Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Face Full of Nature!

I opted for a hack :)

Since it the sun was trying to peek through the grey, I groomed him outside. Got lots of dust in my eyes for my trouble, and the curry comb actually got stuck in the mud on his backside *lol*

Quadi was in a most agreeable mood today :) We saw an old lady walking her barking dog and he had a stop and a think, but once I felt him less tense I asked him on and off we went.

Once we arrived at The Loop, having bounced our way through the forest, me grinning the whole way, we met a dog walker. Sadly she was along the track we wanted to canter. So I stopped and shouted to invite her past. Instead she about turned with her four dogs and went back along the track. So Quadi and I stood and watched her until they were well onto the next section and off we went. He was fab! He wasn't too gung-ho, went off my leg when asked, slowed to my whistle and responded to a small (but not sharp!) check on the rein when I felt him try to level out.

We walked to the next track I wanted to canter to and the dog-walker was up in front. Quadi was feeling a little fruity so I decided to walk this bit.

And we went around again. This time I walked him at the part we had cantered at 10 minutes before and let him have a good canter up the track we previously walked. I had a little trouble establishing brakes this time but he was fine. Took a little moment to settle but we marched back through the forest on a slightly different route from the one we had ventured out on.

I let him pick his paths and he seemed to pick lots with low, spiky branches! Hence my getting a gob full of nature and twigs, pleh!

I've been having a very crappy couple of days but was much cheerier after riding my pony, he was exactly the horses I needed him to be today. I'm having a day or two away from the yard and life in general in order to sort my head out, and hopefully I can be the trainer he needs me to be again. I'm responsible for my own mood and feelings but sadly they're somewhat out of whack. I was feeling grumpy that I'd have to miss out on a couple of horsey days but then it occured to me that I couldn't guarantee it would be a positive experience for either of us, in my current humour.

He was a doll for me today though :)

Monday, 26 April 2010

Friends again

Whilst I am still very achey I landed on the idea of lunging instead of hacking or schooling. My moving around on the ground with Quadi was better than being on his back.

He went really nicely, as I suspected he preferred to bend to the outside of the circle rather than work harder to bend in. But I was lunging off the headcollar and he did try whenever I asked. But he slipped back to an outside bend time and again. Maybe some work with the bungee again this week, for a short time?

I have to say though, he knows his job and he stays on a good circle until I move him along the long side with my body, or move the circle to another area of the school. I let him warm up on both reins, left first, and then we had walk, trot and canter on both, and asked for some extension to his trot strides down a long side. We finished with some close-in work at walk, I kept him bent inside and used the handle of the whip on his side where my leg would go when required. I simply kept the whip handle pointed at him until I required it, then I moved it forward and touched him with as little pressure as I could get away with, until I could see him lifting through his loin and bending around it. I guess about 30 seconds of this on each rein. Not a lot.

He was also responding very promptly to my body and voice, and I could see him concentrating hard on me. His back also looked flat and 'up' throughout. Still can't see those abs engaging but he was a lot better than yesterday that's for sure! He didn't look so bloated today, it seems worse when the grass doesn't grow but Kate suggested perhaps any sudden fluctuation could be the cause?

As an additional reward to his after-work sweetie, I let him have a good old roll in the school. It's great to see him well enough to roll right over his back now:

Tomorrow I'll do a bit of schooling and precede that with some in-hand. Unless the notion of a hack takes me of course...

Sunday, 25 April 2010


Firstly, yesterday's result! I ran the race in 32 minutes and 36 seconds :) I'm so pleased to have finished in under 35 minutes. I can't find any photos but that's probably no bad thing!

I was half-woman, half-mattress this morning! Pain in my ankle woke me up in the middle of the night. But I wasn't too bad, everything hurt evenly which I was happy about, not too much squintness.

I took Quadi out for a hack today, since we were in the school yesterday. I soaked his front feet in warm water and Hibuscrub too. Well, on the second attempt. He took great offense to the first booting attempt...

As I rode him off the yard, I saw that Coffee and Fin were still around the gate. So Quadi stopped. I got him going again but he repeated this over and over all the way down the drive. Since we were heading out on the same road hack as the last time, I didn't want to start this badly.

At the end of the road there were people in their garden, Quadi took offense to them too.

But we set off, and then he planted because he saw some horses. I got really very cross, ended up giving him a Pony Club boot to snap him out of it and show him I was very serious about the hack, and growled at him. Perhaps not the softest way to deal with him but I know he can hack perfectly well on his own and this was getting boring.

We strode out into a big punchy trot, which was nice and I was pleased he was forward-going. And he continued in the same vein. I don't mind him having a good look at things but dribbling along and then taking offense when I try to control a situation is becoming tiresome. Especially today, I didn't have the physical or mental wherewithall.

