Thursday, 30 August 2007

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

At last, this weekend brought with it some good weather, and I was able to ride Echo outside again. I really appreciate having the indoor school as a facility, but it is harder to ride in there, due to its size and the fact that Echo naps towards the door a little bit still.

On Saturday I rode her in the outdoor school, while my boyfriend manned the video camera. Unfortunately the battery was low and he only got the first few minutes of me riding free, and also unfortunately it was on the left rein, so she doesn't look her best. She actually started going much more forward after the camera had died - typical!

I will attempt to upload the video to this blog as soon as I have worked out how to do it. It is quite amusing, as it captured our first attempt at trotting through a puddle (it had been raining A LOT in the previous few days) and Echo's subsequent emergency stop in the middle of the puddle. I think she just suddenly realised she was in the water!

On Sunday morning, we went for our first mini hack. We were on our own, but with someone walking beside us, and we just went out for about ten minutes. Several good things came out of it, however, as she had to pass the turn off to her field, and although she called repeatedly for her friends (who were not there, thankfully) she did not nap towards it. We then walked into the cross country course - we had to go down a hill, which she found rather tricky with me on her back, then up a big sandy track back out into view of the fields at the top of the centre. She was a little vocal through this, and although she tenses up when she calls, she didn't stray from the line I put her on, and she responded well to my voice.

It wasn't huge, but it was another step forward, and these things have to start slowly.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

A week on

I just realised that I haven't written for a week and this is rather slack of me. It is partly because we have not progressed all that much further than last Wednesday, although training a horse is inevitably a slow process. Actually, that is a slightly negative attitude, as we have had lots of mini adventures in the last week. On Sunday, the yard I keep her at held a hunter trial and so the place was inundated with ponies charging about. The atmosphere was great, but full of anticipation of speed and adrenaline. Despite this, I rode her in the outdoor school, where she could see everything and hear the loud speakers going, and she was very well behaved! It didn't help that it poured with rain as soon as we got into the school and although it passed quickly, we were both drenched from head to toe! She had a certain spring in her step, but was very good.

Since I last wrote, our steering has improved greatly. She can now turn and trot on a circle easily on the right rein and is developing her ability to do this on the left rein. She finds the left rein tricky, and had been becoming slightly nappy on the left. She wasn't being naughty, she just seemed to get a bit stuck on the left. This has improved a lot - I just have to set her up carefully for turns on the left. I have to be about five steps ahead of her, with my seat, upper body, outside leg and hands in order to stop her right shoulder escaping out and dragging us across the arena!

I am gradually working through any physical difficulties that might be causing this problem on the left: today she had her teeth rasped for the first time (brave girlie) and the vet said that they were slightly uneven, with some sharp edges. I had thought this might be the case, as she managed to chew through two bits in a week! I thought I was being nice to her, riding her first in a nathe straight bar, then in a happy mouth with a roller. However, she made light work of making huge teeth marks in both bits, so no more Mr Nice Guy - a metal bit it is! She actually seems happier in the new metal bit; she didn't really like the happy mouth, as I think having a centre lozenge meant that there was too much going on in her mouth. You live and learn!!

What else have we achieved this week? Well, she had a day off on Monday, then on Tuesday I had thought I would just lunge her again, but she was going so nicely on the lunge that I wanted to ride her - just for a bit. However, there was nobody around to help me as we were indoors, so I just got on! I don't know where the new found bravery came from - I just stood on a bucket and climbed on board! This was the first time I had ridden her without being lunged on her first, and the first time I had not had a leg-up to get on, and she coped very well. She was a little whizzier than usual, but I think that is partly because the indoor school is quite small, and she finds it hard to balance. I rode her in there again today, hoping that as she gets used to it, she will see that it is the same as being ridden outside.

The next major hurdle will be the first hack, which will hopefully take place later this week. I can now stop, start and turn on request, so I really have to bite the bullet and take her out. I have never been very brave hacking out, so it is going to take everything I've got to be the confident leader she needs to guide her through the big wide world. We will be going with a couple of riding school ponies, so that she has bomb-proof friends to show her the way. It should be fun, but keep everything crossed for us!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007


What is wrong with the British weather? Yesterday I had to turn Echo out in a rug, as it was cold, raining and windy; today it was hot in the sun, but blowing at gale force winds. Ridiculous. My experience of working in a dressage yard has led me to become quite wary of windy weather, as the dressage horses, who didn't get turned out, would go crazy in the wind. However, Echo is not a highly strung dressage horse, and spends most of her time in a field exposed to the elements, so I have to remind myself of that regularly!

She was actually extremely calm today. I lunged her as usual before getting on her and there was a lot going on in the yard. I was very proud of her, as there was another horse in the school at the same time, who was being less than perfectly behaved, as well as several hacks going out and small children running around.

When I got on, she was slightly sharper than she has been before, and the first trot felt a little speedy, but she behaved beautifully. The yard manager was helping me, as he has done every other time, but when he took the lunge rein off, he got talking to the girl he was teaching at the same time (all very hectic) and I decided to have a go on my own, without him running along near us. We even had some steering today! She was forward off my leg and trotted happily past the gate, which has been a place where she is inclined to back off.

