That Dreaded C Word – Canter

It’s no secret I’m lover of all things Standardbreds. I’ve been fortunate to have grown up surrounded by them. From breeding, training, racing then into their career after racing. Oh and I guess plenty of experience looking after the retired ones too!

The last 12 months or so after completing my EA Coaching, I’ve been helping my fellow Standardbred riders get the best out of their horses.

I come across horses at all different stages of their training, green horses to horses that have plenty of miles under their belts.

One thing I do come across is that dreaded C word.

Canter

I wanted to tell you one thing. It’s not impossible.

There is nothing holding you back. Speaking from my own experience, I’ve competed in more open competitions then I ever have within the Standardbred ring. It can be done.

 

But how?

Great question..

 

As much as we would like, there is no magic wand, no instant quick fix and certainly no tricks.

 

So, what is it?

 

Building blocks in our foundations, tackling and linking our blocks along the way.

 

We want to be an expert at the basics, our transitions not only in and out but within the gait. Keeping your horse balanced underneath you, not running away through the bridle. Having a genuine connection from the hind legs through your seat and into your hands from the bridle, working over their top line.

 

You can read a hundred different ways to get your Standardbred cantering, they’re all true someone has tried and tested it.

Don’t forget there are many ways not to get your Standardbred cantering, because we’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked!

 

My piece of advice to you (besides a few of those hundreds of exercises) is to ask yourself this. How good are your basics, are your building blocks helping you climb your way to success?

 

You want to be able to have that adjustable trot, being able to make it bigger and smaller.

 

When we first begin to ask for canter we only want to see a handful of strides, even if they are a four beat. Trust me, they will get more balanced and three beat over time.

 

9 times out of 10 they want to drop out of canter and run into trot, organise your trot again and reward. Use your voice, give them a pat! Don’t keep driving them in the canter to keep cantering or to find their balance.

 

Once you have your rhythm back in your trot work, ask again. Little bits at a time. You’ll soon be able to ride the canter like you ride the trot.

 

Of course, this all sounds simple in theory! But if it is something you’re struggling with or about to embark. Ask yourself, how good are your basic building blocks.

Open Competitions with Standardbreds

There is no reason why you can’t take your Standardbred into an open competition. There is nothing holding you back from pushing yourself and hitting those goals.

For those who have aspirations of competing in an open competition but feel like they’re never going to be able to. Re read the first paragraph again, and probably another 3 times.

Let it sink in.

It all comes down to your training and having a knowledgeable coach who will help you achieve this goal and your willingness to learn and motivation to make it routine.

You need to think about where you’re at with your training right now. How many miles has your horse have being under saddle, 6 weeks, 6 months or even 2 years? Note where you’re at and where you want to be down the track. If your horse has not long been under saddle, that’s great, put your goals down and work towards them.

There is nothing holding you back. Speaking from my own experience, I’ve competed in more open competitions then I ever have within the Standardbred ring. It can be done.

The ridden Standardbred classes have gone leaps and bounds over the last few years, it’s lovely to see the amount of horses out competing. The overall presentation of the horses is certainly something to be proud of. Honestly, it’s a huge credit to you for presenting them so beautifully.

It’s lovely to see the determination and also the enjoyment from these riders who are competing in the ridden events. Don’t let your goals stop in the breed ring.

There are some amazing riders out there who are completely kicking goals in open competition, have you seen some of the amazing Standardbreds sand dancing recently? It’s not only great to see but a pleasure to see good training pay off and for the breed to really be seriously competitive with other breeds in the 60×20.

If you’ve been following me for a while you know my view on competing Standardbreds in open competition is there is no chance, you’re not good enough or you will be out of place because you ride a Standardbred. It honestly comes down to good consistent training.

Lesson Diagonal Pair

 

If I’m speaking honestly, I felt prouder and successful about my own training when I was competing Arnie in open events. The fact he was just as competitive with all the other horses on the draw and no one looked at him as just a ‘Standardbred’ but a dressage horse.

A few little wise things from me to you.

  • A knowledgeable coach to help you work towards your goals.
  • Good training system
  • More importantly be consistent with your training system- stick at it.
  • Good things take time
  • Don’t stop learning

March Training Task

So much support in January with the training task! Amazing to see people getting involved, even if you didn’t share videos, letting me know how you went and asking load of questions.

