Tuesday, 10 December 2013

All change

I'm aware it's been a long time since I last posted. Things have been a little...crazy...here. In a good way, though. Echo was fab over the summer and it was lovely having her back home. We moved back mid August...then in the first week of September we found out that we're having a baby!
We hadn't thought it would happen so quickly, so hadn't thought much about how it would affect Echo. But suddenly I needed to think about how it was going to work.
I've always thought I would ride through pregnancy if I could, and so for the first few weeks I continued to ride as normal, albeit with a little more caution! Echo was going brilliantly and I was enjoying the exercise - particularly mucking out.
But a few weeks ago, as the weather turned a little colder, Echo started getting much more lively out hacking. She was fine in the field, but out in the forest she was very spooky and on her toes. Normally this wouldn't worry me, but I was starting to get anxious about what would happen if she got me off. I never felt like I was going to come off, but I was obviously a bit more tense than usual and I think I was making things worse.
Then one Monday morning about 3 weeks ago, I hacked out and she was just an idiot from start to finish. She jogged constantly all the way round and I just got in a huge fight with her. I was worried about all the jiggling around for the baby and having to wrestle with her left my stomach muscles feeling really sore.

So I decided enough was enough.
I had always planned to send Echo back to Tammy at some point, as a discussion with the physio and the vet suggested that time off wouldn't do her suspensories or her back any good at all. So I gave Tammy a ring and asked if he could go there a bit sooner. She couldn't go immediately, so she ended up having a couple of weeks off, but now she is safely installed back in her old stable at Tammy's. 
She isn't doing loads of work - the suspensories, having had surgery, probably have limited work left in the structures, so I would like to make the most of this when I can ride again - but she is back doing daily exercise and is very happy.
I haven't ruled out the idea of going out for a quiet walk hack on her at Tammy's, as I would have someone walking with me and it's all very controlled. We'll see; Mark isn't that keen...
But hopefully she'll have a fun winter: Tammy is planning to take her to the forest to do some cantering at some stage and take her to a local huge indoor arena that has a good firm surface that she could do some cantering on.
I probably won't update my blog much over the winter, but I'll keep you posted on how she's doing from time to time. The baby is due at the beginning of May, so she will be at Tammy's until at least June/July I would have thought. If anyone is at all interested, I am blogging about my pregnancy at

Wishing everybody a very happy horsey Christmas and New Year :)

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Bl**dy Flies!

Echo is still inconsolable first thing in the morning. She has scratches all over her from where she's rubbing her shoulders and neck in the stable and she literally drags me to the field. I'm going through a bottle of fly spray a week, have borrowed a fly rug (am going to buy one, I just can't work out which one!) and have some anti-itch wash that I've been using. But as soon as we get to the field in the morning, she walks two steps, drops down and rolls violently for about a minute. Then she gets up and bucks about 3 times, seeming to be so frustrated.

It's so weird - she wasn't itchy at all at Tammy's. she's never liked flies, but they'd never made her like this before. I always used to turn my nose up a bit at fly rugs, thinking they were more for owners who didn't like their horses to be naked. Turns out they're pretty bloomin' useful if your horse gets bitten by flies.

Any ideas? I know the flies won't be around for that much longer but it's so horrible to see my horse so miserable. (It's mostly just first thing in the morning after she's been in her stable all night - the rest of the day she grazes quite calmly.)

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Always a drama...

Echo getting reacquainted with her next door neighbour back at the old yard again - I think he likes her!

Things have certainly changed round here in the last couple of months!

As you can see from my last post where we entered the Aspire Equestrian Blogger Challenge - Echo is progressing well with her riding since her back injections. She took a couple of weeks to feel better after them, but as the physio confirmed this morning, her back is the best it's been since the beginning of this whole palava.

So we built up the work at Tammy's yard, getting back up and cantering again, which felt a lot better after the injections - we actually had brakes! However, other little niggles have emerged since the injections. We have noticed that she is quite weak on the right hind leg. I think the tension and tightness in her right side of her back was holding that right hind leg in place - and now that the tightness and soreness has gone, she is less stable on that right hind. The physio has given us some pole work to do - on the ground - stepping laterally across poles, to get her stepping out on the right hind more. This seems to be really working, although building stability is a slow process!

About a week and a half ago, I got her back home to the yard she was at before, and it's been a really strange experience. While I love having her nearer (3 minutes drive, rather than 40 minutes at Tammy's!) and I'm enjoying doing more of the stuff myself again, like mucking out and turning her out, I felt really miserable for the first few days at home. I couldn't work out why I felt so down, but I think I was just feeling really vulnerable. I'd gone from keeping her at a place where every decision was made for me by someone that I trusted absolutely. I was of course consulted, and had the final say, but at Tammy's, there was always someone who cared as much as I did about whether my horse was sound and keeping her that way. It's not that the lady who runs my current yard doesn't care - she's brilliant - but I feel like I'm the only one who is making her soundness a priority, and it feels like I'm having to fight to keep things going as they have been.

This wasn't helped by the experience we had on our second day at the yard. I hacked out with a guy who is great and hacks every day - twice a day at the weekends - and said he would show me some of the routes in the forest across the road. Despite having been at this yard for years, I've always stayed on the farmland on this side of the road, but the sand tracks are far too deep for her at the moment - she needs firm ground as her hindlegs are not stable enough for soft surfaces. So we went out with this guy for an hour's hack...and returned two hours later. I was so upset! I really thought we'd have undone all our hard work in one ride! She was exhausted, although we mostly walked, with just a few trots and one canter, and I rang Tammy in a complete panic. I gave her the next day off and put her equilibrium massage pad on twice that day, as well as doing her stretches twice, and she seemed to be ok.

Since then, we had a lesson with Tammy, where she was concerned that she might be a bit sore in her back again, so advised me to just walk and trot on hacks until Ella, the physio, had seen her again. She's felt really good over the last few days - the forest is absolutely brilliant to ride in - long straight grassy tracks and next to nobody in it. I haven't quite ventured out on my own yet, although I've been out with just someone walking with me - as well as going out with other horses, which she has been surprisingly good with, considering how rarely she did this at Tammy's.