I got to the hill and let him have a blast up it, he actually didn't go as fast as I'd thought, so I was pleased to have some brakes. Here is the hill, we started cantering at the white house on the bottom right-hand side:

Since he was not in the most agreeable mood I decided not to go along the 'live' road, and instead double-back and head home the way we came. He was fab and we had another punchy trot home.

I strapped him after work and turned him out rugless.

Still feeling very tired so just jotting everything down before a bath and then bed!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

All The Queen's Horses

I've got my feet up this evening. At lunchtime I participated in a 5k race around Balmoral! Haven't run in two months due to my squiffy ankle, and barely started jogging before that anyway. So my race prep consisted of eating lots of carbs last night and this morning :)

I was running with Kate. We set off together but she peed off really quickly. I tried to keep up but thought better of it, the faster-than-expected start went straight to my legs *lol* As we doubled back along the first straight, there were Highland mares with foals at foot, running their fenceline..."Anything you can do we can do better!" They looked spectacular, and there were more ponies up the hill (which I walked due to a stitch!), again running the fence. They were gorgeous! Puddingy apple bottoms, looking rather well after winter. I must admit I could have stood and gawked, I felt refreshed and pushed on. I walked another couple of times, only for half a minute or so. My finish was 30-something minutes and I recovered reasonably well so quite pleased with myself considering I only decided to run that morning!

Being such a beautiful part of the world, I'd love to have taken photos, even on the drive. The morning started rather grey, brightening up as we left, but I managed a shot of the Queen's summer residence:

After a rest and lunch I went up to ride Quadi. I didn't want to do much but felt we both required a spell in the school. The pony was still turned out in the field the school is set into, so Quadi started off being a bit of a pain in the backside. Nothing drastic, but apparently he couldn't comply whilst someone was grazing nearby.

I worked straight into our circles and halts. I struggled to keep the bend and softness whilst halting and when I made attempts to regain it, he decided to turn on his forehand or walk backwards rather than comply. I was soft as soft could be too :( On the right rein he was hard against me, not even quick gives and retakes of one rein helped. Shallow loops were ok on left bend on each rein.

Just as I was thinking about just getting off and leaving him be, the pony was caught and magically I had a soft horse in halt whose head I could place with the merest of hinting flexions. Strange boy *lol* Perhaps my focus shifted...

From that point, when I asked for right bend I was met with a micro-resistance and then correct bend. And halts were stationary. A little trot on the left rein was nice and it was easy enough to control his pace with my seat, and still maintain his softness to the hand. I gave him a little push along the longside and the second time he offered canter. I just gave him a light seat and let him go half a loop softly before returning to trot, then walk, then halt, all without stargazing :)

On the right rein he was more buzzy so I returned to walk and shoulder in on a circle.

Funny thing I'm finding is whilst on the right rein, he is obviously very stiff but my contact is a lot more pliable and consistent. On the left he is so soft he can duck in behind the bridle but my rein contact is baggy, intermittent and lacking finesse. I daren't take more of a hold than I have to though. He's also responding mostly to my voice aid (a whistle) for halt. I guess I need to use this whilst giving the aids and gradually turn down the volume of the whistle until it's not required?

Rather a clipped post as I'm sleepy, think I'll be in my bed early tonight!

Friday, 23 April 2010

I LOLed!

Very stupidly, I did not heed Kate's comments 24 hours previously about today's weather. It rained on and off, mostly on, from this morning. I asked her to bring in Quadi to dry off about an hour before I arrived. When I reached the yard I found this mudlark in Quadi's stable:

They're not terribly clear mobile photos, they really don't do justice to how disgusting he looks! I laughed, very loudly! It's a fairly dreich night so I wasn't too fussed at not riding. Quadi clearly felt he needed an extra layer of insulation! And yes, you can see lumps of poop on his backside. I chucked him back out after a feed, it'll get the loose hair out of his coat if nothing else :D

Despite slipping in the shower this morning and having to pull some naked ninja moves in the shower to avoid landing on our sharp-edged taps, my back isn't so bad today.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Back Pain

Mine that is :(

Quadi hadn't been ridden since the weekend until yesterday. I was in, frankly, a foul mood from physical pain. Abdominal cramps and all of a sudden my pelvis feels as out of whack as it's ever been.

I decided to hack. We went straight off the yard and had a lovely hack. Save getting strong in canter, which was ill-advised as I was not feeling terribly buoyant or coherant in my riding. He stag-leapt the second ditch on the way home, luckily I had to foresight to anchor myself in before he did so!

Tonight Kate rode him for me, it was really useful to see him being piloted by a more consistent rider, and also to admire how much he's improving.

