Friday, October 24, 2014

Saturday Post-ride Dissection

Circles are our new best friend and worst enemy. Yup, a geometric figure is my frenemy. Mostly because when we get it right, I really can feel the suppling and impulsion benefit to Copper on the straight, and mostly because when we get it wrong – it’s oh, so very wrong…

I’m struggling with that left rein circle - I do know how to fix it (close the outside aids, and ask for outside hind to actively come forwards and help carry weight) but it’s not an easy fix. All that wonderful lateral work to supple him is also wonderful for showing Copper exactly how to evade and escape from working properly!  *sigh*

You would think that the horse would consider bending and sideways harder than bending and forwards, but nope.  :/

Still, he is feeling better and better these days, and I’m starting to consistently find relaxed and rhythmical working trot from him. I even tested it a few times today by releasing both reins forwards, and he was keeping the same pace. So that’s been super exciting and really rewarding.

We also did a leg yield from center line to outside track! There is nothing that makes you feel cooler than a super fancy prancy horse daintily tracking diagonally across the arena(Left to right, fabulous – right to left, needs some work).  Half pass here we come! Lol – yeah right.  :P

His canter transitions are also getting better – I think being able to balance properly on a circle is also helping him to get his hind underneath for a quiet transition. Thus, it stands to reason that his left canter lead is way more explosive and messy than his right at the moment – I think I really need to focus on some left rein work and try to get him stronger and more supple on the left side.

I try to work both sides evenly every ride, but I think for a short while I should almost be working the left side exclusively during the main schooling portion of our ride to really build him up.  Of course, we’ll warm up and cool down on both reins, but I’m going to stop spending so long on the right, and just get *right* back to the left for a while – sort of like a left rein boot camp for the both of us!

Here’s some more schooling footage from today if you are interested:

And yes, this is now a thing. Because honestly, just working on my hands and shortening my stirrups alone have already made such a difference to Copper; I swear he looks twice as nice as he did last Saturday, and my position looks a ton better as well.

My leg still needs work, but I’m almost thinking I might need a dressage saddle. Or maybe it looks worse than it is because Copper’s so round? I don’t know. One moment I think “Yeah, my leg is right underneath me and inline with my shoulder and hip. It must be alright then.” and then I’m all “Ugh, I don’t think it IS underneath me! I look like I’m in a chair seat again!”

So I’m vacillating between good and bad and don’t know if I should be trying to push it back even further. I hesitate because I don’t want end up to pitching myself onto the fork of my pelvis. Oh, well, I’ll try it out next ride and see what happens I guess.

See ya,


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Much Needed Eq Check

Copper and I are on track now, and I’ve been pleased with the progress we’ve been making.

We are ready to work on our circles and yesterday managed to turn out a nice 20m walk & trot circle on the right rein. We struggled a lot with the 20m circle on the left rein – he bulges out through his right shoulder, and swivel his haunches in, so he is not bending through his body correctly, or carrying his weight on his hind end properly.

His right side is stronger than his left, so I think he finds it easier to evade rather than to carry his weight on that left inside hind. I discovered that by using strong outside aids – a closed outside rein, and activating his hind leg by using a driving aid with my outside calf – it forces him to bend around my inside leg by closing the outside ‘escape hatches’!

I know that this will improve in time though. His lateral and longitual flexion have improve his ability to work through over his back in so many ways, and I am so happy with the softness that’s coming into his work now.

We are steadily improving on rhythm and relaxation, and we even find some connection and impulsion for a few moments when we get that perfect flow between him and I. Doesn’t happen very frequently, or for very long – but I get subtle whiffs of where we are headed, and it makes me so chuffed!  I get the biggest grin, cheer like an idiot and praise and pat my horse profusely.  This is why I’m addicted to dressage. 

If you want to make your eyes bleed though, I do actually have some footage of our schooling ride on the weekend. : P  It’s not very good because I had to set up the camera at the corner of the arena, so I’ve cut a lot out from where you couldn’t see us at all!

Also, Copper has some nice moments but avert your eyes from the rider… Pllleeeeeaaase?  I just took one look at the footage and went *groan*….

My hands, which I’ve been working so hard on, need more work – they are too low still. And what the flip is up with my elbows? You can see 3 feet of daylight between my elbows and sides!  *sigh* 

I would love to chop off my lower legs and relocate them – permanently. Studying the footage I can see that my lower leg is braced reeeaaally awkwardly - particularly when rising to the trot and in the canter. It makes sense as to why I’ve been coming away with some ankle and knee pain depending on how hard/long we’ve been working.

