Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Get Back- thoughts on bringing horses back after time off

*This post is set to the dulcet tones of the Beatles singing Get Back*

Jumping miss Cadence last weekend

Bringing a horse back from time off, wether it's due to illness/injury, or simply a vacation, seems to be one of those things most people skip over. I get  why- there's nothing particularly exciting about trotting in circles day in & day out. But how different people bring a horse back in to work, especially when the horse is sound and doesn't have to go through any rehab, seems to vary greatly not just between disciplines, but within them as well.

Ms. Chubby basking in the sunlight

I'm definitely a slow and steady wins the race kind of girl. Cadence had under two weeks off this winter, but I took a solid 3 weeks to bring her back. We spent a week lunging, slowly increasing the amount of time spent trotting and cantering, and adding side reins in at the end too. We then spent a week doing "light riding" and longe work, focusing on getting her hind end engaged and starting to work over her back a bit. We also popped over a baby x from the trot a few times. Then the next week, we started back to real dressage work & a little bit more jumping, focusing on keeping everything respectful & relaxed. Finally, this past week after about a months work, we had our first lesson back.
Strutting her stuff free-longing in the indoor
We moved barns shortly before Cadence's winter holiday started, & I'm pretty sure half the people at the new place thought I was nuts slowly plodding along as we did. However, one month out we're almost back to full strength, & I'd say we're leaps & bounds ahead of where we left off before our holiday. Could we have accomplished as much if I'd just thrown her back into nearly full work? She only had 2 weeks off, & probably could have handled it, but I like to look at the re-conditioning process as a chance to take your horse back to square 1. It's like you're restarting them from the ground up; you can fill in any gaps you find, correct any bad habits that may have cropped up, rebuild their muscling correctly, etc. and hopefully emerge from the process better than you left off.
She'd make such a pretty hunter! If only she was sane...and less blurry

Friday, January 16, 2015

4 Long Years

A little over four years ago, I sat on a very special little mare for the first time! She was green, hot, so uneven and crooked it felt like she stopped trotting and started pacing every time you'd go to the right, and she whipped her head up in the air every few strides when she cantered. She walked in circles around you when you attempted to bridle her, pawed incessantly, never stood still, and was the narrowest thing you ever did see. But to me, she was perfect.
 Meeting Cadence, & first ride
She was light, sensitive, and athletic. Every movement was graceful, every jump was powerful. We've had our fair share of ups & downs. In December of 2011, Cadence had a 3inch piece of hoof wall removed from her leg. She was out of work from December till February, and it wasn't until about July that we were back to where we were before the accident. And this past summer, I fall off the Mare more than I stayed on- a dangerous habit when you've got Mono.
If you'd asked me four years ago where I thought I'd be today, I'm sure I would have said that we'd be popping around CCIs and that by 2020 we'd be rocking around Rolex.
Totally Cadence & I. Or maybe William Fox-Pitt.... hard to tell.
While we may not have made it to Rolex yet, we've had some ups as well. Cadence and I won the first event we ever completed, and have continued our track record by placing in all but two of the events we've completed. We placed at champs both years we attended, and have racked up numerous ribbons in the dressage world as well,
Completing her first xc course! She went on to win her next show too.
But more important than any of that are the accomplishments you see on a day to day basis. I have a mare that will follow me around the ring. She schools second level dressage like a rockstar, & jumps 1.30m like its no big deal. I trusted her enough to put my precious niece on her as a 2y/o, and Cadence gives her pony rides just about every time they visit.
We've had the opportunity to ride with some amazing people too. When we went to North Carolina in 2013 we rode with Denny Emmerson at his farm in Southern Pines, I've also had the privilege of riding with Canadian team riders Hyde Moffatt, Belinda Trussell, and Jessica Phoenix (one from every discipline!) along with countless other talented and inspiring professionals, including my own coach.
Lesson with Ian Roberts
Lesson with Hyde Moffatt
I'm so thankful for all that this wonderful mare has given me, and if in four years time I can look back on our journey with the same joy I feel today, I'll be a very lucky person. Thanks for a brilliant 4 years Psycho Mare, and here's to many more to come.
Have a great 2015!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Back in the Tack

Cadence had two weeks off in December while I wrote exams and visited family. Then, starting Christmas Eve, I began to recondition her. I can be a little obsessive about reconditioning, but I'd rather go slow than risk an injury. Unfortunately the down shot of this plan is that Cadence puts fitness on really quickly, and within a few lunge sessions she's ready to rock, even if the musculature isn't there. So I've had a wired, under muscled nut job to deal with these past few weeks!
Oh how I long for the days when she would canter calmly!

She's starting to improve though, to the point where I popped her over a little x on Thursday, and it was all quite civilized! We did have a minor sore back to contend with this past week, so she's getting a massage tomorrow and a long lining session to get her working over her back a bit better.