 

This month for March – thinking I might do the training tasks bimonthly … because sometimes time escapes me! 🙂

 

Figure of 8’s

 

This training task will focus on:
  • the accuracy of each circle
  • the flexion and bend to the new direction.
  • Balance and regularity of the trot. (or canter for challenging yourself)

 

Things to think about:
  • Having both 20m circles even
  • Riding the outside shoulder on the line
  • The change of rein over x
Benefits of this exercise:
  • Improving suppleness
  • Improve the bend through the body
  • Accuracy
  • Equal bend on both reins

To mix it up during your training, you can make a walk transition at ‘x’ when changing the bend to the new direction.

 

To make it more challenging, you can do the figure of 8 at a canter. Ensuring you keep the regularity of the canter on the 20m circles while riding the line. You want a balanced transition at ‘x’ and preparation for both the transition down into trot then into canter.

 

If you have any questions email me! Or pop over into the Team Standardbred group, make sure you share your videos!

 

Happy Training

Ingrid

 

January Training Task

Over the Christmas break I had this idea to put together little challenges or tasks for 2021. Something to get us thinking about the different aspects of our training, keep us motivated, help with current issues or just something we haven’t thought about before. It is not something competitive to see who can do something ‘better’!

This month for January I wanted to do a ‘transitions’ task.

Now this training task will focus on:

Transitions within the gait

  • Trot– focusing on the horse to wait and to be able to come back on our aids then to be able to go back into a working trot again.
  • Canter – If you have a few more miles under your belt to be able to play around with the canter more, it’s a great exercise to start to work with.
Things to think about:
  • Keeping balance – not letting them want to pick up the lateral pair. They must keep the diagonal pair.
  • Connection in the bridle- keep a consistent contact and connection with the frame. We don’t want the frame/posture to change only the tempo.
  • Not to bring them back too far and getting stuck.
    • The idea is to keep the balance throughout the exercise being adjustable within the trot or canter work.
  • Finding that area where they might want to break into a pace. When you find that area and build on from it, you’ll know where your limits are.
  • If they are wanting to break into a pace while doing this exercise. Start to troubleshoot.
    • Bring it onto a 20m circle.
    • While in working trot, connecting your inside leg to your outside rein. This is helping to connect the horses inside hind leg to the outside shoulder.
    • Make sure you have a good connection through the reins and into the bridle.
    • Ride a shoulder fore on the circle before starting to play around with the transitions.

 

Benefits of this task:
  • Great exercise when you’re warming up if they are behind your leg
  • Finding more gears within your work
  • Getting the horse to use their hind quarters more
  • Will improve transitions in and out

 

Share your videos in the Team Standardbred Facebook group or if you don’t want to post in the group send them to me directly!

 

Any questions please ask away in the Facebook group or contact me directly I’m more than happy to help!

 

I’ll be popping up my video over the next few days!

 

Just remember we are all on this training train together 🙂

 

Quick view of my daily routine

I’ve had loads of questions about my routine, which also includes my feed. I’ll be honest, it’s something I’m consistently trying to improve and tweak better.

I wanted to do a quick write up about my daily overview with our feed to give you a bit of an insight to my day in the stables, I’m happily admitting to you that I will be doing a blog about our feeding routine soon! Because that sounds like too much fun to do!

The Morning Run

Usually between 6:30-7am all horses who are stabled and paddocked at night are fed hay for breakfast.

The happy horses enjoy their breakfast for about 30 minutes then are turned out to their day paddocks. Those who are paddocked full time are waved goodbye for the day wishing they continue to make the right life choices- ha ha!

While the horses who are stabled are enjoying their morning feed, their stables are cleaned, their rugs are changed to the appropriate weather for the day.

It’s funny, I used to enjoy getting up super early to ride before work, but now I’m finding myself getting into a better routine by turning them out into the paddocks earlier and working in the afternoon.

Probably the most important part of my routine is the cleaning in the morning, having all the stables cleaned, tidying up the feed room, tack room and general stable area. Making sure all the waters are full in the paddocks and stables and any fresh bedding put into the stables if needed. This mentally lets me fly into the afternoon run much better when everything is done in the morning.

I’ll admit it’s something I’m trying to get better at, as some days when I finish work, I don’t really feel like gathering up the energy to ride. But its mind over matter and I get it done!

The Afternoon Run

The afternoon rolls around and it’s time for the afternoon feeds, this is all their hard feeds.

The horses who are paddocked during the day are bought in around 3-3:30pm, this saves them from running around and causing too much trouble in those afternoons hoons. You know the ones that make your heart stop for a second!