I also rode her in a field on Monday and did a bit of schooling, which felt great. Having said this, after about 20 minutes, she started to feel really weak behind again, so I was concerned about her back. She kept sort of 'losing' her back end, as if it came right underneath her - it felt really odd and a bit alarming. But having had the all-clear from the physio over her back, I'll try and do a little more of this, building in some big circles, as this should help her stability, while keeping her on the firm surface.

One strange thing since she's been home is that she's got really really itchy. She's never been that bothered by flies before; I have always put a fly hat on her when we hack in the summer, as she shakes her head when they land on her ears, but she's awful at the moment - rolling really violently the second you put her in the field and rubbing her tail in the stable. She's even started rolling in her stable, as she gets stable stains on the top of her back! I don't really know what to do about it. I've borrowed a fly rug, which is helping - I would buy her one, but we must be getting to the end of the flies being bad now and I'll see how she is next year; I also have got her some camrosa ointment for the bits where she's really rubbed her tail and a shampoo to relieve the itching. It's so strange though - she's never been affected by flies until this year. Perhaps they're particularly bad this year.

So that's pretty much up to date! I have bought her a 'Back on Track' mesh rug, which I'm really impressed with - it apparently reflects the infrared rays of body heat back into the horse to penetrate their muscles and loosen them fully. You can read about it here. I've also got her on a joint supplement, as her farrier thinks she has stiff hocks...I'm not convinced  by this, but willing to give it a go for a few months and see if it makes any difference. I went with Suppleaze Gold and extra MSM, after much MUCH research and reading! We'll see, anyway.

And lastly, Echo's old owner came to see her last week, which was lovely. Sue owns Echo's mother Pebble, and Echo came along very unexpectedly a few months after she had bought Pebble. She came out walking with us in the forest and got some lovely photos of us.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Aspire Equestrian Monthly Virtual Training Challenge – August

I have a proper post about everything we've been doing in the last month or so to come, but I really wanted to enter this month's Aspire Equestrian training challenge. The idea is that I post a video here of a training problem I'm having, and Wiola at Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy will comment on it, giving me a mini training plan to help me work on it.

So here we are - Echo is back in full work again and much more comfortable after her back injections. She is feeling good, which is making me even more determined to get my own position sorted out. I don't think my position is horrendous, but I have a real issue with keeping my core straight and therefore I have problems keeping Echo straight too. My right hip is really inflexible and tends to clamp to the side of her, then I find it difficult to get enough weight in my left seatbone. I am working on the right hip flexibility, doing exercises on and off the horse, but I really don't know how to straighten my upper body and be stronger through my core.

We are only hacking now and I will be doing all of my schooling out hacking. As of next week, we will have more varied terrain to hack on, rather than just roads. Echo has a weak right hind, so we are doing lots of pole work to build this up, but any ideas about how to sort out my position would be much appreciated.

I'm really excited about this. I apologise that the video is not very interesting - it's mostly Echo and me walking, filmed from behind to show my wonkiness. But...Wiola's comments should be interesting for everyone :)

Echo Straightness from Suzie on Vimeo.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award

I've been blogging for longer than I can remember really - I started in the week where I brought Echo in to be backed as a 3-year old and although it has been somewhat patchy over the years, we're still here! So it's really lovely to have been nominated for the Liebster award, by both Beckz at I will jump sweet jumps and Kat at The Sixth Stride. It really is nice to know that people read my ramblings as, even though I write this mainly as a record of my journey with Echo, it is strangely comforting to know that people are interested! :)

So here are the rules: 
  1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
  2. List 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  4. Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
  5. Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or fewer followers to nominate and include links to their blogs.
  6. Go to each blogger's page and let them know you have nominated them.
So here are my 11 facts!
1. I'm a little obsessed with cycling - both doing it and watching it. My boyfriend and I are avid fans of pro cycling and follow the Tour de France religiously, often going to watch it and cycling up some of the mountains of the tour too.

2. I love rubbish TV programmes and am totally addicted to two of the worst soaps  in existence: Hollyoaks and Home & Away. It's a guilty pleasure an my down time each day!

3. I'm a high school English teacher at the moment - I left teaching for a while to do an MA in journalism and I would still really like to pursue this further. But right now money calls and I wouldn't have been able to do Echo's rehab as I have this year if I hadn't been working full time. Next year I'm going part time at school so that I can write on the other days.

4. I'm writing a children's book about cycling and the Tour de France which I'm hoping to get pretty much finished over the summer - it's so much fun!

5. Not a single member of my family is 'horsey' - my mum is quite scared of horses. Considering this, my parents were amazing to let me have Echo at home while I did my MA. No one has ever been able to understand where my 'horseyness' comes from.

6. I grew up riding Fell ponies and part of me was really sad that I really got too tall to ride Fells without looking ridiculous. They have wonderful characters and are a lot of fun to ride.

7. In the first few months of owning Echo I used to wake up in a sheer panic in the night sometimes - terrified of what I had done and whether I would be able to bring on my own youngster, despite the fact that I'd backed and broken in lots of young dressage horses while I worked for David Pincus. I guess it's a milder (weirder) version of what new mothers go through - feeling totally ill equipped to deal with this dependent little creature. I sometimes still reel at the fact tht she depends on me. But usually it's a feeling of 'wow - I own a horse!)

8. I didn't have a horse when I was growing up - see fact number 5 for the reason! I'm pretty sure this is what has made me so passionate about horses and meant that Echo comes first, no matter what. I have other friends who had ponies as children, who lost interest when it wasn't handed to them on a plate anymore. For me, even mucking out still feels like a bit of a privilege and I love all the jobs people hate, like cleaning tack and plaiting.

