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 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!!

Daily adventures while training my young horse.