Monday, 29 October 2007
Last moment update: due to a very sad circumstances Columbus is now roughed off until early January when we might meet again.
Friday, 12 October 2007
Columbus felt stiffer today than the last time I rode him and his breathing was not quite right. I am told he has respiratory problems at this time of the year so that would explain why he was tired and out of breath quite quickly.
We did, however, had quite a good session and there is definite improvement in his reactions.
Here is what we did today, step by step, so it can be replicated if desired by Basil - the owner and regular rider.
I work a lot in walk on Columbus because he is a little overweight and very inflexible. Walk work allows me to teach him various things without overtiring him.

Arena at the top field. Work consisted of:

20 minutes walk work
One round on the left rein (loose rein) followed by change of rein (paying attention to seat aids - inside seat bone heavier; and asking for bend with inside leg) and one round on the right rein.
This I repeated three times and I kept Columbus on the inside track (1m or so away from the outside track) making sure he is walking straight and is looking straight (no looking around).

Then I picked up good contact (steady, firm but no backwards pull) on both reins and, still in walk, proceeded onto circle work. Because Columbus has major stiffness problems I started riding 20p shape instead of a true circle. I kept it roughly of 20m diameter and rode on a straight line for a four strides, then slight turn (shifting the weight down to my inside seat bone, bringing my outside shoulder forward inside shoulder back - to position them parallel to his shoulders; using the inside leg to bend the body to the inside, outside leg to move the quarters in, outside rein steady, firm and pressing slightly against his neck, inside rein slightly away from the neck showing the direction; slight 'sponging' on the inside rein to move the bit in Columbus's mouth and encourage him to flex the jaw), then straight again and so on.
I repeated that 2 times on each rein, then moved onto true circles in a sequence: 20m circle left, change of rein 10m circle right and so on in a figure of eight. Changes of rein in this manner improve the balance and circle work on different diameters have suppling qualities.
After about 15 minutes of that work he started coming rounder and softer on my hands. It is a very hard work both for him and the rider because he would happily just turn bu barging with his inside shoulder and turning his neck and head the opposite way. It is the matter of showing him that he must move away from the inside leg towards the firm but sympathetic outside rein (allowing for the bend but keeping the contact).

10 minutes walk to halt and walk to trot transitions with frequent changes of rein (every round)

Columbus has a tendency, when asked to halt, to immediately resting his left hind leg and to pull on reins and play with the bit. I gave him a firm nudge with my left leg every time he rested his leg and although it took us numerous tries he finally started halting with all four legs planted on the ground. As to playing with the bit/pulling I groaned at him 'No!' every time he did it and gave him a slap with the rein against his neck. Again after several tries he stopped and halted with his head quietly positioned.
I then started to ask him for a little flexion in the jaw and the poll by moving the bit in his mouth when we halted. He is very stubborn and stamped his foot a few times but when he understood he will not be allowed to do anything else but to soften the jaws he finally did it. I was very gentle and never pulled backwards but simply kept persevering.
Once he offered softer outline I repeated the walk to halt transitions asking him to stay on the bit and rounder. He did it quite well about 10 times!

Once I got him responding well we moved to walk to trot transitions - three strides in walk, several in trot, back to walk for three strides etc. I made sure I half halt with my body first (engaging stomach muscles, sitting tall and centred in the saddle with leg contact to maintain impulsion in trot) before applying the half-halt on the outside rein, then full halt. After a few transitions that were a bit all over the place he got the idea of working his back legs a bit better and some of his transitions were very good - sharp yet calm, soft and very obedient.
Transitions like the above sharpen the horse and teach him to use the back end. They also work on horse's sense of balance and connect the front end with the back end thanks to rider's contact (correct one!) on the reins.

8-10 minutes trot work on three loop serpentines

Three loop serpentines are a great exercise as they ask for a change of rein and a change of flexion.With Columbus this requires a full-time effort from the rider as he evades at every step! It is worth to stay on his case though as he really gets the idea and tries to bend. This is very much a work in progress and needs to be done as often as possible.
He looses impulsion on top of the loops and needs the rider to keep legs on. Bending is very hard to him but he was trying and we managed inside flexion most of the time.