9. Umm...I'm struggling now. I love tomato ketchup and would eat it on everything if my boyfriend (who is an amazing chef) would let me. I would quite happily have ketchup sandwiches - on their own.

10. I play the 'cello and have done since I was 5 years old. I don't play as much as I'd like, but I love it.

11. My favourite band is the Manic Street Preachers and has been since my first ever boyfriend introduced me to them when I was about 14. (I'm 30 now - is that an extra fact? I don't know - its not very interesting!)

I will try to answer both Kat's and Beckz's questions - sorry if this gets a bit boring - I'll try to be brief!!

  1. Why did you start blogging and who in real life knows that you blog?
I kind of answered this at the beginning. Most of my close friends know that I blog but I always find it weird when I hear that someone has read it who I'm not expecting to - like my Headmaster when I applied for my current job!!

    2. Black or brown tack?

Definitely black!

    3. Favorite Comfort food?

Chocolate. Without a shadow of a doubt. Any type - not fussy!

   4. Favorite Color?

In ordinary life, a kind of turquoise/teal colour. On a horse (particularly Echo) - red.

   5. If you could ride any horse (living or not), who would it be?

A childhood fantasy would be John Whittaker's Milton. (A bit) more recently Ulla Salzgeber's Rusty.

   6. What other pets do you own?

Jeff - my cross breed black and white dog - who matches my horse!

   7. What is your "hidden talent?"

I am late for everything. I know that isn't really a talent, but it's quite impressive how I manage to be late for things, even when I have loads of time and live right next door. 

   8. You win the lottery, what would you buy first?

Probably a house, closely followed by a spangly lorry.

   9. You can travel anywhere, for an infinite amount of time, with an infinite amount of money, where do you go?

America - I'd love to drive across it and spend ages exploring. I've never been so that would be amazing.

   10. You're intimidated by?

Really confident people who don't seem to have any self-doubt.

   11. Favorite movie?

This is a really tough one. Probably Apocalypse Now. But maybe Life is Beautiful. Two pretty different movies!!

And here are my answers to Beckz's questions!

1.Who was your favourite horse?

Other than Echo? If we're talking famous horses then definitely Milton.


He was the first 'celebrity' horse I knew as a child and ha posters of him all over my walls. It sounds stupid but I just loved his front leg action and his huge black eyes.

3.What person has most affected negatively or positively your attitude towards riding?

I met an amazing natural horseman when I was in my 3rd year at uni and helping out at a riding school. His name was Mark Marriott and he was the most inspirational person I have ever met. 


He had a real passion for teaching and loved to help people build relationships with their horses. I watched him teach a blind rider and her pony and it was so interesting - he could give anyone confidence and believe that they could do dressage. He died six months or so after I met him which was devastating.

5.What are the three things you couldn't live without?

Tea. I'm completely addicted and don't feel right in the day until I've had a mug of tea - with loads of milk and no sugar.

My smart phone. I know that's pathetic but I do everything on it - even blogging!

Sleep. I absolutely love sleeping and look forward all evening to going to bed. I sound truly boring now!

6.If you couldn't compete/take part in the discipline you do now, what sort of riding would you do?

I'd love to be an eventer....I've just never been brave enough.

7.What is your dream job?

To be a full time best-selling novelist.

8. If you were given $100,000 tax free what would you buy first?

Is that a lot? It sounds a lot. So probably a house. If it's not enough for a house, then a horse box!

9. Do you like Feijoas?

Just googling it...

10.When you are all worn out and need a drink, what is it that you drink?

Tea! Or if it's the evening then a big glass of white wine.

11.What are your favourite pair of footwear?

Hmmm... Riding footwear? Cavallo long boots. They're sooo pretty.

Ok - so here are my questions for other bloggers:

1. If you could be one rider for a day, who would you be?

2. If you could ride anywhere in the world, where would you go?

3. Who was the horse or pony that you first fell in love with?

4. If you don't already, would you want to work with horses as a career? And if you do, why do you?

5. If you didn't ride horses, what would you spend all your money on? ;) 

6. What does your other half or family think of your hobbie? 

7. How often do you clean your tack?

8. Who would you most like to have a riding lesson from and why?

9. You're buying a new horse: what qualities do you look for?

10. Have you/would you ever buy a 'project horse' to sell on?

11. Lorry or trailer and why?

I don't really have 11 - and I have no idea whether they have less/more than 200 followers as I can't see that information on my phone. But for this award I'd like to nominate:

Wiola (although I'm sure she's been nominated before!)
Achieve1Dream at Equestrian Journey

This has been fun - although time-consuming!! 
Blogging will resume as usual from here on. I went to see Echo today and she was in a great mood - really happy and affectionate. We long reined out for about 20 minutes and she was pleased to be out and doing something after a couple of days of box rest after her injections. One more day of long reining tomorrow, then Tammy will ride her in walk for 5 days before picking up a bit of trot and then canter again in about 10 days time.  

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Injections...and soundness!

Things have been a bit quiet for a little while with Echo, as last time Ella the physio visited her, she was much more sore than she had been for a while, so we decided now would be a good time to get the vet out to medicate her back. Last time he saw her - about 6 weeks ago - he said he wanted to come back when she'd started cantering properly with the idea of medicating her lumbar spine area and sacroiliac. But last week Tammy had felt her go very weird when she was riding her - almost as if her back went into spasm and then Ella found the soreness in the same place, so we booked the vet to come out. So for the last 5 or 6 days she has only been walking and then Ben came out to see her yesterday.

I couldn't be there, but I had a long chat with Ben afterwards and it all sounds really positive. He watched Echo trot up, lunge, did flexion tests and did loads of manipulation on her back and said that she is 100% sound and looks the best he's ever seen her. He said he really put her through her paces but couldn't see anything that he could pick up on - he said if he looked at her for the first time, he would say she was sound. Which is fantastic. It really is. But at the same time, she is consistently getting sore in that one area and I was really hoping that we could do something to eliminate this so we can get on with getting her to full fitness. Luckily, Ben thought that it was worth medicating the lumbar thoracic junction where she is getting the pain, although he didn't inject the sacroiliac as he said that he couldn't get any kind of pain reaction from this area at all. He said to keep an eye on it and we'll see whether the pain further forward is a result of the sacroiliac or whether it's just a tricky area that she finds it difficult to mobilise. 

