Thursday, April 30, 2009


Sadly not through excessive horse activities but painting. The ceiling, the beams, the walls.....all must be done for Patrick to tile the floor in the kitchen tomorrow. I'm aching in my shoulders and too tired to write a constructive entry. Lydia and I have just come in from grooming, cuddling and late hay so I've had a minor fix at least. The forecast looks good for the next few days; let's hope it right, for once, and I can get riding and give up painting.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Aids the substance, more on turning

Well thankfully Di appeased me with a little debate. If I'm reading your comments correctly Di you are talking of the spiral seat where the upper body turns independantly from the hips and lower half, in other words a twist in opposite directions at the waist?

This is something I would use in later work, with my horse that can walk/trot/canter on circles and straight lines. I think it's a great tool to be able to ride the horse into the outside rein with the seat but keep him bending around the inside leg with the upper body. However, when I've ridden it I've felt that it is a momentary aid whereas the seat and upper body turning in unison is a staple initial *layer*.
When turning in synchronisation I use my outside knee and thigh to keep the outside shoulder turning and I find that if I approach the turns in a *square* manner then the 1/4's are placed correctly and it is tricky for them to evade/drift out. My shoulders turning ever so slightly onto the same arc the horse is on will bring my outside rein slightly closer to the wither and will back up my outide leg feeling of guarding the outside shoulder.

In all of this turning work I can't stress enough the importance of keeping both legs long and around the horse. Any unbalance in the rider during this early turning will be disastrous for the turn/circle and for this reason I always use my *breathing* legs deeply into my stirrups (like a half halt really) before applying the turning aids.

Of course the reality of all this is that our seats are in a constant state of flux in order to be with the movement of the horse, this goes without saying. Also that the riders body will only turn as much as the circle requires, any over turning by the rider would only be used as a small corrective movement.

Monday, April 27, 2009

the week that was

I can't believe we're into a new week again, where does the time go? At the moment it's mainly spent on grass cutting, the paddocks grow quicker than you can cut them at this time of year and after a warm spell and our now rainy spell, well.....let's just say it's a battle I'm not entirely winning.
I had a couple of really good sessions with Moralejo last week, he's really beginning to understand the leg control and it's giving me a nice feeling in my hand. I've worked lots on direction changes. Basically if his balance goes or he leans on the bit then I immediately change the rein and re-balance before changing back. Along with more work on transitions to help the balance it is all slowly coming together. A bit more canter too and more balanced, even started walk to canter which was better for him in terms of him not loosing his balance. His back is getting stronger and more supple and I hope we get to work on it more this week, weather permitting!
I have also worked on myself a couple of times, quitting the stirrups and reins to *find* my position in a more relaxed frame. I'm an utter dunce with the video though, once I took it out, set it up and didn't switch it on properly doh, then next time I turned it on but didn't realise that I only had 5 mins space left on the disc!!
I'm still thinking on the Aids stuff, I'm disappointed nobody asked which way my dolly peg turned but I suppose I'll just have to tell you, lol.
I'm re-reading Seunig for the umpteenth time, it truly is the one book I would keep if forced to sell all but one.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Flectron Fly Tags

As it says on the header, we are on our fifth day into trialling flectron cattle fly tags, so far I'm very impressed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

AIDS the substance turning part 3 (dolly pegs)

Many years ago I discovered that my male colleagues in the Product Development Team of a large telecom company were apt to turn the *bleeding obvious* into indecipherable technical babble. As if by talking in jargon made it seem somehow more impressive.
I dislike being blinded by science but if you've been brave enough to read earlier posts then you'll know that I do find the science illuminating. Well I was a scientist first! For me the science is just the *why it works* bit.
I prefer to keep things simple-my brain processes simple stuff best and complicated stuff is just multi layered simple stuff. It's how I train and teach; action-assess the feedback-reaction-assess the feedback-reaction....OK it's not new or mind blowingly deep but it works.
So here goes with the simple form of turning, to which we can add more simple layers as we progress. I sit in balance, my legs long and softly adhering (where they naturally touch the horses side) in the perfect alignment of Anja Beran (who am I kidding). I turn my horse as if I were a dolly peg sat astride my horse. Remember, a dolly peg moves as one-she is unjointed. She cannot over turn, contort, distort herself and she does not guard with one leg, weight with another and her legs are always long and deep.
Now this requires expansion, further layers but in it's basic form this is how a child will turn their pony when asked to do so without the reins. They don't adopt a spiral seat, look to the centre of the turn NO they play dolly peg, lol.
Science will follow.....

