Friday, February 27, 2009


What a ....result!!

My saddle is great! Glenn re-flocked it and it feels just brilliant; like a new one. Moo was really good, standing for all the measuring and even managed to keep calm while I sat on for him to have a look. Glenn then did a thorough re-flock and we tried it again, much to Moo's distaste, by which time the thought of a levade or some piffle was at the forefront of his mind but the saddle felt super and I'm very pleased.

Too tired, again, to be illuminating with words but here's Lydia legging it out of the arena last year, just before being dumped.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

just too knacked write anything lucid! I've been trying to sort video to upload and being technically challenged I've failed, except the clip above of Moo last week in shoulder-in. It was cold (unlike the last few glorious days) and early on before we had warmed up but it gives me something to work from and improve upon. Saddle fitting tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

getting to grips with leg yield

Bless my child, this is holiday time and she's been having a go with the video camera. Unfortunately she is a true 8 yo and has the attention span of a flea, lol.

Being useless I can't seem to edit with any ease and so I have lots of boring early stuff (before we're actually awake!!) and by the time the decent stuff happens Lydia and the camera are long gone.

Anyway no excuses, here we are last week commencing our learning of leg yield in the outdoor school. We have done a little indoors but not in as much space as we have outside.

Moo isn't flexing enough in his hocks but I think that has improved this week.

Note to self, wear dark jods to help mask fat a*se......

Back to aids tmorrow, if I have time, Paul Belasik has stirred some great thoughts....just wish I was any good at writing them down.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

aids 3

Well this has been a few days of reflection. Semantics!! Does it matter then if we call an aid and aid or a cue or whatever? In a quandry I reached for my old mate Seunig. Now I don't always agree with him but he always gives me food for thought.
Seunig doesn't refer to *aids* but *controls*, which in today's world of lightness and consideration seems a little harsh. However, the great man speaks the truth! What we do is control the horse, yes we make that as considered and thoughtful as we can and we always try to work with the horse on his level but it does come down to domination. We ask for submission (and actually reward it in a dressage test) and if one half of the partnership dominates then the other of two halves, equal and opposite blah, blah.

So the semantics don't bother me, call it what we will but we come into our horses lives and dominate them and expect them to submit. Our aids/controls, call them what you like, change our horses will, mould them in the image we desire. Pretty serious stuff and no wonder it so often goes wrong.

So lets end on a more positive note from Podhajsky....
Equestrian language has coined the words ''aids'' to give it a deeper meaning than orders. The rider should aid his horse to understand him; this means that the horse should never be afraid of the aids and that the rider has sufficient patience to be sure his horse understands what is demanded of him. The rider must have an exact understanding of his aids and their effect, and must make use of them intelligently; he must not allow himself to be influenced by his feelings. To follow this policy must be the constant aim of every good and successful rider.

Ah, so it's control with sensitivity... a lightness and intellignce that we humans must bring to the equation. Dominance without agression, educated demands of a sensitive creature, knowing when to stop and knowing when to ask more but more importantly LISTENING to the horse's response and being immediate with our feedback.

Music to my ears

mmm, not been blogging for a couple of days, computer problems, school holidays and social life just got in the way.

It's been a good few days with the boys, Moo continues to find his balance and Chapiro is such a bright young thing, bags of energy and so clever (mm, sounds lik a recipe for disaster then!!) and Lydia has been riding every day, mostly bareback. It's been a nice time, family, friends and horses.

Oh, nearly forgot! The music....Lydia singing along with her MP3 player, Yannick Noah (yes he did used to play tennis but now the french adore him as an eco pop star) just wish she knew more of the words or at least had grasped the tune, lol
Right, off to serious *aids* stuff.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I wrote this yesterday but have been *offline* for 24 hours....

I’m writing this offline as I have Internet problems, something to do with the firewall, hopefully Patrick can fix it later when he’s finished work.
Had to write it up though as it seems like a breakthrough morning. For the first time ever Moo worked into my hand without curling back. It was brilliant to be able to put my leg on or use my seat fully without him speeding up or getting stressed. It meant that I could use my seat to help him through from behind and I could immediately ‘find’ the weakness in the left hind and help it through to connect at the front.
A great ride and even better it was the most glorious sunny morning.

