Sorry everyone. I know. I suck at blogging. I really meant to post this last week, but a lot happened and I just never really sat down to put all the video together until the other day. As I said in one of my previous posts, Amber did seem to like dressage better for the fact that I was helping to support her. I also know that dressage is a LOT of strength building – particularly in the hindquarters. And looking at her, she’s got a lot of muscle on the left side. Aaaaaand kind of none on the right side. Hey! Just like me! haha (I told Trainer G that Amber and I are 2 peas in a pod & perfect for each other because the both of us have the majority of our injuries on our right sides, and that we’re also too young to be this messed up – Amber arthritic and laminitic at 9, and me practically the same way at 28 lol)
Physical therapy is a pain, and hurts as you get stronger, but then once you’re stronger, you feel a lot better. I figure that Amber is never going to be or look perfectly sound, but I can help her stay as comfortable as possible, and if that’s by strengthening her body, then that’s what we’ll do. I loved Austen’s post about riding the older, unsound horse, and right now, I feel that’s where I am with Amber. Even tho she isn’t older, I’m not gonna lie that I feel a bit nervous posting video because of her arthritic knee, weak stifle, and recovering laminitic foot. But she loves to get out and be ridden, and I’m going to post the videos anyway. It may look bad as we go, and believe me, I’ve had my fair share of worrying that I’m doing too much, pushing her too hard, and she’s just not telling me no when I shouldn’t be doing this. But I can tell she’s so much happier. She nuzzles me after every ride. She’s been nickering at me more. She bumps my stomach as I’m putting the halter on as if to say “I’m so happy we’re going out, mom.” So, we may look lame, or off in videos, but whenever I release her to walk on a dropped rein, she’s always got her ears up.
Even though Trainer G is an h/j trainer, and does dressage in a way that aids jumping, she and I have a great trainer/student relationship. I know she’s always mindful of the horse and it’s abilities, so there was no one else I wanted to start up lessons with again. I was super happy that she was just as excited as I was to start up lessons again. It would be a lot easier for both of us doing lessons at our barn, so I was really looking forward to being able to ride my horse in our arena.
I had ridden Amber the previous week and Tuesday and Wednesday of lesson week. I had a long day Thursday so just walked around bareback on her, and I had Friday off. I had planned to ride, but had a good meet-up with my sister so I ended up not riding. Saturday we had sustained wind at 20 mph, so riding was out. This is definitely one reason I love being able to ride Amber again. I hadn’t really ridden her in 3 days, the wind brought a cool spell, it was still a bit breezy on Sunday, and I knew I would have to worry about absolutely none of it. She’s 9, broke, and is all business when I need her to be. What I wasn’t prepared to find was that my normally “I like to keep clean” pony had decided a pre-lesson nap was in order. And proceeded to sleep in her pee spot. After she’d gotten a bath on Wednesday so that we looked more presentable on Sunday. Oh, horses lol.
Either way we were saddled and ready when Trainer G got to us. It was a beautiful day – maybe about 78 degrees with a cool breeze – absolutely perfect. I will freely admit I was a little chilled when I first went out to tack up lol. Going from the 100s to mid-90s to 70s in about a week has been like whiplash for everyone here in Vegas – hence also why I’m sick. (I have been properly astonished to see how hot it is for everyone east of me/on the east coast and it’s practically noon here as I’m writing this and freaking 72 degrees. I can’t even lol since writing this tho, thankfully the majority of you guys have cooled off a bit!)
We started the lesson slow – a lot of walking, and Trainer G seeing how Amber and I worked together. It was awesome to have a lesson again, and on my pony (finally). There were just small things that I couldn’t tell from in the saddle that I needed to do differently: lower my outside hand, but raise the inside a little, thumb up on the left hand (I think that’ll be an eternal struggle lol). I loved how she told me to imagine I was riding Amber up a hill since I am definitely a tip-forward type of rider. That more than anything got my shoulders and my chin up! I could totally tell the difference after I started implementing that because Amber got a little lighter in front too. I explained to her that Amber can get behind the bit/vertical from her western training, and that I’ve been really careful with contact and whatnot since I really don’t want her doing that. I’d push her forward, but again, it was so good to have Trainer G’s eyes on the ground because I wasn’t pushing Amber forward quite enough. She’d dip and hide, but with a small cluck go forward and lift. She also had me shorten my reins a lot more than I usually do. I know as I was first introducing Amber to consistent rein contact, I’d have to have my reins pretty long, but shortening them really did help keep Amber more upright in her frame.
We did a lot of exercises at the walk as well. One was “standing up” on a front leg. I would transfer contact to the “inside” rein of the direction I was going, open my “outside” rein and use my same leg as the open rein to push her into the middle. It really helped to get Amber’s left side lighter – she’s pretty heavy on that left shoulder due to that right hind, so it was a bit of a no-brainer to work that into our lesson. I’ve worked with Amber plenty of other times on relatively similar exercises, but this one was certainly the best in getting Amber to pick herself up. She got a lot more responsive to my calf when I’d ask her to stand up on that shoulder as we walked/trotted a circle, and we’ve done that a lot since. We had a few fumbles on trot to walk transitions. I’d use my voice and she’s so attuned to that so she practically stopped haha. We figured out the best way was to sit quiet and still my whole body, and supporting ever so lightly with my leg. We’d have really good transitions then – just no talking haha. I did continue talking to her, and with every “good girl” she’d take a breath and try harder.
She tried her little heart out this lesson. We hardly did anything “big” but it was so much fun. We practiced leg yields at the walk as well, and thank god it was at the walk because me being me got directionally confused as usual lol. We were moving towards the rail, and Amber led with her shoulder, and Genevive kept saying “left rein” and my brain was like “yes, I use right rein” haha! So once we fixed me, our leg yields were much more successful lol. If Amber tried to lead with her shoulders, I’d just tighten my fingers, and firm up my arm holding that outside rein, and she responded just beautifully. Success!
There were other small things we worked on – straightness was always key, but we also ensured I completed my turns and kept Amber active even at a walk. She was definitely tired by the end – she was certainly doing a lot more targeted strength building than I’d been doing with her! But good girl as she always is she kept trying, and got many cookies afterwards lol. I was also super proud of her because only once did she think we would be cantering, and then settled right down into the work. I slathered her back, haunches, and legs with Sore-No-More, and she loved all the attention.
We have the incline to the barn from where the builders built up the pad, and there’s a wash off property that has an incline. Trainer G suggested we go up and down that for our strength building for Amber’s weak right side. So we’ve been doing the one near the barn a bit to start with. Amber is very confused about going up and down that, so hopefully sometime this weekend we’ll have a “trail ride” of inclines through that wash haha.
I’d meant to turn my helmet cam on for the lesson and forgot, so I have one of my previous rides to test out the larger SD card first, and my lesson videos my mom so wonderfully took for me second. One thing I didn’t realize is that I talk A LOT apparently. More than I’d originally thought I did lol. I’ve edited out the blank spaces of walking or not doing anything for both rides, so hopefully it’s a pleasant watch. I had another lesson scheduled for this weekend, and it was awesome. Amber felt great. Hopefully I’ll get that lesson recap out a little faster this time (although to be honest I sorta doubt it. Being very realistic here lol).