Connection & Stretching

George Williams
Teaching How to Develop a Steady Contact:

Catherine Haddad
Teaching proper contact and riding basics of young horse:

Adrienne Lyle
How To Fix Busy Hands:

Nicholas Fyffe
Straightness & Connection:

Nicholas Fyffe
Working on Reaching for the Bit:

Sally Amsterdamer
Stretching the Top Line to Develop Strength and Suppleness
http://www.horsecollaborative.com/stretching-the-top-line-to-develop-strength-and-suppleness/

Dr. Ulf Moller
Stretching For The Four Year Old:

Dr. Ulf Moller
Training the Three Year Old, Getting Contact and Bend:

Monday, Not Monday

I’ve been trying to write this post all week. There’s just not enough time to get everything done. Actually, I was going to do one post a day, but I couldn’t even get one post done this week. haha

I found out Joy doesn’t like being saddled from the off side. It didn’t even occur to me she’d have an issue with it, but when I went to toss the pad on from the off side she just about jumped out of her skin. Ha!

I have video. It’s long. It’s boring. It shows how much my riding has degraded. ¬†ūüėČ

Video was taken this past Sunday. Notice we only get the left canter lead.

On Monday, I got three strides of stretchy trot out of Joy. I was shocked!! ¬†This is the first time I’ve gotten her to really stretch her neck almost all the way out¬†at the trot. Occasionally (rarely) she’ll give me a little bit, usually she’s just a knot of tension, so this was a big deal when it happened. She’s gotten so she’ll reach down at the walk, but I’ve been really worried about ever being able to get it at the trot.

I rode Joy¬†briefly Tuesday. Mainly walk work. I wasn’t feeling very good. ¬†We got three strides of beautifully bent shoulder-in. It felt amazing. I immediately hopped off. I figured there was no where else to go but downhill after that. Of course when I rode her Wednesday… couldn’t get anything to even remotely resemble a shoulder-in. ¬†It didn’t matter what I tried, it wasn’t going to happen.

On Wednesday we cantered. And we picked up the correct lead.
It was not pretty.

We have difficulty with the right lead. ¬†Joy’s butt is chronically canted left and I had to basically pull her head left, and then ask for the canter.

Like I said… not pretty.

Honestly, I was just pleased that I had the guts to ask for the canter. I don’t feel as secure with the bareback pad as I’d like. It’s fine for tooling around on, but if Joy tries some crazy stuff I’m going off in a heart beat. And I’ve seen Joy pull some crazy stuff when I ask her to canter on the lunge line. ¬†That image plays through my head every time I think about asking her to canter when I’m on her back.

She has yet (*knock on wood*) to try anything naughty while I’m on her. I’m not sure why I psych myself out so much over nothing.

Wednesday was also the first time Joy shied hard. Sometimes she makes me think of those cutter/cow horses. Anyway, before I knew what was going on, we had some how gotten a foot closer to the ground and we were facing the other direction. And just as quick everything was back to normal.

Oh, I nearly forgot. I took Joy for another ride around the outside of the pasture and a bit through the field, all by herself, and she did great. She got a little anxious, briefly, here and there, but nothing major. We passed some “scary” objects too. Things that used to make Joy really nervous. She didn’t even care.

Yesterday I rode Joy¬†over to the neighbors house and¬†(drum roll….)¬†home without any issues. Previously, I could ride Joy over, but once we got there I couldn’t leave unless I hopped off and led her home on foot. But yesterday, I was able to ride her all the way home. It did take a little bit of persuasion to get her away from the neighbors barn, but it was just a wiggle of my legs, and once we were about 15 feet away Joy started happily walking back to my place.

I can’t believe how much I lucked out finding this pony. She might not have been quite¬†what I was looking for, but she’s definitely what I needed right now. She’s always so much fun to work with, and she’s so happy to be doing whatever you’re doing… I’m really thrilled that I got her.

Joy’s Update

I haven’t really been riding much. For a while there the temps were high and the humidity would drown you. All of the animals slogged through it, but no one wanted to do anything more than absolutely necessary to survive.

