Thursday, 12 August 2010


Well we are off to a clinic with Heather Moffett at the weekend (14th / 15th August) and am really looking forwards to it! Be prepared for a BIG update when I get back!,40767.0.html

Also there is a BIG Friesian event being ran alongside the Friesian gradings this year for FHAGBI’s 15th Anniversary – this is being held at Vale View in Leicestershire so not far from us so we have entered a couple of classes! WOOOOP! Im NOT gonna tell you what ive entered yet cos Ive been a bit crazy and now im crapping myself lol!! If anyone is going, be sure to come and say HI!!

Health Update!

After Antsje’s teeth had been done we noticed she was chewing her hay funny. Kind of making little twists with it like you were going to make a straw dolly lol! I got back in touch with the dentist and he said he would come and recheck her but couldn’t make it for 2 weeks. In the meantime the problem seemed to resolve itself but he still came out to put my (obsessed!) mind at rest lol! Nothing seemed to be causing a problem so maybe she just didn’t like that bale of hay! Who knows!

After doing a bit of trimming of her legs the other day I found some flaky skin in her feathers and also a ‘spongy’ area in the back of her heel. So since then I have been scrubbing with hibiscrub, combing out the flakes, drying the area thoroughly and using tea tree ointment / purple spray and sudocrem on the spongy bit lol! She also has an area on the inside hind that never grows any hair and can get quite dry skin. Ive always thought it was a skin allergy of some type but now I think it might be a strike mark from her other inside hind! So I thought I might experiment with some over-reach boots on her hind feet. All seemed to be going well until last night I noticed these had rubbed her foot on the opposite side! ARRRGGGGHHH! So not sure WHAT to do now!

Training Update........

Training Update!

God I MUST blog more regular lol! Where were we……..

Ok, so we have mostly been working on ‘forward into the contact’ and ‘power from behind’
We have definitely upped the anti this last couple of weeks and I think its been hard work for both of us…physically and mentally! For a start off, now we have a more powerful trot I am struggling to sit to it and can tell I am blocking Antsje and I rather suspect I have been for a while and this is why the trot has gone down to MY level and I suppose this has also suited Antsje lol! A bit humbling I can tell you when you realise its always the rider that’s stuffing up the horse lol! So I have been working more in rising trot to really free her up but she is grumbling about it a bit because now she has got to put a bit more effort in!
So I have been really concentrating on her reactions to my leg……….if she doesn’t react to it STRAIGHT AWAY and just lollops into trot, then she gets bought back to walk, ‘animated’ by use of my voice and a couple of taps with the schooling whip. We then do a succession of transitions until I can feel her really ‘waiting for it’ and once we are “there” a lot of things fall into place because she is ON THE AIDS! We had both got a bit DULL I think and Antsje was taking her own good time before she reacted to my requests and I was merrily accepting this!

We have had another lesson since the dressage tests too and the instructor had a little sit on Antsje too! It was good to watch her and I got good feedback on Antsje’s way of going. In the lesson it was just re-affirming Antsje being forwards into the contact, making sure she was reactive to the aids and we also played about with collecting and lengthening the stride in trot….done on a circle. We also did work on serpentines really asking Antsje for more suppleness through the changes of rein. I was very pleased at the end of the lesson ….. Antsje really does have a good attitude to her work which is more than half the battle (bad choice of word! But that’s the saying lol!)

We have also been working more on schooling the canter too and it is becoming just more ‘everyday’ rather than Ooooo shall we do ‘CANTER’!! lol!
The last couple of session’s I’ve noticed that although the contact is now very consistent and she still needs to be taking more weight behind and be getting that feeling of her rising up through the wither. We are getting moments of this and it feels bloody brilliant! But its time to move towards this being the normality rather than flashing glimpses.

So things I’ve been doing to help are:
Reinback to trot
Walk to canter
Shoulder in and Counter shoulder in
Leg yield to canter
Travers in walk and attempts (!!) in trot lol!
Half pass in walk and attempts (!!) in trot!

Although the travers / half pass in trot is pretty rubbish it is still having an effect of collecting her and bringing her together more, so I think its worth persevering with!
Fridays are her day off and she gets an all over massage with an electric massager which she LOVES. She worked hard last week so she had 2 days off with massages both days and felt loads ‘boingier’ on Saturday! And we also did a bit of jumping at the weekend for a change and some fun!

So its been all good! Oh, and for improving your seat, work without stirrups in SHORTS lol! Your skin sticks to the saddle and you gotta keep your butt in the saddle or it hurts lol!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Mmmmmmmm :o)

Had a really EXCELLENT ride today :o)
First off, Antsje is working far more consistently at seeking the bit which is a really great improvement as she does tend to do this ‘holding’ thing and I can tend to be a bit ‘backward’ with the hand in response. Both very subtle faults, which can become a norty habit! But when she is really seeking the contact you can tell the difference with her way of going.

So now we have a nice stretch to the bit and also her still ‘seeking forwards’ when you bring her together more, we still need a little bit more OOOMPH from the back end ;o) We need forwards but not so much faster but more engagement so we start to get that lift through the shoulder. So Im having to get after her a bit at the beginning of the session as we get nice stretch but in her ‘comfort zone’ or we get a bit too rushy and tight neck! I suppose she does find it very hardwork to keep the tone through her body yet turn on the power!

I know when I do my running, at times I just feel so super strong and powerful with my body feeling ‘connected’ which comes from the abs / core I think……but although it does feel great, I do struggle to keep this ‘poise’ for extended periods of time. It comes and it goes. As I get fitter, It comes more often and it goes less – so I suppose this is a similar feeling that Antsje has………

Anyway, we got some fairly nice work today, esp on circles but we do tend to loose it on serpentines…. Or quick changes of rein. So I decided to really concentrate on ‘lateral flexion’ as I know when we get her round my inside leg properly her way of going moves to another level!
So I did 10 m circles and then as I came back to the track I changed direction but keeping the bend so we were in a counter shoulder in position which really helped me control the SI positioning and therefore increased engagement as sometimes in normal SI we end up drifting to the middle of the school lol! So say we did a 10m circle at E on the right rein, we would come round and as we come back towards the track I would track left towards A with the bend now to the outside.
She found this quite difficult at first and kept breaking out of the trot…..funnily enough she was better on the right rein! But she soon started to get the idea and by the end my god she was really flexed round my inside leg, really light in hand but IN hand, and her back felt great! I was riding practically off the seat and my hands were just forwards and recycling the energy as we did circles, serpentines and figures of eight! I let her do a nice stretchy trot to end on both reins and called it a day. So so so pleased with her :o)

So in conclusion, next session I am going to do stretchy walk / trot / canter quite quickly to get warmed up and then do this counter shoulder in work and see if it has the same effect of getting her round my inside leg. Sometimes I think I need more of a plan when I ride to make the most of our time!

Monday, 19 July 2010


Took Antsje out to Swallowfield equestrian on Saturday to do a couple of dressage tests (Unaff) and I was very brave cos not only did I do P18 but I also did N20..... our first attempt at Novice!!

Bearing in mind we haven’t done a test since Nov last year and that was at our livery yard, so I haven’t actually competed away from home for over a year......I wasn’t expecting miracles!! Since having a couple of lessons and being put back 'on track' the new work has also been a little inconsistent, so really, I had no idea how it would go lol! I hired a reader just to take that pressure off and went with a view of ME being calm and not getting in a flap

My sister, Amy and my niece all came along which was great because we all had a good laugh, which kept my nerves at bay!!

So, to cut a long story short........Anstje was a BL00DY STAR!!! When it comes down to it, she always knows when to 'switch it on' and she tried her little heart out and I couldnt have asked for anymore I made a couple of fluffs in the prelim by not preparing as well as I could, also she nearly broke in the canter so I sent her forwards a bit too much and then had a rubbish downwards trans lol!!
I went into the Novice not so under pressure as it was just a little play around at this level! So I seemed to get my head into gear a bit better and was a lot more helpful to her, I suppose because there is more to ‘do’ in a novice I really had to keep her together more whereas I think I needed to be a bit more ‘on the ball’ in the prelim lol!

They judged all prelim classes (3) and all Novice classes (3) together and in the Prelim I came 7th on 60% which I was really pleased about as there were 13 riders in all. Then in the novice I came 3rd!!! on 62% and we got a rosette!! I was just so chuffed as I think Antsje deserved something for her incredible attitude and generosity to her rider



Lots to work on I know, and I was happy with the judges comments :o) BUT…… a lot to like as well I think?? I mean…… I got 6 for canter!! HURRAH!! That’s a miracle in itself lol!

And my beautiful girl……..


Friday, 9 July 2010

Resistance is futile.............

But she's gonna have a go anyway hahahaha!!!

I think Antsje is testing out my commitment to the 'power trot'........ Two stubborn mares together = KABOOOM!!

Well after a days rest we had an absolutely AMAZING session last night!! I did some poll flexions before I go ton last night and she was quite resistant to start but after a few she started to soften up and relax her jaw. I also did a little girivolta work in hand just a couple of circles either way, but with my hand on top of her poll to encourage relaxation and flexion.

