Saturday, 26 July 2008

Pesky flies

I've been extremely busy recently so not really had much time to post - although I have been riding quite a lot - I love my long summer holidays! I jumped Echo again the other day - she was very good, although she took off quite early and I had to do my best to stay with her. Took her out for a hack on her own yesterday, a bit further than usual, and off the property of the place where I keep her. She was better than usual, as she didn't shout her head off all the way round, like she normally does when she's out alone, so she must be feeling a little more confident, but she kept getting spooked by things. The thing with Echo is that once something spooks her, she gets tense and then more and more things start to scare her, so by the end of the hack she's jumping out of her skin when she sees a rabbit! We will just have to build it up gradually I think - yesterday was definitely progress though.

I have found a solution to the nasty flies that are around. No amount of fly spray can keep them away from her ears when I'm riding, so I have invested in a fly hat for her. She does look somewhat like a new recruit for the KKK, but it is doing its job very effectively and she seems much happier being worked when she's wearing it.

Monday, 14 July 2008


OK, so it was only a tiny weeny midget cross pole, that she could have stepped over, and it was barely a foot high, but WE JUMPED IT!!!!

We had been doing some trotting poles, as a friend was there to help me (Echo is not all that coordinated and tends to kick them all over the place). I had never done more than two together, and that was months and months ago, so she had to really think about them. We started off with one, then two together, then three. I was working on keeping her supple and trotting as normal, just going over the poles when I asked her to. She was actually really good. When it got to doing three, I could tell that she was really concentrating. She was all wiggly going up to the poles, and my friend said that you could see her thinking. We then did four in a row on each rein and called it a day, as it had been mentally quite taxing for her.

I had a quick canter on each rein (she hadn't been as flexible to the right today, but then I suppose I was thinking more about the poles!!) and she was pretty responsive to my half-halt, so I went out for a walk to cool off. I had every intention of just walking a circuit of the cross country course, but as I was heading out, I noticed that there were a couple of jumps set up in the wood-chip arena. This is pretty common, as the surface is good in there for jumping, but this is the first time I've seen such a tiny jump - one that even I could manage!!

I saw it and thought about what to do. What was the worst that could happen? She could refuse - no great loss, I'd just pretend I'd never asked and come back later, better equipped - like I did when she first refused to go in the water jump. She could do a huge cat-leap - that wouldn't be too bad; I have a reasonably secure seat and a neck strap. She could take off afterwards, but I was fairly sure she wouldn't (Echo doesn't usually expend more energy than she has to!) Or she might just pop over it happily - and that's exactly what she did! I went into the wood chip arena and trotted a couple of circles, then pointed her at the jump and trotted purposefully and rhythmically up to it. She popped over and carried on trotting, as if to say, 'yeah - what about it?'

I was grinning from ear to ear. Although I know it was such a tiny jump that it was physically barely more than a trotting pole for her, mentally it was the equivalent of a 3 foot spread for me. I now know that she can do it and this will give me so much confidence. I have no desire to do loads and loads of jumping with her, but recently I have been really itching to have a go. Dressage is most definitely my thing, but I do get a real buzz from jumping and I think we are going to have lots of fun. I went straight out on the rest of my walk and couldn't stop smiling.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

My Horse is Awesome!

Now, this might be stating the obvious, because she's mine and I love her, but today I was just so over the moon with her.

The last few days I have been doing a bit of schooling, which has been going OK, although she's still been really heavy in my right hand, and we've also been hacking a bit too. We went out on our own for quite a long time earlier in the week, which was amazing. I cantered her all the way down this huge field and she was light and didn't pull at all. We even explored some paths we haven't been on before, which was really rewarding, as she wasn't as spooky as usual. We then went out with a friend yesterday, whose horse is quite reluctant to go in front, so Echo and I led all the way! We didn't canter, but I felt that we could have done and she would have been fine. I was so impressed with how much braver she is getting. And me!

