Archive for August, 2009
Has the recession got you and your horses down in the mouth?
This week Larissa and I have found ourselves brainstorming to find ways to keep our horses , show, buy equipment and supplies,while saving money, all in ways that won’t compromise our training or our horse’s well being.No doubt everyone is feeling the pinch and horses are an expensive endeavour at the best of times.
We’ve come up with a few ideas we have each found helpful and hope you will as well. Feel free to comment with your own economizing thoughts since we would benefit from them as well.
At Larissa’s barn several boarders went in together to purchase a Pessoa lunging system since they all wanted to use it but f
ound the cost a bit much individually. Larissa suggests layering blankets ie: covering a light blanket with a rain sheet and thereby avoiding buying different blankets for every season. She also found a recent ad for Wintec saddles calling them “the smart choice for these hard times. ” I can vouch for that and in addition would suggest looking for one and other tack items on ebay. I very recently bought a school saddle, a Wintec Dressage Sport in truly mint conditon off ebay for $129.00! Needlless to say , I’m thrilled.
Of course shopping on ebay has it’s risks, do your homework , research the reviews on the seller , use Paypal, take precautions with chequing acct# and credit cards but by and large ebay has a good reputation for credibility and security. they also have vast amounts of horse related items at ridiculously low prices. Good news to all!
Some other ideas we at Sunhall are using to combat this recession may sound a bit odd but give them a try and see if they work for you.This year we felt the need to add to our arena footing. It needed more bounce and life. Most products I looked into were great but simply beyond my budget range. I happened to be visiting Rideauwood Farm near Ottawa where two time Canadian team dressage rider Suzanne Dutt Roth is based. Her footing was amazing! On closer examination I saw it was filled with corks ( real NOT synthetic) cut in half and added by the thousands to the arena base.
I contacted several local pubs who are now saving corks for me free of charge and have begun to notice a real difference in the life of our base. ( Alternatively you could drink a great deal of wine ) but practicality would suggest the former method.
We use one product where in the past we had many different ones ie: we use Murphy’s Oil soap to clean woodwork ,tack, boots and in small amounts and a bucket of warm water …even bath horses.
The boarders get together on bulk purchases of various items an example being wormer paste and usually can get a deal when buying by the case. We all spend a few days this time of year and have hay days getting in several thousand bales and saving a great deal picking it up from the field. We finish the day off with a cookout and even get a few more corks for the arena from wine around a campfire.
We all go together on vet and farrier calls , unless emergency and save quite a bit on the stable call fees this way.
A lot of children ride here and many outgrow breeches and boots before wearing them out. There is an exchange box in the tack room where outgrown items can be traded for ones that fit at no charge. My students go to thrift shops and buy boys suit jackets for about $5.00 which are great for growing kids, perfectly fine for first and schooling shows. They wear rubber boots or paddock boots until feet stop growing saving hundreds on leather boots that won’t fit them for long.
Dealing with farmers ,feed dealers, vets and even tack shops these days, I find you can get a substantial discount by paying in cash.If several people you ride with are ordering items from the same tack shop the shipping fee is very negotiable and sometimes waived altogether.
In the last few years with the help of parents and riders we have built two 20×60 dressage rings for shows with scrap wood and paint , gotten free, from our local recycling centre.
The city of Windsor held a charity beach volleyball tournament and had beautiful beach sand brought in for it. After the competition they wanted it removed . We were able to get all that beautiful sand for the outdoor rings absolutely free and paid only the trucking costs.
This past year we have been sharing several top clinicians with various local barns , thereby really cutting down the cost per session and allowing more riders to participate. One barn will billet the clinician overnight, another feed them lunch , another drive them from barn to barn etc.saving trailering costs and avoiding shipping in nasty winter conditions.
It takes riding companions you can trust, a spirit of cooperation in your local horse community , some creative thinking and an open mind to the “no idea too small”way of approaching things but truly there are a great many ways to cut the costs of riding , showing and keeping your horse in the manner they are accustomed to.