I'll be back to *aids* as soon as I can write up my thoughts.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

If I had a hammer

Brain ache today, not because I've been thinking aids but 'cos the boys were taking down the fireplace and chimney breast with hammer drills. I HATE renovating, that is official;be nice when it's done though.
Sad news regarding my beloved Albion, tried it today and it just isn't right for Moo. Not sure what to do with it but it will perhaps be right for Midget as he is a lighter frame. It used to fit Fidge perfectly and I miss riding in it but it has to be right for the horse first, me second. I have the saddler coming out soon to check Moo's saddle (a very reasonably priced made to measure dressage) so we'll have to see.
On the other hand it was a good day for work, dismounted straight away and removed offending Albion to get on with some in-hand work. For only the second time I asked him for some trot in-hand, bless him he tried so hard and actually got a wetter mouth than I've ever seen him with. I so wish he was 6 not 12, lol.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

aids part 2

So, unsurprisingly, we seem to agree that less is more. Agreed Claire, it isn't always easy to accomplish and I think the hardest thing for riders to accept is that their horse may not be that active when they first start working with them. I have often watched new students nagging their horses to walk out just that bit more. With some it becomes every stride and truly I don't think they are aware of how bad the nagging has become. Often riders are actually trying to push their horses out of the natural walk rhythm in search of some activity but in doing so they push the goal of a relaxed rhythmical walk even further away.

So one of the most important things about aids has to be use it sparingly and for the briefest time possible. If we constantly nag with our legs every stride then when we really do need to use some leg then the horse is so confused that it doesn't know how to respond. Sadly, horses like this can be labelled 'lazy' when in reality it is the rider that is too busy.

Expect great things for if we don't we crush the possibility! If we don't believe in the possibility that an aid might work then it won't. Riding/training isn't just about the physical but mental too and if we can use our minds to be calm, excited, happy etc then this helps us to stimulate, calm etc the horse.

This brings me to 'cue' versus 'aid'.

A 'cue' being a signal, such as a word or an action, used to prompt another event in a performance. A reminder, hint, suggestion or prompt.

As before an 'aid' being something that can help to bring about the performance of an action...

So is there any difference? This is my first question and I guess one I'll have to answer before moving on. In many ways the two are interchangeable but at the same time they are not. To me, the inference with a cue is that it brings about a reaction, ie I teach my horse to walk on by screaming 'FIRE' , whereas an aid, surely, by it's definition is something that actually helps to bring about the action. So my aids are designed to work with the horse and help it achieve a goal and a cue just sets something up (bit like Pavlov and his dogs slobbering at the ring of a bell) .

Well it's all just words at the end of the day so maybe I will go forward using the terms cue and aids to define my actions or maybe I should use a term like 'pre-aid' to decribe my actions before an aid.

Hopefully it will become more clear when I describe my method of aiding/cuing.

Oh this makes my brain ache but in a good way I guess

Monday, February 16, 2009


Well, I reckon start at the beginning. But where is the beginning? The harder I search my mind the less obvious the starting place becomes. In some ways I would like to start with groundwork, the true beginning, but aiding is also tied into the groundwork so perhaps that is where I will start.

I would love to know how to keep these *ramblings* separate from the other posts but I'm not that techy so they will just have to be labelled for now.

So, aids; from the french verb *aider* ... faciliter l'acomplissement d'une action...meaning help to bring about the performance of an action...

Well that makes total sense, an aid being the means by which we can influence the movement of our horse. However, is it just the movement of the horse that we want to influence with our aids? Sometimes our aids say stand still, do nothing but then that does still apply to movement, or lack of it. I suppose I'm digging at the possibility that we can use our aids to access the horse on a deeper level, almost outside of his awareness.

My first memories of learning about THE aids was at pony club. We learned that there were the natural (of the rider) and artificial (extra to the rider) aids at our disposal and I'm pretty sure I learned them *parrot* fashion just to pass a test,lol.

Nowadays I feel that less is definitely more and, like so many of us, I am constantly striving to find the lightest, easiest way of aiding.

So this small piece opens up the idea of aids for me and my next task will be to expand the topic and explore my feelings and see how much they may have changed over the years.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A little delving

Well, all still ticking along well, nowt new really and so I don't intend writing every day now that Moo is on the road. I will no doubt start again when I do more with Chapiro or when we have some breakthroughs of decent proportion with Moo.
So to stop myself loosing interest in my blog I have decided to do some delving into some of, what I feel, are the most important areas of our training. Halts, half halts, rein back, aids, cues etc etc.
I will delve back into my notes and experience and trawl the web and hopefully stir up some questions for myself. As this blog is open to ANYONE to comment then maybe I will get some good feedback too!!

So, I'm off to think about what I shall select as my first *topic*.......I'll be back.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Not got round to updating for a few days, nothing of earth shattering dimensions to write up but all continuing to move in the right direction. Weather has turned ice cold again and yesterday I spent a good part of the day outdoors helping train other folks horses. Worked with my favourite cremello stallion again and a new anglo arab mare. Interesting mare, no muscle and NO mouth. Very hard into the hand and it made me realise just how light Moo is, sometimes I don't give us credit where it's due and I'm just too much of a perfectionist. Anyway, I think we made some real progress with the mare but *petit à petit* as the French say and it's going to take lots of going back to the basics to get her right but well worth persevering.