Kate hasn't ridden him since we got the new saddle, but had previously tried him in the same model of saddle last year. She said he felt really fab, especially when he really started working properly. We even got a glimpse of some lengthened strides, really nice rhythm and uphill. A really positive experience for him today :D

I was sore just standing to watch, but hopefully I'll be feeling a little less buckled tomorrow!

Monday, 19 April 2010

No Time

Despite leaving work early I had no time to do anything, not even soak his feet. Just feed and hay and out again, I'm sure he won't mind.

Day off for me tomorrow so we'll crack on back in the school, weather permitting!

ETA: I almost forgot what I wanted to write about. Quadi's behaviour yesterday and his recent grumpiness (but I wouldn't say bullying) with the baby would suggest there's been a change in the grass. He chases the other two off the hay piles until he has ascertained which is biggest for him, and he's been stuffing himself as soon as he gets in. I suspect there's been a flush in sugar levels without there being any more fibre. More sugar coarsing through him without the satisfaction of any more fibre. I guess it's muzzle time, although the grass isn't very long at all.

I do hate this bit, those pleading guilt-inducing looks from the paddock in his Hannibal-type mask!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Half pass in reverse anyone?

I don't mean reversing aids, I mean half pass in reverse gear! Much swearing from the pilot on this hack. I shall spare you that much though!

I knew it would perhaps not be the smoothest of runs when he was hat-dancing in his stall. Frantically snatching and hay, jigging, etc. He did settle down eventually.

We set off well too. Right off the yard, down to the end of the road. Quadi had a stop and think at the end of the track. Yes, I did actually want him to head up the closed road, just us two, gave him a squeeze and off we went. He was spooky and looky, blood a little up, but no bother really.

We hit our first bump when he decided that he couldn't possibly ever ever ever cross the threshold of The House With The White-Walled Entrance. He bimbled to a halt. I find that letting him stand and look is less stressful than immediately asking for a reaction. When I feel him less tense I ask him forwards. This has worked so far, but he felt that there were tigers just beyond the driveway and I was wholly unreasonable to ask him to go forwards. He sidestepped sideways. No good on the road. Albeit a closed road on a Sunday with us both head-to-toe in high viz. It's the principle of the thing, he's normally ok on the road and suddenly being on the wrong side is unacceptable to me.

If this had been a used road I'd have gotten off and led him past until I could find somewhere safe and off-road to remount. We were visible in both directions to I stayed mounted.

Having given him the chance to trust that I was not putting him in any danger and walk forwards, where he started zooming backwards, I turned him around and reined him back for a bit, and turned him the right way. Oh dear, we happen to be farther on Quadi. Heavens, how did that happen? Wasn't it hard work going backwards, would you like to try forwards now?

No he would not! He went into "No More Questions! Everything No" mode. So I repeated rein back, this time we zig-zagged from one side of the road to the other, and I asked him to halt. He threw in a couple of two-finger, half-hearted bucks and a declamatory levade for good measure. I just giggle at him, there's no point in getting wound up when he does. I made perfectly reasonable requests on a route we've hacked quite a number of times now.

I swear he forgets why he gets angry, because he walked past as if nothing had happened! He pulled the same routine at the next house, as did I, and we were on our way.

We had another halt and look when a farm dog barked at us, and as we headed up a farm access road, I pushed him up into a bouncy, collected canter. He was fab and light and I would have gone for longer but I spied a pheasant in the field making her way towards us. He'd already shied at some daffodils and I thought it prudent to return to walk before I ended up prone with a face full of game. Of course she didn't make an appearance but had I not slowed I bet she would have ;)

So we walked the rest of the hill. Great for his back end.

We crossed through some woodland and onto another road to head back home. This road is a 'live' road but is long and straight. The first house we came to had one of those mirrors to see oncoming traffic placed opposite their driveway. Quadi took exception to this too and slammed on the anchors in the passing place on our side. Just as a garish turquoise pick-up truck was coming up behind. We were well out of his way and I waved the moody driver on. Doubt he'd even have realised I hadn't meant to stop.

Having had quite e-bloody-nough of his dicking about, I growled at him to get a wriggle on so we could get home. And he did. We located our turning into our home patch of forest. Instead of taking the turning left to go home as I assumed he would, Quadi was most insistent on going straight on into the forest. I figured he'd be too tired but let him lead on. When he started neighing I realised he hadn't gotten his bearings at all *lol* So I led him home. Definitely shan't leave navigation to him in future!

I got off a little way from home to let the blood return to his back and to stretch myself off. He was nicely warmed but not lathered. Barely broke his jacket. More long hacks are required methinks!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Being the Grown-Ups...of sorts!

