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.
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.
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!
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.
Practicing dressage in an odd sized arena isn’t ideal. Ours is 25m wide (not 20m) and 40m long (my test is in a long arena which is 60m).
Letters A and C don’t line up properly and M/H/F/K are very close to the corners. B and E are roughly where they should be but remaining letters (S/V/P/R) are far too close together.
Day-to-day it doesn’t bother me, in fact I am normally grateful that our YO put in the biggest school they could. It means more of us can comfortably work in there at the same time, and there’s more room for showjumping courses.
However, when it comes to test-riding it can lead to brain pickle!
The first thing we do, is put out poles to bring in the width – 2.5m on each side. For a short arena test, I just ignore the ‘middle’ letters (V/S/P/R).
But if it’s a long test…..then it starts to get complicated….
Just a short update on our schooling. Lately we’ve been focusing on the bits of our next test which we’re a little weak on. And I pleased to report that we’re making good progress.