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Wizard Ride 65; JR Ride 21: Little Piles of Sticks

March 27, 2009

Wizard & Me: Jumping!

Thursday, 3/26/09

Another week, another awesome riding lesson :^)

We began the lesson where we left off last week, asking for a little bend from Wizard in simple exercises and doing work with walk-trot transitions. As he became more relaxed and forward, the exercises increased a bit in difficulty. We worked on figure 8s, serpentines, and skinny figure 8s. I felt more stable in my seat and I can feel my leg improving just a little with each lesson. Wizard is much more confident during changes of direction.

Gradually, Sarah incorporated a few trot poles into the exercises. She set up three trot poles one stride apart from each other and we trotted them. Wizard is excellent at negotiating trot poles! He maintains his rhythm and articulates his joints beautifully as he glides over them. I do my best to stay out of his way and help him over the poles.

Wizard & Me: Trot Poles

Wizard & Me: Trot Poles

As I rounded a corner after trotting the three poles, I heard the familiar sound of clanking jump cups… I turned around and saw a little cross rail.

“Sarah!” I said, “That’s a JUMP…”

Sarah grinned and responded, “No, Sarah, that’s just a little pile of sticks. I’ll tell you when it’s a REAL jump.”

So we trotted a little line from half a cross rail to a teeny-tiny, itty-bitty vertical. Wizard trotted everything really nicely. He picks his feet up very carefully and maintains his rhythm over poles and jumps. I close my hip angle, give him his head, and stay out of his way.

A long-term training goal is to gradually encourage Wizard to canter under saddle. I’ve read many schools of thought about how to ask a green horse to canter. The method I like best is to invite the horse to canter by teaching him to round his back over small jumps or out on the trails. Naturally, the horse will break into a canter between obstacles and it’s the rider’s job to encourage the rhythm and stay out of his way. Wizard decided that today was the day to show me his canter under saddle. Dear readers, his canter looks way more uncomfortable than it rides! After trotting a little fence, I could feel him rounding up as if he was thinking of cantering. Sarah immediately told me to let him do it and encourage it. I did my best and it worked! It was our first little canter and it felt pretty organic and comfortable. Success!

We rode the line a few times in each direction. Wizard sometimes chose to canter and sometimes chose to trot. I really focused on letting him do what he needed to do. When I look back at these photos, I realize that I could have given him even more of a release and I was jumping a little ahead of the motion.

Wizard & Me: Jumping!

Wizard & Me: Jumping!

On the last two lines, Wizard started feeling a little frisky and got a little quicker down the line. After the second fence, he bowed his head and playfully flung his front feet up a bit as we slowed down the canter. He was not bucking, just playfully leaping. I think that he likes these little jumps.

When we were done with the lesson, Wizard was barely sweating- he’s getting quite fit. I wrapped his legs in standing bandages for a few hours and put his Thermatex cooler on him. He grazed for about 20 minutes and then munched on his Lucerne Farms Alfa Supreme. I gave him a dose of Ulcergard before the ride.

Before the saddle fitter arrived, I turned JR out in the big outdoor arena to let him play and stretch his legs. The horses were only outside for a few hours due to the rainy weather. I let JR graze for a little while and then he had a saddle fitting appointment.

Besides being an expert saddle fitter, Teri Miller is an accomplished rider. Her eye for saddle fit and rider position is fantastic. As soon as I met her, I was immediately impressed with her knowledge and her professional demeanor. She took wither tracings of JR’s back and carefully examined his muscling. She noticed that his right shoulder is larger, which could be a big factor in my saddle issues. Teri also watched me ride JR and noted my position and how the saddle sat on his back. Teri adjusted the saddle by adding wool to the right side. As soon as I sat in the saddle the second time, I felt a HUGE difference. I could finally sit my left seatbone in the saddle! For all of the previous rides on JR, I was caving in to the side because the saddle was not straight. As a result of the crookedness, my seatbones could not both sit in the saddle. After Teri’s adjustment, I felt like I was riding in a new saddle.

Teri also looked at the fit of my Stubben Portos on Wizard’s back. She said that the saddle is actually a little too wide for him so my merino sheepskin saddle pad is a good idea. She also gave her blessing for me to continue using my Thinline Ultra pad on both horses. Just for kicks, Teri put one of her County saddles on Wizard’s back. The saddle fit him like a glove. Since Wizard is not my horse, I was not looking for a long-term saddle fitting solution, but if I was, I would definitely consider County saddles. The craftsmanship is fantastic and the saddles look like they are designed with the horse in mind.

For anybody looking to improve the fit of a saddle, I highly recommend contacting a saddle fitter. Reflocking and adjusting are very financially reasonable ways to improve saddle fit as long as your tree fits your horse’s back. If you are in New Jersey, contact Teri Miller. It was well worth the very reasonable cost. I wish I had done this years ago.

Next time I’m out at the barn, I’ll be back on JR and I hope to begin work at the shoulder-in with Wizard. I’m on a roll!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2009 11:39 pm

    This is a rather random request, Sarah, but could you recommend some good books? Something more toward the practical side than the theory side would be really helpful. I keep ordering dressage books from the library, and learning interesting new training theory stuff… but not practical. Every book I’ve read so far starts off with a line much like this in the introduction: “There are any number of incredibly helpful and well written books about the basics of starting a dressage horse. This book is not one of them; rather, it concerns …” and the book goes on to talk about the importance of the elements of the training scale, or the biomechanics of the gaits, or something equally important and theoretical. Sigh. What are these classical texts that I’m missing out on?

  2. March 29, 2009 6:01 pm

    A very practical outline of classical dressage is Walter Zettl’s first DVD in the A Matter of Trust series:

    The DVD is pricey, but you might be able to find a second-hand copy somewhere. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to pry the DVD out of most riders’ cold, dead hands! It’s an absolute treasure. It goes deep into detail of how to teach exercises from the most basic circles and transitions to far more sophisticated exercises. While it also analyzes conformation, gaits, etc, it outlines in great detail the most practical elements of riding.

    I’ve audited a few of Walter Zettl’s clinics. His philosophy has changed the way I ride. I strongly recommend checking out the DVDs if possible. The effectiveness of a giving, light rider cannot be underestimated and Zettl shows riders how to bring out a horse’s natural brilliance. If you EVER get the chance to see him in person, it’s worth whatever time and money you can afford to spend.

    My two current favorite books for practical dressage/training are:

    Dressage in Harmony by Walter Zettl*listing*title

    The New Basic Training of the Young Horse, by Ingrid and Reiner Klimke:*listing*title

    This book is not strictly dressage, but it is a general outline for the progress of a young horse’s training. Some criticize it for being to general, but I find it very motivating to read.

  3. March 29, 2009 6:09 pm

    PS- My friend/dressage enthusiast Stephanie posted an excellent list of books in December. Check out her blog:


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