Saturday, January 31, 2009


Me, not the pone. Last night it was stiff (oh the back before you jump to conclusions) and this morning I couldn't move. This depresses me as ten years ago I had a discectomy and have coped well with a *fixed* lower back since but the worst thing the surgeon said was that the discs above and below were a bit ropey but did not require surgical intervention at that time. So every time my lower back seizes up I have this terminal fear that it's another disc. OK, so being a flatliner I quickly got that idea outta ma head and started the hot water bottle and ibuprofene treatment...feel much better tonight and had help from Lydia with the mucking out and even managed to lunge Moo, what a star he was.

Also broke my camera, boo hoo, Patrick may be able to save it but I don't think so. Guess I'll be buying a new one.

Gorgeous, glad to be alive day today and Lydia had a great *balade* (hack) at the riding club.

I can see for miles and miles

Today was just such a delightful day, especially for January and I had great expectations. A period in the school and then off down the track for a wander. Never have too great expectations would be my advice but look for the little things that may offer themselves; there are no such things as non-learning days. Was it Beudant that said *Ask for much, be content with little, and reward often* ? Well today was a Beudant day, lol

So, into the school, so far so good. Preparation work and then get on, he's very tense and not in a Moralejo way, more spooky and nervous which is not really him.

Took me a good half an hour in walk to slow it all down and relax him, although he did settle it was still not quite right. Lots of lateral work and halt, rein back. Then I worked on something new for Moo, reverse/counter shoulder-in on the long side, just before the corner ride into a reverse turn about the haunches (effectively a leg yield around a small circle). Then changing direction and moving into a reverse pirouette, moving away from the opposite leg (like a moving turn on the forehand with counter bend). Wow, I could feel all four legs and it was incredible. I shall do lots more of these patterns I think and may need to find some way of *mapping* them on paper so I don't forget them.

Just about to finish and he shot up his own backside and I seemed to be sitting on a horse about a metre long!! Finally the reason, Thierry my farmer neighbour was running round the fields on his four track checking his fences and I hadn't spotted him...of course Moo had, decided to leave the pootle down the track for a more chilled day. The problems of living somewhere with literally zero passing traffic, just cows and farmers and being able to see for miles and miles and...

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Yesterday, being Wednesday, was the usual rush. No school here on Wednesday and so we usually try to fit in riding the pone, library trip etc. All going to plan until we have to go into town for building supplies (yes, like most brit expats we ARE renovating) and was pleased that I had the foresight to lunge Moo first thing. He's really responsive now and even manages the downwards transitions from a vibrate on the cavesson with a voice aid to help.
Off to judo where Lydia received her yellow belt, dead chuffed for her and it really helps her sleeping on a wednesday they whack them out at judo, lol.
No connection last night, every time I got on line it timed me straight out, server I think but then despite my technical background I'm no boffin on these matters.
Today it was gorgeous again, put out early and then off to Perigueux to get the new windows. By the time we got back, picked up from school etc it was 5.00pm....just enough time for a lunge. Which was actually really good because I was discussing straightness/strong/hollow in the car with Patrick and it was interesting in my newly levelled school to see how straight he was.
So on the left rein he throws the 1/4's in by about 5cm (hollow side) and on the stiff (right rein) he loads the inside shoulder by a similar amount. Interestingly after some spirals, walk/trot/canter transitions the *throw* was much less, down to about 1cm or so. Just shows how much the lunging stretches/loosens them.
Really wanted to ride but I promised myself I will only ride when I have proper time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just because I can....

Chapiro always pops over the wall to Cacahuète's waterer, he has his own but I guess it's just because he can. Chapiro makes me smile and the more I'm getting to know him the better I like him.

Just rode Moo in the school and he went really well. This was following two days of lunging and I think that certainly helps as we now work on trot/canter transitions as well as all the other stuff and that seems to be helping his balance. It's very easy to see on the lunge how he finds correct left bend difficult and on the right rein to see how tight it is but how much more correct the bend is (much firmer and into the outside). I never use side reins and I think this helps highlight the problems.

