especially the warm-up bit. It's in the bottom of the training scale, after all: relaxation and rhythm. The goal of the warm-up is to get the horse relaxed and walking with a swagger, then you gently pick up contact - without losing the relaxation and rhythm at the walk. Then all the other stuff follows.
This, in my mind, also makes sense in connection to what you said about the sitting trot: A horse that is not relaxed will go with a hollow and stiff back, so a sitting trot would be especially uncomfortable.
A caveat: The horse I'm taking on lessons now is still rather young, so coach told me that "he'd need some more guidance from you". So I don't put him on the buckle, but barely take the slack out of the reins with his head at his preferred position.
I also like to put them on the buckle (or generous rein) between bouts of focused exercise. Just think about interval training for people: Between rounds, you kind of hop around and shake out your limbs, maybe do a toe-touchy or two, before getting ready for the next strength bit.
Thanks - what you say makes sense. I like the part about contact. I taught Katie to neck rein out of sheer laziness tbh but when I gather the contact she does stiffen a little in anticipation. Yet another thing I can work on! I feel like just reading this thread that I need to maybe do more homework. I just looked up the training scale THANK YOU FOR THIS. It's let me down a rabbit hole.
those examples are extremely helpful. When I see great riders school, compared to me heh, it's hard for me still to work out what they are trying to achieve and why. The 8 hour lunge... whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy
:< Poor horses! My warm ups have been rather textbook school-type and only recently began to think about WHY I am warming up and to what end. Literally the only thing I'd consider would be if she's fresh and distracted to get the wellies out her system before asking anything of her which, at times, can take literally half an hour. Woo one point for me. No floppy reins here, not in that sense, so far just literally been either on the buckle or gathered. I remember the first hack where she was asking for more contact and it was a bit of a special moment for me to feel so connected with her. I occasionally played around with how loose/soft I could go and if she would maintain pressure/contact on her own and she will keep a firm contact but not heavy like I'm trying to lift her or anything or pull me out the saddle. In fact, she will maintain contact all the way until too much slack. I would also play around gathering contact up as gently as I could with least resistance but again I did it for FUN and out of curiosity only. I only just realised in this thread that I should be utilising this more .... wow. As for transitions her downward transitions are truly horrendous
. I want to practice it but I just worry about overdoing her joints. Thank you anyway for the brain food!
Hilda Gurney once said: "Practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect."
I really need more self discipline lol. Yikes.
Thank you for your input
! To address points you brought up:
- She had a rather wasted topline and wither pockets with a prominent spine. When I got her, her topline was okay-ish, wither pockets still terrible but saddler said it's gonna take years to undo that sort of damage and it might never fully recover. But she lost condition probably in the middle of summer 2018. I couldn't get there more than twice a week and would say the livery service provided in terms of turnout feed and exercise was unsatisfactory even though I was more than willing to pay for extra attention. They weren't terrible by a long shot and I really love the staff but the more time passes in my care the more I realised she was lacking for too long back then. I don't really agree with lunging PLUS I just don't know what I'm doing and I think the consequences of schooling her wrong in a small circle are more significant due to her size (nearly 1500lbs at last weigh in, probably more now with her extra muscle and good feeding). SO to help build her topline I've just been hand-walking her up and down hills (kill me pls haha) and hacking her out. In the arena the things to help are things I worry that will conflict with her hind end weakness...
-... she was unsound end of 2018. Not majorly but y'know catch things early and all. She significantly dragged her hinds, even when working, had little lift which was much worse in her hind left (and picking out that foot she was snapping it up and resistant). Prior to the vets call-out she'd twice kicked out during a canter transition as if unsticking herself is the best way I can describe it but once in motion was fine? She also buckled twice on only her hind end in the middle of canter. A very renowned equine vet in the city, along with some other vets as well who I saw, all came to the conclusion that her unsoundness was due to muscle wastage at the rear, the fact she was was yoyo-ing between no exercise and then extreme schooling (my instructor would make us trot/canter literally 20-30mins continuously or until the rider essentially died lol) and that her hind heels were under-run. Hope this helps a little more! So months later her heels are up and she's in continuous but light work and no longer resists that leg and is ASKING to canter.
