Moving forward … literally

Enjoying some treats after a good ride tonight

Enjoying some treats after a good ride tonight

It’s been an interesting couple days at the ranch.  Wintec Isabel #5 arrived safe and sound to its new forever home with me.  I swear I will never sell this saddle. I put the medium narrow (green) gullet in, and we had our first ride in it on Sunday.  It was a nice ride with pretty much none of the resistance I had experienced last week.   Great, I thought.  The other saddle didn’t fit well and we’re back in business.


Unfortunately the resistance returned in my lesson on Wednesday.  So I had some behavior I had to deal with.  Awesome.

Last night, the ride went well for about 30 minutes until a walk break. When I asked Derby to march forward in a working walk, he resisted, hollowing, throwing his head and even getting a little light in front, like he was thinking about going up. He was so far behind my leg it wasn’t funny, and when your horse won’t go forward, it’s not fun.   I tried to work through it, but simply put, I wasn’t ready to escalate.  I told Christy of my trepidation, and we struck off at the trot.  It’s easier for me to ride assertively at the trot, if only because I have more forward momentum.   Christy had me ride Derby through some tight serpentines, to get his braced neck unlocked and to get more control over his hind legs.  I had to ride it but it worked well – I got him more forward and we did some quality work.   But I left the walk alone, doing breaks and cooling down on the buckle.

I went home and hit the books, which all reinforced what Christy had told me during the ride – that (among other things) I have to keep control over the hind legs, asking the horse to step under himself.   So I resolved to not tolerate the resistance, and to correct it when when it first appeared.

Tonight we had a better ride.  A couple times when Derby thought about throwing his head up, I spun him around, with a strong kick from my inside leg.  His resistance disappeared for the most part.  I got very good contact and he was enthusiastically forward, which was nice because Derby was evading the bit in addition to being behind my leg earlier in the week.  The ride was fun and afterward, Derby got lots of cookies!

This is my creation and my problem to fix.  I think we’re headed in the right direction.










Cold day, cold back?



I’ve had a few nice rides on Derby since switching to Christy’s Isabell, good enough for me to pull the trigger when I found one for sale – cheap – online last week.  It arrives tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to putting a medium-narrow gullet in it and seeing how Derby goes, and I hope the results are better than what I experienced today.

Who knows if it was the cold (possible). some sore muscles (unlikely) or (more likely) an attitude issue, but Derby was a bit of a cow today.  He was very resistant, head tossing and inverted.  He *could* go nicely when I really rode him into it, but we spent an inordinate amount of time being ridiculous.   He felt very tense, and a bit explosive – a far cry from the sedate creature of last week.  He was way behind my leg, and unwilling to go forward freely.

At Christy’s suggestion, I hopped up into  a two point, to get off his back.  While we had been working for about a half hour at that point, we hadn’t accomplished much, and he didn’t seem to be improving.



After about a lap, the quality of the trot started to improve.  Christy reminded me to use my core – even in the two point – to improve my balance, and the horse registered a little approval, relaxing a bit more.  I was able to put him together then, but he still resisted a bit.

It was a bit colder tonight, in the low 20’s by the time I mounted up.  It didn’t feel like cold weather silliness (he’s quite forward in those cases.) This was something different, and I think it was a cold back.  I didn’t detect any soreness after my ride, so who knows.  I’ll put a quarter sheet on him next time, and will do my warm up in two-point to see if that does the trick.

A bit more relaxed.

A bit more relaxed.





I’m feeling pretty good about our upcoming outing this weekend.  We’ve done some good work this week, and have made some real progress on our road back to respectability.  My strength and endurance are ratcheting up, and I’m better able to carry myself.  As I take more responsibility for myself, Derby responds by moving more correctly.

What has been really interesting for me has been to watch how changes in my riding are reflected in the horse’s body language, especially his mouth.

When I’m not balanced, not fully independent with my hands, and when I’ve not put the horse together, Derby goes around “smiling” but not out of joy.  His lips are curled back and his mouth gapes.  I think it’s the horse equivalent of gritted teeth.

But when I put myself (and subsequently, the horse) together, and he stretches into the contact, the mouth is closed.

I ride Derby in a plain cavesson, for two reasons.  First, and foremost, a flash is not the solution to our problems. And secondarily, I simply don’t like the way flashes look, though I do understand the role they play in stabilizing a bit and helping to prevent a horse from crossing his jaw.  But as I said, gaping resistance on Derby’s part is a direct result of poor riding on mine.

The aforementioned cavesson, and the rest of our tack, are in the garage, freshly cleaned and soaking up some oil.  I’ll buff everything to a shine tonight, and then tackle my grimy boots.  Then we’ll be ready – really and truly ready – for our outing tomorrow. We’re going out at Intro A and B – again – but hopefully we’ll pass the test and will be declared ready to start thinking seriously about Training.


Reinstalling Go.

Got cookies? Yes, I see you do.

The chief culprit to my recent difficulties seems to be back soreness, so Derby has had the last few days off.  I got on last night, and we had a much better ride.  We’re clawing our way back but he’s still a bit resistant, and my riding needs to improve.  However, I do have some hope that we won’t embarrass ourselves too badly this weekend.

While the soreness was causing the resistance, Christy observed that I also have problems with my “go” button.  As in it needs to be reinstalled.   Derby does not motor along at a consistent pace – he stalls out and slows down, and this is my fault.   Maintaining pace is a primary responsibility of the horse.   So I paid attention last night and issued corrections (in the form of a good old Pony Club kick) when Derby stalled out.   He got the picture quickly and did a much better job holding his pace, requiring fewer reminders from me.

This problem isn’t solved by any short stretch – I also need to get and keep him in front of my leg when we halt because he’s actually starting backing on me which, as Christy puts it, is a serious offense and doesn’t lead to anything good.  Last night he was doing this and I booted him forward.  He leapt into a canter, and we stayed there for a while (it’s important to not shut them down when they offer a forward response, even if it is more enthusiastic than what was requested.)  And after that, we seemed (for the moment at least) to be over the backing nonsense.

So, backing issues not withstanding, we’re heading back in the right direction.  5 more days.  Awesome.

What’s wrong?

So we’re T-minus 7 days until our first show, and my last two rides on Derby have not been good at all.  He’s been very resistant, not wanting to bend, and not wanting to go forward.

Christy has had me work on the response to my leg, both in terms of lateral response to calf pressure, and forward response.  Both are marginally better but still not fantastic, though with a lot of work last night, I was doing trot/canter/trot transitions on a circle pretty easily – meaning that I didn’t have to ask emphatically, and that Derby’s response was swift.

However, the real resistance is to rounding.  He’s going around braced against the reins, with the muscles on the underside of his neck bulging.  He will round and soften momentarily when I really get busy with my inside leg, but then he pops right back into bracing.

Christy and I discussed this resistance at length after my lesson.  I had gone over his back before and after, and there was no soreness either before and after the ride.  So what’s going on? Derby is generally a pretty uncomplicated horse, and is pretty willing. I recalled how we had a terrible ride last weekend when I tried a thicker pad that combined fleece and memory foam.  I had no go button and lots of resistance.  I went back to my usual fleece half pad, and had two nice rides on Monday and Tuesday.  I’m going to remove the fleece pad for my ride on Saturday, and will go with just a saddle pad.

Hopefully this simple equipment change will solve the issue!