Riding today the walk was instantly more balanced and positive without rushing. Worked on renvers into shoulder-in to help that outside contact on the left rein and counter shoulder-in to travers...little leg yield to stretch and of course halt/rein back etc

Trot was really better balanced and I could comfortably rise to it without the feeling it would escape from me. Even managed to put my leg on for some corner work and he stayed quite calm. Trot/walk transitions were reasonably OK but we need to work on them becoming *the norm* so that he doesn't get so excited, yee ha!!!
I'm really enjoying this work, if you hadn't noticed.

Flexions (for Claire)

To be perfectly honest Claire I'm not certain which flexions I showed you with Fidge as he had a slightly different problem to Moo in that he would lean on the bit rather than back off it. I'm fairly sure I would have shown you the ones above.
Pic 1 taking the bit up into the corner of the mouth, waiting for the horse to relax the jaw and chew/swallow. If they lean on the bit raise the bit rings higher and if they lean very badly then adjust the balance backwards by reining back from the the raised hand feel.
Pics 2 and 3 with the same raised bit (ie into the corner of the mouth) take the flexion to the side, it is important not to tilt the head and to get a nice even stretch through the neck. Once chewing/swallowing is achieved then you can take the head slowly out to a stretch forwards, down and out.
Of course the hand has to be very *reactive* in this work, giving almost before the horse relaxes and only ever the smallest ammount of weight resting on you thumbs/fingers.
I learned these years ago but never knew they were *baucher* or *racinet* or *karl*, I was just lucky to have a trainer who had a broader base of knowledge than some. I've seen *germanic* style trainers use them too and I think most people acknowledge their benefits with certain horses.
I took the pics last week to show his *lipstick* but sadly you can't really see it on the shots!!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

sunshine after the rain

Lovely sunny morning so all out, heads down and happy. Got to lunge (my school has stood up brilliantly in the weather, no damp patches anywhere I'm really pleased) and after a week of restricted turn out and no trot work we were a little full of juice, lol. Moralejo did relax eventually and I was happy to let him have a good stretch down in a nice regular rhythm. Roll on some sustained good weather so that we can do more.


Moralejo's dad is Kan VIII, bay and bags of energy (so I'm told). I'm not really remotely interested in breeding but for the record this is Moo's family tree

His mum, Moraleja sadly died after giving birth to a later foal, I believe they called him Moralejo too.


This is Moralejo's full brother (Levante) and wouldn't you know it!! Makes me realise how much weight we still have to loose, lol. He stands at stud in the UK and was bred by Richard Lust (now breeding in Spain).

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Winds of Change

Wow, what weather!! It still hasn't stopped raining, oh actually that's a lie, it stopped raining and snowed instead for an hour this afternoon. So the boys have stayed in for the first time this year.
Even more impressive then that Chapiro managed to be a real darling in the barn, working at liberty and even halting on a circle from voice and body language, he's a cute cookie!!
I am so happy to find that Moo is crooked. Ah yes, happy I said, hehe.... The thing is that up until now he has always been so locked in his jaw, poll and particularly his neck that proper bend was impossible and so he seemed fairly straight,lol. Well yesterday and today we worked on our halt transitions, halt from the fingers vibrating and then letting the reins go, absolutely zero in the hand , the rein laying on his wither. After a couple of goes he let himself stretch down and happily mouthed and swallowed...brilliant. Then he has to wait for the upwards transition, first breathing the leg away from his side and then applying the leg to ask forwards. First few times he was away on the leg coming off but after being corrected he got the whole idea and went off on the leg touching.
So then on to shoulder-in and the left rein is hard because he wants to give the correct bend but then throws his quarters out and this makes him curl back against the hand again....yuck. So, engage brain, use counter shoulder-in on the right rein to train the left shoulder-in. I also found that asking more angle to open the shoulder really freed his front end and then reduce the angle to engage that left hind that wants to throw itself out of works way.
Lots more but I need to ride it again to be able to put it into words but things are definitely happening :-)
Oh and an aside, we have found Lydia a super new riding club, good equitation and very well run...she seems very happy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Divine Intervention

