Cookie's Training Blog

Welcome to Cookie's Training Blog

5th January 2012:

I know I haven't been keeping Cookie's Blog up to date but this has been for a reason. I am really sorry to announce that for a while now Miss Cookie has been suffering from an issue that we have doing our best to resolve. We have been doing everything within our power to try and find a cure / fix to the problem. Unfortunately we were at a loss and, after having to retire her earlier this week, at the tender age of nine, things have progressed and we have had to make the final and heart wrenching decision.

This Friday coming Cookie will at last be set free to a place where she will find comfort and peace.

I cannot believe it has come to this. Cookie is the most genuine, sweetest horse and was bought for Gill to come back to riding after a break of about 10 years. Seeing her riding again brought a smile to my face that had been absent for way too long. With photos and videos we have memories of Cookie and these, combined with our actual memories means that she will always have a very special place in our hearts.

We think this photo shows her kindness and how we will always remember her heart and soul until this terrible illness took over.

Our darling Cookie

Gill wanted to say this about our beloved Cookie:

It is with great sadness that our dear sweet lovely Cookie will be put to sleep on Friday due to neurological disorder. It has been a long tough year with her and an emotional up and down enough to tear the heart out of anyone. She is suffering so much and because we love her we have to set her free. Her essence, her soul and her wonderful nature will be what I will remember. There was not a mean bone in her body. She tried for us and tried so hard but in the end we had to do what was best for her. As I write this I feel heartbroken for me, for Simon but mostly for her. Who could have known out of such joy could come great sadness. Bless you my lovely wonderful Cookie I will never forget you so please gallop off free, no tack, no problems and plenty of rich green grass. You will be missed so much, words cannot express how much. We do this for you as it is the only thing we can do to make it right for you. I hope to see you again some day.

We would like to thank some people.

The staff at Bury Farm have been excellent and they chipped in to get Gill and I these lovely flowers which is so touching I cannot put it into words.

We would also really like to thank the vets at Chiltern Equine. Gavin has been Cookie's main vet but Angela and vet nurse Sam have been so helpful and supportive, going beyond the normal.

3rd November 2011:

Cookie's work is progressing well. Hopefully next week I shall get some more photo / video footage to show the improvement. I have recently been working on the canter and am now at the point of starting moving her forwards and then bringing her back in the canter. She does find this hard from a fitness point of view so am only starting the theme. This work does have a positive knock on effect to the trot work as after the transitions within the canter Cookie is even more over the back and through to the rein in the trot and especially in the trot to walk transitions.

Her general trot work and mobility is coming along really nicely. I am now getting the feeling that she is starting to really blossom with the work as her fitness levels increase along with her understanding. She seems to be gaining in confidence and its showing in her work.

27th October 2011:

Cookie has now had her follow up treatment from Adam and her pelvis is now level! She is working better than ever and is really exciting. Gill has asked me to maybe compete her at some point which I shall look forward to doing in the New Year.

Bury Farm are having the Grand Opening of their new indoor school this Friday evening and to celebrate this they are having a gala and a 3 day show jumping show. The entries have been fantastic and there is quite a buzz at Bury at the moment. This proved an ideal situation to school Cookie in one of the small indoors, right next to the warm up for the jumping, with the loud speakers and atmosphere - and she was super. She genuinely took it all in her stride and although I had aimed to just stretch her and relax her in that environment she was so chilled we did a full work session.

29th September 2011:

Following the super day yesterday I rode Cookie again today. Gosh it was getting hot - nearly 80 degrees by lunchtime.

The mare feels super. She has energy to burn and has a calmness about her work that I love. The photo on the right shows how I am now starting to keep the body alignment, the balance from back to front and now ask for more gnd covering with increased engagement.

Showing more engagement

28th September 2011:

Cookie has really been coming along well. The photo on the left shows a really good left shoulder-in in the trot. The inside hind leg is really stepping through and under and at this stage I am really happy with this.

We have had her backed checked by Adam, from Weaver House Equine Osteopaths and he was really helpful. He talked through what I had been already feeling and when Gill rode today, the first day after treatment, the results were super.

