I hope you’re all enjoying the spring-like weather and the firming up of the ground. We have had such a dry and mild winter, I’m already worrying about getting payback from the weather Gods next winter, so I’ve been rain-proofing the fields by putting in hardcore around the gateways and hard standing areas in the fields. There’s some heavy duty machinery around the farm for the work in progress, so of course, I can’t resist using them as training aids for getting the horses used to heavy traffic!

In my last blog, I wrote about the little gelding who would not stay stabled or in any confined space. I have to say, I didn’t know whether I was going to be able to help, such was the extent of his claustrophobia. He was definitely the hardest case I’ve had to crack, on account of his fear being greater than his regard for his own life. I compared the method I employed to CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) in humans, and I am really delighted to say that he has turned a corner and is now relaxed and happy at being stabled. The next step is to work on keeping him calm and rational in a horsebox so he can be transported without sedation.

Just when I was feeling pretty pleased with myself about this success, disaster struck. My dog, Berry, got trampled on by a horse I was loading. Initially, we thought she had just cut one of her paws, but it turned out to be a lot more serious than that. A couple of huge vets bills later and we have a very frustrated dog that has to be kept bandaged and indoors for a few weeks; not the life for a working dog like her!

Working with machinery at home

When an accident like this happens, I always evaluate how I could have done things differently. My staff do such an amazing job of caring for the horses we have in for training, but in this case, it was my own horse I was loading and I was running late. The old saying, “more haste, less speed” is something I preach continuously to my clients, so I’m kicking myself for not taking my own advice!

That morning, I was on my way to have a dressage lesson with Damian Hallam with “JJ”. The other day, I took a look around the yard and was blown away by the quality of the horses that I now get to work with, so the more I understand about the development of top competition horses, the better I can prepare them for their future careers, hence the regular lessons.

I have worked with Damian a fair bit now and I was so delighted that he won the medium gold regional dressage championships at Wellington with Serupgaards Salento, who I started under saddle a few years ago. The way he has produced him is a masterclass in allowing a young horse to grow and develop in their own time.

I am also enjoying some time with Miriam Goggin, who is a well-respected trainer local to me and I have built up a great network of fellow equestrian professionals who I can turn to for advice, exchange ideas with, and hopefully help out too. For example, I’m looking forward to one of these friends, Ross Emmett, coming over from Australia in late April to run an Emmett Therapy course at the yard, a technique that is incredibly useful to use with horses and riders alike.

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I am not the most business-like of people, so I have also become involved in a mentoring program with two close friends who run Iben + Milo and Duchess Oil, two businesses in completely different industries to mine. However, we all face the same trials and tribulations that running a small business involve, and it has been a great experience to learn and gain inspiration from each other. I would really recommend this to anyone who is self-employed.

With the yard in full swing and lots of Your Horsemanship events in the pipeline, I’m working all hours to tick things off my very long list before we set off for Australia in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait to get back home to see my family, but no doubt my dad will get me out working on the farm and starting a few homebred thoroughbreds and stock horses as soon as I arrive! Not that I mind at all; it’s good to get back to my roots and is a great reminder of why I wanted to train horses in the first place… just as long has he doesn’t get me back working in the sheep shearing shed too!

Jason