So I got on and worked on the lengthening the neck / bringing together / lengthening idea on a circle to really try and get her thinking of working forwards into my hand. I think I really need to work more on this ‘connection’ as I think we have just got into a little comfort zone with both of us coasting a bit!
Well she seemed to get the hang of it better and we did some trot in the same manner, working FDO and then bringing up and then FDO – trying to get it really fluid and Antsje not backing off the contact or my leg!
I also rode without stirrups for a while so I could stretch my hips and deepen my seat too.

We did a few walk / trot transition from this deeper connection and although the swing was quite nice it was a very sedate lumber into trot! So next time I gave her a flick with the whip and made a bit of a noise at her and she LEAPT into trot lol! All or bloody nothing with this mare lol! BUT! I clicked and treated the effort because I did want an immediate response like that – perhaps not quite so leapy though lol! So Next trans we did was blimmin fantastic – surged up into trot and you could just feel the lift through her shoulders. And the trot, god it felt like we were flying, just so much power and lift in it, I was just grinning like a fool! And we had this for the rest of the evening – consistent contact and powering from behind, into my hand and a lift from the wither………very addictive ;o)

We went on to do a bit of canter, and she does have a tendancy to fall in on the circle. My sister was watching and she suggested I rode or rather ‘thought’ SQUARE rather than circle and I have to say it worked so much better to think of riding her straight.
The downside in canter is that I feel like a bag of shite! I tense up, draw my leg up, go stiff and tighten my arse and therefore cannot sit nice and deep in the saddle. Part of it is because im trying so hard to stop her falling in on her shoulder that I feel like my body is contorting in an attempt to keep her straight. I think I need to do some canter work without stirrups to try and get out the habit of drawing my leg up and loosing my seat.

Other than that though I was very very pleased with her efforts and I can definitely feel the difference in the quality of trot and what we need to be aiming for from now on.

This mornings session was another matter completely! She was back to being resistant again and wouldn’t come forwards off the leg and seek the contact down. Grrrrrrrrrr! She would either rush off all hollow, of stretch down in the lumbering granny trot we had got ourselves stuck into. So after asking nicely in as many ways as I could think of, I ended up loosing a bit of patience to be honest and was rather firm with her that she got off the leg, and that she gave to the contact. Probably not very classical and I really don’t like falling out with her, BUT, it worked and when she gave I softened immediately and from then on we had some nice work and a nice ‘connection’ Is five minutes of ‘bossy riding’ better than half an hour of half hearted nagging? My gut feeling is is that she is just finding this work harder (I know I am!!) and she is seeing how committed I am to it!! Because when we have ‘got it’ I am not having to hold her ‘in a frame’ she is just ‘there’. Thoughts???………….

Well anyhow, I got some nice trot work and transitions and I left it there and gave her plenty of praise for the GOOD stuff.

I will just go out on a nice relaxing hack tomorrow so she can have a stretch and rest before our lesson again on Sunday. I know My hips ache today and we are both putting in more effort this last few sessions so I am mindful that although I want to be firm that this is the way its gonna be – I also want to be fair and realise she will need some recovery after these harder sessions.

So………..another mixed bag! Lol!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

A little bit hit and miss..........

So I have been working on the ‘lengthening / bringing together / lengthening’ and the deeper position of the neck and it just seems to take forever to get some consistency in the contact. I can feel a bubble of frustration in me partly because Im sure she understands my requests and partly because Im not sure what im doing wrong! All I know is that it’s a weird feeling when she is not accepting the bridle, and I can give her the reins or take up the reins but she not really **there** and the half halts etc just do not work! Because Ive only got a limited amount of time in the morning the frustration is intensified and I KNOW I am getting a bit ‘handy’ by nagging with the rein and I KNOW that this does no good what so ever because even if I do get her to give this way as soon as I ask her to take the rein down she doesn’t follow, she just ‘holds’ at the wither. GAH!
BUT! When we DO get it, its bloody fantastic! Maybe I have just got to accept that it will take a period of adjustment for both of us to settle into being more focussed and obviously working a bit harder lol! The annoying thing is, is that I just don’t KNOW how I’m getting it when we DO get it!! But I can bet my bottom dollar its summat to do with me! And most likely my tension lol!

Just to be sure I am getting her teeth checked at the weekend just to rule out any discomfort in her mouth.

I gave her the day off yesterday so Ill be interested to see if a rest will help tonights session. And I have got to CALM DOWN mentally and keep a lid on the old ‘frustrated perfectionist’ that is ever lurking just under the surface Grrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

A bit of exciting news……….Ive entered two dressage tests!! My sister said she would take me as my Birthday pressie and I have finally got the courage up to do a Novice test as well as a Prelim! The trot is certainly good enough and well, you gotta start somewhere hey!! REALX and BREEEEATHE!!!! Lol!


I had a lesson last Sunday – the first in a few months! The lady rides at Intermediere level and has trained her two TB’s herself. She enjoys working with non-typical dressage horses and has a good eye for horse and rider ;o)

She picked up very quickly on mine and Antsje’s strengths and weaknesses and this gave me a lot of confidence in her instruction.
She was very complimentary about the work I have done with Antsje so far, so that was a relief!! She said I have done well in getting her neck out as so many horses like these are ridden too short in the neck and she was also happy with my position in general, which again was a bit of a relief.
She also picked up on my tendency to ‘tip forwards’ and Antsje not quite being ‘through’.
So we worked a lot on getting a proper and honest connection from back to front with Antsje, which meant her putting a bit more effort in lol! And also me being really strong in the core and encouraging action from the HQ’s and holding it with my seat and “not touching the front end” so Antsje was encouraged to be confident in the contact.
She also recommended working Antsje a bit ‘deeper’ to really get that connection over the back and into the hand. Now before you all go ARGH!! This wasn’t with her head on her chest!! Just a slightly lower position with the neck to really tie in the back and the withers as the energy can get a bit unconnected at this point. Its always something Mike has got me to do too, so I was happy enough with the idea. She also said that with a horse built like Antsje you will never have a problem getting the neck ‘up’ because of the way she is built so we can afford to ask her to work a bit lower without any problem.
So we worked on getting her to take the rein down, then bringing her together a bit, then taking the rein down again so we were able to keep the neck coming forwards fluidly whether we were in a stretch or more ‘together’ Once we had this feeling she got me to think ‘leg yield’ but not actually let her step over but just hold her with the outside leg and rein so in effect it acted like a half halt and encouraged her to activate her inside hind more. From this position we asked for a transition into trot and I have to say it was SUPER! F noticed that although our upward trans were good, the downward ones were not quite there. Once she got me pressing Antsje ‘forwards’ into the walk and me really raising my rib cage lo and behold we got some excellent downward trans too! So, if we don’t the horse to collapse – the rider MUSTN’T collapse lol!! Obvious hey!

In the trot we concentrated on asking Antsje for more POWER but not to go any faster or come out of balance. To do this I had to be really strong in my core and control her with my rising and just try and keep a consistent steady contact with my hand. The trot felt REALLY good and REALLY connected and I could see that now both me and Antsje have improved in strength and balance we need to move up a gear as we are both capable of it!!

F had a look at the canter and again was pleased with what we had achieved. She thought improvements could be made by again keeping this nice connection that we had going in the trot and not let her back off as she went up into the canter trans. So she got us working on a really strong powerful trot on a 10m circle, getting Antsje to really release over the back and through the neck, once I felt that nice powerful SWING I asked her to leg yield out for 2-3 strides and then go up into canter. It really worked WELL!! On the left rein we got some excellent ‘direct’ transitions and because she kept the connection over the back and through to the hand the quality of the canter was much better and therefore we also got some nice downward trans into the trot again. On the right rein she seemed to need a few strides to organise her legs before we got the canter transition, but she didn’t rush and she didn’t loose the connection and both me and F were pleased with her efforts.

To finish, we did serpentines in trot with a 10m circle each time we came back to the track. Antsje struggled a bit with this exercise and didn’t want to keep the ‘power on’ and we lost the connection a bit – although maybe we were both getting a bit tired too! F asked me to let her take the reins down but to still keep the connection and not to just throw them away! And we finished by doing a few figure of eights in a stretched out swingy trot which F said would be good to start and finish our sessions on as it gets that ‘forward neck into the contact’ attitude and also will really help stretch and unlock the top line muscles before and after the main work.

I was really pleased with the lesson and it has given us lots to work on! Im having another next Sunday!! Hahaha!

A few adjustments.....

Well after watching the videos a few times I have put some focus on my leg position and balance again! I put my stirrups up one hole and really concentrated in riding ‘off my knees’ and not off my feet ala JVT instruction! Lol!
It felt a bit awkward at first I have to say, and I could feel myself going back to the ‘tippy’ position with my upper body **sigh** It seems if the body is UP, then my legs goes forwards, if the legs come in alignment, the body tips forwards! ARGH!!!!! BUT!! If I really focus on riding from the knees AND lifting the rib cage it does come together – and im rewarded by Antsje going along beautifully! Practice makes perfect – but I am missing eyes on the ground :o( Cue a much needed lesson!