Reasons to be cheerful today:

I've ordered some new long reins, delighted to find the sort with cord for the first few meters and then into tape. Will be starting to play more seriously with Midget soon.

There is definitely grass growing, despite the cold.

Moo and the Midget are shedding their coats BIG time; the pony won't start until almost summer bless.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

stormy times

The madness of the world weather rather terrifies me. Devastation from fires in Australia, floods and snow in the UK and here we just have wind, oh and a little rain. We lost a tree last night and of course it had to block our chemin, route to some of our paddocks. The power cut out at about 1.00am and we spent the early hours 'regarding' the only clock we could find that wasn't mains supplied. So tonight I'm back online, knacked after tree chopping/stacking but relieved we didn't loose anything serious.
The boys went out and came in. Chapiro, full of beans, screamed round the paddock like a banshee, chasing the pone, argghh!! Managed not to get killed bringing them back in but it was well hairy with the wind up their bums.
Spent most of the day logging and stacking with Patrick but managed to find time to lunge Moo before dark. Wow did he look spectacular, tail up, neck up and strutting his stuff but I pushed him forwards (difficult when he's close to flat out, lol) and finally we got some really good trot. I noticed how much he's changed shape, no longer a puddin' but lots more muscular.
Hope it's better weather for the rest of Feb, pretty please anyone!!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

sunday lunch

It's been a while since we Sunday lunched *out* but today we headed to our local resto and took our seats with a view of the Chateau of Jumilhac. Rural France pretty much shuts in winter, the locals hibernate after the effort of Noël and in preparation for the party season of summer. So we found ourselves one of only three tables in the restaurant allowing for an exceptional level of service, winter has it's bonuses.
A little foie gras to start, then confit de canard for him that eats meat and for me an omelette aux cèpes, fromage and charlotte aux framboises and crème brûlée. All washed down with a nice Pécharmant (local Dordogne red) and chased with a small strong café.
Got home rather full and decidedly short on fresh air, so pulled on the jods and inflicted my extra few kilos on theMoo. Good boy in the school but definitely doesn't like leaving Chapiro at the moment. Worked a lovely exercise on a circle going from shoulder-in to travers (few steps of each) on the left rein it helped stop the curl back that we get in shoulder-in and on the right rein he found it pretty hard so we ended up riding almost squares. Very telling of his strength and I'll definitely revisit this. Also used the exercise from last week, counter shoulder-in to a moving turn on the haunches into a half pass to return to the track and start again.
A little trot to finish, a little calmer I think but still a way to go. Finished by taking him up the lane and round the little triangle hack which only takes about 25 mins tops, ideal as it's very hilly but doesn't bore me, lol. He was a good boy as we have to go out alone and he backs off a little, on the positive side, that does give me a chance to put my leg on; an unusual phenomenon for us.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

s'no joke

Oh well, it did try for at least 30 minutes but we only got a light dusting (thank heavens).
Too cold today, clear sunny skies punctuated by passing snow showers but so far nothing too heavy. Gorgeous red sunset so hoping the old *red sky at night...* still holds some water, or at least NOT snow.

I left it rather late to ride but at 5.30pm I took Moo into the barn and worked him in hand ,after flexions, and then got on board.
Different horse, very chilled and interested in his work. some really good halts from rein vibrations and worked on him *waiting* for my aid to walk on rather than waltzing off as soon as I release the rein. He was *filling* the reins much more today and shoulder-in on the left rein was much less curling back, progress.
Finished with a walk down the snow smattered track and a fabulous trot back up the steep hill, haven't felt a trot so lifted since I had my Gelderlander (he could TROT uphill for Holland!!) and no weight in the rein.....can't wait for better weather and we can venture further afield, it's all hills here and some pretty steep so .....bring on the good weather.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Liar, liar

.....pants are on fire, as my daughter would say. Well that's what horses do to you.
Spent last night fed up that he had almost taken a step backwards and then this morning. Different horse, balance back, concentrating, not one fizzy moment and could even shorten and lengthen the trot a little. Hope to be ride at the weekend if the back just loosens up a bit.

So, either he feels sorry for me and has decided to tow the line or it is finally sinking in. I was wondering too about what Claire said about physio but after seeing him this morning I'm not concerned.

I do think that he has formed a bond with the other two and doesn't like them out in the field while he works. This morning we worked early and they were all in and he seemed less stressed. I'll monitor it for a week or so.

Been to the timber yard yet again this morning and saw this on their notice board, I shan't translate as I know Claire likes to practice, lol but being by a well known American writer I guess the original will be out there anyway.

