I’m feeling like a bit of an old crock this week! A horse slipped over on me a few days ago and I’m hobbling around with a sore foot and a torn tricep muscle; not what you need when you’re due to fly to South Africa and play polocrosse against the current world champions! I am getting to the age when I’m feeling the aches and pains a little too much, so if there are any budding horse trainers out there that want to come and help me with starting young horses and retraining, please get in touch!

Apart from that little mishap, things on the yard are going well and we have a nice bunch of horses in for training. One of these is a three-year-old dressage colt that I have just started. He is a real stunner and has a great temperament for a colt too. I used him in a recent demo during one of my three-day camps I hold at the farm, where I talked about how important desensitising is in order to have a horse that can cope with its environment.

He was the perfect demo horse, starting off by nearly jumping on top of me, to calmly cantering around the arena with a polocrosse racquet swinging about his head. The more a horse gets used to during their formative years, the easier they will cope with a highly charged atmosphere of the competition arena. This doesn’t just apply to ridden work; it’s just as important for a competition horse to be good to handle on the ground. Small things, such as tying the young horses on the yard before and after they are worked while other horses come and go, tractors are driven past and the grooms are sweeping round their feet, helps to teach them to settle whatever their environment.

The three-year-old colt

Talking of young horses that have been started here, I was delighted to receive a message from Emily Nicol about ‘Simba’ a four-year-old gelding out of an embryo transfer from the top class event mare, Headley Britannia. He has just finished third in a large section on a score of 26.5 in his first BE100 class. Emma said he is “honestly the most well-mannered, willing and brave horse I have ever met in my life.” Of course, this can be attributed to his impeccable breeding and to Emily who is producing him so well, but I’d like to think the starting process we go through here has also played its part!

Simba and Emily

I also thought I would mention a “straightness when leading” exercise that not only improves a horse’s handling, but also makes a significant difference to their straightness when being ridden. When horses are being led, a lot of them spend their time looking about and walking past, or worse, over the top of, their handlers!

A simple, but highly effective exercise is to train your horse to follow a foot or two behind you like a train. If you keep at it, your horse will file in behind you, watch and concentrate on you, and follow you wherever you want to go. People can find it a little unnerving at first, and worry that their horse may spook and run into them. However, those that have managed to stick with it have found so many positive effects; from becoming easier to handle, to lead and to load, in addition to becoming straighter and more attentive to the rider in their ridden work. It also helps with lungeing as they have learnt to always watch you so it helps keep that inside bend. I’m currently using the exercise as one of the “challenges” for my Your Horsemanship members and I’m looking forward to the results!

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So, my next blog will be following my trip to South Africa, and we’ll be well into the swing of summer. Kent Target Polocrosse Club hires our facilities and they have just invested in the pitches by laying down 100 tonnes of sand. I cannot believe the difference it has made to our clay soil; I feel like I have a great new training area for the horses, so I am hoping to be out of the arena as much as possible this summer. I’m also looking forward to a trip to the Hickstead Derby, courtesy of some owners that I have done work for; I’ll have to dust off a suit so I get let in the hospitality though!
Jason