Tuesday, January 17, 2017

January Update

WOW - time flies.

It's been a long time since my last update.  I promise to do better!!

Can I just say that I love RT!  Dodger and I are both thriving under her instruction.

Dodger is finally starting to relax (woohoo) and actually use his back!  Some of the things that have helped with this:

- a new training program that incorporates long lining, cavaletti and cross rails
- a new properly fitted saddle that encourages a better position for me
- a new equine chiropractor

Yes, it takes a village!

RT also has a whole different training philosophy - one that suits us better as a whole.   One that emphasizes relaxation and a lack of tension (especially on MY part).

As a result, I have a horse that is gradually getting softer and more willing.
We are making slow, but steady progress and this spring we actually had dapples!!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Time for an update!

We have settled in nicely at the new barn and we are both appreciating the quieter atmosphere.

We have just started working with the resident trainer and I am very hopeful that we are finally on the right track!

So our cow pony aspirations have been put on hold while we delve back into the world of dressage.  I think the time off was very beneficial - we both needed it.  But, I think we are ready to get back to work and boy, there is plenty of that to be done!

We made some equipment changes/adjustments for our "re-start":

-  Cavesson and flash have been re-introduced and are now fitted appropriately.
-  New bit - loose ring with bean and thicker mouthpiece (replaces very thin loose ring french link).
-  It appears my dressage saddle is too small for my length of leg - so, we will see if my hunt saddle is     a better fit for now.
-  We have raised my stirrups to the appropriate length.

My first lesson with RT went, all in all, very well.   Our walk work was OK, we just need more forward.  Trot work - gets too fast!  Canter work was good.  He needs more education about the outside rein.  I need to work on how to help him.

We have homework to do!!      

Friday, March 4, 2016

The move

was uneventful!  He settled right in and seems to be a happy camper.

Rode in the indoor for the first time last night.  He was a rock star!  No sillies, no spooks.  Relaxed right away and even managed some really nice trot work.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

We're having a heat wave - it's 25°!

Finally got a couple of rides in.  You know it's been cold when 25° feels balmy!!

We actually had our first "western" lesson on Sunday, Feb 7.  It was a blast!  So much good stuff and a very good reminder to mix it up.  I tend to get on a 20 meter circle and stay there - boring!!

Among other things, we worked on bending exercises and trotting through cones to maintain better rhythm.  Making sure Dodger stayed relaxed was the major goal of all of the exercises.  I came away with some great tips and couldn't wait to put them to use.

Of course, the following week (2-8 thru 2-14) was frigid and I just don't ride when the temps are below 20° - the footing gets too hard and it just seems counter productive.

So, I finally got back in the saddle on Monday (2/15).  We took it easy - lots of walk work, bending exercises, "whoa" and backing.  Also threw in some leg yields.  He was really good - although he seems stiff to the right - glad the Chiro is scheduled for this Friday.

Yesterday was much the same, although I did add a touch of trot work and some side passing over poles.  The trot work is challenging right now - although he feels more relaxed, he doesn't quite get what I want - I'm thinking more "stretchy circle", he's thinking more "working trot"!

Big news!

I've decided to move to a different boarding facility.  Put lots of thought into it and although I'm sad to say goodbye to our current barn and the great new trainer I've found - I think, in the long run, this will be a better option for us.  It is a heated barn (breaks into happy dance) and the "head" trainer specializes in horses that have physical issues.  She will evaluate Dodger and together we can figure out what direction to go in, what will be best for Dodger.   The move is scheduled for March 1.  Wish us luck!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


It's important to celebrate the little things, right?!

Tonight we managed to side pass over a ground pole, for a couple of steps, in each direction!!

Note to self - try not to spook your horse while celebrating said little thing!! ☺️


Several friends have suggested that I blog our journey from dressage horse to cow pony.  So, here we go!

Some background:

Dodger is a dark bay, 16.1, TB/Hanoverian cross, approx 15 years old.  At some point in his life (probably as a youngster) he suffered a rather severe injury to his right hind leg that resulted in a bowed tendon and some internal damage. I have owned him for 6 years.

We had wandered over into h/j land before settling on dressage as our main focus.

After two years of pretty intense dressage training, Dodger had some physical issues that were starting to flare up and I was starting to wonder if we were headed in the right direction for him.  He just didn't seem to be enjoying the work anymore.  This is a horse that never says "no", that likes to work.  When he started getting resistant and opinionated, I knew something was wrong.  A vet check, and a visit to the clinic, confirmed that his right hind just couldn't take the level of work he was currently being asked to do.  Long story short - we parted ways with a trainer that didn't agree with the diagnosis.

So, it was the perfect time for a break and a change.  I had been watching a western oriented trainer at the barn and really admired how well all of horses went and looked - relaxed, quiet, happy.  Just what Dodger needed.

October 2015  to January 31, 2016

First step - learning to relax.

I set aside the dressage tack, bought western tack and started the road to relaxation.   We do lots of ground work combined with lots of walk work under saddle.

Our usual ride (and I try to ride 5-6 times per week) is about 30 minutes - that includes some groundwork before, or after, the mounted portion.  

We have a very large rectangular indoor.  One end (closest to the main door off the barn aisle) is for flat work, the other end has jumps.  On each long side of the area there are three large sliding doors. The middle door on the left side has an ALCOVE - monsters - bay horse eating monsters - live in that ALCOVE - Dodger is very sure of this.

Being that our main focus was flat work - we generally worked at that end of the arena. And because the indoor is so large we could generally avoid that bay horse eating ALCOVE.

Now, when the jump end of the arena is open we venture down there to look at the spooky stuff.  (Which is actually kind of silly because he used to jump that spooky stuff!)  In any event, if  he tenses up approaching something "spooky", we stop and stand until he drops his head and readily takes a step forward when asked.  This took a LONG time at first!  (Dressage horses aren't generally asked to "halt" for extended periods of time :) )   I try to get down there a few times during every ride.  On days when multiple things are really scary, I pick one scary thing to work on.  Once we succeed, we had back to the "safe" end.  

I am starting to tackle the ALCOVE by bits and pieces.  Since the stuff in there changes on a regular basis - I do what I can, when I can.   Some days, we can walk right up to it - other days not so much. Again, I listen to him.  If he tenses we stop and stand and then proceed when he relaxes.

"Whoa" is really coming along, as is standing quietly when asked.  Ground tying has been interesting.  He gets it - depending on where he is.  Great in the indoor, great facing north in the barn aisle, but facing south in the barn aisle is just too spooky for words.  He'll be fine for a minute or two and then suddenly, the lead rope or reins, are the spawn of  the devil.  (Believe me, I've had his eyes checked numerous times - this seems to be a quirky Dodger thing!)  So, we work on that a little at time.

I feel as though we've made some steady progress.  We participated in trail obstacle night and actually had fun!  He seemed to enjoy some of the challenges - others not so much.  He is not sure about side passing - esp over a pole - those are for jumping Mom!! (We're working on that too and it's coming along.)

I have started incorporating some trot work - but only after he is totally relaxed and focused on me.  My main objective is a nice even rhythm - that he maintains on his own.  He seems to appreciate the cue and big release approach - he no longer works with his mouth open.  Hmm, I guess that means, as I suspected, that a tighter flash was NOT the answer.  (Why, oh why, do we not listen to that little voice in our heads?!)

My first lesson, with the western oriented trainer, is on Saturday, Feb 6.  I can't wait to get started!

And here's a pic of my handsome boy at the last dressage clinic we did (Aug 2015).  Clinician is aboard.