The yard she is at is so good for her - she has so much to see and accept all the time. It is the perfect place to be bringing on a young horse, as there's nothing quite like a busy riding school for chaos and drama!

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Where has the summer gone?

Echo had a day off yesterday, as do most of the horses at the yard on a Monday. However, with the revolting weather today, I wish I had worked her yesterday and given her a day off today; we have had strong winds and driving rain today - nice.

I decided that as the weather was so horrible, I would just lunge her indoors today, and see if I could get her to canter on command on the lunge. I have never intentionally asked her to canter before and I was worried that if I asked her for the first time when riding, she might get upset and stressed by not knowing what to do. I thought it would be better to teach her the voice command on the lunge first.

It was pretty successful: she was on edge because of the wind, so naturally more forward-thinking, but she got the idea straightaway. I was very clear in my command and got after her with the lunge whip the first time, then after I had brought her back to trot, I asked again and she cantered immediately.

She has been finding the left rein very difficult on the lunge recently, although this improves when I ride her, and so I didn't ask for much canter on this rein. She was rather unbalanced, and could do with a bigger space to canter in to establish the canter on the left. The right rein was much more successful and she cantered calmly and in balance.

By the time I finished the session, I could have ridden her, as she was very chilled, but she had done enough work really. She had to stay in for a bit longer, as she was having back shoes on later in the afternoon. This is a big relief, as she was starting to develop a hole in one of her back feet as well and I am sick of being paranoid about her soft white lines. I have been inspecting her feet with the scrupulousness of an archaeologist - picking and scraping every millimetre. At least now I can stop worrying quite so much! She behaved impeccably for the farrier again, despite being in a new part of the yard and the driving rain. I think my farrier is quite taken with her, as she behaves far better than some of the horses who should know better!

Today's dilemma is more to do with the saddle. I am keen to buy a new one, but am not sure what type or size to get really. Her present saddle is a wide fit, so I assume, since it's rather tight, that she needs an extra wide. I may have to get a saddler out, although this seems rather unnecessary as she will probably change shape entirely in three months' time. She seems to be eating my money without any trouble at all this month!

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Riding Free!

The three stages of riding Echo. First stage: being led.
Second Stage: riding on the lunge. This is her far better rein and where she is most comfortable.
And finally - trotting free around the school.
As you can see from the pictures, Echo and I have had a very successful few days! I rode her yesterday on the lunge for the first time, which was fine - she was fantastic on the right rein, but less balanced on the left. This is quite surprising, as her left rein has always been her more balanced, or at least it was last summer. She finds the circle tricky on the left and pulls to the outside, falling out through her shoulder and slowing down.
Today, we trotted on both reins on the lunge, with me starting to use fewer voice commands, and more leg aids. Echo was slightly baffled by this, so I am keeping up the voice commands for upwards transitions at the moment - otherwise we would just stand still! The downward transitions are much easier without the voice, as I am able to use my seat and she has quickly learned what this means.
It's incredibly disconcerting, riding a horse that has absolutely no idea of the aids we simply take for granted when riding. She is starting to understand the whole steering lark, but it's still rather ropey! We managed to steer round a cone which she was very much not going to go round to begin with, so I feel like the steering is gradually developing.
I had such a big smile on my face at the end of today's session; I didn't want to get off! This is definitely what I have been waiting two years for.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Trotting and everything!

Big breakthrough mentally for me today: I rode Echo for about ten minutes, including a trot on each rein. In the back of my mind I had been a tiny bit concerned about the first trot, as when I first put the saddle on her, this time last year, she was fine until she started trotting. She didn't exactly do anything silly when she did trot, but she was obviously worried by it for a few moments. However, today she was fantastic! We were being led, but she went forward when I asked her (vocally at the moment, although I started to close my leg at the same time) and she felt rhythmical and comfortable.

Tomorrow will bring more of the same in terms of what I ask of her, although we may have a trot on the lunge tomorrow, so that she doesn't rely on the person running next to her to keep her going. I have to stay very balanced, as the saddle I bought for her last year (only cost me £9 - bargain!), despite still fitting her reasonably well, is rather unstable, and feels as though it may slip a little. This is obviously not ideal, and I will set about looking for another saddle as soon as possible.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Chaotic, but successful!

I don't think I could have picked a more unsuitable time to back a young horse than lunchtime today! Usually lunchtimes are the quietest time at the yard, as it is a busy riding school and finding a free slot in the arenas is sometimes tricky. However, this week has brought other challenges, not least the fact that there are about forty children with ponies staying for pony club camp! Moments after I had closed the gate of the outdoor school, a recently gelded three year old arrived in his new home, a little anxious and calling frequently. Echo had a look, but was unfazed.

Regardless of the excitement, I started to lunge her; we had just got going, when hordes of excited children on ponies started to pour back from their morning of lessons. She was a star: there was so much going on and so much to distract her, but she trotted round calmly, with the stirrups flapping by her side, ignoring the chaos around her and behaving like a professional! After 15 minutes lunging, most of the action had subsided, and I prepared to get on.