Every few minutes throughout the whole session I also gave him a minute or so breaks asking for a stretch alike one on the chambon.

5 minutes canter work

Columbus was very tired by the time I asked for a canter and so I only did a few rounds on each rein. His canter is still very unbalanced and laboured when confined to the arena. We did two 20m circles but the ground was slippery and he was quite tense.
There is a lot to be done on his canter but we need to wait for him to get fitter, loose weight and for his respiratory problems to settle down.

10 minutes cool down walk on a long rein in the big field,

In the end I jumped off and walked him back to the stands. After having him sponged down and fed him polos (shouldn't really as he looked a little porkier than last week!) I took him to his field and did some ground work with him asking for a turn on the forehand both ways. He tried and stumbled his way around to get the polos! He managed a few correct steps.

The he proceeded to roll in the muddiest place.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007
Below images show an insight into the way Columbus is exercised over the weekdays - yes, he does play a role of a polo pony! Helen, who used to work with polo ponies, has employed this efficient way of exercising and it seems everybody enjoys themselves in the process! Rosie, the grey pony, shows just how patient and easy going lady she is.

Friday, 5 October 2007
It was such a beautiful, quiet day that I decided to ride Columbus throughout entire session on work on some issues his owner has with him.
We started with 15 minutes walk and frequent transitions walk to halt. He was playing with the bit and snatching on it as he did with the owner so I told him off for that and immediately put a leg on to keep him occupied. After a few times he barely opened his jaws.
The most difficult part with Columbus is to make him bend and flex and so we went through many, many circles and changes of rein through half a circle and after 10 minutes or so he really softened and felt nice in the end of the reins.
The entire session was mainly concentrated on transitions and he found it quite tiring. I was pleased with his responses though, especially in the middle of the session, when he came rounder and very good off the leg. We managed some decent canter work with frequent canter to trot and back to canter transitions. Columbus finds it difficult to balance himself well in canter within dressage arena patterns and as a result it is quite difficult to ride him. I insisted he tried though as if we don't practise he will never get better.
After the canter work I again worked on walk to halt transitions as he can be quite bargey and stubborn in them. Canter usually makes him significantly heavier on the forehand but transitions bring him back and lighter again.
I was quite impressed by some of the middle session trot work when he really worked forward and into the bit, round and soft. If only I could make him go like that for 40 minutes instead of 10! I can't expect too much from him though as he only gets 2-3 hours of exercise a week.
Having said that his form is considerably better than in the beginning of the summer and although he was tired in the end he still felt happy and walked briskly.

Sunday, 30 September 2007
Unfortunately missed!
Friday, 21 September 2007
I arrived at the field early today speeding everything up and rushing Helen along as I needed to be on my way to Bukcs at 4.30pm. As it turned out though, my lesson in the evening was cancelled and I had lots of time for Columbus!
Since I already got to the field I thought I would give the Big Boy a thorough groom, tidy up his mane a little and generally enjoy lovely warm afternoon.
Effect (after giving it a frame virtually of course!):

Then we proceeded to work on a chambon for 30 minutes. Columbus started in a rather lazy mode, dragging his legs a little and generally doing everything not to exert himself. After some message reinforcement he finally moved forward and worked well. I only did about 10 minutes on the left rein today as he is quite flexible on that side and got him onto the right rein for the remaining 20 minutes. He tested my patience significantly refusing to come back to walk but dropping into his trade mark jog. As I was going through plenty of transitions he finally got bored with jogging and started going cleanly from trot to walk. In order to get him to do just a few steps of trot then back to walk and trot again I took him on a very short lunge line and walked with him which gave me immediate control and I could make sure he walked on my command. After 10 goes he really started using his back legs and lightning the forehand.
We finished on one especially good, soft yet crisp transition and Columbus had a 10 minutes rest while I removed the chambon, adjusted the tack for riding etc