Monday, April 20, 2009


School hols at the moment so I've not had by brain on turning but today Lydia took part in a *stage* at the riding club. Dressage lesson first followed by brioche and grenadine and that was worked off with a spot of *voltige*.
Practice whilst stationary and then on to the lunge. She LOVED it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

AIDS -turning part 2

It occurred to me last night that it must be a very arduous task to write a book on the art of equitation. I struggled to find the right point at which to start my ramblings, only to come unstuck at almost the first hurdle. Of course I should have covered *the seat* first, shouldn't I?? So if you have Anja Beran's book, please read her concise descriptions of seat, legs and hands. One of the most important things for me is to train your legs to *let go*. In all my descriptions of turning it is assumed therefore that both before and after the aid the leg is hanging in a relaxed manner, not tense or squeezing in any way. The same also for in-hand/ground work, use the aid and then stop using it and only re-apply the aid when necessary.

Jane mentioned about teaching a baby on the ground and then taking this work forward to the early ridden work. One of the things I want to use with Chapiro when the time comes is to ride the early work with reins to the cavesson and later introduce the idea of the bit. At the same time I hope to be able to be educating him in the art of flexion and relaxation of the jaw whilst in-hand. This should, in theory, mean that I can keep the bit to converse with him rather than to turn him.

When we bring an unhandled youngster onto the yard for the first time it is going to be a very new experience for them. Yet, most horses, once haltered for the first time will lead away with some success, it's pretty much the case that if you have their head the rest is compelled to follow. This was the case with Chapiro, he had been handled but very little and had no manners to speak of. He had been weaned and then ultimately returned to the same paddock as his mother and at least one other mare. Now this was unfortunate but sometimes it just isn't possible to do the right thing at the right time. When I bought him at just turned two he had already covered a mare and rather assumed he was head honcho about the place. All my work with him has therefore involved teaching him to get outta my space whilst learning to lead calmly and quietly. To do this I have worked him loose in the barn and school, rope circled with him and a little baby lunging; most effective of all, however, has been our lessons in leading out. I am pretty chuffed that most of the time he will now follow behind me on the lead, slightly to my side (nose towards my leading hip) and stops when I stop, backs when I back. Of course there are times when he gets cocky and advances too quickly but I either swing the coiled lunge line in the space he wants to move into or turn him on a circle and line him back up with my hip and off we go again.
So what does all that have to do with turning?? Well yes we can turn a horse by putting their heads into a position and thus compelling their bodies to follow but what I've found is that it's really the placing of our own bodies and the use of body language that compells a horse to move or change direction.
In the beginning then we can use the obvious benefits of controlling the head but ultimately it is a crude control and as we progress our youngster we will rely on it less and less but where will this leave us when we want to climb on be continued

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

mystery (it's a)

No vet. No lameness. It's a mystery. 48 hours after the bute and he's perfectly sound, tonight and this morning. Lunged him lightly to check, nothing!! No heat. We'll see what tomorrow brings but I hate mysteries.

Oh yes Di, I ought to get one of EH's books. Put it on the list. I found some bits in Seunig too. I hope to find some time later to make a start, omg it's vast.

Monday, April 13, 2009


This is going to be a very short intro to get me started. I've been searching in vain for more learned writers than I; searching for their gems on the art of turning. I'm sadly short on inspiration, left empty and relying on my own thoughts. Poor readers, I apologise and hope that one of you may have a resource you can share with me. Just the basics to begin with, how does one take an uneducated horse and teach him to turn? I know what I do but seriously in all my books I can only find two that I remotely like. One being Heather Moffet's which is really rider based and the other Kyra Kyrklund's which is aimed at teaching a young horse and very similar to my method. Is this important fundamental passed over as being to basic? Do the great masters believe that we already know these things or am I just blind and can't find them. Help is needed or tomorrow you'll be hearing my thoughts, lol.

vet tomorrow

Pretty sure it must be an abcess. The bute worked and he was sound this morning but back to very sore to night. Abcess lameness is just *different* and there's just the hint of warmth (just where he chipped a chunk of hoof off last month!!) so I'm hoping it is. No swelling anywhere, no tightness when we did the shoulder exercises. So tomorrow it's the vet and his knife, probably, and hopefully not too painful for my baby.

three wheels on my wagon

I can't believe it, I had a brilliant lunge session yesterday morning and then 11 hours later I bring him in on three legs. I think it must be an abcess, there's no skid marks in the field, no mud to cause problems so I buted and I'll see what the morning brings. Bless him, hope he's OK.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

listen to your friends

Hey friends are so perceptive...Di and Claire, good job I sat on the sofa and drank the wine, lol. Yes, aids it will be; on to turning tonight. I think I was just peeved last night because I had fallen hard onto a pile of rocks in the yard, arms full of hay and completely forgot they were there. I was too sore too want to play pones and I was probably feeling sorry for myself. I'm fine today and off to play with wet ponies now. Here's a quick clip of Lydia in her lesson this morning 'en position équilibre' or as we would say 'jumping position'.

