Sunday, 31 May 2009

Exciting Saturday!

First, just to add to Friday, the boys came in for their tea and a break from the midges and all that grass so I tried another accupressure session with Captain (the last couple of times he made it clear he didn't want it!) And he was much much more receptive. Kept munching away on his hay but he didn't tell me to ****er off this time! So I'll keep trying. He seems much better on a Danillon a day but I'm really not keen on him remaining on them long term so I'm hoping the vet might tell me about some newer NSAID with less potential for harm to the gut and kidneys.

Not quite what I intened to capture on video!!

Yesterday morning, I got all 3 boys in for breakfast. Mike was going to ride Bruce and I was planning another session on Zeffy. As it was Saturday, more people at the yard and I asked a friend if she'd video me having a trot on Zeffy. When I got to the school, Mike had put a load of poles out. Aaah well, Zeffy has to get used to these things when I'm riding him (we use poles and jumps in his groundwork). After checking him out on the lunge (very calm) I hopped on and although Bruce was also in the school Zeffy was very good. Going more or less where I wanted and we had another couple of calm trots.

Then my camera lady arrived, unfortunately with her mini Shetland, Ellie, whose paddock is at the end of the school. Friends husband and daughter came too. A little bit too much excitement for Zeffy so the video of him and me wasn't quite what I was aiming for!

Zeffy very quickly returned to "calm" so we just walked round and ended on a good note.

Also unintended!!

Late afternoon I got Bruce and Captain in and went for a hack round the farm with friend Cora and Gunner. Riding Bruce and leading Captain. Captain was enthusiastic about coming with us and he looked better than he has for some time. Great! ..... until my greedy boys planned a joint attack!! Bruce to the field of wheat on our left and Captain to the scrumptious grass and cow parsely on the right. I should've just let go of Captain but I tried to hang on and he pulled me off! I slid backwards down the saddle and landed on my bum!! Very embarrassing and stupid!!! Grrr!! Climbed back on Bruce and we carried on! (Can understand the merits of Western saddles with horns on!!)

Friday, 29 May 2009

My little Superstar!!

This morning I took Z in the school. Very short lunge and in-hand session as he was so calm. Got on and walked round and did some figures of eight and large serpentines and then ...... we had a trot! And he was perfect!! Very calm. Nice smooth transition up and down (sometimes he "leaps" into trot!) Our steering wasn't brilliant and he cut across the school a bit but I figure at this stage it's more important to let him get his balance than worry too much about going exactly where I intended. This is only the 2nd time he's trotted with anyone on his back. We had a couple of trots - just along one side - on each rein and then I hopped off and rewarded him with some carrots. So pleased with my little Luso!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Work stops play!

I'm back at work almost full time .... so I guess my posts will be less frequent.

Haven't done much this week. Was going to ride Zeffy early Tuesday morning. I tacked him up, took him in the school and we did some ground and in-hand work but I decided he was too fidgety (Ellie, the miniature shetland charging about!!) and I had no-one to help me. But last night, despite horrid midges in the school, I got on (just the two of us) after only a couple of minutes of lungeing. Zeffy was so calm. Just walked round the school, lots of changes of direction. And then Mike came in on Bruce and we walked round together. Only 15 minutes of walking. A little wobbly but very calm! Oh - and before he had Bruce to protect him - a large horsebox drove alongside the school and he just stood calmly and watched it go by! Gold Star Zeffy!

I also took Captain in the school for a few minutes of in-hand walking, including some polework (walking over and in and out). I started him on Dannillon on Tuesday and it does seem to have helped more than the "natural" pain relief (Boswellia). I'm not very keen on using it long term but I may have to to ensure Captain has quality of life. He was beginning to really struglle to pick his off back foot up. Anyway, the vets coming next Monday to take bloods to test for tapeworm and will check Captain at the same time. (Mainly to allow me to give him Dannillon - I'm not having him messed with anymore!!) He seemed to enjoy his little session in the school though - apart from the horrid flies!!

This morning, a long hack before work on Bruce accompanied by the 2 Millies! Black lab and grey pony ridden by friend Caroline! Little grey Millie is 23 years old and as frisky as a 2 year old! Such a fun little girl!!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Sunshine and sea!

Just got back from a lovely long weekend at Mike's Mum's in Northumberland. Nowhere more beautiful when the sun shines .....and this weekend it did! We went with our good friends Sue and Derek and of course Millie. Did lots of eating, drinking, talking and walking. The local countryside and walks are fantastic but as it was S&D's first visit we went for a walk along Hadrian's Wall on Saturday and to the coast from Seahouses to Bamburgh Castle yesterday. Millie's first trip to the seaside!