We’ll get though this recession and improve our business , communication and thinking abilities in the process. Hopefully the entire horse world will become more practical , less wasteful and united by these hard times. remember, “together we can afford to ride” Cheers. Happy Saving. Libby Keenan
I was recently asked to write something on keeping horses turned out to pasture. I don’t currently have any horses that are out all the time but have in the past and so will give you my thoughts on the subject. At first glance it would seem this is an easy and economical alternative to stable kept equines.
There are however a great many things to take into account in creating a safe and healthy, completely outdoor environment to keep horses in. The first and most important factor is the question of enough suitable pasture to support basic nutritional needs. If the horses boarded out are also in work , in most cases , other than perhaps very easy keeping ponies, supplements will be needed. This may be additional hay , grain , minerals and vitamins.
It will take roughly one acre of good quality pasture to support one average sized horse.If this is not available a good option is the use of “graveyard feeders” so named for the gravestone shaped feeding holes in the large plastic holders that contain a large round bale each. These feeders are excellent because they protect the bales from rain rot and in addition are not overly heavy. This means they can be easily moved about thereby preventing the mud patches that tend to form around round bales , often causing chapped and cracked heels and various other problems from caked mud on feet.
Adequate fresh water is crucial. If a pond is available it will suffice, especially if there is a fresh water inlet so the water is not merely standing. Again, this tends to get very muddy around the base and also usually has a lot of algea and other bacteria that can cause gut problems. Several large troughs are preferable but must be checked often for droppings, dead rodents and slime build up.Ideally the water source should be only what is needed in a few days by the number of horses drinking from it so it can be cleaned and checked often.It is extremely important that water troughs have no rough or sharp edges.
Creep feeders can be used for grain but if it is possible to bring horses in for grain this is ideal as somehow the pecking order usually leaves the dominant horses very well fed and those more timid left out and scarred from kicks and bites.
Horses do not graze efficiently. They grab a few bites of grass , then walk a bit , then grab a mouthful and so on. Usually they will not eat grass that they or others have walked on. They avoid very long grass most likely because of mosquitos. It is a good idea to mow the whole area about once a month . This keeps fresh , new grass starting and also stops weeds from gaining the upper hand in a pasture. Several common weeds are quite toxic to horses. Milk weed, Queen Anne’s lace, Burdock and buttercups to name a few. Horses usually won’t eat weeds that are toxic to them but some will and some weeds ie:Buttercups can cause blistering of the skin and severe reactions even from contact.
Fencing must be rugged and safe. I tend toward post and rail but this requires a lot of checking and maintenance. In pastures where food is abundant they work best since the horses don’t tend to be seeking to go further afield in search of grass.No climb wire fence is a good way to go but there must not be any holes large enough to trap a horse’s foot or leg.A top line of electric wire is probably wise and tends to keep horses in further from the fence rather than trying to forage through or under it.
If feasible horses turned out should have company as this way they can share tails to swat flies and share body heat in damp, cold conditions.
Shade and shelter from wind are both absolutely necessary for horses.Trees can provide this but run in sheds are more acceptable in more extreme climates. Large salt/mineral blocks should be easily accessible to all.The entire area should be checked on a regular basis for snake or groundhog holes that could trap and break a horse’s leg.
Every couple of weeks, depending on the number of horses the area should be picked for manure. This cuts down on the amount of cross infectation of parasites from one horse to another in addition to a good worming schedule.
The biggest problem I think needs to be considered is that horses living out may actually not have contact with handlers for several days. Cuts, infections, respiratory issues can all go unnoticed until they become seriously damaging to a horse’s health. I personally believe that horses turned out should be individually checked on at least once a day for any problems in the making.Feet need special attention as they tend to chip and split much more easily and shoes are lost more often with pasture kept horses.
Horses who are not holding their own in a group should be removed as serious injuries can result from fights. Once a clear pecking order is established most horses respect it and get along fine but some make trouble or are constantly picked on.
All weather rugs should be on horses in rougher climates. These should be checked often for holes and tears that could catch on fencing and trees.While haltered horses would seem easier to catch , a little time teaching your horse to be haltered in the field is a much safer way to go. Halters can snag on natural obstacles very easily causing injury and panic .
