Saturday, March 12, 2011


Last post I detailed my big, lofty (for us) long term goals for us. Obviously we’ll be chipping away at those for quite some time, and little accomplishments will need to happen along the way as we piece together some semblance of a connection.

The last couple rides have been mixed, as always. On Tuesday she walked toward me when I went to catch her and seemed happy to see me. Her attitude was good, except for a few instances of getting pissed off at the trot. We’re still dealing with a little front end unsoundness, which makes things harder, and I suspect it contributes to her little displays of resentment. We haven’t cantered, but we’ve been able to get some work done at the walk and trot, and she doesn’t seem to worsen with work, so it appears we’ll be able to keep riding until I hear otherwise from her.

I’ll be very happy when the footing allows us to work outside again. Tuesday was lovely, and we went outside for a short time but discovered that the footing was not good for anything above a walk. It wasn’t great for a walk either, but Sofie was being careful and we both enjoyed our time outside. The yard is mainly melted out, but the ground is hard and an inch of rather wet snow had fallen, leading to slickness. There were also patches of glare ice, as I realized when I looked down and saw a Sofie hoof print that had uncovered such a patch. After that I decided to head back to the barn, but we were down in a valley and needed to walk up a small hill to get where we needed to go. I could feel her moving very carefully up that hill, like I do when our paths at home turn into glare ice. She did a great job on that footing, never being stupid or sliding at all. Good Sofa! After I picked the ice balls out of her feet (yeah, I’m sure that really helped her negotiate on the ice and slippery snow, eesh) we went into the arena to do some actual trot work.

We have made definite progress in some respects. Her right side is vastly improved. Not so long ago, she was way inverted tracking right at the trot, and I had to work to get just a moment of reluctant flexion from her. Now she’s moving with her head lower, taking a contact and responding to my aids. Apart from some falling in and the occasional return to inversion, her right side is really nice. I guess it proves we can make progress on our training issues.

Her left side, which used to be pretty decent, is bad. I’m not sure why it’s gotten bad, although I think it may have to do with her improvements on the right, as well as this shoulder soreness thing. She’s going around inverted tracking left, with a tight neck and she’s reluctant to come round and flex. She also seems to be having an issue going straight, and sometimes it feels like she’s twisting her front end to avoid really weighting her right shoulder. The left is going to need some work, as I’d like, ideally, to have two fairly even sides. But I have to be sensitive to how she’s feeling, and little things are telling me that she’s sore right now. I think we can still work on things and make progress, I just need to be careful with her.

On Tuesday I avoided circle work, and opted for random, diagonal type turns instead. She did well with the change-up, and the turns seemed to help her round and flex in both directions.

Our main issue that I need to address is anticipation. I’m not sure if I’ve been overdoing the trot, or making things too predictable, but during our walk work, she’s been breaking into the trot. A lot. It’s frustrating, although I suppose it’s better to have her thinking and trying to do what I want than have her totally tuned out and dull. She really seems to be anticipating a lot, really over thinking things, and I’m not sure how to get her to relax and wait for me to tell her what to do. It’s something I’m going to work on. I need to get her to stay in the walk and wait for me to tell her to trot, and I need to work on picking up the contact, because that is a major hole in our training. She’ll be in a nice, relaxed free walk, and when I pick up the reins, she will inevitably invert, counterbend, fall in, lose her rhythm a bit, or all of the above. It’s obvious she’s over thinking it, so I need to really practice the transition from free walk to working walk. I need to pick up the reins and put them back down without asking for the trot, and repeat as necessary until we make some improvement.

I started working on this last ride. Neither one of us were in a great mood (she actually didn’t want to be caught for the first time in a long time, and she had a poor attitude and was girthy. She was pretty good during the ride, especially to the right at a trot. I did struggle a bit to keep from getting frustrated when she repeatedly broke into the trot, but I managed to avoid getting into a bad "thing" with her and after working on picking her up and then letting the reins out (repeat, repeat, repeat) we did manage some nice walk work. I felt good about what we accomplished. I think this is just something we need to work on. I've known for a while that I needed to work on this, and it's gotten to the point where I could no loner ignore it and move on to funner things. I think Sofie picked up on the fact that I liked being able to do trot and canter work (after periods of her barely being able to move at a trot, and definitely not wanting to), and she's just trying to do what she thinks I want. She's not really being bad. Her moments of baditude are few and far between, and she's trying to cope with this new stuff I'm asking and her own issues. I really need to respect her for trying, and recognize that she is trying, rather than getting frustrated when certain aspects of our training just feel so...not there.

We'll work on it, and we'll get there, I think. I thought it would take for-freaking-ever to get any improvement on the right side, and we totally have it already. Now we just have to work on this other stuff, and slowly put it together. And as the supposedly superior, thinking being on this team, I need to be patient, fair and encouraging, rather than sliding into perfectionism and frustration. Because when I look back at where we've been, I can see that she is really working for me, regardless of how good or bad I am.


  1. The picking up the reins thing can be tricky - I've found that exhaling just as I pick up the reins can really help the horse relax. Good, rhythmic deep breathing in time with the walk steps might help with the anticipation/breaking into trot as well.

  2. Slow and steady progress. Sounds good to me :) Seconding the breathing comment.