My initial thought is yes, my lower leg is somewhat better when sitting to the trot, so I don’t think it’s a problem with my hips/seat. I actually think it’s a problem with my horse’s round build!! Not only are we having trouble with saddle fit, the roundness of his barrel also affects my position, because when I lower my stirrups to the length I like I can’t keep my calves in contact with his sides. So then I end up twisting my toes out in an effort to maintain contact, and this pushes my lower leg forwards and I brace against the stirrup.

Solution? Raising my stirrups a hole, even though I feel a little bit like a jockey. Heh. This actually helped our ride a ton on Monday, Copper was a lot more relaxed because I wasn’t braced weirdly, and my leg aids were much more effective funnily enough, because my leg was back under me where it belongs and sitting in the right place so my toes didn’t turn out so much.  So yay for equitation fixes! 

Please ignore the giant baby bump in the middle. My core looks so clunky, but I can’t fix that just yet.  Get back to me after three months or so. 

I think I need to video every weekend in the mean time to make sure that my position keeps on improving and doesn’t go backwards, because I can’t have lessons at the moment (as no instructor is going to want to teach a 25 week pregnant lady - hello liability!). At least some form of eyes on the ground helps, and I can check our progress against something more tangible than just feel. :)

See ya,


Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Seriousness of Eye Injuries in Horses

A little while ago I noticed Copper had some cloudiness on the left-hand outside edge of his right eye.

I’ve kept a close eye (ha.) on it, but couldn’t decide whether or not I should call a vet out to look at it. As it turns out, I left it too late...

horse eye by nicole zeug 
I was chatting to one of the ladies at the horse yards, and found out that she’s had similar experiences with two of her horses before. She was saying that you can’t leave eyes – ever.

Any sign of an eye injury and the horse needs to go the vet ASAP.  The tiniest scratch or scrape to the cornea will often ulcerate and cause a cataract to develop.

I then remembered that a while back Copper had a half-shut, puffy, swollen right eye – I had manipulated it gently to see what was up with it and a small flake of dried grass had slipped out. He seemed to have immediate relief, and opened his eye up straight away.  The swelling subsided the next day and he seemed normal.

But apparently all was not well. It took quite a long time for the cloudiness to show up, so I didn’t put the two and two together. Until now.

Swollen, puffy eye + hay flake = scratch -> cataract.

But I didn’t know back then that my standard “Wait & See” principal for minor wounds cannot be applied to eye problems. Never, ever, nuh-uh, no-no-no. You can’t necessarily see if there’s been any damage and of course, you don’t want to risk an ulcer or a cataract.

It’s too late for Copper now unfortunately, but thankfully the cataract that developed on the edge of his eye doesn’t seem to be affecting him too much. I have noticed that he does spook more when we are out on a trail ride, and he certainly gives stuff that he might have ignored previously much more of a closer inspection.

But he’s still forward and bold, so I think he’s adjusting quite well to the impairment of his eyesight so far. The changes in his behavior have been hardly noticeable, so I’m confident he will be fine, though I really wish I had caught this earlier. It might mean that we can’t do much jumping, like I was hoping to, but I guess we’ll have to see how that goes.

One thing for sure, from now on I will never ever let any slightly suspicious eye action go without an immediate visit to the vet. 

See ya,


Monday, October 13, 2014

Tack Changes – Moving to a Myler bit

Copper used to have a really simple set up gear-wise, but recently I have made a few rather expensive purchases to change his tack arrangement.


Myler-Bit - Myler bit upgrade -


While I do feel a little silly about this, I think this is a good thing, and I’ll explain why.

First off – I have a “Simplicity and solid training is the foundation to all effective horsemanship” kind of view.  I don’t like following tack trends, or using certain pieces of equipment just because such-and-such famous horseperson said I need too.  *coughParellicough*

So ‘upgrading’ Copper’s tack can sort of feel like I’m buying into the “My pony is sooo shuper shpeciallll! He needz all the fahancey matchy tack and polos or he can’t jumps/dressage/hacks, etc…” thing that seems to happen a lot out in internet land. 

But there’s another part of me that recognizes that the cheapest isn’t always the best kind of simple, and sometimes you get what you pay for.

For instance – Copper’s bit. There was nothing inherently wrong with it, but it was not the best bit for my horse.


French-Link-Snaffle - Copper’s old bit; Loose Ring French Link Snaffle with a thick middle link -

I used to ride him in a basic Loose Ring French Link Snaffle – (Joey used to ride in a French Link Eggbutt Snaffle, but when I tried that on Copper he hated it) and I can’t remember why I got the idea that I should try a different bit, but I did.  I think somewhere along the way it finally clicked that Copper has a super thick tongue – lift up his lips and his tongue is bulging over his bars type thick – it completely fills his mouth. I was reading that in that kind of situation, a thinner bit is often more comfortable for the horse than a thicker bit. 

This was a new idea for me – I’ve always thought that thicker bits were softer and gentler that thinner ones – which is true, if your horse doesn’t have a thick tongue!