I woke before five this morning, nothing new; to the sound of rain.....nothing new there either. It seems that we are stuck in this weather system for even longer than I first thought and usually I can rise above the grey but this morning I thought it was all too much. Still, got the boys out for a few hours, mucked out and got the yard tidy.
Same old, same old in the barn except that after a decidedly average session yesterday it was as if Moralejo had been thinking hard about how it all fitted together. We spent an hour in total starting with flexions and bit work and the on to in-hand work. Finally got on and did lots of lateral work which made him so light and flexible, just brilliant. He still struggles with the renvers a little but it's much improved. Worked on shoulder-in on the circle spiralling in gradually and the same with the travers. Every time he tries to jerk the rein forward I just halt with the high hand into the corner of the lips and then rein back using the hand, incredibly he was jerking my hand much less in the end and so I really feel it's working. I hope to be able to video as soon as the weather improves and then I can compare it to one I took in October where he was really bad in the hand.
So, call it divine intervention with this rain making me slow down but it seems to be just what we need right now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Busy Day

Pics of Lydia and the boys on the yard, kissing, cuddling and generally making the best of a wet evening.

Give us a kiss love.

More rain and a day out playing with other folks horses so it was in-hand in the barn for Moo and Chapiro before heading off to the Charente.
Moralejo's in-hand work has come on so much and he now leg yields with ease along with shoulder-in, reverse shoulder-in and giravolta. He was very relaxed again with the bit work and on the whole seems very settled in his work.
Chapiro worked on going away from me on to a circle for a few strides, halting away from me and being rubbed all over with the whip. He was a good boy and is being a complete darling leading down to the field especially as they are only going out mornings at the moment (I have grass and no mud and would prefer it stays that way during this horrid weather).
I worked with Estelle and her lovely Danish stallion, who has come on such a long way since he's been having regular work and has a fabulous temperament too. Plus a very greenie TB of 4 years who had the sweetest nature but bends like a plank....however she picked up the work really well and I hope we'll be able to take it further in the future.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lipstick and Legs

Ha!!! No I'm not going back to trolley dolly'ing....quelle horreur.
Rain stopped play again, the heaviest downpour when I was riding in the barn so it was back to flexions. Bingo!! At last we got LIPSTICK, not dripping but distinct line of light foam on the lips after the flexions and no arguments he absolutely *got it*. After working in hand and more flexions I got on and he felt great; raised back really carrying me and the ridden lateral work was good. It was still tipping it down as we finished so not even a tootle up the lane.
Oh and the legs, not mine but Lydia's. After failing to vault onto Cacahuète yesterday she made a sterling effort today and has finally worked out how to fling herself upon her steed....what a lovely man that pone is.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The rain cometh

Allegedly it cometh for the whole week. That throws a spanner in the gubbins then, I don't do getting wet so maybe no lunging, no hills and no teaching this week :-( So I have to learn to dance in the rain.
Soooo, today it was back to flexions indoors, having changed to a fulmered snaffle (haven't used one for I can't remember how long) in an attempt to see if I could encourage him to be more wet in his mouth. He is far less *worried* by the in-hand bit lifting and today was the first time he had actually relaxed and swallowed ,which is the intention.
I spent longer raising the bit and relaxing out his neck and jaw. Then I got on and did the same thing mounted. then we went on to ridden lateral work and he's now really clicked with the renvers and travers. Interspersed half pass with leg yield so that he didn't get too tight. It's excellent that he is today calmer in my hand and not throwing his head about, so much so that to end he took a great stretch down into the rein.
On a completely different front, I'm having so much fun cooking Indian food from my Christmas pressie book. It's the best book I've had on the subject and it's already got me experimenting on my own. Puts me in mind of training horses, there is a recipe but it's so very personal to each horse that there could never be a big enough book to cover every eventuality.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The trot IS there