Off we went to the 'arena' area and I started with 15 minutes walk mostly on the right rein but changing direction frequently. We did 10m circle at every other letter and I willed my legs to stay back and underneath me which seemed to aid to Columbus's balance (his saddle is a hunting sort of cut which puts the rider into an armchair seat). I was psyching myself up before my evening dressage lesson and with it being cancelled I moved all that effort into session with Columbus! I must say it must have contributed somehow as he worked really well. He was again even softer in walk than last week, very flexible to the left and fairly well to the right. His responses were amazing but I think it must have been more to do with me keeping my legs back than anything else. We had lovely impulsion in trot which allowed to work on his lateral flexion. He felt easily manoeuvrable within the 40x60 area in walk and trot which I was quite proud of considering I had troubles negotiating turns and circles in a field three times as big a month ago ;)))
The left turns are getting better now and he is managing to keep a nice circumference of the circle and some bend and neck flexion. On the right turns he is still falling to the inside with his inside shoulder and avoiding the bend within his body. However, on a few turns today I really made use of my inside leg and took my inside shoulder back even more than necessary and he responded by moving deeper into the corner and bringing his head to the inside a little more instead of his usual outside.
I then braved on into canter work which is well, quite a hard work on Columbus! On a good note, we stayed within the arena boundaries yet again on both reins and went three circuits incorporating 20m circles at A and C every time. Then a short rest in walk on 6m circles both ways and back to canter again for three circuits and 20m circles at A and C.
He is definitely much fitter now. The weather helped as it was very fresh with the wind blowing and he seems to enjoy lower temperatures. I tried to make him break into sweat a little more but I was exhausted already after an hour of making him work;) Considering that a month ago he would be looking like fresh from the shower after my schooling, he is not doing too bad!
All there was today was just a sweaty saddle/girth patch!
Saturday, 15 September 2007
Big Boy was in a sleepy mood today and not too keen on the ground which is getting harder and harder due to the lovely weather we are having this month!
We started with usual 25 minutes on a chambon and he looked a little stiff and tense but willing to stretch. After 10 minutes he relaxed and produced a much better, swinging trot. Despite rather warm weather he didn't sweat much. We worked a lot on transitions but he was taking the mickey and jogged a lot. I think it stemmed from his overall tension today as once he relaxed his reactions to my commands were much better. I asked for about 30 to 40 transitions from trot to walk and upwards and will be asking for the same pattern next time. Although the quality of transitions was not good today (trot-jog-jog-walk) he is getting the message as once I got on him he was much softer and responded nicely to me changing his flexion.
I rode him for 40 minutes, first in walk only, doing a lot of changes of rein and asking for changes of flexion. Initially he was a little stuffy and slow in reactions to my aids and strong on the reins. I took him through 10-15 transitions from walk to halt to get him to listen to my rein aids and it worked a treat. After 15 minutes of walk work I could do a lovely 5 loop serpentine with Columbus chewing the bit nicely and releasing tension in his jaw.
Trot work started as a hard work and, as the ground was not too good, I didn't push for long trot periods. I again worked on transitions and dare I say it, he is getting better :) I will probably find him strong again next week but I have a feeling he is really trying to understand and oblige.
He also feels much more capable of delivering longer and more demanding work thanks to his owners putting some substantial work into exercising him as often as possible. The winter is also looking good in this respect as owners will be able to use a fantastic, massive field just down the road!

My plan for Columbus for next week is to repeat chambon session as usual asking for frequent transitions. In the saddle, I want to concentrate on circles and obedience so more transitions work in the pipeline!
Friday, 7 September 2007

Today I had yet another very good chambon session with Columbus. I lunged him for 25 minutes and we mostly worked on transitions this time. We did 5 minutes walk initially and he was very relaxed yet forward going. He is also getting used to a lunging whip and no longer objects to me waving it but reacts appropriately i.e. increases the amount of energy he puts into the steps.
After the initial warm up I did one circle in walk, then back to trot and so on for the next ten minutes. I repeated the same on the left rein, then changed again back to right rein and started working on changing gear it trot. Initially he got really tense in slow trot, straining chambon upright and hollowing the back. After 10-15 repetitions he relaxed and was able to slow down and push forward with neck slightly arched and lowered, back up and hindquarters swinging. He is not yet established in this way of going and would pop his head up now and again but today's session was definitely a step forward.

