Lellie Ward Clinic Breakdown

Lellie Ward is amazing.  Point blank.  Period.  If you ever have the chance to clinic with her, 100% jump on that opportunity.  She is funny, straight to the point, and about permanent fixes, not the quick fixes a lot of clinicians liked to give.  She was equally hard on both the rider and horse, but every single pair walked away with the horse and rider going much better and wildly happy.

Hauling, loading, and packing:  The pony was an absolute saint.  I am lucky to have had some awesome teammates who hauled the pony for free (although I did Venmo them money, because that is the polite thing to do and ensures that people are usually pretty happy to haul you the next time around).  Packing is wildly easy for me when it comes to horses, but wildly difficult when I have to pack for anything non-horse related.  Luckily, this clinic was 20 minutes from my barn, so even if I had forgotten something, I could quickly run and grab it without being SOL.

The pony settled into his stall and was (dare I say it?!?!) one of the best behaved horses there.  He loaded and unloaded like a champ, was not calling for anybody, and besides spooking at the sound of me biting into a carrot, was rock solid the entire weekend.  It made me extremely proud that he is figuring out how to settle in and not act like a nutcase.  The previous clinic we went to was about $125/hour lesson, and Wally spent the first ten minutes of our very expensive lesson dragging the clinician around while she held onto his bridle.  It was the world’s most expensive pony ride ever.

 

Day 1:

I was mildly nervous, because if you have been following along, you know that Wally was lame since November, with no seeming cause.  He got 2+ months off, got chiropractic work, acupressure, and a saddle change and is back in action–albeit slowly.  And by slowly I mean taking it back to 20 minute rides of just walking for two weeks before adding in 3-4 minutes of trot work.  So this means the pony is good and chunky, and thanks to the weather, I had not had a lesson on him since he went lame.  Basically, we were desperately unprepared.

I started off explaining how long Wally had been off and some of the issues we had been having.  Right away, Lellie guessed exactly how Wally would respond to certain things and what his go-to habits are, like charging off and dropping down on the bit.  She was absolutely spot on and I immediately felt more comfortable.

I was told to carry my hands higher and demand more of a higher level frame, say a second or third level frame versus a training level or first level frame.  The main goal was to think of lifting the horse with every up bit and keeping him up with every step instead of allowing him to plunge down into the bridle or go behind the bit.  One of my main issues is that I have a slight tendency to tip forward when on Wally, which is a big no-no when you are a tall person on a small pony.  He takes advantage of it every time and dives onto the forehand.

Lellie had me sitting up straighter and lifting with my seat while also carrying my hands higher to show Wally where he should be carrying himself.  Anytime he tried to charge forward, I’d ask him to halt (without looking down–another bad habit!), then reinback.  Halting and doing a reinback is a great way to stop a horse from plunging through the bridle and blowing off your aids.  I really needed to sit back, use my butt cheeks to tell him to half-halt, and loosen my thighs and let them swing so he would have a freer shoulder.  Despite sounding counter intuitive, loosening the pressure of my thighs helped Wally step up and take softer steps, bending more at the joint rather than running forward through my aids.

We did a lot of work on bend and counter-bend, shifting the bend of the spine to create flexibility.  Wally is really good at blocking me with his shoulder or straightening his spine to avoid bending to the left.  By tapping or holding a whip on the body part he was blocking me with (usually his shoulder or left haunch), Wally learned to loosen the body part and swing through the back instead of stiffening and charging.

Once I got him softening at the walk, we did it at the trot.  He got quite a bit more “chargy” here, so there was a huge emphasis on getting him to unblock the body and maintain the softer balanced steps like we had in the walk.  By the end, we were both covered in sweat.

Day 2:

I could tell Wally was tired from the day before, and a little grumpy in his stall.  I was worried it would translate over into our ride, but Wally was a little pro once we entered the arena.  He was already more receptive to staying soft in the walk and trot, but had a little more resistance to the rein back.  I felt this was mildly fair, since he was probably a little muscle-sore in his back from the day prior.