Just a brief write up from our work for the last two days. Yesterday we lunged, trot/canter transitions and it stayed fairly calm and he stretched down and out better than before. Today I rode...some great progress with the lateral work much calmer and more restrained but with the energy just sitting there ready. I had promised myself NO TROT, it just isn't worth setting yourself up for failure. However, it just felt right and that's what training is about, recognising an opportunity. Much less stressed and even managed to get a stretch down and out into the rein...yee ha!! Finished with some transitions from walk to halt and varying the walk from medium to free on a long rein....I just love the Moo at the moment, hope it can last.


The hands are the two intricate, prehensile, multi-fingered body parts normally located at the end of each arm of a human or other primate. They are the chief organs for physically manipulating the environment, using anywhere from the roughest motor skills (wielding a club) to the finest (threading a needle), and since the fingertips contain some of the densest areas of nerve endings on the human body, they are also the richest source of tactile feedback so that sense of touch is intimately associated with human hands. Like other paired organs (eyes, ears, legs), each hand is dominantly controlled by the opposing brain hemisphere, and thus handedness, or preferred hand choice for single-handed activities such as writing with a pen, reflects a significant individual trait.
No big surprise then that we feel the need to engage our hands when riding before any other part of our body. It is a huge part of my current path towards perfection.....of course I won't ever be perfect but just aiming for it seems to make the effort worthwhile.

At the end of the summer I learnt my greatest lesson in hands....EVER. I had been taught and then taught others to keep my reins within my fingers, not in a tight grip but certainly in a way that if the horse tried to pull the reins from my grip that I would at all times be ready. Imagine my disbelief that I could ride with the reins solely poised between my thumb and forefinger, leaving the remaining three fingers to *play* the reins like the lightest fingers on a harp. Vibrate, close (not just the hand but ONE finger at a time) indeed create a melody between bit and hand that is always individual, fresh and lively.

I'm still struggling with this, I can find very little in the way of backup from literary sources (please tell me if you find some) and the nearest (although it falls very short of the feeling it gives) is the description L'Hotte gives of the Comte D'Aure's hands *He only used the pressure of his fingers, which were always gentle, and played with the reins as though they were light ribbons he feared could break*
I will add to this in future but as you may have guessed I am still trying to figure out the whole picture.
OK, this is an edit after I published the first message but I didn' want to loose it amongst the comments, however, after searching some more I found this on the CD list and the poster describes exactly what I'm talking about ***************

I know that many won't agree, but I state it simply for you to know that there are other approaches out there too.There are those who use a hand in which the neutral position is moreopen in the lower fingers (maintaining the reins held between thethumb and index. I am one of them. Closing the fingers on the reinsis an action for me. The default neutral position is more open. Ibelieve that this makes it easier to teach the horse to really go inself carriage, liberty on parole, simply by opening the fingers alittle. I can obviously conceive that this is also possible with aclosed fist. But I imagine it more difficult both for horse andrider.Philippe Karl describes this well in his new book, saying that you donot try to play the piano with your fists and that riding should bethe same. I have seen many really interesting riders get very goodresults with very average horses with a hand like this, so somethingmust be interesting in there somewhere.But of course it is not just about your fingers and fists, it isabout educating the mouth and the attitude you have as well -recently talking with Bettina Drummond, she made a very interestingcomment, something along the lines of the fact that many ridersfalsely believe that they "own" the "mise en main" (softening to thehand), when in fact it should be the horse that keeps its ownership.Which highlights why the subject also runs into difficulty - becauseeveryone also has their own perception of how much they "leave" tothe horse, and how much the "take" for themselves. Which can explainwhy sometimes I watch riders on very nice horses, going very well andclassically and it just does not do it for me. They have taken toomuch for my taste, all I see is the rider. Then I watch another andall I see is the horse, and that, for me, is the goal! But someoneelse may not find what they are looking for in that, because thatpoint is unimportant for them, and there are other points that theyfind missing.Anyway, there's another perspective, strike me down and boil me inoil for such heretic thoughts! LOL
phew, glad I wasn't imagining it, off to bed happy then :-)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Winter sun and a friend to play with

