There are many books and articles about bringing your horse back into work after months off due to illness, injury or a change of circumstances. They talk about building fitness slowly, building muscle and aerobic fitness. But what about a short holiday? How fit is a horse after a week or two off? And how quickly can you return to full work?
It’s been a while since I last posted because my time has temporarily reallocated to demolishing one kitchen and building a new one (boring!).
Abbey has been ticking over. The most exciting things have been our lessons with Sam. And there have been two since my last post.
In the first one we worked on keeping Abbey up and together in trot. He did this by establishing the trot on a circle – going forward and then asking her to slow the pace but keep the power – and then taking it large. We both tend to relax on the long sides of the school and as a result Abbey’s hind legs begin to trail, she starts to go flat and hollow and by the end of the 2nd long-side of the arena, other lovely outline has completely unravelled!
Sam also introduced us to renver in this lesson. It always amazes me how quickly Abbey gets the hang of new exercises, when I ask correctly. The tricky bit is getting me to co-ordinate my body to do the asking.
Yesterday we worked solely on me with a biomechanics lesson. As we were doing our warm up, Abbey was doing her usual drifting through the left shoulder. Sam asked ‘where is your left seat bone?’. It was a hard question to answer. I knew where I thought my right one was but my left appeared to be absent.
I’ve delayed writing this post because I wasn’t sure what to say. On Saturday we went to the local venue to do dressage and WE DID RUBBISH.
It wasn’t dramatic, there were no tantrums, but as soon as we entered the arena Abbey hollowed. From then on she point blank refused to let go and work in an outline.
Some days you get to play ponies all day and today was one of those days 😀
This morning I had a dressage lesson and this afternoon I went to the National Dressage Championships.
Even the rain couldn’t put a dampener on the lesson. Abbey is on top form at the moment – she feels stronger, more supple and is concentrating more than ever before (or maybe that’s me!). Together we’re making good progress.
Today I went to day one of the National Dressage Championships. Despite the wet and very windy weather, it was a great day out.
I’ve been a few times now and nothing quite prepares you for being within a few feet of some of the best riders in the country doing their thing. And with wall to wall competition, it’s hard to find time to shop (and you’ve got to do some shopping!).
Today’s lesson had an interesting twist; for the first time my RI gave me headphones and he wore a microphone. “It saves my voice”, he said. I could empathise as nothing but an professional opera singer would overcome the wind and rain that challenge today’s lesson.
The ear pieces looped over my ears, I tucked the wire down my coat (like one of the cool kids at school) and popped the control block in my pocket.
I’ve little ears and was a little worried about them falling off but they didn’t even in canter. I could hear my RI clearly despite the weather. It doesn’t say it’s waterproof but judging by the state of the horse treats in my pocket, I’m sure they got pretty wet!
The headphones were comfortable to wear and made me feel like Kylie!
Abbey was on form and in the zone for our lesson today. 😁
We got off to a slow start but it allowed me to show Sam what I’ve been struggling with the last couple of rides. Namely, getting Abbey to ‘give’ and ‘let go’.
She’s such a clever pony that she’s learned that she can to hang on to the bit rather than relax her jaw and poll. The flexions we had been doing and were working, no longer seemed effective.
Yesterday I got round this by stepping it up a gear and using outside flexion as well as inside, to get her to ‘let go’.
Today, Sam gave me another tool. Slow the walk (my speed, not hers!) and, on a circle, do shoulder in, with flexion. It’s more demanding. It makes her think where she is putting her feet while also getting her to relinquish control and relax.
Yesterday we went to Solihull Riding Club for an unaffiliated dressage competition.
I’d done my homework, learnt and practiced my tests, scrubbed Abbey to within a inch of her life and set off a little early. With less than a mile and a half to go, the horsebox starts making a funny noise and then the ‘stop’ and oil lights come on the dashboard.
Those regular readers will know that Abbey is a bit of a nervous traveler. She finds the process stressful and often trembles and sweats. I try to make her experiences in the box as relaxed as possible, I drive extremely carefully, pick routes that are as straight as possible and try to keep to a routine.
I pulled over to discover oil spewing out all over the floor. I tried not to panic (and failed!). Thankfully I had some oil in the van, so I lift the bonnet, pour half in, close the lid and jump back in. I was thinking that at least if we can get to the club then Abbey is in a safe place where she can get off the van.
It’s been a while since Abbey and I took to the school to practice a test, but with a competition in just 2 days I thought we’d better do some.
Lately we’ve been focused on building Abbey’s strength and suppleness, particularly in her trot work. Looking back at the video, I can see it is paying off. She’s much more uphill and there’s more cadence.