Monthly Archives: March 2009

Video from x-c schooling

First x-c school and a new rider

We were planning a x-c school for the weekend.  I decided I didn’t want to go to the mass schooling at St. Augustine as I knew the horse I would be riding would be very happy to be out in the open and combine that with lots of other horses feeling the same way and you get interesting results. We decided to head off to New Castle County Carousel Park which is in wilmington, Delaware. Lovely park with a very reasonable schooling fee. They have lots of beautiful jumps ranging from Elem- Novice and it looks like they built some training level stuff that is sitting out there.

I asked if anybody wanted to tag along and my friend Betsy expressed some interest but she had no horse. Mmm.. I have plenty of those and she remember Dixie from the beach ride we did. I am always nervous lending out a horse just hoping the person likes them. Betsy is a good rider so I was less nervous and I can count on Dixie to behave so off we went.

I was riding Mick, a young horse who I have had in for training. My student was there with her young horse and Betsy on Dixie. When we started out my student and I had our hands full. Mick was quite happy to be out in the open fields again and was letting it be known but in a nice way. We did a nice big trot all around the property and then each of us cantered one at a time so that two of us were standing and waiting. One thing you learn with these ottb’s is to be smart. They were all up and us cantering in a group of three might have been a bit to much for Ryan and Mick anyway. Dixie could have cared less. It was interesting observing the horses as the left the group to go and do their canters. Ryan, a 6 yr tb, was not so worried about the group but was pretty scared of the people walking dogs. Mick, a 5yr tb, was very concerned about the group. He has lots of interesting maneuvers he was doing to return to the group and I was doing my best to keep his mind actively engaged. Dixie went off in such a relaxed state I was almost amazed. I know he has been hunting but we hunt in groups so I thought he might be a bit relucant to leave the group. Nope, he really didn’t even mind.

Here he is galloping along in his loose ring nathe bit. Besty’s had a permanent smile the whole time. Look at how tall and thin she is..nope I am not jealous at all 🙂

Our first jump was this weird color log which looks unassuming but the horses think logs should not be such a strange color. Dixie tends to do this weird stance when he is not sure of what he is doing.

He figured it out quickly. He is so interesting because you can almost see him thinking as he is going around. He tries so hard for you and even when he is not sure he always gives it a go. I love his attitude.

These white logs were really interesting. I am not sure what level they are used in but we all determined they were much harder than they looked. They were eating logs and there were two of them set on a diagonal line rode either going up a hill or down a hill. You jumped one, dipped down and then went up a hill or jumped down over one, across the dip and then back up. Dixie was so cute as Betsy jumped over the first log and was intending to go straight he had that second log already eyed up. She had to let him know she was going straight. Pretty cool to see him locking on the jumps. A huge step from last season!

I think the only thing he stopped at all day was the ditch which is rather scary. He made a bid and I could tell he didn’t know what was there so he got there and was like OMG a big hole in the ground. Betsy let him look and then came back and he jumped quietly over from a walk. What a good boy! Then she trotted him over.

I have some video to post tomorrow.

Putting the pieces together

Tonight was an amazing ride in the sense that Dixie finally figured out how to collect and balance that canter. When people ask about Dixie and what he is like it is hard to describe. Is he quiet? Well yes in my opinion his brain is top notch. Perfect, well no horse is perfect. Can beginners ride him? Sort of. Um, wow that is not a great answer but part of the issue in riding green horses is being able to put the pieces together or help them find the pieces. I suppose what makes me say not a true beginners horse is that he has been struggling to find his balance at the canter for quite some time. He is a 16.2h and big strided. When he goes into the canter it feels like he is going somewhere which can be intimidating to some people. He loses his balance a bit and wants to pull you forward to find his own balance.

This is where I have to be the trainer and not just the rider. Take everything I know and come up with a detailed riding plan on how to tackle the issues at hand. I need to insist and not be so nice. I am good at nice but nice wasn’t getting me that far. How does this apply? Well Dixie is a 16.2 long type of horse perhaps a bit long in his back but just long overall. He really struggles with finding his balance and rhythm  which is typical for a young horse. He also has a really soft mouth and sometimes is afraid of contact.

