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


Success - A good day today

Just got in from the yard now, and thought I would update straight away. I took my mum with me today as I felt so much better the other day having someone else there. I rode in the indoor for 15 minutes just working on circles in walk, then finished with a 15 metre circle in trot on both reins and turning down the centre line with a trot to halt to finish on. This is the first time in a couple of weeks I felt like trotting, rather than just feeling like I had to.

As we didn't really work on anything in particular I can't really write much about the process or training I did today, I only worked on circles and bends. However this is really useful for Diesel as he still finds circles rather difficult, particularly smaller circles of 10 or 8 metres, so this really helps to improve his balance. Riding circles also encourages young horses to step under with their hind legs more. Mum said there was an obvious difference between a straight line and a circle with regards to him stepping under. As Diesel gets fitter I will work more on circles/bends/serpentines in walk and trot to improve his general balance and impulsion.

And as a final note - I hope everyone has had a good Father's Day!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Road safety

Just a quick post to share a link I found in a letter in this months Horse & Rider magazine, regarding horse safety on the roads. This website has advice on safety as well as an incident report centre and a map of road incidents. I think everyone should check this out as road safety is so important. My last horse who I had on loan died in a road accident, so I know just how important road safety is.

Here is the link:

Please check it out!

Thanks for reading

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Nerves again and a shakey ride

Today was another nervous ride but I didn't set an aim for the ride, just to have a walk round on my own until I feel a bit better. As I went into the indoor another rider joined us, so I waited for them to finish before riding myself, as I didn't want a repeat of Tuesday. Diesel stood very nicely watching the mare walk round, however this 10 minute wait just led to me becoming anxious again and working myself up. In hindsight I should really have got on, but hindsight is a wonderful thing!

After the mare left the indoor I mounted and Diesel was very tense from the start as he just wanted to follow the other horse out of the arena, and he spent the entire time I rode him shouting to the others on the yard (several horses were kept in for the farrier). As I was feeling anxious again I just rode for a few minutes, on a 20 metre circle between E and B, with a ground pole at both letters, working on halting square as I crossed the centre line and stepping nicely over the poles without changing the speed or rhythm of the walk.

I really do wish I could get over this nervous block so I can do more work with Diesel and enjoy riding him again. It is my lesson in 9 days, and I am really looking forward to it! Any tips or advice are still appreciated!
There won't be any posts for a few days as I am away at my boyfriend's until Sunday evening, I aim to ride on Sunday, so I will post if do.

Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Caldene Crystal Reins Review

I realised today I have only had these reins for about 2 1/2 weeks, so I will do a review of them.

The first point is that these reins look fantastic on. The crystal section is not too big to be overpowering so remains subtle. These reins are certainly not to everyones taste, and seem to inspire awe or ridicule in my fellow horse owners.

On a practical note the reins are very soft and supple, and the pony size is great, not too long to dangle around Diesel's feet, and not too short so as I am riding holding the buckle with no room to give with the reins. The only negative comment I can make on this product is that the reins slip through my gloves fairly easily, and I find myself readjusting them a lot. A rubber backing to add grip would have greatly improved these reins.

This picture shows the full length of the crystal section

I am very impressed with this product and would recommend it to anyone who wants a bit of extra 'bling' on their tack! 

Shires Elasticated Girth Review

So I tried this girth on Diesel on Monday and I was very impressed with the look and the fit. The padded girth seemed soft and supple and the girth looked smart on Diesel. It fit beautifully and the 44" girth's shaped section fitted perfectly behind his legs. A few negatives came up at this point however, the girth was very difficult to do up, although I think this is because I am used to the extra 'reach' from a humane girth. The girth is also very wide and the width of the 44" is the same as that of the longer girths, so on my 13.2hh pony it does look rather wide, this may well just require some time to get used to the girth. The elasticated segment is cream, which is a major negative for me as it really stands out on my black pony with black tack, and I think a darker elastic would be more in keeping with the girth.

Overall view showing the elastic insert

Close up of elastic insert

 Close up showing the width of the girth compared to the saddle

Yesterday and today I rode with this girth. Yesterday as I mounted from the ground the saddle slipped despite the stirrup being held for me, as the elastic grip is not enough to off set the roundness and lack of withers on Diesel, which is a drawback as it makes mounting from the ground impossible. I had a better ride in it today (see my previous blog post), and found the fit to be very good and the girth stayed in place without slipping forwards or back while riding. After untacking I noticed that the girth area was very sweaty, and as we had not worked hard and it was not a hot day I can only think that it is the material that the girth is made from making him sweat.

Overall I am not overly impressed with this girth. It does fit nicely, have a nice amount of padding and look smart other than a few minor concerns. In practicality it makes Diesel sweat, so may rub despite the padding, and the elastic inserts make the saddle slipping a problem. I cannot judge yet how the girth is affecting Diesel so I will reserve judgement on this for a few days.

Sorry for the late post - complete confidence crisis

I had a very rough day yesterday so didn't get round to posting on here, so today I have a bumper lot of posts, with this, my update for the day, and two (yes two!) reviews.

