Bruce Lamb's Eventing Blog - June 2011

June 30, 2011 Remember: Going into fences, get him back on his hind end so he isn't flat. Help him a bit with striding. In dressage for the Entry test, work on getting him more round for the right canter. And after that right canter circle, aim for B to get him to do the down transition since he is a bit of a handful to bring down to the trot again. RELAX my back, RELAX my seat. Don't try to FORCE him forward -- move with him to go forward. Drink lots before getting on the horse.

June 29, 2011 Tracy rode him today. He is progressing well -- but still no right bend. Trick is to get him as supple as possible well before. Keep him loose all the time.

June 28, 2011just a short ride today.

June 27, 2011

June 26, 2011

June 25, 2011 Practiced the Entry dressage test in preparation for the Highland Green schooling Event on July 3. Lots of things on which to work: Up and downward transitions (head bobbing), no bucking during canter transition, more forward walk -- especially on a loose rein. Positive points: Very straight down the centre line, and his halts near the end were pretty good. Trot work was generally okay. Mom worked Rapport -- 30 minutes of walk intermixed with 5 minutes of trot.

June 24, 2011 Had a lesson with Tracy today. Dressage stuff went well -- although lots of little things to iron out. He is still not super flexible and doesn't quite get the fact that when we try to flex his neck, he doesn't actually need to turn his whole body. We jumped as well -- starting with a small vertical with poles fore and aft 10' from the jump. He is getting very good at knowing where his feet are and where the jump is. We put the vertical up to 2'6" (removing the poles fore and aft) and then we put the panel fence wall up there. "Refuse" isn't in his volcabulary -- some of the jumps weren't pretty, but he knows how to get us through them. Mom rode Rapport -- 30 minutes of walk with 5 minutes of trot.

June 23, 2011 Worked on dressage plus a bit of jumping. Maxed out at 2'6". He is progressing well.

June 22, 2011 Dr. Tara Foy came by from the Ilderton Veterinary Clinic and checked out Rapport. After watching him trot on the lunge line and after doing some flexion tests, she said he is "more sound than 90% of the horses on the Trillium Circuit." She scanned him with the ultrasound thingy and showed us where the medial (inside) branch of the suspensory ligament was significantly larger than the anterior branch. She said it was unlikely that the size of the ligament would go down. Her view was the best strategy now was to do lots of walking under saddle with a bit of trotting each day. Gradually increase the amount of trotting. After a couple of months we can start doing some low fences -- but we'll probably get Tara out again to check him out to ensure he is strong enough. He certainly shouldn't be looking at 4'+ fences at his age, but lower stuff shouldn't be a problem in time, given proper recuperation and proper fitness.

Tracy rode Gamble today. He had a bit of a hissy fit with his canter, so Tracy and he had a bit of a "discussion". By the end, he was fine.

June 21, 2011 I had a running race, so Tori rode Gamble today. Light dressage.

June 20, 2011 I was away at a golf tournament, so Gamble got a break today!

June 19, 2011 Dressage and a bit of jumping. He's getting better at watching the fence. Did 2'6" vertical.

June 18, 2011 Just hacked Gamble today. Actually, Arleigh rode him and I rode Jasper. Both were fine.

June 17, 2011 Lesson with Tracy today. Much of the same -- large circles and short diagonals, trying to get him to bend. He was fine on the quarter-line, though, so Tracy's work with him yesterday must have paid off. At the end we did a bit of jumping. Lots of tripping over poles and fences, but he starting to look, now.

June 16, 2011 Tracy rode Gamble today. More progress on Dressage. He is still super-stiff bending to the right. He was being a pain trying to get him to go down the quarter line straight, but was better by the end of the session.

June 15, 2011 I continued with the progress Tori made yesterday, this time doing about 20 minutes of dressage work plus cantering over 3 poles spaced 10' apart. Gamble tripped over the poles a couple of times, so it is going to take a bit for him to figure out the spacing he needs. Near the end, I was counting down the strides to the first pole and he was getting the rest. So we'll have to do that, I think, at the start of this training: Use our judgement to allow him to get the striding and then slowly let him use his judgement to nail it every time. I'll start to raise the middle pole in future exercises.

June 14, 2011 Tori rode Gamble today. She did some dressage work plus some cantering over one pole on the ground. Uneventful.

June 13, 2011 Tonight I warmed up Gamble with lots of half-diagonals, circles, loops, etc. He is really starting to get the "bending thing". Then Tori took over while I setup a vertical fence exercise with a pole - 10' to the vertical - and then 10' to another pole. We shortened the first pole to 7' for the first couple of times Gamble did it (at a trot), but then once it was raised to about 18 inches, Tori cantered him into it. In hindsight, we should have cantered him over the 3 poles spaced 10' apart before raising the pole. But Gamble did it (just ran out one time), although a lot of the time he went from a canter to a trot just before jumping over the fence. We'll work on that next time -- but Tori now holds the world record with Gamble: a 23" vertical!

