Sunday, 27 December 2009


Well I have been practising things since the video and feel I still collapse a bit in the midsection which is causing the tipping feeling. I do think the hip alignment is not bad - as Valerie pointed out I dont want to end up behind the movement - so I have concentrated on opening the chest, softening the elbow, and LOOKING UP!! It does **feel** better but I hope to get some more video to SEE what it looks like ;-)

I also got some nice results with the rising trot today by injecting more energy into it - I cant really explain what I did because I wasnt making the rising bigger or smaller but just had more 'positive tension' in my body tone somehow and Antsje respoded with some nice springy steps :-)

I also hope I have got the postioning correct with the travers now - but that i'll have to judge off the video ;-)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

WE HAVE VIDEO!!! hehehe!

So, finally got Amy to take some video of us both today - I think we have made improvements this year although I STILL need to SIT UP!!!! and also the angle in travers is way too steep but thats what video is for! My sitting trot is still woeful I rode my sisters horse tonight and was able to sit nice and tall and relaxed but I still cant get it on Antsje! Im afraid of it I reckon!!! I tense up and I BOING everywhere! plus...................I NEED TO SIT UP!!!!

First few vids are of trot and canter on both reins, then the last one is collecting and lengthening the trot with Antsje staying with me! you can see she'd rather canter! I can see on the serpentine video I am blocking her with the inside rein on the right - she still gets a bit jittery after canter work - but NO excuse for overiding the inside rein! NAUGHTY ME! But would be glad to hear what you all think............. ps - the abrubt halts after canter are a result of a 'click' and treat - not cos I yanked her head orf!!

Friday, 18 December 2009



Another morning ride! Because I don’t have as much time in the mornings it does have the benefit of focusing my mind and not getting greedy and overdoing things when they feel good!!
I didn’t do so much work laterally today other than setting the trot up with the travers steps which work very nicely. I did lots of changes of reins, transitions and serpentines and concentrated on keeping us both in a nice balance throughout all the exercises. I am thrilled with Antsjes attitude to work lately – she tries so hard!
The lateral work in trot will really help the canter work as she has to balance herself while stepping under more with her hindleg. So today I thought id do a bit of canter work for a change! After speaking to Mike about the canter he said think about making the circle smaller by turning her with the outside rein and pushing her back out with the inside leg so I really get that inside leg to outside hand connection. So today I tried a couple of more like 10-15m canter circles and tickled her with the schooling whip to encourage the hind leg activity and lo and behold we got some really lovely lift to the canter with her STILL reaching into the contact!! WOOOHOOOO!!! And this was on the RIGHT rein!!! I changed rein and asked for the same exercise and she did such a beautiful ‘step’ up into canter and some very nice slow yet lifted canter strides that I just clicked my tongue and jumped off and made such a big fuss of her and fed her her favourite extra strong mints hahahaha!!!!


A similar combination of work to the last sessions
Travers steps to set up the trot. Counter canter down the long side, working up to maintaining position up the centre line. She was working so nicely that I got brave and asked for a few steps of travers in trot!!! And bless her she did try!! She moved her quarters out but struggled to maintain the inside bend for more than a few steps and it ended up more like a leg yield hahaha!! BUT! I was very pleased with the effort as I know she would find this hard.
We did a little bit of canter work but she was a little gung-ho and when coming back to down to trot we lost the nice stable connection in the contact with her being very busy in the mouth and not seeking the contact but bobbing her head in and out of my hands. I was just starting to feel that bubble of frustration on why she was being so unsettled that I just suddenly realised that she was ‘setting sail’ and out of balance completely!! So I put her on a smaller circle and just concentrated on working on the ‘neutral’ trot and hey presto!! Connection restored!! I clicked, treated and left it at that.
Hacking for the weekend – she has worked hard this last few weeks!

Monday 14th December

Quick morning ride this morning – I think both of us were feeling it a bit from yesterday! I was struggling with the sitting trot as I felt stiff and Antsje was struggling with maintain the neutral trot as no doubt she was a little tired too!
So I just worked on a large circle getting Antsje to slow up the trot by listening to my seat and slowing the rising, then asking her to lengthen into a larger trot, then come back to me again from the seat. Once she had done this a couple of times on each rein I called it a day and made a big fuss of her.

Sunday 13th December - Mike Lesson!!!

What a great day! I have so missed having a lesson but I was also relieved that Mike didn’t pick up on anything horrendously wrong while I have been left to my own devices lol!!

So after working in, Mike got me thinking about engaging the HQ’s more by doing some lateral work. First ShoulerIN in walk down the long side – I AM working at too steep an angle and once corrected the lateral work flowed much better **grins** We then did some shoulder In down the centre line which was a good test for both horse and rider to maintain position.
We then did a small circle and did a few steps of travers up the long side which really is the exercise to get Antsje in a more collected frame. After a few steps of travers Mike asked me to step up into a sitting trot and we worked on getting and maintaining what Mike called a ‘neutral’ trot. Which means neither ‘setting sail’ (antsje's speciality) or being too collected but concentrating on everything being in balance, the hindlegs really stepping through and for her to be soft in my hand and held with the seat. It was bloody hard work I tell you for my poor abs working in sitting trot for most of the lesson lol!!! At times it felt awful, but at times it felt just AMAZING!!!

We then started to do some lateral work in trot – I was struggling a bit with SI, so Mike got me to work in counter shoulder in, using the fence to give both me and antsje some guidance. This worked REALLY well, and once we both got the feel of it, we turned up the centre line in counter shoulder in and was able to keep position!! So naturally we then progressed to Shoulder in down the long side and it worked MUCH better!! We got some really excellent walk / trot / walk transitions too as Antsje was really off my leg and listening and trying so hard bless her **smile**

So what did I take away from this lesson?

*Travers is the best exercise for Antsje to get her to step under and shorten her frame
*Go into sitting trot and hold the neutral trot with the seat keeping the hands soft but supportive.
*Think of my lower leg being a little further forwards and sitting on my seatbones in sitting trot as I have a tendancy to collapse forwards with my lower leg sliding too far back. Grrrrrrr!!!! *NOT a chair seat though! It’s the thought more than anything to help me sit UP!
*Work in counter shoulder in first as the fence helps maintain the position until we both get the ‘feel’
*Keep the counter shoulder in position around the turn of the short side and up the centre line to really get Antsje to step under
*Rise down the long side in a slightly bigger trot, sit and collect the trot around the short side – rinse and repeat!!

Thoroughly thoroughly enjoyed the lesson although I was bloody knackered at the finish!! I need to do more work in the sitting trot and build up my ABS!!!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Animation V Relaxation......

Another wonderful ride!!
I am hoping to get some video on Sunday – I am sooooo curious to see how it LOOKS. She feels wonderful, but without proper guidance for so long I am worried I have got into all sorts of problems and false feelings.

I am learning that Antsje has to be kept sensitised otherwise she can get a little ‘dull’ to the aids. By that I don’t mean she is lazy as such because she will always move off the leg – but it’s the reaction time that tends to get slower if you are not mindful of it. So rather than her take 3-4 steps before she trots after a leg aid, Iwant it to be NOW! Snappy! Immediate!
If she doesn’t go off the leg straight away, I bring her back to walk, get her listening and energised my whacking my boot with the whip and making SWISHY noises lol!! Then, when I feel she is stepping through better I then ask for the transition again. I also combine click & Treat with this and get some very good results – she is very enthusiastic hahahaha!!! Working on transitions really helps to get her listening and energetic. I also added in a few reinback to walk and reinback to trot transitions in too - this really helped with getting her to step under under more and increase the energy in the trot.

Once we have this ‘energy’ then I started to work on circles asking her to bend around the inside leg and not hanging on the inside rein (BOTH of us!!) I / We find this harder on the right rein, where I have to really be mindfull about that inside rein!! And also keeping the connection with the outside as I tend to let that go when I give the inside rein lol lol! So I think, elbow to hip – inside leg pressing her into the outside rein, outside rein to regulate and if necessary against the neck to turn. If all else fails, both reins into outside hand, ride a smaller circle and activate the inside hind with the whip held in the inside hand.

When we get it, it feels Gooooooood! And we are getting it quicker and more consistently lately. To really help this inside to outside connection I start to add in some leg yielding. First spiralling down to a small circle, then spiralling back out again. Then coming down the ¾ line and leg yielding back to the track. I always do a few strides straight first though as Antsje is the Queen of anticipation and we end up snaking back to the track before we have even finished the turn properly!!

We really do seem to have got the ‘relaxation’ needed for Antsje to seek the contact but now we have that, I am aware we need to add some ‘energy’ back into it as it is a little lapsidaisical at times – it looks great, but I know she isn’t using herself as much as she could. It is a fine line between animating her to get the energy and loosing the relaxation all together and we get the sucking back with the neck and tight back. So a good way I found last night of achieving this was getting a nice swinging trot and then by using my seat and clucking my tongue really collect the trot up as much as I could before breaking into walk, then by relaxing my position and giving the reins slightly get her to lengthen the trot back out again. The first few goes we collapsed into walk a couple of times but once she had got the idea we got some NICE trot, one improving the other as we kept a 20m circle.

