Wednesday, April 13, 2011

One of the Best Rides Ever!

I thought I had a brilliant idea this morning... I was going to set up my camera inside the arena, take my remote control with me, and hit the button as I cantered past the camera. It was going to be epic!

Unfortunately, this is about all I could get.

Say cheese!
 Not that it isn't a cute picture, but it's far from what I was going for. It seemed that when the camera shut itself off to conserve battery, the shooting mode would change from "remote quick response mode" back to "continuous advance mode". It was driving me crazy so I decided to give up on it for the time being. It appears I have to change the "remote on duration" to something longer than 1 minute, so we'll try that next time.

It's probably just as well because Lilly decided to be a challenge today. She was a bit spooky when I rode her on Monday too, but today she was just being ridiculous. When I was messing with the camera and taking way too many worthless pictures, she jumped every time the camera took a picture. I ended up taking even more worthless pictures so I could deal with her acting silly.

She also had her eye on something across the field and kept blowing every time we got to that end of the arena. In an effort to control her mind by controlling her feet, we engaged in some serious footwork. Side-passing, circling, stopping, trotting, backing, and I finally had her attention. She didn't completely ignore the spookies in the field, but at least she was paying attention to me when we passed by them.

A couple new things for us... the first one is a new bit. I love the french link snaffle I have for Lilly and I thought she loved it too. It might be that she loves it a bit too much, though, so I've switched her back to the plain old d-ring snaffle. She chews a lot less now and is a lot more responsive to a bunch of different things. We think maybe the french link had too many moving parts and it was just too much for an already sensitive horse like Lilly.

The second one is spurs. SPURS! I can't believe I'm actually riding my horse in spurs, and I'm even more surprised that I still have a pair! I'm not using them for go, that cue still comes from my lower leg, but I'm using them to keep her straight. With all this stopping and backing we've been doing, she has a tendency to swing her butt to the inside. Rather than having to use a LOT of leg to move her back over, I just touch her with the spur and the process moves along much more efficiently.

After we got past the spookiness issues, she was really good. I think I smiled more today than I have in a long time! She rushed a few canter transitions because she's starting to figure out the new prep work before the cue and decides she's ready to go. When she started to canter before I was ready, I stopped her, backed her, trotted her, and then asked again. The cantering that followed was heavenly!

So as a little side note here... back when I was taking Dressage lessons, my trainer commented that "before you know it, all you'll have to do is think canter and Lilly will canter." Her comments made it sound like that was a good thing and it was something to work towards. So with such a sensitive, tuned in horse who obviously feels every move I make with my body, how important is the actual cue? Should I make her wait for me to slide my outside leg back and squeeze, or are the upper body movements I use to prep her good enough for the cue?

Back to cantering... heavenly! It's obviously because of the exercises I've been doing with her, but I'm wondering if it's because she's building up the muscles she needs to canter nicely, or if she's really hunting the whoa. Today she cantered around the arena twice before I felt her start falling apart. She cantered around as if she's been doing it for years and it was effortless. She was even able to maintain her speed in the corners, which is where she usually speeds up and drops her inside shoulder.

So here's my other question. Since I'm technically still rehabbing her to an extent, and since she's still fairly out of shape, and since I'm such a wimp and immediately want to rub the hell out of her and take her into the barn for being such a good girl, how long should I canter her for? Until she starts to fall apart, or try to stop her before she falls apart? Or try to put her back together and canter her a bit more? I just want to make sure she's using the right muscles and I'm concerned if I canter her too much, she'll start using the wrong muscles to try and hold herself together. I've been looking over my book and it'll say, "work up to 15 minutes or more of xyz..." but I'm not sure I know how when it's okay to increase the amount of time.

I've been working on the jog too, and I'm really having fun seeing how slow I can get her to go. I don't anticipate ever having a problem getting her to go faster, so working on getting her slower is really cool. We've had some very nice pitter-patter jogs.

I was a good girl today!
 What a great ride!


  1. I'm glad to hear you had such a fabulous ride! And you and Lilly look fantastic in that picture!

    RE the canter cue - my Paint gelding was also extremely sensitive and anticipated my every move. I would find myself thinking, "ok, now we're going to do a 20 meter circle here..." and suddenly we'd be doing it. He was so attuned to my slightest weight shift or head tilt that he knew what I wanted almost before I did and would do it. On one hand, it was amazing because the cues I used were very, very subtle. On the other hand, it meant that I had to learn how to sit really, really still (not stiff, just quiet) unless I wanted something, and then I had to ask very, very quietly (NOTHING spun him out of control faster than a "loud" rider). For another horse and rider, maybe it wouldn't have worked, but it worked for us and we did well in competition, so I can't say it was a bad thing. But that's just one opinion. :) As long as she's doing what you want her to do when you want her to do it, and it's your idea and not hers!

  2. WOW that picture is great. You need to look at it again. She is standing square and I think she is looking stronger in her shoulders/neck already!

    I think as long as you are REALLY wanting her to do the command and she isn't rushing into it then its fine....remember how hard it was for you to Canter Apple? All I have to do is sit a certain way and lift my ribs and he will canter. I think its great she is so in tune to you.