Yay!!! Di came over this afternoon and the sun shined on us......
I'm hoping that Di may give me a few words to say about this afternoon but basically we nattered (lots) and played pones with Moralejo. It was really good to see someone else on him and to see the corrections I've been making actually work for someone else too. He looks incredibly *up* and proud and carries his back well throughout all the higher hand work and I think Di found him rather nice to ride as he is so responsive. We had some great walk work, still not consistent enough but getting there and Di experienced his tension in the trot but luckily, like I've said before, he really isn't scary just full of raw energy. Like she said, you can learn such a lot from a horse like him. Here's hoping then :-)
We finished the afternoon with a cup of tea , sorry it was French tea Di :-( and some cakes that Di treated us to. In all a fab day and I'm all keen to continue so that the next time Di comes over we have improved some more. Hopefully we can continue being *eyes on the ground* for each other and I can repay the favour with Di's mare Anky.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

slowly , slowly

Weather was a bonus today as rain was forecast but didn't arrive until tonight.

A *thank you* to Claire for reminding me of the reverse pirouette last night, basically the same as the giravolta but with outside bend as I'd been meaning to try this with the giravolta, opposites always seeming to work. Thanks due to Vicky too (or maybe Mike) as their work at the weekend inspired me to move on to more lateral work in the walk whilst I patiently wait for the trot to come right.

Anything new always *freaks* Moo but at least I now have some *mantras* in place to relax him again (turning with no reins, halting and rein back from the voice and clicker). We have worked on travers /half pass before but it always got him so tight that all the benefits were outweighed by the tensions in his head/ neck. Today after a couple of leg yields along the fence I asked for a couple of steps with the bend changed to travers and after a couple of attempts he was really getting it. I remember an exercise that I used to ride with an old trainer, Inger, where to start the half pass work we rode along the diagonal with the bend for half pass but not in the travers position. Then after a couple of diagonals ridden this way start to put in some steps of travers to add to the bend...this gives a half pass that always thinks and looks forwards instead of a leg yield with the bend changed (oh yes I've seen it trained that way too, eek)

Trot work we used the lifted hand again if he started to lean on my hand and if I keep the trot tempo slow then he can cope with about two large circles before getting too fizzy....slowly, slowly I MUST not be impatient with this, it will come (I hope).

Went back to finish in walk and tried the reverse pirouette, oooh hard work for him and I will work on this in-hand as well but at least he didn't chuck his toys out.

So good and bad as always...some snatching at the bit which hurts my back so I have to find a way round that but he is so flexible that lateral work with him is a joy. Must do some work with the Midget tomorrow.

Final thanks to Mandeigh for joining us on here and in honour a 'pic of Fidge in a montage that Patrick did for an exam about 6 years ago.

Monday, January 12, 2009

a problem shared

Thanks to Trish (shoveltrash on EE) I actually rode with my brain engaged yesterday. After a tip off from Claire I was able to read up Trish's notes on the raising hand to help the curl back. I think we are at similar places and it was really helpful to compare notes.

I started with some in-hand jaw relaxation, leg stretches etc and then moved on to lunge. After less than ten minutes I was getting a nice soft stretchy trot AND bingo the boy has caught on to the click and double click. I use a soothing *good* to let him know he's on the right track, a click to tell him *yes, spot on* (but keep it up and don't stop for the treat yet) and then the double click for *OK brilliant, stop for your treat*. It works well on the lunge when you don't want them to keep stopping for the treat.

On to the ridden work. Straight away I could tell he was relaxed, no tension in his brain and the walk work was very positive. By that I mean he was able to contain the walk, not rush (well only a little) and we worked on giravolta, leg yield, shoulder-in etc. I found it really helpful to use the counter shoulder in as it helps him to balance better having the fence there and so we moved from counter to true and interspersed this with small circles. His rein back is so much better too as he doesn't lean on my hands and takes really distinct steps now.