Then I popped on him and took him up the dressage 'arena' for 40 minutes. It was quite an effort to manoeuvre him within 20x40 space! He is so big that it must feel similar to driving a tube train around some narrow corners!
He takes quite a strong contact on both reins which isn't that bad at all but requires quite a strength from the rider!. I did lots of turns and circles to lighten him on the inside, take outside contact and flex to the inside. After a few minutes I could feel him chewing the bit and he was trying to oblige.
Trot work in such a small space was a real test for him but we managed some 20m circles, three loops serpentines and changes of rein through half a 10m circle! It is quite difficult for me to ride him as I am barely 1.62m (5'2) and my legs don't reach too far under the saddle! He is quite an understanding gentleman though!
We also did lots of walk to halt transitions and he reacted much better than last week, didn't pull on the reins at all.

I am generally very pleased with how he worked today. It was rather hot and although he sweated, it wasn't as bad as before. He also seems a little firmer within his body and you can actually see his neck muscles from underneath the fat layers ;)

Thursday, 30 August 2007
Today I had an absolutely fantastic session with Columbus! We started with 30 minutes session on a chambon and he worked beautifully, really stretching down and working through.
His walk was good, he overtracked very well.

First 20 minutes of trot work was excellent with consistent rhythm and he looked very powerful, relaxed and supple.

He was tired in the last 10 minutes but still worked well.
Our problem are transitions because he joggs with very high head carriage just before going for a walk. I therefore asked him to slow down the trot to almost the jogg he so likes but then asked him to flex and stretch. He was not too happy about it first but then his head carriage improved after a few tries. It seems quite difficult to him to carry himself well in a very slow pace and so I continued to ask him to slow down, relax, stretch and then I sent him off forward again. I worked on such changes of gears for about 10 minutes. He showed an improvement but was still too tense to be pleased with the level of work.
In general though I was impressed by how he went. It was a lovely piece of work and certainly a great one for Columbus.

I then rode him for 25 minutes. We worked on flexion, acceptance of the outside rein and inside bend. Although still rather reluctant Columbus definitely felt much better than last week and I was able to execute a few good circles to the right and some decent ones to the left. He also chewed the bit very nicely creating substantial amount of white foam ;) Nice change after his dry mouth.

Mrs. Owner brought some old pictures of Columbus and Rosie to show me and they were so stunning I just had to put them on here!

This is Columbus and Mr. Owner showing in a Cleveland Bay class three years ago.
Below is Columbus having a jolly jump! I am told he loves jumping natural fences outdoors but due to his rather big body and rather small amount of schooling he is not a big fan of show jumping as such...;)

And below again is Columbus and Rosie with Mrs. and Mr. Owners!

Monday, 27 August 2007
If Columbus could speak he would probably tell me that sauna is not his idea of fun. Poor guy looked like he stepped from one after our 30 minutes lunge session. I was pleased with the first 15 minutes of work he produced but the other half was rather average. The heat must have been really getting to him as he could not show much of a spark in trot. His early work was good though and his walk must be one of the best I have ever seen! He overtracks beautifully and the amount of ground he covers takes your breath away.
In the ridden session he was still a bit of a brute but he definitely listens more and he managed a few halts without pulling my arms out of sockets.
I am looking forward to Columbus muscling up and loosing a bit of weight as that is when the true work will be able to start.
Sunday, 19 August 2007
Well, I am happy to say Mr & Mrs. Columbus's Owners enjoy the diary and as I was told " it will all help Columbus to get over the embarassment of yesterday when the saddler came!"