While keeping horses out certainly saves on labour and bedding costs it is not as carefree as it would first appear.If you decide to use this method of horsekeeping please do some research and make sure you will be meeting your horse’s feed , safety, shelter and companionship needs.I think , in the end you will find some horses ideally suited to the outdoor life and others much happier in a stable environment. story by Libby Keenan
October 17th is the day
When ghosts of blogs come to play
A Fanciful Twist hosts the show
Haunted tales soon you’ll know
Tack n’ Talk will join this Halloween Fête
The brooms are ready, the cauldron is set
We’ll post stories and pics of the gory scene
And link to Twist for more Halloween
Witchy bloggers from all around
Will be sharing their posts til’ midnight sounds
Larissa and Libby hope you’ll appear
To Tack n’ Talk Blog for some spooky cheer!
Wow , another weekend has rolled around already. I think this is one of the fastest summers in my life. Larissa is crazy busy getting organized for her big move to the UK to school and I have a brief respite from a very full show season with several students and myself competing this year.:) I hope you are all enjoying these last few weeks of summer and getting in some wonderful rides:)
I got to thinking this week in the barn , since one of our boarded mares has been in heat all week and squealing and kicking to beat the band, that equine communication is almost as varied and diverse as our own.I thought I would print a short glossary of translations from Equine to English. These are all quite common but handy to be aware of. Perhaps you know of many others yourself:)
”NOBODY UNDERSTANDS ME”!
teeth grinding irritation or tension
mouthing , neck extended submission , common in foals
teeth barred look out! about to bite
upper lip curled reaction to smell
flapping lips nervous habit , impatience
lower lip hanging extreme relaxation
lips tight , pursed irritation , stress, tension
ears pricked forward horse is alert, curious
ears flucking back and forth horse is listening, thinking
ears pinned back horse is warning aggression
neck raised , erect horse is intensely interested
neck extended, low submission or relaxation
neck arched excitement, passion
tail swishing swatting flies
tail switching faster irritation , may kick
tail wringing very fast severe irritation , discomfort
tail flagged over back high spirits , energetic
tail tucked fear , submission.pain
tail raised , cocked to side mare in heat
back leg stomping irritation , usually at flies
front leg pawing impatience or colic
back leg cocked relaxed
front leg(s)extended sore leg or foot , founder
There are hundreds more and of course the more you understand the better you and your horse can relate to each other These are common to most horses. Many horses have their own individual signals as well.I have one horse who runs his teeth up and down the stall bars only if he is not feeling well(so I won’t leave the barn without helping him) and a boarder who hangs out his tongue and chews on it while waiting for his grain. Horses are absolutely as unique individuals as we are with a rich language of body movements and sounds to get their points across.
Have fun listening to your horse and Happy riding:) Cheers .Libby
Story by Libby Keenan
photo credit CBC
Of course everyone knows about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride.
Founded in 1877 the ride has been performed countless times all over the world.The stables , just outside of Ottawa Ontario breed sport horses of a very specific size,colour and temperament for the drill team. Horses not meeting these requirements are auctioned to good homes about once every 5 years.
The most interesting point about the musical ride to me is the fact that all of the movements performed in it are at Dressage First and Training level. The key to the majesty of the spectacle is the fact that the choreography and timing are impeccable.
Once as a child I watched the performance at the Royal Winter fair in Toronto. For some reason one rider fell off. Rather than running away or heading for the stable his mount continued in formation and completed the entire show without any rider. I was astonished to realize the horses knew the routine at least as well as the rider and clearly enjoyed being part of it.
In Dressage, the Musical Freestyle rides are named Kurs. These can be performed with one horse and rider or two (Pas de Deux), three ( Pas de Trois) or four ( the Quadrille).
If you are a competitive rider , casual or simply wanting to have some fun with riding buddies and get to know your horses better and improve your riding as well, I would strongly recommend tandem and or group formation riding. It is a terrific way to learn how to use your seat and other aids to adjust your horse’s pace. Start with walk figures. Going large learn to keep the horses heads even with each other. Some horse’s natural strides are very alike but many are of much different length and speed and so you must adjust your mounts’ steps to match that of the other horse/horses you are riding with . This can be done by holding with your seat or driving up with the leg , half halting or pushing a bigger stride out of your horse. Keep in mind the horse on the inside will need to travel considerably slower than the outside horse. so much so that depending on the number of horses in the ride, the one on the outside may be cantering and the inside horse walking.
