Progress, however small is still progress!

Happy New Year Honeychoppers!

I hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year.  I for one was ready for a nice long break and finished work on 23rd December, it seemed like I would be off work forever (with not being due back till 4th January) but, as I write this I have just one more day before heading back to reality and the break seems to have flown by – like everyone else no doubt I return to work a few pounds heavier having eaten my body weight in cheese and crackers!

Water Treadmill - First Visit

Water Treadmill – First Visit

This month has been interesting, you might remember in my last blog I told you all that Mikey had been put on a regime to try and improve his strength and consistency in his back end, well we have been busy trying to do just that – thankfully with all the rain we have been having I don’t feel too hard done by not having been able to ride the last few weeks, but, I don’t know about you but it feels like the nights are drawing, ever so slightly, gaining a few more minutes of day light each week so I’m ready to get back on board properly very soon!
Water Treadmill - Getting the hang of itOne of the first things recommended to me to improve his strength was trying a few water treadmill sessions so I thought I would give it a go as I found one not too far from me in Langley, the Priory Farm Equine Spa and Rehab Centre, there Marie and Abby introduced Mikey to his first (and subsequent) water treadmill sessions, Mikey (as I would have expected) took to the treadmill really well, I’m told some horses take a few sessions to figure out how to walk on the treadmill so it was nice to see Mikey get the hang over it within the first visit.  Depending on what you are trying to achieve by using the water treadmill depends on how long and how high the water flows at, for our first session Mikey was on for ten minutes with just a few inches of water and over a series of visits as strength improved both the level of the water increased as did the time.  We have had four sessions so far and on the fourth visit we were up to fourteen minutes with the water just above Mikey’s pasterns.  I have to say a combination the water treadmill and maybe some of the other work I have been doing at home his walk is looking much more free and loose, as his trot, we have a few more sessions booked for the water treadmill so fingers crossed for even more improvement.



Did any of you get any Black Friday deals?  I got just the one.  A magnet rug from Premier Equine – with 40% RRP – I thought it was a nice early Christmas present!  I know lots of people swear by using these rugs and a few of my friends use them so thought I would get one and see how we go, I have found it really useful for travelling in, and on those duvet days instead of a lightweight stable rug I pop it on, overall his movement is definitely improving and so I can only say for now it might be an influencing factor!

Another key part of the regime these last few weeks has been lunging, including lunging over ground and raised poles, it’s amazing when you only have one or two things to focus on how quickly you can see an improvement in your horses confidence, as well as how effective you are as their “leader” in any given situation.  I have focused on lots of transitions, particularly walk-trot-walk, this has been really useful for getting him to use his back end more and relax over his back, and in just a few sessions we have managed to get the transitions much cleaner and Mikey is far more responsive to my voice.  Given we were lunging three times a week I was looking for ideas of how to mix up the sessions to stop us getting bored and whilst searching I came across exercises using cavaletti.  My Dad is a bit of a handy man so I showed him a few pictures and set him to work! It took a few days but he built me some for my Christmas present.  Cavaletti and the idea of them are hundreds of years old, but I would really recommend you try them, if you don’t have a handyman around then I’m told you can use potties as an alternative to raise the pole off the ground, they are great for building consistency in your approach and strides both in trot and if you are happy in trot then you can move to canter, although just as a tip be careful in canter with lighter round poles as they can move easily and might cause your horse to trip.

Boxing Day walk

Boxing Day walk

I was hoping with my time off over Christmas to get some nice hacks scheduled but still unable to get back on board instead I decided to take Mikey out in hand for a walk, so we did Boxing Day walk with my nice Amy, sister Andrea and her girlfriend, Milo Claire’s dog also tagged along for the fun!  I don’t think Milo had ever seen a horse before and was a bit unsure but they both got along and we all burnt off some Christmas turkey, we went out for about an hour which was great until we turned for home and heard the horn of the hunt in the far distance – Mikey was clearly wanting to join in and pretty much dragged me the mile or so home!

As well as physio session this month (honestly Mikey must get more “treatments” than me!) the physio suggested we try a tens machine, mainly as a way of helping the lower back stay loose and supple and try and keep the reduction in tightness we have seen in that area  – for the first week I had to do the tens every day, (similar to a loading dose!) and now we are on every other day, it’s a human tens machine and so isn’t too expensive to get yourself set up which is always a bonus, does seem to have helped although its quite time consuming, but if it means I can get back up and running sooner then its got to be worth it!

First hack out

First hack out

I have now had the go ahead to get back on board which is great news Mikey is looking much more consistent and the vet was really pleased with his improvements, so for the next month we need to take the progress we have made and try and maintain that under saddle, starting with a week of walking, then a week of trot before bringing in the canter work from the third week.  I took Mikey out for his first short walk this week with a few friends from my yard; it was great to be back in the saddle after 6/7 weeks.  Lets hope the progress continues!

With no jumping on the horizon for Mikey I asked a friend to ride through last months exercise from Tim Page, it was to ride a series of jumps set on a zig zag angle down the centre line, turning back on yourself in a circle to make the next fence.

Nadine’s horse Moet is 8 years old and they do a bit of show jumping together, Moet is brave and forward and really enjoys her jumping however exercises like this isn’t something Nadine would normally do as part of her routine.  After we had set out the exercise in the school I got Nadine to ride through it with just poles on the ground, in an ideal world you need to ride this particular exercise in a bigger arena, our school at home is 20×40 and in order to do it well we needed a bit more space.  Neverless Nadine rode through the exercise and got a feel for the turns she needed to make, it quickly become apparent that one rein was much easier to ride than the other and that Moet was struggling to make the turns when on the right rein.  The right rein being the weaker of the two reins is something Nadine was aware of and this exercise highlighted it even more, so this is something for them to work on, another thing we noticed was that as a keen show jumper it was clear that Moet was locking on well to the fences, sometimes taking over, but as the exercise went on and she became tired this became less of an issue and the turns also become easier. An exercise like this would definitely help you improve your turns for a jump off and really help you improve accuracy for a line in to a fence.

Moet found it quite easy to change leads throughout the exercise, however to really improve her overall jump improving her canter on the right rein will help.  Nadine really enjoyed the exercise and has already asked me if she can get some more tips from Tim next month to help her improve her jumping even more!


Until next month.

Laura and Mikey x