The only thing I had thought is that watching her from behind on the video my boyfriend took on our hack, I noticed just how close together her hind legs are at the bottom when she moves. She's always brushed a bit behind, but watching videos of her when she was sound before, her hock action was much straighter. I had wondered whether this was something to do with some sacroiliac pain. Ben said that was unlikely and could well be a way she has developed over a prolonged period of suspensory pain - a way of compensating for the pain. Another reason for me to feel guilty for not realising what was wrong earlier. But he said we probably can't do much to change that (it was also probably the reason her feet wore down on the outsides) and we should just work to get her stronger.

So she has a couple of days off, then the rest of the week just walking, then hopefully, provided she isn't too sore from the medication, she should be able to pick up the work again. I've sold my old saddle, so as soon as she's back in work again, we will sort out getting her a new one specially made for her. I WILL get a saddle to fit my horse! From then, we will get her home at the end of July  and start to have some fun! Long term, both the vet and Jo Spear - the Animal Health Trust physio - have advised that we do very little work on a surface, only using a surface when we want to compete. Ella suggested I look for affiliated dressage shows that are on grass rather than on a surface - or at least where the warm up is on grass. The more hacking I do, the happier I get with this situation - I am just loving riding my horse again, so if we can't do much dressage that really is fine. We will do some pleasure rides - maybe even some Le Trec and just have a lot of fun. I need to start to contain and limit her movement to keep her sound, so this sort of thing will be great. I think if I did too much schooling, the perfectionist in me would want to push for more.

So I'm seeing her on Saturday but she probably won't be up to being ridden yet by then. Annoyingly I am away next weekend so it will be a while before I get to ride her now...but hopefully she will be back in proper work and feeling good by then. I can't wait to get her home in the summer! 

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Tired pony

Had a lovely ride on Echo this morning - and two fantastic rides last weekend. It's so nice being able to properly ride my horse again. Tammy's upped the work a bit this week - particularly the canter work - so she was a little tired. We decided to just go down the hill today and do some trot work on the hills. She felt great- really relaxed, even though it was really windy. She was really sleepy though. Hopefully, having ha a fairly easy day today, she will have a bit more energy to do our canter route tomorrow.
I'm starting to get really excited about getting her home and riding her over the summer. I've found a 12 mile pleasure ride that I'd like to work towards at the end of August. Since we're mostly going to be hacking, I want to have some things to aim for. 
After my ride today, I did her stretches, turned her out and she showed how tired she was straight away! I still love the sight of her rolling - it must be such a great feeling!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A little hack - with a video :)

A little video from today's hack. The verdict - I'm a bit straighter in walk, a bit less straight in trot, and pretty wonky in canter. But it was fun, and she felt happy. The canter looks rather more controlled and steady than it felt!

Here are a few photos from the hack too - the weather was a bit rubbish, but I'm really enjoying the hacking at the moment :)

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Straightness: one word, LOTS to think about.

I have had such an interesting morning. Regular readers will know that I have struggled with straightness in my riding for years- I know that many of Echo's straightness problems are actually mine and having a couple of years off regular riding has only exacerbated these. Tammy has tried to get me to bring my right leg further back when I'm riding and twist myself a little to try to get me straight, bu the habits are fairly solidly ingrained. So after my hack yesterday, Tammy asked if I'd be interested in taking part in a straightness clinic with a physio called Jo Spear, who is extremely highly regarded and is the consultant physio for the Animal Health Trust at Newmarket. I jumped at the chance!

Basically, Tammy and Jo gave me a lesson together, then Jo worked with me off the horse, to see how I could make some changes to improve things. I rode Echo while they talked at first, then Jo got me to adjust my upper body, as I tend to twist to the right, collapsing my right side, which forces my right leg forward and means I have little influence or strength in my left seatbone and leg. It even means that I can't really take a contact with the left rein properly. So, I twisted to the left more, sat more evenly on both seatbones (which felt awful on the right rein) and then Tammy tried to get me to turn my right thigh in and lift it away from her side so that I could reposition it. What we found is that I could hardly manage to lift it from the hip without tensing every muscle on that side. I was able to do it if I physically picked up my thigh and rotated it, but I found it really difficult to maintain.

When I did manage to get the two things - the upper body position and the leg position- in place, Echo was suddenly much straighter and more forward. And- weirdly- I softened my right hand and was much more effective with my left hand and leg. So that was interesting lesson number one- I just need to work on keeping that!

I was chatting to Jo at some length about Echo's suspensories and her back soreness. She said that Echo has masses of mobility in her hind legs- probably actually too much, as she over tracks far more than necessary and her fetlocks sink right down. She said that this is almost certainly why her suspensories went, as she is producing so much movement and is always at full stretch, so when working on an arena surface, it makes it even worse. Echo and I have spent a lot of time schooling, so I feel terrible that I'm partly to blame for it. 

She also said that people think that cobs don't have much movement, but actually the majority of cobs are extremely naturally mobile and many are hyper-mobile, like Echo. She said that one of the reasons people don't think this of cobs is that often they are ridden by less experienced, less balanced, perhaps more nervous riders, so the horse learns to limit its movement to stay comfortable. Because I have always ridden Echo and, for all my issues, I'm a fairly competent, balanced rider, she has never had to limit her movement and has therefore offered me her full range. If you add to this the fact that Jo thinks I am also extremely mobile, I have not restricted her movement at all and so she has always worked at her full range. In order for her to stay sound in future, Jo has recommended that I do as little schooling as possible on a surface, and that I do the majority of my schooling on hacks, working on getting her as straight as possible, containing the movement and building her core stability.

