Monday, April 20, 2015

Third Ride Postpartum – Turning Circles!

IMG_1645[1]I love the listening ear!  - 

I’ll keep it brief because, let’s face it - walk work is booorriiinggg to anyone but the avid dressage enthusiast… 

But that’s where we are at.  So the latest ride consisted of – and I’m sure you’ve guessed it - perfecting our 20m circle.

Copper has struggled with the 20m circle for a while; keeping consistent bend through out the circle and not losing it by popping out his ribs or shoulders 3/4 of the way around.

At first I thought it was a strength issue, that he wasn’t strong enough to keep carrying his weight in his quarters and step deeply enough underneath himself with his inside hind, but now I’m wondering if it wasn’t a suppleness issue all along.

He isn’t strong at all at the moment, he has no topline and hardly any muscle tone. He’s in a total paddock-kept state. Yet we got the best 20m circle work I’ve had from him for a while.  Yes, it took a lot of goes around before we completed a perfect 20m circle on both reins without losing the bend once, but we did get there!

And boy, was his walk ever so lovely afterwards. His back was soft, rounded, and supple, and I could really feel him reaching underneath himself with his hind.  The quality of his gait was 100% of what he can give me right now, and I was so chuffed!

It’s like sitting on a marshmallow that can read your mind! The connection was unbelievable and that’s what I love about dressage.  Really. 

Circles. So simple, yet so darn effective when done correctly that it just blows my mind!

Oh, and it was hard work for me too!  I could feel my abs after that ride with just the right amount of I’ve-been-working. So far, there hasn’t been an regression on my healing after having Little Pumpkin, so that’s a good thing.  We are both on the way to getting fit again!

See ya,


Sunday, April 12, 2015

The First Two Rides After a Baby

I got to ride my horse again!  It’s been months since I last rode – three months, three weeks and one day to be exact – but who’s counting?  (┛◉Д◉)┛

IMG_1583 -  “Hai Mom!”  -

Here’s a brief history of my other “horse riding after babies” experiences to fill in the back story. You can skip if you want to, or have the TLDR version:  I’ve had three children, two by caesarean and one by natural delivery.  After every birth I’ve needed time to heal before I could ride again, but it did vary as to how long that had to be.

When I had my first baby – my son, who is now 3 and a half years old – I rode six weeks after he was born via emergency caesarean.  Of course, in typical over-achiever fashion, that was too soon and I found myself quite sore in a not-so-good way afterwards even though I’d only walked and done tiny bit of trot on Copper for about 20 minutes.  I then had to wait another two weeks before I could hop on again to give myself time to recover from the ride. 

With my second - my two year old daughter – she was delivered naturally, but came out pretty quickly in the end which caused tearing that needed stitches. I rode my horse Joey at around six weeks postpartum –and wrote a post about it here. I could get back in the saddle sooner with the natural birth, and probably would have been even faster to get back on if it hadn’t been for the stitches.

Baby number three was born by another not by choice, but necessary, caesarean.  This time I was so grateful that it wasn’t an emergency situation, so thankfully the trauma from the whole delivery hasn’t been as big of a problem like my first birth turned out to be.

This is actually really important, because if you don’t acknowledge your mental state from the birthing process, good or bad, you can end up burying a lot of emotions that need to be processed. I say need because your life will be effected by emotions that aren’t dealt with. Your thought processes, your attitudes, your relationships – yes, including those with your horse – will be effected.  I found this out the hard way after suffering from PTSD and PND for six months after my son’s dramatic entrance to the world.

This time around, I made sure to give myself as much time to heal as I needed before swinging back into the saddle.  It’s been a lengthy process – I wrote up the recovery plan details so that I could keep track of them – but it definitely included snuggles with the horse and grooming sessions to get my pony time in and keep my sanity while I waited to ride again.

Back in the saddle after baby number three:

So at seven weeks and four days postpartum I finally rode Copper!  Yay! I was this excited to be back in the saddle – exhibit A:  Biggest grin ever!!
\ (*≧▽≦)ノ


Of course, he’s lost ALL of his topline and muscle development that we were starting to get last year. This means we can only do very gentle rides consisting mostly of walk work, lateral work to stretch, and loads transitions to keep his back swinging freely to establish good contact. This isn’t really a problem though, because I’m just as unfit as he is so we BOTH have to ease our way back into it so we don’t get injuries!

Keeping that in mind, our first ride on Friday was a gentle tootle around the arena.  We bent deep into the corners, working on the three-stride corner. Then I had him do some shoulder-fores, leg yields, and transitions from walk to halt.  We did do a few minutes of trotting. I didn’t ask for anything more than rhythm while trotting, because that’s all he has to give me at the moment.  He’s lost a lot of strength and can’t really hold any bend, but I did get a few moments of a nice lifted and connected back which was great. We ended with some smooth leg yields and called it a day. It was lovely!


I could feel my abs and inner thigh muscles the next day, but in a good, you’ve-done-some-exercise way, not a Ouch! You’ve-over-done-it way. This had me cheering so I just had to ride again on Sunday.  Maybe it was too soon, but I just can’t keep away now!

This ride was not as pleasant though because Copper really wasn’t feeling it.  He was happy enough to see me - he whickered hello and came striding up to me with pricked ears and that soft eye “I’m glad to see you” look.

But then we had an argument over mounting. I insisted he keep his feet still and he was all “Nope! I’m outta here!”

We were still debating where the feet had to be -

Copper: “Back a bit?” 

Me: *taps dressage whip on flank* “No. Here.”

Copper: “Sideways? Ooh, I know! Forwards twenty steps!!”

Me: “Wrong answer horse!”

- when my phone rang.  Turns out the little Pumpkin had decided that she wasn’t going to have that two hour afternoon nap I was sure she was ready for after all and I needed to come home stat to feed the baby.  *pout*

So I finally put an end to the discussion and managed to mount him without him moving. (Still have to work on the feet moving once I’m in the saddle though.  He’s not rock solid like I want him to be.)

He was off and away, and when I tucked my feet into the stirrups Copper nearly jumped out of his skin!  He really had a kink in his back and he took off trotting, wanting to canter.

I only had five minutes to ride at the most, so I let him trot on. Trying to get him to walk then would have just made him explode because he would have felt trapped. I kept him at a moderate trot with half-halts on the outside rein and a steady one-two sit trot rhythm with a weighted seat.

We did some bending all around the jump paddock, and his head was bopping all over the place – he didn’t want to come into contact. I encouraged him to stretch down with a loose rein walk.  That slowed him down enough to do some leg yields, some more loose rein walk, and then finally we finished with a less tense horse and two nice leg yields – one in each direction.

He was happy when I dismounted though.  I guess he was feeling that ride we had had on Friday too, because I’ve never felt him have such a big ‘hump’ in his back before. He was so tense! It was one of those “I’m riding a nucelar bomb that’s about to blow” type rides! I debated getting off, because I’m not fit enough to ride through any shenanigans, but end up staying on because I felt like we could work through it if I was tactful and stayed out of his face.

IMG_1595[1] -  “Meee?  Tense??  Nawww….”  -

And I’m glad we were able to do that. It was good practise.  It helped me figure out how I need to ride him through those stressful moments so that we both feel safe. 

Despite that last ride, it has been so awesome to get back into it, and now we just need to work up our strength.  Lots of hill work here we come!

See ya,


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