I can’t believe we’re counting down to Christmas already. This autumn has flown by and we’ve been so busy, that I can’t wait for a bit of quiet time. Being self–employed, and also having my employees’ wages to pay, means that I can usually get away with having a few days of relaxation before panicking that I should be back at work!

Winter used to be a quieter time for the yard, but over the past few years it hasn’t really slowed up. In the past month we have some beautiful young horses in for starting (pictured top) from professional dressage riders Daniel Timson and Jackie Su, who competes for Hong Kong, and I picked up two of Laura Tomlinson’s youngsters on Monday. I think it’s really interesting how the dressage world is changing and I feel it has become more progressive about the way they view and develop their young horses, particularly in the UK. About 50% of my clients are from this discipline now, whereas a few years ago, I would rarely get a big warmblood on the yard!

Desensitising work with an umbrella

Recently, I went up to Gillian Portus’s yard, Walk to Canter, in Essex, where I conducted clinics and did some work with one of Gillian’s horses who was getting a little tense in the warm up arena. I also had a great time as always at Your Horse Live. I have been demonstrating there for the past five years, but this year I went up without my four legged friends to conduct talks in their equine learning zone instead. I even ended up dusting off my auctioneering skills and sold lots, such as Valegro’s saddlecloth, to raise money for their rescue village charities.

Me auctioneering at Your Horse Live

In my talks, I spoke about what I feel are the two most important skills in horse training; leading on the ground, and gaining and maintaining “forward” in ridden work. If there is any confusion between you and your horse in these two areas, you will encounter problems either when handling or riding your horse. It may sound very basic, but if your horse leads well, he will be respectful of you on the ground, and if he responds quickly and calmly to the forward cue when ridden, you won’t get napping, bucking, rearing, refusals… Simple, hey? I do think that we have a tendency to overcomplicate things, particularly when training our horses, so revisiting these basics is a very useful exercise. I find that a lot of people who come to me with a specific problem want a quick fix, but to gain a long term solution usually means going right back to square one.

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On the subject of education, I have been enjoying having Hadlow and Plumpton Colleges onto the yard to watch me work and to add to their range of learning experiences. Being an employer in the equine industry, I can’t stress the importance of having a balance between acquiring knowledge through classroom teaching and practical experience, not to mention the understanding that working with horses can be downright tough at times. We’ve been interviewing for an apprentice groom at the moment and although we’ve had some great applicants, we’ve also had a couple who have lasted half a day and explained that they hadn’t realised there was going to be so much physical work involved!
Jason