This is fine- it's what the vet has been saying since he first saw her and Echo is my baby before she's a dressage horse - I just want her in work and sound. Jo is concerned that if I don't work to contain her movement then we may end up with front leg lameness, as she is putting a lot of pressure on the front limbs, particularly as her front legs turn in a little and are a bit wobbly. 

After I had ridden Echo, Jo had a look at me on her table and we found that I have a real weakness in my right mid glute muscle. Lying on my left side with my feet together and knees fairly bent, she asked me to lift my right knee- I could only lift it about 10cm off my left knee (still keeping my feet together) whereas on the other side I could lift my left knee more than twice as high. It isn't that it's stiff- Jo could lift it and there was loads if movement, but the muscle won't lift it, which is exactly what was happening when I was riding. She's given me some exercises to work on this - which will hopefully make my right hip much more stable when I'm on Echo. 

So it was a really interesting experience, particularly in understanding a bit more about our problems and what we are working with. 

In other news, Echo and I have now cantered twice and both times she was brilliant- she was pretty strong but just felt like she was loving it. Tomorrow, my boyfriend is coming hacking with me, so I should get a few photos of me riding.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Lots of trotting

Post and rail fencing - the only way of keeping Echo in the field she's supposed to be in!
Didn't get any better photos of me riding Echo today, but it's half term next week and my boyfriend has said he'll come out hacking with me (on foot!) and take a few. 

Had a lovely ride this morning, with two really long trots. Tammy's mum came out with me again but she doesn't run with us so we always have to stop and wait for her to catch up again. Today she stood still while Echo and I trotted away from her and then trotted back. I was really pleased, as she's got a bit used to halting after trotting, to wait for the person walking with her to catch up. Today I kept her walking for another minute or so after the trot before I turned around and she was quite happy to do so. 

When we were back at the yard I did her stretches, gave her a brush and turned her out. She's still in one of the winter 'trashed' fields, although it isn't wet at all. They have fields with lots more grass, but at the moment Echo keeps breaking out. I think she'll be ok when the other horses are out on either side of her, but really, she is always going to get out unless she has post and rail fencing. 

She's perfectly happy where she is- she has a gelding next to her, who she flirts outrageously with (she's in season) and plenty of haylage. It's just there isn't any grass. Hopefully next week she'll be out on the grass paddocks.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Not a great photo...!

Bad photography skills seem to have turned my beautiful horse into a mule... But had a fab ride on Echo today- no canter, as Tammy is teaching all weekend and I want her to be there when I canter her first time. She was apparently very good in canter this week, just a little surprised to be asked to go above a trot! Which in itself is hardly surprising as it must be nearly two years since she cantered under saddle last!

Riding again tomorrow so I'll try to get a few better photos! 😀

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Cuddly pony. And vet visits.

It's been a little while since I posted but things are going so well. Last weekend was a bank holiday and I managed to ride Echo two days in a row which was really nice- it was warm and sunny and we went for some lovely long trots and she felt strong and fit. She's still doing all road work but Tammy is now starting to use one of her big fields and can vary the surface a bit more. 

We had had a bit of a weird experience the previous weekend where Echo had a massive strop in the school with me. We thought we would take her in there first then go out for a hack, but she was so odd. She stopped dead and refused to move- I managed to get her walking but as soon as I asked for trot she threw her head up and stopped again. This really worried me, as it's what she used to do when her saddle didn't fit- but we'd only just had the saddle refitted and Tammy said it was sitting straighter than ever. 

We took her out of the school for a hack - to see if it was just a school thing - and she felt fine. She was very feisty and spooky, and when I asked for trot she almost cantered the first time, then struck out with her front leg the second time. But she trotted happily and was very forward...so we took her back in the school when we got back and she did the same thing again! Tammy got on, to see how she felt and she was a bit enter, but when Tammy asked her to trot she went into canter and bucked all the way down the long side! I couldn't believe it- she's never done that!

Once she had got a decent trot we stopped. Although considering that was my only ride of the week, it was a bit rubbish! Tammy rode her the next day and she was fine and she continued to be good all week. I can only think that as it was quite late in the evening and she had already had her tea, she thought it was bedtime and wasn't impressed about having to work. The other possibility is that she has been doing quite a lot of school work to build up her balance and flexibility, which might have made her a bit stale. 

So last weekend we just hacked, as Tammy had all week, and she was brilliant. It was lovely to spend a bit of time at the yard- I washed her off and she stood in the sun drying with her equilibrium pad on while I tidied up her feathers and made her look pretty. It was like having a horse again!

This week, the vet came to reassess her and although I couldn't be there, I've talked to him at length about what he saw. He was really pleased with how sound she is, considering how much work she is now in. He said she's much more evenly muscled and the movement looks good. However, he's concerned that we're still getting soreness in her back and that she sometimes drags her offside hind in trot a little. The back soreness builds up in the two weeks between physio visits. It's not terrible, but she starts banana-ing a little and falling out through the left shoulder, and the toe drag gets worse. He would now like to medicate the sacroiliac and lumbar spine to see if that makes a difference. He didn't get much reaction when putting pressure on the sacroiliac but he said that the structures are often so deep that you can't feel them. He's thinking that if we inject anti-inflammatory steroid into it, she might get considerably better, so it would effectively be diagnosing it.

He does, however, want to wait 6 weeks and build up the canter work so that she is in full work before we do anything. I think it's designed to see how she stands up to the canter work - it may make her more comfortable, to start cantering and doing hill work. Tammy, however, is concerned that we will hurt her by building up the work and if he thinks there's a problem, we should medicate now. I'm...not sure. I think we'll compromise- start cantering for a couple of weeks and see how the physio thinks she feels after that two week period. If she's more sore, perhaps we'll medicate then. I am a little frustrated, as I told the vet initially that I thought the problem could be higher up and he said it was very unlikely. Obviously her suspensories did need operating on, as they were fraying, but I hope we haven't been making her sore when the problem was there all along. Ella- the physio- said that there are a lot of studies going on about the connection between hind limb injuries and back pain and that it's almost impossible to work out which came first. 