Today I had planned to go for a long road hack to increase Quadi's fitness but we had the opportunity to hack with a nervous friend and her greenish horse. I tacked up in the courtyard in the sun which was blissful.

Quadi's great to leave the yard on his own, not so much in equally wibbly company! We had to have a little lead to start with and then once we were side-by-side all was ok. Until one stopped, then both stopped! So initially our hack was a little 'dribbly' but we kept going.

Eventually Quadi and I made it into the lead, one minute he couldn't possibly and the next minute it was no trouble at all. Strange lad! I had to constantly keep his walk slower as he was marching out and away from our company.

We were out for quite a while because we had to double back on our paths in the forest a few times. Greeny Pony didn't want to step over any ditches, so we had to find ditch-free routes which is impossible. This meant we had to dismount once to cross. Greeny Pony is a mare and we thought she'd love to follow a handsome loon like Quadi anywhere but instead she took offense to having to walk with a boy *lol*

We met Introooders in the forest in the form of some kids on bikes, which meant both slammed on the anchors again and we weren't the first to make a move. Never mind, we all set off again. Once we came to the scary water container they both stopped again. When Greeny Pony was asked to walk forwards, she went backwards and into Quadi. Being indignant about having to keep company with a stinky boy and being asked to lead past a horse-eating container was too much and she raised her back end to kick. Luckily she was too close to connect and instead just shoved her arse into Quadi's ribs. We couldn't get out of the way quick enough and Quadi meeped a girly meep when she made contact with his barrel. I'm lucky to have such a chilled out dude, he'll press flesh with any horse. I do love my gelding, he's always on a reasonable plateau!

We were back in the lead and went a little farther before heading back home which was lovely and uneventful. This was our company's first hack in ten months, so whilst we weren't perfect I think we did well considering how unreliable a pairing we can be!

We must've been out a fair while, well over an hour, and Quadi was rather warm but not sweaty when we came home. I think the controlled walk work was good for him. For most of the hack I could feel him lifting his back, it bothered me some because I was convinced he must be ill or away to buckle at the legs. I'm just not used to it!

I bought some very fancy new stirrup leathers, to match the colour of my saddle and they're too short :( Bummer.

Before I forget, here is the new boy. Espresivo RPB, a little PRE out of a Yeguada Militar mare. Photos are taken by Kate's OH, a hobbyist but very talented phototaker (who was also responsible for our clinic photos):

Here he is with Quadi bringing up the rear. He'll be a year old at the beginning of May, so a tall boy already!

Perfect Friday

Once again I was much too bush-whacked to blog. Terrible!

I didn't want to school again last night owing to a crappy day at work. It was a beautiful 'orangey' evening, perfect was a relaxing walk around the woods.

Thirsty boy had two buckets of water when he came in, am going to clean the water trough this weekend in case it's he's not wanting to drink out of it. I suspect it's more a case of laziness on his part but can't take the chance.

He marched off the yard and only stopped when he saw Introoooders like dog walkers and cyclists. Which I don't mind especially as he was a little on his toes last night. We saw a red squirrel on the way too! Didn't get a chance to take a photo, was concentrating on my horse ;)

When we set off I let him have a long rein, but I wanted to experiment with contact. Working with Perry I realised that a gentle contact is vital for communication, so that's what I worked on. Soft but consistent hands. During the hack I worked on some flexions. Left was ok. Right, not so much but he was very looky and spooky.

Having said that he worked really well off my seat and legs and I could feel him using his back. Lush!

We met the aforementioned dog-walkers, cyclists, cows and kids on motorised toy cars! He was great, we stopped to chat to the kids who thought his name was funny.

Around the loop we had a lovely canter. It started off slow and controlled, as we motorbiked around the corner I realised we were picking up the pace somewhat! Luckily there were people at the end of the track who popped up and made him slow right up, ears pricked *lol*

We even headed home over the ditches, the pilot getting rather left behind jumping the second but he was very pleased with himself. Pleased enough to have another canter up the hill, through some very narrow trees (I have a lovely bruised, scratched knee), erupting onto the track from the forest and only slowing to a trot near home. Shan't be doing that again but I had to giggle!

Hopefully more of the same nice work today.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

First schooling post-clinic

Just quickly because I'm knackered!

I was apprehensive about schooling after the clinic. We did a little in-hand. Shoulder-out on the right rein down towards the end of the school was sticky because he was spooking at Nothing in the bushes there. But I got some nice positive rein-back from him so I moved onto riding.

He was spooky about a lot of things and trot was a little motorbikey so we stuck to walk and in addition to the work Perry gave us on a circle I also did some shoulder in at the spooky places and to finish played with placing his head at halt.

I think we were probably a little scatty to watch at times but I recreated some moments from the weekend which made me so happy.