21st September 2011:

With any training of the dressage horse the rider / trainer will come up against issues that need dealing with. Whether these issues are of temperament, health, tack or training the rider needs to have an approach that looks at the whole scenario and work out the best course of action.

If I had consistently written on this blog that Cookie was progressing without a hitch then either we had found the miracle horse or I was not reporting the whole story.

The work was progressing very well and then we hit our hitch. It started with simple contact issues. I am a firm believer that as long as health and tack are checked and are fine then contact issues orginate from an incorrect working through from behind. We therefore checked the basics and looked at the training. The evasion got worse and so we stopped and assessed the scenario.

We firstly put it down to slight pollen allergy that we know Cookie has. We then called the vet in to go through anything that we were missing. Gavin, from Chiltern Equine Clinic, gave her a good going over and started with the teeth. These had been done last November and done well but Gavin found some work that needed doing, in particular some transverse ridges. We then did a pain relief trial and found some areas that needed addressing - namely the pelvis and the throatlash area.

We have had these issues resolved and the last two days work have simply been the best ever. This should be a valuable lesson for anyone - don't always assume that the horse is simply being a pain and not complying. In the main there will always be a reason for it.

I brought Cookie in from the field today only to find that she had two ticks on her muzzle. Not only are ticks on horses quite rare in the UK but to have two in the same spot!! Luckily Angela, from Chiltern Equine, was on hand to remove the ticks and so no harm done!!

As I said in the news Cookie was the star in a photoshoot last Friday for an article I have been asked to work on with Your Horse magazine. She was an absolute gem and a delight for the photograher to work with. I will let you know when this comes out in print.

25th July 2011:

We have been working Cookie in the walk and trot stretch and this work has been really coming along. We are doing this for a couple of reasons. The first one is that Cookie is really enthusiastic and can, at times bowl on a little. We feel she needs to "fend for herself". What I mean by this is that I always insist on the rider being able to release the aids. Aids are given when you wish something to change - so when you have affected this change then the aids should cease. Cookie's bowling on could tempt the rider to not have a release of the rein aids and as such tension could build. Before we would give the rein and she would speed up, partly being keen, partly a balance issue.

Now Cookie is flowing through a lovely walk and trot stretch, maintaining rhythm, tempo, draped stretch to the hand and is staying in the stretch through nice easy changes of rein. This is also helping with confidence, suppling of her back and allowing her body to let go and spring softly through the trot stride.

I know there is a thought that long and low puts the horse on the forehand. My initial answer to this is that any training, ridden incorrectly, will put the horse in an incorrect balance. The ability to stretch the horse down, whilst keeping the want to travel forwards and a maintaining of the tempo, and keeping the backup is a knack but in my opinion is of real benefit to the way of going.

This stretching work is interspersed with periods of being ridden up to a contact, some transition work and some basic lateral work in the walk. The combination of this has improved Cookie's suppleness, balance and responsiveness.

29th June 2011:

Below are two shots of Gill lunging Cookie. Below left shows a nice reach over the topline into the stretch down whilst arcing around the circle line. Below right shows Gill increasing the energy in the trot and starting to bring Cookie up and out. I have always found that muscles are worked best stretched, then contracted and then stretched out again. This lunge session was following a day off and so Gill was working with the basic frame. The next step would have been to add on the side reins to start bringing Cookie together more.

Stretching on the lunge Seeking the hand

The following day Gill rode Cookie. Below left shows Gill and Cookie in a lovely soft working trot. Gill is showing a good depth of seat, a draped and well let down lower leg that softly wraps around the horse. I should have taken the photo a fraction later to have shown the full reach through of the stride but this photo shows the harmony between horse and rider well. So you can see from the stretch on the lunge, to the adding of the evergy to start reaching out and forwards to the photo of the rider receiving this energy und saddle how the horse is relaxed, supple and through to the hand.

Below right is a very relaxed Cookie after her work session with her proud Mum!!

