Thursday, 7 July 2011

Shining his halo...

Just got back in from a ride, asked my dad to go with me as I always feel more confident, and I was expecting another episode like yesterday. So of course Diesel was an angel today, as horses love to show us up!

I tacked him up really slowly today, as I realised while I was thinking about it yesterday that I tend to tack Diesel up in a bit of a rush, and this may be adding to the problems I am having with putting his saddle on. Lo and behold there was very minimal aggression, so I will make the effort to get to the yard 10 minutes earlier and take my time tacking up from now on.

I lunged for a few minutes before riding, to get any 'fizz' from yesterday out of his system before I got in the saddle, and he was very sluggish. When I got on he was just like the normal Diesel, still forward going but not sharp or silly like yesterday. I didn't want to push too much and wait for him to play up again, so I limited myself to a 15 minute ride today. I spent the first 10 minutes working on control in walk, with circles, halts and changes of rein. I do this at one end of the school (between C and X) as the indoor is a large arena, and it seems unnecessary to travel the whole length for warming up and walking. After this I wanted to stop, but my dad made me carry on and have a trot (good old dad!), which was the best trot I have had on Diesel yet. We went large around the arena for one circuit then two 20 metre circles at C, as the first one went wrong, followed by a trot to halt. I then changed the rein an trotted a 20 metre circle on the other rein. Diesel really started to listen to my leg aids and to steer from my legs in trot rather than just my hands. So I aim to continue to work on this and continuing to use leg aids for steering in walk.

The Itch Stop also seems to be really helping Diesel's tail, he hasn't been rubbing it and the hair seems to be growing already, so I will use it a bit longer then review.

Schooling for next week:
  • Continue working Diesel off the leg more, and ride him more forwards.
  • Work on my position.
  • Get Diesel used to leg aids for bending and turning in walk.
  • Continue to introduce steering aids in trot
  • Use ground poles to further improve Diesel's walk.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

An 'interesting' ride!

Finally got back in the saddle today for the first time since last Friday. I have been so poorly with a stomach bug, just haven't felt up to riding at all. Needless to say, Diesel has really enjoyed his long weekend off, so much so that he really didn't want to be brought in from the field today. He was very unenthusiastic and I had to drag him in! Then had a real battle to tack him up (do you ever get the feeling it is 'one of those days'). I really should have predicted what would happen next, but hindsight is a wonderful thing!

As you can tell, his behaviour didn't improve at all while I was riding, he was very spooky, particularly in the CH corner, which we shied away from on three occasions. Diesel tried to throw me off a total of three times, twice in the CH corner and once as we passed the barn door. This really does show how much better I am feeling about riding him, as I ride through it and continued to work. Eventually I decided to cut my losses, and after two consecutive 20 metre circles without spooking I got off and lunged him instead, and of course he was an angel to lunge - because other people could see me then, and he never misbehaves in front of anyone! Today was the first time I felt like I was riding a recently broken 3 year old, and I hope he settles down to his normal laid back behaviour soon!

I have been a little concerned about Diesel's back recently, thinking that maybe his saddle isn't fitting very well. This would certainly explain the aggressive behaviour when I tack him up. I am fairly sure that this is just being naughty and evading being tacked up, as he doesn't mind having his girth done up in the school, or in the yard, just when he is being tacked up. Also he has always been fine to be ridden so I had dismissed the idea of a bad back or saddle problems. However, while I was riding today he did seem a little different, he kept turning his head round to the left and trying to bite my foot, and chewing his side, and he was also scraping the floor with his left foot. The flies were out in force today, which is the most likely cause of the behaviour, but it is definitely concerning me. I wanted to be sure he wasn't lame, which is why I lunged, and he was absolutely fine. So after my ride I stopped of at my local saddlery (I am very lucky to have one practically on my doorstep), to ask their opinion and see about having my saddle checked. So the plan for now is to keep riding for a week or so and monitor the situation, and to book Diesel into a saddle fitting if he is still misbehaving (more expense that I can do without at the moment, horses are so expensive!).

I have also noticed that Diesel seems to have a touch of sweet-itch or some other reaction on his tail. It has gone very scurfy and he has started to rub it, and damage the hairs. So yesterday I used some Net-Tex Itch Stop cream to help. So I will give it a go for a while, then a review!

If anyone has any ideas on Diesel's strange behaviour I would love to hear them - thank you.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Todays ride

Not a lot to report today so I will keep it a short one. I had a good ride today, about 15 minutes. Worked on walk circles and ground poles, then finished with a trot around the arena on both reins. My dad came to watch again and said the improvement in my confidence was really noticeable. He also said that Diesel's walk had greatly improved since he last watched, he was going more forward and stepping under more. I am so glad as this shows that the ground poles are working a treat. I try to incorporate them into every ride now, randomly going over them from time to time and from varying distances, it is really encouraging Diesel to pick his feet up more and work through from behind.