I wish I wasn't so tired because I'm sure I could write more but I really must go to bed!

Clinic Photos - Finally!

A little in-hand:

Warming-up and taking up a polite contact:

Asking for softness with a touch of the whip, you can see he comes a little behind the bridle and then levels out:

I like this photo because you can see my leg asking for some bend. Sadly I've tensed up the right ankle:

You can see here I've not been quick enough and he's going hollow:

This is my favourite. Ok, so we're not going anywhere, but a sustained halt is a big step:

Moving into trot. As in a lot of the photos, my inside hand in particular is too low. but he's forwards and not totally upside-down. I'll take that much right now :)

I got my knitting in a knot and he's very pokey-nosed here. But I like the expression on his face and the pairing of his legs:

NB: His feet, just like the rest of him, are a work in progress. Not very pretty at the moment but better than they were!

Monday, 12 April 2010

A Different Horse

Day 2, and that was one of the first things Perry said..."He's a different horse today". Thrilling to hear!

We went up first, partly to avoid the napping issue and partly so that Kate got a chance to unwind before her session as I had the previous day.

Before I got onboard Perry asked if I ever did any in-hand with him. I did, initially, and we got on quite well with it but it was off of the lunge cavesson and I was keen to learn off the bridle so we set to work. Perry said he usually, if not always, warms up a horse to ride with some in-hand work. So we'll aim for that!

First up was shoulder-out along the long side of the arena, around the first corner and then as we about-face, leg yield as much as we can to the opposite side. We started on the left rein, so shoulder-out to the right. As in ridden work, if asking for flexion and softness from a hand aid was ignored, I backed it up with a touch of the schooling whip, which was along his side. The inside rein was in my left hand which in turn sat where my right leg would be. A lot of co-ordinating! We did this on both reins. The shoulder-out was actually easier than the leg yield, whilst doing the latter I got my knitting in my knot a few times but we got there :)

Next was rein-back. Now, as an evasion this is Quadi's forte! Trying to extract a decent rein-back when asked for is much trickier. We placed him along the school side. I stood to his side, held a rein in each hand under his jaw and used a vibrant rein aid up and back. He really grew roots so I tried tapping his chest with the whip in a slow rhythm (initially I was too fast but was corrected) until he gave me a step. Likewise this was tricky so I tried both reins in one hand and whip on his quarters, and finally whip on chest. The latter combination worked best but this was very hard for me to do so lots of work required here!

I mounted up and gave him a relaxed walk around on a longer contact. Then we set to work. Once again we were on our circle and I went over what we did the previous day. Happily I didn't have to be reminded much, if at all, of any of the corrections made 24 hours earlier. This is where Perry said he was like a different horse! Soft and reacting to the slightest of aids, which were thoughtfully set up by me, much preferred to of the two of us braced against one another and fighting. A highlight of this work was maintaining this softness with bend, and even a little lift in the forehand as we moved off from walk to halt. Not much to most people but hugely rewarding baby steps for us.

We had a discussion about bend and Perry suggested that, since constant changing of bend as well as change of pace will all help supple Quadi, we employ shallow loops. Of course in this case in the school but we can also do them on hacks. But not just a shallow loop along the 40m side, lots and lots of them. Very shallow and constant. We set off on a right rein and immediately it became apparent that left bend was easier than right. I was asked what I could do next, so I changed the rein and worked the same shallow loops on a left rein. Really illuminating and a Very Useful Tool for me to employ.

And onto trot! Much improved on the day before. He tried at every point to motorbike on a 12m circle so it was tricky to keep him upright with my inside leg without tensing or shortening said leg.

Whilst I needed little reminding to retain the changes made the day before, I found some new foibles! Because I lack balance, I was hanging on with the reins which set Quadi against my hand, or vice versa! Two things were suggested. First, if Quadi hangs onto me, give one rein, just for a moment. It doesn't matter which although I should try and assess which would be better. I gave the outside rein for a moment, then re-asked for bend to the inside and his head yielded as I asked. Lovely :) Secondly, I was to really control the tempo with my backside and tummy. Then lots of transitions of trot-walk-trot on Perry's command, without hanging onto the reins. Easier said than done and it really dribbled on for several strides more than it ought to, but I did it off of my seat and inhaling to sit up. I had to work quickly to re-establish bend if I had lost it because in a few strides we were to be off at a trot again.

Quadi did try hard to zoom off with me and I was at the point where my left shoulder was aching. I may have muttered a different F-Word a few times under my breath, just at myself as it was achey and I didn't want to have to stop!

By this point both Quadi and I had peaked and we ended with some gorgeous trot strides in harmony, with my correcting little slip-ups without prompting.