I was pleased that after 2 sticky sessions with the leg yielding something has clicked in her head and she is getting the idea much better now. This is something Ive noticed with Antsje, you can have a really ‘UGLY’ session learning something new, but give her time to think she comes back the next time understanding it! What she lack in talent, she makes up for in attitude. She is SUCH a trier – and this is something that has helped my training with her this year. I came to the conclusion that Antsje ISNT awkward or lazy or dull – if she isn’t getting something then I am not explaining it correctly or in a way she can understand!! Clicker has helped immensely for conveying my ideas to her in a positive way. It has been a major breakthrough in ME containing my frustrations when something isnt going to plan. Now I try and look at it unemotionally and detached and ask as Erik Herbermann would say – How can I help my horse???I don’t ALWAYS succeed but by god im getting so much better and so is my training skills and I hope so is my riding and my horse!

ps - We have also been doing a lot of poll release work off the horse. Massage, flexions, giravolta work - all have helped to free up this area which Antsje has always been naturally protective of. I have also put the noseband OVER the headstall in the fashion of a 'comfort bridle' as she kept seeming to be sore in this area when I have been doing the massage. Since one particularly effective massage session and the bridle change she seems even better through the poll. Not sure which one or if both has helped but the change ridden has been notable :-)

pps - I wrote this up in Word to spell check and the suggested spelling for 'Herbermann' was HORSEMAN!! Isnt that delightful!!! lol!

Monday, 7 December 2009

All Change....................

Here we go again!!! lol!
Yesterday Antsje was on the move again…………….back to my sisters yard! It will be good for several reasons, Antsje gets to be turned out in company again, I get to spend time with my sister (YAY!) Its more of a community as it’s a smaller yard therefore help is on hand for all manner of things and finally there is a pony ‘spare’ that Amy will be able to ride when she wants a horse fix and hopefully we can do the odd hack out now and again which I miss terribly and of course it is more economical financially with being cheaper livery and closer to home. So although I have had to give up the indoor school and onsite competitions I think I gain a great deal too.

I tried out the new ménage yesterday and it is FAB!! Considering how much rain we have had it was a little ‘squelchy’ but no water laying anywhere and not at all heavy going so really impressed!!! Antsje thought it was fab too and she felt extra ‘boingy’ underfoot – GREAT!!! ***rolls eyes*** lol!
Also rode this morning producing more nice work. The last few sessions I am really working on her being OFF my inside leg and neither of us hanging onto the inside rein. One handed riding is just so useful for this and we can do this well in trot now with Antsje moving off my inside leg, softening to the inside and reaching for the contact.

I am also playing with lateral work in trot too. She is finding this more hard work as she has to really activate her hind leg more to move herself over in alignment. She tends to run through the shoulders and trail the HQ’s – particularly on the right rein.
She finds it easier to spiral down on a circle and then leg yield back out onto a 20m circle keeping correct alignment through her body. I tried the ¾ line leg yield to outside track but she (I??) find this harder and we either get no movement or she tends to trail the HQ’s. Although I did find it easier when I actually looked in the direction I wanted us to go DOH!! I am wondering if Im asking for too steep an angle though? Its hard to tell :-S Although after doing this work, even though it wasnt perfect, the trot was hugely improved afterwards. She was really powering along, swinging her back, soft in the hand, and I was swinging WITH HER in my rise and it all felt so effortless :-)
The most exciting news is that I am having a lesson with Mike on Sunday!! YEEEEEHAAAAAAA!!!! So I am sure he can put me right on the whole lateral work / my position in canter worries I have at the moment. Of course, a lesson report will be forthcoming YAY! :-D

Monday, 30 November 2009


Well as it was the final show of the season at our yard I decided to throw caution to the wind and do Prelim 12!! Amy said she would come and video us so I was really excited! But when I got my time, the class was so huge that we were not riding until 2.24pm which meant Amy couldnt make it :-( But luckily one of the girls at the yard videod my test for me which was so nice of her :-)

Well Antsje warmed up so beautifully and felt so relaxed but responsive I was really excited about doing the test lol!! As soon as we got in the arena though we lost that relaxation as Antsje was a bit 'gawky' especially at the camera man, and I got a bit of the nerves kicking in too!!
But despite this Antsje did listen to me and I tried hard not to fiddle and nag and trust her to relax into my hand - which she did at times :-) Canter was still a bit gung ho!! In these situations we are BOTH still a bit anxious of it and preparation and relaxation goes out of the window lol! In fact I think I suprised her with the right canter transition and she took off disunited! I suppose I should have stopped and restarted but I wasnt sure if this would upset her even more!
I was a bit dissapointed that we didnt go as well as in the warm up and felt the test was a bit lumpy in places - but I was mindful we hadnt done a test since June so in retrospect it wasnt awful as she had done everything I had asked :-)

When I went to find my test sheet I couldnt see my name anywhere! I looked through the pile twice, and then just happened to glance at the sheets with the rossettes attached and lo and behold they we were!!! in 5th place!! I couldnt bloody believe it hahahaha!!! we got 66% and some very nice comments. So although when looking at the video I can see lots of things to work on, I am absoloutely thrilled to have eneded the year on such a good note :-)

She has gone a bit fussy in the mouth again this last week or so, so she is having a visit by the dentist today. Im hoping all will go well and there wont be too much of an issue other than routine stuff ;-)

Thursday, 26 November 2009


My horse takes after me lol lol!

Amy wanted a horse fix last weekend so I took the opportunity of taking some video!! Amy hasnt rode for several months so I think she did well considering Antsje is bouncy and bionic lol!

Ever decreasing circles.........

Wait for it! You all think im going to moan and complain don’t you??? Hahahahah!
But nope! I am having a wonderful time at the moment – this year has focused my mind for the better so that’s something to be glad about J

I have been hopeless at blogging of late – the uncertainty makes it hard for me to get ‘lost’ in my riding as I was – it’s a protection thing I think. Just in case she has to go…………….

Anyway – getting back to the title! Its funny isn’t it (or not!) how we forget how far we have come and all the achievements we have made! Do you realize it is my 4th anniversary with Antsje!! And the other morning while schooling we were doing 10m trot circles a bit of shoulder in and back to 10m circles. She is working lovely at the moment and the inside rein was giving and she was off my inside leg J And it suddenly dawned on me! It wasn’t so very long ago that we couldn’t TROT a 10m circle! Not without it being really horrid and her hanging on the inside rein and rushing and bouncing me all over the place!!! Now I can SIT the trot! With giving hands! And influence her with my seat! MOST of the time lol!!

And I suddenly realized just how far BOTH of us had come and that we have improved. It might not have been the quickest transformation in the world hahaha! But! We are moving in the right direction and for once I am just loving the journey, even the bad days, funny what beautiful things can grow out of the shit of life!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Right Canter! AT LAST!

Finally we 'have' right canter under saddle, dare I say 100% consistently! Up till now it certainley has been! Anyway some evidence among other stuff:

Hope there is some improvement since the last video :-)

Monday, 24 August 2009


A couple of lightbulb moments!!

On thursday I did some schooling in the outdoor school and in general had a good session. Antsje was good today, I was slightly off form :-( Just one of those things, i was on an 'off' day and just couldnt get the strength of connection needed in my core to be as effective as I wanted. But that was me just being picky lol! Despite this, Antsje did her best to listen to me and work off my seat although it wasnt as consistent as Id have liked. But I was pleased that Antsje seemes to have settled to this new way of going as she could have easily have 'taken over' this session if she's have wanted to. So for that Im pleased and just a little bit grateful hahahah!!

So the lesson learned from today is that to be effective I really have to get this 'core connection' established because as soon as I start relying on the reins for speed control it just make her faster and tenser and therefore makes my position even weaker. I f I loose it, I am best to come to a walk and start again rather than over use the reins and get the 'tramming' that I know and HATE! I also have to accept that **I** will have off days and so will Antsje - and I have to work with this positively rather than get in a funk about it!

Yesterday I did a 5K Fun Run in the morning and felt a little bit tired by the time I had poo picked the paddock! So we went for a short hack - which we both enjoyed :-D It gave me plenty of time for me to think about my position and I have realised that although I have been keeping my lower leg in a much better position from Janes lesson, my thighs were not quite right. I didnt realise it until I had a little wriggle around and felt much better when my thigh rolled 'in' a little more than it was, I definately 'felt' the difference and as we did a nice steady trot home, I could actually feel my thigh deepen a little more each time with the rise! The position felt much more secure and because we were just going in a straight line and up a slight incline in kept Antsje's rhythm steady which made it easier for me to really concentrate on the 'feel' so I can try and re-create it again next ride!

I also took a few piccies of her this afternoon just because she is looking so gorgeous! I was bringing her dinner down to the field so Imnot quite sure she appreciated the impromptu camera shoot lol!!!