Sunday, 27 June 2010


Got some poor sod to video me in return for a drink down the awful hey!!! hahaha! The video-er needs training with the zoom lol! but heck, im very grateful for him doing it full stop!

I can see im still collapsing a bit esp in downward trans......
Also, when im trying too hard (lateral work / no stirrups) my arse gets tight and Im far too tense and it ruins my seat and therefore blocks Antsje. Things to think about....... ;o)

Walk to canter

Walk pirouette attmepts

Lateral Work (although not very clear angle)

Trot and right canter trans

Left Canter


As always - grateful for any comments / observations :o)

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

snakes and ladders..........

Hmmmm, well what goes up...must come down lol!! And after a few really good sessions of climbing the ladder, ive come slithering down the snake! especially with the canter. Not sure if it was her, or me, or both of us! But I know I wasnt so effective in my seat - not sure if im stiff, or if she is stiff, or if we both are due to the last sessions - but I couldnt really get 'into her' like I have been. She was just a little too forward and on the forehand with everything today and in all honesty I should not have cantered - or at least persevered with it - but I did **sigh**

The left canter wasnt bad actually, and the departs are coming on lovely. But the right!! ACK! she wanted to 'run' into the trans, So I tried to stop that by only doing walk to canter and really concentrating on a quick snappy leap into canter and then only cantering for a few strides before trot. Anymore than that, esp if we kept straight, she would get flat and strong, and when I did get a slower speed she would just break. So a little despondant today after the highs of the last weeks work, but it wasnt all bad............and I think for some reason we were both feeling a bit jaded.

Tomorrow Im going to do something different! lol!

Friday, 18 June 2010



So THRILLED with the last couple of sessions with Antsje :o) Thurs I rode in the evening as due to time restraints in the morning I dont always get to work on a lot of canter by the time she is settled! As my friend Trudi said a while back, if you dont have her in walk, then dont go any further (or words to that effect!!) and it is sooo sooo true! Its more of a mental attitude thing with her I think, but if she is rushing through my seat in walk, no matter how subtle, then it is pointless moving up into trot. Otherwise the rushing is just magnified and it takes even longer to get any decent work! So we did nice SLOW funeral walk and lots of halt transitions and reinback to walk until I was satisfied she was 'on my seat' and engaging her HQ's. Once we have this the trot is just **there** in terms of quality and balance and therefore I can start using exercises to improve straightness / suppleness straight away rather than having to spend time balancing the trot!

I again worked a lot on reinback, halt then straight up into trot. And also the downward trans of trot straight into halt. A definate improvement on yesterday already! Having a clever willing horse and using clicker doesnt half get quick results - and YES, I do appreciate how LUCKY I am ;o) In the trot we did the halt-trot-halt trans, serpentines focussing on smooth changes of bend coming from the seat and 10m circles, again focussing on correct flexion and increased engagement.

I am reading Erik Herbermann right now and was well reminded of the importance of accuracy when riding. Choose your gait, choose your exercise and ride it!!

Then we moved onto some canter work. I am using walk to canter trans right now as 1) it improves engagement and 2) it helps balance.
In trot, she can still loose enagement / balance and therefore get on the forehand very quickly and rush. I dont think the walk - canter trans are a 100% direct yet (esp on right), but its enough to help the above issues :o) Im also aiming for a nice downwards trans into a balanced trot out of the canter which is coming on nicely. Canter to walk is too much as of yet.......
The canter today was a LOT better on a circle, so I did a bit of work up the long side. She is still struggling to keep the balance when straight and gets a bit flat and 'rushing' - esp on the right rein. BUT, its a work in progress so we have to keep trying. For the first time since i came back off hols, I asked her to pick up canter from the long side - not too bad on the left rein, but she warps quite a bit on the right, panics and rushes off!! But again, its worth persevering with for a few steps.
We had a few lovely balanced strides of canter on the straight on the right rein so I clicked and treated and got off and made much of her. PLEASED! :o)

This morning was the first morning since I have come back that Antsje was pretty much on my seat right from the word go!! YAY! So I didnt have to do so much work in walk this morning and got on with some trot-halt-trot trans. These were bloody EXCELLENT today!!! Particularly the downward trans. I have to add I am doing a lot more work around the arena now rather than just on a large circle as it highlights straightness issues better now as she is quite well balanced on a circle (or so it would appear lol!) We did lots of changes of rein, a little SI and upwards downwards trans with great results, so I tried a bit more canter!

This time straight off the corner and onto the long side rather than working on a circle and again walk to canter trans. And I have to say the quality of balance was hugely improved even from yesterday!!! I didnt let her canter on for long, we didnt loose the nice slower lifted canter but we did quite a few repitions on both reins. I was really impressed - as much with her attitude as with anything! she was really trying hard!! So I clicked, got off and HUGGED her loads lol!!!

She gets a rest tomorrow and hacking on Sunday.

I just LOVE LOVE LOVE my horse! She teaches me so much :o)

Oh, and before I forget, note to self - try not to ride like a spaz in canter lol!!!
When she goes well, I know I get really tight in an attempt to to bugger it all up hahahaha!!! FAIL!! Need to get back on that lunge again soon and focus on me RELAXING!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


Very sad news for Friesian lovers.
On June 15th the famous approved stallion Nanning 374 was humanely euthanized after suffering a ruptured stomach today, June 15th. Nanning was one of the most beautiful and well know Friesian stallions. He will be missed.

Nanning's web site.

Video of Nanning 374"

Im BACK!!!

Well!! Im back to it! And thankfully dont seem to have lost much fitness! Just a bit of thigh ache last week!

Antjse on the other hand had turned into Miss Bolshy pants in my abscence And my sister said the last day she tried to barge out of her stable and then wouldnt stand still on the yard! I forget this is how she was when I first had her and its nice to know that I do at least have a positive influence over her ;o)

So, the first few days were all about re-establishing boundaries!! Oh yes my dear DO have them! hahaha!

We did quite a bit of 'head down' work especially when I am letting her out into the field as she basically snatched her head out of the headcollar to rush off! So I recaught her and insisted she put her head down and let me take the headcollar off properly - it took several attempts (with clicking ) before she realised the good life was over, mummy was BACK and she had to toe the line :p

The first ride wasnt much better either lol! I got on, she promtly power walked towards the gate as SHE thought we were off hacking!! grrrrrrrr!!! Then it took me nearly the whole session to get her to SLOW DOWN! as she had reverted to the old power walk, not listening to my seat and ploughing through my hand! But at least my seat is much better now that she couldnt knock me out of position quite as well as she used to! So eventually we had some 'slow funeral walk' so I decided to do a bit of trot - and went back to square one lol! She felt very 'on the shoulders' on the right rein too, which is her natural crookedness coming through.
So for the last week all I have been doing is SLOW walk, SLOW trot, and suppling exercises.

**I** have also been riding one handed for parts of our session so I can ensure I have a genuine bend from the inside leg and NOT hanging on the inside rein which I am good at! Gradually we are regaining the suppleness and balance we had before I went away.

Another thing I have noticed is that when I ride one handed, primarily to help me on the right rein, I have noticed that although I am using outside rein to turn, I am actually bringing right over the crest of the neck! So although techinically I am not using the inside rein to turn, this isnt correct either - so yet again, I am tricking myself! Grrrrrr!!! So, in walk, I concentrated on keep my outside rein in a 'normal' position while still trying to maintain the inside bend. I figured out that she is falling out and I was using the outside rein to stop this without really being consciously aware of it! So, instead I used my outside LEG to stop the falling out and now im able to drop the inside rein, keep my outside rein 'normal' and keep the bend to the right! RESULT! :o)

Canter is a bit crap again but I suppose it will come back.....

We did some work on the lunge yesterdayover poles in trot and in canter. I was really pleased! plus I did lots of halt to trot trans and walk to canter trans - it was good to SEE how much this made her 'sit' so I am incorporating this into the ridden work

Oh yes - Reinback! we are doing a fair bit of this - while concentrating on the straightness. I use it particularly when she is 'tramming' to get her off her shoulders and sitting more.

So, onwards and upwards! For my birthday my sister said she would take me to a dressage test! But want to re-establish the canter a bit first....ever the perfectionist lol!!!

Oh! and Ive entered into a Marathon!! All in aid of Macmillan Cancer - so if you'd like to support this wonderful cause you could sponsor me......

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

So to bring us up to date, before I jet off to Cuba for 2 weeks (typical hahaha) I am really pleased with how Antsje (and myself!) are progressing of late and Im riding most days although I don’t school everyday!!

I am continuing working on increasing engagement and self carriage as Antsje is very sneaky and you think she is going round really lovely but then you go to change rein / do a transition and it all comes undone because she is not actually carrying herself properly!! And in all honesty IM not either lol! One thing im learning is that if *I* am in self-carriage and riding with ‘tone’ and am completely THERE in the moment, so is Antsje is she goes like a dream! If im coasting either mentally or physically then you can bet your bottom dollar that Antsje is too! And why the hell not haha! Fair’s Fair!