I decided to copy the further email content sent to me by Mrs. Owner as it sums up the visit of the saddler nicely and gives some insight into what Columbus thought about the whole thing!

"Poor Columbus - he has put on so much weight behind his shoulder that his
saddle is too tight (hence the bouncing at the cantle when he is lunging) .
He tried breathing in, but it was no good - even he had to admit he had been
a bit of a couch potato this year. Anyway thank goodness we still had his
old Falcon saddle, which the saddler says fits him much better, so he can
continue with that one until he loses the weight again in the Autumn
(hopefully!). Anyway I don't think he took it too much to heart - I heard he
saying to Dilly something about 'a bit of weight never did Arnold
Schwarzenegger any harm!! ' - thats males for you!"

Big Boy might need to have his diet re-thought and the training should also help put him back into a good shape.
Saturday, 18 August 2007
We had a real breakthrough today with Columbus finally getting the idea of stretching and it was really good to see his whole body working in a relaxed, yet athletic, manner. I did 35 minutes of lungeing on the chambon to start with, asking for some flexion to the inside, then releasing the lunge line and asking for stretching of the neck and energy from behind.
He is not yet consistent in a longer outline and tries to find his balance by lifting and shortening his neck instead of pushing forward with his back legs. He looses rhythm if not send forward and is a little wary of the whip. The latter also makes him tense which does not allow me to send him as much forward as I would like.
There is still a lot to be done on transitions but for now I concentrated on him actually understanding what is required from him. The next session will be more demanding and I will make sure we change gears a lot.

Ridden session was also a step forward. He felt much more forward than last week and the work the Owner put in is paying off. Even if it is just a walk exercise it is extremely valuable and keeps the muscles working.

The left rein is much easier for Columbus who works in a banana shape on the right rein. I will be working on developing his both sides evenly in the next few weeks or as long as I continue to school him.
I was really happy with how the chambon work transpired into ridden work, especially in trot to walk transitions. Columbus has a tendency to jog instead of offering a trot-walk transition and he also likes to tense his neck in the process. Today, however, we managed a few decent transitions and there was considerably less tension in him. He also willingly stretched down in the end of the session.
I introduced Columbus to the chambon - a classical training aid which I use on all horses when I start training them. The chambon develops correct top line muscles and helps develop a horse who is a true athlete not an artificial marionette.
Columbus tends to get tense and didn't want to stretch at all on a first session. I let him have quite a lot of freedom and the chambon was set on long.
We also did some flexion and transitions work which is quite poor but not desperate! I find Columbus really enjoyable schooling project and he definitely tries to please.

The chambon made Columbus work quite hard and although he did not want to relax fully he offered some promising moments.
Pictured left is a very tired Columbus being sponged down after his schooling session.
My first session with Columbus was in a form of a 40 minutes ride in a field. I concluded he needs to go back to basics and be taught how to be a cooperating gentleman.
He hasn't done much in his life in terms of schooling but does some hacking in a lovely Richmond Park and is very well looked after.
He would definitely do with loosing a little bit of his fatty deposits but mostly they just need to be turned into muscles (which he lacks).


Hi, my name is Columbus and up until July 2007 I didn't really have to do much. I know I am a rare breed i.e. I am special and so everybody should treat me like a king. I mean, I spend all days with two nice Connemara ladies; we chat, eat and enjoy life! What more could one want!
I am an easy going chap but if I don't understand something I can get stroppy and will let you know I am not quite happy, that is for sure.
I have great owners but Lady Owner (who also owns this nice grey mare -Rosie- I share my field with) decided she wanted some lessons and so I somehow got involved.
I was not overly happy with my first training session but then my Owners got a little more involved. I started getting more attention and I figured that this whole training might not be too bad...Then I heard Wiola saying I have 'presence' and 'could be great with a bit of training' so I thought I would participate in this circus...for now!

Wiola decided to keep this diary to record my progress. Well, I won't be arguing...