Last week I went back to work - hence the lack of blog! Hacked Bruce most mornings and after work tried to do something with Zeffy ... but the midges in the school were unbearable for both of us. In the end I managed to ride him on Thursday evening by myself for the 2nd time and he was great (still with reins attached to the cavesson). Cora and Gunner came into the school and we walked round with them for a few circuits. On Friday morning before we headed North, we had a great in-hand session. The last couple of times I've tried the bit a hole lower and Zeffy much prefers it. It won't be long before we're doing more under saddle and so I need to educate Z to the bridle. He was very relaxed about it all, moving round the school easily and some nice SI and counter SI. We also had a little trot and he was a bit wild, trying to nip me! Still 1st time in-hand so just a little overexcited!!

Going up to see the boys now. I've missed them!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Belated Happy Birthday Millie!

It was Millie's 7th birthday on the 13th May. And Mike and I totally forgot!!! So Happy Belated Birthday Millie! Pics are one of her and her friend Lily. (Sometimes they both come for a hack with me and I just call "illies" when I'm trying to control them!!) The other two were take this morning. Note the look of embarassement at having to pose for pics!!

We may have forgotten Millie's birthday .... but she got herself a present on our hack on Wednesday .... a baby rabbit!! She knows I don't allow bodies in my car so she hid it somewhere before I could dispose of it. When we returned to the yard that evening she looked but it had gone .... probably the farm retrievers.

Bruce Yesterday we had a lovely long hack. No wind for the first time this week, so he was nice and calm but forward. He even managed to keep his cool when 4 ducks took off from the river as we passed!

Zeffy and Captain Had already decided not to ride Zeffy 2 days in a row (while his body adjusts to carrying me.) Niece Lizzie came up in the evening. So we took Zeffy and Captain for an in-hand hack round the farm. We were joined by new kid on the block "Puzzle". Puzzle is a young skewbald mare, 12.2hh and exceptionally pretty (will take pics!) She's 6 but has done very little - friend's Dad bought her for peanuts at an auction when she was a foal as a companion. She's matured into a very nice pony indeed and so they're keeping her for baby (4months!!) Rohan when he's big enough to ride. She only arrived last Sunday and is rather wild. So I had several demonstrations of Zeffy's lovely passage!

Horses stayed in last night because of rain so just chucked them all out this morning and took Millie for a walk.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Solo flight!

This evening I got the horses in. Cora was going to help me ride Zeffy again but I was late to the yard and she was teaching so I decided to go it alone.

I got him tacked up, lunged him - he was nice and calm. Did a little work in hand to make the change to me directing him from the saddle - he was calm. Checked the brakes - they worked (helped by a click and carrot!!) Stood him by the mounting block - he was calm. And got on!!

So for the very first time I rode him without anyone helping. He walked round the school, halted when I asked, changed rein and we managed a very odd shaped 20m circle. We had one sticky moment when he got stuck by the gate, but with a little gentle encouragement he walked on.

Very, very pleased with my little boy! And he looked very pleased with himself too!!

A good decision!

At home yesterday I read some of Michael Klimke's "Basic Training of the Young Horse" and I watched Kalman de Juranck's "Classical Schooling" video. And thought a lot about the next stage in Zeffy's training. He's been so calm when I've ridden him that I've decided it's time to ride him with "no strings attached". i.e. without being led.

At 5.30 this morning I sat in bed having my first cup of tea and looked out of the window. Blue skies and no wind. Perfect condiitions! No helpers available but I think we're at the stage where we can manage on our own.

Arrived at the yard at 730am. By then it was dull and windy. "Wind we can cope with" I thought. Got the stables and Zeffy's tack ready, caught all 3 boys and brought them in for breakfast. Then it started to rain. Zeffy hates rain coupled with wind! It sends him scurrying sideways at 100 mph like a little crab!! So I decided that now was not the right time for our first solo flight!!

Good decision! Turned the boys back out. Bruce and Zeffy first. Then back for Captain. When I got back to the field Zeffy was in full bull-fighting mode! Executing the most perfect movements, very fast around poor Bruce (the bull!) Canter half passes, canter pirouettes, levade, etc. So quick and agile!! Why didn't I have my video camera handy!!

Heaved a sigh of relief at my good decision! The weather may be better this evening and Cora will be around to help me.