So we are doing a lot of warming up with serpentines / figure of eights to really get her bending through the body on both reins – first in walk and then in trot. If I feel she is hanging (more often on the right rein) then I always go back to the one handed girivolta work until I have a nice inside flexion without the use of the inside rein! Lol! Its ALL about the HindQuarters working correctly and once I have THAT then the inside bend magically happens lol!

Then we are doing a lot of work on collecting the walk and trot, again by really activating the HQ’s but not allowing her to lean / tram through my hands and seat. She is getting the idea really well now, and I am also developing my feel so much more and can therefore make quicker adjustments to help keep Antsje balanced. We do exercises such a reinback, reinback to walk / trot transitions, transitions in general and lateral work especially paying attention to the rhythm of the steps so we get a nice ‘flow’ rather than sticky steps. I am also continuing to play with the half steps which really help to re-balance her and set up some lovely trot transitions.

And to help me, my friend has been lunging me without my stirrups and reins in walk, trot and canter to really improve my seat and balance – although I think he enjoys it way too much! Hahaha!

I really think she has improved since the clinic videos and if I have time at the weekend id like to get a bit more video of us as another benchmark in our journey!

Im BACK!! bout time hey!

God Ive been bad with this blogging malarkey **hangs head in shame** lol! A quick update to get me back started again! Thanks Patti for a kick up the proverbial arse lol!!

Well we had an excellent lesson with Heather Moffett at my friends yard and its been great value as im still working on the same lines now hahaha!

I wanted Heather to help me work on greater engagement and self carriage with Antsje as although she has great paces, she still needs to take more weight behind to really start working properly – this becomes apparent when we do lateral work in trot as she tends to do her famous evasion of rushing / powering through my seat / hand to avoid the slower deeper steps ;)
So we did a lot of work on lateral work in trot, reinback to trot and even a little bit of work on ‘half steps’ at the end!

Ive put the video up but as its in the indoor school the lighting isn’t that good! But I think you can get the general idea!! At times Antsje gets against my hand as she tries to speed up in the lateral work, also as Im trying SOOOO hard I am a bit stiff and rigid at times which also doesn’t help lol! And although im a LOT fitter now, I STILL struggle to maintain my seat when Antsje tries to ‘set sail’ and therefore I use my hand more than id like…….

Things Heather got me to do that have helped LOADS are;

1.Shorten my reins and keep my elbows towards the front of my hip bones as Im having the tendency to end up with my elbows behind me and a feeling of a more backward hand!! This stems from trying so hard to keep a bend in my elbows in the past that ive completely overcorrected hahaha! Mike also reminded me of this naughty habit! This will give me a better ‘forward feeling’ contact

2.When doing lateral work, think about ‘stacked hands’ with the outside being lower than the inside hand to help with the inside flexion.

3.Try not to take my outside hand over the neck……

4.Try and maintain a rhythm in the lateral steps by counting out loud and using the leg in time with the swing of the belly, and also tapping the HQ’s with the schooling whip where necessary (partic in travers) Antsje tended to be a bit hesitant in her steps and not really stepping through properly – I could feel the difference when Heather was shouting NOW NOW NOW when I should be applying my leg! :)

Sorry about the links but Ill never get time to embed them all lol!!!

Feel free to ask questions about the video, it might jog my memory a bit!!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Quick Update!

Snow stopped play On Thursday and although I tried to get to the yard I nearly ditched my car doing so!! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeek! So I gave up and went home – a little shaken actually. Went for a lovely hack out with one of the girls on the yard on Saturday and it was nice to take the time to relax and have a chinwag, actually Id not realised how much I missed riding out with my daughter as nowadays I ride out on my own more often than not. Antsje enjoyed it too I think having some company :o)

On Sunday I did a bit of schooling in the arena and also yesterday morning too. The running theme was, well, exactly that…………….RUNNING! She is back to her trammy ways and I rather suspect its because we have been doing a few sessions of the more open work and then the hack she is avoiding stepping under and engaging in her typical way which is trying to speed up and run through my hands. I actually HATE when she gets like this because its very hard not to get into an argument with her because even trying to ride ‘tactfully’ for example putting her on smaller circles / serpentines to try and get her to slow down just doesn’t seem to work! She can do a 10m circle at warp speed – not correctly of course and its like the wall of death!! And its SOOOOO hard not to ‘hold’ which only infuriates the situation even more because that seems to make her even faster lol!
So towards the end, I just focussed on my position being strong, taking DEEP breaths and trying to set a nice slow rhythm. We did get some better work towards the end but each time I tried to ‘give’ the rein for her to stretch more into my hand, she took the liberty of speeding up! So I didn’t quite get the submission to my seat that I prefer and I came off feeling a bit disappointed :o(

This morning I worked on SUBMISSION!! Lol! I also put my stirrups back up a hole as I felt yesterday I was tending to get a bit ‘water-skier’ as she was doing her best to pull me out of position. I think this worked better today. Also I remembered to breath deeply right from the start, which helped ME, stay relaxed at any rate! So we did lots of walking / halting from the seat before we did ANY trotting at all! I also went back to more lateral work and did some girivolta / Shoulder In / Travers on the circle. As I felt her ‘come together’ more then I asked for trot and although she did try it on a little bit at the start, we actually got some nice SLOW trotting and some proper 10m circles :o) At the end I went large and practised walking STRAIGHT – not as easy as you may think! If you let her dolly on a long rein she is fine, but ask her to walk SLOW and in balance then she finds it hard. But we persevered until I felt she understood the exercise – which was basically engaging through her body evenly as she is good on circular work but looses it on the straight lines. So nothing really spectacular with regards to exercises or the quality of work – but I do think that I achieved my purpose, which was for her to STAY WITH ME!

I am attending a clinic on Sunday with Heather Moffett which I am really excited about!! BOING BOING!! I had a lesson about 3 yrs ago with her so I am hoping she will notice some improvements! And also move us forwards with her keen eye – particularly rider faults (Ooops!) Plus lots of my friends are going too, so it should be an excellent day for learning and fun! I am hoping Antsje will be less ‘steam train’ by Sunday!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Super Trot!! BOING!!

I was right!! We had been lacking some lateral flexion especially on the right rein ;o) I really concentrated on flexing the poll while ridden today today and did some bending / counter-bending exercises on a circle, inside flexion of her head while keeping the shoulders straight on the long side and also the ‘deeper’ (eeeek that word!) stretched position in shoulder-in and travers that we did with Mike both down the long side and on the circle. All of this was to try and get her to really release the neck from the base but also keep the gait steady and not loosing balance and rushing and falling onto the forehand.
We didn’t really do any more than those exercises today as I think it was enough for her to think about and I do believe this is one of the things she does find difficult.

So after we had done a bit in walk I asked her to step up into trot trying to keep the same ‘connection’ of the base of the neck and slight inside flexion. She did try and rush at times (her evasion) but I kept asking her to slow down and once she did I used the inside rein in a slightly upwards / outwards manner while also pressing her with my inside leg to ask her to flex to the inside – and all of a sudden, she released her neck and we had ‘SUPER TROT’ which feels just bloody brilliant! Not any easier to ride I might add because the lift is amazing! :-0
The release down into the inside bend seems to also release the back and free the inside hind because the change in the quality of trot is unmistakeable and the words ‘elastic, supple, through, swinging’ all come to mind. The best way I can describe it is the hindlegs ‘sink down’ and then as they push off the energy comes through the whole of the body like a wave. Of course we have moments of unbalance (both of us) but I am finding techniques to successfully re-balance and re-gain the ‘super trot’ at least on a circle anyhow! To finish we used the whole arena and we both found it more difficult to maintain ‘on the straight’ particularly as she has more scope to ‘set sail’ down the long side! But I do think its important to venture off the ‘safe circles’ and try and test our balance on the ‘straight and narrow’ so’s to speak hahaha!

Oh yes, I am still incorporating the clicker work into the training – not prolifically but for when she does something really special…… super trot!

The poll flexions were better today also.

GOOD day today! :-D

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Mirror Mirror..........

Well, what a difference a day makes! Yesterday morning I had the most AWFUL ride that I have had for quite some months! She was totally unfocussed and running through my hands – it felt vile :o( Maybe because of the hardwork she was a bit stiff – BUT – I had only intended on doing some long loose stuff after the last two days of engaged work. Also although I ‘thought’ I was looking forwards to working with her and had my head in the right place, because I was fretting a bit about my follow up smear after my op last year, in retrospect I think my energy must have been more jittery than normal. So this probably did have an effect although I didn’t think I was displaying any ‘bad vibes’ she obviously picked up on something – animals are such a good barometer for the ‘true’ emotions of people although we try and hide it well.

I cant remember what book it was in but this was termed as the ‘authentic self’ and how horses (and indeed animals in general) are so good at seeing straight through the bravado and acts of humans and respond directly to the ‘authentic self’ and that is why animals are great at sussing out people – even the real GOOD actors cant fool ‘em lol!!!