Trot work followed and that's where the brain really clicked in; I found if I carried my hands higher but with only a light contact I could raise my hands quickly into the corners of his mouth and get him to take his balance back and off my hands every time he curled back behind my hand. It meant that I could actually put my leg on and ride him forwards....a first!! It probably does look bizare but the trot I got was much better balanced and free from tension, of course my ultimate intention is to return my hands to a lower position once he *gets it*. I only did a short trot session as I think he needs to go slowly (me too) with this work and I'm so happy with our progress that I don't want to wreck it by being impatient.

Off now to give him a nice lunge and some massage.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

mixed bag

Well it was a mixed day yesterday but it ended well. It was the most gorgeous sunny day and got to about 8 degrees which felt tropical by comparison to the last few days. I was so excited to ride outdoors and finally try out some of the successes of the last week. I was so lucky to have Lydia take some vid on the camera, not very good quality but bless her she managed to get us in shot all the time. This at least gives me a moment in time to compare with later. I want to see a big improvement in his grass/hay belly as we continue his new work regime, I'm strapping his bum and neck so I'm already seeing a big improvement there, the belly will improve with work, I hope!!

Having had a good lunge session the day before I decided to lunge before riding. Got a really nice stretchy trot after just a few minutes so decided to get on.

You will see from below that he was a good boy for mounting but you will also see his typical head roll/twist after I'm on and he does this unmounted and even hanging around in the field...just another Moo *thang*.

Sorry the vids don't run sequentially....I'm not that clever yet!!

So after mounting he was HORRIBLE, boo, cry.....he felt like he wasn't settled, eyes on stalks (unusual for him) and I almost got straight off because I was so disappointed. However, I'm not about to give up that easily so I just focused on the work, turning from seat, halts without hands, giravolta and suddenly he came to me. Light and listening and managed the BEST leg yield he's ever offered me. In for a penny.... forwards to trot, OK on the left but awful on the right. Changed reins, transitions, little sitting and then back to walk. OMG what had happened? This final walk work was incredibly light and relaxed, didn't want to get off but as the sun had dropped down the sky it was getting cold. At least we finished with a smile on our faces.

Friday, January 9, 2009

our green credentials

A little *aside* tonight in the form of our *poo* bricks. That's not actually *our* poo bricks but rather horse poo bricks!! Following a forum tip off we purchased the brick press and made our first bricks just before Christmas. After a spell drying out the first batch are currently burning well on the log burner.
On the horse front (rather than t'other end that is) it finally warmed up today, minus something awful this morning but up to about +6 this afternoon, yeehahahah!! So worked Moo on the lunge in the ménage which had thawed well. Warmed up in walk and changing rein every circle and then worked on some trot/canter transitions. Very definitely better on the left rein but after lots of transitions and spiralling in and out he 'released' on the right rein too. Not so full of beans as the other day but that was good because after about ten minutes work I could actually ask him to work forwards instead of constantly having to slow it all down. Lots of lovely stretching down in the final trot work and then finished with some giravolta and leg yield in hand.
Off to drink wine and watch the bricks burn, cheers.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I got icicles on me icicles

Next door's donk in the cold this morning.

Yesterday I was determined not to ride in the barn but the ground was solid and the temperature never got above -4 so I did some in-hand work instead, just to give us a break. Moo was a really good boy, worked at liberty and in the cavesson. He really seems to concentrate well on this work and will now work free on a circle, change rein etc. In-hand we worked on the giravolta, shoulder-in, counter s-in and leg yield and I was pretty pleased with the quality he offered...he's much more up off his shoulders now.

Finished by working on his spanish walk, now moving it on after the jambette so it's raise leg, walk two, raise leg (same leg each time) walk two and it's helping him get a better height with his foreleg. Finished in the centre with jambette but he still struggles not to stamp his foot, slowly slowly I think and lots of patience needed on my part.