This week the temps were much more reasonable. I think it’d been two weeks since I’d ridden Joy, so I longed her first. I’m really glad I did. While longing I was wondering if I had the balls to actually get on her. This is the first time I’ve ever seen Joy have some spunk. And by some I mean, a lot. There was a lot of bucking, pogo bouncing, bolting, and a couple of full height rears thrown in for good measure (I wasn’t on her).

It took me a bit to get her listening to me, but she finally came to her senses. It probably had more to do with the fact Joy is a fat, tubby, out of shape, lard ball currently. She was winded after only a few minutes. Haha.

I hesitantly climbed on…..

She was fine. Hyped up, but she never did anything dangerous while I was on her, and she quickly settled down once we were moving.

This is probably bad to say, but I was secretly pleased to see she had some spunk to her. She’s been so laid back and quiet that I was starting to wonder if she had any real fire to her.

Yup. She does.

The past several rides have just been trail rides with the neighbors. No arena work. She’s been doing fantastic on the trails. She’ll lead or follow. Nothing really gets her upset. She’ll walk over or under anything. And boy is she sure-footed. She’s like a cat.

Today I did some arena work with her. I was pleasantly surprised with how she did (considering my balance isn’t the greatest, and the footing is uneven). We even cantered a little.

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I haven’t cantered her much. I was trying to get her balance better, and her brakes a bit better. I think we’re close enough to start addressing the canter now. She’s still not straight, nor is she using her back, but she’s a little more balanced now.

My next goal is to get Joy comfortable trail riding alone. Today we finished up our ride with a nice walk up Fellah’s Lane (a wooded path along the long side of the pasture) and back down the neighbors side to come home. It’s far enough that you can’t see home, or any other horses, but not so far I can’t walk home on foot if needed. Heh. Joy did well though. She was really nervous heading out, which made me nervous, so I sang stupid songs to keep me breathing. And after a minute Joy settled down and started enjoying the walk. Over all, it went fantastic, and I think she’ll be ready for longer trail rides by herself soon. Which is necessary, because the neighbors don’t ride in the winter, so she’ll have to go it alone if we want to see anything but the side yard for the next 6 months.

….

Lazy horses!!

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My husband and I were unloading hay this morning and this is what the horses were doing.

….

This whole dressage thing is really starting to seem like an unattainable dream. I need lessons. I can’t afford them. At this point, my riding has deteriorated so badly that to even claim I’m a dressage rider seems like a misrepresentation.

We’re all over the map with issues to address. I don’t mess with the head except to ask for left or right flexion. She’ll either shove it against her chest or trot around like a giraffe.

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The above I don’t mind. At least she’s not behind the contact.

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The ducking behind the contact frustrates me!!

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She had a short moment where she almost seemed to meet the hand. But I lost it after a few strides. I still don’t like the neck curl there, but when I pushed my hands forward she stretched down briefly.

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We started shoulder-fore a little. She didn’t quite understand, and my balance was crappy. There were a lot of bobbles. She doesn’t bend very well. It’s better then it was, but still a long ways to go.

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Not sure what we’re doing here^^, but I’m making a face….

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Not quite bent around the inside leg here.

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Haunches in went well for two strides, then promptly fell apart. Haha.

On the plus side, she’s beginning to figure out the outside rein some. She isn’t immediately fighting me the second I use it, and occasionally she’ll let me rebalance her with it (if we’re not too off balance at that point).  She’s got “move off the leg” down pat for leg yields and I can straighten her some with the outside rein.  She’s sort of getting the idea of bend, and she tries to give me as much as she can.

Her transitions are getting better. She’s stopped fighting me about forward (as much). She balks less, takes less convincing, and we spend less time fighting about it.

Her transitions down are getting better. She stopped diving onto the bit and shoving her chin to the ground while bearing down on the bit. A few times today she let me push her into contact and she made the downward trans without fighting. A few times she curled. And a few times she balanced on the bit.

She’s still not very happy with the bit… I’m not sure whether to try a new bit, or give her some more time. The only time she opens her mouth, or chomps on the bit, is when I’m working on contact with her. Loose rein, or casually navigating turns, she never shows any issues with the bit. I may try to find a french link or something double jointed…  hmm.. not sure…

That’s the update. I should be further along in her training, but honestly, with the move and all the work both houses have needed (plus overtime at work), I’m shocked we’re getting anywhere at all.

