A long absence from blogging, although I’ve been back in the saddle since late September.
My mare, Starlight, had a layup of some months because she kicked the pipe corral fence (very hard, and repeatedly), having objected to her neighbor. Sigh. No more pipe corrals for her. Ever. She is fine, 100% recovered, but it took quite awhile of walking and slow rehab. And it was all just too depressing to write about.
Meanwhile, we moved from the SF Bay Area down to San Diego. We love our new digs; Star especially loves the trails. We have 60 miles of trails to explore, with hills and flat parts, and there is even just a lovely 10 minute walk called “The Butterfly Loop” that we take daily as a stretch/warm up before ring work. Star has a chance to limber up and listen to the birds, and I have a chance to relax and think about what we might work on.
Even when it rains, these trails stay pretty dry. You can see they put bark down on them. Today, several days after a big rain, our rings were still too wet to work in, so we trotted and cantered out here on the Butterfly Loop.
Dressage on the trail! Fun.
In fact, I’m a big fan of sneaking some dressage into a trail ride. Not enough to make it ruin the fun for the horse, but why not help the horse build good muscles while having fun?
For example, consider these exercises you could do on the trail to build better muscles:
While going up a hill, encourage the horse to reach forward over the back while remaining on the aids. Keep the head low, the neck long and reaching, the back round like a bridge (not hollow). The horse may want to rush or trot up the hill. Discourage this and maintain an even tempo.
When going down hill, think about a round back, half halting the horse, keeping him lightly on the aids and asking him to bring his hocks under him. Think round haunches, reaching under, like Piaffe! Try to keep the horse straight. If the horse is sore on one side (sore hock, for example), he may be a bit crablike down the hill, especially if it is steep. You may have to make allowances for an older, stiffer horse, but try to keep him as straight as possible.
Practice shoulder-in, haunches in, and going back and forth between them. Count the steps, if you like: five steps of shoulder-in left, five steps haunches in left, then straight five steps, stretch for 10 steps, collect again, and do it to the right.
Doing this at the walk, with no one watching, gives you plenty of time to think and feel what is going right (and wrong). I try to imagine I am some amazing Olympic rider and channel them: I am Gunther! I am Charlotte! How would they sit? What would their hands look like? How would they handle this evasion? Would they let the horse suck back? No, every problem begins in the hind end! Forward!
And of course, sometimes let’s just ride on the buckle and talk with a friend.
Or sing to your horse.
Or muse about problems…pray…plan… notice the scenery…enjoy the moment.