So anyways, the reason for all the distress yesterday was a complete loss of confidence, to the point I was actually considering giving up horse riding all together. I am unsure as to what exactly happened, but I was riding Diesel yesterday, practicing for the dressage competition with a friend of mine with her horse. After a few minutes of warming up Diesel started to play up, spooking and spinning on the spot in an attempt to get to the other horse. Instead of riding through it (I feel awful and very stupid admitting this), I just burst into tears and got off. I tried to get back on again but couldn't bring myself to get back into the saddle. I had a sit on my friends horse, a very steady and safe mare, and I couldn't even pluck up the courage to do more than walk once around the arena. It was a complete confidence crisis, and I left the yard in tears and remained upset for the rest of the night. After a talk with my very long suffering boyfriend I was convinced to carry on, and taking advice from a comment already on this blog (thanks Carol) I decided to slow things down and take things back to basics while I get my confidence back again. I also decided to remove my entry to the dressage competition until I feel more confident (again on advice from Carol). So that is the news on my random but complete loss of confidence yesterday.

So onto today. As I was feeling nervous I asked my Dad to come and watch me ride. This may sound silly but there is method to the madness, my dad knows me well and knows how to motivate me into doing something. So I got on Diesel and started walking and working on circles and straightness. After about 5 minutes he started to nap and I became nervous again, however my dad would not let me get off and made me ride through it (It's amazing how at 23, I still feel obliged to do what my parents say!), and I instantly felt a lot more confident. I hadn't planned on trotting until I was feeling more confident again, but was told in no uncertain terms that we were not leaving the arena until I had done. This may seem harsh but I am very grateful as I had a fantastic ride and feel a lot better. It is going to take a while for me to get my confidence back properly, but I will keep blogging about everything that happens.
As for the training today (as I really do need to include more about the training on this blog). I continued working on the free walk on a long rein, and now Diesel has stopped upping the pace when I give with the reins I can start asking him to stretch forward and down. I find with Diesel that this is easier to achieve on a bend or circle than across a diagonal. While he still has a habit of taking off I taken to leaning forward and giving with my hands up his neck, although this looks very inelegant it means I can quickly regain control and bring him back to walk without too much 'fiddling' of the reins. I also worked on straightness by aligning the centre a ground pole with the centre line and riding loops along the long sides of the arena and down the centre line over the pole, forming an elongated figure-of-eight. I added random halts around the figure to ensure Diesel was still listening to my aids and not working on autopilot. I always remember a tip I read in a riding magazine many years ago to help straightness and I have always found it works for me. If you visualise a narrow corridor along the line (straight or bending) that you are riding that you and your horse just fit through, then as you ride along it visualise the corridor and that you cant touch the walls, and this encourages you to close your legs on and help keep the horse straight. It has always worked for me!

Tomorrow I am riding early in the morning (oh the joy of early mornings...), and I plan to do a bit more trotting, maybe work on a few 20metre circles in trot to aid balance. I will have to see how confident I am feeling tomorrow. If anyone has any tips on confidence or wants to share any experiences or ask any questions then please feel free! Now onto my reviews. 

Monday, 13 June 2011

Another day off for Diesel

So another day today with no riding, this competition is getting closer and closer! The indoor school was being used today and the outdoor school and jumping field were both waterlogged, no use for even lunging in. The good news is that I tried the new girth on Diesel and took some photos, so after I have had a chance to ride in it tomorrow I will post a review.
I found out last night that Your Horse Live tickets are now on sale, and even better, that my favourite rider, Geoff Billington, will be doing a demonstration. So thats something to look forward too, I will have to start saving some money already!
I have booked the indoor school for tomorrow, wednesday and thursday, so hopefully there will be some more interesting blog posts rather than me chatting away. I am planning to ride the test in walk tomorrow, then continue working on the free walk.
I have also booked my first lesson with a dressage instuctor, as I now think Diesel is capable of concentrating for a half hour lesson with a couple of breaks (whether or not I am ready is yet to be seen!). The lesson is at 1pm on the day of the dressage competition, which is at 6, so this will be a very busy day indeed. This gives me time to practice the test, and still gives me time to withdraw my entry if I don't think we are up to it.
Thank you to everyone for reading, and if anyone has any tips for dressage competitions, particularly on picking up marks, then please let me know.  

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Wet, wet, wet...

Rained has stopped play completely today, as Diesel is out without a rug, so no riding today. Unfortunately this has put us even further behind with training for the dressage competition, now less than a fortnight away, and it looks more and more like I will not be taking part. Hopefully I will get back in the saddle tomorrow, so for now I am stuck giving my tack a good clean (I don't mind too much, I love cleaning tack - very sad I know!).

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Sorry for the late post - I was really busy all day yesterday catching up with some friends, so haven't been able to post until today. Not much to report really. I just walked Diesel around a few times yesterday and worked on the free walk on the long rein again, he is alot more confident with this now and has started stretching down into the contact, so hopefully a few more sessions on this and we will have cracked it! I was still feeling nervous after my tumble so didn't want to do too much and freak Diesel out as well.
I have also found a dressage trainer and I am waiting for confirmation of my first lesson. I really think this will help us improve now Diesel can cope with lessons. I am not riding today (Saturday is Diesel's 'day off'), but I will carry on with training tomorrow. Hopefully I will be able to ride the entire Prelim 10 test in walk, to help me remember it too!
Oh, and I have also bought a new girth, so I will put a bit of a review on my next post. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Oops - and onto the failures...

