tirsdag 25. januar 2011

A visit from the dentist

Last week Fonti had a visit from the dentist, and sadly his mouth was not a pretty sight. After the treatment he had a few days off, since he should have some bitless days after the teeth floating. On Thursday we were back in business, and I could really feel a difference! Fonti has a tendency to pull and sometimes "hang" on the reins, but now this is almost gone. I always thought it was just my fault, holding on to the reins too tight. Turns out there are some dangers to being (too) self-critical...

Yesterday J helped me. We worked mostly on controlling Fontis tempo (slowing it down!) without falling into the trap of 'backwards riding'/still keeping him in front of my legs, in addition to bending (serpentines and 10 m half-voltes) and walk-canter transitions.
I know I should work on my co-ordination outside of the stable, it would help me a lot in my riding, but I don't really enjoy aerobics or similar classes. Maybe I can find some other way to improve it...

*more upper-body strength (apparently I sit like one of those dashboard dolls in the trot...)
*remenber to praise him when he does something right (or at least tries to/shows a reaction)
*stop hanging on to the inside rein like it's a safety blanket!
*outside rein controls the tempo, inside rein only needed for slight bending on curved lines
*ride on the second or third track to make sure that he listens to the outside aids

Here's a really interesting blog-post (in Swedish) about horsegirls and the difference between the impression non-horsey people can have of life in the stable (a fluffy world filled with girls decorating ponys with pink bows) vs. the 'real' deal (falling off, long hard hours mucking out etc.).

Now: school work!

søndag 16. januar 2011


Oh, what a lovely day.

Well hello there!

Just hang on...

What do you mean, you didn't bring me anything to eat?

I'm bored with you now. Goodbye.

Today we trained with the police.

Hannover's mounted police (Reiterstaffel Hannover) sometimes uses the outdoor facilities at our stable, and so today it was crawling with uniformed men and women. I was going to take a photo, but had my hands full lungeing Fonti, who was running around either trying to impress the police horses or join them as they set off at a gallop, 4 horses shoulder to shoulder.

Needless to say we didn't get a lot of concentrated work done! I guess I'll archive this one under "social training".

mandag 10. januar 2011

A new week

Here in Hannover spring has suddenly come, with rising temperatures and the snow and ice all gone. It's probably going to get colder before the "real" spring sets in, but at least we can enjoy a few days of sun and relative warmth.

Some pictures from my Christmas holiday at home, where I'm guessing it's still pretty much winter...
The first pictures are from my familys cabin in a low mountain region of Norway, the last from a deer couple that are partially living in our garden in the city(!).

I spent most of the weekend helping out in the stable.
Yesterday I had a plan from the beginning of the training with Fonti (which istn't always the case...) and it really makes a difference. It always amazes me how much my own mental attitude towards the training can change the whole training session.

Fonti was bending much better around my left leg, and I also felt that I managed to sit better; I've developed a tendency to fall forward with my upper body, especially in the canter, but yesterday I kept my back pretty straight and my shoulders back. I also walk a bit tilted forward, so I'm trying to correct that as well (thanks Siri, I think I read that in one of your blogposts - about how you walk can be connected to how you sit on a horse).

At the same time Fonti sometimes became a bit fixed in the neck. When he can stretch his neck and relaxes in the warm-up phase, he usually swings through the whole body, but when I pick him up to start the real work, he sometimes stiffens in his body. I think this is partly because I tend to squeeze my thighs in the trot to sit still - which makes him speed up and makes it even harder to sit on him properly. So I often alternate between sitting and posting trot, to make him swing more through the back.
I also sometimes pull my hands back when he speeds up (if he could choose I think he would gallop all day long!) istead of controlling him with my seat, and I'm guessing that's the other reason he stiffens his neck/braces his back.

