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    06-01-2011, 02:36 PM
Return to Riding

After a month long break while I've been doing exams, I've brought Bella back in and started to ride again. Going to keep a journal in here and maybe it'll motivate me to do some productive schooling instead of dandering round the fields and the road every day.

Brought Bella in from the field and spent about two hours grooming and pulling her mane. It hasn't been pulled since last August and was about a foot long. I actually started yesterday, then ran out of time and had to put her back out with half a short mane, and half a long mane. But it's short and tidy now, so all's good.
Didn't do a whole lot, riding wise. It got really warm so I went out on a hack up the road and walked most of it on a long rein. Met a medium sized truck type thing at one point, which would usually send Bella flying in the other direction but she just jumped about a bit then stopped to watch the other horse who was with us dance about and try to throw his rider into the middle of the road. Didn't get that far, fortunately.
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    06-03-2011, 05:59 PM
I actually had a surprisingly productive schooling session. When I first started, Bella was really lazy, and after a bit of a warm up Bella was more energetic but she put that energy into grabbing hold of the bit and tanking when I asked her to go forward. A lot of circles and transitions later, she started to lighten up slightly on the forehand. I've started doing a bit of canter work and have been having trouble getting her into that light, impulsive counter needed for jumping. She tends to either bomb off and pull a lot or lope along in a rocking horse like movement. By the end of the ride, however, she started to shorten up and go a lot better, so hopefully it's just a fitness thing. Or something.

I intended to give Bella a decent workout on the lunge today, but it was ridiculously warm - for once - and neither I nor Bella particularly wanted to spend a long time out in the sun. So I did about fifteen minutes of walk, trot and lots of transitions on both reins. I'm working her in side reins at the moment - I hate the things, but nothing else works - in hope that it will help improve her outline. I've heard about horses being ruined when side reins are over used so I only lunge her with them twice a week max. And even when I do they are as loose as they can be. They seem to have worked in building up her neck muscle nicely, if nothing else.
    06-04-2011, 01:15 PM
More flatwork. Not the most exciting of exercises, but it must be done. Started off in the yard/arena (it's actually a yard, 'cause the trailer's parked in there and the stable's in one end but it's surfaced for riding on) and did more transitions/circles and stuff 'til Bella was going reasonably well. After that, I moved out to the field since it's dry at the minute and there's not a lot of room to do much in the yard. She hasn't been ridden out there in ages and was initially pretty tank-ish, particularly in a canter. My fingers are red and raw from all her pulling - note to self: buy gloves - but with lots of half halts and transitions she began to lighten up. It was the hardest she's worked all week, but I wanted to keep at it until I was reasonably satisfied with her way of going. Towards the end, she was even starting to work in something like an outline, so score. Am going to do some polework tomorrow for a bit of variation, and will probably start jumping next weekend. My first "big" (ie, more than a training league) show is Saturday 18th June and I'd like to be jumping 90cm in order to ride in the qualifier for the class at the National Balmoral Champs that I did last year, but I'll have to see if she's fit enough.
    06-06-2011, 02:04 PM
So, I didn't actually get to ride yesterday because of the torrential rain. This country seriously sucks. Instead I'm hoping to do my polework tomorrow. I had an exam today so I only had time to lunge for half an hour in the morning before heading into school. That said, Bella went really well. She's starting to relax and carry herself a little more in walk a trot anyway. She's still all over the place in canter and leans hard on the reins/side reins/lunge line, whatever she can lean on when possible, but hopefully with a bit of work her balance will improve and she'll start to neaten up.
    06-07-2011, 05:09 PM
Well, my plan to do some productive polework didn't go quite... to plan. I actually forgot I was supposed to be doing poles until my dad came out and offered to set them out for me so I didn't have to get off. Even then I only rode over them four or five times. However, my "polework" session actually ended up being a shockingly successful flatwork session. Towards the end she stopped leaning on the rein altogether and rode in a really nice outline for a good five or ten minutes. In trot, that is. Like yesterday, cantering is still a bit of a messy topic but we'll worry about that when the time comes. I was really pleased with her, so I decided not to push it with the poles and end on a good note instead. On the downside, it is only towards the end of riding that she seems to lighten up. It takes well over half an hour of work to get her going really nicely, but I guess that's something that should sort itself out over time as well. So, all in all, it's taken me the good part of two and a half years, but at last I'm starting to see (small) results in the outline and way of going department.
    06-11-2011, 08:11 AM
Much the same as the day before. I did more flatwork, with pretty much the same results.

I intended to go on a hack to give Bella a bit of a break from schooling, but I would have had to go on my own which isn't all that fun, particularly as the roads are overrun with tractors these days. Figured I'd be better off waiting until I can go out in company, so I got the week's second lunging session out of the way instead. I'm starting to focus a bit more on canter work now, but Bella's still pretty fat and unfit so I can't do a whole lot.

