Fruehling is a 5 year old, chestnut, 16.2hh, Hanoverian (1/4 TB, 3/4 hano) mare. She is my coach's horse, and I've been working with her. I've known her since she was born (watched the birth), and her mother was my old horse. I hope to buy her some time next year when I'm able to afford a horse, if she hasn't sold by then. She is a little hot, very alert, which is the opposite of the last horse I started. Like her mother, she is a little bossy, but is confident and personable.
I did a little ground work and saddled horse last year when she was 4, but other than that has had very little handling other than basic leading and hoof handling manners. This was partially because I was working full time+ when I was home, and then rest of the year I was away at school. Her owner (my coach/trainer) had a lot of client horses last summer, and didn't have time for her.
When I got back home this spring I started work with her. Did 3-4 days a week, and about 3 weeks of ground work, lunging, introducing tack, side reins, bridle, ground driving, and a rider on her back. Our series of rides looks something like this:
Ride 1: Me sitting up there, my coach leading us around. Getting on and off a couple times. No participation from me.
Ride 2: No lead attatched to her bit, just me steering and stopping. But we're still following my coach basically. I started using leg to ask her to go forward but she doesn't respond to it yet.
Ride 3: Small progress, went forward off my leg aid and me clicking a couple times. Stops and turns from my aids. Got a friend to lunge me. Still mostly listens to person on the ground.
Ride 4: Tried to get her to go on my own, not happening. Got lunged more, starting to really understand the aid on the lunge line. Walked around the arena on our own, but got stuck a couple times until my friend on the ground made a feeble motion towards us for us to move.
Ride 5: Decided to try a crop to help make the connection between lunging aids and rider aids. Needed help getting going, but the rest of the ride was a big improvement. Worked better when I used to the whip behind my leg than on the shoulder. My coach was on the ground and we circled around her and trotted a few steps. Hoping for now that we've trotted, forward will come more easily.
Ride 6: Brought a dressage whip. Had our first 100% solo ride!! Backed up when we tried to leave the mounting block, but then went forward after a little tap of the whip. Trotted solo down the long sides of the arena, and changed direction across the diagonal, walking before reaching the corner. She trot-walk transitions really nicely, same with the halt, it almost feels like a little reining stop because she tuck her hind end under.
Ride 7: Trotted more today. She tested the whip more today, had to use it more, but over all was more responsive to the leg by the end of the ride. Stops nicely with the word woah and sitting deep. Went around the arena, changed directions across the the diagonal and did 20m circles both ways. Steering, which was actually quite good to start with, is better.
Ride 8: More trotting. Moves just off leg now. Though I'm still carrying a whip, I only had to use it once at the very start of the ride. Practised transitions within the gait. While trotting down the longs side asked for a bigger trot and she popped into canter. It was a slow relaxed canter, so I let her canter about 4 steps before verbally cueing trot and going back to trot. Went the other direction and did the same thing (asked for a big trot, let her canter) but cantered further down the long side and through the corner.
Ride 9: The day before she went for her first trailer ride! A friend had a lesson down at our show grounds, so I trailered us down, and let Fruehling look around at every thing. She way bright eyed and bushy tailed but behaved pretty well and only whinnied half heartedly <a dozen times (over almost 2 hours) even though there were a lot of other horses there and a couple would not stop calling to each other. Just lead her around, didn't ride.
The ride was not one of our bests starting out. She was not as cheerful to see me as usual, and was a little more spooky of things around her, just more keyed up in general. While we were trotting a group of riders came out of the bushes near-ish the arena from a trail ride, and she was quite spooky, but still responsive. Put her back to work and she paid attention to me without much effort on my part, and continued. On the ground before I practised moving her hind end over. Got her moving her hind end over, but most of the time she just moved straight sideways which is really nice too!! Did leg yield once at a walk both ways. Worked on some circles too and yielding to the bit and she was really good about softening it ratherthan fighting it. She didn't flip her head at all when I put on pressure, rather slowed down, did nothing, or yielded to the pressure. Very happy with her :)
That brings us up to date, planning on going riding tomorrow! Pictures to come.
Good ride today. Lunged with side reins as usual. She's getting better at just staying in contact and softish to the bit while lunging. Doesn't fight it much at all. Riding we worked on more moving the hind quarters. It was a bit confusing for her again, but had some nice turn on the forehands (just a step or two) each way, and did a little leg yield to the fence. If I pick up contact at the walk, she is almost consistently yielding to it. At the trot is a little harder but she is getting better quickly. She doesn't stay in contact, but yields to it rather than fighting or getting annoyed by it. I want to try her on a tiny ride up the road (theres a 1km dirt driveway to the barn) with another horse. She can be a bit spooky, so I'm going to have to wait for a friend riding a quiet horse.
