Tag Archives: pony

Meet Team Dragon! *video*

Our foray into YouTube – introducing our girls. Take a look and let us know who’s your favourite (if you can pick one!)

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Weight Aids = Installed

Had one of THOSE rides this morning. You know when you just feel so connected to your horse and it’s like they’re reading your mind. I concentrated really hard on what we did in my last lesson (first proper opportunity to do so). In walk, one handed or no rein contact, we just flowed from one circle to the next using just my weight. I know I’ve said it many times but Saf really is the best teacher I could wish for, she may as well be telling me in plain English what I’m doing right or wrong.

Did a little bit of trot work on large circles too, aiming to keep the weight aids going (but much harder in rising trot!) Saf now seems to find right rein easier, despite being a left bended horse. I suspect this may be to do with my right leg and hip being squashed up into the hip socket due to Saf’s barrel swinging to the right when doing a left circle. Plus I can hula hoop better to the right than to the left.

Right I’m off to do some more hula hooping!

 

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How are we doing?

More in-hand at the weekend, I am learning about Saf’s centre of gravity and how to shift her weight back more onto her hindquarters. You can see me doing this at halt. The ultimate aim today is relaxation, which Saf is really getting the hang of. Head goes down to stretch the top line, which makes the horse relax anyway, then bending left and right at halt, then on the circle. Saf can get quite pushy with her hindquarters, so she’ll power along on her forehand getting more out of balance and ‘falling’ forwards. Today she was less pushy, so we could try to get a little weight back. This is very strange for her, something she’s never really had to do. The ultimate aim is to get the horse’s weight off the forehand (which is natural for the horse when grazing), and to move it further back so the hindquarters take more weight (which is far better for the horse when ridden).

Saf is now getting used to bending both sides in a nice full body bend – was really pleased with her when I saw the video. Her inside hindleg is starting to move under her centre of gravity, not 100% there yet but going the right way. The next thing will be to encourage her to shift her weight from her inside foreleg, to her outside hindleg.

A natural lifestyle and why it’s important to me

So, a little more about this whole natural lifestyle I’m always raving about. Why is it so important to me and so important to the horses? Maybe I’ve just been lucky over the years, but having native ponies, that is, ponies bred in the UK for their hardiness and versatility, it’s just happened naturally. As such, any subsequent horses (even though they will likely have a large proportion, if not all Welsh blood) will surely gravitate towards that lifestyle. Horses, being nomadic creatures, wish to roam vast distances in search of food and water. They require the company and security of their own kind.

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Modern horses often live a life far removed from their not-too distant, wild cousins. Small paddocks for turnout (if any) often pristine and free from ‘weeds’ with just one or two types of grass on the menu. It does frustrate me when I see such pristine lawns. For an animal which is designed to graze for 17 or so hours per day, how dull it must be to have only one or two grasses on which to browse. Nettles? Thistles? Docks? Why they are weeds, unsightly, and must be exterminated! Humans have a perfect, flat, green field which pleases us, but can’t be stimulating for the horses.

We are lucky at our livery yard. In summer there are all manner of ‘weeds’ growing. Nettles around the edges, dandelions dotted about, chamomile by the gate, comfrey down by the river and a few milk thistles every now an then. It is a joy to watch the horses browsing and clearly enjoying the variety.

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Saffron enjoying the nettle & thistle hill (aka the muck heap!)

24/7 turnout is also something I feel quite strongly about. I know a lot of people who do stable their horses at night, and I appreciate they have various reasons for doing do, however personally I would aim for none of mine to be. I realise I have an advantage as such, given that the herd are all natives and better equipped to deal with whatever the British weather throws at them. I just feel that we humans anthropomophise horses too much. Horses are happy to spend their time grazing, wandering about the field, playing etc. and sleep for about 4 hours in 24, not consecutively, but in small ‘cat naps’.

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The girls having a post-breakfast snooze

Do any of you keep your horses naturally? Leave a message in the comments.

Back to Bluegate!

After a 2 month competition break, we dragged the bog pony from her mud pit, brushed her off, gave her a haircut and hacked to Bluegate. I think Saf might have forgotten all about being a dressage pony, and we’d also hardly done any hacking, so she was a bit surprised when we arrived. A lot of tension from both horse and rider, but with Claire’s brilliant help in the warm up, we managed to calm down. Even though I felt calm myself, when we got to the long arena for the test, the tension came back in Saf.

She managed to keep it under wraps, it felt the best in ages, plus it was my beloved Prelim 17 test! I was enjoying the feeling of having time to think, and was confident about the next movement so could actually plan ahead – a first for me! We seem to have well and truly slain our ‘incorrect bend gremlin’. I was really pleased with both trot circles, and even enjoyed the canters, actually managing a single half halt during the canter to slow Saf (it worked – just need to work a few more in now!) Loved the final centre line and halt (got a lovely 7 for that).

I did have a bit of a ninja grip on the reins, before the bell rang and asked for a trot transition and Saf decided to sod off at high speed, so wasn’t too keen on giving too much rein after that. Things to work on: longer rein for next time and remember my elbows!

Finished with 61.53%, really pleased with that, so nice to claw our way into the 60’s. We’re going verrry slowly but it’s so nice to see a bit of progress. We’re now more consistently getting 6.5’s for our trot work and 6’s for our canter work, as opposed to 5’s and 5.5’s previously. Canter feels a million times more controllable now. Not entirely sure whether we’ll do any more this year, it really depends on how the weather goes, but if it is our last one this year, a really nice test to finish on.

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Time for a Portuguese lesson…

Apologies for the late update, I’ve been away on holiday but back now. Managed to fit in a lesson with Rui on Sunday 2nd August for a bit of a change.I’m still suffering from chronic long-rein-itis, which we worked on, plus getting and maintaining correct bend, including down the long sides – something I’ve known I need to do for ages, but been unable to!

Rui prescribed 2 hours a day running for Saf’s unfit rider – wildly optimistic but I know I’ve needed to sort out my cardio fitness as I am pretty hopeless.

We’ve concluded that Rui himself doesn’t require sleep in order to function, preferring to spend the whole time working, riding or running!

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Note to self: Use brain during dressage test situation!

First go at Prelim 15 on Saturday, can’t say I was too keen as between that and the other prelim on offer (can’t remember which one) P15 was the best of the two. Compared to P17 (last time) this seemed horrid! I’m still at the stage where I need time to think in between movements, and P17 allows this with changes of rein etc. P15 seemed to be one thing immediately after another with no thinking time.

Anyway, we started in the indoor warm-up, but realised that Saf seemed to be getting more stressed and distracted with other horses working in there. The short outdoor arena (where I’ve done most of my tests) is now also a warm-up so we headed over there. Empty, and Saf worked much better.

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Went over to the long arena for the test and as I suspected I had no time to think during the test, so I went into standby mode and just steered her round. No incorrect bend, but a bit of a battle and didn’t feel like Saf was on-side. I did have a LOL moment when I got my sheet, judge’s comment: “Seemed rather ‘on a mission’ in canter today”. Haha! Made me smile anyway! 58.2ish, a different (more generous) judge than usual, felt like it was faaar worse than last time and not a mere 1.5% difference. Chalk it down to experience and try to keep at it in the hope I might somehow work out how to think whilst I’m actually doing the test rather than just steering.

Click here for lots more photos

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