At the moment I’m only working one horse, so lucky Bert is groomed, geared up and is worked in the afternoon. It usually takes me around 20-30 minutes before my ride to get him ready, then usually riding around 30-45 minutes pending on what I’m working on that day. Then about 20 minutes after our ride to finish up, untacking, stretching, hosing, oiling feet and other treatments needed.

Bert is then tucked away with his dinner and a hay bag to munch on afterwards. Our stabled horses usually have some hay to munch on at night, this is either left over breakfast (if they were given an extremely large amount that morning) or a small amount given to them. Pending on how the grass is during that time of year also helps on how much they get during the night. We are lucky in terms of grass being in the valley and we can get a little too much feed on the paddocks!

What the dinners are made of

Usually our hard feeds consist of a mixture of lucerne and oaten chaff with a few added feeds and additives.

Hygain

We feed a lot of Hygain, 99% of the horses are fed TruCare. I absolutely love this feed; all our retired horses look amazing on it!

Some of our stabled horses are fed: Hygain Show Torque, Hygain Release and Hygain Balance.

KER

EquiShure – Bert is currently on Equishure for his gut health. It’s probably the one gut health product I’m completely satisfied with. I also use from time to time when needed, B-Quiet, Restore, Hemabuild and preserve.

CEN

Most if not all our horses are fed CEN OIL. We’ve had a few horses in the paddocks who have suffered the itch, so we made compulsory that they all get CEN OIL to help avoid any sort of itching! I can say it’s amazing, I can actually have rugs off these horses who have suffered the itch in the past.

I hope you enjoyed having a little read on my insights on my daily routine. Stay tuned for my training and feeding routines, think I’m finally getting the courage to put these into a fun vlog 😉

My new love- the Pivo

I’m so, so lucky to have put the Pivo on my birthday wish list this year. Because now I can film all of my rides! *happy dance* I’m now able to review my rides instantly and have these for my reference for as long as a I need. I haven’t had the Pivo long, but already I’m picking up on little details with my riding and aiming for little improvements. Not to mention, knowing the camera is rolling is teaching me to relax more and not feeling like getting a video is a ‘big deal’!

First of all, the best feature of the Pivo – you now don’t need anyone to film your rides anymore!

Since posting a few of my videos I’ve had a fair few questions relating to my new love, Pivo.

Just so you know I’m not affiliated with Pivo at all, I just really enjoy sharing the things I like with you! If something helps me with my training, I’m all for sharing it.

I have the silver Pivo it was part of a bundle with the tripod – so helpful! It also depends on what phone you have. I have an iPhone 11 Pro max. So, I think the quality of the video depends on how great your camera quality is.

The settings I use are:

  • Ai Centred
  • Auto Tracking
  • Auto Zoom
  • Predictive follow- only if inside the arena
  • Fast
  • Beta Horse
  • No tracking exposure

The videos automatically save to my camera roll, but they are also available on the Pivo Gallery which you can download onto your camera roll.

I have a few little tricks that I’ve figured out along the way.

  • Make sure the sun is behind the Pivo – doesn’t like the sun in his eyes!
  • Use the back camera on your phone – has the best quality!
  • Wear a white saddle cloth, bright coloured shirt and/or horse boots. This helps Pivo follow you.
  • I use the whole arena and get worried about riding around it when it’s in the arena. So, I found it best to put at E or B.
  • I airdrop from my phone to my MacBook to edit in iMovie.

My useful links!

I’ve also found the Facebook group for the Pivo Horse riders super helpful! You can find the group here

If you are wondering where to buy this from you can visit the Pivo store here, don’t stress, it is in USD and it arrived to me in no time!

My little video edit

Small clip of our training this month, highlighting the different positions the arena with my new toy the Pivo! 

Why Lunging is Important

Who else likes lunging!?

I recently put a post-up on my Facebook page, I had a fair few questions come through about it.

Now, I’m not talking about that thing we do in the gym 🙂

I’ll always be honest; you may not believe me as you always see me talk about lunging in my training. But I used to hate lunging- gasp! I never saw the purpose of lunging. I only saw it as an exercise, literally just that. To tire your horse down before you got on.

Now days, it’s one of my favourite tools. Coming back from holidays, injury and also as part of my weekly training program to help strengthen and condition.

I guess like many aspects of the equestrian world I’m always striving to ‘do better’ be a better rider, have better horsemanship skills for my horses. Always trying to improve myself to bring out not only the best in me as a rider but my horses.