Hmmmmm!!! DINNER!

MUUUM!!! Hurry UP!!!



Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Another GOOD ride!!!

I can hardly believe it! ANOTHER good ride! and in the outdoor arena too!!


So what did we do? TO start off with I concentrated on the inside leg / outside hand connection while in walk by doing lots of circles and leg yielding steps. Then we moved up into trot, and right from the word go Im finding it much easier to keep the connection in rising trot. One throwaway comment Jane made was to be brave with your rise and 'go to the top of the rise' which must have lodged itself in my brain somehow and it has proved to be really useful.

Trouble is, I have been so focussed on not getting flung about, I havent really been following through to the top of the rise as Im so paranoid about getting my arse back into that saddle! Trouble is, ive been coming back into the saddle at the WRONG TIME! Something ive really noticed about getting the rise 'right' is that when I sit, her back comes up to recieve my seat, rather than her back being hollow when I come down too early. Its very subtle, and its by no means standing upright in my stirrups! its just more a matter of letting my hips follow the movement to its full extent which I wasnt allowing to happen before.

I have also taken up running again - something I havent done since a child! and I do feel that this is also really helping my fitness, particularly my aerobic fitness and being able to keep strong in my abs rather than feeling puffed out and going floppy! I will take this opportunity for a shameless plug as Im running to raise money for Macmillan Cancer support - so if anyone fancies donating a pound or two you can find out more about it in my new blog Reason2Run ;-)

So after some nice circles in trot being VERY concious of what my inside hand is doing, we did some work along the long side and changes of rein - as this normally highlights our inconsistencies in balance! And actually we did pretty well! When we got down to the far end of the school, Antsje became a little distracted by new 'surroundings' but I was pleased how quickly I managed to regulate the trot again without 'fiddling' by really concentrating on my rising and 'refocussing' her attention back to the matter in hand lol!

So feeling quite brave, I asked for canter on the left rein and got quite a nice transition, we did a complete circle and then came back into trot again and actually the trot was NICE as sometimes it can be a bit gung ho after a canter! So then I asked for right canter but out of walk - we got CORRECT LEAD!!! Again we did a complete circle and although it was a bit motorbikey I was just pleased with the correct strike off. Again we came back to a sensible trot.
To finish I asked for a serpentine down the school as sometimes after canter she can get over excited and 'anticipating' and i just want to really get her tuned into my seat even in exctitable situations ;-) And yes! we finished with some nice relaxed trot so I jumped off and just led her round to cool off.

What I did notice was straight away she was better into the outside rein on the left - she is SUCH a quick learner as this is what we finished on, on monday Morning. Its just ME that has to be more observant of my naughty habits lol!

We ended with some poll release work in the stable which i think she is now finding quite relaxing :-)

Monday, 17 August 2009

Quick Update!

Went for a hack on Saturday and BOOHOO!! the fields are now ploughed! So not quite as much galloping as we had been doing! But we found a new track to go down and canter back YAY! And because she is SOOOO eager homeward bound we had a really lovely walk to canter transition :-)

This morning we rode in the indoor school. First circling in walk and asking for a bigger circle by leg yielding out to try and get that inside leg / outside rein connection. Then we did some trot work and on the right it was quite nice! But on the left it felt really rubbish - I had nothing in the outside rein at all and was falling into the trap of fussing with the inside rein. So I quit the trot work, got a long whip, put both reins inthe outside hand so I couldnt faff with the inside rein and worked on activating the inside hind with the whip until I felt her come into the outside rein give me an inside flexion without using the inside rein ;-) Once I had this, I did a little work in trot to get the same feeling - inside bend without the inside rein!
What a difference it makes - much better feel to it. So ended on a good note :-)

Must practice the one handed riding more often, the difference it makes is really obvious.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Stop the Rollercoaster! I wanna get off!!!

Up - down - up - down!!!

So this morning was better! much better! We rode in the indoor school so not sure if that made any difference or not - I just dont know what the ingredients are to a good ride or a bad one!
But it went much better this morning and I held the core connection more often than not throughout the ride :-) I dont have as long to ride in the morning so maybe this is better as both of us dont get the chance to get tired - maybe I just keep going to long when Im not running to a timescale? I still came off very pink so its still obviously a good workout even though im not riding for so long :-)

I just need to be able to apply this connection consciously, rather than just 'getting it' by some miracle lol!

Monday, 10 August 2009

I lost it, I lost it! :-(

Not a good session tonight! Started of well, should have ended it there! but oh no, I had to keep going and then just kept drifiting in and out of the connection :-( Antsje went back to her rushing and I just got pinged everywhere! Seriously disheartened :-(

I just dont think I can do this.................


I got it! I got it! I got it!!!

Can you tell I got IT! Hahahahaha!

Had a great ride on Saturday – Antsje is definitely getting the hang of this now and we are getting much less rushing and far more relaxed swinging!

But the best thing is I really got the core connection thing going on and was able to really sit and rise under control and by doing that was able to keep antsje in balance and bring her back to me just by my rising! It felt great :-D

I am hoping I can re-create it again tonight when I ride – fingers crossed. It helped me to think of a connection between my hips and elbows – I have no idea why this worked, but it just seemed to get me in the ‘strong’ position somehow!

When I get it right instead of me feeling like I am sitting down into Antsje, it feels more like she is coming up to meet my seat! Does that make sense?
Looking forwards to tonights ride! Lets hope this mornings rain stops a bit as she is out unrugged Grrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!

We are still continuing with the poll release work and flexions - id like to think this is helping. She is certainley becoming more relaxed about it. One nice thing I noticed is that she is softer and more flexible AFTER the ride than before - obviously the muscles are warmed up after exercise but I am hopeful that this indicates the schooling work is beneficial rather than causing more tension?

Friday, 7 August 2009

Relinquish - How much can we really ask for?

WARNING!!!! Some musings of my mind hahahah!!!!!

I have noticed that Antsje never really seems to have a wet mouth after riding. She has always been very tense / resistant in her poll – even on the ground! She is quite reluctant to give me her head willingly. Even though we have worked with clicker, she will put her head down on cue for a click and treat but it’s a learned behaviour not really a willing ‘I will give you my head’ action – does that make sense?
So I have been trying to work on some ‘poll release’ to try and see if I can remove some of the tension there and get her to trust me with her head! I have always known this is her ‘holding point’ both mentally and physically but I still haven’t found a way in yet. I can get it by ‘tricks’ like clicker, and also if I stick my finger in her mouth and make her ‘chew’ it automatically releases the poll area and I can bring her head down – but none of this is a mentally giving thing from her!
So Wednesday I spent a long time ‘playing’ with relaxing her poll, head and neck and we did start to get some softness and release. And she did start chewing of her own accord and sighing. She wasn’t 100% there – she wasn’t even 80% there, but I think it’s the best genuine, non contrived response Ive had from her. The best exercise I found was standing in front of her head, with each hand placed on each side of her poll and just moving her head from side to side in a way that it made her crest ‘flip over’ each time she flexed to each side. Normally when I moved her head from side to side, she is still very fixed in this area and although the neck moves that little flexion in the poll doesn’t happen.

So this morning, before I bridled up, I did this same exercise and she was definitely softer and more willing to let me move her head gently from side to side, flexing the poll. There is still resistance there, but it was less – I have to wonder if this had a bearing on her being altogether softer when I rode today? We will see!!! Iwill continue with this work – my gut feeling is this is an important key to unlock.

I have to have a rueful smile to myself – me and Antsje are so alike! And Im asking her to do something that I struggle and resist to do myself – and that is give herself over to me completely. She does trust me, that I know for sure, but there is still that bit of self preservation there, that little bit that she just cannot let go of! Maybe I have no right to ask that of her! Maybe ‘IM’ just not ready to receive it yet, maybe she feels I still am not worthy of it – and she perhaps has a point! I still get far too frustrated at times! I don’t think personally I have ever given that last 10 % either, to anyone! – I don’t know if I can either! I understand how she feels ;-)
Maybe I should be content with what we have lol! After all its not a bad place to be :-D


For a GOOD RIDE! Well, the lord has thrown me a lifeline hahahahaha!!! This morning we have had a really good session with Antsje listening and being soft At all times. Yes there were moments of unbalance where she came against the hand – BUT – she listened and allowed me to rebalance her through the seat rather than do her panic and rushing off routine YAY! We have had so many rides where I have had to get quite tough with her and it has been very argumentative and I HATE it – and even though we end with some nice work, I really do not like having to fall out with her to get her there.