We pulled in and Perry made sure I understood what sort of contact he wanted there to be between my horse and I. To demonstrate, he had us at a halt, my hands on the reins and he used my hands to show how one rein gives and one rein asks for bend. And we placed Quadi's head right, central, left and back to central on the most delicate of rein aids I've ever felt. Perry said any softer and Quadi would want to duck behind the bridle so now I know and have felt what we're aiming for. I feel a little more empowered that I can do this. I have spent the past 24 hours focussing on some negatives but now I feel that for our first ever lessons together, Quadrado and I did rather well indeed :D

I'm sure I've skimmed over a lot but I think by this point in the weekend my brain had reached maximum capacity!

I have some, but not all, of the photos and want make sure I've seen them all before I select my favourites so they'll have to wait another day. Tomorrow I also hope to post photos of The Latest Addition to the herd, due tomorrow teatime!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

My horse is my...toothpaste?

Tonight the boys had a night of grooming and fussing only. Quadi and I did carrot stretches and I took off a lot of his loose coat. Bliss.

Here is Day 1 of our clinic (Saturday):

Quadrado embarrassed me before we even got to the arena, he decided to grow roots as Fin walked past him after his session. We were on our way in, they were on their way out. Quadi decided he could Go No Farther. I changed his mind ;)

I mounted up and rode around to get Quadi moving out and so Perry could see us going.

Perry asked me if I ride with a schooling whip. I said no but I'd brought one down in case he'd like me to use one. Which he did!

With my newly-whipped inside hand, we went onto a 12-ish metre circle ("ride the horse, not the school"; it didn't matter what shape we made at this stage) and worked on inside bend. The idea being that I was to ask with just a squeeze of the inside hand but also a very open rein so that whilst the finger movement was slight, the invitation to move into the space was very clear.

If there was no response to this then I was to very lightly indeed touch with the whip behind the leg, and further from that a gentle tap if a touch went unheeded. It's easy to get lost in semantics to when I say tap I do mean as if to tap a fingernail on a windowpane, probably even more delicate than that. When I obtained a good quality bend the idea, obviously, was to maintain that. Something which is all still very new to me so we lost it a lot but I had to get it back. When it worked I got a cheer from Perry and he'd ask me what I did, so that I was learning what to do and not just taking instruction from the side. Becoming a thinking rider.

We then went on to discuss the importance of transitions for Quadrado. As many as possibly, from pace to pace and within the pace. Perry asked me to work on walk-halt-walk, still on our 12m orbit.

Once I had a soft inside bend I asked for a halt, and in the process tried to maintain softness. At first this wasn't possible but the idea was to regain it as soon as possible, and to keep a good contact regardless. A little ask of the inside rein (I'd say a centimetre or two) and he was back with me. Then move off again. His head would shoot up when I asked him forwards and Perry called me over.

He said the reason his head was up was because I used too much pressure. I am to think of him like a tube of toothpaste. I you grab the middle and really give it a good old squeeze you lose your toothpaste. I only need a pea-sized amount, as all good dentists will tell you. I was already amazed at how little rein I needed and now I was in awe at how little leg I needed. All this time I'd been giving the most ferocious aids. My intention was never fierce, they've never been given out of anger. But it's a bit like the British tradition of talking loudly at someone who is not a native-English speaker. Quadi's not deaf, he just didn't understand. It's amazing what they'll put up with, and even more amazing that they don't just ditch us off their backs!

In order to help Quadi as much as possible I am to remember many things. Firstly the try and reach up and forwards with my ears. It's not necessarily the most helpful analogy but Perry went on to explain he wants me to incline forwards. Not from the waist, but just very upper body. Not all the time, and without looking down or dropping my chin. This will help align my body and also stretch over the vertebrae in my upper back, a source of much tension. It will also help remove the hollow in my lower back. When trotting I am to think of keeping my coccyx under me at all times. It feels very exaggerated to me but I know to look at it means I look more 'normal' up there.

Legs forward. I have to keep my legs very softly on Quadi's side, almost not at all, and the whole leg forwards. Opening my hips is very difficult but will give him room to lift his front end up under me. I also placed the balls of my feet behind the foot of the stirrup as directed by Perry, so as to prevent me anchoring weight down that way and to lengthen my leg without over-stretching my tight hips by simply dropping the stirrup a hole.

Inside bend, which I worked on for the whole session, is also imperative. If the horse's head goes up, no reins clearly aren't the answer. Two reins will only exacerbate the situation so the only answer we have is bend!

