I have just returned from a very successful and enjoyable three-day camp held at Goonbell Equestrian Centre in St Agnes, Cornwall. Run over the Thursday, Friday and Saturday (17-19 October) the aim of the clinic was to encourage riders not to hang on to their horses.
Some riders are under the misconception that holding on to your horse is the same as maintaining a contact, whilst other more nervous riders hang on in order to create a (false) sense of security.
I wanted to get everyone attending to realise that they don’t need to do this and that by relaxing they can allow their horse to travel with much more freedom and have much more fun in the process.
Working with two groups of four, we worked on a number of exercises to encourage relaxation. Over the three days everyone had a go at a variety of different skills, including jumping, polocrosse and mounted games.
It was amazing to see the difference in both riders and horses by the end of the weekend. Challenging the riders to try something new and fun meant that they concentrated on the new skill, rather than hanging on to their horses and many actually began to push their horse forward.
Solving a problem loader
On the Friday night I did a demonstration that included a problem loader, getting a really unresponsive horse off the leg and an exercise with a renowned spooker.
As it turned out, the loader did not so much have a problem with loading as with his ability to focus on me. Once I had managed to gain and then maintain his attention, the loading came easily. Success for the owner too!
The second horse I used in the demo had become really unresponsive to the leg. By not repeatedly kicking when the horse was actually doing the right thing (ie not nagging) but expecting a response when I did ask, the horse began to respond much more positively.
Finally, I had great success with the spooker. I used an umbrella as a spooky object to try and teach him the idea of not needing to spook. By the end of the session, he was happily following the umbrella around. Whilst I am not suggesting that I have cured the horse of spooking, I hope I have given the owner a platform to work from.
Back on the yard I am still working with Claydon the rescue pony who is coming on really well. This morning I had my first ride on him. This went as smoothly as I could hope for – but more of that next time!
Diesel is also getting a lot of attention from me and the girls, as we prepare for a big event coming up.
I have been doing some work without a bridle which has proved to be a very interesting experience. It has really focused my mind and helped me to understand how my body, and even the tiniest of movements, influences my horse and the way he goes (see video below).
Food for thought and plenty to work on!