And what’s more, a shaped mouthpiece is even better for conforming to the shape of the horse’s mouth and not causing undue pressure across the roof of the mouth, tongue or bars. So that’s how I ended up looking at a Myler bit. 

I read a lot of stories about how good a Myler bit was for so-and-so’s horse, and I was drawn to the thinness and shaping of the mouthpiece initially. Then I was talking to the tack shop assistant and found out that purpose of the Wide Barrel Loose Ring Comfort Level 1 Myler Snaffle design sounded like just the thing for Copper. The shifting of the loose ring combined with the rolling action of the barrel joint is engineered to help to ‘destabilize’ the bit, making it harder for your horse to lock his jaw against the mouthpiece and lean on it.

Since Copper has a strong tendency to either lean, or curl up above or behind the vertical (which locks up his neck, his shoulders, his back, and you get the picture!) I was hopeful that the new bit would help soften him enough to get his listening to my aids rather than just ignoring me. (More of the trials and tribulations of retraining an ex-trotter…)

Wonderfully enough, this has been the case.

Copper liked the feel of the new bit in his mouth from the very start and was a lot softer through his mouth, jaw and poll when I picked up contact. I also quickly discovered that when he did start boring down on my hands in a trot, I could wiggle one rein to get his attention and stop him from trying to lock his jaw around the bit and take charge.

It took a few repetitions, but he soon figured out that leaning wasn’t going to work any more. From then on, our trot work has continued to improve consistantly.

I’m able to take up a steady contact with his mouth that he is much more receptive to – probably because he is much more comfortable in his mouth now. The bit has stopped becoming a point of battle for us – he can’t use it to take charge any more, so he’s stopped arguing over it with me and has become much more accepting of my rein aids.

I’m glad I’ve found a bit that is more comfortable for him, and I know for us, the Wide Barrel Loose Ring Comfort Level 1 Myler Snaffle has certainly helped to dispel tension and leaning problems.


Loose-Ring-Myler-Comfort-Snaffle - Copper’s new bit; The Wide Barrel Loose Ring Comfort Myler Snaffle -


I can finally focus on riding the back of the horse, and leave his face alone! (Which I was trying to do before, but it was really hard when Copper would make our rides into a discussion of who was controlling the speed of our gaits, and which gait we were going at - all through locking his jaw either on the bit, or against the straps of a Dr. Cook’s bitless bridle!)

While I could go into all the ins and outs and discuss why I continue to ride with a bit when Copper obviously didn’t like it in the past - even if he is more accepting of it today - I think that’s really another topic for a different post all together.

So that’s the conclusion to Part 1 of my posts reviewing Copper’s tack changes, and the biggest part too. Part 2 will be looking at his new girth and breastplate. And that’s really it for now. So maybe it’s not all the fancy like I was thinking.  Certainly not by tack-ho standards.  ;D

See ya,


Disclosure: I am not affiliated with the Myler Bit company – I bought this product and chose to review it because I like it. All opinions expressed about the product are my own.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mental Health Day – or - Time to Trail Ride

I’ve had three rides on Copper after spraining my ankle. He had two weeks off over that time, so I’ve been taking it easy with him. He’s so unfit right now, and all the unexpected holidays certainly don’t help.

But the gentle rides have been good for Copper’s brain, and for getting him back into it. I love hill work for making him sweat! And it’s so great to get him really working from behind (in fact, I call it my dressage “hack”), as I always say – never underestimate the power of solid walk work!

We went on a group ride today with two ladies from our yards; they rode their horses, Faith (mare) and Darby (gelding).  What I found interesting was that Copper wanted to be the lead horse – in fact, had to be the lead horse!

The other two didn’t mind, they wanted to follow him, but it surprised me because Copper is definitely one of the lowest ranking horse in the herd, but the other more dominant horses just trailed along after him. And it wasn’t because he was more confident than they were - he was more spooky and look-y about new parts of the track and new bits of rubbish, but he just forged on and kept going.

I think it’s simply his competiveness. He wants to be first! The other two horses were also lot slower in pace than Copper, so of course we ended up 15-20 meters ahead of the others, and then we’d have to stop and wait.

But it was lots of fun, and a really lovely sunny day. I really enjoyed it and I think Copper did too. We don’t get to ride with others very often at all, so it’s super awesome to get out in a group and go for a ride in places I wouldn’t take Copper by myself. 

I really miss riding with my family – we all used to go down together and ride either taking turns with one horse, or taking turns with two. We did have three horses as well at various points over the years, but mostly two.

It’s so cool to have people to talk too, and swap horsey war stories with. I miss that a lot. It makes me even more grateful for the rare times I do get to ride out with others though.

See ya,


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