Catching up from my Sunday post. Monday: Zeffy and Captain had a day off. Hacked Bruce in the morning. He was very full of himself in the wind!

Tuesday: Started with hack on Bruce. Much the same as Monday! Got the boys in yesterday evening and while the yard was quiet I gave Captain an accupressure session. Now Captain loves his grub and was greedily munching on haylage when I started. But part way through the first point his eyes started to droop and he moved away from his food and spent the rest of the session, head bobbing (sleepily!), eyes struggling to stay open and lip drooping. Even when a couple of friends came to talk to me. Yay - so pleased with Captain's reaction. I must be doing something right!

As I'm planning to start riding Zeffy without being led I need to progress with the "bit work". So I put his bridle on and we made our way to the school for an in-hand session. I picked up a great tip from someone on a horsey forum who was writing about early training. Attach an extra rein through the rings of the drop noseband (if you use one and I am at the moment) so that if anything untoward happens you don't need to pull on the bit rein and the young horse's mouth. Considering that Mike and Bruce were hooning about in the school together with another very large horse, Zeffy was very well behaved. But there were a couple of moments when I would definately have pulled his mouth if I hadn't had the noseband rein! A bit diffuclt to get his full concentration with so much going on but overall some consistent, soft chewing and swallowing and 70% control in terms of direction and stopping!!

And this added 3 days later 'cos I thought it was significant!! I lowered Zeffy's bit a hole before our in-hand session. And he much prefers it even though it didn't look too high before! (Reminder ..... listen to the horse!!)

Easter clinic - summary

Short conclusion! Copying my clinic notes made me think! Great soundbites. All easily accessible in good books. But doesn't really get over the biggest lesson I learnt!

The training ladder, school movements and exercises. Those of us who aspire to studying dressage all learn them. Depending on our horses and experience we achieve a greater or lesser measure of success with them. Time and again I read about the "latest" recommended gmynastic exerercise. Almost like the latest training gadget!!

So, the most important message for me (and the one I hope P was intending!!) is that sure you need to use these tools accurately and effectively but they are only tools that we use to access the horses body (and sometimes mind too!) So it is not enough to be able to execute them perfectly. You must understand what you are training and why. You must use them in the full knowledge of which part of the horse's body you are trying to influence. And you must then reflect on your theory. Did it work? If not why not? Was there a resistance? A miscommunication? Was it the right exercise? Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

I'll finish this discourse by admitting that I was probably the most novice of the clinicians. And that I have a huge amount to learn. But now at least I know what I need to learn. And when I read my books or watch my DVDs, I do so with new understanding. Slowly the veils are dropping!

Monday, 11 May 2009

First ridden trot on Zeffy!

Red letter day yesterday! First ridden trot on Zeffy! Bear in mind that a) it's a zillion years since I last backed a youngster and b) at my age Zeffy will be my last baby so huge pressure to be perfect!! So I guess I've been putting this off. And suprise, surprise, he was Mr Chilled! So pleased with my Little Luso!! Especially as I've only sat on him half a dozen times!

Video evidence: First a bit of our pre-ride lunge work:

Second video: Yay! A few strides of trot and no fireworks!!

And late afternoon I took Captain for an in-hand hack with friend Esther and her boy Merrick. Captain kept picking bouqets of cow parsley for me ..... but couldn't resist eating them!!

Wonderful Hannah came to give him his monthly treatment on Saturday. Apart from being qualified and hugely experienced equine McTimonei Chiropractor, Accupressure, Equine Touch and soon Craniosacral Therapy - she not only treats each horse using the most appropriate of her therapy tools, but she also works out between treatment exercise plans with owners - in Captain's case we have some basic stretches and Hannah has also taught me some appropriate accupressure points and we've discussed some gentle suppling work in the school.

No doubt that Captain has regressed slightly. But discussing it with Hannah, I haven't kept up the between treatment exercises this time. So I'm determined to make the time and see if it helps Captain. Plan is twice weekly accupressure sessions, 5 minute stretch programme on other days, suppling work in the school a couple of times a week (depending on results!) and a couple of in-hand hacks for light relief! He is better following his treatment. So it's up to me to keep up the good work til his next one.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Clinic Report - Lecture 4

Final day's lecture.

Repetition/maintenance allows the horse to balance/quiet mind

Changeability prevents evasion. This motion to that motion e.g. shoulder fore on the diagonal to cantersays keep inside hind underneath the shoulders.