This morning she tried really hard and when we went into trot she stayed soft and relaxed which allowed me to get into the zone and therefore KEEP the nice trot! On the right rein she is still balancing on her inside shoulder a bit and tending to flex to the outside, so I worked on exercises in walk to help engage the inside hind. We did some Shoulder in on a circle and then we worked down the long side doing a little shoulder in, then half pass to the ¾ line and then keeping the bend leg yield back to the track and then continuing in shoulder in. Then I asked for trot again and it was much improved. I was then able to get some leg yield steps to the outside of the circle and ask for inside flexion by turning my thumb over and knuckles down and when she flexed I returned my hand to the normal position and tried to keep the bend from the inside leg. When she is working in the correct flexion the trot feel really nice! We did the same exercises on the Left rein, but this time instead of focusing on the inside flexion, I concentrated on her staying on the circle by controlling her outside shoulder with the rein and my outside leg as she tend to naturally fall out on this rein – which is good for the engagement of inside hind and inside bend, but she is not really working properly.

The main thing that is frustrating is ME!!!! Even with her being submissive today, I am still struggling to keep my arse in the saddle! And if she wasn’t so co-operative today, she could have easily just threw me about and we would be back to the whole argument again of her rushing, me having to overuse the reins, her rushing even more because she HATES feeling hemmed in, and so on and so on! Wednesday night I got it! I could really sit into her, but this morning I wasn’t quite there – it wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t effective with my seat. I know I tend to collapse my tummy, round my back and stick my bum out when I try and SIT DOWN and it is just such a crap and useless position to take! But its now become a habit, and I feel really horrible when I try and change it. I find it difficult to engage the core without getting stiff and tense everywhere else which then makes me ‘ping’ I know I have to have a certain amount of relaxation in my body as does Antsje, but I haven’t got that strength yet to turn it on in certain parts of my body and keep the rest relaxed. Its so FREAKIN frustrating, I cant tell you!!! And even when Antsje is working nicely like today, it is one hell of a movement to absorb! I suppose its just practice, practice, practice – but with other life commitments like work and kids, I just cant fit any more riding time in! I can realistically ride 4-5 times a week, which isn’t bad I suppose, but I wonder if its enough with a horse like Antsje?

So things to work on:
Engaging the right inside hind
Keeping the inside flexion to the right with the inside leg
Varying the tempo in trot so Antsje learns to ‘come back’ to me from my rising
Getting into the zone with my rising and SITTING!!!!!
Being aware of my hands!! They are tending to be a little ‘backwards’ for my liking!! But since we have this ‘lighter contact’ I can at least recognise it and this will help me STOP IT!

Things that were GOOD!
Antsje listened to my seat today!!!
Antsje stayed soft in my hand which made it easier for me to ‘feel’ any blockages and therefore help to correct them
Antsje was using herself much better in trot today and it was nice and swinging
The lateral work was much better, less resistant and more fluid :-)


Thursday, 6 August 2009

Mown Fields =


We have some great off road hacking here and to make it even better they have mown the fields so it is a pretty seamless YEEEHAAAAAA from start to finish lol! It is a great way of clearing out the cobwebs, feeling exhilarated, getting fit and most of all having FUN! For both of us :-)
I have also used the opportunity to concentrate on my position whilst out hacking :-)
The last time we went for a blast, I made sure Antsje was on the right canter lead before letting her 'go' as I really want to try and strengthen the right side and thought this might be a good way to do it. Not much to add other than I forgot just how necessary a good blast is for the soul!

Has been a bit of a mixed bag :-S It starts off not so good and eventually ends up with some nice work. Im still struggling with how we get there though! I still feel like im fumbling around in the dark - at least I can feel WHEN its good now, and when its good and I can normally keep it :-) But I cant seem to get past that period of frustration where it feels crap / resistant / lumpy / out of balance :-( And I STILL dont know what im doing to get it to the good stuff! HO-HUM another lesson is required I think!

I still have to wonder if im fighting as loosing battle sometimes though - perhaps with the rescources available to me namely time and money and the fact that physically me and Antsje are not an ideal match - I am just NEVER gonna get there and I could well do without the frustration of an unobtainable dream!

Maybe I should just write this year off and stick to more hacking. But I seem to be writing more years off than on! BLEUGH! this is why Im not writing much at the minute, cant seem to think of anything positive to say and I HATE moany old whingers lol!!!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

One step forwards...............

TWO STEPS BACK!!!! Grrrrrrrr!!!

Rode yesterday and it was a tad frustrating to say the least!! She was in bionic mode and I could barely let get her to focus in walk :-< In the end I just let her canter round and round to blow off a bit of steam! Afterwards we DID get some nice work - very nice in fact, but I had to work a lot harder to get it than in my lesson :sad: Once I get back off my holiday im gonna treat myself to a little block of lessons until I feel my position is a bit more confirmed - im worried to death that im still not **right** :-\

On one hand, im relcutant to let Antsje just 'run' as im not sure this is helping with the 'stay with me' issues I have - on the other hand, maybe im better off getting into trot and canter early on and THEN getting her to focus on me?

Any thoughts??

Friday, 10 July 2009

With a little help from my friends :-)

Well after so much constructive critique from my last video I made a real effort to get Antsje to relax and work forwards into the bridle and although I thought we had made improvements, nothing prepared me for being BLOWN AWAY by ny lesson with Jane last night :-D GOD I have missed some instruction! And by getting ME back into balance, Antsje miraculously worked in a nice relaxed rhythm with no excessive mouthiness - funny that aint it!!! hahaha!!

******RIDER ERROR***** Duuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrr!!!!!

So what did we do??? Well first off, I have gradually adopted a 'waterski-ing' position with my arse stuck out and my legs shoved forwards :-0 Plus I seem to have a lot of weight in my stirrups with jammed down heels Grrrrrrrr!!!!

So we started by actually putting my stirrups up a couple of holes, realigning my leg by deepening and rotating the thigh and bringing my lower leg back. Now this isnt something new to me, in fact the things we worked on are old problems, things I thought I had sorted, but obviously over time I have crept back into my old 'default' habits :'-(
So with my new secure position we went round in walk to start with and really worked on keeping my legs in position - one thing that helped was to think of keeping my heels turned out, which also helped keep my knees turned in! Then we began to work on using my core to slow the walk right down, and then releasing in my seat to allow the walk to go on, rather than the use of the reins. Of course, I didnt just throw the contact away, and she had a framework to work into, but it made me aware of trying to keep the same contact rather than getting into this shortening the reins as she shortens the neck.
This started working quite well and I was being able to slow her right down without her tensing and sucking her neck back to me, so we decided to move onto trot!!

OH DEAR!!!! hahahahahaha

I reverted!! So we stopped and discussed how I was going to manage the trot while at a standstill. I have to try and stop putting the weight in my heels and think of rising from my knee. Also I have to think about placing my butt in the same place in the front part of the saddle at each 'sit' rather than sticking it out and tipping forwards. One thing I am doing is collapsing in the middle, and once I made the connection of rising **straight** I started to get it. By this I dont mean rising straight 'up' but more that my body was aligned straight throughout the arc of the rise and not crumpling up in the middle ;-)

So off we went again - my mantras are 'I am KNEELING' 'I am SITTING' 'My feet are flat!' 'BREATHE'
If I prepared really well for the tranistion and I made my first rise count and Antsje didnt pull the rug out from underneath me, then I seemed to be able to get with her. If I was out of sync from the start I just couldnt get it back!
There were times that it felt really awful! My body was defying me at every moment, and because I wasnt with Antsje and she certainely wasnt with me, she would do her scoot and run thing, and we lost it :-(
Then, there were times of absoloute BLISS!!! Where I just GOT IT! And we were together and Antsje would WAIT for me, and her back was just up, and she was reaching for the bridle - not dumping into my hands, but genuinley telescoping the neck and filling out the bridle!! It was BLOODY BRILLIANT!!! The feeling was just blissful, and I know I had the stupidest grin on my face as we went round as light a s a feather!!

I had to work very hard at keeping my core firm and not collapsing, cos as soon as I did, we lost the connection. My abs were killing by the end lol!!! BUT I finally discovered the way to engage my core and SIT into her and for ME to dictate the rhythm for a change - and now im dead nervous in case Ive forgot when I ride tommorrow!!!

So im just thrilled as I sit here typing this out as I feel that I have been put back on track and now I have re-established that 'feel' I can work on it until Jane comes out again :-)

I WILL try and get some more video - it does make such a diference for people to see what im talking about and give me some pointers, so thankyou all :-D

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Prelim 18.................

First the video!!! Watch and it see what you think! and then answer my countless questions at the end! hahahaha!!!!

Well not quite sure how I feel about today!!
we were weak in all the areas I already knew, but I feel I achieved my goal, which was to get out there again, get our confidence back and to get a 'benchmark' of where we are.

Antsje was fairly attentive today, and although I could tell at times she was desparate to go into full friesian alert ie, head up, ear up my nose and pogo stick trot, she did really try hard to listen but the upshot was she wasnt quite relaxed enough, and I felt she could have been a little more forwards into the bridle than she was. Canter was interesting!! Not too bad onthe left! but picked up incorrect lead on the right :-( But on the whole I didnt think it was awful.

I was dissapointed with our score though - 56.67% We had a lot of 6's and 7's and one 8! but 3's for right canter which took the score down. I was also a bit dissapointed by the free walk mark but id like people to have a look at the video and out of interest see what your score would have been? Maybe Im not seeing things correctly??

