Tuesday, January 28, 2014

That Thing That Happens

Y'know, when you go and get your horse out of the paddock, bring them in, start grooming with picking out their feet, only to run your hand down their front leg and feel a puffy warm spot on the tendon underneath their knee?

Yup. So that happened.

It was last Saturday, my Mum (Nonna) was babysitting and I had all the time in the world to ride, but those plans were quickly derailed. I did saddle up in the hopes that he wasn't actually lame, but no go. I walked him around and he was off in the front. The swelling was on his off fore, and I did some chiropractic adjustment (nothing hardcore; just stretches and lifts to loosen things up) to make sure he wasn't out. Copper often is a bit off in his pelvis, but this time it was something in his shoulder/neck region.

He did feel better after that - I re-mounted and walked him some more, but he was still sore. Not noticeably lame, just stepping short. My guess is that he was derping around in the paddock and wrenched his leg in some sort of hole. The current field they are pasturing in is rife with rabbit holes - there's a big (old) warren in/around a gum tree in the middle of the paddock.

So it ended up being a grooming day - I clipped his jaw, taco-clipped his ears, did his withers, and tidied up his tail. Polticed his leg, sprayed his rain scald*, and applied some topical treatment to his not-quite-but-threatening-to-be mud fever. *Whew!*

This ended up taking much longer than riding, but was it all good. He's on paddock rest at the moment, and with the 38+ degree weather we are experiencing, I am just fine with that.

See ya,

*Best rain scald treatment ever:

Mix 50% water and 50% vinegar in a spray bottle. Pick off the rain scald scabs, either with your fingers, or a brush, such as a plastic curry brush. (Afterwards, DON'T use the brush anywhere else on the horse until you have dis-infected it. Rain scald is highly contagious, and the bacteria will easily transfer from surface to surface.)

Apply the water-vinegar mixture liberally, either by spraying it directly on the infected spot, or by spraying onto your hand and rubbing it on if your horse is sensitive to spray. Do this until the rain scald goes away, and if your horse is susceptible to rain scald, you can keep applying the spray treatment to kill off inactive bacteria.

Also, this treatment works well for clearing up general skin-scurf. It's not too harsh, and the natural ingredients stop it from doing too much damage. Just be careful not to go over board as this treatment can potentially dry out the skin, particularly in hot, dry weather.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Working On A Standardbred’s Trot

Dusty feets for the both of us | A Riding Habit

I’ve been trying some new things with Copper to hunt down that elusive soft trot that I know he has in there somewhere. I know it because just the other day I actually found it for once!

We were out on the trail loop that goes behind our horse paddocks, and he was buzzing – his energy was so high.  I tried a few short trot ‘sprints’, with little success, and then we came to the part of the trail that drops into a ditch.

Well, it’s more like a gulley, where the feet of two hills meet. It’s not altogether that steep or deep, but it’s fair stretch down and we usually walk it on a bit of angle.

Not this time though! Copper charged down it, and when he reached the bottom, snatched the bit and took off up the other side. I had anticipated this, so I stayed with him and when we reached the top, steadied him down to a medium-fast canter.

I didn’t even bother thinking about pulling him up. So not worth it. He dropped back to a trot himself when we reached a rocky part of the trail, and then I asked him to walk which he did quite willingly.  I guess he needed to blow off steam or something…

Gold grass to graze on | A Riding Habit

At any rate, I got the bright idea of making him do some work to combat all that excess energy!

There’s a nice level piece of ground that our trail goes past that is about 150m x 70m (roughly – it’s a natural stretch, so this is just a guesstimate!) and is relatively stone and grass tussock free; great for doing some schooling out on a trail.

I started with lateral work at a walk.  Leg yields, shoulder-fores, and ended with two/three steps of shoulder-in before we moved onto trot circles. He wanted to canter, so I said, “Sure, you can canter Copper, but I’m going to make you work for it!”.  

We did slow, uphill canter circles for a bit and when he finally figured out that that was HARD and a trot was easier, I got the softest trot from him I have ever felt!

What’s more, he was so round, supple, and through, that he felt like he was doing an actual medium trot worth a score. It was powerful and energetic, but so soft. It’s really hard to describe, but it’s like you’ve tapped into this circle of power, and you’re holding it together between your legs and your hands and letting it flow through your seat, into your back and out again.

I was thrilled!

And then, even better – I found it again.  This second time was the ride directly after a not-so-successful ride where I wanted to take it easy, but he wasn’t having any of it. Small, balanced canter circles was the result of that, and it paid off on the very next ride!

I had done a lot of lateral work – we ‘warmed up’ at a walk for close to half an hour. We went through all of our lateral movements, adding some turns on the forehand for fun, halt transitions, backing up, 20m circle spirals with leg yielding in and out, serpentines from the end of the arena to the top and back again - and we had such a good ride I was all like, “Eh, do I want to stop here? If I ask for a trot I might ruin on the relaxed-ness I’ve just spent 30 minutes working for! But I neeed work on his trot… Ugh.  Here goes nothing!”

Hoof Print in the Sand | A Riding Habit

I asked him to trot right before the corner so that once he was trotting, the first thing he needed to do was balance himself for the corner. This was reasonably effective to stop him from just taking off willy-nilly.  Next, I kept my seat super light by leaning forwards slightly in a half-two point position.

