Friday, July 31, 2009

Back to work

Last night was back to work as usual. I'm still really impressed with how easy it is to keep Spider straight since having his hocks injected. I know he has arthritis in his hocks and I've been struggling with him falling in to the left for some time, but somehow never put two and two together. We warmed up with three loop serpentines at the trot, with me being careful to not let him fall in on his inside shoulder when we tracked left.

I recently recieved the August issue of Dressage Today, which has a really good article on exercises to develop collection by George Williams. I've been wanting to try them out since reading it. Of course, by the time I got out to ride I had forgotten most of them. The one exercise that did stick out in my mind was a shoulder in (trot) to a turn on the haunches, to renvers. We tried it, and I must say that I love it! Spider was actually pretty good at it, so we added a twist: shoulder in(trot), turn on the haunches, renvers(walk), trot off, half volte to next shoulder in. I really enjoyed the way it put me in touch with his inside hind leg and sat him back on his haunches. I think I'm going to add it to our regular warm up.

Overall, I'm really happy with his work right now: he feels good, he looks good and he's making me look good. Who can complain?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hock, Hock Hooray!

So far the injections have really paid off. Spider is tracking up nicely and is back to his usual enthusiastic self. But, since he's been on turnout or light work for 3 weeks now, his muscle tone leaves a lot to be desired. It always amazes me how quickly an animal (myself included) can lose muscle tone, especially when you consider how long it takes to build it up!

Ironically, my 23 year old retired Swedish Warmblood still has the physique of a bodybuilder. I suppose this is part of the attraction of warmbloods, they're like the Jack LaLanne of horses. Not so with my Spider, if he even thinks about having a day off his haunches turn to jello. So we'll be doing lots of transitions, lots of lateral work and lots of sweating for the next few weeks to tone up those saggy glutes. His and mine!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hock update!

Well, I finally got on Spider this morning. I decided to give him an extra two days on turnout before I rode him. And by "decided" I mean that I was to busy to ride him on Friday and Saturday! But more on that later............


Our ride was good. I kept him to light walk and trot work in a training level frame, but even though we didn't do anything difficult there seems to be an extra spring in his step. I didn't even need my whip. The best part was that he seemed a lot more balanced than he was before the injections. That's not to say he still didn't have a little trouble getting into the right rein, but he felt alot more balanced than before. I'll probably ride him lightly for the next few days, then put him back to his usual work. I want to give the injection time to work before we start pounding on his joints again. Too bad South Jersey is so buggy this time of year, this would have been the perfect time to trail ride!


Now on to my reason for not riding Friday and Saturday: I finally brought my Schoolmaster home! I've been waiting and working on this for the better part of two years. In fact, the whole reason we bought a farm was to get Stravinsky here. And Saturday he finally arrived! He's settled in fabulously. I'm so happy to have him here at home where he can live out his retirement.
Stravinsky enjoying his new home:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hocks


Tuesday I had Spider's hocks injected, so no riding until Friday, and only light work then. He already seems to be moving more comfortably.
We saw Dr. Oliver Elbert of Hopewell, NJ for the first time. I must say I was very impressed with him. He took quite a bit of time with us and was very willing to discuss Spider's issues. Although, he did admonish me for not riding enough. He has a point though, we're never going to get anywhere unless I get my butt in the saddle. I should have had him write a prescription to show my husband: Rx- Ride 5x/week!


In addition to getting his hocks done, I had Dr. Elbert look at Spider's teeth to see if there was anything physical causing him to open his mouth on the bit. According to the Doc, Spider has a slight overbite which causes his front teeth to not wear down correctly. Because his front teeth were overgrown, he couldn't close his jaw correctly on the bit. He floated them down and hopefully we'll see an improvement.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Another Week



Another week's gone by too quick. My weekend was spent putting in 95 fenceposts on our new farm. Why did we buy property with no fencing again? Needless to say, I haven't done much riding! What we have done was OK. Not great, not awful.....just OK. Luckily I've managed to get an appointment for next Tuesday to have his hocks injected. I'm hoping to see a huge turnaround after that.