For me, the change in my belief was seeing the transformation of Arnie in front of my eyes. Arnie being a Standardbred coming from a purpose bred racing background transitioning into a ridden horse. I was always looking for ways to help make little improvements and one of those was lunging. Getting him to be able to use his body better, shift and take more weight on the hind end, sharpen the transitions and strengthen his core. Best off all being able to see it with my eyes on the ground.

Our bodyworker Nicole from Equinic Performance Therapies who treats our horses on a regular basis was the one who introduced me to the wonderful Equisystem – which I now recommend to almost every person I teach!

This has been a bit of a game changer, the purpose of the Equisystem is to make the horse remember they have a hind end and how to use it.

I love using mine when I’m lunging, I’ve also used it in ridden work with Arnie especially when I have those canter days where I’m asking him to sit and wait more with the hind end. It really helps to encourage and gives him confidence in our canter work.

What my usually lunge days look like:

  • 15-20 minutes total
  • Lots of transitions, walk, trot, canter
  • Transitions within the gait, bringing the trot in and a little smaller and then asking it to be bigger
  • Adding poles to our work either 1, 3 or 4 poles
    • Aim is to get them to use their core, when they lift through their back

I bought my Equisystem through Vicki Wilson NZ page directly you can find the link by clicking here.

I’ll be honest, I’m in no way associated with this product, I’m purely plugging a product I have tried and tested successfully with my own horses.

Happy training!

Reflecting on progression

It’s when you have all the time in the world you start scrolling through old photos and comparing, sitting and wishing competitions were back in action again. I found two pictures of Arnie while I was enjoying looking back at some memories.

I really want to share two pictures that stuck out to me. The first picture was from around February 2018 at Sydney Dressage. I was so, so proud of the way we were going at the time (to be honest I’m always proud!). It’s not until you put a picture side by side with another picture and start to realise a difference, in this instance I like to call this progression.

Feb 2018

The second picture is from what I say was our best competition ever, September 2018. We had decent scores and he just felt amazing. To this date hands down best competition with Arnie. I think we placed 5thwith a pretty competitive score to really boot!

Sept 2018

When I think about it, there isn’t much time between these two pictures really, about 8 months give or take. I mean, considering I couldn’t ride for 72 days in that 8 months (yes, you’ve probably guessed it- pretty sure I was counting the minutes also). I would say it is quite the improvement.

If you’re thinking this is going to be some quick fix, short cut way to progress. Some amazing supplement I bought and made the difference… Then you need to guess again. I’m not about quick fixes or short cuts or in fact anyway to race forward to the end to cut out the middle part. As the last few years have taught me, I’m all about the hours learning not only in the saddle but also out of the saddle.

Now I know I’m far from perfect, I could have this post listing all the imperfections between the two pictures, what I want this post to really be about is the transformation and progression in our training. The change between horse and rider as a combination. The knowledge I had rolling around in my head February 2018 is far less than the knowledge floating around in September 2018.

Our progression

To be honest this was 2 years ago, I can’t remember the exact path I took, call it the coffee craze or the wine haze. But what I know is that I just kept plugging along doing what I was doing, always trying to do better. Trying to have a better posture while riding, trying to improve Arnie’s paces, making sure he was picking up his diagonal pairs with the centre of gravity underneath him. Getting him to use his body more, keep up the regular body work treatments and best of all – asking questions to help improve us both.

Knowledge is a powerful tool and so is motivation. I like to think these two-work hand in hand to support our training. It’s taken me a long time to get where I am now and to be honest, I’m far from where I want to be. At times we need to take a look back at how far we have come, be it 8 months or 2 years. Sometimes we need to take this step back to reflect to realise we are on the right track. I guess that little stint on the sideline did me some wonders to advance my learning skills.

When was the last time you reflected back on your training?

Why I Enjoy Coaching

I feel like I’m a rather quiet person by nature, I’ve never really been outspoken as such when it comes to discussing issues. Well- perhaps I am to my friends after a few wines, but that’s another story! As a whole it’s safe to say I don’t make my stamp to lead into a conversation especially when it comes to riding and training.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good training conversation. What I also enjoy is listening to what others think and for them to share their knowledge. I’m a pretty open when it comes to training aspects, I don’t feel there is a right and wrong way as I believe there are many ways and methods driven towards the outcome.

When I created Dressage Dreamers back in 2015, I didn’t really have a passion for coaching as I didn’t feel confident enough to be that person. As my training developed and I started sharing my journey with my amazing Standardbred Arnie, I began to realise how many people started to look to me for advice with their own Standardbred or even a little bit of inspiration for those who have just started on their own journey.

