Category Archives: Reconditioning Carbo

We Cantered! (on purpose!)

It’s been a while since my last post, not because I’ve been lazy and haven’t posted! But because I just haven’t ridden.  Which is unfortunate but my schedule got away from me :S  Anywho, I’m back! I rode Carbo today in the blazing hot sun (*sigh* heaven).  As per what is our current “usual”, we did most of our work at the walk – a lot of leg yielding, shoulder-in, haunches-in and 3 loop serpentines.  It’s all still done with a longish rein, but we’re working on shortening them and getting a little more organized. However, I’m finding that riding with a longer rein is allowing me to really feel when my half halts go through – I guess because the entire movement is more exaggerated and thus so is the response.

After I got some really nice steps of shoulder-in at the walk I kicked (not literally) him up to the trot for a break and let him stretch out as a bit of a reward.  He did start out the first couple strides giraffing but I kept my hands steady and put my legs on and he went to work pretty quickly.  We had a really nice, forward trot today which really let me concentrate on getting him to bend properly around my leg through circles and figure-8’s.  I did find that my eyes were wandering downwards today, looking at where his headset was.  When I figured out what I was inadvertently doing (closer to the end of the ride, of course) I concentrated on keeping my eyes up and did a few quick succession transitions – walk to trot, trot to walk, and made sure he moved forward into the transitions, especially the downward ones.  This may sound like a contradictory term to some, moving forward into the downward transition, but what I mean is that he doesn’t drop from the trot to the walk, he keeps his impulsion and moves steadily from one gait to the other.

We were doing so well that I decided to bump him up into the canter.  Usually I prefer to go walk to canter because it’s just that much more organized.  But I’ve decided that I do that too much and need to practice my trot to canter transitions and since I’m not worrying about headset right now I figured it was a perfect time to try.  It was not a pretty transition.  He hollowed; I hunched my shoulders and leaned into the transition but thankfully it was only 2 strides of sitting trot and we were cantering.  I didn’t keep it going long because he really doesn’t have the muscles, so we just cantered down one long side.  It was nice and forward, he didn’t invert and I really sat up and used my seat.  This was going to the left, which apparently is my good side because going to the right was craptacular.  It was disorganized and he was running on the forehand – not horribly, but more than I would have liked.  For such a short canter I feel that we should keep it together a little bit better than what we did.  But I guess that just gets added to the list of stuff we have to work on!

Overall, I’m absolutely thrilled with how Carbo is progressing.  I also feel a lot better about my riding.  I’m thinking more about my position and about being correct and effective – no nagging legs or hands!  I mean, it still happens, but I’m catching myself at it and retraining my muscle memory.  I guess I’m doing an ok job – Carbo doesn’t run away at the sight of the saddle!


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Training Talk – August (part 2)

This month, to kick things off since it’s our first edition of Training Talk, I decided to take advantage of Lorraine’s expertise and ask her opinion on Carbo 😀

This is what I sent her by way of introduction to my situation:

My horse is 17 now and has been off for the past 2 years due to an injury.  He’s 100% sound now and I want to start reconditioning him.  I found that I was trying to ride him as if he’d only had a few months off and so was asking for more of a frame than his muscles are able to handle and he started to go behind the bit. Since then I’ve been light on the contact and just been trying to push him forward but find that he’s kind of pissy and frequently does this little short-strided trot and inverts and breaks into a canter.  Rather than pull him back into a trot where he’s not comfortable I send him forward into the canter and get off his back and let him go for a bit.  A big issue I’m finding with really being able to push him forward and encourage him to open his stride and really get some “swing” going is that our arena is really small – especially for a 17.3hh horse! My question is, are there some exercises you can suggest that will help strengthen his back that we can accomplish in our small arena?

Great thought process.  ‘Thank you’ from your horse to giving him time and pushing, rather than reining him back!  Yes, a big boy needs room.  You may need to make an exception and trailer him to a larger arena for a few times.  I use a training process of ‘make it easy when he’s doing what you ask, and put him to work when he’s not.  Rest is the reward.  Ground stretches are very good for him before work.  A horse approaching his senior years may also need a bit of a boost nutritionally.  A natural herbal blend forming a ‘multi vitamin’ is easy to digest and assimilate into his system.  He’ll feel better and ‘soften’ up nicer.   (On the ground) have him bend his neck down and reach towards his hind quarter (both sides!).  You can even try to do this and then pick up his back foot and extend it towards his head at the same time(!)*.   Also have him place his head down and between his front legs.   I pick up one leg at a time and flex them as far as possible in all extended positions.  It is important to read your horse closely so not to over extend…work your way up gradually to relax his muscles.  To round out and strengthen his back, run your finger (or blunt object) under his belly line from front to back.  He’ll kind of roach his back.  Do this a few times daily.  I don’t advocate ‘treats’ from the hand, however, a carrot is a great encouragement for the first exercises.  After the exercises, lay the carrot on the ground for him to pick it up.I can’t stress enough emphasis on rider position and posture.  Have someone (skilled) observe you from all angles when riding.  It is amazing how we contribute to issues with poor posture and not even know it!
*I have seen this on YouTube and will attempt to find it again and forward it to you.  (I’ll post this if Lorraine’s able to find it)

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Sunday’s Ride

I had a great ride yesterday.  Not going to lie, when I get on I find I’m a little apprehensive because I find it very frustrating when Carbo giraffe’s his neck and inverts his back.  It’s not a good feeling and really makes me wish I was in a lesson setting and had someone coaching me from the ground – telling me when I’m doing something wrong or when I simply need to keep pushing Carbo until he gives in.

