Saturday, 26 April 2008

The joys of spring!

After last week's success, I ended up having to give Echo a few days off at the beginning of this week, so when it came to riding her on Wednesday, I wasn't sure what she would do. She had felt so tense and exuberant last week, that I knew there was something of a storm brewing inside that 'butter wouldn't melt' expression!

I decided to wimp out and lunge her instead of riding. I am so glad that I did! As soon as she got out onto the circle, she absolutely exploded. She bucked and leaped and twisted and cantered, all in a jumble. She is not balanced enough to canter and buck, so she has to jump about on the spot. I pushed her forward and she thundered round for about five minutes, looking as if she was thoroughly enjoying herself! When she finally came back to a steady trot, I have never seen such a contented expression on her face. It was as if she were saying, 'Thanks Mum - I needed that!'

I rode her very briefly yesterday, but there was so much going on that I couldn't stay in the school for very long, so only wandered around for about ten minutes. Today, I wasn't taking any chances, so I lunged before riding her. I expected a repeat of Wednesday's performance, but on the left rein she seemed quite calm. I decided just to get on and not bother lunging on the right rein. I don't want her to get too much into the habit of being lunged before riding, as we both might become a little dependent on it. Once I was on board, she was very good. She has to be reminded to concentrate, but after lots of half halts, she was listening fairly attentively.

Her trot has improved so much since she had her back done. She is much less on her forehand and is lovely and soft in the contact. I worked on getting her to stretch, then changed the rein. The right has become a bit more difficult. I am finding it tough to control her outside shoulder, hence steering is a little erratic! Once she was feeling more under control, I asked for canter in the corner. Little madam leaped in the air, stopped dead and stood there bucking her little heart out! She is so funny when she does this! I am amazed by how confident I feel riding her through these little outbursts, but I don't feel unseated (touch wood!) - it just feels...funny!

I pushed her into trot again, and went back onto the left rein. Once the trot was established, I asked for the canter again - I had already cantered her on the lunge on the left rein, so thought this might be fine. She was perfect - the canter was steady and relaxed. Thinking that this might have improved the situation, I changed the rein again and asked for canter to the right. It wasn't exactly great, but it would do! She kept striking off on the wrong leg, but she didn't buck, which at that particular moment, was what I was most interested in! I decided not to persist with the transitions, as I had achieved what I wanted to!

It was such a beautiful day. She got very hot when I was riding, so I gave her a bath and shampooed her mane - it has been couped up under a neck rug all winter, so was quite greasy and horrid. Just as I was about to tie her in the yard to dry off, the horse that lives in her field in the day time came in and she was able to be turned out. I led her down to the field and she was behaving very strangely! I didn't put a rug on, as she was wet and it is supposed to be a warm night. We were about ten yards from the gate of her field and her knees wobbled and buckled, and she got down and rolled! Right in the middle of the path, in the sand. Lovely - wet horse rolling in sand... might take me a while to groom her! I love that though, seeing her having a good scratch. We don't give them enough chances to be completely natural.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

My little coiled spring!

After a couple of days of walking (albeit not in the prescribed straight lines) I decided to ride Echo for a bit longer yesterday. She had been feeling quite tense when I was walking her. She didn't do anything silly, but it felt as if she were just humouring me really, and what she'd really like to do would be have a huge bug and race around. I'm quite glad she didn't!

It was very windy yesterday, so I rode her in the indoor school, which is great, but rattles a lot in the wind and she was already quite twitchy! I rode her in walk for a long time, trying to get her to take the contact forwards. The best way that I can describe the sensation she gave me, is like a coiled spring. She felt as if she had a lot of pent up energy. It was in danger of becoming a bit of a vicious circle: I didn't feel comfortable asking her to trot, because she hasn't trotted with a rider for a month and a half, but if I didn't trot, I was just prolonging the inevitable, and she would just have more energy!

I picked a calmer moment and asked her to trot. Needn't have worried (as usual!) as she was very good. The trot felt amazing. Her head carriage was good and she felt powerful and impressive. We had a couple of slight issues about speed, but she was obedient to my half-halts and I didn't feel unsafe. After a few torts on each rein, she still felt a little explosive and I knew that I was going to have the same mental issues about canter. I'm not technically supposed to be cantering yet, but I needed to just do a few strides, to reassure myself that she wouldn't do anything stupid. I asked her to canter and it was a messy transition (more out of Echo's surprise than anything, I think!) but successful. She did a funny leap in to canter and I think that if she had been a bit stronger she probably would have bucked!However, we kept the canter for a side of the arena, then she came obediently back to trot.