I’ve always had a burning desire to want more, wanting more from my own training and wanting more to expand my knowledge to help me be a better rider.  I love reading all the articles, I enjoy watching all the training videos. I slowly started to be stronger with my own confidence in knowing my stuff and I thought to myself I need a challenge! I need to get out of my little bubble and put myself out there.

I completed my EA Intro Coaching course at the beginning of this year, it really pushed me into becoming more confident as a person and have enjoyed every minute of it since. I’ve already ordered my Level 1 and want to get cracking into this next challenge for me.

I’ll admit it is super hard starting out as a coach, I find it hard putting myself out there into the big scary world. At the same time, I enjoy meeting new people with their horses. I love seeing a light bulb moment with the rider when something clicks. I especially enjoy seeing a difference with a horse and rider over the course of the lesson, it’s so rewarding seeing the little improvements along the way.

For me as a coach what I find the most rewarding is helping a rider on a regular basis build their confidence and understanding for them to push forward to their goals. I’ve always believed in helping others, being that positive person. We all know the road is never the easiest at times it can challenge us in many ways.

Don’t forget to check out the Coaching page https://dressagestandardbred.com.au/coaching/ for more details.

Let’s chat about pacing- part 2

If you’ve had the chance to read part 1 of Let’s Chat About Pacing (click here to read), I brushed over a few little concepts about ‘thinking’. The main reason I split the two into think person number one- and thinking-person number two is that, you don’t need to stress about if your Standardbred isn’t ‘perfect’ during training. Gosh, it’s called training for a reason at times it might look ugly so it can develop into something beautiful!

To recap about balance, it is about balancing the whole horse. As the training progresses, they will be able to accept more weight onto their hind legs. We want to start aligning and connecting through the body. As I mentioned in part 1, turning with the outside shoulder and activate the inside hind leg.

Now, let’s have a chat about the ‘doing’ side of this! I’ve mentioned this multiple times over the years, but out of all the horses (by that I mean Standardbreds- of course) I could have picked on the property for my ridden horse, I picked the one who naturally paces the most. He paces all the time, no there isn’t anything wrong with him. It’s natural and he obviously feels more comfortable pacing more times than some of the others. If anyone has experience with a Standardbred who loves to pace under saddle, that would be me!

 

Transitions

 

You’re probably thinking these topics in this series are a bit boring, where is the short cut and the quick fix. Well, it’s about the hours in and out of the saddle making mistakes and finding ways to do things better. Transitions isn’t just all about walk to trot and trot to canter, it is also about the different gears within the pace.

At the start when I was riding Arnie it was hard! Getting him to wait and to listen, come back and be a little ‘quicker’ underneath me. He really wanted to drop out underneath me into a pace because it was a lot easier. (It’s the best feeling at the trot to really feel working over the back connected through the body and that swing and push!)

Have your horse in front of your leg (not running away, but the feeling of them underneath you if you say go it will go), use your body/position and your half halts to bring them back into a ‘smaller’ trot or canter, you want the feeling that they are still ‘pushing’ still active underneath you. Pushing with the hind legs not pulling with the fronts! A little ‘quicker’, which is about how long their feet are on the ground for.

You want to try and find the sweet spot where they will just hang in before they want to drop out and stop pushing. You’ll know when you find it! When you’re in it, they should be waiting for you to come back out of it into a more working pace again. Don’t hang to long, it is hard for them to find this area to keep pushing and wait.  Chip away at it each ride, if you ask for a little more some days and a little fewer other days. It will start to build them up.

I could write an essay on cantering with your Standardbred, training is like an onion, you just keep peeling back the layers (sometimes yes, we have tears!) As we are having a little chat about pacing under saddle with balance and transitions, I have found that when you are starting out cantering your Standardbred (I’ll have other post down the track with this in focus or please just contact me for any questions, more than happy to help). It’s all about the preparation before the canter and the preparation coming back to trot. If you find they can only canter a few strides that’s completely fine. I honestly don’t know how long it took Arnie to develop and progress to be able to canter down the whole long side of the arena completely balanced and in a 3 beat canter.

Set yourself up for the transition into canter with a positive trot, canter half 20m circle or until they don’t feel like are going to fall out of canter. Prepare make a transition to trot, keep it balanced, don’t let it run on the forehand. It is far better to get snippets of a good quality canter with preparation into and out of then to keep cantering around and being unbalanced.

Start small, keep the bend through the body, they will less likely want to pop into a pace on a circle then down the long side.

Stay tuned for Part 3 – at this point I feel like there are going to be many parts to this series because it is such a large topic and I really want to break them down!