As I continue on this path I’ve created for myself and Carbo – mostly working in the walk on lateral movements and bend with a little bit of trot to break it up – I’m actually really surprised at how quickly (and well) he’s responding.  When I rode yesterday he didn’t once try to break into that craptacular canter to escape the trot.  And, even better, he was searching for the contact at the trot (sigh, heaven).  I was so excited that I probably only trotted for 5 minutes.  I did a couple circles to each direction, some figure 8’s with some slightly exaggerated bend work and I called it a day.

I’m finding that as I concentrate more on my own position and focus on where my eyes, shoulders and knees are and how they’re functioning, everything else is improving.  Rather than staring at Carbo’s head and neck, I’m looking forward and finding my corners and circles.  Keeping my eyes up, in turn, is helping me bring my shoulders back and ensuring I sit up tall, rather than hunch forward – which also helps keep the weight off Carbo’s front end and helps him to not run downhill either.  I’m not saying he’s rocking back on his hind – but then again, I’m not asking for that (yet!).  Also, as I trot him, I’m concentrating on posting from my hips and keeping my knees nice and limber – which helps take my focus off my hands and I’m finding Carbo and I are both relaxing, not a bad feeling 😉

From a fitness point of view Carbo could have easily continued to work for another 10-20 minutes easily, however, knowing myself as I do – if something had gone wrong in those additional 20 minutes, I would have had to fix it and that could have started a fight.  I’d had a great trot, a huge improvement from our last ride a mere 2 days ago and I wanted to leave it on that.  The fitness will come, right now I want to work on muscle tone and making sure each and every ride is a great experience for both of us.



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Starting Slowwwww

My goal with Carbo right now is to do most of the work at the walk with a little bit of trot to mix it up. I got on yesterday and did some bending exercises and got him moving off my legs a bit to either direction.  Did a little bit of lateral work – some leg yielding from the quarter line to the wall.  Because this was only my second ride with the new plan I didn’t ask for much, I kept my reins fairly long (mostly for my benefit, so I didn’t get to grabby at his face) and just asked for a little bit of cross over.

After about 15-20 minutes of this I bumped him up into the trot – still on a long rein and just asked him to go forward and use his hind end.  He immediately went full on giraffe – head up as high as it could go, back completely inverted, it was ugly.  But I gently applied my legs and asked him to move forward and he remained a giraffe.  It took a few times around the arena , some circles, some figure-8’s, and him going up to the canter to try to escape a few times, but eventually he brought his head down and looked for the contact.  I was getting so frustrated that by the time I had him go around once to each direction un-inverted (I really wasn’t asking for anything other than forward!) that I gently brought him back to the walk and called it day.

Previously, when Carbo had gone from trot to canter to escape I had let him and just pushed him forward in the canter.  It seems to be easier for him to work at the canter than at the trot – which led me to the decision yesterday that I shouldn’t do that anymore.  By nature Carbo is a rather lazy horse so when he goes forward I never want to snatch at his face and haul him back to what we were doing, but rather than keep him in the canter for a time or two around the arena, I’ve decided to let him go a few strides and bring him back to the trot using my currently non-existent core muscles rather than any hands. This is a bit of a challenge, but I guess it’s only fair since Carbo doesn’t have the muscles to properly work at the trot yet and I’m making him do that!

So, he’s had 2 days of consistent work, getting today off – although I might still run down to the barn and lunge him a bit and let him stretch his legs.  Tomorrow I’m back on and working! at the walk… 😀


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Adventures With Carbo

Adventures with Carbo: Reconditioning the 17 year old horse

A little history:
I’ve had Carbo for about 13 years now.  Back in 2003 I hurt my back pretty badly (in a non-horse related accident) which resulted in me basically only being able to ride for about 10 minutes before I was in tears – and I’m generally pretty tough.

In April 2009 Carbo fell while free lunging and developed a massive hematoma in the stifle area which had to be lanced and drained.  We had no luck with this and the lance-site got infected a number of times.  Eventually the site did heal and close with pretty minimal scarring.  But the lower leg remained slightly swollen and approximately every six months would swell up so much that poor Carbo had problems lifting it to even walk out of his stall.  This drainage issue would result in a round or two of very expensive antibiotics that had to be injected into the muscle – I had the privilege of conquering my squeamishness about giving injections and now even help other people when their horses require IM injections.

Long story coming to a close: Carbo has been on field turnout and in an in/out paddock for almost a year now and the swelling is almost gone.  I was just starting to ride him consistently again when he got an abscess and his leg swelled up again! So now, finally we are ready to ride again! I’m starting Carbo from the very beginning and myself – which is good because I am way too handsy, have no muscles, no cardio and about a million other things I need to work on!


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