We split the arena up and only used the bottom 1/4, turning the traditional short sides into the long sides and vice versa, so I was in essence working in a very small space.  As I went around, I was instructed to bend and counter bend his spine, flexing him both ways and managing every step.  When Lellie said to halt, you had to halt immediately within the next step, no stumbling or dumping down into the halt.

One of the neat exercises was to go across the mini diagonal, starting at a trot, walk at the first quarter line, trot at x, changing the bend, walk at the 3rd quarter line, and finally trotting when I reached the long side.  Each transition had to be up, up, up! and without any charging steps.  Definitely still a work in progress, but very useful for learning how to manage each step, even as the bend and balance changes.

We got to canter a little bit, and Wally offered one of the softest and best canters he could to date.  I felt like I was really sitting in the saddle with my back moving with his.  It was one of those moments that you cling to when everything else goes badly.

 

Key Takeways:

  • Honestly a wildly positive, fun, and informative clinic.  It helped wash the bad taste of the last one I had away and gave me a good base to build from.
  • Wally is ready to start going to more shows and ramp up his training.
  • I can take a lot more contact up with the reins and really control the tempo, size of step, and flexibility in his body.

General Takeaways from the Clinic:

  • Everybody should be sitting up and riding like they are going around in a higher level frame.
  • Demand more of your horse and ask for each step to be lighter and more uphill.
  • Flexibility of the spine is extremely important and should be focused on every day.
  • Sessions should challenge you and the horse, but you should both walk away feeling like you accomplished something and that your horse can reach the next level.

 

Advertisements

What’s Going On Under The Hood

Saddle Placement
Seeing how the muscles and bones are connected allows riders to better see how different frames affect the entire body. 

Everything we do affects the horse, both negatively and positively.  If you look at the development of a horse’s muscles, you can see exactly how they have been ridden.  For instance, in the ever controversial (and for good reason) rollkur position, the horse is being pulled into a low and deep frame, rather than the horse coming into the correct frame by using driving aids.  In the picture below, not only is the horse over flexed, but there is also a dip right in front of his/her withers.

Image result for horse pulled into frame dressage
Notice the dip right below where her hands are.  There should be a smooth continuation of the line of the neck, rather than this dip if the horse is in the correct frame. Also note the overdevelopment of the neck muscles by the poll.  This can also be found in horses who are frequently put in draw reins.

So what is happening muscularly when a horse is pulled into a rollkur or overflexed frame?  There is an overdevelopment of the muscles near the poll.  So instead of a proportionately muscled neck, this horse often lacks muscles near the withers and base of the neck, and is overmuscled near the poll.

Muscling Picutres

When I look at Bronson, I see exactly how he has been ridden and trained (with draw reins and on the forehand).  He does not stretch through the back and takes little “stutter steps” with the hind.  So the trick is to first get his head up and have him work through his back, and then begin working him into the correct frame.  He currently runs through the bridle and down onto the forehand, so I switch up the directions we go, trot and walk him over poles, and basically anything else that makes him rebalance and engage his back.

By looking at how our horses are built and how they are muscling up, we can see the conformational difficulties they will have to overcome and how our training is effecting them.

 

What to Do with a Lame Horse Part II

Call the accupressurist/masseuse.  At least, that’s what I did.  The pony got over a month and a half off, trotted out sound, was put back into light work, but was still ouchy.  So I am getting him a massage with an accupressurist and seeing if that helps.  I also have the number of a chiropractor, so that is next on my list.

 

But, that is just me.  So here is what I have been doing in the meantime with the little lame pony.  You ready?

Walking.  Lots and lots of walking.  Handwalking, walking bareback, walking with a saddle on, so on and so forth.  But, the biggest trick is keeping the pony on the bit in self carriage with the intent of building up the muscles in his back before we take on heavier work.  We are now at the point where we trot the long sides for about 3-4 minutes after walking for 10-15 minutes (including lots of bendy things like circles, serpentines, and poles).