Patterns & Exercises
Introduce pattern then diagnose then repeat or alter
Circle first place to introduce tracking in

Introduce = Aid
Diagnose = Release
Repeat or Alter - Harmonise or Reaid

Patterns must be precise
e.g need to know how many strides in each size of circle for each gait.

Bend is an illusion - only proper bend is from the withers forward

Check head not tilted - is nostril under and at least in line with eye or in front? (i.e. not btv)

Square - movement of shoulder, control outside leg.

(Dinner break!! Starving!)

OK, back again (haven't really been eating for 2 days solid!!

Following notes are from discussion on actual exercises/patterns:

Turn around the centre - hind leg activity/shoulder mobility

Squares - Can you turn without losing the hind leg and should mobility?

Serpenties - positioning of body, from bend to straight. Position right to straight, pos left to straight. Resistant horse's back = increase no. of loops

For every pattern there is a counterpattern. e.g. Can I turn him around his inside bend? Can I turn him around his outside bend?
e.g. serpentines in true and counter bend
e.g. circle to straight, straight to circle

Change of rein - mirror pattern to avoid overuse of one side of horse
e.g. trot 15-20m circle & change diagonal (post on "wrong" diagonal) = sitting on each hindleg using the same pattern

Every time you collect you must lengthen. Every time you bend you must straighten.

Ribboning (linkage of patterns) Go from one movement to the next.

In = collect
Out = extend
i.e. Extend from outside hind, collect from inside hind

Clinic Report - Lecture 3

Well, for a number of (non-horsey!) reasons, the last couple of weeks have been pretty hopeless as far as progressing my horsemanship. Getting back in the zone now so finishing reports from Easter camp.

Lecture 3 - What to do, when

(First off) Thesis - What do I have?
(Then) Antithesis - What do I do about it?
(Next) Synthesis - What did that create?
And obviously this is cyclical and pretty much never ending!

Is it an exercise of access or the finished thing?
What can I do with it?

You must be non-judgemental. It is what it is!!
What is, isnow (this ride! Don't ride last week's, last month's ride!)

Thesis - What's available and/or unavailable now?
Which aids are not going through?
Where does he feel stiff/loose?

e.g. if you put your leg on and the horses rushes then no straight lines. Use t.o.f. or if horse is on the forehand t.o.f. in movement.
Bend to release spine.

We do not ride the goal. Accessing/Availability (e.g. temporary exagerations for the rider). Ride the means to achieve the goal.
We should think about goals as short, medium and long term and as incremental. e.g. short term = during this ride.

Synthesis - I've achieved the goal and it is reliable.

New thesis, etc

Intentional - focus! Rider's mind must be attentive! If the brain siezes up - drop the reins and don't touch the horse's mouth!
Whatever you ride is what you train i.e. whether on a hack or in the school you must be consistently training postural rather than locomotive muscles.

Gymnastic work to athletic work to gymnastic work (e.g. school, cross-country, school)

Calm - Forward - Straight
Relaxed - Ahead - Gymnastics

Tension prevents learning (horse or human)
Sometimes you need tension in one thing to access another.

Self-carriage is an absolute. Only in self-carriage is a horse carrying you safely.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Cows Parsley and Feral Pony

Hacked Bruce yesterday morning. Good boy. Dog disappeared for the last half of our hack ..... and reappeared with a cock pheasant in mouth when we got back to the yard! (She doesn't understand that retreivers are not killers!!)

Haircut, so late to evening yards. Caught Bruce for Mike (3rd time he's ridden him this week ..... 5th this year!!) and Captain. Zeffy decided he didn't want to stop eating grass! He walked off a couple of time and I didn't try hard to catch him (he'd've let me if I'd persisted).

Took Captain (led) for a hack round the farm with Cora and Gunner (ridden). Captain had a ball! Lots of lush pickings! He had a bouquet of cow parsley in his mouth most of the way round!! Aaah well .... OK I've ruined him .... but so what? (I shan't be allowing Z the same latitude!!)

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Bit work!

Cora (my helper when I ride Zeffy) had been and gone by the time I arrived at the yard this evening. So I put Zeffy's bridle and cavesson on and after a short lunge session we did some "bit work" - getting him to relax his jaw and then transitions from halt to walk to halt and the start of shoulder in. I was pleased that he kept mouthing the bit and had a nice relaxed neck and kept calm despite little Ellie cavorting and Bruce (Mike riding) having a couple of spooks at her. However when I got him back in the stable he just couldn't wait to get the bridle off and he turned his head away when I put it on. So when we have another session with the bridle I'll make it more worthwhile for him with a titbit for being a good boy.