Today I didn't ride til quite late in the evening and I had to go and get her from the field, as they'd already turned her out. As I walked down the track, she came over to the fence and wickered to me. Now, this probably has more to do with the fact that I always give her an apple or something when I first arrive, but the fact that she came over and seemed pleased to see me made me go all tingly!

It's weird, but the weather has been quite close today and when I first got on I felt quite light-headed. I had to really force myself to concentrate and I don't think I was riding as effectively as I could have been. However, I had worked very hard a couple of days ago on the right rein, really asking her to bend properly. I read an article by Carl Hester which said that you should spend 75% of your schooling time working on the side that your horse is stiff on - not always on that rein, but counter-flexing sometimes on the other rein. I made an effort to do this last time I schooled her and today I could really feel the difference. She was pretty good on the left rein (which I started on) but when I moved onto the right, she immediately felt more supple than she has done recently. When I put my inside leg on she didn't rush away from it - she felt fantastic, because when I put my inside leg on today, she really bent herself around it and this is the first time I've achieved this feeling from her.

Her right canter was really good too. I have been working on the things we did in our lesson with John last week, on really riding the canter and asking for connection using half-halts. She was really listening to me and not falling out through her outside shoulder. I ended up not schooling her for that long, as she went so well. I took her out for a walk round the cross country course to relax.

I am being a very good girl and making sure that I canter up hills as regularly as possible, to improve the strength in her right stifle. I cantered slowly up quite a long, gentle hill today, then decided to canter up my usual very steep, short one as well. The track is sand, so it's good in any weather and it really is steep. The first few times I could barely get her to trot up it; I used to have to really kick her on up it to get a canter. Not today though. As soon as I turned her to go up it and shortened my reins, she absolutely exploded. She took off at a hundred miles an hour! It's hard to tell whether I should let her do that. She's very good in that she stops as soon as we get to the top, with the lightest of aids, but she is obviously anticipating it now! I kind of think that she's enjoying herself and as she doesn't take off like that anywhere else when we canter, I can let her have her fun. Perhaps I will get her to walk up it a couple of times just to remind her that I dictate the pace! It's impressive how much stronger she has got recently though - she felt very powerful today.

I apologise for how gushing this post has been today, but I couldn't resist sharing how awesome my horse is!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


I rode Echo yesterday, for the first time since she had her wolf tooth taken out. I didn't push her too hard, but asked for correct bend in walk and trot - and it was so much easier!

She felt soft and easy in her mouth and didn't feel like she was fighting me. She was still a little more stiff to the right, but we are still dealing with the problems with her right stifle, so I was never expecting miracles. The good thing is that we are making progress. And she'd had a week off but was still sane and willing to cooperate. Maybe the stroppy mare potion is working...

I've also been riding her with a gel-pad under her saddle when I have a thinner numnah on - she seems to go better in this. This is the summer of BIG improvements!

Thursday, 3 July 2008


Echo had her wolf tooth out yesterday! I was a real squeamish idiot and couldn't be anywhere near when the vet did it - I'm awful with teeth - I'm bad enough when I'm going to the dentist, let alone watching my horse have a tooth pulled out!

She's never been sedated before and she looked so sweet - her chin was nearly on the floor, her front legs wide apart and her back legs wobbling. The tooth was bigger than the vet had first thought, but it came out very easily apparently and he then rasped the edges of the teeth around it, while she was sedated, so he could get to them properly. She spent the next twenty minutes propping herself up with her head on the stable door, but then suddenly perked up and started to eat, which I thought was a pretty good sign that it was all feeling ok.

I turned her out and have been told to give her about three days for the gum to heal, then I can ride her again. From the size of the tooth, I am not surprised it was getting in the way of the bit - I'm pretty sure that it was this that she was flicking the bit over in her mouth, so we shall see whether it makes a difference to her left contact.

Daily adventures while training my young horse.