Asked for canter for the first time today :) Picked up the correct lead both times in the corner. She was quite good picking up canter, only a couple rushed steps of trot into it. Canter is a easier gait for her, so this is about what I expected. She has, several times, tried to canter while asking for more trot. I think it's just easier for her to do a slow canter than it is to lengthen her frame into a trot. But very happy with how she was today.
Worked on more turn on the forehand and leg yield again. It's definitely coming, the turn on the forehand was really good today. Her good way she got it right away. The other way, on her second try. Leg yield is coming. More tomorrow!
Gave her a shot of penicillin today too. She received a kick to the girl parts a couple weeks ago. It looks like it healed up really nicely, a little miss shaped, but functionally normal. At the time she recieved bute and antibiotics (a sulfonimide if I'm not mistaken), but looks like she might have a UTI as the last couple days when I brought her in for her grain she has peed small amounts (2-3 cups) a few times in a short period of time. She is also rubbing her tail which is unlike her. Hopefully this helps her, we're getting in touch with the vet tomorrow (we don't have a large animal vet in town) for further direction.
Went for our first trail ride today, and she was AMAZING!! Went with a friend and I really chill, slow horse who is in the same herd as her (but she's not particularly besties with). Last night we took her and a different horse for a walk up the drive way/through the trails a little just in hand and let them eat grass and alfalfa from the side of the road. And today we rode! I knew she was going to be break from the start. The other horse didn't want to go down a small, but steep hill at the start of the trail, so I got Fruehling to go first, and she did no questions asked. I let the other horse infront after that and it was smooth sailing from there. She spooked once when we came out of the trail by the gait where there is a bunch of cement barriers, but she just hopped ahead and stopped right away. We rode back on the road a ways the went back on the trail, and this time I went first, and she didnt care at all. We even ran into some people walking on the trail. Her head went up and she stopped and took a step back, but I petted her and told her to go ahead and she did right away. What a little star she was. Rode in the arena a little again, but not much. But her leg yield is definitely coming along, as it coming into contact.
Our first show was this past weekend and she was a super star :). Did walk-trot dressage and scored 61%, 66%, and 60% on the 3 tests. She was hotter than she is normally at home, but was well behaved and didn't get crabby after a long hot day in the sun. Took her in a first year horse class too (by ourselves, so got first by default basically), and some other classes haut concour. She was hotter in the ring with other horses, but settled down after a couple lap around the arena. I'm very happy with her. I couldn't believe how good she was to braid. She just stood there the entire time and only moved twice to stretch! I think she liked getting her hair done ;) Typical girl.
Training has come along really nicely. Leg yield is pretty solid now, and now working on bending in and out, the starts of shoulder fore. Also been trotting her over poles on the ground which she is just fine with. Since we've been working more on manipulating the shape of her body and bend, picking up canter leads is improving, and we can usually get left lead canter (the hard side) going through a corner. In the next show I'm considering doing flat classes with canter, and there is only one walk trot class in that program, but we will see!
I forgot I had this already! I was about to make a new one! I think I'm due for a little history on this pretty girly :)
Her mom (Anna) was my old horse, I rode her for 2 years. She was 16.1 brown, Hanoverian x OTTB. She has had 4 foals total, Fruehling being her last one at the age of 19. I was there when we AI'd her, and their when she foaled. She was a lot of fun, and was a bossy, confidant mare. We did some eventing together, she loved it.
Her dad was a young, black, 16.2 Hanoverian stallion. He only had 2 or 3 seasons of foals before he was gelded and sold as a dressage horse. Here are some old videos of him.
Since my last post, there has been a lot of progress in her training. We started some small jumping. Turn on the forehand and haunches is solid. Balance in the canter is a little iffy some times, especially on the left lead, but she is actually better when we're jumping. She stands up a little more and uses her hind end more (even between the jumps) and is easier to turn. We're working on keeping her straighter, which is helping consistency with canter leads. Leg yield is also solid, and we're starting to work on shoulder-fore/in, and leg yield along the rail. She is a quick learner.
