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.
At first glance yoga isn’t an obvious complimentary fitness activity to horse riding. But as I’ve discovered over the last two months, it’s a perfect way to build strength, physically and mentally, and develop awareness (and therefore control) of your body.
Every pose and sequence in yoga requires core strength. From the moment you hit the mat you’re asked to engage the same muscles that are critical to securing a good dressage position.
Many poses increase flexibility, particularly in the hips. They also stretch your hamstrings. If like me you’ve struggled to open your hips, bring your legs back or lengthen them, check out the appropriately named, “hip opener” poses.
Can’t believe it’s been a whole month since my last post! From lessons and competitions, to hacking and interval training, Abbey has been a busy girl.
She’s starting to loose a little weight. Abbey is now doing at least an hour of work 5 times a week, including interval training. We’re up to 5 miles of trot/canter work and she’s finally burning more calories than she’s consuming.
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!
Sundays weather was glorious – highly usual for the UK especially on a bank holiday and we made the most of it with the local fun ride.
The ride was well organised with stewards every mile or so. They were on hand to point the way and deal with any emergencies.
My friends pony has recently had some time off and his fitness levels meant we needed to take it slower than we normally would.
That meant it was a great training exercise for Abbey – sometimes we go out and mainly walk. It’s not always exciting.
Where we did trot and canter, it was very controlled. Abbey had to go behind to discourage any racing (which she did with manners).
We also saw other horses cantering just in front of us and had trains passing within 100m.
These events are much more than a ‘fun ride’ they are a fabulous training exercise in a safe and controlled environment.
Today we stepped up and did our first novice dressage test. I couldn’t be more delighted with Abbey, the girl really tried and came home with a blue rosette for our efforts.
We warmed up with a prelim test – scoring 69.80% including an error of course (yes, I had a reader and still managed to go wrong!). Interestingly the judge noted a lack of suppleness on the right rein as well as the left, as well as lack of suppleness through the transitions.
Over the passed week Abbey’s not shown any signs of being ‘poorly’ and the lump has continued to decrease in size so yesterday we went for a jumping lesson with a new teacher.
Abbey loaded but was trembling from the moment she got on the box. Not sure why – perhaps I was tense or anxious or perhaps she was just in one of those moods.
It was no surprise that when we got there Abbey was rather wound up.
She was tense as we warmed up and the teacher advised that I let her have a good look and give her the time to see everything. She also said to concentrate on forward rather than round.
We’re still struggling with bend on the left rein and this teachers advice was to give more with my outside rein while opening the inside hand and using my inside leg. It worked and the canter on that rein improved as a result.
We didn’t have one refusal but we did have some hestitations. When I get these the RI suggested opening both hands to channel Abbey towards the fence.
We also worked on keeping my shoulders up going into a fence and keeping my reins (I often let them slip) as I ride a course.
The take home message was to work on maintaining the rythym all the way to the fence, not letting Abbey rush or firing her into fences.
This image accurately describes the last couple of months…only add a horse to the mix! Not that Abbey has noticed much – she’s had a bit of a holiday.