Then I tried something I read somewhere, opening my hands wide, but keeping my elbows tucked in and steady. That was the final key to the puzzle – lightening my seat allowed him to come through over his back, and opening my hands unlocked his neck and shoulders and allowed him to work fully from back to front.

Yes, his frame improved almost instantly, but at this stage that is a secondary concern for me – I am really only interested in his looseness (suppleness and relaxation) or Losgelassenheit, his “throughlettingness” of the aids, or Durchlässigkeit and his free flowing movement and energy, or Schwung.*

And I had all the beginnings of that.  I had it twice – once with far more energy and impulsion on the trail and the second time with more relaxation and attentiveness in the arena.

It’s been nice to have this breakthrough – I now know that I can actually achieve a decent trot from Copper, and I have a some new keys on how to go about doing that. 

Boy, he’s a tough ride sometimes, but I am learning a lot!

See ya,


*This page on dressage terms has a more through explanation of these German words.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Equine Lingo – a break down

Important Horse Terminology:

Event Prospect = Big Fast Horse
Dressage Prospect = Big Slow Horse
Hack Prospect = Pretty Color
Sporting Prospect = Short Fast Horse
Barrel Prospect = Fast Horse which can turn
Endurance Prospect = Fast Horse which will turn sometimes
Flashy = White Socks
Stunning= Makes you say "Good god, is that thing a horse?!"
Attractive = Bay
15.2hh = 14.3hhh
16.2hh = 15.3hh
To Loving Home Only = Expensive
To Show Home Only = Very Expensive
Needs Experienced Rider = Potentially Lethal
Elegant = Thin
In Good Condition = Foundered
Free Moving = Bolts
Very Responsive= Sit still and hold on tight
Rescue horse= most likely crazy, dangerous and untrusting
Quiet = Lame in Both Front Legs
Dead Quiet = Lame in All Four Legs
Good in Traffic (Bombproof) = Lame all Round, Deaf and Blind
Loves Children = Kicks and Bites
Kids horse= Stubborn and never moves
Pony Type = Small and Hairy and stubborn
Arab Type = Looks startled
TB Type = Looks Terrified
Quarter Horse Type = Fat
Warmblood Type = Big and Hairy
Draught Type = Big and Exceedingly Hairy
Easy to Catch = Very Old
Great prospect= Spoiled pasture pet
Great Project horse= Dangerous and time consuming
Greenbroke= Someone once sat on it
Very people friendly= Thinks it's a dog
Best when lounged first= This horse is a ticking energy bomb
Must Sell = Wife has left home and taking kids
All Offers Considered = I am in Traction for 6 months
Reluctant Sale = Comes with Title Deeds to Sydney Harbor Bridge

As found on Tales of Terror, Disgust and Amusement: My Life as an Equestrian – click for the rest of this hilarious post – Things that only horse people find funny.

See ya,


Sunday, January 5, 2014

2014 – New Beginnings

Just a girl and her horse - A Riding Habit

Well, I don’t know what happened to the last year, but I suppose that comes of having a baby.  Our second child was born in April, so what with the first six months of new-baby-zombie-brain, I guess that accounts for most of the year!

Then Joey bucked me off, I broke my elbow, decided to sell him, rode him around with said broken elbow, sold him and started discovering fun things with Copper, like I needed a new saddle. Bought a Wintec 500 All Purpose saddle, had some great rides, (lateral work for the win! Shoulder fore, shoulder-in, leg yields and turns-on-the-forehand have been a regular part of our schooling routines recently, and for good reason, as they really unlock my ex-trotter, softening and suppling him up) and some terrible ones – in which we learn never to try and tire out a Standardbred. Don’t try this at home kids. Just don’t.

So with 2014 shaping up to be a quiet year on the equestrian front – I think I’ll pop down some goals to work towards, but they will be very prosaic I’m afraid.

Hi there boy! - A Riding Habit


- Find his relaxed trot, and make it consistent. That’s a hard ask, but it is in there somewhere, so this is my foremost goal. He must learn to relax while he trots.

- Do some jumping. As previously mentioned, we haven’t done this in ages, but I really want to do some with him again.

- Maybe go to a dressage show??? I don’t have access to a float anymore, and unless we put electronic brakes in our car before the end of the year, I don’t really see this one happening, but I can try nonetheless.


- Work on developing my seat; primarily focusing on allowing Copper’s back to soften, and his energy to flow over his back from his hindquarters.

- Keep my hands up and elbows bent! I am a shocker for dropping my hands and locking my elbows, it’s my worst habit.  I have been working on this, but I really need to concentrate on eradicating this dreadful form.

- Never, ever, resort to a battle. When something isn’t working, change your approach! Every once in a while I forget this, and that’s when we have our shockers. I need to stop, take stock and change tack if it’s not working, rather than figuring out the solutions when I’m off the horse and it’s too late to help with that particular ride.  Sure, it’s good for the rides following, but I’d rather not leave it that late if I can help it.

What to do with a grumpy PonPon - A Riding Habit


So that’s me.  I want to try a get more videos of my riding this year to help critique and improve my equitation, but that’s a bit hard, so we’ll have to see how we go.

What are you planning for the new year?

See ya,


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