I feel like we are making a bit of progress now. She needs to build a lot of strength, as she has had a lot of time off. This doesn't seem to have done her any harm at all, other than a few issues in-hand. She has started being quite naughty to lead. Her field is very close to her stable, so she doesn't have to be led very far at all, in comparison to a few months ago, when she was a good ten minute walk from the yard. At the slightest distraction, she has started rearing and spinning around. It's funny - she doesn't pull on the lead rope at all - she doesn't seem to have any desire to get away from me, she is just full of herself. I think perhaps I need to do some ground work with her and re-establish a little respect. This is most unlike Echo, as she is normally so calm and well-behaved. Perhaps she is feeling like a true teenager!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

About time!

After well over a month of not being able to ride my horse, including two weeks of not even being able to touch her, it was so nice to go down to the yard last night. Echo has somewhat forgotten her manners, as she hasn't been handled at all, other than to change her rugs and turn her out or bring her in. She has become a little more pushy in the stable, but nothing that can't be dealt with!

I had to brush her for over half an hour, as no grooming during the season where she sheds the most coat, is not particularly helpful! I could have knitted a jumper with the hair that came off. I wouldn't though, as that's gross (there was a random thing on the news about that recently - another story though!) She seemed genuinely happy that I was around again, which was really rewarding.

I tacked her up, thinking that I may well not ride; she's had a long time off and I would have ideally liked to lunge her first. However, the back lady said I wasn't allowed to lunge, so, I took her to the indoor school and on! Back lady also said that I should walk her out in straight lines the first few days, but with a 3 year old who's had a month off, I wasn't going hacking!

She was beautifully behaved. Again, some of the manners have escaped her, but she was willing and forward going (I was a little worried, as she has been rearing in-hand recently). I walked her round the school for a few minutes on each rein, then called it a day. She did feel a bit different. She felt lovely on the right rein, but a little awkward on the left. I think that her stiffness has been making me compensate in my position, so I am sitting slightly crooked. I must correct this, as I don't want to make things worse. As soon as she is properly back in work, I will have another lesson with John.

So, fingers crossed that the back is sorted now - I will get Jan to come and check her in about a month's time, just to make sure that things are all as they should be. For now - it's just brilliant to be riding her again.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Look, but don't touch!

The Bowen back specialist came out to treat Echo yesterday and confirmed what the saddler had said. She is sore across her back, from the 'point' of the hip on each side, across the top. She said that this seems to be reasonably recent, as she has not started to compensate elsewhere in her body. She said that if this were the case, she would have problems in other muscle groups as well.

It was a strange session to watch; she worked her muscles with her hands for about a minute, then would leave about a two minute gap and then work them again. She didn't seem to be pressing very hard or manipulating as such, just carefully working up her back. Echo seemed to quite enjoy the treatment and particularly when it got to her neck, she looked as if she might fall asleep! Jan advises that the horse be turned out immediately after she ha treated them, but Echo couldn't go out at that point, so she told me to walk her in-hand for twenty minutes, to disperse any toxins that had been released. I don't think she and Echo had quite the same thing in mind!

She walked calmly for about five minutes, until something spooked her and she jumped a foot in the air, then reared. Great. She then proceeded to prance the whole of the rest of the walk, with such vigour at one stage, that I had to put the rope over her nose! I really hope that this has not undone the work on her back. Jan was very particular about how little I can do with her for the next two weeks. Yesterday, I was not allowed to touch her at all, except to put her rugs on. For the rest of the week, I can only touch her head and pick her feet out (as near to the ground as possible). She will then be treated again on Wednesday and will have another week of the same.

It is frustrating, as I have this time off but can't ride; however, I have so much to organise with moving house, that it is not the end of the world. I have also been able to go and visit friends around the country and not felt like I'm missing any riding! Ever cloud...and all that! The only really irritating thing is that the weather is beautiful today and I would love to go out for a long, relaxing hack. Never mind - we'll have the summer for that.

Daily adventures while training my young horse.