We also went for a little walk outside on both Saturday and Sunday, since the ice is finally gone. The stable is located in the middle of the city, so there's not much room for hacks, but we have some space around the stable/arena with riding paths and outdoor arenas (4 of them! The stable complex was built for the German cavalry, and I guess they were outdoor kind of people).
Fonti finds it very exiting to be outside, but if I lead him instead of riding him he follows me like a dog. Suddenly nothing scares him, even the tram passing close by doesn't concern him.
It's a standing joke in the stable that when Fonti and I am going to compete someday, bereiter J is going to have to run in front of Fonti so that we'll get round the arena without any spooking and/or unplanned stops...Good luck in the extended canter J!

fredag 7. januar 2011

New year, kinda new blog

I've decided to take after a friend and write my blogposts in English! As it turns out, she's right about Norwegian not being an international language (but just you wait...).

Anyway, a short introduction to any new and/or non-Norwegian readers: I'm currently studying veterinary medicine in Hannover, Germany, which I've been doing since October 2008. Last September I did an out-of-character impulse buy - after having gotten an offer I couldn't refuse, I'm now the owner of my very own dressage Wunder-horse!

Fonti is a Westfalian-bred chestnut gelding by Fürst Piccolo ( - Fidermark) out of Rubina ( - Rubinstein - Weltmeyer), born 2003 but insisting on behaving like a 3-year old most of the time.
Standing 1,80 m (17.7 hands) he's on the large side, but thankfully came equipped with a quite compact build and sense of compassion (i.e. he doesn't try to throw me off).

If you scroll down you'll se plenty of pictures of him, but here's another one just because:
This blog is supposed to be about my life here in Germany, but most of the time I end up writing about the horse (although I try not to make them the one and same - even horse people need a life away from the stables...).

But this post WILL be about the horse! Because yesterday we had our first training since before Chrismas. I have been at home in Norway over the holidays, and so Fonti's been exercised by the 'bereiter' (is there an English word for the German "Bereiter" (the new name is "Pferdewirt")?) employed by the riding club, who is also the man I bought Fonti from. So it's a win-win situation: I get to see my family and old friends, and the horse is being upgraded as I'm away! It's really a once in a lifetime opportunity to have your own horse to train with, the most qualified riders/instructors ready to help you and at the same time be able to go home on vacation without having to worry about the horse.

So yesterday I was just going to take it easy I thought, get back into the feel of things and have a nice, relaxed trainig session. But Fonti had other plans, which I understood as he speeded around at the end of a 20 meter rope (otherwise known as lungeing). Or as one of the other riders in the arena expressed it: Er ist heute sehr motivert! ("He's very motivated today!").
No kidding.

I almost always lunge him before getting on, not so much because he bucks or the like but because he's more relaxed and supple if he can warm-up on his own. I wait for him to "abschnauzen" (again I don't know the English word: the sound the horse makes when he exhales/blows through his nose, signalling relaxation. Snorting would be when they're tense/scared, right?), then I get on. As expected Fonti felt like a time-bomb for the first 20 min, looking at everything and checking if they're dangerous (which should be done from a distance of 5-7 meter according to the Horse Manual for Having Fun and Avoiding Work).
Still, it's difficult to get angry with him - first of all, he's an animal made for running who's been coped up in a 3x3 m box for most of the day, it's cold and we've shaved of his fur (you can almost see the neon sign in his brain blinking "Gotta keep moving!"), and if he can keep having fun after weeks of mainly indoor arena training then great! Once he's gotten rid of some excess energy he's usually very willing to work, and almost always a very postive horse to work with.

Our main issue yesterday was to get him to accept my left leg, not lean against it on the circle or run through the corners unbalanced withe the hindquarters to the inside. The frustrating thing is that deep down I know what he does, I know what I must do and still I let it slide untill someone points it out. Yesterday, well into the training and after som half-hearted attempt to push him from my inside leg into the outside rein, it took some yelling from bereiter J before I got to it and got it right. And after Fonti started bending correctly, the trot-canter-trot transitions we'd been working on were of course no longer a problem... Next time, no excuses, consistent riding from the start of the training!

Things to work on:
*Correct bending (duh!)
*Shoulders back, long legs, sit more to the right
*Round, uphill canter strides (don't hold him back!)
*Lead with the outside rein, don't hang on to the inside one
*He shouldn't balance himself on me hand/rein - must carry himself

Maybe if I write it here, I'll be able to remember it better. It's not really that difficult, it's doing it all at the same time that's killing me!

At least I wasn't the only one working hard! It's amazing how sleepy you can get standing under the solarium after a work out...