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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

August 22, 2011

Cantering a large circle


It is ridiculous that having been riding a couple of years I've never really made a concerted effort to attempt this.  The last clinic Phebes went to the trainer got her to do it, and had me do one solitary lap because Phebes had been working a few hours and was frazzled out!  That has been months ago.  Since that time she had got better and being calm at that gait going in a straight line, or wavy line, because "trail" is what we do, and have always done.   Since Journey's arrival Phebes hasn't been getting much ride time.  Maybe a five mile rock-n-rollin' ride once a week, and last night she did an air borne thing that I didn't know was possible on horse back! 

It looked a a little like this only her head was down.

 Just visualize a bronc, arched back, head going down, all four legs up, not touching the earth no-how, no-way.  As much as I'm an adrenaline junky, the entire ride was pretty times, out of control.  Phebes needs more saddle time or she is going to revert back to a monster.

I've often wondered how people have houses, kids, jobs, and keep a horse fit for competition.  Really!   It must be attention deficit or something, seems I cannot get anything in focus, have serious problems completing things, my office looks like I'm a paper hoarder, I'm just did some nice person put it?  OH YEAH...high strung, that's it.  I know people do it all, and I admire that.  In my thirties I worked 40 hours in a really high stress job, I attended college, the house was reasonably clean, the dishes were done, I canned and froze food for winter consumption,  had 300 varieties of iris plants at one point, and saved money (yes! saved!!!).  Plop twenty years on and I'm one heck of a planner, but can't seem to bring things to fruition.  Such is life. 

So!  Sometimes it is the little things.  I saddled my beautiful Phebes today and did a lot of walking,  trotting small circles with a nice bend (of sorts), backing up, backing an "L", side passing, half-passing (not pretty but doing it).  Two things we attempted didn't turn out too well.

  • Side passing over a log (log under horse's belly the whole distance).   She mis-interprets my cue and backs up  EVERY SINGLE TIME.
  • Canter a large oval.    Crap, nobody told me how ridiculously HARD this is.  We were zigging, and zagging, Phebes was giving stink eye, and I just couldn't figure out what was so difficult about such an easy thing?
So, I decided to take one thing at a time and since the acrobatics yesterday happened during a gait transition to the canter I decided I would pick that one.  I got off and let her stand there a bit while I looked around what I call my arena which in fact is nothing more than an over grazed grass lot.  The footing is hard, there are weeds around the perimeter, and an electric fence on three sides, woven on the other.  Hmmm...why can't she make the circle?  What am I doing?  *ding ding ding ding* It isn't what I'm doing.  It is what I'm not doing.  I was concentrating so hard on the riding the gait that I was not concentrating at all on the path.  Phebes followed along behind me (actually I was dragging her by the reins) while I put orange cones on one end, and our poles on one side.  Some kind of zone needed to be established, and it also opened up the area where she would normally be working around these objects.  I drink half a bottle of water because my tongue is about hanging out, give the rest to Phebes, stuff it in the water holder.  Climb back up, and walk to the far end.  Cue her to the canter, boom! She is great going from zero to canter, and we are chugging down the straight side, and I use some inside leg and inside rein and we drift out to the narrow end and come around to the other long side, shoot down the straight stretch, leg and rein and we complete the patttern.   It wasn't perfect, but was the first time we've made it all the way around with all kinds of weirdness.  Lesson over.  I felt very gratified.  You could have pinned a blue ribbon on my chest.  The direction though was clockwise and we need to be able to go both directions.  So that is our goal.  To canter a nice oval, clock-wise, and counter-clockwise, no ziggin' or zaggin', with softness and bend. 


Poor little Journey.  If she hasn't had a time in the short term that she has been here.  Her back is a mess.  It looks just like hives, and is sore to the touch.  She is such a good natured little mare.  She had several days off, and I'd rode her at the walk over the weekend, and she seemed alright.  Had switched out pads, and if anything she was worse this time than before.  I'm not going to put that saddle on her again, but I'm not sure what exactly is happening.  It will clear up over a few days, but really inflamed and aggravated right now.  So since she has come here she has crashed down a steel gate, skinned both rear cannon bones, went lame on the rear, and now has the "back scurvy." 
(in case anyone wonders I keep my pads pretty clean)

The royal spotted one is again on vacation.