Another thing struck me today, the feeling of power that Diesel gives when you ride. You can really feel the 'engine' going from his hindquarters, much more than any other horse I have ever ridden (and there have been many!). It surprises me every time you ride just how much power this little pony has. It feels amazing in the few seconds that Diesel will lighten on the forehand and step under fully from behind, like floating. As a result it makes you feel like you are riding something much bigger than a 13.2hh pony, a feeling that is enhanced by his long stride. I was wondering if anyone else had horses like this? Or quite the opposite a horse that rides a lot smaller than it is?

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Catching up - Saturday's lesson and today's ride

I am sorry for the lack of posts over the last few days, I have had a long weekend off with my boyfriend, packed with activities and days out, and I haven't had a minute to sit and write anything. The weather has been wonderful, so hot and sunny, and I have had a fantastic weekend. May I recommend that anyone who lives in the Midlands goes to visit Newstead Abbey during the summer as we had a fantastic time!
Newstead Abbey in the sunshine

And onto the riding... I had my first lesson with my new trainer on Saturday and it went well, although I have mixed feelings about it. I really liked the trainer, she was very nice and supportive, however I feel like the worst rider in the world, as I had so many faults picked with my position (which I thought was quite good). I guess this will always happen with new trainers though, especially after a long break from lessons as each trainer has their own methods and the break from riding has let bad habits creep in (turning my thumbs in to the centre - I was annoying myself with this eventually!). The lessons can only improve my position though, so this must be a good point. On another positive just one lesson did really improve my confidence, and this is really what I wanted to achieve. After correcting the minor faults with my position my trainer then put my stirrups up 3 holes, to help secure my seat. As a dressage rider I found this really strange and it took me most of the lesson to get used to it. For the lesson we just worked on Diesel's walk, encouraging him to walk forward and work through his back more, and to respond more sharply from the leg aids. I was told at this point I am too quiet as a rider, and need to put a bit more force into applying my aids, so I am going to work on this until my next lesson. In the second part of the lesson we worked on keeping Diesel straight on the right rein as he tends to fall in and bend to the outside, after 5 minutes there was a definate improvement in straightness. Before my next lesson I am going to work on getting Diesel more responsive from the leg, and using firmer aids.

I rode this morning in the indoor, for about 20 minutes. Although I had intended to work on a figure-of-eight in trot today, I ended up staying in walk. I worked on getting Diesel moving from the leg by performing a walk to halt to walk at each letter of the arena and being firmer with my aids. Although this confused Diesel a little to start with and resulted in him moving forward to trot, he quickly got the idea and started moving into walk more quickly, producing a more energetic walk. I also worked on some 10metre circles in walk on both reins to continue working on balance and straightness. He was working much straighter on both reins and maintaining his straightness through the circles. After about 15 minutes Diesel spooked at the barn door and decided to try and throw me off, he sidestepped and took off across the indoor throwing in a couple of bucks. This time I managed to sit tight, which is a definate improvement for me. I am certainly feeling more confident as I didn't dismount but continued to work Diesel and rode him back past the barn door several times despite his protests. I was very pleased with myself for this! On a final note, I found that my ankle was really painful today after my ride which I think is due to the short stirrups, even though I think they did contribute to my not falling off today, so I think I shall put them down one hole until my ankle stops hurting.

I have booked the indoor again tomorrow and friday morning so I will get some more riding done.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Lunging disaster yesterday and a fantastic ride today!

Woohoo! I have had an absolutely fantastic ride today, and wanted to post about it straight away. I have a short update on my lunging session yesterday as I was so busy last night (still cleaning at 11pm) that I just didn't get a chance to get on the computer.

As you can see from the title my lunging didn't go well again yesterday. It is a difficult situation as lunging Diesel is so difficult at the moment as he just naps and plays up, but I really need to lunge him to work him harder to help lose some weight. He is still too young to ride him long enough to help his weight problem. If anyone has any suggestions I would really appreciate it. So anyway, he was napping again today, and turning in to face me, I try to move back to his side and send him on, but he turns on a circle to face me faster then I can move! This is very frustrating and I am not sure how to stop him doing it, I am going to do some research online to see if I can come up with any ideas, and again if anyone has any suggestions please do comment. I put a little jump up as Diesel normally enjoys jumping on the lunge and I thought this would get him going more forward, however he just decided to spook and run out constantly, so I put the pole back on the floor and set up 3 ground poles. It took a further 20 minutes just to get him to trot over them without stopping. I really hope this is just a phase he is going through and that he will grow out of it soon.

