Sunday, 20 January 2013

What a week!

Do you have those days where you feel truly challenged, like you're so crap at this sport you shouldn't even bother getting on? I had a day like that this week. Several, actually. It's been a week of distinct lack of sleep (thanks baby!) and very hot days (thanks climate change!) resulting in negative self-talk and lots of crying. All a normal part of parenting and riding, in my experience!! Luckily, my horses forgave me and behaved beautifully. :)

I had a lesson with Fiona Gruen on Saturday and we went through the test I was supposed to be riding (2A) at an adult riding club fun comp the next day. It was actually quite good as I hadn't done that with a coach since pony club days and I'd forgotten all the tricks you can do to make your corners look better, your transitions look more round and through and your halts square! Of course, I've forgotten half of it (Fiona's lessons are always packed so you only take in a fraction of it), but what I've retained is gold.

The other highlight of the lesson was the concept of using the strengths of the horse to achieve improvement in weaknesses. So, for Assegai, his canter is a strength now, and Fiona suggested using his canter to get a good trot. It was quite a fun exercise, because his canter feels easy and I didn't have to work as hard! After some good canter exercises, straightening him and making him use his hindquarters properly, we went forward into a swinging impulsive trot - in the main. He's not the most self-motivated horse so it all died after half a circle, but that was half a circle of awesome. :)

Problematically, sitting trot just wasn't working and Fiona commented that the saddle was not working well. It was moving quite a lot, the pommel was much higher than the cantel and it was no wonder I was bouncing around! Luckily, it's very adjustable (being a Wow) so I got onto the lovely Julia who is coming out in a couple of days to fix it up. Assegai changes shape through his wither pockets quite a bit as he gets stronger so the saddle tends to sit up on the muscle, necessitating a wider headplate and adjustment to the Flair panels to balance it again.

We made it to the MARC day but it had been one hell of a night without sleep the night before and I was literally the last rider in the draw for dressage so I kiboshed stressage for the day and thought I'd just do a couple of rounds of jumping. These days are good to get Assegai's confidence up as the jumps are little and there are good scary ones in there. True to form we had a stop, but it was corrected quickly and he jumped pretty well. I'm learning that he needs a lot of time to assess spooky jumps or jumps with a distinct problem to them so I need to just leave him alone, keep a supportive leg on but let him check it out. He's not dishonest, it's not naughtiness or disobedience, it's anxiety - he absolutely hates hitting jumps and he'd simply rather not jump it if he thinks he's going to whack a leg! I'm sure I will come to love this about him, but right now it can be annoying.

The ground was rockhard and the course was , um, interesting (literally a 180 degree rollback to get from 2 to 3!), so I left it after one round, packed up the family and came home! Nice day, though. Got to catch up with my mates, so that was a highlight!

I've started the process of planning our new property - where the stables and yards will go, where the fences will go, how we'll set up the water and so on. It's both very exciting and quite overwhelming! I'm using permaculture principles and trying for a plan that makes the most efficient use of time and space. I bought book by Jane Meyer (sp?) on managing horses on small properties and it's been gold. Highly recommended! As is her site:

So, lots to do! And I've got uni assignments and exams coming out the wazoo (that I should be working on right now!).

Happy riding!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Smoke on the water...

Happy summer, everyone - finally! It's feeling very hot, dry and ready to burn around Canberra. Quite disturbing, really! I guess this is just the beginning of climate change - hotter hots and colder colds, increased danger of catastrophic uncontrollable fires, floods and storms. And no one in Government seems capable of doing much about it. Depressing, much?

On a lighter note, it looks like we just bought a little farm! Very exciting to finally be able to realise a 30 year dream of mine and my partner's. We should be moving out there by May (very long settlement period which helps us since we need to sell our place), and I will no doubt be blogging about our experiences setting up a 20 acre block with no horse infrastructure and little else than a weatherboard cottage and 2 small dams.

I found two more articles of interest. They are both quite interesting:

Not much to report, riding-wise. I haven't ridden for the last 3 days due to fire worries and a sick little bubba. Good luck with the fires and stay safe.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Skating on grass

Today I had a lesson with Ben Netterfield, showjumping extraordinaire, smartarse and all-round good guy, in the searing heat of Canberra. It was, without doubt, bloody hot! Too hot for the flies, even, which was the only plus about the whole thing.

The last jumping session I did with Assegai on Thursday was a bit of a mixed bag, with me practising like mad the 'sit still, support, do nothing unless you have to' mantra Ben had installed in our last lesson. Once the jumps went up, though, Assegai seemed to lose all confidence and began crashing through them and getting tense and hollow. I asked Obi Ben about this reaction....

He watched me jump a couple of fences, including the one stride vertical to vertical I'd set up, about 80cm or so high, and advised that Assegai was finding the going slippery. This time of year, the ground is rockhard and the grass is very dry, creating skating conditions. I know it's like that on the front hill of Equestrian Park at Canberra ODE (aka 'The Prairie') but hadn't felt him slipping at all at home. Ben seemed to think the slipping got worse the tenser Assegai got, creating a bit of a vicious cycle of tension and badness for all.

We talked about what this meant barefoot-wise and I was surprised to learn that Ben had kept a few showjumpers barefoot in his time. He was quite open to the idea of keeping Assegai barefoot and said to cross the shoeing bridge when we really had to down the track (like when the jumps go up past piddly height!). I mentioned the concept of rasping tread into the hoof wall (see pic here: and he thought that was worth a try. Awesome!

The lesson went well, focusing very much on calmness, supportive leg, just letting him work out the fence as it goes up. Ben calls horses that react to a change in height as 'having a tape measure' and it's quite interesting how these horses really notice and respond to height change. I will treat it as a positive that Assegai reacts to a change in the fence height. Hopefully, this will make him careful - he hates to hit a rail already, hooray! But it does make him quite freaked out about hurting himself, understandably.

Got the ponies trimmed today and took a couple more crappy pics. The first one shows the way Assegai wears his front hooves square at the front - we think it's the breakover worn in as the wall grows a bit too long. This is before the trim:
I was talking with a friend who trims her horses herself and found it really interesting hearing her technique as it differs from my trimmer's significantly. There seems to be two main camps in trimming:
  1. Load the hoof wall at toe and heels, or
  2. Trim the wall down to the level of the sole, allowing the sole to also bear weight.
There are obviously lots of other variations but this seems to be a fairly major difference and both camps hotly contest that theirs is the right way (like so many aspects of equine care!). For Assegai, I've found the second way makes him sore and lame, but the first works great. Here's what it looks like after trimming (please excuse the crappy pics - the sweat was making my fingers slip on the phone!):
NS Hind
 OS Fore

 As you can see, the wall is most definitely forming a weight-bearing ring around the sole with an obvious channel between the wall and sole. The bars are the same level as the frog. If anyone wants to know more, leave a comment. In fact, feel free to leave comments in general! Yes, this is a very self-indulgent exercise, but the intention is to be helpful....

Happy riding! Keep hydrated! (Beer and gin and tonics count....)