Friday, 17 February 2012

Not quite as I'd hoped

Today I had a lesson with Jane. It was...interesting. She is happy with the saddle and it does seem to fit well, although I now no longer have any idea whether saddles fit or not. I lunged Echo for five minutes before the lesson and she was great - no crazy galloping or anything. When Jane arrived, I tacked up and got on.
As I said yesterday, she has been starting to overbend in trot and she's never done this before. It's only been in the last couple of weeks that she's done it. It ties in with the Bowen lady saying she was really tight around her withers.
I am finding it hard to know what to say about the lesson. She trained with Phillippe Karl and I have only a limited knowledge of what he does. She was getting me to lift Echo's head up, then ask her to flex, so that her head carriage was much higher. I'm not totally convinced by this, although it did seem to combat some of the overbending problems. I did find it made her a bit stuffy in her wither area though, as if she was finding it harder to walk. She said not to worry about the angle of her head too much - we just want to get her neck coming out of her shoulders at a better angle.
In walk, this was ok - we did lots of halt transitions, and they did get better and lighter in front. However, in trot, the overbending got worse and worse. She had us racing around at a great speed, trying to lift her head up, so that she could bring her hindlegs more under her...but it didn't really work like that. I felt like I had nothing in my hands at all - I just couldn't get her to stretch forward at all. Towards the end it got a bit better and my hands were nearly at her ears, but it didn't feel like it used to.
I can't work out what it is that made me not enjoy the lesson. Echo has gone much much better in the past and I didn't really agree with her method. She also kept telling me that the reason she is so overbent is because of the way she has been trained, from the hand first. If you've read this blog before, you'll know that I have trained her myself and I really don't hold the front in. There is a lot to improve in my riding, but she was going really well before her year off, so I can't really accept that. She was talking to me as if I didn't know that a horse needs to work through from behind...which was a bit odd.
In addition, she charged nearly twice what I was expecting (moral of the story - always ask how much a lesson will be before booking it!) and I could have had a lesson with Carl Hester for that price! But the saddle is good. I think. But then when I said I wanted to buy it but would have to sell my saddle first, she got a bit funny. She said she knows someone who might like it, but she would sell it for £50 less than the one I am buying, and then she'll take 20% commission. When I said I would rather sell it myself on ebay, as I can't afford that, she said she wouldn't let me borrow the one that fits unless she sells my saddle for me. I was really shocked - she's got me in a really difficult position, because I really want this saddle and want to be able to keep the work going now, so I need to hang on to it. So I have to let her sell it, and pay over £100 that I don't have.
I feel really disappointed. Not only was it a bit of a rubbish lesson that cost me a fortune, it's going to cost me loads to get the saddle.
Right - here are the photos and video. The video isn't great, as the camera goes out of focus when it zooms in and out and you can hear the zoom mechanism working...but hopefully it will illustrate some of our issues.
This was in walk near the beginning:
This one shows (rather exaggerated) the overbending problem!
Nothing on the end of my reins!!
This isn't too bad, but it was quite near the beginning of the lesson. Am struggling to upload videos so for now, click on this link:

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Tears, tantrums and...tentative progress!

Since my despairing last post, things came to a bit of a head, then got rather suddenly better. I am so grateful for all of your suggestions about what the problem might be. Lots of people queried what food she gets, and I had a chat with the yard manager about this, but found that she is still only getting a scoop of chaff (without molasses) and a bit of water three times a day. She has a supplement called Digest Plus, made by Baileys, which is a prebiotic and supposed to stop ulcers. She has a big pile of haylage in the field during the day, and then hay twice in her stable - once when she comes in and once at about 8pm. She was getting half hay and half haylage in her stable, but I've asked if she can have just hay to see whether the sugar in the haylage is having an effect.