The main comment was Antsje acceptance of the bit - we had not happy in the mouth and fussy in the mouth a few times :-(

So Questions..........................

1. Antsje has ALWAYS been very mouthy! doesnt matter what bit, or what kind of contact, she will fuss even on a loose rein. She was like this when I bought her and Ive never really been able to solve it fully. Some of it is how she shows anxiety, some of it is because she runs into my hands, some of it is because my hands / seat connection is not yet fully independant particularly when antsje is being resistant. So! what do I do? Put her back in the flash? Live with it? I dont know how I feel - obviously the flash has done no long term improvement as she is just as bad now as she was before.

2. The canter - I am loosing faith of my ability to crack the canter esp the right lead. Im never quite sure if she is coming up correctly and cant seem to influence this at all! Should I just give in and send her away for training? though god knows how I can afford this! but I do worry about who to send her too!! Is there ANY improvement there? PLEASE be honest ;-)

3. Another contact question, but more the working forwards into the hand - im sure the issues of Q no 1 has a bearing on this problem, but Im worried im loosing my way!! I have a seesaw problem - Antsje WILL stretch into a longer frame and work more forward into the bridle but in my opinion she easily becomes on the forehand and looses the engagement of the HQ's and it shows in downwards trans as she collapses into them as she is not properly engaged behind. When I collect her up a little, then we have beeter engagement, better upward and esp downward trans, but she is always prob about an inch shorter through the neck than I would like.

So, should I continue to work on the engagement and hope the forward into the bridle will come, or should I let her lengthen her frame and loose the HQ's? This is primarily test riding im talking about as I do work both ways when schooling - contained to start, and stretching to finish. I realise it might have helped her stretch forwards if I rose all the time - BUT - I do find it easier to contain her by using my seat in sitting trot - she may not look it, but she is very onward bound, and once she gets 'tramming' then you are DOOMED to forward and straight and handbrake turns lol!!
4. Free walk - what was so wrong about it? yes, I do realise she could be a bit more consistant, but was it sooo bad??
So - am I loosing my way? I am missing some instruction and I havent had a lesson now for 6 months!! Plus we have only been back to it in earnest for the last few weeks as we only moved to this yard mid May. We really wernt as ready as we could have been, but its easy to get stuck in 'never readiness' or at least it is for me!! Fraught perfectionist and all that hahahaha!!!

I do often wonder if ive bitten off more than I can chew with Antsje - or at least with the available recources I have to spare namely time and money. I KNOW part of my personality keeps battling with things long after I should have let it go - more then a couple of times to my detriment!! So I do worry that this is a similar situation. I know I shouldnt compare, but I look at people and see them improve and progress and I am genuinely thrilled for them - but I also feel frustrated that my own progress seems so goddam slow!! Patience is not a strongpoint of mine lol!! So, bearing in mind my limited rescources - am I fighting a loosing battle here? Am I improving at all????? Is Antsje Improving???? Or am I just fumbling about in the dark going round in ever decreasing circles? ****sigh****

Dont panic people - Im not in a real 'down;' about it! A little dissapointed yes! but Im more philosophical than fed up, just musings of my mind!! Lucky for me, I am blessed with the personality of a weeble!! I might have a wobble, but never fall down completely lol!!! So please - honest opinions would be very much appreciated ;-)
I look forwards to your comments :-)

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Catching up!!

Phew!! Time flies when your having fun!!

We have had some really nice moments this last week or so and Antsje is becoming far more attentive to me and my seat is definately getting better ;-) No where near perfect mind!!! BUT at times, when we are together, I am most definately being able to influence her with my seat which has got to be good!!!

So, we have been pretty much been working on the same issues as before, both in hand and ridden - and that is Antsje 'being with me'. I am testing this by the use of continual transitions, changes within the gait and school figures. It is very interesting that when you have to perform movements at required times such as in a dressage test, just how much you realise whether you are together or not ;-) And it is hard work physically and mentally for both horse and rider to remain in balance with each other for continued periods of time!!

I am concentrating very much on the quality of downward transitions, and it seems that if I am constantly mindful of if I could perform a crisp balanced downward transition at any point in time, THIS is what being in balance is all about!! Im lucky in that I dont have a problem with forwards per se, other than Antsje using it as an evasion!! *****rolls eyes**** So I can focus on Antsje 'waiting' for me and using reinback and downward transitions to prevent her from 'tramming' without having to worry about loosing impulsion ;-)

I have also been working on the canter!! When I am compeltely and utterly focussed I can get the most beautiful upward transition on the left rein, and not too bad a downward one although I have to be very strong in my core to do this.
I have made a mini breakthrough on the right rein canter inthat I can tell now if we have come up on the wrong lead, and I am getting better at getting her to strike off on the correct lead if not first time, on the second attempt. The right canter is still quite unbalanced, but it is coming, slowly but surely :-)

At the end of the sessions I have been asking her to stretch down into the rein in trot to really get her back swinging and loose after working in a more contained manner. Iam pleased with this as she is begining to be able to do this without loosing her balance and getting faster and plunging onto her forehand. I am also becoming stronger with my position and can influence the trot with my rising better so it means I rely less on the rein which keeps her stretching forwards :-)

I have no idea how things will go tommorrow in our dressage test! we are doing Prelim 18 and if we both can get into the zone and dont become distracted by the whole show atmosphere then I think we have the potential of producing a nice test! Of course, if we both get into 'rabbit in the headlights' mode, then we are doomed hahahaha!!!!

Half of me is crapping myself as I know we are far from perfect!! The other half is relishing the challenge of 'test riding' as it is a whole discapline in itself! Being able to get into that mental state where everything else becomes purely background noise and you are completely in the moment with each and every stride is the most FANTASTIC feeling EVER!!!

So wish us luck!! And as a bonus, Amy is coming to video me!! YAY!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Its all in the mind....................

Hers and mine!! Focus and calm.............Focus and calm.............

Another couple of good sessions!

Saturday we rode in the outside school as there was lessons in the indoor – there was also a lesson in the outdoor!! But it was a good opportunity to work on Antsje’s focus as we had a double whammy of outdoor school and lots of horses!!!

In fairness, on the whole she worked well. We did similar exercises as I have been working on in hand to get her attention on me and my seat aids. This consisted of balanced and submissive walk / halt transitions then moving onto walk / reinback / walk / halt transitions. She was very ‘sticky’ in reinback on the right rein to start with, but one great thing about reinback I have found is that it really does seem to unblock her and release her back and neck after a few goes. We then moved onto Shoulder-in in walk and really focussed on getting the postioning from my seat. If she started rushing, we were back to the walk / halt / reinback transitions which now we have been using for a few weeks seem to serve as a good cue for her re-focussing on me.
By the time we had done all this, she felt really nice and loose and supple and we moved up to trot. I am still concentrating on walk / trot / walk and then halt / trot / halt transitions. She has NEVER had any problems trotting round and round so I don’t think this work is going to cause any problems with her forward thinking lol!! But what I hope it will achieve is better balance and better focus on my seat aids, which has always been a bugbear of mine. I really do think that downward transitions are a real indication of engagement and balance, moreso than upward transitions! Antsje is actually quite good at soft balanced upward transitions now, but it is interesting for me to realise that she looses this balance quite quickly once in trot, and when I ask her to come back down to walk, she is not sufficiently balanced / engaged / on my aids to make a nice soft transition and often collapses into walk – as do I!! **blush** so I must also be sufficiently balanced / engaged / and ‘with her’ when making a downward transition.
This was very apparent in the work as when we were on a circle and doing lots of quick transitions, my seat was better, and Antsjes balance and engagaemnt was better – but as soon as we came off the circle and rode the long side, I could feel her start to ‘tram’ again and I lost that lovely feeling of ‘togetherness’ as we became out of sync with our tempo. I am almost positive it is mainly a strength issue and that she is just not ‘there’ yet on straight lines and she misses the support of the circle. I do also think she looses ‘focus’ mentally on a straight line too and becomes more ‘gawpy’ and we get moment of the Friesian Full Alert high neck / tense back / pogo steps lol!! Still I do think it is crucial to keep mixing the two together and keep extending the length of ‘straight’ line she can do without loosing the balance / focus.

This morning we did in-hand work in the indoor school and she is really ‘getting’ the focus work now. We only had one ‘walk through me halt’ and it was the first one we did. After a quick reprimand and backing up, she was perfect for the rest of the session. Her reinbacks were also a lot less resistant right from the start although they can still be a bit faltering and not diagonal at times. Im wondering how do I encourage diagonal movement in reinback or will it just improve the stronger and more confident she gets? I will have to do a bit of reading and see what I come up with! So after the same walk /halt / reinback transitions we did some girivolta work and the leg yielding to the long side and then shoulder-in up the long side, into a circle and giravolta again on both reins. She is getting much better at staying with me through all of this now, and I with her. I can now feel the beginnings of the ‘rushing’ before we actually get it and can therefore rebalance before she gets to the point of ‘lala land’ hahahaha!