    I'm very proud of you for putting her butt to work over that spooky crap....just remember to laugh too!! Remember the trail ride?

    I think waiting for her to fall apart is too long. I would stop her before she falls apart and make sure you are schooling equally on both sides.

    I'm glad she has the pitter patter jog going on! See WP here you come!

  3. Hmmmm Don't think I worded that the picture she looks the most athletic I think I have ever seen her look. I'm digging it!!!

  4. I agree with Double A (again ;-). Once they find that happy place, I let them jog, trot or lope along for about as long as I think they can hold it, but try to bring them down before they fall apart. You can still build condition by asking them to do it more than once, but if you keep them going longer than they can hold it, they kind of miss out on the 'ohhhh...that's what you want'.

    I'm trying to work Frosty back into his little pitter-pat WP jog (he's got a lovely one) and he can only hold that for a few strides before it becomes uncomfortable. I figure that's okay, because that gives me a chance to work on transitions-up, down, up, down.

    I like a horse to get ready when they feel the cue coming, but I don't ever like them to just do it (I think that is what Double A was saying as well). In tune is lovely...and that is what we all work any event...but anticipating the go ahead often leads to rushing. I will blatantly admit that I do not ride quietly. It's deliberate. I let my legs swing, I bump their sides in rhythm and I move my butt and shoulders around. The more sensitive (or spooky) the horse, the more I do it. I want them to learn the difference between me scootching around and an actual cue. It was actually a WP trainer that taught me to ride like that and I just carried it over to everything else I have ever done.

  5. Lilly looks gorgeous!
    You brought up the question about how much canter is ok while she's still in rehab.
    I don't have anything to add to that, but as long as we're talking rehab, I'd use the lunge pen with caution, keeping in mind that lots of small circles are hard on legs.

  6. Aww I think its a cute photo too! :D Im very glad you guys are making progress! Try something, with her being so sensitive, youve read me talk about torso twisting, whereby my upper body and my hips move from side to side rotating. I would not at all be surprised if after a few minutes of this work, you'll get a softer back, an engaged pony, and even some slow-down by controling your breathing. I see a lot of good that can come from such a sensitive horse. Im told by my friends that they think Milo is way too sensitive, and I feel that he picks and chooses aids to comply with, Id love to have another level of sensitivity, much like you see in the reined cow horses.

  7. Aww, it's so nice to hear that you and Lilly had such a nice time together. It's too bad you weren't able to get lots of good pictures, but the 2 you did post are great! I love the yawn pic, she's too cute!

  8. I've already established that I'm far from the world's greatest rider and trainer so I can't give any help with those issues- but I do know that the one time my mare flipped out about camera noises she was in heat. For some reason when she's hormonal everything bothers her. I wouldn't be surprised if Lilly doesn't even twitch an ear about in a day or two.

  9. What a great picture of you both! Definitely one to print out and frame.

    As far as rehabbing - I would do lots and lots of trotting with short inervals of canter peppered in now and then. It takes so much muscle and energy to canter, and hold it, that if the muscles aren't ready you're asking for trouble. That said - Lilly seems to be so sensitive that I would guess she would let you know that she couldn't canter. My personal theory was if my mare felt good enough to canter, it was more disasterous to keep her from doing it.

    Is that your new saddle in the pic? NICE!

  10. ditto everyone else! Great picture!! And I agree with double a, she looks more athletic, etc. Her neck looks lovely!

  11. I really appreciate the comments and stories! What I love about horse people is how differently we can handle the same situation. :)

    Sounds like the best thing to do is a little bit of cantering, many times. And that makes sense, especially for her situation. I always worry about doing too much, but if we keep the exercises short, it should be much better for her.

    I definitely want her to wait for me to cue her in some fashion, I just don't know if I should make the prepwork the actual cue, or set her up and then cue her with my leg.

    Because she IS so sensitive, I've been trying to use my body and seat more, and use my reins less.

    And thanks for all the compliments on the picture! Yep, that's my new saddle too... I love it!! I went back to look at the picture again and she DOES look really good. I think the new feeding program is really making a difference too.

    Thanks again!!

  12. Hmmm you keep bringing up "prepping for the canter" How much prepping are you doing? It could be too much and that is why she is getting ahead of you.

    I find it acceptable for them to canter at the BEGINNING of the CUE instead of waiting for the whole thing but if she is cantering BEFORE you cue....she is leaving you and therefore isn't WITH you.... :)

  13. It seems any prep is too much prep when it comes to Lilly, but all I'm doing is lifting my inside rein slightly to get her to pick up her shoulder a bit and then sliding my leg back to ask for the canter. 9 times out of 10 I do this from the trot to make the transition easier for her, so if I'm posting I'll sit the trot for a stride or two, lift the inside rein, and then ask. I've decided to cut out the posting trot part and just do sitting trots for now so that's one less hint that the canter is coming, but pretty much as soon as I lift that inside rein she's jumping into the canter.

    Lord only knows what I'm doing with my body during that process... but that's what I'm doing consciously.

  14. Thats AWESOME! You are going to get that showhorse back...just wait!
    Much better at Sundays show...she looked cute jogging around with us.