Monday, December 22, 2014

Creatures of Habit

Copper and I had a good time these last two rides.  It’s actually kind of boring – I don’t have any exciting updates or news to share. 

But I’m ok with that too – I’m getting to that stage in my pregnancy – 33 weeks – where the last thing you want is excitement with your horse!

Hwello again! - A Riding Habit- Loving this look: butt muscles, a nice topline, summer dapples, red coat, and hey! Just check out the length of that tail! (> ◡ <) -

We had a fun trail ride Saturday; once again, I super love hill work for really pushing Copper to work off his hind end and carry himself. All the soft up hill horses…  *grin*

It’s very cute, because I can tool around anywhere on him at a walk with the reins at the buckle. He’ll turn and even do a bit of neck reining for me. As soon as I pick up the contact though – he knows we mean business and that’s when Mr. Speedy comes to play!

There is no such thing as a quiet w/t trail ride for him. So we ended up working pretty hard.  We did loads of uphill trotting where I required him to remain soft and cadenced – not slow per say, as he fights that too much and it creates too much tension, but he had to be listening to my half-halts.

I find it’s so much easier if you bundle him up and let him really ‘charge’ forwards and release his energy up and out, rather than trying to bundle him up and keep him slow. He just fights that, and it creates much more tension than if you let him ‘run’ it out. When he is allowed to run it results in a more extended/medium trot (okay, I have no idea what kind of trot it is ‘cause I’ve never seen it from the ground – but it’s certainly big!) that is actually softer and easier to ride than a slow, tense, choppy trot. 

So we did lots of that and when he started bracing and getting heavy on the forehand (because all the sitting into the trot is haaarrrddd human bean!) we did trot shoulder-ins down the track. He had lovely impulsion!  Lol.  XD

How good is that view? - A Riding Habit

Then came our Monday ride, and we did some schooling in the arena.  I used our useful turn-on-the-forehand square exercise, (which I’m planning to do a training post on later) and some halt/rein back transitions to really get him light on the forehand before moving in lateral warm ups.

It’s interesting to me to note that we don’t need to spend as much time doing a walk warm up as we used too. I’m actually finding that if I spend too much time on lateral movements at a walk, he looses a lot of his impulsion and gets really “sticky” – behind my leg and slow. It feels like he is stuck in molasses!

Our warm up used to be 15-20 minutes at least, but now I think it’s more like 10 minutes?  This is a good thing. We have more time for working on his trot, and can even fit in some canter work sometimes. I suppose we must be making progress, because he comes in front of my leg sooner, and is able to start working through his lateral and longitudinal flexion a lot faster. This is super exciting to me! Yay! Progress!



Anyway, we did some good trotting and I’m already seeing improvement from doing the strengthening (trail riding!) rides. He was more balanced on a trotting 20m circle, both reins – though we still struggle with wobbling around on the left rein. I really have to ride that circle or he’ll bulge out through his outside shoulder and get wonky.

One of the other ladies from my yard was having a lesson in the arena at the same times as I was riding, so that was good because I got to practise working with Copper when he’s distracted. There was a lot of ‘power’ trotting (- ヮ -)!, and we even did some cantering.

He wanted to canter and I let him think that it was my idea because he went to canter, but I kept it really balanced on a 20m circle. He did so well with it for 3 or 4 laps, and then stopped because balanced cantering is hard!  :P

The instructor giving the other lady’s lesson also gave me a titbit of advice. She said “Your horse is responding really well to your leg yield aid, but try to keep his neck from bending so much. You want only a little bit of flexion from the poll.” 

And I was all “Thankyouthankyouthankyou!” because that’s the first bit of advice I’ve had in over two years(?) or more and doing this dressage training thing by myself is hard

I think what was happening was that I couldn’t tell if he was crossing over on the back end enough, so I’d ask for deeper flexion with his hind end, but create too much bend in his neck because he was already crossing over enough. 

It’s little things like that which make me go “Oooh, I really need some eyes on the ground” because it’s such a simple fix. I’ve been over riding the leg yield aid and I simply didn’t know it.

I can’t wait until next year and I can finally have some lessons!

See ya,


Monday, December 8, 2014

Things I will NOT do with my horse…

I think this is the first blog hop I’ve ever done, although there are others waiting in my drafts folder to be finished off!

Equestrian Journey asks “We all like to share on our blogs what we do with our horses and what we would like to do, but I want to know what you will NOT do.”

I was immediately intrigued to find out what is on other people’s lists of “Won’t do in a million years” with their respective horsey partners.

Will do this - loads of this! - A Riding Habit   - Will do this; loads and loads of this! -

Mine’s a fairly short list I think, and the absolute top, number one thing is that I will. not. teach my horse to rear.


Because he is never going to need to know how to do that. He is not in the Spanish Riding School, a circus or the movies. I basically hold the belief that teaching your horse that trick without a solid reason to do so is just asking for trouble…

Yes, it’s an impressive trick, but not that impressive when 14 year old girls are teaching their horses to rear while unbalanced and wildly flailing about with their rider on board. And all the yanking backwards on the reins… *covers eyes* 

Just no.

Yes, you can train your horse to rear in a controlled manner with good balance, and yes, you may have the kind of horse that would never turn dirty and use the trick against you, but not everyone can 100% for certain guarantee that your horse is always going to be with you.

Things happen that are out of your control – it’s called life. So what if your horse ends up in a home that is less knowledgeable and their new owner accidently triggers a rear command?