Friday, April 10, 2009

all or nothing

Do you ever feel you could burst with information. I irritate myself (oh yes and certainly everyone else) because I can't settle on what to write next. I have so many thoughts in my mind, yet none of them will politely take their place and pop out in line. Today I would like to continue 'aids' because it will help me cement my thoughts. Yet I also want to discuss why so many people think they are training thoughtfully, gymnastically and with the horse in mind yet the quite obvious fact is... they ain't. The answer, for tonight, is that I shall say nothing and retire with my glass of sauvignon to the sofa. Why is my brain so full of itself yet so ill-mannered, argghh let's hope the weekend brings some comfort.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

someone pinched me pone

It's somewhat of a mystery. Moralejo has either been stolen and replaced by a clone with a sensible head or he's had an overnight frontal lobotomy, lol.

Let's start at the very beginning, it's a very good place la

Took Moo down to the school this morning and we both glanced over to the cheeky pone and Fugs (les voisins) who were contentedly munching, no problems there then. Started with some work in-hand and he was really *with me*, nice halts, reinback, shoulder-in and giravolta. Again used the reinback before asking for the leg yield across the school and he is finally stretching that left hind forwards and across. Finished the in-hand with some trot and he can now trot for 6-7 slow strides before breaking back to walk but most heartening is that he actually understands what I want in the upwards transition.
Got on board and he was calm, little tense when we were at the voisins end but nothing awful. At this point the voisins trotted over to say hi, still Moo remained calm. We worked, they watched. Shoulder-in, leg yield, release on a long rein. Lots of halt transitions (some with the hand raised to bring the bit into the corner of the lips because he was leaning or grabbing) and some reinback.
By the time we got into the trot work the cheeky pone (CP) was bored and had sauntered off but Fugs loitered, half hidden behind the hedge. Still Moo just got on with it. Got some nice stretchy trot after some rather manic moments of rushed trot where I think (were he better balanced) I would have preferred to canter. Just leg yielding across the school and CP galloped down the field to hide with Fugs behind the hedge. Still Moo is sane, OK a bit distracted but not awful, I suppose he had 25% concentration on them but the rest on me.
CP is bored again and as we trot round the corner he turns on his heels and pees off up the field, followed closely (never guess he had a poorly tendon) by Fugs. Still being a good boy I decided it was time to finish so after a stretch I got off to finish with some Spanish walk work in-hand (not done it for ages). Today was the first time that he really had any real *lift* through his shoulders, I think this is because we have been keeping his shoulders mobile with lots of leg raising exercises. Linked the jambette with one stride of walk ; stride/jambette/stride/jambette and he just clicked (literally!!) with it and was duly rewarded. I'm afraid I couldn't resist getting back on to try it mounted and YAY he repeated it with me on board.
Took him back up to the yard and got out the fly spray and masks. Now Moo hates sprays so I always spray my hand and wipe it on him, he doesn't really like it and wriggles around and generally gets very agitated but it's bearable. This morning he wasn't bothered one bit so I ventured nearer with the spray bottle, no reaction, sprayed, no reaction, sprayed lots more (all the delicate bits!!) and still he just stood there.
I really hope this calmness is here to stay but maybe, whoever pinched me pone last night will be putting him back tonight. The joy of horses.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

8th April

Good early start this morning with Lydia and pone tootled up the lane and Moo lunged and all turned out by 10.15. Sadly I missed the neighbour riding Fugs, I'm sure she did because he has a girth/saddle mark now :-( See what it looks like below, he's always resting it back like this and sometimes even picks his foot up and rests it on his toe, tbh the other one doesn't look too clever and I reckon he's really been put through it at some time. Oh well I shall have to have eyes in my bum and catch her on board. Child got chucked off pony though, saw that, so the wheels are coming off all ready.

