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The challenges of horses!

Welcome to my very first blog! It's been a while coming and to be honest I have put it off for fear that no one will read it. So this is me braving the world of blogging!

It is the time of year when we are still in the throes of summer but there is that all to familiar feeling that winter is now only a few months away. How can time fly so fast?

Through a series of unfortunate events, sounds like a novel, am I right? I have gone from having a string of horses to compete to having just one. One by one horses have either been retired through old age or injury or been sold. That's not to say that I don't have other horses to work, each day at Toorala Equine Performance is filled with schooling clients horses, backing youngsters and coaching.


Back to my own horse that I compete. I made a conscious decision earlier this year that I would not compete her until we achieved two things. One was canter lead changes and the other was more swing and expression in the trot. Canter changes were very hard for this particular mare to figure out, counter-canter was easy, organising all four legs to change, not so much! After trying several different ways to explain this new exercise to her, I found initially that asking for a change on a really acute short line to be the most effective ie turning right at V changing over the centerline and then turning left at P followed by a walk transition. The walk transition was as important as the change to bring in relaxation and allow her to understand what just happened. From there we progressed on to counter-canter into a change to work on her straightness through the transition from one lead to the next. As her confidence grew we have added in other elements such as a change on a longer diagonal line. Each and every session has been tailored towards a successful outcome. We would start each session (once she was warmed up), doing transitions walk-trot-walk, canter-trot-canter and canter-walk-canter to make sure she was engaged through her hind leg and her core muscles. Sometimes we would work to improve the half passes and walk pirouettes all to engage and supple her in a nice way.

Whilst I have been focusing on this mare and her way of going, I had to remind myself to also focus on my own rider biomechanics. In my capacity as an equestrian coach and Franklin Method Equestrian Instructor, I help a lot of students with their own asymmetries and imbalances, but as is all too often one can forget to do these things yourself! I realised in teaching the changes that I was not moving enough or swinging through the change, causing an element of restriction through her back as it had to swing into the new lead. Once this revelation had occurred, the changes started to smooth out dramatically. To this end I have started to do yoga (only a little every day) to improve my suppleness. The great thing is it is paying off, and I can really feel an improvement in and out of the saddle.

It's been a bit of journey to get to this stage but a fruitful one. I have missed competing and it has been hard hearing of other rider's enjoying a successful summer season, but I also know that long term, this has been the right decision for this particular horse if we are to continue to progress up the levels. If I was to compete now, I would have to back off on some of the exercises that we are currently working on in order to achieve what we need to for a test which will set us back. The perceived expectations of one's peers has been a tough one and has helped me become a little bit tougher mentally. So for now it is on to the other goal of creating a more relaxed and swinging trot! More on that in the next blog! If you have enjoyed this or have any questions please feel free to send me an email or a message on any of our social media platforms.

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