We then finished with a little bit of lunging work with very short transitions between walk / trot / canter. I was very pleased with this as her reactions on the downward transitions were very good, particularly the trot to walk. After she had cantered a few times I had to get her to re-focus again on trot to walk but it only took a couple of attempts for her to become calm again which was very good considering how exciting she finds canter!!

So I am feeling quite positive about the progress at the moment. Yes, we have a LOT to do, and we are still doing such very basic stuff – but until this is completely confirmed, I know from experience there is little point of doing anything else ;-)

I am now thinking it might be a good idea to do this ‘in – hand’ focussing work in the outdoor school. I wonder how much of it is the indoor school ‘confinement’ and how much of it is her now being mentally in the zone when she works in here. It will be interesting to find out.

Friday, 12 June 2009

When she is good.................

She is VERY VERY good!!!

Had a couple of really good sessions with Antsje this week after completely loosing my patience with her at the begining of the week!

I always feel really horrible when we fall out, but it seems to have done the trick as she has come back from LALA land and is far more attentive to me both on the ground and ridden.

She has this habit of just rushing straight through you, whether it be on the ground or through your aids when ridden. Some of it is due to her being anxious and some of it is an evasion from working properly. The trouble is she is such a powerful horse it is hard not to get taken over by her! So after her keep rushing ahead in hand on Tuesday, I really got quite insistent with her that she listen and do as she was told and quit ignoring me!!
We did lots of backing up, walking, halting , and if she didn’t halt as soon as she was asked, we backed up and repeated the process again…………….and again……………and again!!!
We also worked very hard on stepping over with the HQ’s in Giravolta and Shoulder-in in walk so when I asked her to move over I got an INSTANT reaction.
Sometimes she can seem so DULL to the aids, which is a bit of a contradiction in terms to her ‘rushy’ behaviour, but even the rushing is dull to the aids as she just isn’t listening!

At the end, I could walk round the school and when I stopped, she stopped IMMEDIATELY and not because she had come to the end of the leadrope lol! So after a frustrating session we ended on a good note.

Last night I rode in the indoor school. Whether it’s the apparent confinement of the indoor or not, but she does seem to focus much better in here than the larger outdoor school where she seems to get very onward bound!!
We carried on the groundwork techniques to the ridden work and did lots of walk / halt / reinback work to get her listening to me. We then progressed onto lateral work in the walk to get her really listening to the aids and bent around my inside leg.

Then we did some trot work concentrating on transitions. She can fool you with the trot and you can think she is working well, but try and make a downward transition and you can see she is not really ‘on the aids’ but doing a controlled ‘tramming’ along! Working on just a few strides of trot and then making a transition to walk and then moving on to trot halt trot trans really worked wonders! I was really pleased with the work and she felt VERY good and very strong and balanced.

Then this morning we did in hand work again, confirming what we did the last two sessions and she was FAB!! Really tuned in and halting when I did, and moving away laterally from just my body positioning. Was a nice short and sweet session as she worked hard last night.
Got to keep up with this work now until it becomes second nature – we both need to sharpen up a little and become more reactive to each other. I have a BIG smile on my face today – she feels AWESOME when she is working nicely :-)

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Feeling Brave................

28th June 2009!!!

I have decided.....................I am going to do Prelim 18 ***gasp*** A nice way of getting me a benchmark and some feedback! and im telling you lot so I dont wimp out lol!! I havent done a comp now for nearly a year and Im finding it too easy to make excuses not to do one - so that means its time for me to get out of my comfort zone ARRRGGHHHH!!!!

So I better get practising lol!!!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Annnnnd we're OFF!! Again!!

So off we go again, on my journey to be a better rider and trainer to my long suffering horse!!

We have done so very little since we left our Full Livery yard down to the winter / no facilities / personal crap! all getting in the way. So really, I am just starting again ****GROAN**** to re-establish all we learnt last year and to get us both back to riding fitness.

Despite this major setback, Antsje feels **very** well indeed - to bloody well sometimes lol! And we are back to her 'focussing' on me in the moment rather than her mind and her body being a million miles in front of what Im asking her to do! She finds this hard - I find it frustrating, we are both going to have to find a balance between this chasm that lays before us and I MUST HAVE PATIENCE!!! ARGH!!!!
So we are doing very basic stuff, lateral work to start to get her submissive to the inside bend and to become more 'in hand'. Then moving up into trot and doing lots of transitions and changes of rein whislt remaining IN BALANCE and also plenty of stretching work over the back and through the neck while remaining in the SAME Rhythm! Hmmmmmmm - that is more difficult - how she LOVES to T-R-O-T! And how hard I have to work at my OWN balance to help her keep hers! I ought to have a 66 pack by now lol!

I MISS my lessons! I really could do with some eyes on the ground, but for now I'll have to content myself to bumbling along on my own! I hope to persuade someone to do some video for me so I can try and have a look whats going on and work on things that way until I can afford some lessons again. Of course, I will be relying on critique from my trusted followers to keep me on the straight (Sheeesh!) and narrow lol!

Now I have a school again I hope to make much more regular deposits onto my blog!! Hope you all havent nodded off!! - *****pokes you all with a big stick*****

Theres no place like (a new) home......

So a couple of weeks ago we moved to HIGHCROSS EQUESTRIAN CENTRE which is a livery yard / riding school / unaffilliated competition centre. We have settled in really well and I cant tell you how much I am enjoying having facilities again!! YAY!!!!!

The horses on their first time 'out'

Ch Ch Ch Changes.....................

Kinda sums up this year so far!!

Havent really had the energy or inclination to blog recently, but things are starting to settle and I am getting the 'urge' again to get back on track...............or 20m circle lol!

So after a painful 2008 and having to make some very hard decisions, I am now back in control of my destiny Mwwwaaaaaaaa Haaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

So what have I been up to you ask? Well now Im a single gal, I've had to make some drastic changes in the name of survival. The last and hardest one was letting Barney go :-( Waaaaaaaaa!!! BUT! He has gone to such a fantastic home to be a Happy Hacker to the end of his days, I cannot help but feel happy for him and his situation - which makes my pain bearable ;-)

I have also decided to move Antsje to a 'competition' yard allowing me to sell my 4x4 and trailer and therefore reducing my overheads significantly and still being able to do the odd dressage competition :-) Plus the facilities are to DIE for! Indoor and outdoor school, XC course, on-site comps for jumping / dressage and eventing (YeeeeeHaaaaaaaa!)

Of course, Antsje has a new Fan Club - how can resist her 'regal' looks as she prances around her field making sure everyone notices hahahaha!! She likes to help me make friends easily and she is a very good talking point **rolls eyes** although most think 'she' is a 'he' lol!

I am still DIY but the yard offers Livery as and when you need it, just great for when you go on holiday...................

And going on holiday we SHALL!!! As I have just booked a week away in Menorca for me and the kids. I think we all deserve a break and a big treat for getting through this last 12-18 months. I have to admit, I am SO looking forward to a rest - I have been running on pure adrenelin now for too long and im feeling a bit frazzled now most of my 'To Do's' are done!

All I can say is thank god for family and friends who have been a source of constant support :-)xxxxxxx

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Dr Gerd Heuschmann Clinic - Day 2 - Ridden


First of all Id like to say, these are MY notes, MY observations made form MY experience. By virtue of being there, the demo riders obviously want to learn and improve and help their horses and I was very grateful for these people to allow themselves to be scrutinised. I am not perfect, I don’t pretend to be – a lot of the faults I noted are faults of MY OWN! I hope my observations do not come over as criticism as it is not intended or inferred .

Each rider told us a bit about their horses, warmed up, showed 3 basic gaits whilst Gerd observed. Gerd then rode each horse to assess how he could help and then put the rider back on with some instruction.

1. Henry – 7yr old event horse, competes at pre-novice level. Problems with inconsistent contact, snatching at bit, keeping head and neck still.
Rider was very nervous!! As would I be!! Horse was quite green and to start was quite inattentive to the rider. The rider obviously felt under pressure and looked quite tense and was doing a bit of ‘nagging’ with the hands to try and encourage an outline.

He started with asking for a regular rhythm in walk, then he asked the horse to step over laterally with the hind leg, very giravolta style, as he activated the hind leg he then raised his inside hand to create some lateral flexion of the poll to the inside. As soon as the horse relaxed its jaw and began to chew the bit, he gave the rein for the horse to stretch into and walked forwards into the stretch. He kept repeating this pattern on each rein until the horse was using its hind leg properly, was relaxed in through the back and soft in the poll and mouth. He then did the same process in trot.
The horse’s contact improved dramatically and it was a very nice soft picture. Gerd takes a ‘half seat’ in the trot to try and free up the back – he says he realises it looks ‘gay’ but it works lol!!!