Today I rode again in the barn as it is bl**dy freezing, every day I think it can't get colder but it does. Good mounting but full of the *jiggles* just like riding a coiled spring. However, he did settle enough for me to work out a way to help him from curling back on his left rein!! Just ride him a little into the outside rein, not outside bend, more straight but not inside bend either. Then I could keep a light inside rein but be ready to raise it if he dropped back behind me. Can't wait to try this in the trot work.

Just warming up now with coffee and sandwich before braving the elements again to do the yard.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Still the big freeze

Yesterday was sooo cold, never got out of the minus scale and with a light covering of snow it was 'school's out' for Lydia, on the plus side I got some *extra* help on the yard.

I had intended not schooling but the tracks were frozen solid so a hill trot session was out and the indoor school was still frozen so it was back in the barn. Don't get me wrong, I realise I'm lucky to have anywhere to work.

Chapiro had his usual tie up and groom and stays nice and still for this now, followed by bit on headpiece, which he now takes nicely. Did some circling work, ground tying and backing up which he concentrated well in. At the moment I'm actually just happy that he leaves the others and can concentrate on me for 10 minutes.

On to Moralejo, the frustrating thing is that he quite obviously wants to please, he offers too much of everything but his intentions are generally good. We started with the mounting which was pretty good since the biting wind was rattling every door on the yard. Went on to ride and he tried so hard to *contain* himself. After mounting I asked him to stand still for a couple of minutes, oh boy is that hard for him, head up and down, then a tail swish, move one back leg then another, yank on the reins and then....with much soothing voice he stood stock still and started to sigh. Is it so hard to stand still? Well obviously for him it is. Fidge used to stand still for ever (well until the canter work) if I asked but why is it so hard for Moo; even in the field he is a horse who can't chill, better in summer of course.

So my work for the next few weeks will continue in the same calming vein, lots of standing still, helping him find his balance etc. and I can't wait for the *thaw* because I think walking up and down our steep hill will be really helpful.

So yesterday was another good day, he can now cope with counter shoulder-in all the way round the barn, change to travers and true shoulder-in without loosing his balance. Tried a half pass for a few meters and then into a small circle when I hit the wall (not literally of course) and you get an amazing control of the shoulders. Maybe this cold snap was sent to me to make these discoveries...I'm a great believer in fate.

I was watching some Ferdi Eilberg clinics on Hand C the other night and there was some nice work but I kept thinking how *dull* it looked, there's been a lot of online discussion about Oliveira's work and for me that is anything but dull, however, many people find it just too *busy*. I suppose Moo is just going to be a *busy* kind of horse but the joy in riding it, I hope, will show on our faces.

I want to look out some 'pics that will inspire us on our way, put it on the list, yet another job!!

Monday, January 5, 2009


Well yesterday I typed up my entry and was in the process of uploading pics when everything just seized up, resulting in loosing all I had typed...argghh. Lesson learned, save work before uploading 'pics. Pic of Chapiro in the cold.
It was a good day yesterday and continued in the same vein today. Still freezing and so worked in the barn, for everyone who hasn't seen it it's approx 12mx8m and on a slight incline. Both days the mounting went well, he absolutely hates to stand still for anything but with the chance of a click he's prepared to give it a go., very pleased but must keep working on it for a while yet to be on the safe side. We worked on our halts, reinbacks and generally slowing everything down from the seat and keeping him very lightly into the rein. A few real *moments* where he and I timed cues, aids and responses to achieve what I feel we're aiming for. Just got to string the moments together now but I do feel much better about it all.
When I first came to France I bought the French Federation handbook for dressage (basically like the British Dressage rule book) and Cmdt Licart's book *Dressage*. Both buys were to help with the French dressage vocabulary and have pencil notes everywhere!! The Licart book is exceptional, it's not long (don't know if it's ever been translated to English) but has some real gems. His wise words on balance are really hitting home at the moment, with Moralejo's tendancy to curl over the hand and rush off I'm really trying to find a way forward to this.
In the past I always used movements to correct postural/balance problems e.g. put the horse into a shoulder-in and he will have to engage his hind more/open his shoulder more which will straighten him out.
Some tell me to keep my hand still and ride to it from my seat and legs, admirable intentions and has worked in the past for me with WB's and less energetic souls. Moo, however, is so full of energy it is almost electric. It is rare that anyone else has sat on him but when they do the look of *help* flashes across their faces, not that he is a dangerous horse but you can just feel his raw energy fizzing up constantly and it's hard to know what to do with it. Hence my search outside of the keep your hands wide and low and ride half halts into your hand.