Onto the good news, I had an absolutely fantastic ride today and I am feeling so much better and so much more confident - just in time for my lesson tomorrow. I set out 2 ground poles, one on the long side between E and H and another on the diagonal just before X, and aimed to work on circles and bends to further improve Diesel's balance, with the ground poles to encourage him to use himself and step under with his back feet more as he tends to go flat and lose impulsion when working on circles. He worked very well in walk for 15 minutes moving forward nicely and bending nicely. The straightness he showed to start with has been lost, but I think this is because of my 'fiddling' to get him to bend properly or ride to a letter, that he has now lost his natural straightness so I will have to work on that, by allowing him to move and not do too much to interfere. I really felt like having a trot today, which I haven't felt like much in the last few weeks, so I had a trot on the right rein first, as this is his 'worse rein' and he finds it harder to lean on the bit and ignore me on this rein, we trotted from X, over the pole between E and H then came back to walk at C. I then changed the rein and trotted from C over the E/H pole, then onto B before coming over the diagonal pole and finished with a trot to halt at H. This doesn't sound like much but I was very pleased, he happily went over the poles and was bending nicely and listening rather than leaning onto his forehand and ignoring me. I finished the ride by giving him the rein and allowing him to stretch down, which is great to work on our 'free walk', and stops him panicking when I give with the reins now.

I am really looking forward to my lesson tomorrow, I hope it goes as well as today.  

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Riding, Lunging and Barefoot update...

Sorry for the late post, I wasn't very well yesterday so went straight to bed after riding. Still not great today, but I am up, so decided to post. I have a terrible headache and I am drugged up on flu remedies, so if I don't make much sense that is why! So anyway, today's post is in three parts to cover the activities of the last few days. First is the continuing saga with Diesel's feet, then riding update from yesterday, and finally a lunging update from today.

Last Friday Diesel had the farrier come out, to trim and roll his feet, and check his continued suitability for working barefoot. Diesel's feet has been an ongoing saga, when I first got him he wouldn't pick his feet up at all and turned into a bucking bronco with the farrier. Handling Diesel's feet has been a very slow process and it has literally been in about the last month that I have been able to pick up and clean out all four feet without a fuss. He is getting alot better with the farrier now, I give him a shot of calmer an hour before he is due, I honestly don't think it does anything but at least I can say I am doing something. We have had a hard time finding a farrier, as they are too rough with Diesel, which makes him worse, or they take too long and he gets stressed, or worst of all they demand he is sedated! I am so glad we have finally found one that seems to work. Diesel was a lot better this time, he reared twice with the first foot, then settled down nicely and allowed his other feet to be trimmed, I was very proud of him. His feet were then checked to see if he can remain barefoot for now, as he is now in more regular work and I was very happy to hear that Diesel will hopefully be able to remain barefoot permanently as he has very strong feet, with deep soles. The only thing I have to be careful of is taking Diesel over gravelly areas which could make him footsore, or lots of road work which could wear his feet down.

I rode again yesterday, just a short one again though. I had planned on a longer ride, but unfortunately someone else wanted to use the indoor school as well, and after my confidence crisis the other day I didn't want to ride for long. Actually I didn't want to ride at all, but I made myself get on, and just worked on circles and bends, making a rough figure of eight with a ground pole at each side. Even though it was a short ride I felt a lot better that I rode him with someone else in the school. I also noticed today that he is not as willing to go on the bit (which he has happily offered since I started riding him), so I will have to work on that a bit, although this will probably come back as impulsion and balance improve.

Today was Diesel's Fat-busting/Aerobics lunging session. I try to give Diesel a good, energetic lunging session once or twice a week as he is still a little overweight and I am very concerned about him becoming laminitic. I lunged him from the bridle, with his lungee bungee attached to the roller, to try and encourage him to become a bit more round and work on the bit more. I took the lungee bungee of after a few minutes on both reins however as it soon became very clear that Diesel did not want to play ball today! From the start I really struggled to get him going, and managed a short trot on each rein before he started to nap. Diesel very quickly figured out that if he stops and turns in to face me I can't physically get him back out on the circle without stopping and starting again, and he uses this constantly if he isn't in the 'mood' for lunging. Today was one of those days... I attempted a canter on both reins, but this just resulted in a faster trot, so I decided to get a couple of ground poles out to give Diesel something more to think about. While I set up I let Diesel off the lunge and took his roller off so he could have a stretch and canter about, this normally results in 5 minutes of charging around the outside of the arena bucking and jumping around, but Diesel was in such a lazy mood he couldn't even be bothered to do that! After a few flicks of the lunge whip I got him to have a canter around and a couple of bucks, so I caught him again and started to lunge over the two ground poles. I spaced these so he could easily trot over both poles, but would need to stretch his stride out slightly. This worked and Diesel started to concentrate a bit more, before starting to nap again when we swapped to the right rein. Diesel finds it much harder to balance on this rein, so he naps more to get out of the work. I am going to work more on this rein in our schooling sessions to try and 'even him up' a bit. I persevered until he went over the trotting poles three times on the right rein without stopping or napping. Eventually, after about 20 minutes of lunging I was so worn out I had to stop, before I collapsed. I thought it was meant to be exercise for Diesel, not me! To finish off I walked him around the outdoor on a loose rein for a few circuits and encouraged him to stretch down.

 Diesel in his lunging equipment - notice the unenthusiastic expression before we even started

Sunday, 19 June 2011

What does everyone think of the new layout?

I have finally had a chance to fiddle around with the settings, what does everyone think of the layout? Is it clear and easy to read? Is there anything else on here people would like to see?

Thanks in advance for your feedback