Monday 17 April 2023

Strength Building

 Thanks for all the love on the last post. It's been a week now since I signed the contract and I might even be more excited than before. This seems like it's going to be one of my very few life decisions that feels completely right. Given my tendency towards worrying and second guessing literally everything I do plus all the uncertainty of the past few months years, it feels really good to have 100% certainty that this is how I want to move forward.

Going to be bribing you with foal pictures for the next few months while I ramble on about Sophie and Bridget. He's getting bigger!

But, for riding goals? Said decision means I'm a few years out from actually having a new pony to ride, which actually is OK. If I had found the perfect riding age pony, logistics would have said Sophie would be looking for a new job/home and I'm not quite there yet. I've come to terms with the fact that looking for years for a new riding pony produced nothing because a) I really just wanted a Welsh D and b) I wasn't ready to make any decisions regarding Sophie.

Just some generic cell phone pics this week, but look at how much she filled out over winter! She finally has a chest and pecs and not just a place where both legs come out of. 

As for Bridget, she continued to feel not great the last couple of weeks but in a nice case of good luck, there was an equine bodyworker traveling here. She is looking to set up a regular schedule of clients to visit.  Seeing as I've been finding physio visits and appropriate exercise so useful for myself, I figured B might benefit too.

Because we all know how much B loves exercise. Here's an inspirational one for her (non existent) fitness account on Insta. The poles and the tack and the late afternoon sun imply she worked very hard this day, right?

We gave it a go, and the feedback validated much of what I've been struggling with. I was left with some homework, and once I read into the exercises, a fuzzy memory of a book I once bought for another horse came back into my mind. I pulled said book out and yes, it is exactly what I was hoping it would be and includes my homework, plus some.

A lot of the book is the more commonly advised things I already do practice: hacking, up and down hills, raised poles, transitions, etc. I love that there are suggested programs for different scenarios that incorporate a variety of exercises. The exercises that I want to add are some of the patterns over poles, and honestly quite a bit of the groundwork ones (I raise my hand as the person who only does groundwork if I'm addressing a specific problem, not as a regular check in or exercise). 

This week I placed out various poles and patterns and gave a couple of the ones suggested for strength building and proprioception a go, and oh my...things that are seemingly simple on paper are difficult for B right now. Also, a huge wake up call for how imprecise I've allowed my riding and spatial awareness to get...nothing like a pattern that doesn't involve just cantering or trotting over the center of the pole to show you all the places you're falling in or out or just generally not in control of.

So, my 'warm up' turned into the focus of my ride on Day 1 because it wasn't at all the 15 minute easy strength and agility building experience I thought it would be. Bridget's tendency to lean into everything came to light, both with her pushing through my leg and hand and also with her just smashing through poles rather than moving her body in the way the pattern asks. (Don't worry, I know Bridget is finding it hard because it IS physically hard for her right now so I'm not out there drilling, just trying to pick an appropriate exercise for the day, get a few good steps to build on and then move on to easier for her things). 

Bridget is equally excited about the groundwork parts. Why do I even with this pony? lol

Out of curiosity, I tried the same with Sophie and again, some interesting things came to light. While she physically finds it all easy, her attention span and energy levels make her struggle with me asking for more precision, particularly in walk. 

Do I even have horses at home if I don't let them graze the front yard now and then?

All in all, an experiment I'm going to keep up with...I think a few minutes before or after each ride would benefit both girls immensely.

One more foal pic for tax <3



  1. i love stuff like this -- it's amazing how even the "simplest" constructions can yield interesting and beneficial results

    1. I'm really happy to have rediscovered it...I would have told you I'm great at doing spirals, for example, for building her hindquarters, but the reality when I set out poles and markers was that I'm gradually drifting in one direction half the time and much improvement is needed.

  2. Carmen has a lot in common with Bridget when it comes to work.

    1. Carmen and Bridget would get along well, I think (in that they appear to hate each other but scream and lose it when the other leaves way, of course)

  3. I really like Jec Ballou's teachings. That book that you showed is probably my favorite of all her writings. Lots of good stuff to contemplate and simple, practical (but not necessarily easy) exercises.

    1. I've recently realized I own most (all?) of her books and that's funny because I pull out at least one of them annually, but never realized they are all from the same person. I went to a clinic of hers years ago and it was excellent too, I still use the main exercise for Bridget (diamond with square turns) she taught. Turns out I'm a big fan of hers! <3

  4. I own 2 of Jec's books - 101 dressage exercises & the 55 corrective Exercises book and love them both. When helping the mare I used to lease recover from a hind leg injury, the book provided a lot more in-depth advice especially since the rehab plan from the vet was fairly vague and the horse owner was absent/uninvolved. I can say that for the straddling the pole exercise, my mare and Bridget shared the same unamused faces. 😀 But following certain exercises out of the book and using my own version of the equi-bands helped the mare recover far better than if I just adhered to the vet's walk/trot/canter program.