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.



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...