Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Sunday, January 1, 2012

In the Arena #98 - A very good place to start... (happy birthday thoroughbreds!!)

We finished off 2011 with two rides, and began 2012 in the saddle as well. Couldn't ask for more - perfect weather conditions and happy horse + rider...

Unless it would be a freshly renovated tack room...

or a brand new manure composting space.


I made a few changes to our regular ride routine. Hoping to pique Val's interest in our work, I set up a course of cones and ground rails. I also lowered my stirrups and left Val's boots in the tack room. The contact and energy came and went, although they improved in each successive ride. This indicated a lack of steady focus on my aiding I suspect. I've also gone back to a lengthier warm-up, working on the buckle before I take up any contact. Our big walk improves with every ride. It seems to work best to ask for it after a number of trot transitions. Regarding my posture, it was also effective to sit up and back so far as too feel like too far, which I think is just far enough.

What really excited me was how engaged Val became with the introduction of new elements in the arena. Despite his cleverness, he was unable to correctly predict what I would be asking for next. There were just too many choices. Balkiness and steering issues vanished. :)

Would we ride over the rails, or perhaps through them? Circle around the entire complex, or figure eight with a diagonal change through the rails? Turn-on-the-forehand at each cone? What about halting squarely in the rails. (practice for halting at X!) We transitioned and backed through them as well. It was enough to make a poor horses head swim...

One question I have is how to determine the correct distance between the ground rails. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I'd like to set the distance so they wouldn't have to be adjusted for the trot work. Thanks in advance my blogger friends.


I likes my mints in me...

and on me :)


Other news - there has been progress on the new arena. We've dropped and spread seven tandem loads of sand so far. In addition to the arena itself, we're adjusting the grade of the whole property to facilitate drainage. If it sounds expensive, it is. Who could believe you'd have to pay through the nose for sand when you live on an island made entirely from it?! We're getting there slowly but surely...

Whatever will she think of next?!


  1. Happy Birthday Val!

    Great work in the arena and on the new arena. I am so envious of your landscaping background - perfect match for all the grading and planning and manure composting and everything else that goes into horse care.

    Peppermint boy is just adorable!

  2. Happy Birthday, Val!

    The new arena is going to be so much fun!

  3. I start horses at 4ft for trot poles. They have to be in a rhythm and moving forward to make the striding. Most horses can do 4'6" in a forward working trot, but they have to lift their back to do this so it is a fitness exercise. I don't do shorter distances because I think it teaches them to suck back. A friend of mine with western horses does 2'6" to 3ft for a western trot.

  4. It always helps me when setting poles to actually watch the horse trot them. Set them up, lunge Val through, and adjust until you get what you're wanting. I measure in footsteps so I can just walk out the distances when I need to re-set or change for different horses.

    Love that Val is now curious and forward with all the new things "to do" in the arena!!

    And love the photos of the works in progress - we are bringing in stone of various sizes and are lucky that we live quite near a quarry that charges $25. per pick-up - which is a manageable amount to unload and spread in a day. It will take us longer, but we can get the pick-up into all the tight places we need to and don't have to worry about dump-trucks coming in.

    When I get to the point of adding more footing to the arena, we'll spring for that dump truck though!!

    I am still patiently waiting for some shimmy shack photos - ahem. :)

  5. Great that Val in interested in the new arena exercises. For setting ground poles it depends on the horse, the gait, etc. assuming a normal working trot, I start with 4 of my big feet (size 10), heel to toe, watch them go through a few times and adjust from there. You want the foot to land comfortably in the center of all the rails, so adjust accordingly. Nate (17-3 hands) is more of a 5+ footer. Dusty (15-1h) is more like 3 1/2. When in doubt it's best to start smaller with a more relaxed pace than trying to push a bigger step. The tendency with cavelletti is to try to use them to create stride length and movement that isn't there yet, so I like to start conservative with the horse's natural gait and use the rails for increasing activity and lift through the body rather than reach through the stride, especially in the beginning. (hope that made sense! :-) Good luck. The new arena should be great once it's done. Like all the pic of works in progress.

    Like billie we're still waiting for pics of the Shimmy Shack.

