Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cantering again

Classical dressage methods prove true.

Classical dressage training indicated that transitions and lateral work improve the canter.

The last two weeks I have been focusing on teaching the leg yield and doing lots of walk/trot transitions. The transitions were used to lighten her up to the seat and the leg again. She is moving along nice from the seat and can do all her downward transitions (walk and whoa) from the seat and voice. Ditto for up to trot, no real leg aid needed. She is moving more forward and active now. For the lateral work I have just been teaching the seat and leg aid the means move sideways. She is picking up on this quickly and seems to enjoy the lateral work.

Today I went back to ask for canter. I warmed up with walk/trot transitions and then asked for the canter from the walk. She gave me only a few steps of trot before picking up the canter. I did notice that I am throwing my body around more then I should and made a good attempt at sitting back and giving her the clear aids. She showed a great improvement from our last attempts at canter transitions. We also maintained the canter for a longer period of time. There is still hope to teach the canter to the pregnant mare!

Drifter is now heading into her 7th month. Horses are pregnant for 11 months. I think the foal has moved because she seems more comfortable, but I can still feel the foal flutter. I hope that this means I will be able to continue her training for a few more months. Her progress is so great I don't want to quit now!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Went out and rode Drifter tonight. I wasn't really enthusiastic because it was really cold out. She seemed game to go and was cooperative and forward. She is really getting the lateral work thing, which is a blessing and a trick, because she tried it as an evasion a few time tonight. She really engages herself when asked to do lateral work (leg-yield and turn on haunches) at this point. We did some walk/trot transitions on a loose rein and asked for a few trot lengthenings. She is really progressing in her trot work and hopefully we will get some more canter work in again soon.

Tonight, I really felt the baby flutter after we did our work. I was rubbing her belly and could really feel the foal moving. It was so cool. I think it is the size of a beagle right now- moving quickly towards the size of a goat. Drifter seems to have accommodated to the riding and foal now or the baby has moved, because she doesn't need to stop and pee so much and she looks like she is carrying it differently. I was almost worried until I felt the activity in there tonight. We are just past the half way point in her pregnancy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I got one ride over the weekend, which went well. We continued to work on grading the speed and step length at walk and trot. She has been very slow at the walk without impulsion. She also gets to a point where she likes to stop (after about 30 minutes), which generally means she has to pee!

Last night, we had a great ride! We didn't do any more cantering. We spent 20 minutes at the walk. I introduced some lateral work- asking her to do a simple leg yield. She had nice engagement and impulsion. By the time we got to the trot, she was working nicely and ready to go. Her trot was very nice and forward for the first time in awhile. He leg yield at the trot was a bit rushed and unbalanced, but I could really feel her engage her engine a few time. When she got "sloggy" around the time she generally has to pee I switched to walk/trot transitions. This went really well and her transitions were often forward and light. She is a real joy to ride.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Over worked

This week I had a class in Morristown from 8am to 5pm. By the time we got out of class it was dark and it's over an hour drive from there to the barn. So, I missed my normal Tuesday ride. I really needed to get away from class mode and get to the barn, so I went after class today.

This was a really nice evening to go ride as the weather was mild and the farm was virtually deserted. Drifter needed only a quick clean up (from the knees up anyway) and we were tacked up and ready to go. She did a really cool thing today and opened her mouth and lipped the bit into her mouth all by herself today. She still raises her head when it is time to put on her halter or bridle, but we are still working on this. I was really impressed that she willingly took the bit though.

Our ride was nice and she was a bit more forward then our previous two rides. We worked on posting trot, took a break for a pee, then worked on canter when no one was in the ring. Still trying to get that canter depart. She tried really hard and only shut down once on me. Her trot work was pretty nice too and I started to ask for some variation in her trot stride length.

After her ride, when we slowed down to a walk, steam started to roll off her. She was really hot. So, I walked her out a bit, threw a cooler on her and left her in Fritz' stall while I rode him. When he was all done she was mostly dried out and ready to get her sheet on and go back outside.

She is a wonderful mare with a lot of "try" in her.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Life continues to be challenging and I am not always in the most "fit" form to ride. I know that Drifter is sensitive and tuned into me, so since I was not feeling well I choose not to ride today.

Instead, we did a little lungeing with side reins. She is doing well, but it was hard for her to balance outside with a little slope to the ring and the footing being very soupy. She tried hard to please. She also trotted a few caveletti by accident in our lungeing. It was nice to see her make a correction after hitting them the first time. I think she will be a fine jumper.

After lungeing, I did some ground work with her getting her to understand turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches from a hand or whip aid. She seemed very interested in learning what I was asking.

To end the day I thought I would give her a bit of a massage. As soon as I started rubbing my hands over her barrel, she stretched down her head and stretched out her lips. I began to itch her back and whithers and she reached around and began to rub my back with her nose. I think I will reward this behavior. I discouraged her from using her teeth with a verbal "uh-uh" and she went back to rubbing me with her nose while I scratched her back. She seemed to really enjoy the massage and scratching. I also found that she really enjoyed me massaging right behind her scapula and shoulder along a thick muscle there. I ended with a few belly lifts to ease the weight on her topline. This was a good way to brighten my day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I rode on Wednesday morning 9th before leaving for conference. I was in a bit of a hurry and it had been crappy and raining. Luckily, I had put a sheet on Drifter earlier in the week. It was cold and damp, so I planned on riding her with a quarter sheet on for the first time. Since it was cold and damp there were also several other people in the indoor ring. This would be the first time riding with four other people and her wearing a quarter sheet.

All started well, she was quiet and happy to walk around- but a little slow. We did some nice trotting, but she really wasn't putting much energy into work. I gave her a quick kick a few times when she stopped suddenly and she hopped back into the trot, but she was clearly not thrilled. We worked for a while longer trying to work around the same issue- going forward. She was really shutting down- perhaps the number of horses in the ring or the sheet or the time we spent working. It wasn't a high note to leave for conference on.

Yesterday, after returning from the conference I went out to ride again. I was hoping to take a step back and re-establish forward. I didn't want her to learn to suck back and slow down or stop. I just started at the walk and tried to stay quiet with my body and legs. I used a bumping leg aid when she stopped. Sometimes, it's hard to tell if she needs to "use the bathroom" or is just stopping to stop. Her work at the walk and trot was much nicer and more forward. We even got to squeeze a canter in when the other horses left the ring. Her canter remains a work in progress. I am happy that she showed improvement and maintained her skills while I was gone. She is doing well with her blanket wearing and she looked like polished milk when I took the sheet off this week. She is still getting a bigger belly and I hope to be able to see some movement soon. Her belly felt more like jelly under my legs this week then last week. Hopefully, I can help her maintain this level of fitness under saddle for another few months.

I am also coming up with a list of things to do when she is too big and unhappy to ride. So far, I have clicker training, learning to paint, in hand work, more long lining and adding lateral work, TTEAM obstacle courses and of course massage and feldenkrais work. I would love other ideas for non-mounted work.