By Francesca Prescott
I was a bit low last week, as you probably gathered from my mournful post. My horse’s protruding ribs and bony bottom had really upset me; I blamed myself for not being more vocal about my growing concerns just as much as I blamed the owner of my stables for not feeding him enough for the amount of work he was doing. Thank you again to everyone who wrote in to tell me about personal experiences, and to offer advice and support. I really appreciated it.
With two weeks of being fed proper amount, and the recent addition of extra protein in the form of linseed meal (“tourteau de lin” in French) and soya meal (“tourteau de soya), I can definitely see a difference. Qrac’s ribs are not quite as scary looking, his back feels a little more padded, and his bum is not so “caved in” and bony. Of course, he has a long way to go, as he’ll need to rebuild all the muscle-tone he dissolved when he needed it for energy, but it seems like we’re on the right path. He’s also taking daily doses of Vitamin C. He seems calmer, more focused, and is far more pleasant to ride. He’s also cuddlier than ever!
Since my trainer is away for a month, coaching one of her students at the Junior European Championships in Poland, I took a lesson with somebody else the other day. His name is Greg Sheers, and he used to work as a groom for a rider who was reserve on the Swiss team during the Beijing Olympics. Greg recently arrived at my yard with a couple of young show jumping horses he’s training, and I immediately warmed to his quiet, sensitive manner and straightforward attitude. We’ve chatted quite a bit over the last few weeks, and I really like him. He strikes me as very trustworthy, and, well, there’s something really nice about his aura! So when he told me he also gives riding lessons to a couple of people in the Lausanne area (at the other end of Lake Geneva), I suggested we try working together at some point. My trainer, Marie-Valentine, can only come once a week at the best of times, and then there are weeks on end where she can’t come due to other engagements (usually competitions), and I knew she wouldn’t mind a little of equestrian infidelity! So when I arrived at the stables in the pouring rain on Tuesday afternoon, there was Greg, hanging up wet rugs. We had a little chat, one thing led to the other, and before I knew it he’d agreed to give me a lesson there and then. Even the weather behaved, the rain kindly taking a break during the 45 minutes we were in the arena.
I thoroughly enjoyed my lesson. We didn’t do anything fancy. We just worked on the basics: getting Qrac to slow down his walk, getting him to stay in a slow, regular rhythm, getting him to really focus on listening to me. We worked on walk-trot-walk transitions on a circle, focusing on getting them smoothly through the outside rein. We then did the same in canter, and I’m delighted to report that Qrac and I managed our first ever canter-walk transition! I was so proud!
The owner of the stables came down and filmed snippets of the lesson on her I-Phone, then emailed them to me last night. I watched them, satisfied by what I saw, but also thinking how much work and effort and concentration goes into trying to perfect those simple basics. It’s pretty crazy, really! I mean, if I show a none-dressage buff those three little videos all they’ll see is a black horse trotting slowly on a circle, going back into walk, and then back into trot. Boring as hell, right? Okay, so there’s the canter video as well, but unfortunately Steph didn’t film my canter/walk transition, not that it was anything to broadcast on CNN! Nevertheless, I’d have liked to see it, especially as it was on the previously dreaded right lead canter! I’d post these little videos if only I knew how, just to show you where we’re at.
But since I’ve no idea how to post them, I’ll post this one instead, just to show where I’d one day like to get! Besides, trust me, it’s far more interesting!
What about you? What are you working on with your horses at the moment? What do you enjoy?
It's over 100 degrees here, so we are doing groundwork inside the barn, out of the sun! I have been teaching Sugar to stand without being tied. In order to do that, we have to get some of her momentum out and we do ground work.
I am happy that you and Qrac are doing better. Uiver and I are getting more and more in sync. I actually sat his medium trot yesterday and didn't feel like I was about to get launched into orbit. My first show with him is planned for the middle of August. Greg sounds like a great trainer. I always encourage my students to ride with other clinicians because it gets a fresh eye on things and energizes our usual routine.
Glad he's starting to put some weight back on - that must have been scary.
The subtle, basic work you're talking about is so important - if the foundation isn't there you have nothing to build on.
Loved the video, especially the natural, expressive movement and for once, not seeing the curb rein overused - I loved the feeling of communication rather than coercion through the reins.
I've got two young horses that are working on just moving and getting their balance at trot and canter, and one older mare who is very sensitive and high strung where we work on relaxation and softness. Or we would be working if it ever cooled down!
Minus Pride: I'm not sure I envy your 100 degrees, but could do with a little more heat around here at the moment. It's weirdly cold for July. Less flies though, I guess...sometimes!
By ground work do you mean in hand, or ridden? Qrac stands quite quietly without being tied, but I wouldn't trust him too long, especially if I need to leave him alone for any length of time!
Hi Terri: ooh those boingy warmblood medium trots!!! I remember it well!!!! I could probably win an egg and spoon race in medium trot on Qrac; that's how smooth he is.
I'm having another lesson with Greg tomorrow. Qrac didn't feel totally straight to me today though, although there was nothing I could pinpoint, and nobody around to give me their opinion. I'll see with Greg tomorrow. There's always something, isn't there! Pfff!
Kate: I'm glad you enjoyed the video. That grey Lusitano may not have the big extravagant movements of a German horse, but I love his expression and the harmony between the horse and rider.
I hope your weather cools down, and that mine warms up!
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