Saturday, March 1, 2014


Today, I rode while N and Erika were taking a lesson with Cassandra. It was cold enough in the indoor that I could see Ashke's breath. Ashke was very good and did transitions very well. We cantered briefly in both directions, but not for very long because the air was very cold and I don't need to chill his lungs.

Speaking of being sick, one of our trainers at the barn, a woman named Margaret who works with a couple of Friesans and some Morgans in saddleseat, is very ill. I heard that she got some kind of flu, that turned to pneumonia and then got even more serious. She is in the hospital in not so good condition. Can you all, gentle readers, say a prayer, or light a candle, or send healing energy, or whatever it is you do or believe, asking that she become hale and whole again? Thanks in advance.

Back to my story, . . .

J said she was watching the boy horse watch himself in the mirror. Every time he recognized himself, his tail would flag. It was pretty funny to watch.

We did W/T/C again and I'm not sure if it is the change in saddles or the time I spent riding bareback (I think it is a combination of both) but we are both so much more relaxed and there is no rushing. After our bit of riding Cassandra called me into the middle of the arena with N and Erika. She had us move around her in a circle, as if our horses were the hands of a clock and she was the center of the clock. Ashke was really good at it, in both directions.

Then I asked J to pull out a pole so Ashke and I could work on sidepassing over it (something that is required in Working Eq).

Watch the video closely, especially when he is moving to our right (to the left from the perspective of the viewer) and tell me if you see what I see. I don't want to tell you what to look for, I just want to see if you see it.

Our biggest issue with sidepassing right now, is that he wants to move to the end of the pole that is closest, regardless of my cues. He certainly knows what is expected of him, I just need him to do it in the direction I ask.

And just because he is so darn cute!!


  1. Many things:
    1. I love how he arches his neck and how proudly and enthusiastically he approaches that pole every time, just because it's you that's asking, even though he already knows he's going to be asked to move sideways along its length, even though it's something that's a bit hard for him at the moment. You two have such a wonderful bond and it's always evident, especially in these videos.
    2. I love when you ask out loud, "How about moving *this way*?" And he thinks about it for a second, then does it. That just made me grin from ear to ear! And oh my goodness, his face when you give him all those pats! He was loving the praise!
    3. Regarding his hind legs, I've watched the videos both in the blog and on YouTube so I could see them full size. When he goes to your left, he is dragging the right hind a little and he's not crossing over in the hind end, which I'm not surprised given his old injury. It's going to be harder for him to reach under himself with that right hind to do a full cross over.
    4. He crosses a little bit better to his right, but he kind of leans funny on the right hind in this direction instead of balancing firmly on it as he reaches over with his left hind.

    It is normal for horses to initially have a hard time crossing their hinds when starting lateral work as it really works their hind end in a way that nothing else does. I think #3 and #4 are totally to be expected given Ashke's old injury. He's stepping up under himself really well when moving on a circle and in straight lines. I think lateral work will help to really stretch and strengthen that right hind, especially if started in small doses to give him time to strengthen it. He might be ready to try stuff like shoulder-fore, shoulder-in and maybe haunches in, in small doses (just a few strides at a time) to help him really start reaching under himself. You can train a shoulder-in from the ground too. I suck at in-hand work, but Lily can shoulder-in and sidepass on the ground with me walking next to her. I introduced the sidepass first, then taught her the shoulder-in once we figured out the best cues to go sideways (she's incredible at reading my body language, to the point where I had to adjust what I was doing so she wouldn't accidentally get mixed signals! I wouldn't be surprised if Ashke is the same with you). Once we had our cues sorted out, we'd do a few strides of each on the ground at a time, move on to something else, then try it again. It was a huge help for our under-saddle work back when we were struggling with leg yields.