My goals for this season are to first off get her steady and consistent in contact, which seams to be lacking especially when she gets distracted. This will come with straightness and suppleness in her back. In January we had some really mild weather and I was able to work her in the arena for a couple weeks. Even being unfit, we improved on what we had from last season. Since then it has snowed a ton, and I was out of town. The arena is ok to ride in (snow is fluffy and soft), but is still too deep to do real intense work in. I also want to do more jumping and start on some cross country skills. This will start again when the flat work is more in order. I'll be doing a lot of grid work in the beginning, something we didn't do enough of last year.
I lunged her yesterday in the arena. She was really good at first, but I could tell she was a little fresh. The horses in a near by field started running around and playing, and her tail went up in the air and she started running around on the end of the lunge line. I just moved us over into the deeper snow, and she settled down after about a minute of that, and was perfectly well behave, like she had been a few weeks ago. After that I got on for about 10 minutes. Just a quick walk trot canter, and some trot figure 8s, with a little leg yield. When I first started lunging it was snowing but not bad. By the time I decided to get off it was white out conditions. When back to the barn, de-snowman'ed. By the time everything was dried, and the horse was drying off in a stall with a cooler and some hay, the sun came out. Typical. Will ride again today, probably not lunge as I'd rather just get on and ride, and I think she'll settle into the work nicely.
I'm just itching to get at it though. I hope spring happens soon!
Since my last post, the weather decided it wanted to be winter again, and I was unable to ride in the arena until about a month ago. Been coming back into work and have made some nice progress. We had some issues (and they are still there but improved) with balance, bend, straightness, and using her top line. I had a little help with my trainer, and things were a little better. Then the weekend of April 5th we participated in a 3 day clinic with another coach who I often get lessons with when she comes to town. We just had flat lessons, and I'm really glad we did, they helped a ton!
We did a few exercises that really stuck with me and really help progression. The first was walking the box with turning on the forehand. Sounds simple, and while I thought we could do it, it became evident that we weren't doing it well. She wasn't off my leg (very "eventually" about moving over), wasn't accepting the outside rein contact, wasn't staying forward or crossing over and under herself, and I wasn't timing it properly. So while we could "do" it, it was far from proper. Now it's soft and lovely. Keeps the contact, accepts the outside rein, no hesitation or back steps in the movement, keeps the forward, and will walk out of the turn with impulsion. This was probably the most important exercise we did.
The next was at a trot. Trot a big (~30m) circle with a counter bend. Spiral in with that counter bend, and then once in the middle/on a 10-15m circle, change directions and go on a new circle the new way without changing the bend. Then counter bend again and repeat.
The next was a little more complicated. On the large circle again, do a very slight counter bend. Think more so ride straight than on the curve of the circle, no actual flexion to the outside. Spiral in again. When on the small circle, two track into the new direction for 3 or 4 steps and change directions.
The next one was basically a combination of counter bending on a circle, with a little "haunches in" like leg yield. This one really helped establish the control of the hind end we had at the walk. We had to go really really slow. This was really difficult for her, but she got it and it made such a difference.
The last was simply doing a serpentine while keeping the bend so one loop was counter bent.
She was a lot hotter that she normally is. Part of it was being in a new environment, then not riding her the few days before, and then having to work so hard and getting her so pumped up and off my leg. By the end of the 3 days she was moving so much better. I think she's still doing better now, but it's hard for me to tell sometimes. I've been working on keeping her slow through the tough stuff, and testing her by letting the contact go and seeing if she will stretch from the base of her neck, or if she will speed up. So far she has been doing pretty good.
The last couple days we've been doing some light jumping. She can get a little hot about it, but is usually very responsive and tries hard. Today we did a grid. It took probably 5 or 6 times going down it with just the first jump and X and the rest poles before she figured it out and didn't just run through it. I made sure to stop in a straight line after the grid to keep her coming back to me. A couple times I just brought her down to trot and then turned a sharp turn to the right to go down the rail on that side instead of making the easy left hand turn towards the middle of the arena. After that she stayed pretty straight after the line. At the start she wasn't great about picking up her feet. Didn't pay attention really to the trotting poles, knocked the jumps several times. But once I had the whole line set up with an X at the start and small verticals, she started to think about life a little more. Then we put up the last one to a very small oxar (2' with a cross rail for the front) and she jumped the line really well. Put it up so the oxar was still a cross rrail in the front but 2'3 straight across in the back. Did that twice and she jumped the whole line really nice. Responsibly, like she was planning her foot work. And today for the first time since last year we were able to canter a full 20m circle to the left while I was sitting in the saddle (not 2-point), and without doing really "baby" steering. She just picked up her shoulder and turned for me. It was so nice to see/feel, and I hope that's a sign that all our clinic work worked!