The other neat thing I have been doing is following Joseph Newcomb’s YouTube Channel.  He has several really great videos on teaching your horse/pony to piaffe and work in hand, which I have been utilizing.  Here is the link.  Basically you start out by getting them to back off your personal space and listen to your cues.  We have worked on backing up straight (which is also great for assessing if your horse has any deficits on one side!), standing square, and leg lifting.

You may ask, what the heck is leg lifting?  Is it that awful exercise humans do when they try to get “six pack abs?” Yes! But also no!  It is the horsey equivalent (kind of).  If you follow along with Joseph Newcomb’s “Four Weeks to Piaffe” video playlist, you will see what I mean!

You begin by tapping a horse’s/pony’s back legs with the blunt end of a dressage whip until they lift it up.  You work to the point where they don’t just lift the legs, but move them forward and hold them until you release the whip pressure.  This engages the horse’s abdomen and back while also teaching them to reach under themselves more.

Bronson is actually a star at this and has surprised me with how willing and clever he is.  He picked this up way faster than Wally, although to be fair, Wally challenges all direction before deciding to take it.  I think Bronson could be on his way to piaffing, which is very exciting!

Wally on the other hand gets the idea but thinks it is wildly stupid.  However, this exercise has given me a good idea of what areas of his back are weaker.  I can pinpoint the side where he is feeling “ouchy” and does not want to lift the corresponding hind leg.

So we will be sticking with this particular exercise so I can see if/when he gets stronger, but I will also be walking him over cavalettis too so he naturally lifts his hind legs.  I am hoping that the accupressure will even him out and I see greater improvements.  Fingers crossed!

I am also teaching Mr. Lame Pony to pick things up and to open the arena gate so I do not have to lean down and do it if we decide to hack out after some ring work.  I want to get to the point where if I am on his back, he can hand me things and reach around and give them to me as well as open up the gate.  I can tell he is getting bored and is ready to work despite not feeling 100%, so I am trying to occupy his little devious pony brain.  If you have any ideas or pointers, feel free to drop them in the comment section below!

What Do You Do With a Lame Horse? Part I

Image result for when the vet says its just an abcess meme horse

Ah, lameness.  Something that has plagued every horseperson at some point in their career, causing them to spend thousands of dollars and lose all patience.  Sometimes it is easy to pinpoint due to a laceration or kick mark and other time it is a complete mystery.  Maybe it is the saddle, maybe the weather, maybe thrush, maybe a million things…and you have to get down to the bottom of it.

Nobody likes seeing their horse in pain, so what do you do if your horse comes up lame?  Have a checklist of things to look at:

-swelling in the joints

-heat in the joints

-obvious cuts or lacerations

The list goes on, but identifying obvious problems is usually a great first step towards getting your horse on the road to recovery.  The next step is to call in the big guns, including your trainer, the farrier, and the vet.  If you are lucky, the farrier finds an abscess and that is all you need to worry about.  Otherwise you may need to do flexions, X-Rays, radiographs, etc.  Occasionally another (or additional–yes your wallet is crying by now!) expert like a chiropractor or body worker is a good person to call after isolating an issue or having clean flexions and X-Rays.

In the long run, it can be a frustrating, long, and expensive process.  The biggest things you will probably need for dealing with lameness are 3 jobs to pay for all the vet/farrier/chiropractor visits and lots and lots of wine.

All jokes aside, patience is a virtue.  Use this time to bond with your horse a little more and groom the heck out of him or her. Teach them some groundwork or new tricks (see the follow up blog post for this!) and you will end up reaping the rewards by the time they are sound and ready to roll again.  Having a lame horse is a frustrating process, but if we remember the basis of our sport lies within the horse itself, we can appreciate that our horse’s health comes first and foremost and that they do not care about timelines or training plans more than they care about feeling secure with the people around them.

Goals for 2019

As much as I would like to not join in on the stereotypical “New Year, New Me!” posts, I do think it is really important to talk about goals and what you expect out of your riding.  Without setting goals, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut with your training.  After a while, you just start entering the arena and messing around instead of training with purpose.

Start small…then medium and large.  