Anyway back to the session – although on reflection some of this behaviour was probably due to my ‘wired’ energy and some of it may be due to her being a bit stiff and finding it hard to engage as well therefore her evasion has always been to RUSH – I haven’t been happy about her poll area since the Chiro came :o(

As some of you are aware I have been practising ‘poll flexions’ for a while now to great effect (IMHO!) and although I know deep down that Antsje hasn’t released 100% to me, compared to when I first had her it’s a massive improvement. Im not sure WHY she is so protective over the poll area, but I know whenever she is stressed or on high alert immediately she adopts the high neck / fixed poll posture, regardless of being ridden or out in the field. It is a ‘friesian’ thing I think, well all horses raise the head I know but its very pronounced in this breed. So, as I was saying, since the Chiro treatment she has been very ‘fixed’ and ‘protective’ again over this area, noticeable when Im putting her headcollar on and off and also the bridle. When I have been trying to do the flexions she would flex to the left but I could barely get her to flex right – and when I did I then couldn’t get her to make the smooth move back to the left which makes the crest ‘flip’ over. Its as if she was stuck! I havent pushed the issue too much since the chiro as I haven’t wanted to interfere with anything and in honesty it doesn’t seem to have had a big effect on the riding after the initial few days where I got a bit panicky!!

So after I had ridden, I tried again with the flexions and I just could NOT get her to flex! In fact when I asked her to stretch her neck down just straight, it looked kinked **sigh** So I decided to do the thing that seemed to have unlocked the poll when I was experimenting which is to walk her round on a very small circle making sure her shoulders are moving AWAY from me and putting my hand on the top of her poll and just trying to flex the poll and release the neck down. She was really struggling to keep the ‘AWAY’ movement and kept walking into me, but I was quietly insistent and all of a sudden I felt something give and even heard a slight ‘crack’ and all of a sudden she started licking and chewing and released her neck down. I must admit I was little horrified in case Id done something AWFUL!! But I tried rocking her poll form side to side and although not smooth, she was able to flex each way so I left it at that.

Today I decided to do some work in hand just off the cavesson to incorporate some more of this flexing type of work and the ‘Lossyglossy’ (losgelassenheit) stuff on the lunge.
First off I just walked with her around the arena on a loose rein and each time she got all tense and high necked I encouraged her to relax her neck and clicked and treated when she did. She has a particular part of the arena where she can see the road and always likes a good GAWP but I worked on her keeping her attention on me with a relaxed low neck. Once she was consistent with this I stood in front of her and tried the poll flexions – and Lo and Behold, she was as soft as butter with her crest flipping from side to side! I clicked and treated so she understood this was the movement I wanted :o) Then I sent her on the lunge first in walk then in trot concentrating on a low relaxed neck and a swinging back – she was very good and on the whole kept nice and loose even as she passed the ‘gawpy’ spot ;o) I did have to whistle at her a few times to bring her focus back to me lol lol! Then I bought her in close and did the small circles with my hand on the top of her poll and there was very little resistance today and she was able to keep her shoulders mobile and moving away from me!
I sent her back out on the lunge and we did a little bit of canter trying to get the same kind of relaxation as we have in trot. She actually tried very hard! She knows she has to release her neck forwards, but balance I think is still an issue so she gets so far but cant quite release fully and is still a little tight through the back. I realise that some of the neck position is ‘posturing’ on her part for a click and treat hahaha! BUT it is serving a purpose because although not correct yet, this position WILL enable her to build the strength required to fully release the back and neck at some point.

So after a highly frustrating morning yesterday, today could not have been more different! I was so pleased with her efforts, and so relieved that her poll seems a lot looser and I haven’t broken her! In fact even when we had finished and she was standing tied up while I was putting her rug on she was doing lots of ‘yawning’ and chewing so I do think Ive managed to release some more tension again today :o)

I will be interested how this correlates into riding tomorrow as although not massively noticeable I do think she has been struggling with releasing fully into the right bend – made quite obvious by the reverse pirouette video where obviously she was leaning on the inside rein / shoulders and getting stuck. We’ll see!

Monday, 15 February 2010

'prelim' type work

So to finish with I like to end the session with the more 'prelim' type frame concentrating on Antsje following the contact forwards a little more but NOT rushing! this is hard for her - and me! lol! I also like to do the canter work with this frame at the moment as I think its important she gets established with stretching over the back in canter even if it does mean she is a little on the forehand. Once she becomes more relaxed and confident then I will swing between the 'up' work and the longer frame as I do in the trot. At the minute I am confident that I can put her neck in a stretched position in trot and she will respond straight away - if I wasnt sure I could do this then I wouldnt do the work that does shorten her neck somwhat as she is naturally prone to that postion. So if at any point she wont follow the hand down, we leave the other work for a while until this is re-confirmed.

Im quite pleased with the video in general but can see ALL the points that Mike picked up in my position Gggggggrrrrrrrr!!! I AM rounding the shoulders and although not really tipped forward I have that 'feel' about me! esp in sitting trot where I really DO need to open my chest so my abs DONT collapse! I can also see what Mike means about the hands.............
Yes, they are too far 'back' now, so I MUST ocus on this and think of my elbows more towards the front of my hip bones and not the back! lol! My hands also look a bit 'dead' and as Mike says, if I shorten my reins up a bit, hold my arms a bit more forwards than it will bring some life back into my hands and our connection. Antsje is SOOOO sensitive about being jabbed or fiddled with in the mouth that as usual I have swung the pendulum too far the other bloody way! ***rolls eyes***

But lets hope now I can ***SEE*** it I will remember to do something about it!

New Moves!!

A couple of 'work in progress' videos of new stuff we are working on. Both of us get a litle tense and tight.............and co-ordinated lol lol! so there is no suprise that things are not exactly perfect - as far away as it could be in fact lol!! But heck! we all gotta start somehwere right??

Half Pass

So, I have to control the quarters a bit more on the start of the exercise but we did straighten it up somewhat by the finish!

Reverse Pirouette:

Well the first exercise is the more 'correct' one which wil give you the idea of how the exercise works. Renvers down the 3/4 line, turn the haunches around the forehand in the direction of the bend and then return back up the 3/4 line in travers! simples! hahahaha!
but watching the second part - obviously NOT! Made a right hash of this one as its the side where Antsje finds it hardest to flex around - for a start I have WAY to much angle in renvers - she likes me to do this as its more a leg yield and she doesnt have to bend through her body ;o) Secondly, because I havent got a true bend and that inside to outside connection, I am having real problems in turning her from the outside rein and she is 'stuck' on her inside shoulder and therefore her we dont make the turn properly - when she finally moves the inside shoulders its too late and we loose the position and end up coming up the long side in some mangled SI / Legyield movment, which again suits madam cos she cant possibly bend through her body! And the rider just dont seem to know where she is in the movement to do anything to assist hahahaha!!! Oh dear!

Half Steps:

Our first attmept at slowing but energising the walk to really get some 'engaged' steps / baby half steps. Its something Im not planning on doing a whole lot of, but I do think it will be useful a sprinkle in now and again.

VIDEO!!! Warm up..........

Amy did some video of me yesterday!! I did a bit of work in hand, a bit of girivolta work, some of the suppling exercises that Mike showed me on Saturday and then some of the ‘prelim’ riding which is in a more ‘open’ frame at the end.

Ill start by putting on the in hand work and the girivolta exercises as I think too many videos at once will just be a bit mind-blowing hahaha!!!

Im purposefully asking her to keep her neck released in the in hand work as her tendency is to get short in the neck. It flows better when her neck is ‘up’ but now im working on strengthening her back / neck connection so she gets a bit sticky at times. I always finish with the neck down position as again her base nature is head up and rushing through you – so I like her to keep her neck long and relaxed with her circling round me as it releases any tension of the exercise particularly after the trot as she finds it harder and gets more tense. I do this ridden too, but on writing this I realise not NEARLY as much – a bit silly really. Must keep it in mind for the future. ;o)

Giravolta ridden – again just an example of the work I do to warm up. Reins in the outside hand, whip in the inside to encourage the HQ’s to move over. It would be nice to see her relax her neck more – and she does at times, but at the minute id rather sacrifice the neck for the ‘engagement’ – the neck WILL come ;o) I don’t do this for too long at a time and walk on a long rein in-between changes of rein so we don’t build too much tension through the neck.

In hand Left

In hand Right

In hand Trot

Giravolta ridden


Saturday 14th Feb

Mikes Lesson:

A fab lesson! Learnt lots again and much to work on :0)

First I started off in a loose walk / trot to warm up then Mike asked me what I had been ‘mostly working on’ **snigger snigger** as each time he comes I have been mostly working on something hahahaha!! This time though I didn’t have a definitive answer! Which I actually think is quite a good thing as I do realise that I can get a bit ‘tunnel visioned’ sometimes lol lol! So I said, we have been working on a few things but I think ‘engagement’ seems to sum it up! So I showed Mike our more ‘together’ trot which she did nicely but I said we seem to collapse downwards!! So we worked on nicer downward trans.