How is that ever going to end well for your horse? Why teach them such a dangerous trick that will only hurt the horse or the handler if not used wisely and carefully?

*sigh* It just seems like a really bad idea to me, although I know that there other equestrians and horse trainers out there that I really respect that don’t think so. And in that case, I want to agree to disagree. :)

If you want to really want to show off your training skills, however, why not teach your horse to kneel to be mounted or something along those lines? That’s far more impressive if you ask me, and it’s very useful skill for your horse to have that would improve his value. 

Nuzzles - A Riding Habit
-  *nuzzle nuzzle* -

Other than that, I won’t:

- Ride without a helmet.
(Maybe I’d take photos without a helmet on, but only because there’s no speed, just the height to deal with.)

- Encourage my horse to play with me like I’m a horse too.
(Buck at my head? Uh-uh – Don’t you dare!)

- Allow bad ground manners – no kicking, biting, rearing or threatening to do so.
(It all stems from one of my favourite philosophies that if you have the feet, you have the horse’s mind.
If you have respect on the ground, chances are higher that you’ll have it under saddle. However, you can’t really have true respect under saddle if you don’t have it on the ground.

- Feed treats without a reason to do so.
(I’ve seen too many horses develop begging or nipping habits from random treat feeding to want to do so without the horse knowing there’s a reason for the reward.) 

- Keep my horse in a stall 24/7.
(I personally don’t think it’s healthy for a horse to live like that, however I do know that some horses cope just fine with living in a stall permanently. And obviously, that doesn’t include medical reasons.)

- Ride/handle a psycho horse.
(What I call psycho, and what others call psycho may differ, but as far as I’m concerned, when a horse has no regard for your person, or it’s own personal safety, it’s a dangerous animal and I will never ride it. 
I think the kindest thing to do for a horse like that is to put it out of it’s misery so it doesn’t have any more chances to hurt itself or others.

- Medicate to show or compete.
(Yeah, I think that’s pretty self explanatory.)

- Buy all the fancy gadgets just to be trendy or in fashion.
(If I think it’s legitimately useful to my horse or myself, I will try it out, but I have to believe it will be worth the money!) 

So, what do you think? Agree, disagree, have more to say?  Chime in if you want to – it’s a fun hop!

See ya,


P.S. - I did have a ride on Copper yesterday and while it was good fun, there isn’t much to talk about. We did some great trotting, went to cool down, he thought 30mins of work meant he was done (shows you how frequently we’ve been having short rides!), I said “Nah, let’s do a trail ride now” so we went walking around the loop with J and her horse Rhythm, and that was it! 

I rode for longer than I have in ages – 1 hour and 30 minutes, and have nothing to say for it. Hah!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Silly Season Shenanigans

… Not on horseback thankfully!

But yeah, crazy times. Copper is getting another extended holiday because of all the things we have on… *sigh*

Copper chillin' - A Riding Habit- Hai der! I iz on “Hor-la-daiz”! -

But it is what it is.

I ride when I can, so we did a short trail ride on Saturday which was quick and fun. Then Monday I managed to hop on for 30 minutes or so and work on some flatwork.

Sometimes I feel like it’s really hard to make progress with him. I feel like our wheels are just spinning and going nowhere. I think it’s partly because of all the holidays, but also because it is rather hard to keep the long term goals in mind while also processing what’s happening in the moment of the ride.

I have to work really hard to assessing the feedback Copper’s giving me under saddle and adjusting our ride to fit in with what he needs – ie, stiff shoulders, shoulder fores/shoulders in; not enough impulsion, some transitions and rein backs to drop his croup and engage his hind end, etc. This is way you need a trainer…  *double sigh*  Oh well. We’ll keep trucking on.

So this ride we did some trot leg yields to get him carrying himself properly from back to front, and we also did a little on trot-canter transitions. The cantering definitely helped his trotting – he did a beautiful 20m left rein circle afterwards. He was really carrying himself, using his hocks for suspension and that resulted in a lovely, perfect bend on the circle – it was so good I stopped the ride right then and there!

Hai! I iz Sir Derpalot! - A Riding Habit 
- I iz gooood poneh! -

But his transition into the left rein canter was terrible. And I mean a.w.e.f.u.l. with a capital FULL! Copper was just trying to run into the canter – he seems to forget that cantering starts with his inside hind leg, and thinks that if he just keeps leaning and running he’ll fall into left lead canter. 

Which is true, but when he does, it is so rush-y and strung out that you just can’t rebalance that hot mess. So I try to remind him that when I am squeezing with my inside leg for the canter aid I want him to lift and push off with his hind leg and not just run faster!

He did get it eventually, and then it was a beautifully balanced canter, and really straight! It was so nice. I just hope he’ll remember how he did it, because then we might struggle less with it next time.

Copper’s actually pretty good like that – he likes moving properly, and tends to retain the muscle memory from what I teach him. He’s really got a great athletic mind. But that’s not to say it’s easy for him to overcome his bad habits, so we’ll have to keep working on that one for sure.

Do you have any tips for teaching a horse to strike off with their back leg for a canter transition? I know I’m not doing it the best way – I’m just trying to hold him together, but push him up rather than forwards.  So yeah, I am really holding onto his mouth and half-halting pretty dang hard.

I don’t like doing that, I know he doesn’t like it either, but my toolbox is empty with this one apparently….  I’ll do some research and see whether I can come up with something!

See ya,


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