Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Collection…The key to good pirouettes, good tempi changes, etc. etc.

Cooper & I had a wonderful lesson with Chris Hickey recently.  Collection, especially as to how it relates to flying changes & pirouettes, was the focus of much of the lesson.  It is easy to end up either a little stuck in place or a little flat and not quite round enough in the collected canter. We worked a lot on adjustability within the canter, maintaining the correct frame throughout. 
Chris had a good exercise for the pirouettes:  Develop a working pirouette, and enlarge it for a stride or two, then make it a little smaller for a stride or two.  Then leg yield out of the pirouette.  Repeat several times.

To get good tempis I need to get the horse collected, and jumping forward.  Morten Thompsen once suggested I imagine a jumping scenario. What works for me is to recall from my Eventing days:  a drop jump to a big vertical a couple of strides away.

An actual exercise that I have found useful for 2-tempis: When I get a really good pirouette (Cooper’s pirouettes have improved dramatically recently) then come out of the pirouette and ask for 2-tempis. Today we had five 2-tempis in a row, and I could have asked for more…they were balanced, jumping and straight.  The ½ pirouette helped me get the right canter for the tempis.  Now I need to work on getting the correct canter, which I need for the pirouette, and take it straight to the tempis, without letting it fall apart.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Insulin resistant horses

Ever since Cooper had his bout of laminitis I have been researching how to deal with the metabolic disorder:  Insulin Resistant horse.
A friend suggested I try Chromium as a supplement and I found this very interesting article from Kentucky Equine Research: http://www.ker.com/library/advances/130.pdf
In addition to giving Cooper a Chromium supplement (I am using Platinum Performance Chromium Yeast) I have changed his diet.  He was already in intense work, (he's not obese or inactive), training at the FEI levels in dressage.
I have reduced the amount of concentrate feed to 1lb 3 times a day. It's a low carbohydrate feed from Southern States, Legends Carb Care Performance.  And he also gets 1 lb of soaked beet pulp (no molasses added) at each feeding. He is also on the human diabetes drug Metformin.  His timothy/orchard grass hay is soaked a minimum of 30' then drained, to remove sugar (research suggests that hay soaked for 30' or more removes about 30% of the sugars.)
So far, so good, Cooper has shown no more signs of laminitis and he is working well.  In fact he actually feels lighter and more willing to work than he did before he got sick.  I'm thinking now that we are managing his metabolism better he feels better in his body.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Getting Stronger...Developing the Collected Canter

I have to admit back before I had brought my horse up to the FEI levels I thought I knew how much strength a horse needed.  But until I experienced it myself I had no real idea.  In order for the horse to perform at this level the horse needs to be fit, strong and balanced.  Without the strength to support himself the horse cannot remain in balance, no balance, no collection!

Yesterday I had one of the best rides on Cooper ever!  He’s still not quite where he was, strength-wise, prior to his laminitis episode, but he’s getting there, we were able to do four 2-tempis in balance for the first time since he got sick.  It’s a challenge here in SW Florida to build strength & stamina, we have no hills to work on.  But we have cavalletti and we can work on transitions.  We also work outside in the jump field, or go out on trails.

In addition to the usual canter exercises, like spiraling in and leg-yielding out on a circle; shallow loop serpentines; canter half-pass; transitions between shorter and longer strides; I have been using the following exercises for the canter:
Counter canter is an excellent suppling exercise when done in a controlled and balanced way.  The horse needs to be able to counter canter in balance prior to doing this particular exercise.
Pick up the counter canter to E or B, begin a 20 meter circle in counter canter, as you cross the centerline turn onto a 10 meter circle in true canter, then as you finish your 10 meter circle at the centerline continue your counter canter 20 meter circle until the next time you cross the centerline where you again make a 10 meter circle in true canter. 
I have been using this exercise and find it an excellent gauge of Cooper’s strength and balance.

Canter transitions from the halt:  Halt at C. Canter from the halt into a 10 meter half circle left rein. At the center line halt again. Canter right rein 10 meter half circle, halt on the center line.  Continue down the center line doing canter/halt transitions until you get to A. Then walk on a long rein.  

I am hoping that soon we will be back to full strength and be able to start showing again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Celebrate the Canter

Today was a day to celebrate, we got to canter for the first time since early December.  My friend Agneta gave me some bling-y bandage fasteners for Christmas, so in honor of cantering for the first time since Cooper got sick, I put them on.  I have been gradually adding more trot to Cooper’s daily work and today I decided to try a little canter. He felt great!  We just went once around the arena in each direction.

Trot exercises: Warm up with some leg yields, then we start trotting some of the same exercises I did at the walk
Half pass away from the track for a couple of strides then leg yield back to the track.
Shoulder-in change to haunches-in
Shoulder-in to renvers.

And, of course, we have started the shortening and lengthening of stride in the trot, just asking for a couple of steps longer, then a couple shorter.  Making sure the rhythm stays the same in both the longer & shorter strides.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Walking, walking, walking...when all you can do is walk.

                                                              (photo: Michael Gardner)

Recently my horse was confined to his stall for almost a month, and when he was allowed out, it was just to walk a few minutes each day. He was getting very depressed, his coat was dull, and he just hung his head. Not his usual demeanor at all, he needed something to make him feel good. He was no longer in pain, so I decided to start working on some exercises. Once we got up to 15 minutes of walking a day I introduced a few exercises to keep him occupied, bending and obedient, he's FEI level so many of the exercises include lateral work, such as shoulder-in, travers (haunches-in), renvers, leg yield & half-pass.
I started with just some leg yielding, then added shoulder-in & haunches-in down the long sides, as the days progressed I added a little renvers and half-pass to the mix. At the end of the exercises we go for a short walk in the field. Now his whole attitude has changed, his coat no longer looks dull, his eyes are bright & he's back to his old self:  fidgety, pushy and affectionate.
Exercise #1: On the left rein turn down the center line, leg yield right (away from the rider's left leg) to the quarter line, keeping the horse very straight & parallel to the long side. At the quarter line shoulder-in right the rest of the length of the arena.  Do the same on the right rein. A good exercise to put the horse in the outside aids and keep the horse straight.
Exercise #2: On the left rein down the long side half-pass left a couple of steps to the inside of the track, then leg yield right back to the track, then immediately half-pass left again. Do the exercise on both reins. This exercise requires the rider use the inside seat bone for both the half-pass & the leg yield and it balances the horse, making him responsive and quick to the aids.
Exercise #3:  On the left rein, turn down the center line, shoulder-in left keeping the haunches on the center line,  then move the horse's shoulders to the right of the center line, keeping the haunches on the center line, so you are now in haunches-in right position. Once you can move the shoulders from one side of the center line to the other keeping the haunches on the center line you can then take the shoulders back to the left into a pirouette. This exercise is excellent for making the horse's forehand lighter & more maneuverable.  It takes a lot of practice to keep the horse's haunches on the center line, while moving the shoulders from one side to the other, but if pays off in the end, in that your pirouettes will become much easier. (this exercise is also good in the canter)
We have now just started trotting, so fingers crossed that my horse continues to rehabilitate well.