It is a good idea to ride to fairly loud music with a clearly defined beat. Most horses will naturally adjust their stride to be in time with the music. Remember to control your horse with your legs and voice since you will be asking them to work very closely to another horse or two and you must always allow room for the next horse so as not to give an invitation for kicks and squabbles to begin.
With a little practice you will find yourselves ready to add simple figures to your ride. Changing the rein with horses passing each other at X always looks impressive. You must keep your head up at all times and your eyes on the other rider/s to be sure you will all meet merging points at the right time. In the case of passing at X you should always pass left to left meaning the horse you are facing is always on your left.Another move that appears much more difficult than it actually is is to have one horse on a 20 metre circle on one rein , another horse circling inside of that on the other rein adjusting strides so that the horses pass each other at say A and X.
You can have horses enter at A in walk or trot coming to halt abreast at X , proceeding you can then break off onto opposite reins at C. down the long side you could loop in to be side by side one or two strides at X and then back out to K and F. The possibilities are endless as long as keep your horse’s manners and pace under control at all times.
Once your horse has some experience with this kind of work you can add trot and canter to the patterns with changes of the music adding to the overall mood of the movements.
This kind of work will make your horse much better behaved in the warm up ring at shows, much better mannered out hacking in company and much more adjustable in their gaits. In the process of learning to keep where you should be you will find yourself keeping your head up much better and you will find you have much better communication with your horse.
You may end up competing in some Kur classes as even most local shows now offer Freestyle options. Even if you just participate for fun with some riders from your own stable you will feel your confidence for riding in company soar. It’s fun , great exercise, inspiring and creative to see what spectacles of your own you can create.
Have fun , safety first and enjoy your own Musical Ride Libby Keenan
By Larissa Cox
If you are having difficulty in schooling lateral work, and have inconsistent scores in lateral movements in dressage shows, these 10 tips can help you achieve greater results, be more confident during lateral maneuvers, and have a more harmonious connection with your horse.
10) Look where you are going
Lateral movements can be intimidating. It’s often easy for a rider to get hooked on looking down at their horse to see if they are doing the movement correctly. DON’T DO IT! When you drop your head, most likely your torso will follow, and your seat will come off the saddle. Even if you just lower your eyes down, the weight of your head is displaced, which impacts your weight aids over your seat bones. Your weight aid is perhaps the most important instructional cue for your horse, as it influences balance and self carriage. When your weight changes to more forward over the shoulder and down, your horse becomes more downhill and heavy. Instead, hold your head high, put your shoulders back, and look confidently where you want your horse to go! To help this, try setting up a mirror at either end of the rail. This will encourage you to look up into the mirror to check the correctness of the movement, rather than down at the horse. When there is no mirror, pretend you see your reflection, as your horse executes the desired movement perfectly!
9) Shorten your reins
A problem for a lot of riders is they ride lateral movements, which require substantial collection and self-carriage from their horse, with too long of a rein. A shorter rein will help you make a connection to the hind end, make half-halts easier to achieve, and increase sensitivity in the lateral movements. A shorter rein will help your horse balance over the hind end, and prevent a horse from getting “strung-out” in the maneuver. Be careful though that shorter reins do not cause you to tip forward, which as we discussed in tip #10, can have negative implications on the lateral movement, which cancel out anything gained by shorter reins. Instead, bring your seat forward towards your hands, and keep your elbows loosely connected to your hips.
8 ) Be a mirror for your horse
I see a lot of riders twisting their bodies when they want their horses to move on a straight track, and being very immovable with their bodies when they want their horses to move on separate tracks. Be a mirror for your horse. If you want your horse to move on three tracks in the shoulder-in, position your own hips and torso into the movement. If you want your horse to carry its weight the outside or inside hind leg, position your own weight over that leg. In this way, you are literally demonstrating for the horse what you want him to do; the horse will move corresponding to your weight. This does not mean collapse your rib cage, as again, your horse will follow this incorrect movement.
