Monday, 5 October 2009

Goals for October

I have been inspired by various bloggers to also use this blog to help me keep a check on how things are going. I love reading back over some of the earlier posts and looking at the earlier photos and videos, thinking about how far we’ve come. But as well as this, it would be good to be able to set out goals and assess them at the end of each month, keeping a record of our progress.
So – here goes.
• Bring Echo back into regular work
• One more massage session
• Lunge her at least once a week in the chambon to work on her stretching, particularly on the right rein
• Work at least 15 minutes in each session long and low, between periods of greater collection – not including the free walk for 10 minutes at the beginning and end of each session
• Work on ‘uphill’ upward transitions form walk to trot and trot to canter
• Spend at least 5 minutes of each session concentrating on my position and flexibility in the saddle
• Do at least one session of pole work to engage her hind legs
• Hack out – in company and alone
• Have a lesson
• One session of jumping – working on getting a good stride in approach

Obviously, some of the more athletic exercises here will need to be later on in the month, as she has lost some fitness in the last few weeks. As I write this, I’ve realised that this is more of a training plan than a set of goals. Perhaps that is one of my problems – maybe I am too focussed on WHAT I will be doing rather than what I want to ACHIEVE… Perhaps I need to concentrate on what my training objectives are first, then come up with the exercises afterwards. This is something I was taught very early on when training to be a teacher – I guess it follows that it would apply to teaching my horse too. Definitely worth thinking about.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Where we are

I don’t think I ever showed you this picture – it was taken when I was warming up for the final dressage competition in the series. A friend of mine had got her husband to come and take some photos of her riding her new horse, and she leant him to me for a few minutes. I fell in love with this photo when I saw it – Echo looks like she is really stretching and it’s like she’s floating. It has however, made me think about how much work we need to do to get back to where we were before the soreness. It’s a good job I love schooling so much!

The saddler came out today and now, at last, I can ride my horse again – AND it didn’t cost me a fortune. He had a look at the saddle on her back with no numnah, and thought that it didn’t look too bad. However, he agreed that the muscle wastage behind the right wither is most probably due to the saddle pinching and making her unable to move that shoulder properly. He said that the saddle was not sitting correctly at the back, and was probably moving around too much, making her back sore. He also said that when it was up at the back, it would be too low at the front, causing it to pinch her. He changed the gullet from a ‘wide’ red gullet to a ‘medium’ black one. This means that it sits higher at the front and therefore sits level on her back.

I rode her in walk and trot with no numnah and he was happy that the saddle was no longer moving about. He also complimented her lovely forward-going paces, so that made me very happy. He said that she certainly isn’t lame now, and that I should ride her with a much thinner numnah now that the gullet is narrower. This has now been arranged, so when he left I was able to ride her properly – for the first time in a month!

I’ve been lunging her in a chambon for the last couple of days and been noticing some interesting things. On the left rein, she responds well to the chambon, lowering her head correctly in walk and trot, and a little in canter. However, on the right rein, while she’ll lower her head in walk, she really fights the chambon in trot, as if she is really not able to stretch her back and topline in that direction. It is interesting, as that’s the rein that she struggles to take a contact properly on when ridden. Even though I can ride her again now, I think I’m going to do some work on lunging in the chambon still, as I think it would be really good for her to work on stretching those muscles. I also alternated today when I was riding, between asking her to carry herself normally and asking her to work long and low. She is better at doing it when ridden on the right rein.

I am going to keep this stretching work going for a little while, and gradually build up to asking her to carry herself higher in front. I am also going to get her massaged again next weekend, just to iron out any stiffness as she comes back into work.

I was certainly relieved that a simple change of gullet was all that was needed this time round – I had nasty visions of having to fork out for a new saddle or, even worse, the saddler not having anything suitable and having to think again. Fingers crossed, it’s now sorted and we can get back to having fun again!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

One step at a time...

We are half-way there...I hope. Last week, Echo had a sports massage and Clare found that she was very tight in her shoulders and as a result has become quite tight in the under side of her neck. At first I thought this was a bit odd - she always works in an 'outline' (for want of a better word!), and I couldn't understand where this muscle has come from. However, if she's uncomfortable all the time in her shoulders and withers, then she would be holding her head up a little just to prevent stretching that muscle. She's done no work for several weeks now, so all I can assume is that it's from general discomfort in the field.

The sports massage looked amazing - I was, in fact, rather jealous. I have experimented with Bowen and McTimoney specialists in the past, but I really don't think there's any substitute for good old-fashioned massaging of the muscles. If I had a tight back or neck, I would want someone to properly manipulate the muscles, hands-on, releasing the tension and freeing up the movement. I'm sure that the more alternative methods work for some people, but I kinda like to see what I'm paying for!! Echo absolutely loves it too - she blows her nose, lowers her head and blinks a lot, apparently all signs that she is releasing the tension and build up of toxins in the muscles.

Clare agreed that all the signs in her muscles are that the saddle has been pinching her, so I am really hoping, with everything crossed, that this was the cause of her not feeling right when I last rode her. She has had the last few weeks completely off and I have just managed to get my hands on a chambon, so I can get her to stretch on the lunge. It will also mean that I can lunge her for a day or two before the saddler comes on Saturday expecting me to get on this wild beast! She has been extremely bored recently and thunders across her field, bucking and squealing whenever I turn her out. She has definitely developed a good height to that buck of hers, so I think some lunging before mounting will certainly be in order!

My only worry is that in not working for the last few weeks, she will have lost some of the muscle that was causing the problems with the saddle - but I guess we'll just have to see with that. I can't wait to ride her again - it's been too long! If all goes well, I'm hoping the saddler will be able to just change the gullet in my wintec saddle and all will be lovely and rosy. I am very much hoping that what looked wrong in her hindlegs was simply a result of the tension in her back and that there isn't any other issue to deal with.

Saddler comes on Saturday, so fingers crossed!

Daily adventures while training my young horse.