We moved up into trot. I wasn't sure I wanted to, I insisted it would be a messy and ugly disaster but was willing to try and wanted as much help as possible. So trot we did and continued the exercise. In trot I was to control the tempo with my seat and my stomach muscles. Very hard work for me. Perry said he likes to work his horses either a little faster or a little slower than they would which I think is a great idea, so we worked on slowing everything down. The slower the horse works the harder the muscles work, which is a good thing. For a while it was just Perry shouting over and over the list of things I had to correct..."Ears! Inside Bend! Legs forward! Bum!" It made us all giggle and laughing actually stopped me getting too tense because I was trying to do a lot at once. But we did it and received much praise. Everything I corrected helped Quadi move softly and slowly in trot.

Before the end, we worked on shoulder-in on a circle. To be honest, we ended up doing almost giravolta work, spiralling on a very small circle in order for my body to get it right. I had to point my hips in on the circle and give the aids for shoulder-in. When I got the leg aid just right it worked and he really gave me some nice, active steps. I couldn't help but beam when I felt his back lift up under me, pretty amazing feeling!

This was a substantial physical and mental workout for both of us so we stopped there. We had more to do the next day.

Perry Wood Clinic - Lecture

I have been rather remiss at blogging because I've attended a two-day clinic with Perry Wood this weekend. Ideally I ought to have taken more notes and blogged when I got home but circumstances and lack of energy dictated otherwise!

The original plan was to take the boys to the clinic but owing to the threat of strangles in the area we were very lucky and Perry was most gracious to come and teach us at home over the two days.

We still attended the clinic and the lecture, but chose to take the precaution of not touching strange horses and not travelling our own. Not least because in two days we expect the arrival of A Bay Baby...

Onto the lecture:

We sat around and introduced ourselves and what we wanted to get out of the clinic. And to describe in one word how we felt at that moment. I said 'nervous'. Not imaginative but very true! Given that I've been told I don't know what's good for my horse, I don't deserve him, etc, I certainly was apprehensive! It's taken a long time to galvanise my self-esteem to go and do something like this. So it was disappointing not to have left the yard for this clinic!

Next we were asked to do a little meditation/visualisation. I remember when we've felt best on a horse and to recreate everything about that moment/those moments in our mind's eye. A lovely way to settle us all and to open our minds positively to the two days ahead of us.

The first thing Perry asked of us is that we Do Not Judge. As spectators, we were not to judge the horse and rider combination in front of us. And as riders, not to judge the horse we are riding. Not to judge ourselves, or even that moment. We were to observe in order to learn. The theme for the weekend (from my perspective) would be that doing nothing is the hardest thing for our minds, but why shouldn't riding be easy?!

Horses and riders have physical limitations. It was nice to hear that. Not that every horse shouldn't be capable of quite a high level even if their conformation is far from ideal, but injury/stiffness/etc can further prevent this. It's our job to ensure they are as fit and supple as possible to do their job, which is to carry us with ease. Something they're not designed for.

It is the rider's responsibility for how they feel when riding. We cannot make another being feel a certain way, but we can create the best possible environment for our horse to learn and co-operate in. When we focus on negative aspects of a riding session, the focus we give them lends them power and we will be offered more of the same. So we ought to try to focus on the positives, ignore the negatives and only ride moment-to-moment. The horse-rider partnership is a dynamic one and the same pairing change year-to-year, month-to-month, day-to-day, from start-to-end of a session and indeed moment-to-moment. This sound a little hippy out of context but really all that is meant is to drop expectations and ride the horse under you and what's happening now.

Quality of riding is affected by quality of feeling, and we have to take responsibility for our own bodies. Easier said than done!

Leading from our expectations...many of the beliefs we hold are unconscious and we ought to question them. To illustrate this point, Perry started sentences and had us all finish them.

"Horses are..."

"Riding is..."

"Men are..." *lol*

From this I learned to experiment. Just because I believe that doing x and y will produce z, what if I experiment and use less or more of each, or try something else entirely? My prior experiences and teachings may lead me to believe certain things, but why do I believe them and do they even work?

Finally, we talked about contact and had demonstrated using pairs of reins what contact should be and what it ought to feel like. Not every horse is the same of course but we have to start somewhere. The elbow must be under the shoulder and ear because this is where the arm can be passive (in that no tense muscle tone need be engaged) and it can just hang all loose and lovely. Anywhere else will introduce tension, particularly between the shoulder blades of the rider.

I learned a whole bunch from watching everyone ride. The second lecture on the second day was what we learned from our own session on the previous day, what we learned from other peoples' sessions and what we wanted to achieve on this second day.

As far as what I learned from my lesson, that'll come in a further installment ;) But from other people I learned that we need to give ourselves a break. Perry always says remember the F word...FUN! We invest our emotions hugely into what we do and whilst we do need to take responsibility we do need to to chill out and not take everything quite so seriously. And personally! Another thing I learned was that tiny, subtle changes can produce amazing results. These changes are sometimes a physical and mental challenge, but sometimes not. At times I could have slapped myself for little changes which feel easier not having been so obvious to me. But that's why we have lessons :)

The last thing I wrote down was 'Listen to what the horse is telling you'. Enough said!