June 12, 2011 We took it easy tonight. Just a walking hack -- Tori on Gamble, me on Jasper -- down the trails. But there were lots of downed trees from a recent storm, so we didn't get that far. We did go into some uncharted areas, though (at least from Gamble's persepctive), and Gamble led the way without incident. All told, it was about 2.5k of walking.

June 11, 2011 Between a social 10K run in the morning and a Lucan Lions social event in the afternoon and early evening, my day was somewhat shot for riding. But as we were leaving the Lions event, Tori and I chatted about going on a hack -- and Brad Weber, the host of the party, asked if we could bring the horses over to the party for the kids to see. We just barely had enough time, but we hustled back to the barn and got on the road. It was about a 3k ride to Brad's place and we trotted almost the entire way -- doing so in the ditch for as much as we could, in order to take it easy on the horses' legs. When we got there, we were greeted by about 20 kids who carefully came up to pet the horses. Both Joey and Gamble were good as gold around the kids. We trotted back to the barn just as the sun was going down. So we got a bit of easy cardio in tonight!

June 10, 2011 Tracy and I had lunch with Andrew Pocock today to get his thoughts on how fast we could conceivably work Gamble up the rankings. He didn't see any reason why we couldn't be doing a Pre-Training event by the end of the season, and the Highland Green schooling event on July 3 would be tough to do, but not unthinkable -- even if we just went out for the dressage test to get Gamble used to the show atmosphere. The big issue is whether we can get Gamble jumping accurately.

Andrew suggested we work the accuracy jumping the following exercise:

{10' space} (7' if approaching at a trot)
2' Jump
{10' space}

If we can jump this combination 3 times in a row perfectly, we are jumping accurately and we can move on. He suggested that at a basic level event, we could trot into most of the fences. We all agreed that ths important thing was that we don't want to introduce him to so much at one time that he gets upset. And I can't remember if we discussed it at our lunch, but my thought is that it certainly wouldn't hurt to have another horse lead him over fences the first time he does them. It was an excellent lunch and we agreed that we'll do a jumping lesson at Andrew's place shortly -- before the event -- to introduce Gamble to more fences.

Andrew also suggested that every day start with at least 20 minutes of basic dressage exercises -- and then work on something after that, whether it be a specific part of the dressage test that is problematic, or some jumping exercise that needs work.
We went back to the barn and did a lesson. It was primarily dressage -- and Gamble continues to progress well -- and one of the important points that I learned was that just like bringing up a child, one must be firm and consistent with a young horse. They will get confused by subtle aides. After the dressage part of the lesson, we did some jumps -- first three poles on the ground, but then very quickly up to full-height cavaletti (roughly 20"). The first time we trotted over the cavaletti, Gamble tried to do a trot stride over it -- and knocked it to the ground. The second time and thereafter, he did a jump stride to get over it. He learns quickly and isn't fazed by stuff.

June 9, 2011 My dressage coach, Tracy, worked with Gamble today. It was relatively cool out today, so she was able to work him harder than I have for the past couple of days. Lots of walk and trot work and a bit of canter transition -- and within both the walk and trot, Tracy worked with Gamble to ensure he bends at his rib cage and not as his neck. It has only been 16 days since he arrived at Hearthstone Farm, but he is coming along very quickly considering he had zero dressage before he got here.

In this video, we talk about one of the main things Tracy was trying to achieve with this workout. Ultimately, we want him to bend at the rib cage. We want to see his inside eye, and we want to see him lead with his nose. If he is leading with his nose, we'll know he's bending through his ribcage. You don't want him locking his jaw and leading with his shoulder. If all you are seeing is him bend his neck, you're not getting the full bend. You want to be able to see the bend through the entire body -- and don't hesitate to look at his entire body from atop the horse to look for that bend throughout. But if he is leading with his nose, you're likely going to see that bend throughout his body when you look for it.

June 8, 2011 A bunch of firsts tonight! The first "first" was that as I was picking out Gamble's feet, he gave them all to me from the near side so that I didn't have to go all around him. I've been working on this for two weeks and he finally got it! The second "first" was that when I went to mount him, he stayed very still during the mounting process and afterwards. I've been working on this for a couple of weeks, too. Third was that Tori hopped on and cantered him for a few minutes. She learned that it isn't easy to get him to stop running into his canter -- although her second-last canter transition went pretty well -- only a couple of "run" strides. Fourth was that we set a ground pole up -- but elevated it by another 4 inches, so it was like an 8" "jump". And fifth was that we cantered over the 8" jump -- the only time of which we are aware that Gamble has jumped anything with someone on his back! He didn't even bat an eye over the jump -- it was like he had been doing it all his life. Very happy!