First off Mike had a fiddle with my position. I am still having a tendancy to TIP FORWARDS!!! ARGH! Which is made worse by my lower leg now being a bit too far back so my position isn’t as strong or stable as it could be so although my position is definitely better than it was which helps with the ‘setting sail’ issues, it is letting me down in downward trans as Antsje tips me forwards and is able to collapse into walk rather than step down into walk. So Mike had me put my leg a bit more forward – which felt a bit odd and I said I was concerned about getting back into that ‘water skier’ position but Mike showed me the difference between the two and I could feel it was not the same! So we moved off again and mike told me to ‘open the chest’ and ‘open my shoulders’ and to also shorten my reins but to hold my arms slightly further forwards. Again I was slightly worried about the arm thing as I had a dreadful habit of straight arms and again it seems I have over corrected it! Now Amy did some video of me the following day and I can see EXACTLY what he was saying as I was still in the OLD mode for the majority of the time URGH! But hopefully me now SEEING it will help me to remember it and therefore SIT UP! For gods sake lol lol!

So, back to the lesson……

With my leg a bit more forwards, my chest / shoulder open and my arms a little more forward I DID feel the difference in our connection for the better – and this time when we did a downwards transition it was a lot better! Amazing huh! Also Mike said to think of ‘holding the reins with my back’ which was a really helpful comment for me as it made me focus on being more upright and strong through my back and not rounding the shoulders. I hope I can break this sodding habit!
After a few good trans on each rein we then moved onto working large round the school and doing some lateral work. We did some shoulder in and Mike got me to first SLOW THE WALK!! Half that speed!! And then to lessen the angle slightly and to really open the inside rein for Antsje to release the neck down but still maintain the SI position AND the slow walk. Very hard for Antsje as it took a lot of core strength to balance – very hard for me as it took a lot of core strength to keep the walk slow and the SI position and NOT to interfere with her neck! Mike says he has nightmares about the friesian neck hahaha! He said although in this position Antsje look to be going a little deep, its where she need to be for the base of her neck to be tied in to the rest of her body and as long as she maintains position and does not rush off then I shouldn’t worry about her head positioning as such right now. Mike also commented that with most other horses working this low would probably start to disconnect the neck but with Antsje it works. One thing we need to get her used to is adopting this ‘released neck’ when you ask her to start lateral work rather than to shorten and bring it back which really does disconnect the base of her neck and keeping the base of her neck tied into her back / HQ’s is so important. It obviously had some effect though as she was snorting and blowing throughout the exercises. We then did shoulder in for a few steps down the long side and then into sitting trot on a 20m circle keeping the connection and the energy created from the shoulder in. Antsje was starting to feel really good and ‘connected’ especially when I got my act into gear when Mike reminded me about ‘Open Shoulders’ Or ‘reins forwards’ or ‘weight the outside toe’ which I found really useful at stabilising me leg! But could I do them all together???? DOH!!

Finally we ran through a repertoire of suppling exercises I can use for helping Antsje step and ‘fold’ her hind legs more………….

Ones we can do!
Shoulder In: Less angle, deeper release of the neck
Travers: Less angle (again!!) and aim for that neck release again
Renvers: Quarters Out – same angle / neck release as for Travers
Walk Pirouette: Ask for a few steps of traver, then straighten then ask for the pirouette. If she gets sticky make it bigger – most important is that she keeps moving forwards.

New stuff!

Half Pass! Ooooo!!! We are getting posh lol!
We did this out of shoulder in and asked her to move over from the outside leg into the direction of the movement. A good little tip Mike gave me was in the movement open the OUTSIDE rein as this ‘anchors’ the shoulders. This worked really well! Difficult for me to explain but if you try it you will ‘feel’ what I mean ;o) The only thing is this can only be done ONCE the bend has been established so works well from Shoulder In.

Reverse Pirouette:
Now we are getting complicated and I need LEFT and RIGHT sewing into my gloves! As mike would say track left, and then say – NO, your other LEFT!! Pmsl!!! So we did renvers down the ¾ line, butt towards the long side – then after a few steps you ask the haunches to rotate around the forehand 180 degs until you are facing the other way and coming back up the ¾ line in travers! GET IT?? I hope so! It’s a very good exercise for mobilising the ¼’s but because its all new and both me and Antsje get all tight it didn’t look to pretty to start with hahaha! But Im sure once we both get a bit more confident then I can ask for a more released neck during the exercise. FROM US BOTH! Hehehe!
Again, Using the outside rein AWAY from the neck helps to anchor the shoulders and bring the ¼’s around the forehand.

I was really pleased with Antsje – we learned a lot of new stuff today and came off on a real HIGH

Friday, 12 February 2010

its hip to be square!!

A fab ride this morning! Not so cold either today so we did a lot of work in walk to start off with which was just as well as she was feeling a bit ‘forwards’ today and I had to really get her listening to my seat as she was rushing a bit and coming against my hand. Did work on straight lines to start off with on both reins and automatically she felt a lot more even today through the reins and through my seat :o) I did a bit of the flexion work that Emma did with Quico on her videos,38906.0.html
Which I thought worked very well for controlling her body and not letting it warp when I ask for a bit of flexion to the inside.
Then I did a few circles slowing the walk right down and then letting her increase the stride length which was helpful with her tendancy to rush this morning! Then going back to straight lines I resurrected an exercise I haven’t done for a while (too long) which is ‘squares’ with a turn on the forehand (TOTFH) at each corner. I found this exercise really useful for keeping a nice even feel throughout her body and the turn on the forehand (TOTFH) just activating the HQ’s a little through each turn. We then went up to trot in the same exercise and although I didn’t do a turn on the forehand I tried to keep the ‘feel’ of this exercise through the corners and found it really helped her step under under and balance for the next straight line.
We did a bit of trot on a straight line (long side) but not a lot because she was just a bit GUNG-Ho this morning and there is no point doing the wall of death! Little madam even popped herself into canter at one point! It did feel good though lol lol!

So all in all not a bad session and I would have seen the time she would have completely dominated me when she is in these moods – but we worked through it and I didn’t get tense and ‘HOLD’ which makes her run, and she did try and listen to my seat although we did have a few ‘moments’ **rolls eyes**!

I feel much better about how she felt though today and tomorrow we have a lesson with MIKE!! WOOHOO!!! BOING BOING!!!!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Forward and Straight!

Or should it be straightforwards?? hahaha!

After realising I had probably overdone the riding after the chiro session I gave Antsje the day off completely yesterday, although I did notice she seemed quite ‘tight’ again through the poll when I was putting her headcollar on. I am beginning to worry I have overdone it to her detriment and also wonder why a bodywork session should put her so out of whack – almost to the point of feeling crooked again?

This morning I rode again but I focussed on forwards and straight work and it was actually quite nice to do some different type of work and also found it very interesting the information it gave me :o) First off when I got on she felt very like she was throwing me to the outside on the right rein and I was starting to panic my last session had put her pelvis out or something!! ARGH!! But I just though, forward and straight and tried to get an even contact into BOTH reins and to imagine my legs being ‘pillars’ which she had to remain straight inbetween. On the right rein I asked for a bit more activity from the outside hind and concentrated on her HQ’s not trailing to the inside – this automatically made her feel more ‘level’ through my seat. On the left rein I had to focus more on her neck being straight as she tends to naturally flex to the inside and trail her HQs to the outside. So I kept more of a feel through the outside rein until I could feel some contact into the inside rein and also using my outside leg to keep the 1/4s straight.

I also did a bit of slowing the walk right down using my seat but still asking for forward and straight – we did get a few wiggles from side to side but in the main she kept pretty straight and maintained it when I asked her to walk more forwards again. Then we went into trot and applied the same kind of aids. To start with she wanted to go a bit quicker than I wanted so I slowed her down a bit – but I did find it harder on straight lines to stop her getting a bit onward bound than when I ride circles. So from a very slow almost ‘counted walk’ which was STRAIGHT I asked her to step into trot and we then got a much slower and balanced trot. I was mindful of plenty of downward trans so she didn’t get tempted to ‘set sail’ but in the main I was very happy with the work and we were able to get some nice ‘straight and even’ strides down the long side.

I also kept away from the outside track and used the inside circuit as she does love to ‘lean’ against the fence lol!! I felt her keep trying to wander back to the track at the beginning but at the end she seemed much more balanced and was happy to stay between the ‘pillars’ of my legs.

So on the left rein the ¼’s swing to the outside and the neck naturally kinks to the inside with the weight on her outside shoulder. On the right rein her ¼’s tend to swing IN and her neck kinks to the outside with the weight more on her inside shoulder. So she is not quite a straight line but more an oblique line lol! Now although the work we have been doing on the circle has been good, it has been harder to identify the weakness on the left rein as she automatically flexes to the inside and therefore it **feels** like you have her in the outside rein and she is not hanging on the inside rein, but in reality she is not taking ENOUGH of the inside rein and she is LEANING on the outside rein and falling out of the circle. Its very subtle but far more apparent on the straight line than it is on the circle!
On the right rein it’s a different story! On the straight t line she feel much straighter on this rein because her neck doesn’t flex so well to this side and its not until you go on a circle that you realise that she falls IN through the shoulder and slightly flexes to the outside and therefore leans on the INSIDE rein.

So……………what does this tell me?? Well actually nothing new! I already had this figured – BUT – it DOES tell me that I need to ride as much straight lines as I do circle work and I DO need to focus on having an EQUAL contact in BOTH reins and an awareness that she is leaning on neither ;o) The best way to judge this at the moment is how she feels on a circle to the right and on a straight line to the left. So all in all a positive session where Ive learned a lot about the benefits of straightening work and why its important to work on both circles AND straight lines!