The highlight of the week was a visit from my saddler, the very talented Fred Taht of Custom Saddlery. Once a year I get Fred to come down and check the fit of my saddle, as over time (and work) a horse's back can change shape and the flocking in the saddle gets worn down. Historically speaking, because Spider tends to fall in on his left shoulder I tend to smash down the flocking on the left side. This time, however, I was very pleased to find out the the left and right sides of the saddle were (mostly) even! The saddle did need to be adjusted, but it was because Spider has finally developed some muscles in his back. Fred takes a tracing of the horse's back when he does a fitting and sure enough, Spider's back has filled out quite nicely since last year. I should have taken a picture of the tracings to hang on my wall. I mean, I know I'm doing good work by the way he feels, but it's nice to have a little photographic evidence to back that up!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pushing Through



Two days off did a world of good for Spider, but he's still behind the leg and doesn't want to collect. So we've been doing a lot of transitions and lateral work to help him loosen up and get moving. With arthritic hocks (or any bad joint) it's important to exercise correctly and build up the muscle around the joint to help support it. I know it's the right way to go, but I still can't help but feel bad for him. I have arthritic joints myself, and while I always feel better after I exercise, getting going is always a pain!

For myself, I know that even though exercise will hurt in the beginning I can push through the pain and on the other side I'll feel great. But with my horse, I really have no way of getting him to understand that. So I have to kick him forward, then I feel that twinge of guilt as he hesitates to comply with my demand. He knows it's going to hurt, and he doesn't really want to go forward, but he does it for me anyway. And I know that as we work his joints will warm up and pretty soon he'll be flying around the ring in true Thoroughbred fashion. But that little bit of guilt is still there.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Already Slacking!

Well, I just started this thing and it seems I'm already slacking. I gave Spider Monday and Tuesday off beacause he seemed to need it. I haven't had his hocks injected in about three years, and it's catching up to him.

After Friday's bitting disaster, Saturday's ride was a walk in the park. Tightening up the noseband did the trick and we had a fairly uneventful ride. We worked on a little bit of everything, but mainly concentrated on getting him into the right rein. Spider tends to fall in on his left shoulder, so every ride starts with a battle to get him straight. He was a little worse than usual, but I didn't think much of it. Until Sunday.............

Now, Spider is one of the most enthusiastic horses I've ever ridden. As soon as the saddle and bridle go on he's ready to start work. But Sunday he was just not into it. "Slug" does not even begin to describe his performance. He was a salted slug. Luckily, I was taking a lesson so I had my trainer get on him to see what she thought. The verdict: he needs his hocks done. I can't say it was a suprise, he's a 14 yr old ex-jumper and we've recently started doing a lot of collected work and counter-canter. But I was hoping I could put it off a little longer. There are only a few vets in my area who do the procedure and it could take months before I can get an appointment. What to do until then?

Friday, July 3, 2009

An Adventure in Bitting......

Ah, the bit! That tiny little piece of metal that can make, or break, a connection. Today I decided to play around with my bit. For the last few months I've been riding in a single joint snaffle, but lately I've noticed my horse opening his mouth to evade the bit. A single joint creates a "nutcracker effect" and can pinch, so I thought I would try a snaffle with a roller link.

We started out well in the warm-up. He was relaxed and marching along in a good rythm. Then I started to put him together. As soon as I shortened the reins he started evading. His head came up, so I put my leg on. Then he sucked back to dodge the contact. It was not going well. I decided that he just needed to get used to the feel and kept going. After a few minutes I was able to get him consistently round, but I had to work at it. I mean, I had to work at it even more than usual. But I kept going, and while he kept evading the bit, the fact that I had to work that much harder actually improved my performance.

A lot of times I am guilty of a "set it and forget it" attitude. Meaning that, once I've got my horse round, I move on to the next step and completely forget that I need to maintain that frame and forwardness. Then it all falls apart and I have to start over. It's very annoying, for me and the horse. But today I knew there was a problem, so I never forgot to maintain the forward momentum and contact. And, while the work wasn't great, it had some really great moments. We did 10 meter circles in canter (both directions!), something I've never been able to do before, and had some great transitions. All because I was paying attention to maintaining his frame!

Tomorrow I'll be going back to my usual snaffle, I've decided to try raising the bit and tightening the noseband before I switch bits again, but I can assure you, I will be paying a lot more attention to maintaining my forward connection than I have been.

Isn't it funny how you have to screw things up before you learn anything?

Welcome

I'm Shannon and this is my training blog. I've been riding since I was old enough to sit up straight in a saddle. I started out riding Western, then somewhere along the way I discovered dressage. It's been my obsession ever since.

I currently have a 14 year old Thoroughbred that I bought in 2006. Before I owned him he was a jumper, with little dressage training. We're currently schooling 2nd level (with a little bit of 3rd thrown in for funsies).

I have a life outside of horses that includes a full-time job, a husband, and a 1 yr old daughter. It's a lot to juggle, but I'm trying to make it work.

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