Tomorrow I may try and get back to aids. Anyone not on EE there's a lovely write up on the recent Gerd Heuschman clinic to be found in the *Classical* section. It totally affirms my belief that you can keep horses in better shape and able to live longer, more useful lives with correct gymnastic training.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

the return of Fugly

Well it fair peed it down last night and this morning, waited until 10.00 to ride in the hope that it would clear but I timed it wrong and it stopped as I finished, typical. So we stayed dry in the barn and did about 20 minutes flexions and in-hand, really tried to get him to use that left hind with some giravolta and leg yield. I found he was less able to avoid using it if we reined back for two steps and then asked for the sideways. I then got on and did some ridden flexions, halt work, stretching down etc. I finished with some stretching to the inside in walk (like we did yesterday in trot) and then releasing him down to stretch. He tried really hard even after he heard *Fugly* (remember the blown tendon next door) arrive back and start calling. But, he'll be fine now, they've shod him.....argghhh!!!!

Monday, April 6, 2009

tell me why??....I don't like Mondays

Well it was the same sort of start as last Monday. He wasn't tense but insisted on playing with his head, rushing in the walk etc. So I tried a new strategy of more walk lateral work, getting him to really step into the contact. Frequent changes of direction and bend seemed to help and we had some great leg yield, even off the left leg.
He was still a bit too *onwards* but we went forward to trot, argghh.....awful. More head play, avoiding stepping in and up with the left hind and too heavy in my hand. Now he wasn't curling back but his neck was tight so I decided to stay in trot and bend his neck, slow deliberate bend, keeping the contact there (sometimes 2 strides sometimes as much as 30) until he took the bend in the neck and could talk back to my hand. Then we would stretch down and out and continue on a large circle until he tensed his neck again, when we would change rein and ask for the opposite bend and then release. With a rest in the middle we did this exercise for 15/20 minutes, at this point he was flexible and free over his back and neck. Really nice to sit on!! At this point I treated him and as his head came round for the treat he had the thickest lippy I've ever seen on him. We called it a day (very happy of course) and walked up the lane to the woods and back to cool's been lovely here today.
So a good day but I sometimes wonder if there is any benefit in him not working on a Sunday??

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Day out

Not had a day out in ages but today we visited friends who have a new baby and then on to our friends Hélène and Michel for Sunday lunch. I'm still stuffed after scallop flan, stuffed veal, cheese and the traditional pud for this weekend of cornu (brioche served today with egg custard). We walked it off with a stroll past our old house (H and M are old neighbours), no pangs which was good!!
A lovely Sunday but a day of rest for the pones.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

like mother like daughter

As always on Saturday we spent the morning at the riding club, Lydia rode Sauterelle (Grasshopper, lol!!) for the first time and despite her reputation for being naughty, Lydia had a good lesson and Sauterelle was a star.
This afternoon I squeezed in a tootle round our fields, trotting up some and cantering some and Moo had great fun.
Before we turned them out for the night (first time we've switched this year) Lydia played games and lunged Cacahuète whilst I took piccies.

So Cacahuète, go touch the ball!!

Like this!!

Her lunging skills are enviable for an 8 yo

And then the inevitable!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

my little pocket rocket

aka Chapiro. Today was a change of field routine and lots of faffing about so only really had time to work with my baby today (maybe get time for Moo later). Today we tried the saddle on, it's a narrowish dressage which sat really nicely and will do fine for getting him used to it all. No girth as yet but we did have a few moments of baby flexion with the bit and he was pretty settled....time now to grow up my little man. Here he is doing what he does best, eating, looking cool and hoolying around, lol.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

first one to laugh

at my homemade jump will be sent to stand outside the class :-)

And this is what Moo thought of it!!

But after some work he saw the fun side in jumping.

Having got rather warm there really was only one thing to do.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

a line in the sand

Today dawned bright again and for the third day in a row I was in the school to play. I'm posting some short (never tell an 8 yo to keep the filming brief, lol) videos of today's work as a comparison to earlier videos, drawing a line in the sand so to speak. I'm pleased to see the lack of curl back, this is a big thing for Moralejo and although he is inconsistent into my hand, especially through transitions, this is definitely better than before. We need to work more on keeping the softness over his back, not blocking the energy when he chucks his head about and I hope this is going to improve as he gets stronger.

We are starting to build strength with the rein back to trot as you will see here and then a very short clip of the wall of death canter, it actually doesn't look so out of control as it feels on board. Going forward we will work on the transitions, the rein back to trot and, of course, the canter. I will be working on getting my short ass legs around that barrel of a horse and trying to loosen my right hip (not easy on a fatso) as my right leg has a life of it's own,lol.