How do you teach them to accept contact? Lordy, that is a complicated question that I don’t know if I can explain in a blog post but I have a good idea of what steps I take. I like to use the softest bit possible. I have went back to the Herm Sprenger Duo for Dixie lately. I want him to work into the bridle and feel like he can sit softly in the hand. I have done plenty of homework with lunging him with vienna reins so he understands the concept but adding the rider makes it different! Of course because we like to interfer 🙂

My job is to make my hands be as consistent as possible and keep the resistance when he resists. Resistance is not a free ticket for him so when he pulls I keep the feel but add leg and as soon as he softens then so do I. When he goes low instead of floating the reins I keep the leg and sponge a tiny bit to ask him to stretch but not go so low. When he is above I bring back my elbows to retain the slack in the reins. I am trying to eliminate the inconsistent contact on my part. I am not holding him tight but I am using my legs to push him into equally pressured reins. Each ride has been 15 min of him saying can’t do this OMG this is hard and then the rest is like oh cool I totally get it why didn’t you tell me it was so easy earlier!

Initially the walk and canter were his best gaits. I worked hard to establish acceptance of the bit at the trot and get him supple and soft. Then we started fox hunting and what in the world happened to the canter???  Granted it wasn’t super before but it had gotten worse.  He either rushed, pulled up or down or broke to the trot. Most people simply don’t understand how to ride a horse that is physically all over the place at the canter. You could leave him totally alone and look horrible or try to balance him and still look horrible. It never really got addressed before we spent winter fox hunting so now I am fixing it.

The past two weeks have been work to help him find his balance. Tons and tons of transitions insisting he balance himself and stay connected (not a frame but no pulling, going low, above or whatever else). So when he goes into the canter with his head in the air because he doesn’t want me to touch him keep the contact and add leg. When he runs keep the leg and the contact. Just stay there and keep asking. Be okay with the fact it will be ugly before it will be better. When it is better feel so good that you could get off and kiss him 100 times over because after a year he is totally getting it. He could not canter a 20 m circle in balance for the life of him before the past 2wks. He tried so hard but his body just couldn’t do it. Even on the lunge line it was Mach 10 or break to the fast trot. Today we cantered several 20 m c both directions balanced, soft and collected. Instead of a 12ft stride we had 10ft strides of nice jumpy canter. It was awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why has he found the canter all of a sudden? Well it is just that way with young horses from my experience. You see this horse who has all the pieces but they have their own timelimit on when the pieces will come together. You can help them along but some just “get it” faster than others. I remember thinking my personal horse had the worlds worst canter. It was so horrible I was sure he was never going to figure it out. A year into work he got it and we never looked back..the same was true of his jumping. Well that makes sense since good jumping takes a  good canter.

I suppose what makes me so excited to know that Dixie has figured out the canter is that good things are now ahead. A horse who has learned to compact their stride will be better able to rock back and jump off their hocks. It is the feeling you get when you are cantering that 20 m circle feeling that nice jump and suspension thinking oh boy I could totally ride down to a good sized jump with this quality of canter.

I can’t wait to ride him again tomorrow. I think he knows he figured it out. He is smart like that 🙂 I feel validated that I have been doing the right things all along. I am sure a pro could have gotten him to balance at the canter much earlier but life sometimes gets in the way of serious training. I use Dixie as my relaxation horse and while there is nothing wrong with that I need to become more serious about training him and not just riding him for fun.

Ultimate trail horse

When I just need to relax there is nothing better than a trail ride on Dixie. I had to show a client’s horse in a local dressage show early Sat. morning so when we got back to the farm we decided a trail ride would be a perfect way to get the other horses ridden without having to work to hard. My hubby was up on his horse, Tara riding Sebastian and I took Dixie. My husband isn’t much on cantering so we just headed out at the walk and trot.

We took one trail that looked like people had been out there in big vehicles riding back and forth and it was all thick mud. We picked our way through there and got onto good ground again. I lead the trail on Dixie who tends to be the bravest of the bunch. We stopped for a bit to let my husband practice his canter. Tara and I just stood in one spot and he would go up the field and then turn around and canter back to us.  It is a great way to practice in the open without having to deal with horses cantering in a group. Dixie just stood and waited without a care in the world but I do think he was wondering why Boppus got to canter and he didn’t.