  1. I wonder if the saddle isn't just exacerbating an underlying problem. Do bugs get after her bad? Maybe it's something in the feed - what's her concentrate got in it, maybe it's a soy sensitivity? Are there weeds in the pasture that she's snacking on that are causing a problem? How are her feet growing in? they're a good barometer for the rest of the body.

  2. We had no issues until we started riding in the Abetta.

    Journey is very short backed, and the skirt on this saddle is a little longer because I opted for a 16 inch seat. She has very prominent hip bones, you can cup your hand over the protrusion, and I think as she moves her back end she's tipping on side of the saddle up, then the other, and its getting rubbed back and forth. The tree is too wide for her in the back, I wasn't seeing daylight under there. Fit turned out to be not so good for her. Slapped it on Phebes last night and it was fine, but she is very round, and has a nicely developed topline.

    I just feel bad for her, it is obviously very tender, and has bumps about quarter sized all over where the seat of the saddle and my butt would ride. We were only walking and that actually seemed to make a worse mess of it than just moving out. Will let it clear up, and then try her in the old Crestridge and if it doesn't flair up again I'll know for sure the saddle fit wasn't working for her. She is very thin skinned like Phebes with such a fine coat that it really affords little protection. I thought the wool pad would be therapeutic for her back, but it didn't help, nor did the poly blend.

    As for feed, she isn't getting any of the soy. She is on a beet pulp based feed, get timothy pellets, and a small portion of performance feed when she works, and hay. As far as other stuff she gets?

    Strongid daily wormer pellets.
    Hoof supplement.

    That's it.

  3. Oh...her hooves.

    The new growth is looking much smoother and tighter than the old flared growth. She's still sensitive on rock, but much less so than when we started out (I'd say 40% better).

    Wonder if the pelleted wormer is the culprit? (besides the saddle fit). Easy enough to lay off of that, since I can paste worm her on rotation for that.

  4. another p.s.

    If it is heat, how do I get it cooler? Felt? All wool? Definitely not neoprene or such.

  5. I had a gelding once who had that kind of break-out. The Vet & I finally figured out that it was wool! He had an allergy or at least a sensitivity to wool.
    Funny that you mention the wormer - my Vet actually suggested that I put him ON Strongid and that did seem to help his sensitive skin!
    Plus I only rode him with synthetic saddle blankets after that. And neoprene cinches.

  6. cantering circles, and side passing a log... both need the same thing. For the rider to look at where you want to GO. Circles, look well ahead to where you want to be, just like jumping, you look beyond each jump. Side passing over something. Look out towards the end of the log where you want to go. NOT straight down at the log. And take the leg you are side passing towards, way off her side to "open it up" for her to side pass that direction. That may help the backing off the log issues some

  7. I was indeed looking down at the log. We will try that :) I can also open the door a little more than I do with my leg.

    But first! Circles. I kind of expect counter clockwise will be harder for her, she always has an aversion to counter clockwise.

    When beginning cantering patterns I wonder how long a session should be? I do break things up by doing other things in between at the walk.

  8. I shampooed Journey's back last night and did a bucket of cold water rinse. She looks SO MUCH BETTER this morning! Not fussy anymore, and more worried about a carrot than her back. Yay!

    Wondering about the wool allergy. One of my pads is 100% wool on the bottom and the other is a poly/wool blend. So when I switch to the Crestridge I'm thinking I'll put a synthetic on her first and see how that flies. I have two of them, the TOKLAT cool backs, but only one will let me put an insert in.

    I just feel so much better to run my hand over her back and no lumps :)

    ~ E.G.

  9. Awesome! And that's what I used too! The Cool-backs. They were so thick and bulky under my western saddle though, I eventually switched to the Professional Choice Charmayne James barrel racing saddle pad.
    It's synthetic. Once you start looking, there are a number of options that are not wool. Yay for that!

    Loved the advice given by txtrigger - that is something I all too often forget!! To look where I'm going, not where I'm at. Amazing how much difference it makes with the horse.