which has been nice. The only thing I’m not loving is skating up the driveway- 4 metal horse shoes and a just slippery enough driveway is a nerve wracking walk.

Made it to the arena! Watching the horses in the barn through the door.

Riding up in the other ring has also ensured Dawn is comfortable working up there for the clinic this Saturday. It’s an in barn clinic with a dressage judge and I am looking forward to it. I rode Tribute with her in the summer and felt like I learned a lot, I’m interested to see how it goes with Dawn and what exercises we can learn.

This is going to be a pretty busy weekend for me. Friday I have a farrier appointment for both, the vet may be out for a check on Dawn, and hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in a lesson to prepare for the clinic. Saturday is the clinic, and Sunday I’m going to check out the new Fantastic Beasts movie!