Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grumbling: BEWARE!!

Ok I have two posts I have been wanting to get to so what better time than when you are on a 5 hour drive.  Bear with me I am going to do a bit of grumbling in this post but the next is much more light hearted.  This is about my lesson on Monday and a few saddle fitting woes.

I usually love my lessons and look forward to them.  I was eager to get to  a lesson and after so many raving comments from the clinic I may have needed to be brought down a notch or two.  I left the clinic feeling so positive about our progress.  After a terrible month weather wise for riding and getting to ride all of about 7 times I guess I should have expected it.  Then again after our second ride last week I thought it all would be a bit more fresh in his mind and our lesson would go well.  And for some reason Steady is always on his best behaviour at the barn I trailer to for lessons.  To the point that he does so well it is hard to work out some of the kinks we have at home when he is not on his best behaviour.  So I guess that could be a good thing that he did act up some.  But I am about to unroll all of my excuses as to why he could have been acting funny.  Unfortunately I think the biggest problem is a new discovery.  I think he might have soreness issues with his right hock :(.  Now I did just notice it that day but I think that because of his HIGH pain tolerence he has successfully hidden it until now.  One reason I believed it showed itself is because of the incredibly deep footing in their indoor area.  I think he was really struggling in that footing.  I mean we didn't work more than we usually do but he was really sweating and it was hard to get him moving.  Second reason I think I have not seen it until now is because he is terribly out of shape from the lack of riding this past month.  Then the cold probably caused some stiffness.  So up until now I have been incredibly thankful for my 100% sound horse and my bubble was burst a bit that he is not 100%.  I mean it is not like after racing for 8 years realistically would have no effects on his soundness so I guess I should be too surprised but when are we expecting our horses to be in pain.  Though we all know owning horses in nothing if it isn't unpredictable.

So that is that.  I left a bit discouraged over that.  Then I had  revalation when exercise after exercise I was clearly the problem in not being able to perform them.  One problem is my fitness level.  I feel like even when can figure out the correct aides I too weak to cleanly apply them.  This alone is discouraging because I have focused so heavily on my not only weightloss but also my fitness and  am still so far from acceptable.  I am incapable of sitting the trot well for even 20 meters.  With visible space between me and the saddle so clearly I am not using my leg correctly.  I realized I rely on my hands WAY too much for balance...ew.   I was pinching with my knees when asking for the canter and in turn loosing my stirrups.  I lean forwad and close my hips which directly effects all of the afore mentioned issues.  I "ride with my hands in my lap".  I am dragging him with the inside rein...gosh.  I have been wanting to really focus on my position and I can say one of my complaints from going to this particular trainer was that she never has spent much time on my position.  Well I guess I can't complain now cause she picked me apart.  Not that she wasn't right on EVERY SINGLE point because she was. I could feel it.  Now I don't believe I ride that terrible all the time but some of those issues are long standing habits that will be hard for me to over come.  Kind of like the feet too far forward having to be fixed by tying my stirrups to the girth.  Pretty soon my whole body will by tied to something.  She said I need to spend some time on the lunge line so I can work on my position.  OK now who in the world am I going to get to lunge for me??  Maybe I should make a list of the things that are right with my position.  That would be a shorter list.  Ok pitty party over.

I think her point not focusing on me and my position because she was more focused on Steady and getting rid of some of the track issues.  So I guess the good news is that we are far enough along that we are able to even focus on these things.  That alone is progress it just didnt feel that way when I was so inundated with my faults.  So my number 1 realization from Monday is that I am the problem in Steady's progress and that makes me kind of sad:(  The other #1 realizations I had from Monday (ok it doesn't make much sense to have 2 #1's but they are both very important) is NO MORE EXCUSES!!!  No more excuses to get out and ride, like "yuck, it is 15 degrees out I can't ride", or "I am tired" or "I don't have time"  but mostly "it's toooo stinking cold".  I should ride more even if it is just to build up his strength.  Amanda (trainer) told me it would be more effective to gallop him if I can't get out much.  I can say I have never taken him out and galloped him.  It kind of scares the poopoo out of me to gallop my good ole racer.  Not that he has ever given me a reason to think he would act like he was going for the win but it still makes me nervous.

As for the saddle issues we tried on a few used saddles on.  There was a nice keifer that fit well for him and I but I realized that instead of spending a few hundred here and there to patch up our saddling issues that I would rather spend a bit more and get something new that I could be way more picky about the way it fits him and me and also I can pick style, color and all that less important stuff that with a used you will take any look if it actually fits.  So I am planning to spend under $1,500 so not high end but my trainer is confident that we can find what I need.  She actually is having a custom one made for their tack store from HDR I believe.  It is a black eventerish type look with lots of added features.  I don't have the exact details but she knows Steady better than anyone besides me so I trust her judgement.  It is coming in at the end of January so I am planning to deal with my saddle until then. 