At the finish Antsje felt very even on both reins and I didn’t get the ‘pushing my seat to the outside’ at the end – so I calmed down a bit hahahah!!!

Oh! And she seemed a lot looser through the poll today too! :o)

Monday, 8 February 2010

MONDAY Morning Blues…….

Early morning rides!! This morning we were having little flurries of snow!! IT WAS COLD! Brrrrrrr! So I made sure that we warmed up thoroughly and trotted fairly early on in a nice long frame concentrating on a nice big swingy stride – which she was happy to oblige!! ;o) We did this on both reins and also had a nice long and loose canter on both reins too which actually felt HUGELY better than on Saturday as did the trot :o) Once warmed up I started to ask for some transitions and again this felt very nice and smooth and she was really obedient to the leg which she can sometimes be a bit slow to react to! So I was feeling very pleased until I decided to put in a few smaller circles not quite 10m prob about 12m and instead of really slowing and stepping under as she was dong so nicely last week she was getting quite rushed and falling out of the circle to make it bigger and easier! Particularly on the right rein I just kept loosing her quarters and they were swinging out of the circle :o( I tried sitting the trot to influence the positioning more, but that didn’t work either and she was starting to stick her nose in the air and ‘scoot’ which is her evasion tactic but she hasn’t done that for a while so I was quite dissapointed in her reverting back to this stressy behaviour. I also noticed that I was ‘leaning in’ on the smaller circles too!! Ggggrrrrrrr!! I think I got a grip of it in the end but maybe im still doing it to a degree and putting her off??
I could tell she just didn’t want to activate her hind enough to be able to keep the trot slow and her body in correct alignment on the circle. So I thought Id do some walk pirouettes to really try and get her hind legs ‘marching’ a little more through the turn. She wasn’t very impressed with this to start off with but once she realised what I was asking her to do she performed a couple of nice 180 degree turns on each rein. Then I did a bit of haunches in on a circle on the right rein and then asked for trot, the trot definitely felt better and we did manage to perform one nice 10m circle without loosing the 1/4s too badly so I left it at that – as I had already run way over time lol!
Which got made worse as she was quite bargy through the gate this morning so I spent 5 mins correcting this behaviour making her halt EXACTLY when I gave the command and wasn’t just wandering off in lala land ***rolls eyes*** Cue frantic rushing around for the rest of the morning – Heaven knows how I made it to work on time! But I did just by the skin of my teeth!

So on reflection, here are my musings – please feel free to comment :0)
1.Has the Chiro work re-aligned her and she just has to re-adapt to this within the work again?
2.Am I making her crooked and she is now straight but it feels wrong to me because my ‘feel’ is outa whack?
3.Maybe the ‘flying friesian trot’ was to blame for her not wanting to flex her hocks as much as she was cos its far easier for her to push not spring?
4.Maybe she is a bit stiff after chiro and weekend work?
5.Im panicing the chiro has messed things up! ARRGGHH!!!


Musings from the weekend……

On Saturday I thought Id try and be clever and set my camera up on the fence and try and get some video!! I thought Id do a bit of lunging / work in hand first and then a bit of ridden.
Well as she hadnt been ridden for a few days she was proper BOINGY and we didn’t really get much loose calm work on the lunge :o( In fact I think she spent more time airbourne than on the floor lol!! Perhaps best I didn’t get on straight the way!! One thing I did notice is she was quite ‘on the shoulders’ particularly on the right rein where she was looking to the outside on the circle and wieghting her inside shoulder. I brought her in and did some girivolta work with her concentrating on corssing the behinds and moving the shoulders to the outside. I put her back onto a circle again and we did finish with some ‘stretchy trot’ which I rewarded with click n treat :o)
I stopped the camera, and restarted it and got on to ride. She was VERY forward but at least she was also attentive to my seat so although she was boingy she didn’t try and tram off at a million miles an hour lol!
After a few circles etc I could feel that she was struggling with the flexion to the right again and I felt as if we had gone back several weeks in our progress. We also did a bit of canter and if felt absoloutely AWFUL on the right with her wanting to look to the outside and dump on the inside shoulder falling in terribly :o( She was very boingy though and chucked in a couple of bucks which ended up with me loosing a stirrup lol! Im not sure if the bcuks were down to a bit of WHOOPEE or if she couldn’t organise her legs / body?? I was worrying that the chiro work had caused a problem – or maybe im crooked and putting her ‘out’ and she hasn’t got a problem at all! Or maybe there is something kinked in her body ‘normally’ and it became more obvious again after being manipulated back into alignment? Im not sure really but its made me a bit concerned!
I did my normal ‘straightening’ exercises – riding with the reins in my outside hand and working the shoulders / hind legs by touching her with my schooling whip with the inside hand. Finally she ‘let go’ and came into the outside rein and therfore released the inside rein of her own accord :o) We went back up to trot and although it was better she was no where as consistent and kept loosing balance / inside flexion. I worked on both reins in a similar manner and by the end of the session she had definitely improved but I was left feeling a bit discouraged and a little confused by the sudden setback.
Oh! And about the video! I wasnt very clever and it seems my camera wont video without the button being held down. I got 30 secs of my arm in each clip and that was it!!! DOH!

Today I went into the school for about 10 mins and worked on the girivolta circle with the one handed riding again :o) Today it was much better and I was pleased she seemed to remember the work we did yesterday. I had a brief trot on each rein and again she was more consistent so I left it at that and we went for a hack out :o)
Out on the hack I concentrated on her keeping a nice long frame with swinging strides and an even contact down BOTH reins. I was pleased that she seemed a lot straighter than the last time we hacked out so I definitely think she is improving and getting stronger.
On the way home we did a bit of trotting and in her eagerness on the homeward bound journey she went into ‘flying friesian trot’ I probably shouldn’t have let her get so onward bound and no doubt I will pay for it, but in all honesty she just seemed so thrilled to ‘trot out’ and I was so thrilled that she was thrilled that I let her lol! It truly is quite spectacular and its damn near the closest thing to flying on horseback other than being astride pegasus hahaha!!! The thing is as I looked down her neck, it was very reminscent of how it looks when you are sitting in a carriage and the horse is doing their spanking carriage trot! I really do think she would LOVE to be hitched up and be free to really trot out in true friesian style. Maybe one day…………………

The Chiro came.........

The Chiro came…….
to do a routine check on Antsje as I havent had her checked out for over a year :o( Finances just havent allowed it although Im always very thorough in keeping a check on her myself and if I thought there was a real problem I would have had her checked out and not eaten that week lol!!
The lady said that antsje was in a very good state albeit very slightly weaker on the left and loved her to bits and wanted to take her home!!
1. her pelvis was a little bit out on the right
2. there was a couple of tweaks that were made just behind her withers
3. there was a deep adjustment made just above her left shoulder
4. A couple of minor adjustments to her neck on the right in the C1 area.
So im glad I had her checked over and the lady said for saying she hasn’t been checked for over a year she was very impressed with her condition. Oh she just LURVED her movement! Another friesian convert Mwhha haaa haaaa!!!
Recommended not to ride for a couple of days so Ill wait to see how she feels at the weekend!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Return of the Super Trot!

Had a REALLY good session this morning! Antsje wasn’t quite so intent on rushing today and that ALWAYS makes a difference :o) PLUS I forsook 5mins of riding and did a little girivolta work in hand before I got on, I think this MUST make a difference as we always seem to have a much better session ridden afterwards.

So after the poll flexions, which incidentally were better today, and the in-hand stuff I finally got on lol! I kept to work on a circle and did a little leg yield then straightened and repeated again a few times. Then I concentrated on gathering her up a little by tap tapping her HQ’s but holding her with my seat, this was easier today as she wasn’t to rushy so she still kept relatively soft in hand. Then we went into trot, left rein first, and it was MUCH MUCH better! She learns so quickly it makes my life so much easier! Well when I get it right anyhow lol! On this rein she does tend to back off the contact a little so I made sure I sent her forward and concentrated on her neck being straighter. Also after yesterdays session I remembered to add transitions into the mix and they were actually quite good! A little progressive but id rather her go down into a soft trans by allowing her time to step under and balance than try and make it to quick and her trail her HQs and brace her neck / back.
We changed onto the right rein and repeated the same work and again I was really impressed with the trot – on this rein she is the opposite and tends to go a tad quicker and leans on the hands for support, so I really concentrated on lifting my hands slightly when I felt her leaning and using my position and a smaller circle to encourage her to slow down a bit! Again we did walk / trot trans and this was also very helpful in getting her off the forehand and stepping under more.

I was also far more mindful of MY position and focussed on a raised ribcage and trotting ‘on my knees’ and I do think that this helped today too.
And to finish we did the same work on the canter as we did yesterday morning – a nice relaxed stretchy canter which was in fact a lot better today because she was more contained so it had more ‘lift’ to it although I wasn’t necessarily asking for it ;o)

So again, after musing about the ride on the way to work, the next thing I need to work on is getting a more immediate reaction in the upward transitions but maintaining the softness and the engagement of the hind leg rather than her bombing off at a million miles an hour lol! Always something to work on!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Expectations = dissapointment!