I will follow this with a post for each day's session, and hopefully tomorrow I will have photos :D

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Handbrake on!

A lovely hack today, after a day off yesterday :)

Once again he was a little stick-in-the-mud about leaving the yard but only for a moment and with a nudge of the leg we were off. When I attempted trot away from the yard it was like having the handbrake on! I think he thinks when I ask him to trot I'm trying to rush him past something spooky, so he slows down. Funny boy.

We had a lovely mooch through the forest, a calm and bouncy canter around the loop and he was totally compliant when we went home a different way. Under the underpass. He forged ahead all by himself, I'm so proud! A huge improvement on last time.

The handbrake-on feeling returned as we rode around the housing estate but he hugged the kerb and didn't shy at the many horse-unfriendly objects on the route. And we waved to people in their houses who came to the window. Despite being in the countryside they obviously don't see many horses *g*

Despite the sluggishness, I was very happy. We were contented upon return :)

Circumstances conspire against me so Quadi has another day off tomorrow.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Warmer, but tired

Thankfully the snow has melted and we're all starting to thaw out a little. I couldn't, and still can't really, be bothered blogging on account of an ear and throat infection, coupled with an irksome dry cough. Hasn't stopped me riding of course :)

I broke my No Schooling Till Clinic rule and that's what we did yesterday, after a morning feed run. I stopped after about 50 minutes as it wasn't feeling good, despite being told it looked good. Quadi kept trying to nap towards Fin and was reluctant to even try to balance any weight over his back end, choosing instead to run through my hand. So I took him along towards the forest with the intention of having a little blast, and was unable to satisfy this want because the track was busy. I assumed they didn't wish to be mowed down by us pair so we stormed back home in a dreadful huff. Ok, I say 'we', I mean 'me'!

Today we hacked, booted as we were going along the road. We found a way to get from the closed road we hack along to the forest next to the yard in a loop. Which was nice. I was messing around with my seatbone placement and becoming frustrated with my pelvis misalignment. Lack of any sort of core strength! I really ought to chill out about it but I can't at all. We had a mad canter on the way home resulting in near stirrup entanglement and several sliding stops. Once home I discovered Quadi was deficient to the tune of one hoofboot. I trudged back up the track through the mud and found it right where we started cantering.

Not to sound like a complete Moaning Minnie, I am pleased with Quadi's physique at present, and I trimmed his feet which look much better for it.

Am back in the office this week so I expect to be even sleepier by the end of the week. I think I'll have the day off on Friday as we have a clinic to pack for and also, hopefully, A Very Special Delivery ;)

Thursday, 1 April 2010


Not being in possession of a personal form of transport, I elected to duck horsey chores whilst the snow hit us. We did get about a foot I think but it was book-ended by 24 hours of torrential wind and rain each side. Because of this, the boys spent the night stabled. They were drookit and miserable and their bodies needed a break. Two thumbs up for them, their stables were a breeze to muck out this morning :)

Owing to Fin's increased protests at being ignored when I work Quadi, I opted to work in the school. Plus no matter how much hacking we do, Quadi always runs out of puff in the school. It's sand and a lovely surface but (good) hard work.

I put out trotting poles down one side and a pole at the extreme ends of the other long side. The idea being that we would work on some lengthening and shortening of canter strides between the two.

Warming up, I could feel that he felt spooky and reluctant to go down the far end of the school. I wasn't going to have any of it and we worked down there until I had flexion and also he wasn't slowing down before the scary bits and scuttling past. I was rewarded with rhythm and softness...eventually!

Apart from a couple of attempts to bound through trotting poles at canter, he tackled them well and lifted his back. He did keep spooking at the jump wings flanking either side of the school, most annoying since they're always there.

I had to work very, very hard for a good contact. His head was up, then he leaned. It required very square and open shoulders from me, not easy with my left-side weakness, good leg aids and to STOP NAGGING with my hands. I did have a moment when I realised that if I stopped asking then he yielded. From that point I could use leg aids to correct any hollowing. Imagine that(!) Once I'd figured out my timing and feel trot work was much easier.

I didn't hang around too long before I started canter work. He was really spooky and lunged left and right going past the jump wings. So we returned to walk to work on some shoulder-in and maintaining some decorum!

I shan't be returning to the school except for in-hand work between now and our Perry Wood clinic. Despite having a good session, for the most part, I returned to the stables and all I could think of was what I did wrong.

Hopefully the weather and light will be kind to us tomorrow night for some hacking. And no more wintery weather please!