If you made through all that then thanks for caring enough to listen to my whine.  Any feedback or tips on how to help correct some of my many issues are welcome.


  1. Every horseperson who cares about their horse and how their tack, fitness and posture affect the horse confronts this issues - don't be discouraged, as this is a good thing, I think. On you own fitness/posture issues, try doing less - in fact as little as you can other than light engagement of your core muscles. Bring your chin in, keep your eyes up and stretch up. It'll be interesting to see if you feel a difference.

  2. Amy--hang in there. It's actually really good news that you can finally work on yourself. Izzy and I hit that point last spring/summer, and while it's discouraging to realize how wrong you are, just remember that you're the one who brought Steady as far as he's come. He's never going to begrudge you for holding him back; he's just happy to be a horse.

    Good luck with that hock!! The footing in our indoor was super deep for a while, and I wouldn't do any hard work in it. It's just too easy to cause an injury. Still, you have to take what you can get, and Steady sounds like a pretty great guy all around. (Plus, you take great care of him. Pat yourself on the back.)

  3. Aw, don't be too hard on yourself! It's awesome that you know exactly what your problems are; you can fix them, and what better time to do it than during the off season! I have a lot of respect for you riding an OTTB. I like them too :), but I know they can be sort of "noodley" when you ride, making it even more difficult to give all those ques! So what I'm trying to say is...Nice job :), it can be difficult.

  4. Feels good to get all that off your chest, doesn't it? ;)

    First off, I wouldn't call Steady unsound. Just about all competitive horses have hock issues, just like most all riders have knee or lower back issues. Any athlete is going to have arthritis, you just have to manage it. Good, steady, correct work will strengthen his hocks. He will be a little uncomfortable as the muscles build, then suddenly you'll have a whole new horse. Transitions help build strength in the hocks, as does hill work and trot poles (cavaletti).

    As far as your issues go: You have recognized them, and that is more than half the battle of conquering them. While I highly recommend Yoga and Pilates for rider fitness out of the saddle, I can honestly say that the fitness will also come as you think about riding better. When you make a conscious effort to correct your mistakes, you create new muscle memory, build better muscles and increase your fitness. Pretty soon you won't even remember that you had those problems.

    You're doing a great job, don't forget that!

  5. I wished we lived a little closer to each other and we could trade lunge lessons!

  6. I know how you feel girl! One thing that really helps with our riding position is yoga and pilates. I do mine at home with videos, no time for the gym with my kiddos.
    It's all about working your core and the most correct postion in the saddle is using that core! Especially for sitting the trot.
    One thing my trainer told me when sitting the trot is to not put so much weight in your stirrup because they will just bounce right off and that helped soo much.
    As for the leg slipping forward, you probably already know I have dealt with that same problem. Again my trainer wanted to tie my stirrups as well but she finally pinpointed my problem with the posting issue and when I dropped the stirrups and figured out the correct position, my leg magically came back and became much quieter!
    In all my reading with Cass' lameness I discovered that deep, fluffy footing is actually bad for the horses. That's why dressage arenas use sand so that it molds to the horse's step and provides more support. I'd keep an eye on how Steady does on different footing, that might be the key.
    Don't worry, you'll get it. It all takes time:)

  7. Everyone is entitled to a little grumbling ever once in a while lol. Trust me I do my fair share. :)

    I hope Steady's hock was just soreness from overdoing or something and that it'll go away. A lot of Thoroughbreds get arthritis and keeping them moving is the best way to deal with that. I'm not a vet though so don't take my suggestions too seriously.

    It is awful to be told the truth about our positions isn't it? When you're focusing on a young horse though it's very easy to lose yourself in it. Don't feel bad and don't feel like you are holding Steady back. Remember slow and Steady wins the race. :)

    For your hands using a bucking strap on the front of your saddle can help you figure out where your hands need to be. It helps me so much for learning the feel of "pushing the shopping cart". Having grown up riding western contact was very difficult for me to learn lol.

    For his fitness level I would thing walking/trotting up hills and using cavaletti would be the best ways to get him stronger, but it depends on what is available to you. I've never heard of using galloping . . . it would help his aerobic fitness . . . I don't know. That's new to me. :)

    Anyway I don't think your lesson was a bad thing at all. It's like you said, when the lessons go too well you don't learn as much and remember you are paying to learn. Also having someone videotape a lesson is sooooo helpful! Anyway sorry for the novel. Good luck!!


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