Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sunny Days

I'm aware that weather bragging isn't cool but in the interests of recording life I will briefly nod in that direction just to say it has been truly the most wonderful three months of sunshine. So much so that we really have no green stuff (more an autumnal beige) and we have for the first time since moving here used our hay field to graze; so in spite of having just over 12 acres for three of them, I'm mighty glad we had a good hay supply of hay stashed in the barn....we may be needing it.
Monday I forgot to say that Chapiro's breeder (Karen who was a student some time ago when I was teaching with Fidge) came over, I worked him in the school to show her our progress and then we worked Moo and she had a play too; it's lovely to spend a morning chatting about Spanish horses (Karen has some mares in Spain).
Today I rode Moo in the school, really because I wanted to check that all this 'horsemanship' stuff (I can't bring myself to type the 'n' word that so many put with horsemanship these days) isn't sending him into lala land. Erm, no worries there then, he was his usually energetic self especially in the trot but he worked very well and his back is starting to really swing again. We finished off with a walk down to the bottom of the hill and back and he was really striding out, marching on! Haven't felt that since Fidge. We had no spooky bits or stopping and we had a trot part of the way back.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Madness

OK perhaps it's my age, lol. Last night Donald set me another challenge:

To long rein with one rein, not attached just draped over the neck. The horse is to be driven from behind and moved to each side without moving the rein to the other side.

Here is our attempt, sorry there is nothing for twenty secs as I didn't have Lydia and the video is on the fence again. Good fun and another 'enlightened' moment for us, lol.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

where to start?

mmm, not sure where to start really. It's been a busy few days, lots of time spent with equines (Lydia now has a lesson at the club on Friday evening and Saturday morning) and even more time with the brain in overload.
As I said previously I have been searching on the www to fuel my interest in bitless riding. As a result of this I have joined a French forum of bitless riders/trainers. So far so good, bear with me dear readers.
Having joined this happy band of bitless bods I was somewhat taken aback to find myself castigated for using a hackamore, oops!!  In the spirit of learning, I asked for advice, one of the forum members, Donald , was very kind to suggest I try working on the ground with a cordeo (rope around the neck) and so here are the 'photos and some brief vids (thanks very much to Lydia) they are not of great quality as they were taken on my camera.

OK, bear with me some more. It was amazing! We could actually achieve quite a lot and he was just very chilled and listening. It's quite weird because you can really do nothing with the cordeo, no directions, no halts, it's just like an umbilical attachment that holds you together. We walked, trotted, reined back, lateral work basics and it was so much fun.
Bolstered up by our fun session yesterday, today I decided to try riding in the cordeo. Again my daughter was on hand to capture our amateur attempts. I started out in-hand, just reinforcing the halt voice aids (mmm, well it's pretty important when you have no reins, lol)
Then I got on and we walked, halted, changed direction, reined back. OMG it was so revealing! It highlights all the holes in your training but at the same time is really uplifting and I just know that I couldn't have done this last year.
The bitless write up is therefore still in the planning stage, each part is there in my head but it's going to be quite a lot of work to commit it to words on the page. I can say I'm very happy to have 'stumbled' across the cordeo and although it won't be part of my daily routine, it will be a regular session to check our progress.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

perfect day

Yesterday was a perfect day, warm (about 25°) and sunny but with that breeze again. So, in my quest to 'chill' Moralejo when away from the school or yard , we tootled off down our track to the most distant field (usually not grazed just left for hay but with the drought it's come in handy). The 'pics don't show it so well but it's an enormously steep hill and coming back up I could really feel his quarters working and I'm sure it's good exercise for him. To lighten the mood we stopped for fallen apples and then took five under the trees at the bottom of the steepest part. Maybe one day he'll 'get' that it's fun, lol.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Had a great ride this morning, sun out, breezy and just September at it's best.
Moo was just so chilled, we worked a little in hand first (oh and a little neck massage in the stable beforehand, trying to break down that tight upper neck) and again I got in to that neck whilst we were walking, just little massage strokes and then releasing down. I noticed theat when I massage the worst area (on the left side) he responds by giving me his neck and stretching out and down whilst still keeping a little inward curve.
He stood so still on a loose rein for me to mount and then waited for the go signal; good, that bodes well.
I replaced by 6 pole pyramid from yesterday with a three pole and then three single poles placed in front of it, all with a short walk distance between (intending to get him to HAVE to pick up rather than step long). After a few circuits on a very long rein we tried the poles (still on a long rein) and I just let him suss it all out for himself and he did, spot on Moo!
Well we played with yielding, shoulder-in and counter shoulder-in, transitions, rein back all in walk but with some bits of trot. Each time he got too excited in the trot I walked and then let him take the poles again, always with a long rein so he regulated himself without any rein. I also used the massage technique whilst on board, just a little palpation and then he responded with a little inside bend; I applied a finger-light feel to the left rein at the exact moment he released and after a few goes he was totally getting the required response to the rein!!! Yay, it's like magic.
We had a lovely time, about an hour in all and his balance and reach from behind is definitely improving, :- )