So we are continuing as we are for a few weeks, building in canter and hill work to really get some strength. Today, there was a truck with a cherry-picker doing work on overhead cables in the middle of our usual route out of the yard, so we had to go a different way, down a long hill and past fields of horses, sheep and alpacas - and she was brilliant. I think it was the first time she'd been that way, as she was quite 'snorty' but she seemed to really enjoy going a different way: she was forward and happy and didn't spook at all. She found coming up the hill quite tiring, so I only did a couple of short trots- partly for that reason and partly because she felt a bit funny on her near fore in trot. When we got back, we found she had a foot full of stones- no wonder she felt funny! 

She was really affectionate this morning- she's never grumpy, but she isn't always really cuddly- there are days when I think she could take me or leave me! But today she want to nuzzle my shoulder and chin- when I was doing her stretches she wanted to rest her chin against my cheek- it was very sweet. This is not a great photo, but I wanted to show the cuddly mood she was in.

Hopefully, next week when I ride her, I'll be able to go for a canter- how exciting!!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Saddles. Again.

I had a saddler out to Echo today - one that we have had in the past, but have not used for a while. Tammy uses her all the time and really trusts her, so I was happy to give it a go.

The first thing she said is that she doesn't think my saddle fits Echo very well at all...considering we had the last saddler out about a month ago this is pretty frustrating! In her opinion it's too narrow and sits too high at the front, which is pinching her shoulders and sitting too low at the back, which, given that that is where Echo gets sore, is a bit of a problem. She was happier with the AST saddle we've been riding her in, although it twists to the left when she's ridden. Tammy agreed to let her widen the tree slightly and fit a balance strap to the right side, to clamp it down and stop it twisting.

I rode her before and after this was done and there was definitely some improvement afterwards. I could feel the saddle trying to twist, but the strap definitely stopped it happening. The saddler wanted to see her trot with the saddle on so I got to have a few trots just on the long sides of the school. She was very funny- she was absolutely dying to have a canter and when I asked her to trot she leapt up into a kind of half canter half trot- she settled after a few steps but it was very sweet. The saddler was pretty happy with it and so Tammy is more confident that she can crack on and do a bit more trot work.

However, this still leaves me with no saddle once we have finished at Tammy's. The saddle we're using is still really only a stop-gap. It'll do while we get her fit and into full work, but we had a bit of a chat about what to do next. The saddlery works quite a lot with Ideal saddles and she has suggested that we look at a brand new saddle where we can select exactly which tree will work and exactly which shape of saddle. Which is great, but expensive. I don't have to think about it for a couple of months, and I will obviously try to sell my Lovett and Ricketts saddle to cover a bit of the cost. It's a big decision, but I guess at least then I will know that it fits her.

So I will be saving my pennies over the next couple of months and in the meantime we will keep riding her in Tammy's saddle and hopefully keep making the progress we have been. I'm riding her again tomorrow morning out on a hack, which will be great. It was so nice to ride her in the school today though... Almost like having my pony back!

Monday, 8 April 2013

I rode my horse- twice!!!

It's been a really good couple of days. I rode Echo yesterday evening and the day before and it's been brilliant to actually ride again.

On Saturday I rode out with Tammy walking with me. Echo felt really good- she's much better in her contact now and felt really nice and straight. I was a bit concerned that her walk felt a bit rushed and a bit '2 time', but she relaxed after a bit and it evened out. She's definitely very forward-going which is great. Having been so spooky the day before when I walked out with Tammy, I was slightly nervous about what she might be like with me on top, but she was actually really good- it was less windy and she only had a little spook at some ducks flying out of the bushes, which I can forgive her for! We had a lovely trot and she felt fit and balanced and like a horse in work again!

When we got back to the yard I rode her in the school for 7 or 8 minutes. She's just doing big circles and changes of rein in walk at the moment in the school. She felt good, but I didn't! It's funny: Echo has always, and I mean ALWAYS thrown saddles to the right. This saddle that we're riding her in now is slipping a little to the left! The left!! This is very odd and has completely thrown me. I'm so wonky from Echo being wonky for so long, that I now expect a saddle to go to the right. What is interesting is that Tammy said I was pretty straight while out hacking but as soon as we went into the school, I sat to the right. I tried to correct myself, but I felt awkward and stiff and Echo didn't feel like she was enjoying me riding her at all.

After riding her, I did all of her stretches and put her Equilibrium pad on. She really loves all the fuss. You'll be pleased to know that she's still the same old Echo though, even with this 'boot camp' training- she broke out of her turnout pen again on Saturday. She didn't do anything silly, just wandered over to Tammy's mum once she'd got out! She's now going out in a slightly bigger pen with a little more grass and yesterday stayed put, which is a good sign. I have warned Tammy that as she gets closer to the summer and is in season more, she will go looking for boys when she gets bored. She's going to consider turning her out with a companion, but Tammy is so careful that she worries she'll get kicked. She's amazingly careful, actually. I suggested she doesn't really need bandaging at night anymore, but she wants to keep them on as she's worried that with her lateral extension shoes she might knock herself. She also gets turned out in all four boots and overreach boots, which she never has before. When ridden, she wears knee boots, because she once tripped over her own feet. Echo gets the best care there that I think she's every had in her life!

So yesterday I arrived at the yard and Tammy said that we were going to ride out with another girl and her horse. Tammy still walked as this girl is very nervous (so would I be if I'd gone through what she has with this horse!) so Tammy has her on a lead rein. It was really good for Echo to be out with another horse though. He was a little spooky and once or twice that upset Echo, as he made he jump, but generally, she was more relaxed with him there. It made her walk a little more slowly too, which improved the rhythm of her walk. We went for a couple of long trots and it was good that Echo didn't mind that Marty got left miles behind as the girl only wanted to do a few steps of trot. She waited patiently for the others to catch up and off we went.

