Saturday, January 27, 2007

Lessons with Jo Graham

Last week Grace and I went over to Cheshire to have a lesson with the British Dressage trainer, Jo Graham. Grace loaded and travelled very well, she did not sweat up at all and seemed to settle after her initial few shouts as we left the yard.

Andy helped me tack her up, and Jo asked me to come into the school and work in as I did at home. So we worked in long and low, but she was quite tense and spooky (it was very windy, and there were lots of scary things lying around). As I asked for right canter, a lady was turning her horse out in the field next to the school and Grace thought it was all just too exciting and did three huge bucks, the last one unseating me completely and we parted company!

Despite this little ‘mishap’ at the beginning, we went on to have a really good lesson. Jo said I am doing too much and Grace not enough. She relies on me to hold her up, keep her going and to do all the work. We worked on getting her much sharper off the leg and into a more consistent contact. This involved shortening my reins and not using my legs as much, just when she backed off.

Since our lesson we have been working really hard on what Jo had pointed, and it did not take long for me to realise how little work Grace was getting away with. Since following our new ‘routine’ Grace has been sweating up quite a lot after a 45 minutes session, whereas before she would not even be out of breath!

The difference in the way Grace is going is unbelievable. She is coming up in her shoulder now, sitting back on her hocks a little and learning what a half halt means!

We did have a lesson booked for tomorrow, but Grace had a bit of a swollen leg on Thursday morning, was trotting up slightly lame and it was quite hot. So I got the vet out (I’m paranoid about tendons) and discovered she had an infection in her leg which was causing the swelling. I have been cold hosing it twice a day and bandaging it at night, which along with the antibiotics have brought the swelling right down and she is no longer lame.

So we now have the Spencer Wilton clinic to look forwards to on Wednesday…

Monday, January 15, 2007

Grace has a new friend!

Grace has become very attached to my other mare, Hannah, who is currently 10 months in foal and ready to pop! Whenever I took Hannah away from her, Grace would go absolutely bananas and scream and scream until she came back. It became worse while I was away. I think this was because her routine had changed and she did not have me to cling to in situations.

I put up with the screaming and running around for as long as I could, but then decided that ignoring her was just not working as well as I had hoped it would. I looked into various options (calmers, toys, licks) and came up with the idea of getting her a stable mirror.

The first time she saw herself she snorted at the mirror and ran to the other side of her stable, but the longer she spent with it the more she liked it. She even went to sleep next to it on the first night! With the mirror she has become much better when Hannah goes, and apart from the occasional relapse when Hannah shouts and she knows she is just around the corner, it seems to be working. I am just keeping my fingers crossed that she keeps improving because in a couple of weeks Hannah will be going out every day without Grace.

Other than the attachment issues, Grace has improved in her schooling too. She is becoming much more consistent in her canter work and it is now easier to get her trot more uphill and her into a more grown up shape. The eggbutt snaffle I put in to help her reach for the contact has now done its job and she has started setting against it when she is having a ‘silly’ moment so I am going to try her in Hannah’s Nueue Schule one (copy of the KK) to help lift her shoulders and to prevent her setting against it. It is also much kinder as it does not have the nutcracker action of the eggbutt.

Up until now I have taken her work quite slowly, but I feel we are at a stage where we need to start increasing her work load and asking a bit more of her. Because of this, I have booked a lesson with the British Dressage trainer Jo Graham, and we are going over to Warrington on Sunday morning. Hopefully she can give Grace and me something to work on over the next few weeks as I would like to get her out to some unaffiliated competitions this spring, and then affiliate her before the summer.

We have also been given a place on the Spencer Wilton clinic at the end of January which I am really looking forwards to as he has a lot of experience with the younger horse and he will know immediately whether she could make the grade I believe she can do.

Until then we will keep working on the things I feel she is weak on and Andy is coming taking some photographs tomorrow afternoon so there are some photos to follow tomorrow.

Rebecca and Grace

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Three months on...

I have been a little poor updating my blogs recently as things have been very hectic with Christmas coming up and changing my job… but I promise to update this regularly in future as it would be nice to have something to look back on in the future.

I am actually on holiday at the moment, sunning myself on the beautiful island of Barbados… it is glorious sunshine, white sandy beaches and turquoise water; what more could you want!

Grace has been gradually improving, although we have had a huge milestone to contend with: mud rash! It suddenly flared up and got worse and worse in a very short space of time. The vets kept coming to look, putting her on antibiotics and still it would not go. We finally got a grip on it a few weeks ago and it has been gradually improving, although she had a small relapse this week while I have been away. I called the vet out from here because I know how quickly it can flare up, and they have taken a sample of scab (lovely!) to send to be cultured. If this does not show much up she will have to go into the vets and have a small biopsy of the leg it has affected the most to finally get to the bottom of what is going on!

Apart from her mud rash Grace and I have lots to tell you…

We have been hacking out with a friend of mine on her chestnut Thoroughbred (two gingers together) and so far Grace has behaved very well. She gets a bit worried by bigger vehicles such as coaches, skips and so on, but she tried plunging forwards and as soon as you put the pressure on she will stop and just shake while it goes past. This is just baby behaviour and the more she sees the better she will become.

We have also been doing a lot of work in the school on her balance. When she first came she found it difficult to canter (although not down the field squealing I may add) and her trot was very choppy and wobbly. But behind this you could see she had a natural ability for dressage. So we started from the very beginning once she had been rebacked and have worked our way up.

Grace is now working consistently well in trot and walk and I have started asking her for a more advanced outline which she is finding difficult but is doing with a lot of success. Her left bend is becoming much easier and elastic, but when I had the saddle fitter out she felt that she had a twinge in the right hand side of her back so the physio is booked for Monday morning when I get back!

Before I came away on holiday I was absolutely frantic trying to get organised for Christmas, so I have to admit the number of times rode diminished a little. However, my gorgeous husband said he would come and muck out on Christmas Eve so I could ride Grace one last time before I came away.

The saddle fitter also felt the dressage saddle I have been using is now too wide because Grace has lost a lot of weight and has a lot of muscle now to build up. She tried Hannah’s Albion SLK Ultima on her and it fitted perfectly, it just needed lifting a little at the wither. Until it was being stuffed (the lady was taking it away while I was on holiday) I used a front lifter polypad… What a difference!

Grace has always been on the forehand in the canter and it has been difficult to get her to stretch over her back. However on Christmas Eve she just glided, lifted her back and we were cantering the most beautiful canter. I just could not believe it… I cannot wait to get back and get back on!

I will get Andrew to take some photographs over the next few weeks and show you how much she has changed in the past three months. I look back at the photographs of her when she first came and she now looks like a different horse. She is fit, starting to tone up and looking much finer in her build.

Grace and I were booked in on the Spencer Wilton lessons at Arkenfield this month, but as luck has it they are while I am still away. So I’ll have to wait until next month now which is a shame. I am also planning on getting involved the Northern Dressage Group when I get home as they hold a lot of clinics that would be fantastic for a young horse. We should be looking to do our first few Prelims in the next few months, but I have a feeling she will move up to Novice quite quickly!