The horses seem happy, so who cares. ūüôā

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Cloud of funk

I’ve been in a serious funk the past few weeks. You know those times where it seems like nothing goes right?
Yeah. That seems to be my August.

Last week it was low 50 degree’s and felt like winter was impending, this week it’s 90’s and so humid you can swim through it.

I hate this weather.

We got an offer on our old house.
* The purchaser decided not to get a home inspection – Yay.
* He can’t get an FHA appraisal without a home inspection – Boo.

Zeus wanted to help me in the pasture, but he knows he’s not allowed in there. He came crawling out on his belly and refused to go back to the yard. So instead, he hung out in the wheel barrow while I finished putting out hay for the horses.

I thought he’d freak out, but he seemed happy to supervise from his elevated position.

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And Joy has been an absolutely amazing trail horse. Our last trail ride, she lead for about 2/3’s of the ride. At one point something scared her (something darted beside her), and she jumped, took one big stride forward, and immediately went back to a quiet and relaxed walk.
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For the most part, when she spooks, she does a little jump in place and then settles right back down. The absolute worst I’ve had her do is jump and take two strides forward. But after that… right back to attentively calm.

If nothing else, she’ll be an amazing trail horse in no time flat. She walks over giant logs, walks up to scary stuff, has had tree limbs brush her sides and her belly and never reacts, and weird footing doesn’t bother her either. She’s very careful with her feet and never trips. AND, she never once hollers for Ava, or shows any sign of being buddy sour when out.

I try to do a little training on the trails for contact acceptance, leg aids, and a touch of straightness. She still gets agitated by contact. She doesn’t really stretch into it except for a rare moment here and there. Her go-to defense is to brace her poll and stiffen her neck. Occasionally I can convince her to relax into it, but it’s rare.

Her leg yields are coming along fantastically.

She’s getting more and more bendable through the ribs in both directions (more equal). She’s no longer a board.

She’s starting to really get seat cues and half-halt of the seat, but God forbid you touch her mouth at the same time. Immediately braces and pulls on you. I’ve found flexing slowly left then right helps, but I can never remember to try that when she initially braces. It always takes me a minute to go “Oh! Flex her poll. Duh!”

Even then, more times than not her next trick is to curl. Which I haven’t found a good answer to yet. More forward doesn’t do much. Lift the reins and she curls more.

I end up just keeping a steady light contact and trying to squeeze her into a more open frame. It’s really hit or miss at this point. It agitates her greatly, so I tend to drop it and come back to it several times in a ride.

The first few times we navigated hilly sections she would only go down it like a crab, sideways. Now she let’s me keep her straight and more balanced toward the back. I was pleased with that because she’s stopped trying to bolt to the bottom. She just casually walks down them now.

I can just start to elevate her trot with my seat. Like, instead of a flat forward, I can shorten her stride and get a bit more push upward instead of outward. I was playing with it. It’s nothing significant at this point, but eventually I’d like to try for half-steps once I can get the contact thing fixed. I’m trying not to rush it, but at the same time I want to at least introduce it in tiny pieces. She seems to naturally be inclined to sit, and I think it’d be pretty easy to get good half-steps later.

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Jessies leg has mended pretty well (I had just fly sprayed her in the pic). There’s still a lump, but she moves okay for her age. No signs of pain from it. She’s a bit creaky when she walks, but I’m surprised she gets around as well as she does for being over 30.

She looks good, doesn’t she? I’ve never seen a horse this old look this good. She must have great genes. Other than upping her grain and adding a small bit of fat supplement (plus free choice hay), I haven’t changed her care any. She’s just naturally aging well.

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I don’t have a recent pic of Ava. She’s been very unhappy with the abundance of horse flies. She refuses to leave her stall. On the plus side, the cooler weather has meant she can start wandering the pasture more since the horse flies tend to go hide then.

I took her the other day for a short trail ride and she did great. I was worried. I hadn’t ridden her in several weeks. I thought she’d buck me off or something.

She didn’t.

It was fun! I’d like to take her out more, but the bombers nail her the second she leaves the barn. And all hell breaks loose when that happens. I’ll have to time our rides for cooler days, or ride early morning or late evenings. Luckily she loves winter, so we can get in some good trail rides the other 9 months of the year.

That’s the update. Thanks for reading!!