Not all of your goals have to be big and scary.  In fact, DO NOT make all of them big.  That makes goal setting and chasing really stressful and does not recognize all the steps that you made along the way towards your “big goal”.  It is easy to get discouraged when your goals seem so far away and unattainable.  Celebrate the little things.

One of my favorite quotes by Olympic runner, Alexi Pappas is

“remember where you came from

remember where you’re going

vision comes before growing”

So when setting goals, keep in mind the building blocks of how you are getting to the big scary goal, and use those as little road markers to celebrate and focus on instead of just one giant journey.  For instance, if you are looking to get to first level, start focusing on your transitions from trot to canter and keeping those round.  And then work on getting more bend and suppleness before finally hitting that level.  Breaking down each goal piece by piece and using them for training is really helpful.

 

Now that I have done my preaching(!), here are my tiny and big goals for the year for each horse:

Bronson:

  1. Get Bronson consistently seeking contact and more supple through the body
  2. Get the last hundred pounds on
  3. Get him jumping more
  4. Sell him

It is time for Bronson to move on to his next home now that he has a solid base and is what I deem “a good citizen,” meaning that he has good ground manner and basic dressage and jump training.

 

Wally:

  1. Get him 100% sound again.  No training for lame ponies makes everyone aggravated!
  2. Bring him back into work mostly on the lunge at first, incorporating cavalettis from some of my new books by Ingrid Klimke and Reiner Klimke that I got for Christmas.
  3. Build up his conditioning under saddle–including more cavaletti and trot piles (please tell me you were not suprised!).
  4. Work on the contact and getting him holding himself up.
  5. Show at training level.
  6. Take him to the National Dressage Pony Cup
  7. Take him to First Level to start earning my USDF Bronze Medal Scores

A lot of work for a little pony, but he is up for it!  I cannot wait to start this new year!

Christmas Wishlist 2019

Christmas is my favorite time of the year!  I am not going to lie, I am pretty materialistic, but Christmas is always about the food and getting together with family–especially if you only see them once or twice a year.  BUUUUTTTT as a horse girl, I usually spend all year thinking of horsey Christmas gifts I can ask for.  The list ranges from essentials to downright absurdly expensive and gorgeous presents.  Enjoy my list below and let me know what you are asking Santa for for Christmas!

 

  1. Sterling Essentials Eucalyptus Leather Cleaner:
    • I am in love with the mini starter kit I received, and if you read my review post, you know that I am dying to get my hands on the full size cleaner.  Plus, Eucalyptus is so soothing and naturally purifies the air, so buying this product is essential to my health…so I should definitely get it.
    • E cleaner5.jpg
  2. Redmond Rock Salt Block:
    • This salt block is the creme de la creme of salt blocks.  It has way more minerals and nutrients than traditional Himalayan salt blocks, AND it is mined and processed in the United States, so you are supporting your horse’s health and the U.S. economy.  Win-win
    • Supplement Image
  3. Horse Guard Flaxen Flow and Flix
    • If you haven’t read in my other blog post about what I feed Bronson, 1) go check it out, and 2) go get yourself some Horse Guard products.
    • I am almost out of Flaxen Flow for Bronson, so time to add some to the cart, but I cannot rave more about how great this product is.  It has helped add healthy fats, not to mention healthy fats that are actually balanced unlike most other feeds out there.
    • The Flix are Horse Guard’s flax seed treets, and I have been dying to try them.  They are made with 100% flax, and are one of the few treats out there that are good for horses without being wildly sugary (a blessing when you have a pony, as ponies can be predisposed to Cushings, laminitis, etc.)
  4. Purvida Healthy Horse Original Leave-In Conditioning Spray
    • This spray contains all natural coconut oil, witch hazel spray, and vegetable glycerin to condition hair and moisturize your horse’s skin (especially important during the winter when their skin can get dry and they are in blankets).
    • I have been using Sporthorse Essentials Coat Conditioning Spray, but I really want to try this brand.  I am a huge fan of the fact that they offer giant refill bottles so you can use the original spray bottle multiple times (say hello to reducing your waste!).
      Purvida Healthy Horse - Purvida Healthy Horse
  5. Kentucky Horsewear Rug
    • I DO NOT NEED ANOTHER RUG, but I totally do, and this is at the top of my list.  I hate the way the pony’s Rider’s International Blanket sits on his shoulders (it hangs down and doesn’t cover his chest), and I feel bad he has to wear ill-fitting rugs when it gets so cold out.
    • This brand has artificial rabbit fur lining the inside, making it super soft and warm while preventing rubs, and has a wooly kind of collar that looks super cozy and snugs up the rug so it won’t fall down the shoulders.  It has artificial brown leather detailing to top off the posh look.  Basically, I am in love with this rug.
    •   Related image
  6. Romfh Sarafina Full Seat White Breeches:
    • Since I am hopefully getting ready to begin a year full of showing, I need some high quality breeches.  Romfh breeches are already my favorite and I have heard rave reviews about the Sarafina breeches.
    • My favorite part about these are the darker great full seats.  Let’s be totally honest: the person who said we had to wear white anything around horses was a total jacka$$.  I come home everyday from the barn covered in dirt, so I cannot imagine what I am going to do to white breeches.  The grey seat takes a little bit of stress of me.
    • Romfh Sarafina Full Seat
  7. Celeris Boots
    • I already have a fully functioning pair of boots and half chaps, as well as a brand new pair of show boots (that I need to break in, I may add).  But this is a Christmas wishlist, and I have been in love with these boots ever since I saw them on Instagram (as well as Secchiari’s shiny patent blue boots, but I digress!).
    • These boots come in all styles and patterns, and I cannot pick just one.  I’m in love with a couple different styles, and I have at least two pairs that come in suede in mind.  Take a look at their Instagram and see why I am in love.
    • 8. Equine Designs Rigitali Bridle