Having written that last post, a friend at the yard had an instructor in to help her find a saddle and start giving her some lessons. She has been looking for a more suitable saddle for Echo but I didn't hold out too much hope - she seems to be so hard to fit! My friend said she didn't mind sharing the school, so I decided to lunge Echo while they were fiddling around with saddles at the other end. I took her into the school and Jane, the instructor, asked how I was getting on. So I promptly burst into tears. It really annoys me, but this is my reaction to everything at the moment - what an idiot! I think Jane took pity on me, so I explained how I was feeling a bit nervous of her and she said to just lunge it out of her. I wasn't supposed to lunge, as she had had another Bowen session, but it had got to the stage where I thought I would rather be safe, and hacking her out in straight lines in walk didn't feel safe (or very productive as she spent a fair amount of time cantering sideways with her head in the air - hardly the relaxed long and low it was supposed to be!)

I was worried about lunging her, as last time she had gone so crazy that I had to stop - I thought she was going to hurt herself. Having Jane there made me a bit more confident, so I put her on a circle and she promptly galloped flat out - in that really ugly two feet at a time gallop - dragging me in a huge circle and getting faster and faster. This was the point where I previously would have stopped her, but with lots of encouraging shouts from Jane at the other end of the school, I kept going. It was as if a switch flicked. She suddenly stopped galloping, put her head down and trotted quietly. Five minutes of craziness had returned my horse to me.

Jane had a look at her and thought she might have a saddle that would fit her - it's a dressage saddle made by Lovett and Ricketts - not a particularly grand make, but it fits! It sits nicely behind her (enormous) shoulders and seems to fit the odd shape of her back. Jane had a look at me lunging her in it and was happy that it didn't move and sat in good balance. She is a HUGE perfectionist and won't accept a saddle if it isn't perfect, and she was happy with this on Echo. I think I had worried her, so she asked if I wanted her to lunge me on Echo, but she was like a different horse - back to the Echo that I know and love, so I was happy to just get on and ride.
She felt good - she could move through her shoulder and seemed much happier. She was obviously also knackered from all the galloping, so that helped!

I was so so relieved. I know it's only a small step, but knowing that my horse is in there somewhere was a huge relief.

Jane said I could borrow the saddle for a while and then have a lesson to see whether it's working for us. I was planning to work her as much as possible that week, but then it snowed and the arena was totally out of action for over a week. Yesterday was the first day I was able to ride and I knew I would have to lunge her again first. I don't want to have to lunge every time, but as she had had 10 days off, I thought it would do us both good. She did gallop a bit, but not as wildly and not for as long, so that seems like a positive step. I put the saddle on and got on - and she was great! It was really windy and there are tall trees by the school that hide nasty horse-eating monsters, but Echo didn't notice them at all. She went very well - we walked and trotted on both reins and did a bit of leg yielding in walk. It's interesting actually - for the first time in months, she was happy to leg yield to the right - really happy.

If I am being fussy, she did feel very overbent, and in her last Bowen session she was really blocked behind her withers - although all the tension had gone from her hind legs, which, given all the foot balance issues, is remarkable. Teresa, the Bowen specialist, said I should work on getting her properly long and low, not tucking her nose in. I wondered whether it was her bit, as I had in the last few months changed to a fairly thin loose ring sweet iron snaffle with a central lozenge. She found it strange at first, so I wondered whether she was still not keen on it. I have put her back in the loose ring single jointed snaffle that she always had in the past, but she is still overbending and not really taking the contact forwards. Early days though.

I was hoping to ride today but work commitments stopped me; tomorrow I am having a lesson with Jane and I am really really looking forward to it. I will try to get someone to either take some photos or some video for me to upload.

I have also possible found someone to ride Echo for me a couple of days a week, so that she can get some rather more consistent exercise. She's a teenager whose horse has fractured his pedal bone and her has months of box rest ahead. She's a tidy rider and is keen to have some lessons, so it could work out very well for all of us...I'll let you know how she gets on!

I will try to update my blog more regularly now, as I know I have a lot of very kind, loyal followers who would love to hear more regularly how Echo is getting on. I have just got a new laptop after months of a terrible old one that could barely do anything on the internet. It has been driving me mad and made me so reluctant to even switch it on! But this one is fabulous. So I will do my best.

But your loyalty and interest is very much appreciated.

Daily adventures while training my young horse.