Saturday, August 9, 2014

3rd Ride

What the what?? Yup, make that a total of three rides this week, which is the most for one week since I don’t know when – January probably!


Copper's New Tack - Copper with his new matching breastplate and saddle cloth. All the matchys! -

Actually, I was sort of wondering what I’d do with myself and how we’d go with yet another ride this week, but I did formulate a plan, and it worked.

So my idea was to really try and listen to Copper to see which exercise would benefit him the most and build on that for our session.

I start off by bringing him in from the paddock and before I even touched him with a brush, I started to palpitate his back to see if I could find any knots in his muscle.

Sure enough I found a few around the top of his shoulder blade/base of his withers, and started to work on them with the heel of my palm.

Copper gave me an immediate reaction of pulling a face, and twitching his top lip while leaning heavily into my hands.  I used a circular motion and he would move around and lean in saying quite clearly “Here please, a little bit up, ooooh that’s the spot! Harder!” 

It was quite cute and funny, and he was happily licking and chewing. I think I did the one side for five-ten minutes, then swapped sides.  The reaction wasn’t as obvious on the right side, but that doesn’t surprise me as his left side isn’t as supple as his right.

He was quite relaxed and dozy for the rest of the grooming and tacking up which I thought was a really good start!

As he told me quite clearly his shoulders where stiff, I made sure to work on them first thing in the warm up.

We warmed up with lots of swing and forwards from his walk; I didn’t just let him pick his own pace. He’s got quite a good walk I think, so I tend to just go with him rather than asking for more energy.

I think I need to change this habit, as his walk work and lateral warm up was a lot better with the more active pace. (Duh…. As I write that, it sounds sooo obvious. :P )

I tickled his ribs with my heels, one side at a time as his barrel swung back and forth, to encourage him to lift his back and that worked really well too.

I didn’t do any no stirrups work this time in the warm up and I think that helped him, though maybe not me. I have to figure out some way to use the no stirrup work without having that problem.  But that’s by the by.

We shoulder-fore’d down the long side, and had some lovely quarter-line to outside track leg yielding, resulting with a supple, bouncy, freely moving horse. Yay!

Next we went into the trot work and straight away I focused on relaxing my seat and blowing out (details here). Then I discover yet another posture fault – I pinch with my inner thighs when Copper starts trotting to fast.

I also swing my calves away from his sides. Another bad no-no. Ugh.

So I relaxed my inner thighs, and draped my lower leg around his barrel. Et voilà!  Achievement Get - Soft Relaxed Lifted-Back Trot Award!!

It was good.

So good I finished our ride after only 20 minutes – 15 of warm up and 5 of trotting!

I could’ve just been done then, but being a little bit greedy I decided to take him on a trail ride instead. That was a whole ‘nother ball game, and yes, we most definitely need to work on our relaxed trot when hacking out!

Suffice to say, I had to work really hard to keep from getting tense, and his energy was really up. I think I succeeded in not getting into a war with him over going slow, but it was hard and boy, oh boy, did he ever have impulsion and forwards!

I was happy with our trail ride in the end though, and it is definitely good practice to be working with him when his energy is so high. It was basically like at a show, expect maybe not as tense. So yeah, good practice. I’ll keep chipping away at it.

I am so thrilled about our arena work today though. Yes, I do think it was in part because it was the third ride of the week, but I think it was mostly due to me figuring out some more keys to Copper’s relaxation. It’s a long list!

  • Soft shoulders. Rolling my shoulders back and down keeps the muscles between my shoulder blades soft and giving.
  • Elbows bent and close to my ribs.
  • Hands up.
  • Core tucked in and supportive for the front of my pelvis so my seat doesn’t roll backwards/pitch forwards thereby closing my hip angle.
  • Soft inner thighs. Sit IN to Copper’s soft spot behind his withers. Find that cradle in his back and plug your seat in.
  • Draping contact with lower leg – this is actually really hard for me to do due to the shape of his barrel. He is really, really round and it’s hard to keep your lower leg on. But I MUST because if I don’t, I pinch. And I’ll never be able to use effective lower leg aids for lateral movements if I don’t.

  • BIG ONE: Never, ever, ever skimp on a thorough warm up.
    I think I was far too blasé about his warm up last ride and hurried through the leg yields – not to mention completely forgetting about suppling his shoulders. It cost me. Copper needs to be loose and supple before he can even think about a faster gait. Quality walk equals quality trot equals quality canter. I mustn’t ever forget that.

So yes, pretty much it’s – ride correctly or your horse will be tense every step of the way.

He sure doesn’t make it easy. He is not a giving horse to ride at all. Forgiving – yes. He’ll do it right if you do and he certainly doesn’t hold grudges, but a giving ride? 


Nope, nope, nope, nope…. 

I guess it’s worth it if it helps me to improve. :)

And no, I’m not going to complain if I can’t ride him the same amount next week. It’s just a goal, and it’s one I have to continually work towards.

I am super glad I did have the chance for this much riding this week though, it gave me an encouraging boost to find that we can improve. I also loved the chance to solidify what we were working towards.

It might not be as good again, but for this week, it’s been really, really good.

See ya,


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