    1. Ok, so I'm not crazy. It looked to me like not only is he not as balanced reaching under with that leg, but that the leg is kind of twisting and buckling under him as he does it. I was really worried, but I feel better knowing you think this is normal and just weakness from his past. That we can work with. We have been doing a little bit of quarterline to the rail lateral movement on some of our rides, just trying to get him to realize that he needs to move forward and sideways AT THE SAME TIME, difficult I know, but I can make sure I am doing those exercises a couple of times each ride. And turns on the forehand. (Not over and over again, but making them part of our riding routine every time.

      I wonder if this is a contributing factor in his stickiness in changing direction from moving counterclockwise to moving clockwise when we are riding a figure eight. It would make sense because he has to change how he is using his hips and bring that right leg up under him more as we change directions. The figure eights are a good exercise for that too.

      Using dressage riding to help strengthen and rehab this hind leg has been wonderful. It's also changed how he moves and how he uses his body. He used to drag his toes when he walked and trotted, and he used to stumble a lot at the canter. Those issues have disappeared. However, I'm not sure we would pass the vet check at an endurance ride yet. We will get there eventually. The way he moves that leg is already worlds better than he did before.

      Any other movements or exercises you would recommend?

    2. Dressage is an amazing thing. When we went to Fort Valley, you could literally tell which of the endurance horses did dressage for cross training. Completely different body types!

      And yes, the stickiness you are feeling when changing directions can certainly be a result of the small lingering weakness he might still have from the injury. He might always be slightly sticky in that direction, but I think it will eventually become barely noticeable to you as you both continue working on dressage and his RH gets stronger.

      You've done an amazing job. I honestly can't see any difference in his hind leg movement anymore in the videos you've posted of him moving on a circle or in a straight line.

      The movements you are already doing are great! And yes, I'd incorporate the quarterline to rail movements into the regular routine. I'd also ask Cassandra about showing you the shoulder-in. I love that movement; it is very simple but it does SO much for strengthening the horse. In the beginning Lily would fuss with it; I started doing it for just a couple of strides then rewarding her with a circle. We'd do something else, then shoulder-in for a couple of strides, reward with a circle. We'd do this several times within a session. Within a couple of months she was able to go down both long sides of the arena while maintaining that shoulder-in position and it helped her SO much in other areas of our training. I think if Cassandra can help you with this particular movement it will be a great addition to your toolbox!

  2. He looks like he's more comfortable (stronger, more sure of his legs) going left than right. To the left, he's got good crossover in front and behind. To the right, he just looks unsure and sticky. Most horses are stronger one way or the other, so it's not unusual (in my experience).

    I did a TON of in-hand sidepassing both directions with my old horse Saga. He could sidepass fine without the pole, but stick a pole between is feet and it was like he grew roots. I made sure he was comfortable both directions in-hand before I asked him to do it from the saddle. I'd say it took maybe 2-3 weeks of daily work before he could confidently do it in-hand, both ways? Then from the saddle he was much more confident and cooperative. Just a thought on how to approach it. And Ashke is SO proud of himself!!!

    1. Yeah, I know he has issues stepping over that right hind. We aren't sure if this compensation started when he broke his patella or if it happened when he injured his right hamstring. The right hamstring has been a serious medical hitch in getting him both fit and moving correctly. He is so much stronger than he was a year ago and the significant adduction of his RH leg (swinging inside almost to the LH leg) has straightened out a lot. It is barely noticeable when he walks away from you. And his farrier says that the unevenness in his hooves from how he compensates for his injuries has become less obvious. My biggest concern in what I saw in the video is not so much the stickiness (because he is so much better to that direction than he was four months ago) but the way he rotates his leg and almost collapses his fetlock as he tries to step over.

      My plan is to ask him from the ground before our ride, and then mounted at the end of our ride. To be patient and trust that the work will do it's job and help him with that leg.

      Ashke loves knowing when he has accomplished what I am asking. I can feel the tension drain from his body when I pat and rub his neck, telling him what a good boy he is. Sometimes, if we are stuck and I stop and tell him he's doing good, it is enough for him to relax and complete the exercise. He's such an awesome horse.


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