I lay across her while she was led around, as we did yesterday, then did the same but this time with my left foot in the stirrup. When we came to a halt, I simply swung my leg over her back and that was it - I was sitting on my horse! We walked around with me sitting on her for about five minutes, then finished on a very good note. Hopefully, I will be able to do the same tomorrow and include a short trot as well. Going well so far!

Monday, 6 August 2007

A step closer...

We are nearly back to the stage where we left things at Christmas. Today I leaned across Echo after I had lunged her, and was led around in walk. It's hideously uncomfortable, lying across a saddle, trying desperately to stay relaxed and to breathe normally, while trying to keep an eye on how the horse is feeling and whether she is walking happily or getting upset. But it is necessary, and she behaved impeccably. The only unfortunate thing is the fact that people always seem to appear at the side of the school, when I am draped across my horse with my bum in the air - so attractive!

The plan for tomorrow is to sit on Echo and walk around. I'm wary of doing too much more, as I'm waiting for her new bit to arrive, which is slightly bigger and will give her a bit more room in her mouth. I'd also like to try some other saddles on her, as although hers doesn't fit too badly, she has filled out a lot in her shoulders and it is on the tight side. It's vital to break a horse in a saddle that fits, so before I ask her to trot or work at all, I'd like to see if something else will fit better.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Sunshine - lovely!

Now that we have mastered the indoor school, I thought that it was time we ventured outside again. The surface is not fantastic outside, although there is a woodchip school as well which I can use. She went beautifully yesterday and was as chilled as anything, so today I put her saddle and bridle on to move things along a bit. She was really good and didn't mind the wind or the lorries arriving for the riding club meeting or the horses coming and going. I flapped the saddle around noisily afterwards and put a bit of weight on it which was fine.

Tomorrow I have organised for some help to be on hand, so that I can lie across her and walk around. I have done this before several times, but not since before Christmas. This is a great way of getting her used to the weight on her back but still making sure that I can slide off if she panics. Provided this goes well, I should be able to sit on her again this week.
At least one of us is looking at the camera! Echo loking very photogenic and very big!

The field that she has moved to is lovely, but quite a long way from the yard. I am therefore taking this opportunity to go different routes to it, exploring some of the cross country course and the places where we will be hacking out one day. She is generally fine the second time she goes somewhere, but the first time is often noisy and fast! Yesterday she paced to the field with her eyes on stalks and shrieking in my ear. Today was much more relaxed, as you can see in the photo above, although she was calling to her friends from at least 200 yards away!

Friday, 3 August 2007

Monsters in the indoor arena!

I lunged Echo today with a roller on and she was sound!!! Such a relief. She had trotted up sound for the vet, but I wanted to see it myself on the lunge. I took her into the indoor school today - she's never been indoors before and it was a bit spooky! She didn't do anything naughty, she just flew round in a speedy trot and was very fired up. When I asked her to walk she would, but would then decide that it was probably safer to trot again!

One very good thing today is that Echo and her friends are out in a much bigger field for the next few weeks; there's lots of grass and lots of space so that is definitely a bonus. It's a bit strange only seeing her once a day now - I seem to have spent my life at the yard recently and today's visit felt quite brief. It will perhaps give me a chance to do other necessary jobs!

Thursday, 2 August 2007

New Shoes!!!

Echo was shod today and behaved like a horse twice her age. She had to be hot shod due to her funny shaped feet and wasn't bothered at all by the smells or sounds. Admittedly she devoured an entire packet of polos, but I could not have asked her to behave any better. She now has front shoes on and we will see how the back feet go; it's quite possible that she will have to have backs on next time. The photo above shows how messy stockholm tar is - it got everywhere!

She was so happy to be out in the field - she rolled for about two minutes before starting to graze. It was very nice to see. Tomorrow, depending on how comfortable she is, I think we will begin the lunging again. Yet again, fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

The road to recovery.

Having been on holiday for a week, I was expecting Echo's foot to be fully recovered when I returned. This was not entirely the case. She had been poulticed for a week while I was away, still on box-rest, and I was hoping this would solve the infection in her foot. However, the farrier had a look at her on the day I got back and he said he could still hear something inside the hole when he pressed the sole of the hoof. How infuriating!

She has now been poulticed for two more days and each poultice has been coming off absolutely spotless, so I called the vet this morning to see what she had to say. She watched her trot up (completely 100% sound) and squeezed her foot with hoof testers (no sign of anything.) Her verdict is that the infection has gone and the noise inside the foot is simply the fact that the foot is wet inside from poulticing. The farrier is coming out tomorrow to put shoes on her and the vet recommended that she stay poulticed until then to keep it completely clean, so Echo is spending (hopefully) her last night in solitary confinement tonight.

The good thing about all this box-rest, other than her recovery, is that she has become extremely relaxed in her stable and is putting up with being dealt with without any problems. She is the only horse on the yard at night and is dealing with it admirably, provided she has a very full haynet to keep her occupied.

I had not intended this blog to be a record of treatment for lameness, and with any luck, from this weekend we should make a little more progress!

Daily adventures while training my young horse.