We made another lap around the fields and then headed in. I think they all enjoyed it and once again I realized how nice of a partner Dixie is out on the trails. He is a real steady eddy type.

I was making a new jump course yesterday for all the horses but then it started to pour so I got rained out. Looks like better weather the rest of the week so I think we should be able to get some more riding in.

Back to basics

There comes a time when you realize it may be time to take a step back and evaluate the holes that need to be filled. Over winter we have barely been in the ring at all spending our time fox hunting and trail riding. Nothing wrong with that but flat work gets ignored when you are out there just having fun.

One thing I am noticing is that Dixie is doing a lot of chewing, mouth opening and mini pulls when I am asking him to come into the contact. It is time for his teeth to get done so that is on the agenda. Never overlook teeth especially in a young horse as time and time again you fix the teeth and all these little issues go away. Regardless, this doesn’t stop me from thinking he might like a different bit. I lunged him in my other horses nathe bit which is basically a super flexible rubber type of bit in a shape that allows for some tongue room. It is as soft as soft gets. He seemed to like that so we will keep that and see how it goes.

When do you change a bit? Well I wish I could answer that but I think part of training horses if figuring out what makes them tick. Do they like single jointed, double jointed, mulles, metal, plastic, happy mouths, nathes or something else that is bizarre and hard to find. I don’t hesitate to try new things if I think something isn’t working or something could feel better.

What do I feel that makes me want to change the bit? Every see a horse that is obviously faking the dressage? Well Dixie can do that pretty well if you didn’t know any better.  He will come round but he is not truly coming over his back and stretching into the contact like I would want him to. There is no real weight in my hand so there is nothing that I am riding him to. I want them to almost want to sit in my hand a bit so I can put my legs on and ride them into the contact. For the soft mouth horses that don’t want to stretch down the mullen bits seem to work really well. You can use the Herm Sprenger duo’s, nathes or happy mouths..or even a myler comfort. It all depends on the horse and what they like.

In this pic it describes what I am feeling sorta like he is just posing but not coming over the back- my contact is loose because I can’t quite push him out to the rein.

Slightly more into the contact but I can tell he is still not coming over the back.

He looks a bit softer here but not what I want. Doesn’t he look big? Maybe just cause I am so short but at least big horses don’t make me look so huge.


I have begun lunging Dixie on the flat in the vienna reins just to remind him all about contact. This allows him to just worry about himself and not have to deal with balancing the rider. Wasn’t I doing this months ago?? Yep, I sure was but everyone needs a reminder and Dixie is one smart horse so after two days of lunging the undersaddle work was dramatically improved.

We are working on lots of suppling exercises. Leg yeilds, shoulder fore, shoulder in,  haunches in and out and a bit of overbending and counterbending to get him supple. He moves really well off the leg but sometimes gets a bit worried and then tenses his back so lots of transitions in and out of the gaits keeping the leg on for support.

I am really happy about the progress he has made in the past 2wks of flatwork boot camp.

In other notes he is extremely itchy so I am concerned about that. I had just powerpaked him in January and then I noticed he was itching his butt everywhere. He also has some dry skin and spots missing around his back, withers and shoulder. The hair on the top sides of the tail and on his butt has flaked off and feels dry and scaly. I have given him baths with microtek and tried the microtek spray and the mtg with no real results.

I am thinking it could be a worm issues so a double ivemectrin but not sure what else it could be?? Suggestions are welcome. He has also lost some weight recently. My thoughts are that he didn’t like the field I had him in and was stressed about it. He seems happier since I moved him closer to the barn. I had him fat now I am working to get a bit more weight on him. I think some of it is muscle as well. He was super fit from hunting and then when we hadn’t hunted I think he lost a bit of muscle as well.

A random jumping pic from last week

Playing in the snow

Not much riding happening right now. We got around 10″ of snow so the horses have had fun playing. Dixie and his buddy hang out in their run in when the wind picked up but otherwise I would look out the window and see them running and bucking.

I didn’t ride yesterday but instead had a blast watching Jenna ride in the snow. She is about as horse crazy as it gets and is just learning to ride. I have let her ride a client’s horse that I have in to sell and he just takes her around like a good boy.

Looks like we will be heading to the indoor the next few days as the temps are going to be in the 60’s and now it will be nothing but mud. Welcome to spring time 🙂