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Sunday, February 26, 2012


 I went riding today!  And I took pictures from the saddle for the first time since I can remember. 

11 miles in 1.5 hours.  Didn't break 12mph - which considering how big her trot is, and how forward she was today, is actually quite good.

Did the entire ride barefoot with no boots.  In the past I've put boots on for this, but in reality there's only a small section of rock that can be walked on.  I really shouldn't worry - coming back I heard some dirt bikes so instead of riding the trails, I stayed on top of the levee for a mile or too and she trotted WONDERFULLY SOUND on GRAVEL. 

 But really, that wasn't the best part of the ride.

The best part of the ride was this: I finally figured out how to fix the tense, rushing Farley.  And it has to do with not pushing her buttons.  Because there's one thing she REALLY hates above all else - loss of rhythm. 

 Pics of her feet (fronts above, hinds below) after the ride.  A bit chipped, but really no big deal.  I cleaned them up with a rasp after I took the pics. 

Here's Farley after the ride.  She was quite foamy, but not too bad.  She's a good weight right now.  She's lost a lot of muscle tone in her hindquarters, but it isn't as bad as it was before I started dressage.  She moves quite nicely uphill undersaddle - I think her hocks are feeling pretty darn good with the extra room in pasture to move around in. 
Where were we?

Rhythm.  I'm more conscious of things like "rhythm", "relaxation", and "submission" because of my dressage lessons.  Although she had a tendency to rush in the dressage ring, rhythm was my biggest concern in jumping.  It wasn't until I starting counting strides and really getting into the rhythm of cantering 3 jumps on a 20 meter circle that I understood how important rhythm is.  I really hadn't given rhythm much thought on the endurance trail.  However today......I discovered that a loss of rhythm is what pushes Farley's buttons - and not in a good way.

When I turn around on the trail, Farley's reaction is to become tense, try to rush, and then become really pissed off when I check her.  She immediately becomes worse, throws her head in the air and more likely than not there is a bit of a temper tantrum, that may or may not result in a one rein stop when she tries to throw in a couple of bucks.

Today, for some reason, I started counting strides - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.......And Farley immediately became more relaxed.  I noticed that when I try to half halt, or I'm tense because I'm trying to anticipate a trail obstacle, or I'm trying to micro manage her - I change rhythm.

It's not a big deal going out - she gets tense, but because the corrections or fewer and not as strong, it's OK because the change in rhythm is less noticeable.  It's  when she's tense, and I'm tense, and I'm having to make a lot of corrections (rating speed, for example) - I tend to brace in my stirrups and get behind the motion.

This distracts and pisses Farley off and makes her really anxious.  It might be because she can't navigate the trail as well because it changes her balance - or it could just be a pet peeve of her's.  Either way, if rhythm is important to her, it's something I can be better at.  

Every time I got the rhythm right, Farley would stretch her head and neck down and stretch her back and make happy horse noises. 

One thing I noticed is that it's easier for me to keep rhythm on one diagonal than the other.  So, I would get on the easier diagonal and get a good rhythm going.  Then, I would change my diagonal and try to make that one as good as the other one.  Once I got my rhythm on both diaganols on a flat, non technical ground, I switched back to single track near the river and tried to maintain rhythm around turns and over obstacles.

I have no idea why this is coming up now, instead of a 1000 miles ago.  Maybe having a year off has made her more sensitive to my balance.  Maybe it's the saddle I'm using and it's changed my riding enough that she's more sensitive.  Maybe I'm a little uncertain about tackling the trails again and that uncertainty is showing up in my position and translating to rhythm (very likely, as I've noticed I have a tendency to get a little more forward in the saddle than in the past, something that is definitely linked to how secure I feel). 

Looking back, I can see that most of our "naughtiness" under saddle moments were related to a loss of rhythm - including her bucking while jumping.

A couple other quick updates.

1.  I have a test on Friday.  You know what that means.  I dissapear for a while.  There's enough new posts here and on Tess's blog that it should keep you happy until Friday :)

2.  I rode in my barefoot shoes with the stirrups one hole shorter for today's ride.  Zero issues with the shoes. lower leg is still not very stable.  I need to monkey around with the leather length and perhaps put a spacer on the stirrup bar?  I get behind the motion and feel the back of the saddle (cantle) on my bum more than I should.  I may need someone to video tape me to help me figure out what I need to change.  It's a saddle I don't have THAT many rides in, and I think I'm still trying to find my "place" in it.  I may go back to a more traditional riding shoe, just to try and get my "feel" back, and then switch back to the barefoot shoes.  I may need to hop into my dressage saddle for a couple of short trips up and down the road, and then see if I can tell what's different in this saddle.  I think a lot has to do with only getting in the saddle once a week or so - with relatively few hours and reptitions it's just taking me longer to get it right. 


  1. Pretty soon, we'll have you SINGING as you trot down the trail--that'll give you all kinds of good rhythm!

    "Little bunny foo-foo, hopping through the forst...."

  2. Really interesting, Mel! Love the pics - ear pics are the best kind.

  3. Looking at the pics I'm not impressed with the camera has always taken really good, non-blurry pics and most of these are not in focus. I think my lens is dirty, combined with an overcast low light day. Now that AareneX has a new camera I'm critically evaluating mine!

    The saddle/position thing really frustrates me. I'm 99% sure it's me, not the saddle itself. I think today will be devoted to figuring it out.

    AareneX - when I would get tense I used to sing - sometimes nonesence, sometimes actual songs, especially during endurance rides. I always thought it helped because it took my mind off of being tense, but now I wonder whether it had more to do with rhythm.

  4. Singing help me *so* much...I did a whole post a few days ago on how much I love riding to music. For me, it keeps me more relaxed and my mind off of nitpicking Mimi so much. Never thought about it from the rhythm perspective, but what you're saying makes so much sense and it's something I'm going to start paying attention to.

  5. Hmmmm...this is REALLY food for thought. Journey's little bucking episodes are a hissy fit when I've tried to check her speed (she has broken to canter without being asked and I use rein to draw her back down). I might try just letting it flow and see what happens. It is our next lesson plan as soon as I get to schedule one to work on that issue.

  6. my calves are SORE today, more evident that I'm bracing against the stirrups.

    EG - I found that making corrections WITHIN the rhythm were so much more effective and didn't trigger the tenseness. Let me know how it goes for you! When Farley does that (transitions to a canter when not asked) and I correct her, I don't get bucking if it's within rhythm and balance. Otherwise, it just adds fuel to the fire.

    Amazing how much I learn everytime I climb on the back of a horse.

  7. I've found that if you haven't ridden in a while and you get back on you can notice your bad habits That you never knew
    You had and figure out how to fix them.

  8. Which brings to mind something else. Her rhythm beads...she is much calmer and focused when she has them on. So that kind of makes sense too. When she isn't wearing them she tends to want to find things to google and spook at.

    Very interesting post!


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