I also took Captain in the school for a short lunge session in walk - concentrating on straightness and then a very slow giravolta then some straightening work to finish. Just a few minutes.

Tea then all three back out for the night. Watched Captain walk away - he looks worse than I've seen him for a while. The off hind - the one which had the arthrodesis op - really swinging wide. He's got his monthly physio session on Saturday and I'm going to ring Hannah before then to discuss how we can best help him. Her own horse was very lame with spavin and she's worked wonders with him, returned him to work (only to have him pull a tendon!!)

Although I arrived late at the yard this morning, I had intented to ride Bruce but I forgot his saddle and as I went to see my Mum today I didn't really have time so walked the dog on foot!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Training passage ....

.... is easy peasy! All you need is a miniature shetland grazing alongside the manege! Zeffy all tacked up ready for me to ride. Some nice lunge work, concentrating on transitions - especially not leaping into trot. Cora "tweaked" my aids and got me to drop my energy and concentrate on "ing" i.e. trotting and bingo! Lovely smooth walk/trot transitions. And then Ellie the shetland decided to show off and Zeffy passaged. "Good boy", I encouraged and I passaged with him to show him how clever he was!

I haven't ridden him for around 3 weeks as he was so bum high but he stood still while I mounted, Cora leading him and this time with some reins attached to the cavesson. We just walked round the school and then Cora sent him out on the lunge line but this time with me being more active - leg and rein aids on board for the first time. And he was a really good boy. He had one little spook when we had our back to Ellie and she decided to canter up to the school. But he soon settled and we finished on a good quiet note. Jane (YO) agreed that we can put Ellie in her stable when we use the school for safety's sake while we're at such an early stage in Zeffy's ridden career.

Hacked Bruce this morning. Went the opposite way to usual. Along the river and then up a steep bank into the next field. "I couldn't possibly!" said Bruce. A couple of steps up the bank then a pause to allow him to relax and realise there weren't really a pack of wolves about to attack him and in the end he went where I wanted him to. Good boy! (Note to self - don't be so lazy! Vary the route more!)

Captain came in this evening for a couple of hours with Zeffy and Bruce (left Mike riding Bruce in the school). Gave him a good groom, his tea and chucked him out again with Zeffy.

Unusually I'm home first so I'd better get dinner ready! Very pleased with Z though!

Monday, 4 May 2009

My pony's growing!

Lazy day today. Horses out 24/7. Went to yard tonight with the intention of lungeing Zeffy and then doing some in-hand work but I couldn't be bothered! So the three came in had a groom, some grub and back out.

The good news is - Zeffy's bottom is now officially 15.2hh and his withers 15.1hh!! And he's absolutely crammed into his 5' 9" lightweight turnout rug. Yay - my pony's growing!! (And height was verified by Cora and a measuring stick with spirit level so no cheating!)

March of the scarecrows!

A couple of months ago I was hacking alone on Bruce and he spied a scarecrow clothed in white through the hedge. He was terrified and bolted and I fell off.

Yesterday we were hacking with Cora & Gunner and rode alongside the village cricket club - one of our usual rides except they've moved the wicket! Usually totally unseen it's now right next to our track so poor Brucey suddenly saw lots of men dressed in white, running around and shouting and I'm sure he thought he was being chased by 50 scarecrows!! Poor Bruce Almighty! Even when we were back on "our farm" he kept looking round to make sure he was safe ..... and I think we could've made the Guinness Book of Records for most poos ever on a hack!!

I'm worried about Captain. He's not thin exactly, but I've never seen his ribs at this time of year. Usually I have to watch his weight. He seems happy enough but his arthritis is worse than ever. So I've come to the inevitable conclusion that his condition is pain related. He has Boswellia Serrata twice daily to help with pain but it doesn't seem to be enough. So I'm thinking about putting him on a daily dose of Danillon - he does have a few sachets prior to trimming and it definately helps. I want to check for ulcers first though. (New fecal test.) Poor Captain!

Having said all that, I took him for an in-hand hack with his pal Merrick yesterday evening and he was a nightmare. Both of them just wanted to eat the lush grass (who can blame them) and he trod on my foot twice! Ouch!

Played with Zeffy last night and we had great fun. His favourite game is tag ... perfectly suited for the sideways evasions which Lusos excel at!! I think his withers have caught up again so hopefully I'll sit on him tonight.