Well, like I said, I will write about all of my successes and failures and today was definitely the latter. Actually that's not strictly true. We were going very well, working on bending and free walk. Then the rain started, and more importantly, the thunder! Needless to say Diesel spooked at this sudden onslaught of sound (it sounds much worse in the indoor school than it does outside) and we parted company, and true to form I managed to collide with the only object in the arena, the mounting block. It is a bit of a running joke with my equestrian friends how I can never just land on sand/grass/mud, but always have to crash into something! Anyways, no damage done, apart from this will probably add to my nervous block. I am looking into some lessons to help get my confidence back up again. Any other ideas are still appreciated...
The yard staff are going to lunge for me tomorrow as I am at work and I shall be back in the saddle again on Friday, so fingers crossed for a better ride.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Thought I would share a picture of Diesel so you can put a face to the name

Free walk started, then nerves set in again

So I had quite a good session today. Decided to work on my free walk - as Diesel still struggles with a lack of rein contact (I think he is still a little insecure so likes to have that contact with me). We worked on a figure-of-eight, giving with the reins on the diagonals. After a couple of attempts he started to accept the loose rein and even started to reach for the contact.
When the time came to then move up a gear my nerves kicked back in. I am still completely unsure where this mental block came from but I need to get over it soon as it isn't good for Diesel's training, and isn't fair on him! So I asked a friend to do some trot work on him instead. He was very well behaved considering he hadn't been ridden by this person before.
I really must try and get over these nerves. So tomorrow I intend to start working in trot again. I will update on how it goes!
Also if anyone has any advice on getting over a nervous block I would really appreciate it?

Monday, 6 June 2011

Something a little different!

Argh!!! Scary news - I have entered into my first dressage competition with Diesel on the 25th June. Its just a prelim test and we won't be doing the cantering, really I just want to get him used to the 'feel' of a competition. Getting really nervous already though!

Anyway, I decided to go for something a little different today (my decision being fueled by a busy yard and a queue for both schools), and I took Diesel into the jumping field to lunge him. He absolutely loved it! Even thought he has never seen a XC style jump before we only had one spook the first time - when he attempted to drag me across the field sideways. After that he just sailed over them all! I am so proud of him. It was nice to have a little something different for him to concentrate on and keep his interest, plus he worked up a bit of a sweat, which is useful for a rather chubby native!
Back to schooling tomorrow, and a look over my dressage test sheet shows me I have a lot to work on, so tomorrow it's straightness in trot and free walk on a long rein. A long rein is something of a sticking point with Diesel, who feels the need to do a massively extended trot to the other end of the school as soon as the rein contact is dropped, so it is definitely something to work on!

Where we are at so far...

I thought I would explain a bit about where we are at in our training at the moment, before I go on to bore everyone with accounts of how everything is going from now on!
I first backed Diesel in April (after sitting on him a few times last year), and for the first month I just walked, working on bends, transitions, straightness and suppleness. About 3 weeks ago we started adding a little bit of trot, and have just started working on bends and circles in trot.
Hacking hit a set back due to Diesel bolting and throwing me onto concrete on our first attempt - an experience I am not keen on recreating anytime soon!
As well as ridden work I try to lunge once a week, sometimes over the odd jump. And I also take Diesel on regular walks around the all weather track (in an attempt to increase his fitness, but its always me hot and sweaty and out of breath!).
The last week or so I have hit a bit of a confidence crisis, a random one involving getting nervous about trotting (totally random I know!), so I have just lunged for the last week, to give myself time to get my confidence back.

So that is where we are now...

onto the training!!! 

Sunday, 5 June 2011

A little about me...

I am writing this blog to share my experiences (trials and tribulations, successes and failures) with other horsey people out there!
I own a 3 1/2 year old New Forest pony, which I am currently breaking in myself. My real passion is dressage (never have been much of a jumper), so I intend to aim for a successful career in BD. Problem No. 1; ADULTS DO NOT RIDE PONIES, or at least - this seems to be the general opinion of the equestrian world. This is crazy, as at a mere 5'3" and certainly not heavy, my 13.2hh stocky Forester gelding can more than cope with me as a rider - he certainly has no problem throwing me around if he wants to!!
I aim to show people that ponies are just as good as horses for dressage, I am sure this will not be easy, and I am sure I will face a lot of criticism/insults and snide remarks along the way. I would love for people to read this blog and see how great ponies can be, and that adult pony riders are not 'taboo'. I would also love for this blog to offer support (or at least some light relief and laughter) to others facing the same problems.
As for the dressage... well this is problem No. 2; I have never trained a dressage horse before, let alone from scratch! I have plenty of experience with horses, just not dressage training, so I can see this being a bumpy ride!!
Thanks for looking