Riding Rogo and Savanah Today

Today Doug and I rode Savanah and Rogo. Doug hadn't ridden in a month - the flu and other things got in the way. It was amazing how well he and Savanah did after all that time off. I'd ridden her a little bit but not much. They did great!
Now, back to me :) I'm quite happy with Rogo. After the period we went through where he seemed to be up and down in his canter all the time, he seems to have balanced out in 'up' and he's becoming more maneuverable in the canter. I think we'll be able to work on counter canter and lengthening / shortening as soon as we get outside into a bigger space, maybe even a bit inside soon. The transitions are slowly improving, the bending is quite good, he is straight for the most part, halts are coming along. I'd love to get some lessons in with Joan to sharpen us up, but all in all I can't complain. I have a couple of areas that really need work, and they're big ones:
  • For the life of me I can't seem to keep a good contact with him. It's not as though he won't give me a nice position and contact if I ask for it well and consistently after he's warmed up - he will. It's that I don't / won't take any kind of a consistently solid feel on the reins. I'm so used to barely any contact that I can't seem to make myself take any. I do with Savanah, but not with Rogo. I pick it up when I think of it, but then I give it away right away. Doug was pointing it out to me today and I hope he is around lots to keep after me about it. It must be because I haven't made the shift from riding a baby to riding a young horse who's more than ready to connect.
  • The other area is the working trot. It's getting better with the shoes back on and the work I've been doing with ground poles, free jumps, lunging etc. but there's more improvement needed. He started more forward after he was backed, but we had some health set backs, I didn't have a lot of confidence and strength, I didn't realize the shoes were an issue, and he learned to be slow. I have to get him engaged and pushing and having fun going forward. It will come if I'm patient and keep working at it.
I watched a fascinating  series of videos of Dr. Hillary Clayton talking about conditioning dressage horses. Some things I want to remember:
  • no more than two days a week of 'hard' work
  • don't repeat the same muscle workout two days in a row
  • young horses should only be worked every other day (you can do easier things with them on the 'off' days)
  • some ideas for conditioning while switching things up: hacking out, hill work (up and down are both excellent and backing up a hill is very good, in small amounts), jumping, ground poles
I've heard a lot of this before, but it really crystallized it for me. When muscles, tendons and ligaments are worked, they get damaged. If you work the same ones every day every day, the damage accumulates - this is the cause of tendon and ligament injuries. If you provide a break between working them the damage repairs itself.
I have to admit that I used to work hard five or six days a week the first summer I showed Savanah, doing mostly the same routine. I didn't know better  and I wanted us to do well. It turned out I had us both so tired that we lost our spark by the end of the summer. I'm lucky I didn't hurt her by doing this :(
Tomorrow the vet comes to float Rogo's teeth. I had to cancel last week because of a snow storm. I'm also getting him to look at a small, crusty lump between his front legs, just a bit in front of the girth. I had myself so worked up about the lump this morning, after being on the internet trying to 'diagnose' it, that I literally made myself sick - fever, nauseous, heart palpitations and racing heart, sore throat... I know I sound like a flake, but it was scaring me. The lump was there before, then went away, but now is back worse than before. A friend sent me a message suggesting what it could be (a stall gall, I hadn't heard of it) that calmed me a bit, and when we went to ride I relaxed and enjoyed being with them. I have my fingers crossed that it's nothing to be worried about.


Jeni said…
sigh... I'm still not in the saddle ! Mud, ice, snow, ice, ice... You and Rogo are doing fine. He is a young horse and things will come in time =)
I'm a worry wort too Carol. I hope that mystery lump is nothing!

Thanks for the conditioning info - good reminders. It's easy to fall into the trap of drilling the same things over and over... I guess good training habits take just as much creativity and focus as the other aspects of horsemanship to do well.

Val and I are also focusing on forward in the trot and contact these days :)
Dom said…
Very good points to consider. Hill work is awesome no matter what discipline you want to do.
juliette said…
I am so glad you watched those videos. Rogo will improve on the rest days. Sounds crazy but it is true. It keeps muscles and minds fresh for new learning. I read so many blogs where the people are just plain over working their horses and I know what is coming - injury and/or burnout. I only know because of running myself for so many years.

The internet is the worst place to read about medical issues - human or horse! You can get wonderful information from the internet, but for some reason, you really have to have a filter on your brain for the medical stuff. Good luck today with Rogo's checkup.
Rachel said…
You have inspired me to add some polls in our little workout routine. I don't get to work my young mare everyday or even every other day, but a little variety could be a good workout for her mind as well as her body.
smazourek said…
I have the exact same problem with contact that you do. I've spent so much of my riding time on a loose rein that picking it up always feels like too much! Ah well, we'll find a happy medium eventually.

You are so right about people overworking their horses, I've said more than once that many people would be better trainers if they'd gone through a hard training regimen themselves.
Oak Creek Ranch said…
I have read the same advice about conditioning and the amount of hard work you should do in a week. It may have even been from Dr. Hilary Clayton since I like her a lot. When I first got Jackson I rode him too much. We were working 5-6 days a week and I rode him hard. He never said stop and I was having fun. Then his hocks became inflamed, ultimately needing injections. I don't know for sure that I caused the problem, but I sure know I didn't help matters. Now I try to ride every other day so he has a day of rest inbetween. I also mix things up with a trail ride every week. We're both happier and we're progressing just as fast, faster even. I struggle with the contact thing too. I remind myself that it helps give him confidence to have a steady o/s rein. That helps me...
Achieve1dream said…
I don't think you're a flake. I do that all the time. I make myself physically ill from worry. I've found most of the time it's all for nothing. Things almost never turn out as bad as I imagined. I think he'll be just fine.

That's interesting about conditioning dressage horses. I knew that about strength training in humans but I never really thought about how that applied to horses hehe. :) Thanks for the info.