Monday, May 12, 2014

Stable Life

Firstly, I want to thank everyone who sent encouraging comments or vibes, and especially to Niamh
I hope you all never have to deal with a similar is-he-lame-or-is-he-pissed-or-both situation with your horses. It's a miserable mind-game.

I'm happy to report that our rides over the last ~week have been very positive, due primarily to the following:
  1. Having TK ride Hemie while I watch.
  2. Making sure I'm in a good head space before mounting. I am suiting up in full armor, giving myself a pep talk, and visualizing myself handling issues quickly and efficiently.
  3. Having a very simple, straightforward plan for the rides. For example, my first solo ride we focused on 2 things only: #1 FORWARD/no-behind-the-leg-ness-whatsoever, #2 CONSISTENT contact/following elbows. 
  4. Giving Hemie lots of praise and pats during rides - it helps us both to feel happy and calm.

TK on Hemie, with Laurie (and George) looking on.

Watching TK ride Hemie is very helpful. Nothing she does with him is new or different than what Laurie has been having me do per se, she just is a more consistent, fast, effective rider than I am. And it is helpful to see the differences so I can really know what to work on. 

The other weekend I audited a Dr. Christian Schacht clinic, and got to watch the fabulous Karen of Not-So-Speedy Dressage both days on her OTTB Sydney. I've audited Dr. Schacht's clinics before, and even rode in one earlier this year, and he is quite fabulous. Weeks later his calming voice still comes to me during rides. 

Karen and Sydney looking great!

After Karen's second ride, she was discussing with Dr. Schacht how Sydney acts up one way but not the other (only too familiar...), and his advice was to start off riding the good direction, then change direction across long diagonal, but DO NOT CHANGE YOUR POSITION. IE, still ride like you're going the other way. Don't ask for new outside rein. Don't ask for new bend. Don't change your hips or legs or anything. Then...after any tension from the direction change has gone away, slowly start to ask for new outside rein, for true bend, etc. 

Flash. Light bulb. As soon as he said this, I knew that needed to be my plan of attack for the next ride. And it REALLY helped. 

So, what about Hemie's unevenness/bucking stuff?

After repeated in-depth evaluations, both my trainer and TK think that Hemie is 100% sound. They believe his intermittent issues are behavioral/training rather than lameness related. I truly value their opinions, but I don't feel pressured to come to a personal conclusion at this point. The vet is coming out next month for shots, so I may have him do a lameness evaluation. I've also considered chiro, massage, etc, and I've been doing lots of reading on various health and training topics which may be relevant.

I've also done A LOT of research on therapeutic saddle pads. This is where I owe another huge THANK YOU to the blogosphere for reviews and commentary on various pads (side note - if your blog doesn't have a search feature, will you kindly please add one? Helps tremendously with topic searches).

I currently have a thinline pad on trial, and so far I like it but will give it a few more rides before I decide whether to buy one or try out a different type of pad if I can. 


  1. Fiction also has a weird unevenness/hitch to his walk when he's not actually trying. Not a lameness, just a training issue, so I have a similar problem :)

  2. I have a review tab :P

    Praising is very effective as just a mental feedback for ourselves.

  3. I hope it isn't a physical issue, and hopefully the special pad helps!

  4. Yay for figuring stuff out. Interesting point on not changing weight or bend on problem side, sound like good advice, especially if its a balance/ comfort thing for the horse. Holly is beastly with lead changes one way, but I realized I was anticipating her crap and tensing up, which made it worse, when I relax and ride the same way I do the other direction, they come so much easier. We forget just how much they cue off the littlest changes in us (or at least I do).

  5. Sounds like you have a great team and game plan :)

    I have a Thin Line that I like a lot and also a Ride-Light ( that I really like best :)

  6. I haven't done a review on this product specifically but I recommend anything Back on Track related :)

  7. I'm so glad I could be of some help. I was talking with my friend about it a little more and she was saying that every time the vet would evaluate her horse he would flex and jog sound and so she was told to ride him HARD for a week to see if they could aggravate the unsoundness and nothing ever showed up. You could see and feel it under saddle but it wasn't lameness per se. Very frustrating. He's gone on to me a fancy show jumper and clearly worked out of it!

    I'm just curious, what's your warm up routine for Hemie?

    ps. I highly recommend the Pessoa system to help with balance and getting horses to use their backs. It's made a huge difference with Riley who can be VERY stiff tracking right. It's nice to let him sort out the balance without me flailing about on him:)