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JR Session 16; Wizard Ride 60: Hello, Abs!

March 20, 2009

“We have to show the horse what we would like to do, but we have to allow him to do it.” Walter Zettl

Thursday, 3/19/2009

The other day, I got the wheels turning in Sarah’s head when I told her how well Wizard trotted the ground pole in our last ride. Tonight during my warmup for my lesson, I heard the wonderful and familiar sound of jump poles being rearranged. Once we worked on getting a good rhythm for our trot and asking for a little bend, Sarah told us to trot the a pole. I stayed straight, concentrated on the rhythm of the trot, curled a pinky finger in his mane, kept my eyes ahead, and Wizard took care of the rest. Good boy! We trotted the pole in both directions. She added another pole and we trotted a “line”.

Then Sarah got creative.

She set up a little bitty hunter course of poles. Line, diagonal, line, diagonal. If I felt Wizard rushing or getting tense, I asked for a walk for three steps and went back up to the trot. Wizard was fabulous! He trots the poles really nicely. I remember doing a lot of work like this with Alibar and he always wanted to canter after the pole, but Wizard is happy to trot, and he really picks his feet up nicely. Work over ground poles and cavaletti will help his topline as well as his balance.

Sarah got really creative.

She made little itty bitty teeny tiny crossrails that were about the height of the poles themselves. She even made what we jokingly called a vertical and a spread fence, of poles on the lowest jump cup, about 6 inches apart. Wizard did the little course like a champ! It was so much fun (after the initial shock! I had assumed we were working on more trot work and bending and was totally not expecting this kind of lesson).

The change in routine was great for me. I could feel myself riding better and Wizard was very interested in his job. It was a big challenge to keep all of our flatwork in mind and focus on the course of poles.

Here’s our little outside line…


And then we popped over this one… Just kidding.


The entire ride lasted about 45 minutes. Wizard is getting fitter- he just had sweat under the saddle. As Walter Zettl also says, “We have to go to the limit, but never over”.

I was recently going through Ingrid and Reiner Klimke’s The New Basic Training of the Young Horse and was delighted to see that Wizard is following the basic schedule that they use for young horses (minus the hacking, but I’m hoping to do a little trail riding soon). Of course, we’re going twice as slowly as the book’s plan *g* Here’s the third month’s training plan:

Main aim: Developing looseness under the rider; developing pushing power and contact on the lunge.

Quiet work in rising trot on both reins, both on the circle and going large around the school, trot-walk transitions, stretching and chewing the reins out of the rider’s hand. When possible following a lead horse in walk and trot over cavaletti and single poles. Hacking out in walk behind a lead horse- enjoying the countryside.

Introducing the driving aids of the voice and the whip on the lunge. Short spells of canter on the lunge. Increasing tempo in trot to develop pushing power and the contact with the bit, making sure that the horse does not come behind the vertical. The side reins must not be too short. Cavaletti work on the lunge is a good gymnastic exercise and strengthens the back muscles. Free-jumping; free-schooling in the indoor school- with correct equipment.

After Wizard was cooled out and put to bed, I took JR out for a groundwork session. My goal was to start him with the process of long-lining with clicker training. I tacked him up with a surcingle and a longeing cavesson and attached my long lines to the rings on the cavesson and through the surcingle rings. I stood to his side, asked for a walk, and when he did… click and treat. Good boy!

We repeated the cues a few times in each direction. He broke into a trot a few times but as long as he was forward and straight, I let him trot. I prefer forward at this point.

I longed him a few rotations at the walk and trot, then turned him loose to stretch his legs.


He is moving out freely and I think that he’s feeling pretty good after his chiropractic adjustment. Hooray! He has an amazing amount of suspension for an Appendix Quarter Horse- I can totally see him in the dressage ring some day :^)

As I walked out of the barn, I felt a familiar muscle burn- abs! Hello abs, nice to have you back. It’s been a while, eh? I think the work over poles with Wizard helped me use my core muscles more properly today. I’ve long believed that the motivation of jumping always makes me a better rider- I always pinned better in over fences classes than I did in flat classes. It feels really good to get my riding muscles back. A year ago, Alibar injured his hock and I did not ride very much for several months. When the hock healed was when he was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma. And in the beginning of my sessions with Wizard, I really sat pretty quietly and stayed out of his way. Now that we are ramping up the work in our lessons, I’m beginning to feel like a rider again and it feels good.

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