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.
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.
Lessons with Sam Twyman are continuing to go well and on Tuesday we attempted half pass for the first time!
Sam has had me flexing Abbey a lot, to build suppleness and encourage her to lift her withers.
We’ve also introduced outside flexion – in the stretch work and when we’re working in a more developed frame.
All in all, it went rather well. We’d not done as much prep as I would have liked and Abbey isn’t as fit as she should be so to come home with 65.86% and 61.92% was quite an achievement!
The first test was Novice 24 and a warm-up class. As I didn’t want to tire Abbey out, I kept the warm-up very short – 10 mins. This seemed to suit her and something I am going to try again at our next competition.
The venue was running a little late for the next test and there were more horses in the warm-up arena. So we warmed-up, then walked and stretched (having realised that we’d a little wait) and then did a couple of transitions before going in. Abbey started to get a little crabby, tossing her head in the warm up and pulling faces when another horse got too close (in her opinion, nobody actually got too close!).
In this test she felt more tense than in the first. I think I was rushing her while also trying to steady her, which made her cross!
ATM I am not convinced either of Abbey’s two saddles (dressage and GP) fit. Really I ought to get the saddle fitter out but it’s only been a couple of months since she last came and it’s getting rather expensive.
I’m going to have a look at treeless saddles, they are supposed to be a bit more forgiving for horses that change shape regularly and I rather like the idea of Abbey having something soft on her back.
In the meantime though, we’ve not stopped schooling or hacking around the farm. I’ve put my brave pants on and started riding on a bareback pad. I’ve surprised myself and seem to have pretty good balance even without stirrups!
Having had weeks of banging my head against a break wall what with the travelling, the ulcers and lack of work, we’ve finally had some mini breakthroughs.
For the second time we’ve been round the block and I’ve unloaded a dry horse. Today I think she even trembled a little less. After unloading she calmed down extremely quickly, allowing us to tack up and head to the school…
…where we had another breakthrough. I’ve been trying not to nag and demand a response to my leg, and today there was so much power I didn’t know what to do with it!
To celebrate we went for a little hack round the farm tracks to cool off. I must have been feeling brave as I was riding in a bareback pad!
I’m thrilled; they were just the little success to make me feel like all the effort is worthwhile and that we’re getting closer towards our goals!
(Featured imaged by Karen Chaplin photography)
Between the snow, the return of Abbey’s ulcer symptoms and her first season of the year, we’ve had we’ve had quite a month!
While I have kept her ticking over fitness wise, it’s all been rather low-key with no lessons and no outings.
This week, however, we’ve started to pick things up again with two flatwork lessons and a pole clinic at Swallowfields.
Abbey and I are continuing to practice many of the movements that come up in Novice tests. Rather than describe in detail our schooling sessions, here’s a video.
Generally I am very happy with how we’re progressing. I think the medium trot is coming on, albeit very slowly. The canter-trot-canter transitions are definitely improving as are leg yields and shoulder-ins.
While the canter-trot-canter movements aren’t in the test we’re doing on Saturday, they are in a test we’re doing in a couple of weeks and it is good to mix up the exercises we do in our schooling sessions; it keeps Abbey enthusiastic about flatwork.
Next time we’re in the school (Friday or Saturday), I’m going to practice walk-canter and counter canter. It’s not something we’ve done for a while and will help improve Abbey’s balance and engage her hind-end.
I was really pleased that we overcame the spooky corner (unlike in my windy lesson!) and managed to get some sensible work done in the bottom end of the school, even if it did take a little while to get there. As you can see, taking the time to go slowly round the corner, a moment of chill (with a free walk on a long rein), can be enough to calm and settle her.
In other news, I’ve started taking Abbey out in the horsebox daily. With the van floor secure (see here for how we replaced the floor) So far we’ve done two trips and she sweated significantly less on the second one. Fingers crossed, this is the beginning of Abbey getting used to traveling again.