7) Don’t be afraid to circle
If your lateral movement is not going the way that you wanted it to, don’t be afraid to regroup in a small circle. A circle would be appropriate at any gait, in any lateral movement including shoulder-in, travers, or half-pass. Also, don’t be afraid to circle several times if you feel it is necessary. This regrouping can dramatically help your training of lateral movements – you will be more relaxed in the movement with awareness of an “out”, training will be in shorter, more bite-sized increments, and consequently, communication of your aids will become clearer for your horse.
6) Incorporate other lateral movements into the exercise to help the one you are concentrating on
Ride a half-pass like a travers across the diagonal to keep the hind end from trailing out behind. Think about a slight shoulder-fore in the travers to keep the bend, and prevent the movement from becoming too similar to a leg yield. If your horse is falling out through the shoulder in the shoulder-in, try switching to a ranvers for a while, then switch back to the shoulder-in. Be flexible with your lateral movements, and let the gymnastic qualities of lateral work improve other lateral movements.
5) Keep both legs on
It’s very easy for riders to forget to ride with BOTH legs while riding lateral movements. For example, in the shoulder-in, keep the inside leg on for the bend, the forward drive, and the inside leg stepping up and under. Keep the outside leg on to keep the hind legs straight on their track, as well the animation in the steps. In the half-pass, remember to keep your inside leg on to keep the bend, and the outside leg on to stimulate the forward impulsion, and support the hind leg crossing.
4) Connect your seat
It’s very easy to get “perched” in the seat during lateral movements, as well as fall off to one side or another. Stay over the horse during the movement, and keep a deep feel in your seat. Think about opening your shoulders back and down. Also think about your hips as a ball spinning backwards and down, so your tailbone spins down, through the saddle, and ultimately up towards the horse’s ears.
3) Ride to the last step
I see so many riders, especially in dressage tests, have great lateral work in the first half of the movement, only to lose it completely 3 or 4 steps before the prescribed end letter. In this way, I feel like the riders are the marathon runner that stops 100m before the finish line. The race is not over, and the lateral movement is not over! Ask for that perfect lateral movement right up until the last step! In practicing your lateral work, to prevent both you and your horse from anticipating the end, ride 2-3 steps in the movement past the letter. For example, if the test calls for a shoulder-in to F, ride the should-in further in towards the corner. If you practice this on a consistent basis, by the time you arrive to the show, your lateral movements will be crisp and consistent from the first step to the last.
2) Have a good set-up
Set you and your horse up for success! It’s far too easy to concentrate on the intimidating lateral movement at hand, and forget the steps leading up to it. If your horse is not round and in self-carriage before the lateral movement, how can you expect him to be round and in self-carriage with impulsion DURING the movement? Make sure your horse is on the aids, respectful of your half-halts, and has good impulsion going in to the movement, always. If not, circle, and try the approach again. When you set your standards high for the approach, your lateral work will become cleaner and more consistent. This will also be apparent in your tests, as in the corners before prescribed lateral movements, it will become routine to make sure to ask your horse for good set-ups.
It is incredibly important to breathe while riding a horse, especially during lateral work. When you hold your breath, your horse becomes tense and stifled, causing the movement to become flat, and lack impulsion, balance and rhythm. When you hold your breath, all the elements of training you have worked hard to achieve get lost. To prevent holding your breath, try singing or whistling while you ride. In a test, where whistling would not be so appropriate, try humming softly, or gently counting your horse’s strides. When you breathe, your horse will relax, become softer through the back, and be able to remain expressive and animated in lateral work.
Have fun putting these tips into practice during your rides!
Well, Summer is nearing a close, and things are as busy as ever! Libby is packing for a horse show, and I am packing for a flight across the pond! In these times where stress can easily overshadow the simple pleasures of life, it is important to stand back and enjoy laughter, fun, and excitement of day to day adventure. That is exactly what artist Debbie Flood is doing! On her “Painting a Child a Day” blog, which can be found through her website, www.debfloodart.com – Debbie paints “a child a day” in their play, quiet times, and times of excitement.
I am inspired not only by her commitment to painting a new scene every day, but also by her subject matter: children. It seems the older we become, the more effort it takes to remember to relax, be free, have fun. Looking at her watercolors brings a smile to my face, and a bit of fun to my day.