Gerd asks the rider to relax the seat and inside thighs as the ‘gripping’ is making the horse rush out of his natural rhythm. He then asks the rider to raise her hands only – NEVER PULL BACK! He gets her doing similar exercises as he did – Shoulder in on a circle to activate the hind legs, raise inside rein for lateral flexion, as soon as the jaw relaxes allow the horse to move straight and stretch into the rein. THINK ABOUT HIND LEGS! Don’t worry where the head is, Turn the rear wheel and it work the front wheel.

My observations – Rider needed to keep a better bend in the elbows as she kept straightening her arms, which then didn’t help the softness of the contact. Kept giving away the outside rein and had real problems in not using a backward rein esp. inside rein! I know she was finding it very frustrating – I felt her pain! I think she would have benefited from putting her stirrups up a hole as I think she was loosing her balance slightly in trot, particularly when asked to give the rein forwards………

There were definite improvements by the end of the lesson. Gerd was very insistent on NO BACKWARDS ACTION ON THE REIN – which was good. While it is hard to change ingrained habits, I was pleased that the rider could feel a difference (for the better) by the end and that Gerd took her right back to basics rather than papering cracks.

2. Puzzle – A 16.2 IDXWarmblood Gelding at elementary level. Problems with curling back to the hand and wants to improve self carriage / engagement.

A very harmonious pair who work nicely together. She clearly adored her horse and they just seemed to have a really nice genuine connection.

He did the same exercises – Lateral steps for 5-6 steps, inside flexion until the jaw relaxed and walked straight into a stretched rein. Gerd stressed, RHYTHM first, always, before you do anything else. The horse found it difficult to make the last bit of stretch from poll to nose – this was interesting as Antsje also finds this hard. Gerd encouraged his by raising his hands up and forwards each time the horse curled back BTV.

Shoulder in FROM THE SEAT! Activate the hind leg, turn the rear wheel. Mobilise the jaw, a relaxed jaw is another key that unlocks the back. A lathering mouth is a sign of a relaxed back. At least every 5 minutes let the horse stretch on a long rein. The muscles shouldn’t be allowed to get tense. Work the horse like a concertina – bring together and allow to stretch.
Gerd got the rider to slow the trot – calm the trot down, slow the rhythm, bring the horse into balance, activate the hind leg. Now allow the horse to stretch forwards into the bridle keeping the SAME SLOW RHYTHM. RHYTHM IS FIRST.
NEVER sit to a stiff back, the back must be free before you can take it. Overbending – correct by raising hands up and forwards. Work on a circle is important to activate the inside hind.

My Observations – The rider had a nice upper body position and was well balanced. The contact could have been more sustaining at times, and the straightening of the outside arm allowed the outside contact to be given away. My favourite pair!!

3. Cadbury – 10 yr old mare competing at Inter 1 level. Would like to improve engagement and self carriage.

Beautiful little mare! Very stiff on right rein. Quite a tense horse and everything is very rushed – rider hanging on for grim death lol! Trot is quite choppy and rhythm is irregular. Horse is very crooked esp for such a high level! Genuinely surprised! (Im naïve!)

Noseband and flash loosened. Same exercises – lateral steps / flexion / stretch. Mare picks it up VERY quickly and paces transform. Gerd works on slowing the Rhythm with the seat and at times using both hands raised if the horse is not ‘on the seat’ Trot work really improves as the rushing stops and the back starts to work and swing. Same is done in the canter and the mare is allowed to stretch down in the canter to help supple and release the back muscles. He also lets the mare have a little Pipe Opener down the long side to free her up some more. She struggles to maintain the canter on the right rein due to her crookedness.

Shoulder in from the seat – more value in lateral movements when carried out with a long neck. Give the contact with a friendly hand. ‘MIND TO THE GROUND’ Rider to relax, stay calm. Rider has a VERY defensive position – everything about her is backwards – rider needs to be FORWARDS, needs to be forwards with the horse, but the horse is to wait ‘on the seat’
You can see the tension in the riders forearms! It is a MOUTH not a piece of WOOD!
Relax your seat, sit like you are the most beautiful lady in the world! I take your swing, You take my swing – Find the Balance. WE HAVE TIME!!! Take your time, slow the movements, BREATHE!!!!
Sit as close to the withers as possible – rider is too close to back of saddle.

My Observations – this was interesting! Rider was very tense and stiff – the Mare responded by RUSHING! Rider got tenser and stiffer – Mare responded by RUSHING!!! Was very enlightening. You need to take that leap of faith and GIVE the reins. Holding a horse winds them up and destroys the paces. There WAS improvement in the end. Rider found it VERY hard not to hang on the reins. Independent rein use also seems alien – give inside, and the outside rein goes too! Reminder of the importance of a poised but relaxed posture – from a taught fraught perfectionist, how I sympathised with this lady!

4. PONY – didn’t catch name! A last minute squeeze in by Sven Kold who is treating the horse. Been investigated for possible kissing spines – unsoundness issues. Ridden by a very sensitive young teenage girl.

The warm up was done in a coffee break. Pony was ridden round the perimeter of school on a short contact with head ‘set’ for a good 10 mints no stretching.
Pony was took through its paces for Gerd – pony unlevel and rhythm was inconsistent esp at trot and canter.
Gerd said he would ride in walk – he gave the pony a pat and the poor thing just flinched! Wouldn’t let his ears be touched and was obviously so sore all over – in fact, he seemd to take advantage that someone was listening to him and looked proper pissed off.

Noseband loosened and flash removed. Rode the same exercises. On the right rein the pony could barely move when asked to step laterally, he nearly toppled over he was pivoting so heavily on his shoulder. Gerd, took him on the other rein, worked him a bit on this, then changed back onto right rein – there was a definite loosening up and the pony started to step over and stretch into the rein. After about 10 minutes the walk just transformed and became long and swinging, with a lengthened neck. Gerd then touched his ears and pony didn’t bother at all!! Obviously he had managed to release some of the tension in the poll area from the stretching.

Gerd was obviously quite bothered about the condition of the little pony and started off quite tough on the rider I thought. Not nasty or intimidating, but I think he really wanted to make a point about the contact. He was quite sharp whenever the rider used a backwards hand. But the rider was actually a nice light little rider, and soon she and the pony were going around looking a completely different picture.

My Observations – This lesson had me feeling quite emotional. The difference in the pony from start to finish was incredible. He came in looking sour, tight and sore and left looking softer mentally and physically. I feel SO ANGRY about the state of general instruction that such a young child can be riding in such a damaging way! She LOVED her pony and said she didn’t want to give up on him, and I bet she would be mortified if she thought she had contributed to his problems. I really really hope that both pony and rider get the right help.

5. Solo – Anglo Arab gelding – allrounder doing endurance, le trec, RC activites and working at elementary level.

Ridden in a Dr Cooks bitless bridle. Horse was very nice and sensitive and had a lovely natural suspension in trot. He is conformationaly challenged being long backed and a straight hind leg. In canter the leg stayed almost straight, the croup raised and almost bunnyhopped along!

First time riding in a bitless bridle!! Again – same exercises as before to activate hind leg and release the back. There was improvement made, esp in the canter – but still seemed not quite right on the left. The leg didn’t seem to come through quite right somehow and the croup was definitely higher to this side in canter than to the right.

Ran through the same exercises with the rider as before. Gerd was not sure about the canter to the left and Sven to take a look at the differences on both reins. In the end, the rider was advised to get a cautionary examination of the horse.

RE: Bitless – Gerd said that he found the horse very sensitive and responsive to the bitless bridle but one thing he DID miss was the ability to mobilise the horse’s jaw by using a bit. The bit mobilises the horses jaw and makes the horse chew and relaxes its poll. The first entrance into a relaxed poll is chewing.

6. Don Proviano – 6 yr old gelding competed at Nationals in 2008 and now working at elementary.

Lovely horse with very nice natural rhythm. The paces were not quite correct though as he had a short hindleg action which didn’t step through completely but hovered and snapped back to the ground with quite a thump.

Noseband and flash loosened. Same exercises. Find the rhythm / lateral steps / inside flexion / straight into stretch. Horse found it a bit alien to stretch at first!! He was also wanting to plough forwards rather than take a slower rhythm. Once he started to understand the concept, the stride became looser and longer – and what do you know! The hind leg action stopped the hovering and he began to step through properly resulting in a much quieter footfall.

Become more lazy in your seat, make your seat more relaxed, slow the rhythm by your lazy seat. Take the inside hind out of your seat, SI in position on a circle.
Aim for self carriage – the horse can carry his own head!! Give him a friendly contact – don’t HOLD with the reins. RAISE hands – NEVER a backward hand. Taking the hands backwards stiffens the back, a stiff back looses the hind legs. Turn the rear wheel, activate the hind leg and BRING the HORSE to the BIT! To round the horse, raise the inside hand. Form your horse out of a lazy seat – inside flexion for a chewing mouth for a relaxed poll.

My observations – A strong ‘proffesional’ rider who made a real improvement by the end. The difference in the hind leg stepping under once the contact had softened was wonderful! No more hovering, and the footfall was much lighter.