    • After my horrible disappointment over the SD Design Bridle not fitting, I found a second love and discovered this bridle.  It is gorgeous, with a patent noseband and anatomical crownpiece and noseband.  I am also a huge fan of the fact that it has a white lining instead of a straight black one.  Wally’s current bridle has white piping, and I think it looks best on him.  So many brands are doing away with the white lining, but I love the way it looks.

Sterling Essentials LLC Review!

*Please note that I am an ambassador for the brand.

  • What that means: I get a discount on their products, and if certain numbers of people buy Sterling Essentials products with my free shipping code (Jackie4Sterling), I get things like a logo hat or an EIS sunshirt.
  • What that does not mean: I do not get paid to endorse their products in any way, so you are getting the real take on what I think of the product.

 

One, I have no idea how the heck I landed an ambassador position for Sterling Essentials, but I am not going to question it too much!  Two, I have been following their Instagram for a long time and was obsessed with their before-and-after videos/pictures.  I am a sucker for a good transformation, so I may or may not have gone down the rabbit hole looking at their Instagram for a looooooong time.

Part of my ambassadorship means that I got a free Leather Care Starter Set and some stickers.  Each starter kit comes in Lavender set, so it really makes cleaning your tack feel like you are at a spa.  There is something about the glycerin smell of other cleaners that makes me kind of cringe, and let’s be real, those soaps stay on your skin and you smell like that for the rest of the day.  It was nice to clean my tack and have it smell like I put on an expensive lotion, AND this cleaner and conditioner did NOT make my hands feel tacky or sticky afterwords.leather care starter kt

Let’s start with the cleaner:

Big lavender cleaner

  • At first, I was unsure of how well this actually worked.  Then I actually looked at my dirty halfchap/boot versus my cleaned one and realized I was being an idiot.
  • The starter kit does not have a sprayer like the full size bottle, so you kind of had to squirt it on and then work quickly so it would not soak in in that one particular spot.  The full size one is definitely going on my Christmas list, because I feel like the sprayer would be a game changer.
  • The cleaner feels great and is NOT tacky like every other tack cleaner I know.
  • I was really amazed with how well this removed horse sweat/”lime” from my half-chaps.  Normally I need to scrub to get it off and still have residue left behind that never gets all the way clean.  This knocked it off in 2 seconds!

