Dec 2, 2013

Filling your toolkit

When we first begin to ride, our toolkit (both literally and figuratively) is rather small. You may have two to three brushes and a hoofpick in your caddy. You may only know how to do 20m circles and diagonal lines at the walk and trot. You get my drift. The more experienced we become, the more stuff we accumulate and the more we know. Like many things in life, becoming a better rider calls for simplification and efficiency. When something you are attempting in your session with your horse is not working, modify it. Just like when you are working out, if an exercise becomes too difficult, lower the impact. There is no sense in forcing yourself to do it over and over again if it's not going right, causing pain, and deflating your morale. 

Often when an exercise is too difficult for a horse it can be pared down to these few possibilities: lack of impulsion, stiffness, or being out of balance (ie. heavy on the forehand or a large discrepancy of ease between left and right). When confronted with difficulty, you'll need to choose an appropriate tool from your toolkit prioritizing calm, forward and straight.

For example, an issue that popped up yesterday was a rider could not turn her horse to the right. When she would try, the horse would grab the bit and rush forward. She was stuck in the "I can't turn" rather than looking into her toolkit to ask "What else can I use to turn?" My thought process:  the horse is moving fine aside from when it's time to turn and then he loses his calm. Priority - keep calm and forward then worry about proper flexion. We have been working on counter-bending as a suppling tool. Since the horse had no problem turning left I told her to counter-bend him (to the left) and to circle to the right. The horse left the wall and did a volte to the right. Then I instructed her to stay in the circle and gradually ask the horse to bend to the right. His reaction was to slow down, but eventually they both succeeded in moving forward in the correct bend. The horse's main message here? In this case the horse was being more bossy than he was trying to communicate a stiffness on the left side of his body as I had seen the rider warming up with relative ease. The key was to use another tactic to arrive at the same intention.

Look to what you already know how to do with what you have. Challenging your creativity will develop new tools. Break down your problem like a math equation and solve the simplest things first:  calm, forward, then straight.

Jun 3, 2013

June Events

Sunday, June 9

Portugal Day Parade in downtown Toronto

Starting at Lansdowne Ave. at Bloor St to College St.

June 14, 15, 16

Polo for Heart
Frank will be performing on Sunday, June 16

June 15, 16

Bullfight at Downsview Park

Apr 19, 2013

Spring has sprung!

Warmer weather is nearing and that usually drives up the interest to ride outdoors, perhaps take your horse to shows and on hacks, and of course, bathing your horse more often. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

It may take your horse some time to build up the stamina s/he had at fall's end last year when it comes to working outdoors. You may be working in deeper sand than your indoor arena or harder ground and going up and down hills. Pay attention to your horse's breathing both by listening for any huffing and puffing and by heaving of the lungs. Going for endless canter outdoors on a horse can feel so great to you that you may forget to check in on how your horse is doing. Mind the time you spend on hard terrain if your horse doesn't wear shoes and pick your horse's hooves upon return.

Work your equitation in the outdoors by opening and closing gates while mounted or try out your lateral work without any "help" from walls or fences.

When it comes to bathing your horse, it's best if your horse's heart rate has been brought up, even if you're bathing with warm water or it's warm outside to avoid colic. If you plan to bathe your horse without having ridden first, take him/her out on the longe line for at least five to ten minutes first to get the body temperature up. Better safe than sorry.


Jan 7, 2013

Winter Workouts

Getting tired of looking at your arena walls this winter?  You can bet your horse is too.  Creating different workouts can be a challenge.  The first step is to analyze what you're already doing so you can change it up.  Aside from changing up your in-saddle habits, consider staying on the ground so you can stay in shape as well.

Work on the longe line not only helps your horse get out some kicks before you get on, but it can also be used to sharpen up transition work.  You get to watch what you're used to feeling.  Solidify quick responses to halts and moving forward through the gaits.

Work in hand, even if you don't think you know what you're doing.  If you have a trusting ground relationship with your horse, you can do it.  Think of how you would ask for anything from the saddle.  What is the use of your reins?  Which leg and what timing?  Rotations on the forehand (haunches-out) in circles around you, shoulder-in, leg-yielding--these can all be done in-hand relieving your horse of some monotony if you seldom or never do it.

Work at liberty.  Every horse I have worked at in liberty has enjoyed it.  There is a multitude of information and educational videos on the internet if you have no idea where to start.  It can be a tool for building trust and a way to exercise without any tack at all.

Last, ride bareback.  It keeps you warmer and your session will change automatically.  You will work on different things and be able to feel your horse better.

Have fun mixing it up.  Avoid what my dad calls "too much church work".  He has such a unique way of expressing his thoughts!