A good working trot Relaxed after work

13th June 2011:

Gill thanking Cookie

We are now getting to work on Cookie's training programme. This will involve a mixture of in-hand work, double lungeing, pole work, ridden work and hacking. The programme will look at and address both the aerobic and muscular aspects of dressage training combined with some gentle relaxation work. I firmly believe that no one exercise or aspect of training should be focused on too intensely in one go. Muscles are best, in my opinion, worked, relaxed and then worked again so they do not go into cramp then fatigue. By planning a suitable work programme we will ensure that Cookies needs are catered for in her training without tiring out any one muscle group.

When this plan seems to be settling into action I will post the type of plan we are including and what we are doing in each session.

26th May 2011:

Cookie has been an absolute star in this wind. I lunged her the other day in an absolute gale and she was so well behaved. When we started the wind was not too bad but it just seemed to pick up more and more. She did not bat an eyelid!

She has really become best buddies with Daisy May, the darling Shetland. Although they never move too far away from each other they do not get anxious when one is brought in without the other.

I have been helping Gill get back into the swing of things and after her ride on Tuesday these were her thoughts:

"I have found coming back into riding after such a long time rather interesting. The other day we worked on following with the seat bones which sounds so basic and very easy but I realised that due to the physical effort of maintaining my position I had not realised that at times they were not going with the flow. Of course I knew all this before but had completely forgotten about it. Try this exercise for yourself. Get a friend to ask you to call out which seatbone is moving forward with the corresponding hind leg. If you get tense (as we all do sometimes without realising it) this exercise will loosen you up, relax your seat deeper into the saddle and the horse will respond to it.

All fascinating stuff!"

I lunged Cookie again today with some in-hand work mixed in. Her lateral work is coming along really nicely, with a softness in the contact and ease of movement. I asked for a few steps of piaffe and these were the best yet by far. The difference today I felt being that the neck was more draped, softer to the hand but still with a good amount of contained energy. I was very pleased.

Cookie comes in now early afternoon as we do not want her to pop on the grass that is coming through. She has a time to de-bloat in the stable before work and then after work she has a nap. She stands by the back window gazing out over the countryside and drifts off to sleep!

14th May 2011:

Well folks, sorry for the delay in the Cookie Blog update! Gill and I have both been poorly.

I have made a video of Gills most recent schooling session with Cookie (11th May 2011). Gill is getting back into riding after a 10 year gap and so it takes time to get the position, core stability and timing of the aids back let alone getting to know a new horse.

I believe this video shows that not only is Gill getting back into shape but the connection between Gill and Cookie is growing and looking exciting for the future. Here is the link to the video:

Gill's progress

Yesterday and today I long reined Cookie and she was a star. I hope to get more footage of this soon but she is such a joy to work with.

The technical side of what we are doing with Cookie:

Although it may appear from the outside that Cookie ticks along in a good rhythm, the feel on board is somewhat different. She is a real powerhouse and so the first aspect that we have really had to work on, both under saddle and with the ground work, is to be able to regulate the tempo and have a release of the aids. Cookie is very keen and so it would be easy to sub consciously have a partial hand brake on all of the time. We must, and are getting to the point, where we can steady the tempo, release the aids and the tempo stay the same without Cookie speeding up.

Straightness is always in my mind and Cookie, along with all horses, has her own crookedness issues. Dealing with the tempo control and crookedness is a real juggling act but everything is starting to come together. There will be no release over the back if she is crooked and / or the aids are stuck on controlling the tempo.

16th April 2011:

Well, what a lot to report in this update.

Firstly, 16th April, i.e. today, is Cookie's birthday. She is now actually 9 nine years old. Although, in the words of the rock musician Steven Tyler "You don't look a day over fabulous.."

Cookie's work has been a little bit on the back burner as firstly Gill then me have had the dreaded lurgy and have not been up to much. However at the beginning of this week we got some video footage of both Cookie on the lunge in the front field and then me working her in hand.

To view her on the lunge for exercise click here.

The video on the lunge is purely for my records to see her moving freely and also she needed some exercise but I was feeling rough so instead of pressurising her or me I popped her on the lunge. The contact on the lunge line is not ideal but then I was videoing and lunging at the same time!!

To see her working in hand click here.