- The long and low aspect as explained to me and from a video that
linked about kissing spines and collection I think? That it was about getting them to stretch out their vertebrae and then asking them to carry us correctly. That seems to make sense to me as I have a prominent arch in my back and bending over can really feel good. But that's the best I can understand it at current. Didn't mean that the horse is meant to work long and low 24/7 but she did USED TO ride like a llama. We'd joke about if I was a bit more generous in the front *cough* I could use her head and ears as a support bra. I'm around the 154lbs mark but I'm more muscle (I do lifting, not as much cardio as I should). Katie was around 1500lbs her last weigh in. People often tell me my weight for her is almost negligible but I still would like to preserve her spine where I can. Her hollowness previously was out of sheer anxiety - these days she's more like the lovely pictures you included. I would still like her to carry herself better though as she does brace (related to her arthritic jaw I think more than back). Hm.. got me thinking.
I can't get past the EIGHT HOURS OF LUNGING bit. Makes my heart hurt. Maybe Arabs are not meant for Western Pleasure. It's like buying a standard poodle, then chopping off his lower legs to make him a mini, since you wanted to show your poodle in the mini classes.
. . . anyway . . . I think you have a reasonably good handle on the standard approach. I do vaguely remember some videos you posted that showed Katie to have a slight 'offness'. But, is this 'weakness' something really pronounced? Becuase usually just the kind of riding your describe, and hill work, is enough to develop the hind end to a 'normal' level (if indeed it is sub-normal now).
my lease horse (X) hasn't been ridden in the arena in years. But, I trail ride regularly and I make sure to do some hills. Just mainly walking, with those hills, for 1.5 hours non-stop, 4 days a week has brought his condition up remarkably . Also, a good fitting saddle is super important. X finally has a really good fit, and he has really filled out behind the withers!
It did look like offness but there were other subtle signs and we came to the conclusion, the vets and I, that the times she'd buckled her butt end and SAT on the ground mid canter was connected. Muscle wasted, tendon strain due to dropped heels etc. Been aggressively working on all that since xmas. It's nice to read your last sentence as I've been the butt of a lot of jokes about how I don't run her into the ground. I should be cantering and trotting 24/7 according to some and they always giggle when I walk her like a dog. But I insist that the hills are good for us both! Her saddle fits great - I've been correct during the times it's needed adjusting which is great for my esteem. But her wither pockets.. HOW? Coz the saddle is contoured to her. It is a heavy leather bates so maybe I should just get a lighter saddle to help? I do ride her bareback at least once a week and she gets both ridden and dog walked in one day at least 4x a week when not in turnout (which is also hilly).
Thank you for breaking it down like that
plenty to think about. No ultrasound as the vetS and new remedial farrier were VERY confident that once we corrected her dropped heels and got her into regular light work the issue would improve and so far, they ain't wrong. I admit I've not done well... hardly any lateral work specifically. The odd yield *embarrassed face*. Her trot is horrendously bouncy and I feel like in order to improve her downward transitions I'm gonna need to practice it a lot so was worried about causing harm to her. I defo tried too hard to make her go straight before bendy in previous times and even now I probably don't work enough on bendy. Caveletti looks fun! I didn't realise that was the official term for it. As I understand with pole work I need to ensure that spacing matches the speed and gait I want to work at?
So more transitions coz I've not really worked on them specifically but don't overdo it. And I have played around with contact - she likes it firm but is not heavy at all. As I loosen my reins she actually maintains the same pressure by lowering her head. Until this thread it never occurred to me to utilise this....
I'm gona actually HANDWRITE a plan I think coz I clearly am unable to entirely do it off the bat >.<