There is so much stuff going through my brain at the moment with reference to bitless that I might just explode and end up with words spewed all over the ceiling and walls. I need to get some form to it, I'll try and make a start tonight, bear with me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

sleeping rough

So I've been busy, what's new? This is what's left of my bedroom (sigh) and we're back to builders rubble, dust and short tempers (his not mine). This afternoon was a haven of tranquility (in my head at least if not in reality; think loud banging and floorboards flying) as I escaped to the yard and got my daily dose of nedfers.

Moralejo is progressing really well, still walking him (got to get my 'soft' bits banished) but today was a school day. We started off in-hand and he's responding well to the lead rope being around the outside of his neck (makes it easy to keep him straighter in the neck) and his shoulder-in is brilliant using this method; you just can't overdo the neck bend.
 I notice every time when we start off he is tight in his neck (about the third/fourth vertebrae back from the poll area), just holding a little and if I walk alongside I can just gently massage the area and then he seems to swallow and take his head down into a stretch.
 On the left rein he is slightly quarters-in when left to his own devices, again I've found it really helps to walk alongside (a bit further back for this) and gently 'nudge' his quarters as his inside hind is off the ground.
We are also incorporating some pole work (I have formed a pyramid from six trotting poles) and he has to really make an effort and step up and over; we do this in walk and trot and it's a BIG help. I remember doing an equine massage course many years ago and the teacher used railway sleepers to do the same thing, excellent for working the quarters.
The canter transition is coming on, I'll write more on that next time and some further 'chat' on bitless.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Well I've just returned from the briefest visit to the UK; no time for visiting friends (flights didn't allow for it) and a 4.00am rise this morning to get the flight home. I feel like I'm holding my breath whilst I'm there, so much traffic and noise and too much choice of everything.....pubs, shops, hotels, magazines and anything else you can think of. I understand why lots of people who re-settled from the UK to France find it hard to adjust but I just find the quantity of everything rather baffling, lol, I guess I like things simple.
Talking of simplicity, I've been spending most of my time with Moo either walking out or in-hand/lunging in the school; working on the principle that he really needs to strengthen up before I advance the ridden work and I'm not sure my discipline skills are up to not trying too hard when on board ;-).
All of our in-hand work is done in a headcollar and lead or lunge, it's at least 6 years since I've lunged in anything else but the in-hand is a different story, I've used a bridle and worked off the bit always with this. I decided to ditch the bridle after working him in-hand in the hackamore worked so well.
OK that's the history, now to technique. Even when I plan for most of the work to be on the lunge I start with him in-hand. This is not only a barometer for me to see how he's moving but a nicely contained stretch and warm-up for him. To begin we just walk straight lines and corners, on and off the track. Then we start to bring the shoulder fore and add in a quarter turn on the forehand to change direction. Then maybe shoulder-in with some haunch and or shoulder yield. If we're lunging then we go onto transitions, spirals etc which I'll try and video as it will help me watch for any longer term improvement. If we are working in hand we may go forward to some reinback, trot, counter-shoulder fore/in and travers/half pass. The most amazing discovery for me has been the way I can influence him by the merest touch, for instance, if he brings around his head too much in the shoulder-in I can just use the tip of my fingers (at the side of his face) to realign it. If his neck looks 'held' somewhere I can use my fingers (or gently touch with the end of the whip) and he seems to react.
I used to truly believe that I couldn't work without a bit (sorry I know I labour on about this) not if I wanted to access all areas; now I wonder at what science (you KNOW I love science) I was relying on to support this? I know all about the recycling of energy from back to front and back again, I know about 'feeling' for resistances via the mouth but really and truly I wouldn't put a bit in my childs mouth (oh lord don't tempt me) to 'feel' anything and I KNOW horses ain't humans's making me return to old values with new light on them. Any thoughts on this guys?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

it's a long haul

Very briefly (still have house guests, sigh) but Ive been working away with Moo. He's been getting so much better in walk and trot and some really good ridden work plus the stretches are getting slightly easier for him. Rather optimistically I thought the canter may be much improved :-( not so. He is definitely still a bit uncomfortable on the left rein in canter on the lunge. I'm not too dismayed because all that I read on pelvic injuries suggests that a return to fitness, whilst possible, is a very gradual thing. Oh well, back to work and forget the canter for now; take what I have and increase his strength for the future.
I'll be back soon, liver permitting.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

the main man

Why wasn't it meeee???