The work in-hand is coming along. Gill was not up to riding so I worked her and Gill did the recording. She is such a joy to work with and is now eagerly offering work, to the point where I have to sometimes gently ease off show her we do not have to work flat out all of the time!!


23rd March 2011:

Cookie has been on tick over recently as we have been busy with Gills reporting and my teaching. However today we both had time for her and lunged her in the front field, just off a cavesson for exercise and boy did she look good.

Cookie getting a polo after her lunge Cookie and Gill

After we had lunged Cookie in the field as usual she had her usual treat of the polo. This was the first time ever in this field let alone being worked / lunged in here!

Cookie getting pampered Cookie with her new Summer sheet

Every good girl needs her make overs and Cookie is no exception. After we had taken her for a walk for some grass it was pampering time. She had tail trimmed, washed and bandaged, mane pulled, bridle path trimmed and a really good curry comb (which she loves..) and then a good strapping and wipe down. I think she absolutely loved it!! Then she got to wear her new Summer sheet!!

March 2011, Week 1:

At last we have a new saddle and we can crack on with enjoying Cookie. I have kept her ticking along on the long reins and this work has been improving all of the time. Cookie is now steadier in her gaits, waiting for the request and stretching / seeking the contact much better. This is helping us straighten her as she drapes and relaxes to the hand.

Below left is Cookie sporting her new saddle, a Silhouette based on a working hunter style but with dressage length girth straps. Below right is, not a brilliant photo (am working on improving this..), believe it or not, Cookie's Dad!!!

Cookies new saddle Cookies dad

February 2011, Week 4:

Cookie is working really well now but due to both Gill and I having the bug she has a quiet couple of days. This, together with awaiting the new saddle, means that her body has a chance to rest. I personally do not like to over train horses. I find its about getting the right balance - enough work to progress but not too much that muscles get tired. She long reined today very well. I concentrated on relaxation, acceptance of the aids and getting a draped topline without the speed increasing. The trot work was really pleasing.

Her new saddle should arrive tomorrow. I have not used this make before and so it should be interesting and I will keep Cookie's Corner updated to what we think about it. Cookie is interesting in that she is not wide to ride but template wise she measures for a wide saddle. I am pretty hopeful for this one tomorrow.

February 2011, Week 3:

Well Cookie has well and truly settled into her new home. She now sees Gill and I as large polo dispensers!!! The work is coming along very well as I hope the next two photos will show:

Cookie Week 1 Cookie Week 3

The photo on the left is Cookie with Gill in Week 1. The photo on the right is Gill with Cookie today, week 3.

I have tried to use photos that are as near to the same timing of the stride as possible. As we can see in the right hand photo Cookie is already showing a better step through of the hindleg, a more raised back and a lighter forehand, shown by the withers not being as low. The two triangles, one made by the two hindlegs and the ground, the other by the two forelegs and the ground are more even in the photo on the right showing that Cookie is working more towards a working trot. However I would, in both photos, like to see the nose out a little more in front - but this is a work in progress!!

February 2011, Week 2:

In the first couple of weeks we are taking things slowly and surely. Remember Gill has only sat on a horse about 4 or 5 times in nearly 10 years so she is not riding fit to say the least! I am therefore sitting on at the start and working Cookie in and then Gill takes over.

Cookie has already started to change shape so that the saddle, very kindly loaned to us by Fiona, now no longer fits. Saddle hunting is now the order of the day!!

I had started Cookie long reining at the end of last year. She had done a couple of introductory sessions and now with us needing to find her a new saddle I thought it was a good time to bring this back into her working routine. Gill took some video of me long reining Cookie on our second attempt since we had purchased her.

Cookie on the long reins

Last week in January / February 2011, Week 1:

After agreeing the sale in the morning, about 9.30am, it was all hands to the pump to see when Cookie could be with us. By 4.00pm that afternoon she was in her new stable, all settled for the night and having been ridden as well!!

I must thank Fiona and Kate for the transport, help and generosity through this sale. I know Cookie meant alot to them and pleased be rest assured that we will always thoroughly look after her.

Thanks also to the staff at Bury Farm E.C. where Cookie is now liveried for their help and attention to our new addition.