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Strength: Lesson Recap 1/31 + Ride Recap 2/4

Old picture but I figured some media was needed
To preface this I have a couple of posts that I was going to split up but I've got a bunch more posts I want to get up including a February Goals post so I decided to just combine these. Sorry if it gets long!

Lesson Recap:

Earlier this month I ended up with a sore back. I'm not sure why, I hadn't lifted anything heavy or done anything that hurt so all I can imagine is that it happened when I was sick. I'm guessing that I either pulled something when I was sneezing explosively throughout the time I was sick or that laying on the very unsupportive couch for three days did something to me. It's weird in that it seems to vary day to day how bad it hurts and that it's behind my ribs on the right side rather than my lower back. Right now on the worst day a couple of Advil kill any soreness so I haven't felt the need to get it checked out but if it continues I will.

For whatever reason on the day of my lesson it was the worst that it's been. I'd been popping Advil all day but hadn't got the timing right so when I showed up for my lesson I was pretty sore. I went to pick up my saddle and had to freeze and just breath for a moment. I was trying to decide if a lunge lesson made more sense but I decided to just let Jane know and see if we could arrange my lesson a bit differently. Because of that we stuck to walk and trot and focused on lateral work instead.

We started with walk warm up to a nice trot warm up. Katai was moving well so we didn't need to focus too long on getting her loosened up. Instead we went to lateral work pretty quickly and started with leg yields at the trot. They were really working for me (for whatever reason) at my lesson and so after a few in each direction we switched to doing shoulder in at the walk. 

At first I wasn't doing enough to keep her flexed the correct way but after some coaching for Jane about catching her quicker without pulling I was able to get a couple of successful tries in each direction. Then Jane had me switch to doing haunches in for the first time! We did it at the walk and Katai very naturally just understood so after doing it a couple of times in each direction we went to the trot.

At the trot Jane had me do a new exercise where I would start the shoulder in the way we have been with a 10 meter circle in the corner but then at the center of the long side I would do another 10 meter circle and as I came back towards the wall I would start haunches in and do that to the short side. Other than some very slight fussiness about what I was asking for Katai was brilliant and really thinking and listening instead of just reacting. 

After we had the just of it Jane had me do it again and this time she actively coached me to actually ride and keep the bend and flexion and lower/forward/reaching feeling with the bit instead of just letting Katai fling her head in the air. Wouldn't you know it, with her reminders I was able to very successfully RIDE it correctly.

I'm a very visual person so this sort of thing is so helpful!

Both Jane and I were so happy with that as well as being cognizant of my poor back that we ended at that point and did lots of praising of my amazing pony :)

Ride Recap:

I've been playing around with my riding schedule a bit and trying to find something that works for both me and Katai. When I had Sunday lessons I gave her Monday off and then either Thursday or Friday (or sometimes both haha) and that worked really well. I've been struggling with Tuesday lessons because Mondays off work really well for me but not well for Katai and that sort of throws off my whole schedule. This past week I tried riding Saturday-Wednesday and then giving Katai Thursday and Friday off. 

Because of that my ride today fell after two days off for Katai and so I guessed she'd be full of energy. Oh boy, was I right.

It was interesting because when I was walking her around in the arena she seemed about the same as she normally is (ie. walking around quickly and sometimes with her head in the air) and normally even if she's a bit amped on the ground she goes right to work once I mount up. Today though my adrenaline started amping up right away which is unusual and I couldn't figure out why. Now I think I was picking something up from her. 

I mounted up and she was certainly tense and threatening to rear but never did. She's often better if I go straight to trot which I did and had a gorgeous trot. She was in full suspension bridge mode and on her toes but stretching down in to the contact, if a bit light in the contact, and forward. She wasn't relaxed but she was mostly listening to my leg and other than ensuring she didn't come above the contact I was just focusing on riding her forward and letting her dispel some energy.

Often when she's like this I'll let her decide to canter out of a forward trot and just go with it. Usually she'll canter for awhile, snort a bunch and then when I ask for trot again she's feeling better about life and we continue in a more relaxed and productive way. So when she made the executive decision to canter I went with it. However, a couple seconds in I was having to do a  lot more riding than normal and she was alternating head flinging with bolty steps and some slight leaping. I was just concentrating on keeping her forward when suddenly in the center of the arena she bolted straight up. The only thing I really remember was seeing her withers directly in front of me, that's how bad she bronc-ed up into the air. When she came down I yell/growled at her and asked for forward but she was so frozen up that she didn't move and I could tell she was prepared for battle so I did the wise thing and got off and lunged. 

She could have taught this horse a thing or two today of course I stayed on
This may be an option as a second career path when I get tired of HR ;)
I needed to go retrieve my lunge line, pull the reins off the bridle, and pull off the stirrups since I knew there would be acrobatics (spoiler I was right). When we got back to the arena I pretty much immediately made her go to canter and oh my gosh was she full of herself. Katai has NEVER been one for bucking, kicking, bronc-ing, or bolting on the lunge so I'm used to climbing off a crazy horse and then having a quiet lunge session and being done.

She was kicking out at her tail, bucking because there was a dark spot in the arena, bolting because she had boots on her back legs (like EVERY time I've ever worked her for the past three years) and frankly just being a bit of an ass. Honestly she didn't get in any trouble she just needed to stay forward and out on the line and basically listen to which gait I wanted. I didn't punish her for the antics because it was so clear to me that she just had excess energy and that's my fault. After all we're trying to create a stronger pony so it's not her fault that she is now stronger and has more energy and then after a break needed to express some of it.

After a few "quiet" canter circles on the lunge I did a few transitions and when she was listening we switched directions. She was mostly good the other way other than acting goosed a couple of times when I asked for a transition. Same thing to this side, lots of canter and eventually some transitions and we ended with a few circles at the walk.

Katai's innocent face
Normally I would have been done but I knew I was feeling a little squigged out about the canter transitions (I used to have major canter anxiety issues before Katai fixed them :) so instead I got her put back together (reins, stirrups, and all) and then mounted back up. We started at the walk but she was still slightly tense so before she got to make an issue of it I went into trot. Almost immediately she remembered that she was very tired pony and just went nicely forward, stretching, and also did lots of snorting. She was also more receptive to my cues to bend her and I wasn't have to RIDE as much as I had before. Before I let it drag out too long I cued for canter in her harder direction and other than a slight head toss she did it and was very rideable in canter. In fact she felt so loose and forward, and had such a nice open stride that I'd say it was some of our best canter to date. Again, I didn't wait too long before I brought her back to trot and after a loop to change directions cued for canter in the other way. This time (easier side) she didn't even toss her head just went straight into it and again I had the nicest canter I've had.

I was so proud of both of us that even with a very challenging and scary start we ended in a good place. Adrenaline and having scary moments usually really brings out my frustration so I was especially proud of how I handled this the whole time and that my thought process remained that it was my fault for not working her consistently and was focused on helping her be my partner again rather than getting angry at her for "doing something wrong". After all we're trying to be stubborn together ;)


  1. I've been having trouble with my back too lately, hope yours is feeling better soon! I've been forking out cash to chiros and massage therapists all over town. Well done working through some excited pony moments! :)

    1. Oh no! I'm sorry to hear that cause this sucks :( Hope you feel better soon too.
      Thanks, it probably didn't help my back at all but I was proud that I stuck the landing and stayed on her back haha.


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