L'essentiel, en ce monde, n'est pas l'endroit où nous sommes, mais la direction dans laquelle nous marchons. Oliver Wendell Holmes

Thursday, February 5, 2009


So how much time does it, should it take? He's not a baby but Moo is still finding the right canter tricky on the lunge. Bucks and farts and even manages all four feet off the ground (no mean feat for his podginess) and generally just finds it hard to go straight forwards. After lots of transitions and spirals he improves, bit of clicking for the good transitions always gets him more focussed too.
I'm glad I'm writing all this up because the day I say...yay the canter is THERE I can look back and see how hard it's been, lol.
The last WB I owned was a baby but he could ride a canter circle from almost day one, in relatively good uphill balance. On the other hand my Friesian found it incredibly hard for ages but got there in the end.
So, back to *time*....the book's open, any bets as to how long? You can have evens on it taking more than a year!!!
Lovely sunny day today, feel very lucky as so many folks in the UK have had it quite rough.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

only one..... without work since the beginning of the year. It's really showing too, Moo has really slimmed down and his balance has improved. Watching him on the lunge this morning he just makes me smile. Just wish I hadn't taken so long to get round to this.
Lydia had a lovely canter up the track, that pone is just so accomodating.
Sunshine maybe over tomorrow so they'll be out as long as possible to take full advantage.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Deuxième partie

Just had to add a second part to today.....Chapiro had his first outing in the school this evening and he was a little star. Walked calmly down, had a snort at the leveller and then walked around the track on both reins. Walked away from me onto a circle in both directions and let me tickle him all over with the lunge whip. Good end to the day.

chainsaw massacre

OK a little dramatic but next door neighbours are gardening by chainsaw and digger today. Well actually they are putting in a bit of extra parking which requires clearing a few trees.
So Moo was pretty good in the school considering. Good in hand preparation, bit spicy on the lunge but he is getting stronger and the right canter has definitely improved. Finished with twenty minutes on board, he wasn't particularly *calm* but under the circumstances I reckon he was an angel.
Note to self, ride between 12.00 and 2.00 the French being French always take two hours for lunch. Then again maybe the digging will be done by tomorrow....see, I'm ever the optimist.

Gorgeous day today, fab for picture taking, except mine being broken I can't. Think it's going to be the Canon powershot cheapy, easy to use for a camera dunce like me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Music for muckers

I can't do housework without it and yard work's the same. This week Lydia and I are listening to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers....really gets you motivated, lol.

Ah well the weather broke, not in two but in to rain. Still mild but wet which has me wondering, not for the first time this winter, why I don't rug them. I suppose they went in the bin with the shoes, polo bandages and matching saddle pads.

Good work in-hand for Moo and I found that after the bit raising and flexions that if I progressed to the moving flexions that it helped him mouth and swallow better if I massaged into his neck with my fist, literally *finding* the tightness and helping release it. This massaging was much lower in his neck than the vids I showed before (just behind the poll). I think that somewhere on the pooter I have a copy of Thomas Ritter's article on flexions (thanks Claire) and I may need to read this again. Also did lots of front leg raises, which he now loves, to help loosen the shoulders.

Finished the day with Lydia doing her Flicker inspired bareback stuff :-)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

the church of equitation

Awaking at 6.00am I fed and hayed with a little lightness in my step.....yay the back was much better and the stars twinkling in a dark sky. It's still really mild here and by 8.00am the sun was shining and just begging me to get out and play.
Took Moo into the school, very calm on the lunge and instant relaxing in the bit work. So I hopped on (well tbh it wasn't so much of a hop due to the back still being a little tight) and he was calm and relaxed. We worked on a very long rein to start, just riding voltes and turns, only allowing ourselves a few strides on a straight line before turning again. Couldn't use my back properly but he seemed to make allowances for me.
Encouraged by the long neck and stretching we went onto some reverse shoulder-in trying hard not to use any rein apart from keeping a light flexion. As the sun shone on the fence it obligingly threw a shadow onto the three quarter line which we used to good effect. As I've previously said, Moo gets very tight on the left shoulder-in and this results in him curling back, so using the lovely shadow on the 3/4 line I rode the shoulder-in away from the fence. Wow, what a difference and he actually stretched into some contact rather than screwing himself up into a ball.
Worked on the exercises that we did on Friday (reverse pirouette/turn about the haunches etc) and it is brilliant. I'll have to get some video sorted.
Finished with a little trot which was great until he over cooked!! Tried some reinback to trot which I think helped his balance in the transition. I'm thinking when my back is properly better that perhaps I should start with some trot work and then go back to the walk??? We'll see.

Anyway, thanks for the offer of help Di, very grateful to have a mate if needed. Also should say *hello* to English Rider who has become a follower, welcome and remember to comment some time!!