Oh honestly, ask the OH to take pics and he takes four!! All rubbish but heyho, I'm deleting the fourth as we're rising to the trot and it looks like I'm being kinky with the saddle awwwww!!

Actually It's rising trot in the second but he got lucky, lol. It was a great session with Moo this afternoon. I am just so content with him and he seems a very happy bunny. I can see my soft bits, arrggghh, so I'm on a diet in a weeks time (can't before as we have an aunt and uncle coming tomorrow and they will ply us with drink and food for sure).
I'm quite frustrated with my saddle, it's really comfy in walk but I swim around in trot; it fits Moo well but I'm selling my Albion (well hope to) which is also a bit too big for me and I'm planning on trying a treeless!
However, in spite of the workwoman blaming her tools, lol, I'm really pleased with the boy...just need to get myself up to speed :-(

Friday, September 4, 2009

more on the 's' word

I guess I should mention Moo, oops, I haven't forgotten him. We've been working on the norty 's' word, whether ridden, lunged, in-hand it is the buzz word. Reward him for waiting for my signals so that he gets the idea and being rather pedantic and fussy about his accuracy (eg expecting transitions on the aid not 3 strides later). His work is much improved because of this attention to detail and it reinforced my belief if one could only do all this stuff correctly at the beginning then the more tricky stuff that follows would run smoothly.
Today was half in-hand half lunge, focussing on stretching over his back and using himself properly behind. In hand we are once again working on the trot (after warming up in walk and lateral work) and today he was brill with his reinback to trot.
On to lunging and he was very calm and listened well, especially since there was a hell of a wind and Patrick was banging about at the edge of the school. A really pleasing session. Drat though, I've got leaves already raining down into the school; better find the leaf blower out of the barn.
Oh well, off to pick Missy up from school and think of another use for Di's gorgeous pumpkin; we've had soup and risotto (both delicious thanks Di) and I'm thinking I could just bake some slices with butter and black pepper. Any ideas?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Chapiro diary 3rd September 2009

Now I'm aware that just like some mother droning on about how great her kid is in class, me droning on about my midget may get a tad boring, lol. So I'll try to be brief but a) I'm excited about him and b) I really do want to keep this 'diary' to look back on and check our progress.
Today we worked in the stable again, he now stands really well for all the daily chores of grooming etc and then we tried on the hackamore; incredibly, even though Moo seems much bigger all over, it fitted pretty well. Then we moved on to direct lateral flexion with me standing by his shoulder and asking, with a light feel on the rein, for him to flex. He picked that up pretty quick and so then I did the same but asking him, with the outside rein, to flex away from me. That was a little more tricky but he picked it up well enough after a couple of goes (click/treat is the way to his brain). Then enter my big green bucket :-o  We clicked and treated for touching it, then me standing on it, then me standing on it as if to mount, same again but him standing still and finally me being very noisy and stomping on the big bucket!  Only 15 minutes but probably as much as his brain can tolerate right now.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

moo and midget

OK, time for me to shut up for 5 minutes (oh that's sooo hard) here's Moralejo (today with 'bad' hair) and  Chapiro last week.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

baby submission

It's been a quiet time lately with Chapiro, my midget is so frustrated by the flies that I've just been consolidating some clicker work in the stable. Today was damp and cooler, finally hooray!! So my baby (well he's 2 months off  four actually) went back to work in the school today.
It's as if there is a higher 'order' to things in a weird way, as if all the mistakes I've made with Moo  (oh and of course all the other generous equines who have suffered me) were sent especially to prepare the way for Chapiro.
In any case he has picked up all his basic ground skills really well. We started off with just standing around and doing nothing, everytime he stands calm and not mugging me he gets a click/treat to write that lesson firmly in his mind. We back up from voice, body language and/or signal and the same with walking on and stopping. Today we walked on and then onto a circle on the lunge (easy peasy on the right rein, somewhat more tricky for him on the left) and  we tried trotting on the lunge which was pretty successful for his first time.
To finish we knotted the end of the rope onto the other side of the headcollar and (he is sooo small) I can lean over with him under my armpit and ground ride him; just walk on and halt but he was really accepting.

I've been taking it very slowly with him but it will definitely pay off in the end. I do really like him now and I'm looking forward to our future.