I was previously using the Effol Effax Combi cleaner, which I loved.  And then I realized it contained alcohol and was stripping the brown dye off my boots and half-chaps (you can see the dye-free spots in the pictures below).  Plus, I am learning that you should really do a cleaner and then a conditioner instead of a combined product if you have the time, because it really makes a difference.  The cleaner removes all the dirt and gives your conditioner unimpeded access to the pores of the leather, kind of like washing your face before putting moisturizer on.

Additionally, the cleaner comes in three different scents: lavender, eucalyptus, and floral citrus.  I have not tried the other scents, but I really like the lavender.  Unlike other natural products, the scent is not super heavy or cloying, and is in there just the right amount!  The cleaner is also pH balanced to match the pH of leather, so it does not strip the leather, nor degrade the integrity of the leather (unlike a surprising amount of cleansers and conditioners on the market).

Next up, the conditioner!

L+conditioner+2

  • This is where I really fell in LOVE with this brand.  The conditioner comes in a little lip balm-like tub, and has the same consistency, WHICH IS A GAMECHANGER.  I have been known to spill a tub of neatsfoot oil or Lexol a time or too.  And that $hit is horribly hard to get up, and it stains everything.  If you have never done it, avoid it all costs.  Or just be smart and get this conditioner.  This impossible-to-spill conditioner is absolutely perfect if you do not want to stain anything or ruin flooring.
  • The conditioner is super moisturizing.  I kept applying more and more to see how much my boots and half-chaps would soak up.  The leather takes it in quickly, which may be due to the cleaner used before that prepares the leather for the conditioner, or it may be that this stuff just sinks in and works quickly.  I have no clue, but again, I am not going to question a good thing.
  • It is made with food-grade natural oils, therapeutic grade essential oils, and beeswax, so I am not too worried if my pony or dog breaks into it.  My sister also smeared this stuff all over her lips (bold), which I don’t think is recommended, but I knew this product was high quality, so I was not too worried.  Plus, my sister could not stop talking about how soft it made her lips.

This product also comes in three scents: lavender, eucalyptus, and floral citrus.  This product does not leave you or your tack sticky, so you and your not tack will not become dust magnets.  This conditioner just leaves a soft shine, smooth finish, and a trace of lavender behind.  I honestly could not find any flaws with this product.  I, personally, would like to soak in a tub of this stuff in the winter when my skin becomes super dry, based on what I have seen it do to my leather goods.

 

Here are the before and after pictures of my boots and half-chaps.  Please note that I have NOT taken care of these like I should.  I tromp through mud, wash horses, and then throw these puppies in my car and let them sit.  I had not cleaned either my boots or half-chaps for at least 3 months before cleaning them with Sterling Essentials products.

boot before
Before

 

boot after
After–minus me cleaning my boot heel!

You can see that the dark rich color of my leather is restored, WITHOUT stripping any of the dye off.  Any dirt or horse sweat is gone (minus the mud I left on my boot heel–sorry!), but the leather is much more supple and moisturized.  It was honestly like looking at before and after pictures of people getting Botox.  All the wrinkles and lines disappeared, and my half-chaps looked better than they have in months.

half chap comparison
Before on the Left, After on the Right

The change in color is not just bad lighting (although I AM the Queen of taking terrible pictures with awful lighting), but is really the difference this product makes.  It was like using an anti-ager and super powered moisturizer on my half-chaps.  I mean, really.  Look at the half-chap on the left: lined, wrinkled and rumpled looking, dirty and really used looking versus the half-chap on the right: richer and darker looking, all lines gone, no visible signs of wear.  If this picture does not change your mind, I do not think anything will.

Simply put, this stuff is amazing and I have found myself using it to clean my tack way more often.  It is nice to use items that not only smell and feel good on your skin, but that also do a kick-A$$ job.  I will be ordering more of these products (and in different scents!) for myself, and I plan on ordering a bunch of the starter care kits as cute stocking stuffers for my barn friends/family!

 

 

Buy here: http://www.sterling-essentials.com/ !

Be sure to use the code Jackie4Sterling for free shipping!