So my thought for today from Licart is *Il faut d'abord le mettre en état de pouvoir obéir* in other words *it is necessary first to place the horse in a state from which he is able to respond from*
For Moo this state is one of calm and still, until he is calm and still I can't ask him for better balance and after all the reason he rushes and curls is his lack of balance. So it's a chicken or egg dilemma!! The thing that has hit me these last few days though, is that he will never find calm, still or balance when he stays in movement, it just gets faster and more furious and I end up having to use my hands more than I would like. So he gets one chance, if he speeds up I use my seat and a light feel in my fingers, if he ignores this then I raise my hands to bring the bit into the corners of his mouth and stop him instantly. So far he is grasping this and I can almost hear him thinking as we ride out of a corner and as he almost looses the balance, he steps under a little more and corrects himself. Licart himself quotes de Brignac as saying that centre of gravity is like a lead ball rolling in a tube trying to find it's *position*. This is like Moo at the moment, trying to keep himself balanced throughout our work.
Sorry off on one tonight!! Just some thoughts that are buzzing in my brain.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

on, off, on, off.......

OMG it was even colder today. I waited until 3.00pm but the school was still frozen in parts so it was just walk work. I spent most of the time sorting out mounting. When I bought Moo he was a pain to do most things and mounting was no exception; it took me a few weeks to get him to stand near a mounting block and to be honest I never really finished the job.
He tends to get excited at most things and so I've always been content that he stands stillish and as I don't need to use a mounting block I have let him get away with wandering off as I through my leg over. Today seemed the perfect day to start his remedial work. Hooray for CT!! Hand on reins, stand still click/move no click; foot in stirrup, stand still click/move no click and finally swing leg lots of clicks and treats and then about 10 mounts/dismounts while he stood still in an icy school with the wind up his bum, what a good boy. Hope he remembers tomorrow.

Worked the midget in the barn, leading, halting, walking on, backing up etc...stood really still tied up on the yard for his groom, perhaps he's *getting* it at last.

Friday, January 2, 2009

who ate all the beans?

Well it was a quiet day yesterday, dry and sunny so just turnout and grooming. No hangover but a very late night (or rather morning) and a day full of festive feeding left me too knacked to ride.
Today was back to icey cold, nice and sunny but a stiff, cold breeze brrr. Moralejo was the culprit with the beans!! Started on the lunge as I find it really helps to get his back/neck loose and he was going well until he spotted the others in the bottom field! There followed a squeal, a buck, a rear, a rocking horse impression and then all four feet off the ground and p*ss off. He does this horrible canter where he paddles along with both back legs going at the same time as fast as he can, looks like a hare at a dog track and just as fast. I promise you that not many folks would want to sit on him after seeing his displays but he saves it all for the lunge, truly!!
After warming himself up and fully digesting his beans we had some lovely ridden work, the walk/halt/reinback/walk is working it's magic and using a click for the halt is making it really direct. I just need to time a vibration in the rein to keep him light in the jaw through the transitions, at the moment I'm riding one handed to guard my rein hand from coming backwards during the transition; my other hand acts as a *stay* to make sure I'm not cheating.
The trot was better today, riding constant changes of direction from the seat and thighs. Very sweaty horse when we finished, the downside of not rugging or clipping. Just done late hay and he's nice and dry so perhaps it's better to leave nature do her thing.

Hello Di, another eagle eyed friend.