What is really encouraging is how good Echo is with traffic. All the hacking is on roads at the moment and although they're quiet, you do get cars passing. They're all single track roads too, so the cars have to sit behind you until there's space to pass. I'm so impressed that Echo doesn't mind this. When we got back to the yard, I rode her in the school for a few minutes again and it was much better than the day before. I think Echo had got a bit more used to me riding her again and I ha got a bit more relaxed. She felt softer and I didn't feel like I was slipping to one side. We are still getting a saddler out this week, as Tammy is concerned about the saddle we're using. She has a prolite under it, which seems to be doing a good job, but it doesn't sit completely straight and Tammy doesn't want to do any more work in the school- particularly any trot work- until she's confident that it's fitting correctly. We're going to use the saddler that she uses, as they know each other well and Tammy says that she can be completely honest with her and make we keep going until she and the horse are happy. As I said before, I lost a bit of faith in my saddler over the last couple of times she's been out.

So it was a really lovely couple of days of riding. I'm leaving Tammy to it for a few days and I will ride her again on Wednesday. I have another couple of weeks off work, so it will be nice to ride her a few times. I've decided to wait before getting the vet to come and check her again- my insurance year has run out and so I need to be a little more careful about the money. As she's doing so well, I think I'll keep doing what we're doing until Tammy is ready to start some canter work with her, then get Ben to come and see her. Hopefully he'll see a big improvement! :)

Friday, 5 April 2013

Out and about

I went to see Echo this afternoon and had a really lovely time. She's doing so well- Ella, her physio, said her back was the best it's been since coming back into work this week, so things are definitely heading in the right direction.

I went out for a walk with Tammy riding her tonight, which was great. She was a bit spooky and, interestingly, Tammy said she was spookier than usual. I think that possibly has something to do with me being there. She always goes out with someone on foot, but when it's me, Echo seems to be a bit of a wuss!

I would really like her to start going out alone now, as she is getting a little bit dependent on having someone next to her. Tammy doesn't have any sensible horses to hack out with, so she won't ride her in company, which is a shame, but the few times she's tried going out on her own, she's stopped dead and refused to move. I'm well aware that Echo does this, and she makes you look a real idiot, doing big pony club kicks and getting nowhere! However, Echo's napping just becomes a habit. If she gets past it once, she'll probably be fine.

Tomorrow evening I'm going to go up and hack her out with Tammy walking with me. We're hoping to do the complete 40 minute circuit with the full amount of trot and then some work in the school too. Now that her back feels so much better, Tammy is going to build up the school work a little more. I actually think this will help her back, as she's usually much more relaxed and soft in the school. Having said this, I don't want to do too much, as it was probably school work that damaged her suspensories in the first place... It's certainly a balancing act!

I've been giving a bit of thought to where to keep her when I have her back from Tammy's. It's likely we'll go back to where we were before, but I'd love somewhere with better hacking. Well have to see. There are a few places with lots of forest hacking (since that's predominantly why we'll be doing it seems an idea to have good places to ride out) but there are other compromises with these places.

Anyway- I should actually get to ride Echo tomorrow, which will be brilliant!

For now, here's a picture of Tammy on Echo today. It's not a great photo, but walking along beside her, it was tricky to take a good one!

Sunday, 31 March 2013

A pony with expensive tastes...

Echo is doing really well at Tammy's - I have been having a crazy few weeks of work recently so haven't been able to get up to see her very much, but Tammy gives me regular updates on her progress. Apart from a few days where her work was cut short due to snow drifts (who'd have thought it's almost April?!) she has been building the work steadily.
She's now doing a 45 mins walk and trot hack every day, with a few times a week doing five mins in the school too. She does in hand poles in a fan, ridden poles in a straight line, a set of stretches every day and has an equilibrium machine on every other day- alternated with a tens machine. She has become really rather attached to the equilibrium. Ella, her physio, sees her once a fortnight too.
She is doing really well but still gets sore behind the saddle- although Ella thinks this is getting a bit better and she loosens off pretty quickly. I'm not going to worry too much for now. It's amazing the difference an equilibrium machine makes though.
Yesterday, when I arrived, she had been ridden in the morning but Tammy had left the pad and stretches for me to do. The pad works for half an hour, pulsating and vibrating the back muscles. When I arrived her back felt pretty solid- I couldn't get her to do any of the 'butt-tuck' exercises as she wouldn't open up through it at all. But after half an hour her back muscles were soft and pliable and she happily stretched through them when I did her exercises.
Since it looks like she may always have a tendency towards a sore back, it is looking like it might be sensible for me to buy one of these pads for when she's back at home and in full work. Blooming' expensive taste that pony has! But seems like it would really help.
I'm trying a different saddler too- one that Tammy uses and knows well. I lost a little bit of faith in my saddler over the last couple of months and with Echo's back she really needs the saddle to be spot on.
I'm away for a few days now, but have two weeks of holiday after that, where I hope to ride Echo myself as much as possible. Which will be quite novel!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Slow and steady

I wish my phone hadn't run out of battery yesterday when I went to see Echo as I'd have loved to show you all a picture of her being ridden.

I went to the yard to meet with the saddler and Tammy who is rehabilitating her because Ella, her physio, has said that she is still really sore at the back of the saddle area. The saddler had come out a few weeks ago, but had gone before Tammy was free to talk to her and she had said the saddle was fitting really well. I wanted her to see Tammy ride in it, so asked her to come out again.

And I'm so glad I did! In the stable, even I could see that the saddle looked good- it sat nicely in balance and seemed to be comfortable. We got out into the yard, Tammy got on, and our problem was immediately clear- the saddle doesn't remotely fit Tammy. Not even close. She sits nearly on the cantle and no wonder Echo is getting sore in that area as the saddle isn't spreading her weight evenly. I got on, and it was fine as the saddle has always fitted me quite well. So it was back to the drawing board, as Tammy is the one riding her.