Enjoy some selected watercolors below:
“Step on It”
Thanks, Happy Riding All!!
At first glance one of the most daunting aspects of dressage is lateral work. To the novice or inexperienced onlooker lateral work appears to be some sort of magic or trick whereby the horse responds to some unseen cue and of their own accord begins to dance.
In actual fact if you happen to be a rider who has been working at walk , trot and canter ( training level) in dressage or equitation and/or hack in hunter for some time you probably know and use regularily most of the aids you need for almost all of the lateral movements already.
The good news about dressage and one of my favourite parts is that progression is slow, logical and extremely methodical. it is designed to increase the level of difficulty in the movements at the same pace that horse develops the muscle and strength to carry them out and gives ample time for the rider to truly understand the aids and when and why we need them.
In most cases the first lateral work a rider will be taught is a simple leg yeild.This means you will ask your horse to move away from or yeild to pressure from your leg.Picture your self in a standard 20×40 meter arena . coming down the centre line on the left rein at A you will ride ahead very straight to D (on the centre line between F and K. Let’s say you are going to leg yeild right to M. This means your horse will move away from pressure given by your left leg toward M.In order to prevent your horse from moving too much sideways and reaching the track at say B you will add taps of outside or right (forward and impulsion leg when on left rein )leg. This will ensure your horse moves equal parts forward and sideways toward M.The next problem you would most likely encounter will be the haunches trailing , simply meaning the horse turns and heads for M on a diagonal rather than crossing both front and hind legs equally. The remedy for this will be to half halt with your outside (right rein ) intermittantly.In leg yeild the horse is permitted to look straight ahead or slightly away from the direction they are heading. This means you must be sure to keep your inside hand as soft as possible.
In a very short time you and your horse will be floating sideways feeling like Gran Prix performers simply by applying correctly aids you are probably both well acquainted with already.
The horse who has been properly trained simply responds to the aids given by their rider without concern for the end result of various combinations of aids given in sequence or even some at the same time.
It is much easier to train your horse for lateral work in an indoor or outdoor ring of the correct size to post either a standard or 20×60 set of letters. This way you have somewhere definite for your eye to be aiming. This will help to keep your work straight and correct with the right amounts of both sideways and forwards movement.
While lateral work looks lovely it was actually developed simply as a series of suppling exercises with which to help your horse develop flexiblity, strength , pushing power and bend.The end result being improvement in the basic gaits of walk , trot and canter.
The cornerstone of lateral movement is the shoulder fore. The shoulder fore means the horse’s shoulders are slightly displaced to the inside while the haunches remain travelling staight on the rail or whatever line you are on (ie. centre line , quarter line etc.)To develop the shoulder fore you would probably find it easiest to start when coming out of a corner onto the long side of the ring, ie. at K on the right rein.You would imagine you were going to ride a circle say 15 metres at K. Prior to starting the circle you would half halt with your outside rein as per normal to let your horse know a request is coming up and to set their weight more onto the haunches.You would take your first stride onto the circle and you would notice your outside rein is now roughly on the inside line of the track. Outside half halt again, bending the horse slightly around your inside leg and keeping your lower body in line with horse’s shoulders , rotate your upper body to be looking straight down the track. With the inside leg tap the horse’s side, outside leg maintaining impulsion , soft inside rein and outside rein half halting occasionally to stop the horse from coming onto the forehand.In short order you will be flowing along the track in shoulder fore and when comfortable in that you can increase the displacement of the shoulders to about 45 degrees in off the track at which point you will be riding a full shoulder in.
Most of this work is best experimented with in the walk until you understand the relationship between your eye , and each hand and leg in creating the movement. It does take patience but it is not work for only the gifted few as it often appears when you are starting out in dressage.
If your horse stops or starts to back up rest assured you have been too heavy with the hand and lacking drive with the leg. Be very patient in the beginning and reward every sideways step you feel. Do not school these movements endlessly and become frustrated, upsetting your horse in the process. Play around with the concepts and be happy with a few strides in the beginning. If you try too hard you will become desparate with the aids and annoy your horse no end.