Another early morning ride this morning! But before I rode i decided to do the little poll flexions and again she wasnt quite as free as normal.....
I worked on her until I got a few definate flips of the crest then we went out to the school. No time for in-hand work this morning and whether it was that or the cold mornings or the floodlights we didnt get the same kind of work today.
It wasnt bad - not bad at all, but now Ive felt that 'super trot' its hard to not get greedy for it! which of course is counter-productive and its inevitable im not going to achieve that kind of excellence every ride, particularly in these very early stages. So I was quite proud of myself that I didnt get all angst and frustrated and tunnel visioned about it all as I once would have done. And as part of me STILL wanted too lol! But I was quite pragmatic about it and took a detached 'trainer' approach and thought how I could best work towards more engagement.
We did some travers / shoulder in on a circle and we did some rein back before trot transitions to try and encourage the flexing of the hind - and it did work to a certain extent as we had moments of some very nice trot work but it was just inconsistent today as she was rushing slightly. What was nice was although the right rein wasnt as spectacular as yesterday, it was still GOOD in relation to the last few weeks and the Left rein WAS better than yesterday! So all in all it was a positive session.

I did forget to say that at the weekend I put my stirrups down a hole as I feel I get a better response from a longer leg when I warm up without stirrups. I had them a bit shorter to help with MY balance but I think Ive improved enough to let them down a hole :-) Now Ive definately felt a stretch in my hops and thighs but didnt feel any less balanced over the weekend :-)

Today, towards the end I felt my back aching a bit nothing awful but enough to suddenly become aware of it. I checked out my position and I think because she was rushing a bit today I was starting to fall into the trap of tipping forwards and bracing my legs Ggggggggrrrrrrrr!!!! So immediately I thought about rising 'on my knees' and stretching my midsection 'up' and the trot improved instantly! DOH! I MUST be more mindful of my position! Also after mulling the ride over on the way to work I think instead of concentrating on re-creating that 'SUPER TROT' Iwould have been better served tohave concentrated on transitions, particularly the downward ones to get her back 'with me' rather than letting her get a bit onward bound from too longer bursts of trot. DAMN! I need to be a bit quicker on the uptake - it would make it a whole lot easier hahaha!!!

So at the finish I decided to let her have a bit of a canter - i didnt have time to 'school' the canter as such, but I just let her canter a 20m circle, concentrating on her establishing a consistent rhythm, a nice stretch over the back and as much as possible to have that stepping out on the circle feeling that I doin trot. Obviously this is harder as she isnt as balanced in canter - but I do think that if she can establish a nice relaxed canter that is supple through the back and reaching into the hand it will be the foundation for improving the canter in the future.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Reinback Revelations


Didn’t have chance for a hack out today but did get time for a ride in the arena. I started again with the work in hand, then got on and did the concentrated work on the circles again. And AGAIN we got that beautiful right trot with a really nicely activated inside hind and her seeking the contact forward. We again had a lovely slow balanced trot with such BOINGY steps and a lifted back. IT FEELS ACE!
Tried the left rein again and it was better but still lacking that real elastic and ‘lifted’ feel of the right rein. I was again trying to think of ways to activate that left hind – so I tried some reinback! Well this was an eye opener as she was finding it very difficult to remain straight in reinback on this rein with her 1/4s keep drifting to the inside of the school. So does this mean her right leg is pushing more than her left and swinging the HQ’s in? I really had to keep the outside rein to keep her neck straighter and flick her inside hind with the schooling whip to bring her back straight. Very interesting……
But as I started to get the reinback straighter I could feel her become straighter in the walk forwards also. So then I asked for reinback to trot! To really try and get her pushing that inside hind – I let her go straight for a few steps then put her on a small circle making sure she had her neck straighter and was bent more through her body. We did get a few much better steps in the end and I praised her lots and left it at that.

Now after Ive finished riding I always do these little poll flexions as it does seem to prevent a build up of tension in this area and release anything that has built up during the session. Just lately she has been so soft doing this, always a little stickier on the right but barely anything recently. Now imagine my surprise after this session that she wasn’t very mobile at ALL!! Not on either rein! After a few minutes of rocking her head side to side we began to get that ‘flip’ on the left side but really struggled on the right. So in the end I did what I did originally to get this area mobile and that is to bend her to the right on a small circle, put my hand on her poll and make sure she flexed from this point and then ask her to move around me on a small circle while moving her shoulders AWAY from me. This she found hard for a few steps and either wanted to turn her head out to move her shoulders over or keep flexed but step INTO me! But suddenly she got it, and down she went into a relaxed bend nicely chewing on the bit YAY! So then I tried the little flexions again and hey presto a nice flip to each side. I wonder why it had locked her up though?? Maybe cos she is stiffer through this side of the body?
Anyhow, I shall be interested to see how she feels next ride to the right and to the left.

We have LIFT OFF!!!! :-D

Had a FANTASTIC riding experience this week which has helped put some more pieces of the puzzle together.

As it was the weekend I had time to do some work in hand before I rode – I really do think it makes a difference :-D We did some girivolta work, some leg yield from the centre line to the long side and also a bit of reinback / walk / reinback transitions. For some reason she find it harder to keep straight on the left rein than the right.
The last few weeks I have pondering the left rein – I have figured out what was causing the issues on the right rein and have found solutions that work and I can definitely see the improvements. But on the left, where she flexes easier, in fact I have realised now overflexes to the inside I couldn’t really nail WHAT I need to improve on this rein as it does feel pretty good but not quite there……..

So on Saturday we did the inhand work and then I got on. Once in the saddle I kind of repeated the in hand work, doing girivolta and then bringing her straight onto a circle but still trying to maintain that leg yielding feeling of her pushing from the inside hind into my outside rein maintaining the inside bend from my leg. She was feeling pretty good actually so I picked my moment to ask her into trot and BAM out of nowhere I got this flipping FANTASTIC trot!! Never felt her use herself in that way before and MY GOD did it feel good! REALLY good – I cant begin to explain the feeling it gave me but boy is it addictive hahahah!

I really feel that by working on this genuine submission to the inside bend it has unlocked her inside hind leg somehow – but not only that because she is soft through the poll it has allowed the energy to go right THROUGH and the difference in her back was amazing! Now I would say she HAS been working through her back and even now I hold to that statement, but I don’t actually think she has been fully relaxed and there has been some kind of bracing / tension along the energy line of HQ’s to Hand until now.
Its difficult to know if it was the relaxed poll that allowed the hind leg / back or if it was the engagement of the hindleg that gave proper use of the back! In Antsje’s case I rather suspect it was the first ;-) Tension in the poll has always been an issue and I think finally we are starting to see it melt away.

So, back to the transition – as I asked her to go up into trot I could feel her take the weight from behind and step into trot but as she did so her back was just ‘so full’ and ‘bouyant’ it really lifted me up!! But not only that she also sought the contact with an open throatlash area and inside flexion. Now this is a BIG thing for her because she always struggles with that tiny bit of ‘nose out’ reach and can often curl back as a result. The trot was very slow but had far more OOOOOOOMPH than her usual trot and the suspension was unreal lol! So although in some way it was easier to ride because her back was so lifted and carrying, I really had to work hard to keep MY balance as I didn’t want to mess hers up lol!! It just felt DIVINE! I was so flippin pleased with her she got herself a whole heap of treats

So then we changed onto the left rein and I really struggled to get the same feeling out of the trot. So I finally figure out that on the left rein she is too flexed on the inside and is not engaging her HQ’s really at all! And when I do ask for a bit more engagement it becomes a bit like pogo stick steps and doesn’t really come forwards into the hand – not the deep activated steps that flowed through the whole of her body on the right rein!
So I really started to try and FEEL how her body wasn’t straight and what I needed to do to try and remedy this. First off, she has kind of tricked me with the inside flexion! Although she is a lot better at this ‘leg yield’ feeling as in stepping over and feeling her in the outside rein – I had kind of missed the point that she was barely IN the inside rein! Just like I struggle with the right rein in being barely in outside! I had got so fixated with the concept of the inside leg to outside rein that I it had just not dawned on me that although she shouldn’t be LEANING on the inside rein, she did actually have to take some weight into it in order for her body to be straight BIG DOH! So I spent some time asking for her neck to become straighter on this rein and she found it quite difficult. I could almost feel her HQs warping to the outside – in fact complete opposite to the issues on the right rein – which would make sense wouldn’t it? Good Lord I am slow on the uptake! So with a straighter neck but a little inside flexion I started to ask her to take more of a ‘travers’ position with her hind quarters to get some bend though the lumbar region which she had been resisting. I could tell she was finding this more difficult but once she got the idea I could feel her take a deeper step with the inside leg.
I also then had a play with walk pirouettes on this rein – at least I think I did!!! I need to get Mike to check if im doing this correct lol! But it felt like it was a good exercise in getting her to control her HQ’s and flex through the body to the inside.
I let her walk on a long rein and left at that for the day.