The Horse Physio - Delivering care with expertise since 1992

23.5.2022 Hilary, Max and Zen

A Guest Blog by Hilary Moses

March began with a busy week for Zen. I’m very excited about doing dressage to music with him, so we hired a local long arena and went to film the floor plan which I’ve written. He was very good, having never been to the venue, and it was good practice for the end of the week when he was entered for his first Prelim test there. Having filmed my floor plan, I sent it off to have the music arranged. I know what tracks I want, I just need the magic touch of someone who knows what they’re doing. I’ll now have to be patient because the company are very popular and there is a 6-week turn around.

More schooling in the week was followed by Zen’s first Prelim test. The canter leads had been a bit suspect, but he managed to get them right in the test and came 3rd. It wasn’t a fantastic test, but I was so pleased with him for his first attempt. We also went out the next day with a friend and won a pairs dressage test with 70%. The judge, writer, and scorer were all clapping at the end! Very proud moment and another great experience for Zen.

The next week began with a group lesson which was flat work and jumping. It was quite a good session, but Zen got a bit nappy when he was tired. It was an important session because it was in the arena where Zen would be jumping that weekend, having qualified for the combined championships at this venue. I was worried about the dressage because it was outside in the arena where he’d had a melt down in February. We were unable to go out into this arena on the lesson day, which I was disappointed about, so just had to trust that he would behave on the day. Which he did! A great test, followed by a clear round of jumping indoors, good enough to win the championships. Except that he has a numpty for a rider, who didn’t walk the course properly and didn’t even see the last fence. So, we were eliminated and learnt a hard lesson.

During this week, I also had a lesson which went well. My trainer also rides Zen and this is helping him find his balance. Lessons also build my partnership with Zen. There’s nothing like a good pair of eyes on the ground for helping your position and your riding. Also useful is a good friend who videos lessons and tests, as you can learn so much from watching them back. When I’m on my own, I use a Pivo, which is a device which connects to my phone and films my schooling sessions. It moves with us and zooms in and out, so it’s very useful.

Next to prepare for was Zen’s second Prelim test, which was the weekend after the championships. He was a busy boy in March! A baby horse is always changing and growing and presenting new behaviours. In this next Prelim he started dropping his poll, which he’d not really done before, and we also had a bit of head tossing, which is not new but is rare in a test. However, he still finished 4th with 65% so just another learning day at the office!

Progress with Max was slow but steady. He started to gain weight and was happy out hacking, but wasn’t at all happy on a surface. We had to film our final monthly online Trec entry, and although Max did all that was asked of him, I could tell that he just wasn’t finding it easy to move on the ménage surface. This series of competitions has now finished, and I’ll have to think carefully about next season. Hopefully, Max will be feeling better, and he can try again. It’s good for his brain and mobility.

Quite a busy month and I’m looking forward to April when hopefully the weather will start to warm up, and we can get out for some nice hacks.


After a busy March I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when Zen seemed a little reluctant to work at the start of April. He seemed to have good days and bad days but was generally reluctant to go forward. He was entered in an arena Trec competition for an in hand class and a ridden class at the first weekend but I decided to withdraw him from the ridden as he seemed so unhappy. He did well in the in hand class, coming 4th at his first attempt at this discipline. He was beaten by established combinations and got a good score, so maybe he’ll be a Trec pony one day!

The following week I was due to have a lesson and nearly cancelled it because there didn’t seem much point. This was a stupid idea as my trainer is so knowledgeable so we went ahead. By a process of elimination we established that my dressage saddle was at the root of the problem. This was NOT good news as I love my dressage saddle, but first and foremost is the welfare and happiness of my horses. There was a saddle check due so I brought the date forward.

Max has put on a lot of weight and condition, but the GP saddle which he and Zen share was not looking good on Max so a check was needed for him too. The saddle fitter confirmed that the dressage saddle didn’t fit Zen anymore. He has grown and changed in the 6 months in which I’ve had him so it was just feeling uncomfortable. The GP saddle was fine as it fits in a different way and is a completely different shape so at least I still have a saddle to ride in. However, Max still isn’t back up to where he should be weight wise so he now has to wear the GP saddle with a Pro-lite pad and shims. But at least the visit didn’t cost me nearly as much as I expected! Also, if anyone would like a beautiful, as new, medium Equippe dressage saddle, I have one for sale! I also brought Zen’s physio appointment forward just to be sure his back was ok and luckily everything was as expected and he wasn’t too sore in the saddle area.

I had a short break booked and this worked really well as it meant Zen could have some time off before I brought him back into work. I was super excited because the music for my dressage to music had arrived and I couldn’t wait to try it. Myself and a friend booked a long arena and off we went. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Zen was having a nappy day and wouldn’t really cooperate at all. After waiting for what felt like months to try my music out, I was very disappointed. Because I have to hire an arena every time I want to practise, I can’t do it as often as I’d like, but I did rebook for a couple of days later and Zen was good. This is important because its not until you ride the test through with the music for the first time that you discover if it works. At least I now know where the tweaks might have to be. Zen seems happy in the GP saddle which is a blessing.

As mentioned earlier Max was starting to look a whole lot better. He’s put weight on and is brighter in himself. Other people have noticed the difference too. He’s no more enthusiastic about being ridden but he doesn’t object, he just takes life in a more chilled way, and we enjoy the time which we spend together. We’ve been taking part in another horsey treasure hunt and Max is the ideal horse to do this with as he’s so obedient when he has to stand to

have a photo taken. Even when he’s dressed up in something bizarre!

May will hopefully be an exciting time for Zen and I, so I’m really looking forward to it.

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity, and compassion

May 23, 2022
Sue Palmer