Tammy had a look for a couple of spare saddles she has and we tried an Ideal first- which was far too wide- and then an AST, which I have never heard of. It is much chunkier than my saddle, but it seemed to fit reasonably well. We tried it and she didn't refuse to move (which is what she does if she's not happy with a saddle!) so we put the prolite numnah back on and took her out for her morning ride.

Tammy always rides her with someone walking beside her, to try to stop her spooking and doing any damage to her surgery site. She is a bit of a wuss on her own but she will build up to this when she's stronger. It was so lovely to see her ridden- and bizarre at the same time. Only about 3 or 4 other people have ever ridden her besides me and it's always very strange. But as you'd expect, being trained by a professional dressage rider, she is looking absolutely lovely. She walks out really well and is keen and happy. She is only doing road work at the moment and this has been a learning curve as she's never really done any before.

She was so weak to begin with that she was dragging her right hind toe a bit in trot, which you can see on her hoof. But the combination yesterday of her being a bit stronger now and in a saddle that puts the rider in balance and doesn't block her behind seemed to have really helped and she wasn't dragging her toe at all. In fact, Tammy said the trot transition was much better yesterday, which is really encouraging.

It's a much longer and slower process than I was expecting, so in many ways I'm really glad that it's not me doing it. Tammy is so careful and methodical. She religiously does her physio stretches and uses the tens and equilibrium machine every day (which Echo apparently loves!) and she is building the work up as she feels Echo get stronger. I hadn't really realised just how long it would take, having had so long out of proper work.

Hopefully, we are building some really solid foundations again and she will be fit and sound in the future. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A little Echo time

Echo is doing really well at Tammy's yard - I really couldn't be happier. Tammy has an amazingly organised, rigorous approach and I think Echo is really enjoying the routine there.

She's up to 45 minutes of walking, 6 days a week, and is now starting to do short trots in her work too. Tammy is a dressage rider and so is working very hard to ensure she's straight and not falling out through her left shoulder, as she is prone to doing. I think Tammy is finding it quite a challenge, probably more than she expected it to be, because Echo hasn't been fit for a good couple of years. The stamina for ridden work just isn't there, so she was getting tired really quickly. But she is ridden every day, does about 15 minutes of pole work in hand every day, does specific physio-prescribed stretches every day and alternates between a Tens machine and an equissage massage pad each day. So we are throwing everything at he to get her back to fitness!

She is still a bit sore in her back, so we have a saddler coming out on Saturday to see if it could be saddle related. Over the next few weeks she will build up to a full walk and trot hack of 45 minutes and will start doing some light schooling.

It's such a good feeling that she is starting to head in the right direction. There's a way to go, and I think we will always have to do more hacking than schooling in future, but I'm so looking forward to having my horse back!

I haven't ridden her yet as I thought I would leave that to Tammy for now, but she is really chilled and happy- today I spent an hour or so preening her- trimming her face and front legs. I ran out if time and didn't get a chance to do her hind legs, so she'll look a bit of an idiot for a week... But she loved it- she always loves a pampering session!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Making an executive decision

I have decided to send Echo away for some rehab schooling. This is a slightly painful thing to admit, having done everything with her myself up to now, but we just aren't making the progress that we need to be at the moment so something needs to happen.

So far she has had 2.5 months box rest since her operation and is walked out for twenty minutes twice a day. She started to have some pen turnout but she broke through the fencing quite spectacularly and galloped around the yard like an idiot. I have been riding her a little, but she is being quite difficult and I think I have too much emotion bound up in it. To some extent, we need to just get on with it- but I'm finding this really hard. Added to which, there isn't really anyone who can ride her during the week when I'm away at the place she is. There's a very confident girl who exercises lots of horses at the yard, but because Echo's back gets so sore, she has to be ridden long and low and round and this girl is a great little jockey but not into schooling at all.

So I've been having a careful think and have decided to send her to a fairly local dressage rider who specialises in rehabilitating horses after injury. She comes extremely highly recommended and I was really impressed when I spoke to her -she wants a full exercise programme from my vet and one from the physio too. She will be turned out in a pen and will be hand walked every day too, as well as having specific exercises every day. My plan is that she will be there until about April, so she can start to school her a bit too. She's really tuned in to the horses and will be able to feel if anything isn't right, but won't have all the emotion invested in Echo as I do.

I think my current yard owner is a little disappointed, but it really is nothing against what she has done so far. The fact that I work away during the week and am only here at weekends and holidays means that it's really stressful trying to manage her rehab from a distance. This will hopefully take some of the stress out of it as she will take over the rehab and has loads of experience in doing so. Hopefully I can bring her back to the current yard in a few months time, in full work and able to be a normal horse again - that's the plan anyway!

The idea that she's being ridden and trained by a dressage rider is quite exciting actually - she's someone I was hoping to start having lessons with, so it will be great that she'll know her so well.

And with any luck - she'll be back to looking like this in no time!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy new year!

It's been a little while again but very little has changed. It's a long and frustrating process, bringing a horse back into work! Echo has been amazing on box rest- really calm and happy in her stable. We did try turning her out in a small pen but after a couple of days she broke out and galloped around the yard like an idiot so I'm waiting until I can get some sedaline before trying again!
I have been riding her a little, which has been great, but I have a feeling she's uncomfortable with the saddle again, as she doesn't seem happy in her back still- she was great at first but then something spooked her and she nearly bucked me off! Echo is not a bucker so she is definitely telling me something!
She's having physio tomorrow and the vet is coming on Thursday to vaccinate her, but I will hopefully get him to have a look at her back again as well. Then hopefully the saddler will look at her saddle asap- then maybe we can start making slightly more progress!
But for today, we had a little ride in the sunshine, so hopefully we have started the new year a we mean to go on- and, hopefully, 2013 will bring us a little more luck.
Wishing you all a very happy new year!

Daily adventures while training my young horse.