  6. Happy happy New Year! Val looks really great in that bottom photo- so clean, and the black points are striking. How I swoon over a grey :)

    Best wishes for a happy barn and happy rides in 2012! Corinna

  7. Magnesium (cation, Mg++)
    For all that it does, magnesium is truly the stepchild in equine nutrition. Magnesium is involved in so
    many aspects of the structure and function of the body that it's virtually impossible to think of anything
    that doesn't involve magnesium. For an excellent review, see:

    On a symptomatic level, one of the most important functions of magnesium is to control the movement
    of calcium along calcium channels. In last week's materials, we talked about how calcium movement
    through calcium channels forms the basis for all “excitable” tissue activity, including the nervous
    system, heart, skeletal muscle and smooth muscle in the intestinal tract, uterus, urinary tract and blood
    vessels. Magnesium controls the sensitivity of the calcium channel, and is also required for the
    production and storage of the ATP that is needed by the sodium-potassium pumps to do their job of
    clearing the calcium from the cell and putting it back into storage sites.
    The symptoms of inadequate magnesium are the same as those of excessive ionized calcium. These
    include irritability, hypersensitivity, muscular symptoms from twitching to spasm, with a potential for
    GI symptoms and heart irregularity when severe. Horses with moderate magnesium deficiency are
    often misdiagnosed as EPSM. Other magnesium responsive clinical symptoms I have seen are gait
    disturbances, including stilted gait, base wide gait behind, difficulty controlling the hind end when
    turning and reluctance or inability to canter. The magnesium deficient horse is not a happy camper!
    Magnesium is also involved in maintaining blood vessel relaxation mediated by nitric oxide (see link
    above for details), and in sensitivity of the cells to insulin. The effect on insulin sensitivity is not fully
    explained but Dr. Mark McCarty, a pioneer in dietary control of IR dating back to the time when it was
    being called “Syndrome X”, believes that elevated intracellular ionized calcium is part of the
    mechanism of IR, and magnesium helps rein this in:
    Absorption of magnesium is similar to phosphorus. Most is absorbed in the small intestine but large
    intestinal absorption also occurs. It may be absorbed by passive diffusion or actively, via the same
    binding protein that is responsible for calcium absorption, but the main site of magnesium absorption in
    the small bowel is at the distal end, while with calcium it is proximally. There is a potential for either
    high calcium or high phosphorus intakes to interfere with magnesium absorption but the effect of high
    magnesium intake is not a simple reversal of this.
    High magnesium intake does not inhibit phosphorus absorption by the available data, at least when
    phosphorus intake is adequate. Short term intakes (10 days) of high magnesium with adequate calcium
    (inverted Ca:Mg ratio of 1:2, Ca:P 1.7:1) did not suppress calcium absorption but effects on bone
    metabolism were not ruled out. Oxalate was reported to not influence magnesium absorption in one
    short term experimental study, but I worked with a herd of horses in Hawaii on a Kikuyu pasture that
    had low levels of both ionized calcium and magnesium. Fat also interferes with the absorption of
    magnesium by forming insoluble “soaps” in the intestine.
    Interestingly, increasing magnesium intake (up to 2:1 Ca:Mg) increases absorption of both
    potassium and calcium. The reason for this is unexplained, but might be related to magnesium's
    effects on ion pumps and ion channels.

  8. Sorry, that looks awful but that's what Kellon has to say about magnesium. I remember you asking about that a few months back.

  9. Barb-
    Thanks for the recommendations!

    Thanks for the magnesium info! Are you enjoying the class?

    I hear you! ;)

    Good suggestions re the poles, and I hear you too! ;)

  10. What an amazing amount of work you are getting done, to both your property and in your riding. I love the way you're mixing things up in your riding. Never mind keeping Val guessing, how do you stay on top of what you're doing next? I have even one more suggestion for keeping him guessing. When I was going through the spell (maybe still in it?) where Rogo would do a sudden halt and balk when we were cantering (started with asking for more engagement), my teacher had me speed up and slow down the canter. The halting and balking stopped when I did this (I would literally change every few strides). He was so busy responding to each ask that he forgot to balk. It was beautiful :) Sounds like you were doing the same thing by keeping Val guessing.
    We installed underground drains a couple of years after building our outdoor arena. It extended the use of the ring byy months if you count spring and fall. It will dry up within hours of a torrential rain. It would be cheaper to do it initially rather than come back later if you think it might be needed. We just put one drain in, in the end of the arena that the water drained to and it made a huge difference.
    I can't help you with trot pole distance. I always eye ball it and am never cofident I have it right. Good luck with what you're doing though. It sounds really good.

  11. I love your ring set up. Sometimes I really have a great time in the ring. With the right obstacles set up, it is not a bore at all. I love to practice steering. Your ring looks so great, my brumby and I would have a fine time in there. Don't you like setting up unpredictable paths for them? It seems it doesn't take long for them to memorize a pattern so it is nice to keep it spicy for them. Your farmette is really coming along. I have half a mind to be jealous!! But where would that get me?


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