These two movements ( shoulder fore and leg yeild ) lead into half pass , travers , renvers, shoulder in e tc. and you will not need any more aids than you already know. The key is knowing when and how to apply the aids in the order that will result in the movement you are attempting.
Have fun , be patient, if able find good coaching but if not rest assured you can learn these movements on your own and stay on good terms with your horse as well. There is no magic involved , merely a true dedication to taking responsibility for the aids you apply and the results they produce. Cheers. Libby Keenan
Well, it’s been quite an exciting week for both Libby and I! Libby has been keeping herself busy with clinics, travel, and *sigh* computer malfunctions, and I have been getting everything ready to move to the UK in a few weeks! Needless to say, sometimes, it is hard to keep everything on track when it comes to a riding and training schedule.
A riding journal with both future planning and present event tracking is extremely important for gauging progress, as well as safety. For example, you might think that your horse’s canter is not getting any better, but when you look back at your riding diary, you find out last month he was only cantering one circle around, and now he is doing two or three, which might give you the inspiration you needed to continue on your course. Conversely, you might discover that the canter was actually much better last month that it has been this month, which might lead you to get a vet appointment for your horse. My own horse was discovered to have OCD in his stifle after I noted his canter was deteriorating in his training.
Writing your training goals can help you solidify your ambitions into tangible ideas. Training goals should be simple, measurable, and attainable. Long term goals can be where you ultimately want your riding to go. For example, “jump six feet” or “ride single tempi changes”. The time frame for a long term goal can be from a year to five years, to twenty – it is up to you when you want to see yourself achieving this long term goal. Then, assess where you are now, and then assess what you need in order to get there. This assessment on the short term can help put that long term goal into perspective. Is it measureable? If your long term goal was “be the best rider I can be”, although noble, perhaps a revision is in order. Is it attainable? If your long term goal was “ride my 22 year old appalossa in the Olympics” again, perhaps a revision would be in order. On the short term, you should limit your goals to one or two between you and your horse. With only one goal to worry about, you are helping yourself focus, which as previously noted on the blog, can help in the show ring, as well as give your horse confidence.
By “simple”, your goal should be summed up in a short sentence: “we will be working on increasing the time the canter can be maintained.” This goal is simple, and to the point, however, is it measurable? No. What does it mean to “increase the time the canter can be maintained”? Revise the goal to make it measurable: “we will be working on increasing the amount the canter can be maintained from one time around the rail of the indoor arena to four times around.” Finally, the goal should be assessed to see if it is attainable. At this point, a time frame is important to add to the goal. Acheiving four times around the arena from one at the canter would be quite a feat on your next ride, however, in three weeks, it seems like a reasonable goal. Therefore, either adjust the goal, or adjust the time frame in which you want to see the goal realized. The final goal would be “We will be working on increasing the amount the canter that can be maintained, from one time around the arena to two by next week.”
Now that you have your goal worked out, it is time to record the progress. Was the goal realized? With a simple, measurable, attainable goal set, the answer should be an easy “yes” or “no”. The key is to record the factors of why or why not the goal was realized. For example, your horse might feel comfortable cantering in the outdoor arena, but claustrophobic in the indoor arena, therefore, does not canter more than one circle. The horse might canter three circles to the right, but only one to the left. Noticing these things over a period of time may yield an illuminating pattern, which may validate or cause reassessment of training technique, or health of the horse. Factors like weather, surrounding environment, your equipment and training tools, and the exercises practiced, all can give very important insight on the progress of your goals over a period of time. If you have a mare, your riding journal might illuminate that she is difficult asking for collection at certain times, which might coincide with her heat cycle. Because of your progress tracking, you developed a new training schedule that includes simple hacking out in the field during your mare’s time in heat.
How one records these goals is up to the individual. You may decide to jot it down in your blackberry calendar, blog about it when you get home, or write about it on a notebook you keep at the barn.
I would recommend the structure of your riding journal to be something as following:
Long term goal:
Time frame for this goal:
Short term goal:
Assess: Are my goals simple, measurable, and attainable?
Today my ride consisted of:
Was my short term goal realized?
Factors involved in my ride today:
Well, good luck in achieving all your training goals! Happy Riding!