Monday 3 October 2016

Fitness Plan Paying Off

There's a plus side to being pretty much the only rider at the barn who didn't go to the MREC Octoberfest event this year. I was the only person at the barn all weekend. Those of you who board at busy barns will understand the joy in not having to share the barn or the arena for an entire weekend! So, I spent a zillion hours in the grooming/wash stall getting Bridget looking pretty, including her first beard trim of the year (shh,  don't tell, but in the wild she'd be a bearded lady!), the neverending job that is thinning her mane, and combing out and conditioning her tail in preparation for it's winter braid.
pony selfie

I also hauled all the random stuff out of my bin in the tack room and did my annual sort and clean of everything that's been shoved in there this show season. It felt really, really nice to have everything neat and clean and tidy, pony included.

I have it in my mind to really work on Bridget's canter and fitness this fall, and something Denny Emerson posted on Facebook the other day hit home. I can't find the exact quote, but essentially if you want a better quality canter you'd better spend a lot of time cantering! In B's case, I think better fitness is also a huge component in her motivation levels...if she simply can't canter more than a few minutes at a time it is difficult to work on quality!

From tracking our virtual miles, I know that my normal flat ride averages 40% walk, 40% trot, and only about 20% canter. Lessons are more intense, but canter stays about the same - more trot work rather than canter replaces most of the walking. I've been saying for months I need to work on the canter, but it's been a little bit of a catch 22 in that Bridget is only so strong and I feel like cantering around out of balance and struggling simply for the sake of cantering isn't the most helpful. Instead, we've been working on a lot of strengthing work in walk and trot (shoulder in, haunches in, leg yields, spirals, etc) to add strength and coordination (not to mention tons of hill work on the trails).

Long story short, after months of bodybuilding, we're finally at a place where we can take Denny's advice and canter a lot more. Its a somewhat adjustable canter and it's exponentially more balanced than even a few months ago. I'm ridiculously excited about's a point where we now have something to work with!

And...B stepped up this weekend in an absolutely huge way. It's that magical time of the year where the hormonal mare anger is gone, and we find out that she actually learned all that stuff we've taught her in recent weeks. So, as I walked around and collected the walk, I thought about setting up a nice canter depart. And, based simply on that thought, my wonderful pony rearranged her legs and offered up a beautiful, balanced walk to canter depart and continued on with a good half circle of lovely collected canter with the absolute minimum of input from her rider. She just offered it up like no big deal, after weeks on the struggle bus. It wasn't a fluke, happened every time I asked to right, and I'm guessing 75% of the time to the left (she's still apt to get herself in a teeny bit of a muddle now and then to the left but I can feel she legit knows what we want and how to do it). Because I can't resist, I also set  up some big counter canter loops and some changes through walk across the diagonal and she absolutely had no issues with that.
blurry mirror selfie

Sunday was a repeat, so after a check in for a few minutes, we just cantered around and jumped some things instead. She's back into wannabe jumper pony mode, so it's a great way to reward her but also build up fitness and better transitions on the sly.

Shoulder in, no big deal, extend and come back also a thing all of the sudden. I'm not saying my weekend rides were all perfect, dressage worthy stuff with no losses of balance, but I can feel she absolutely knows what I'm asking and wants to try. It's just a matter of building more strength and balance. I'm feeling pretty happy right now.



  1. That sounds like a magical weekend. I'm looking forward to the end of hormone season too. :)

    In terms of cantering more- I found doing alternating circles of canter and trot help with conditioning.

  2. That sounds like an absolutely wonderful weekend. I love alone time at the barn. It's just so peaceful and easy (wow, I've unknowingly quoted some song... James Taylor maybe? Did he write that about going to the barn?!);)
    I read the same post of Denny's and have also committed to more canter work. Good luck to you! :)

  3. Those rides sound perfect - like all the hard work this summer paid off all at once haha.

  4. It's just the best when you finally begin to feel the payoff to all the hard work!

  5. Amazing!! So happy all your hard work is rewarding you!

  6. Definitely agree, sometimes you just got to canter to work on the canter ;)

  7. That sounds like an amazing weekend! I giggled at hormonal mare anger but its so true!