June 7, 2011 It was a warm one tonight so Tori and I just went on a hack. The trails on the farm side of the river were blocked with a downed tree from the storm the night before, so we went down Neil Road across the bridge to a short bunch of trails on our property on the other side of the river. A fairly uneventful ride, other than the fact that Gamble wasn't interested in going down the last part of the trail to the floodplain by the (rapidly rushing) river, so Tori on Joey had to lead for that part. But he walked calmly through the stream that followed, so we're making some headway.

June 5, 2011 Tori and I rode outside tonight. We worked in the outdoor ring again and this time I was able to work on canter work outside for the first time. He was certainly more "forward", shall we say, at the canter outside. Almost like any time he had been asked to canter before was outside at a track! But we kept in control and did a bunch of large circles. He is still running into the canter -- and I'm not sure he's getting better at picking up the transition without running. I'll see if Tracy can work on him next time she rides.

June 4, 2011 Just a short ride today -- but I was able to practice a lot. Lots of walk-trot and trot-walk transitions, circles, loops, diagonals, etc. Gamble is bending much better than a week ago, and is accepting of the bit fairly quickly in our sessions. We walked and trotted over ground poles in our session tonight and everything went without incident. We did some canter work as well -- no more than one time around the arena before bringing him back down to trot. He is still running into the canter, but he is starting to respond to the aid more quickly than when we started. I'm tempted to add spurs to the equation, but I'll check with Tracy first. :-)

June 3, 2011 I got to canter today! LOL -- it sounds like I'm an 8 year old kid who is learning to ride. But, in fact, I'm a 48 year old kid who is working a 5 year old horse -- and while he has done his share of cantering, Gamble hasn't had to canter slowly and in control. So Tracy didn't want me over-doing it as we bring him up into the eventing world. We started the lesson with a bunch of walking at a purposeful pace. And then we went up into trot for lots of diagonals, shallow loops and V transitions as Tracy had done the day before. After about 25 minutes of work, it was time to try out his canter. Once he was bent nicely and trotting well, I'd ask for the canter (outside leg back) and he would "run" into the canter. We did quite a few trot-canter-trot transitions. By the end, he wasn't tossing his head on the downward transition much, but there was still a fair bit of head tossing and running on the upward transition. I'm allowed to work on canter transitions with no more than 1 loop around the arena before bringing him down to a trot -- ideally just 6 or 7 strides before starting the downward transition. Make sure he is bent properly and relaxed before asking for the canter.

June 2, 2011 Tracy worked Gamble with dressage today and man, is he looking good. Lots of the same thing on which I'd been working (transitions, circles), but also she did many more changes across the diagonal, shallow loops, and sharper V transitions (2 or 3 transitions down the arena) to get him used to bending. He is still tossing his head a bit, but not nearly as much as last week.

June 1, 2011 Tori and I rode in the outdoor dressage ring. I worked on transitions and circles, but he picks things up pretty quickly, so there were no real surprises. After about 25 minutes of dressage, Tori and I went on a hack through the trails. Gamble led the way and did so with confidence -- until we came to a part of the trail that led to the river. He still led down towards the river, but Tori and Joey then took over the lead and we walked through the (relatively shallow) river with no problems. I think he was a bit nervous about the water rushing past his legs since he couldn't wait to get out to the other side where Tori and Joey were waiting. A hundred metres later, we were at a stream where a tree had fallen to block our path. I hopped off Gamble and Tori held him while I removed the tree from our path. I got back on Gamble and we were able to walk through the creek -- again, with a bit of hesitation, but nothing terrible. Another (much larger) tree across the path forced us to detour onto the corn field and back onto the path 50 m. later -- and Gamble was no probs. And he led the way through the trails on which he had never been previously with no issues. But, again, at the next little tiny creek he wasn't interested in going over. He's funny when he doesn't want to go. He plants his feet, and when I encourage him on, he swishes his tail and stamps one of his hind feet. But eventually I got him through this creek and eventually I got him back through the river. When we got back, I noticed a small cut on the inside of his off-hind leg, so I sprayed it with blue stuff and put some Tea-Tree Ade on it. We're 90% sure it was a cut from before we bought him from which either the scab came loose while standing in the river, or perhaps he scraped it on a rock in the river. Here is what it looked like:
Scrape on Inside of Gamble's Off-Hind Leg

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