7. Welfonprinz – 17.2hh Gelding working at elementary level.

For saying such a big horse, the horse reacts the most to Gerd’s weight lol!! Same exercises!!

Canter is good for the trot in this horse – keep the energy from the canter into the trot. Carry your hands softly in front. Always organise your horse from behind to front. Downward stretch in canter is great for strengthening the back – 2 wheels turn to the maximum so back is stretched to the maximum.

8. Freddie Fox – 12yr old gelding eventing to intermediate level. Find it difficult to step through with his hinds.

Quite a long backed horse with a gangly conformation! Horse put through hi paces and handed over to Gerd!

Horse taken through the same exercises as before. As the horse began to stretch forwards and release the back, he suddenly didn’t look that gangly anymore! His neck took on a much nicer shape – possibly because he was using the muscles correctly? Gerd was having fun with this horse I think!!

Again, same kind of rider issues with overuse of inside hand. RAISE the hands – NEVER BACKWARDS with the hands. Once the horse has found its rhythm THEN you can start to influence the hind legs and ask for flexion – RHYTHM FIRST!
Rider seems more balanced in canter than trot – they get some very nice work in canter. Transitions between trot and canter in a stretch position is wonderful for strengthening the back.

9. Caribbean – or ‘bean’ cos she’s full of beans lol!!! Working towards PSG – wants to work on soft through the neck and more engagement. Same rider as Cadbury. Horse is half sister.

Horse is stiff on right rein – same as other horse! Rider is again very defensive in position, very strong contact and the mares response is to RUSH! Mare was also very spooky and ‘wound up tight’

Gerd tried to mount from the ground, but Mare was NOT happy about this and chucked in a few bucks knocking Gerd over and managing to escape!! After catching her up, Gerd mounted from a step and began to work her just the same as the rest. He let her stand and look at any ‘monsters’ she believed she could see, and within 10 minutes she had calmed right down and began to listen and respond to Gerd. Again, he kept slowing the rhythm THEN activating the hind leg, asking for flexion and then a stretch. Clever mare picked it up very quickly and her paces just came alive. She is a very nice horse when moving correctly.
Gerd was aksed – how would you hack this horse out? He replied – Id open the door!!! Hahahahaha!
Gerd said to the lady – This is NOT your horse! This is a completely new horse – it is a shire horse!!! Ride your horse like it is a calm horse and she will be calm. The rider tried very hard to relax, but it must be hard under these conditions! At times the mare was getting wound up bit Gerd managed to dissolve it before it became a problem. Take the Horse to the Bit – not the Bit to the Horse! The horse wants to GO! Give the feeling YOU want to go but the horse stays with your seat! DON’T react to what the horse reacts to – CALM DOWN – MIND TO THE GROUND. Your body gives the rhythm NOT the reins!!


Well, it seems the two most important concepts for me are missing in everyday training! One, teach the horse to move away from pressure! Two. Inside leg to Outside hand!!! Every rider overused the inside rein and gave away the outside rein – and most riders couldn’t use both reins independently. If they gave one, they had to give both! It’s a bugbear of mine as it took me a LONG time to understand this properly and yet its SO important! I also was amazed that horses at higher levels of training did not possess the building blocks of the training scale such as relaxation and rhythm!

The conference was a brilliant experience and I have learned a lot! And although Im sure the ‘stiff lady’ came under a bit of criticism, I have to say I learned the most from her! I am always just a step away from falling down this trap myself, trying too hard, being too stiff, having a horse that ‘runs’ from this feeling and instead of relaxing you get more stiff and start hanging! It isn’t pretty! So it was just fascinating to watch just how horses react with Gerd and with their rider.

It really all is about the seat and rider balance – we cannot HOPE to influence our horse, until we can influence ourself! To improve your horse, you MUST improve yourself!

It was a fascinating weekend, to be able to understand how correct riding positively influences a horse yet bad riding ends up breaking a horse down is very enlightening! At times I felt sad and angry how we damage our horses by our ignorance and how people pay good money for trainers to teach them all the wrong stuff! Yet, I came away inspired and with renewed enthusiasm and could not wait to get back to ride my horse!!

If you haven’t already, buy his book or DVD – he really is worth listening too.

Heuschmann Clinic - Day One - Dr. Sven Kold

Dr. KOLD – How to Approach the minimally lame / multi-limb lame horse

Dr Kolds lectures were designed or vets / therapists dealing with lameness issues on a regular and diagnosing level. Some of it was a little technical for me (DOH!) but it was still very interesting to listen to and he was obviously a very knowledgeable person within his field.

Questions to ask yourself:
Is he lame or cant he do it? OR Is he NOT lame and WONT do it?
Is he lame in so many limbs that lameness becomes invisible (bilateral symmetry)
Is he lame or just not living up to expectations
Is there a real problem – needs a diagnoses

Reasons horses do not perform:
Breathing difficulties
Sore feet
Core Lesions

When carrying out a diagnoses BE COMMITTED! Continue until completed. Investigations take time / money. Good facilities are need to investiage – a variety of different surfaces and different riders. Good professional riders acan mask / correct early symptoms by their riding.

Vets / Therapisits must possess knowledge of different equine sports – this is aquired by observing a large number of ‘normal’ horses and getting a base line or getting ‘your eye in’

Ability to recognise lack of athletiscm / suitable temperament / co-ordination / balance under a rider. Pick the best horse for the job. You will have more problems trying to make a dressage star from an unsuitable mount due to its body not being designed for the job. Be honest about YOUR capabilities as a rider and about whether you horse can physically DO what you are asking it too long term. Give your horse the best chance right from the start by being honest about the partnership.

Balance and power are AQUIRED and NOT available in a young horse.

Flexion tests should NOT be read as a stand alone test – only as part of the whole investigation. Often time, more information is gained by DOING the flexion than from the trot up. Flex lower joints FIRST then move higher. Also watch the horse inwalk – Stringhalt / shivering are easier tosee at the walk.

SYMPTOMS often reflect the OCCUPATION!

Racehorse ‘hanging’ Jumpers ‘hurdling’ Dressage ‘evasions’ etc

Look for changes in lathering / bit acceptance / audible changes in rhythm stride / teeth grinding / grunting / change in outline / rider inability to sit

Lack of lathering indicates a LOCKED BACK

The coffin joint is the most common reason of lameness in performance horses.

XRAYS are only static pictures of dynamic processes in the past. In otherwords, do not relyheavily on x-rays alone. They are only a small piece of information to solve the puzzle.

Can operate by removing fragments / Joint Lavage (washing / flossing joint) / Joint support (farriery) / Joint Rehab (correct training)

Data must be documented for reference points and measuring success and negative reponses.


Restricting effect of back pain.

I principle (!!!) dressage horses ‘shouldn’t’ have back pain as they SHOULD be working over the back in optimum balance!

In reality dressage esp at higher levels often fatigues the back and leads to injury through incorrect OR / AND overtraining.

Many horses believed to have a sore back have primary problems with Multi Limb Lameness. Lunge assessment first and look at the back from overhead and behind to check for asymmetries in muscle development.

T15 – T16 is a high statistical area of impinging spines
T12 – T16 is a high statistical area of Supraspinus Ligament tears

Kissing spines MAY be as a result of soft tissue damage in the spine area. In acute cases there is enlargement of the Supraspinus ligament – in chronic cases the ligament is atrophied.

We were shown some very interesting (and horrific) slides of back wear and tear including kissing spines, which is Dr. Kolds field of work. He also showed us some post op pictures of vertebrae that has been operated on to remove the ‘cap’ of vertebrae and hence release the pressure in the impinging spinal processes.

He also talked us through his rehab routine which he said was very traditional!! And made no apologies for it! He explained that it was a wasted of time operating on a horse if the owners then put it in the field and it either did nothing and got fat and stiff or honed about and did even more damage! So he advocated box rest and regular hand walking to start. He then advocated the use of the pessoa for the next satge of rehab which was for exercising and strengthening the back. He showed some video clips which caused a bit of discussion!! The clips did show a horse in a slightly overbent position – certainly more than what is optimum in MY opinion but I also didn’t think it was ROLKUR as some slightly hysterical comments were made lol!

I think Dr Kold felt a little uncomfortable showing the clips after Gerds lecture – but I am glad he did – and I was also glad that he might review the positioning in future and was also glad he was big enough to say that he is continually learning.
Dr Kold explained that not a lot of people knew how to lunge correctly and he is correct! I do have to say, my opinion that day was the pessoa at that setting, whilst not IDEAL, was better than a horse running around hollow backed on the end of a lunge line after a kissing spines op! But – like I say, just my own opinion.

I very much enjoyed both lectures although I feel Dr Heuschmann’s lecture was probably more suited to the audience in terms of content! I went away feeling stimulated but also a little sad that we seem to cause such a LOT of damage to our horses through ignorance and even worse through our desire to win at all costs.
I think its inevitable that SOME damage will be caused by riding our horses regardless of how conscientious we are, but I do think with good HORSEMANSHIP it is not detrimental to our horses longterm and they are able to function with a high level of life worth