Jumped for the first time in ages. It's hard to tell how well Bella's jumping in our arena because it's that small, getting turned into the jump is actually more of an issue than the jump itself. I stayed small, a couple of crosspoles amd a 70/80cm upright. I'm going for a riding lesson next week, so that's my next jumping session - in bigger arena I should be able to do more and get a better idea of how Bella's going. Our first show's schedules for next Saturday, and I found out that I actually can't do the Jumps Ahead class I had planned to do because I haven't been to any rallies. Ah well. I was looking forward to the chance to qualify for Balmoral again, but at least it means there'll be less pressure next Saturday.
    06-14-2011, 12:57 PM
I'm getting lazy about this thing. Whatever.
Today I went on a hack, at long last. I tend to just ride with a long rein and let Bella chill out and have her head.
Yesterday I lunged, quite successfully, and the day before that I didn't ride. I can't actually remember why. Possibly because it was raining, possibly because I couldn't be bothered. The day before that Bella was forced to give pony rides to my younger cousins. It's quite funny watching tiny kids ride her; she just plods about donkey style. Never seen a more adaptable horse in my life.
    06-16-2011, 04:30 PM
I did, yet again, more flatwork. Bella wouldn't do much with the outline, but her canter was a good bit less rocking horse after a bit of work. I only had time to school for 20 mins, so didn't do a whole lot.

I had my first lesson of the comeback today. It was well worth all the sweat, aching muscles, getting soaked in the rain and 25 quid. We started off, like always, with a good hard warmup. When my instructor pointed out something I haven't noticed, which has probably been having a big effect on Bella. I have a tendency to go very rigid in my wrist and lower arms and 'lock' my hands into place, so Bella's reaction is to fight me and go stiff in the neck. Once I was aware of this it was just a matter of loosing up and relaxing my hands, and there was a huge difference in Bella's way of going. After our warm up we focused on jumping out of trot to encourage Bella to put the energy into impulsion rather than just bombing off into the fence as she tends to do. We also did some bounces and grids, all out of trot. I've also got a problem with my jumping position in that I sit up too quickly after the fence. Now, this is something other instructors have taught me to do, thus I've come to do it instinctively, but in actual fact sitting up immediately after the fence doesn't allow the horse to get their back end up enough to clear the fence, so that's probably a lot of my fallen poles explained. My instructor's pretty fussy with details, if there's any little thing wrong, whether it's the leg slipping back ever so slights over a fence or a shoulder dropping forward on a turn, she will notice it, and she will keep on about it until the problem is fixed.
    06-18-2011, 03:17 PM
Didn't ride yesterday due to downright miserable weather. I discovered today that it was a slightly bad idea, because Bella was really fresh. As in, difficult to ride fresh, which is saying something because usually Bella's easy enough to ride.
Anyway, first show of the summer! I intended to jump the 80 and 90cm horse classes, but in the end pulled out of the 90 because the 80cm consisted of two round, first one fences 1-10, second, 1-7, which is seventeen fences, it was a pretty spread out course, and fence 6 was a triple, so actually that's 21 fences overall. Bella was sweating a lot by the end, but it was mainly because she wasted so much energy spooking, prancing about and generally being a typical TB.
She seemed pretty sharp when we arrived, and initally, was going quietly in the warmup but as she started to waken up more she became more forward to the point where she would try to break into a trot when I walked and a canter when I trotted, and when I asked her to canter she just grabbed the bit and tanked. I ride her in a snaffle at home but a dutch gag at shows because once she gets into a jumping ring it's as if she is connected to a switch that someone has turned to high voltage. I hate the gag but it's the only thing I can hold her in, because when she wants to be strong she is, and even more so now that all her neck muscle has built up from lunging.
Once she realised she couldn't tank and take off, she started spooking and making a fuss out of everything, but actually, when I could get her through this and make her concentrate it turned out to my advantage because her "prancey canter" that she does when she'e excited makes for a lovely jumping round.
When we got into the ring and started to canter she was going pretty fast, and I couldn't let her go as she wanted or she would have gone flat out and demolished the course, but I have to be careful holding her back or she just gets irritated and will not jump. I managed to keep a medium-fastish sort of canter for the first ten fences, and we had a lovely clear first round. I think I let myself get overconfident after this and let my concentration slip a little for the second part, because it was visible less controlled, the turns were a bit dogdy, and we had four faults. The course had a lot of strange turns in it, as well as two dog legs. In the first dog leg of the second round, after the first fence, I forgot - don't ask how - to take her out wide until I was right up at the fence, then I rather idiotically tried to pull her out when I didn't have enough space to come back in, and I rode straight past the fence. It was totally my fault, and I could practically feel Bella's confusion, she kind of slowed down as if to say, "Hey, why did you tell me not to jump that?"
So, since it was my fault, I was really pleased with Bella, especially considering that it was out first time out to jump - also out first time to jump a full course - since the beginning of March. The only problem I did have was that she was a pain to warm up due to all the dancing about but that's just down to freshness and excitement.
    06-20-2011, 08:46 AM
Yesterday I only had time for a quick fifteen-twenty minute bit of flatwork, so I didn't have a lot of time to get Bella working particularly well and she seemed to be going full out with the giraffe impersonation.
Today, we headed out to the beach with a friend, and had a rather fun morning. Bella got her much needed gallop up the beach, and I even managed to get her into the sea up to her knees without too much persuasion, which is a first. She wasn't even tired when we left, she just wanted to run again. She seems to like releasing that inner racehorse.

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