Happy New Year to you all! I won’t bore you with my New Year resolutions; suffice to say they don’t change much from year to year. Be more organised, go to more CrossFit sessions and sell some of the horses that we seem to have collected during the previous year — you get the idea! Instead of making resolutions, I have got really excited making plans for the year ahead, and we just had a whole staff AGM to make sure we put them into action.

As with most people who make a living out of our four-legged friends, work is rarely just a case of riding horses. We came up with, “online, on the road, on the yard” to describe my business, Your Horsemanship, as it reflects the three places where I teach and, hopefully, help people and their horses.

For an Australian from the Bush, developing my online horse training programme has definitely put me out of my comfort zone, but I have enjoyed learning about the technology behind it and am trying to embrace the delights, or otherwise, of social media. In an ideal world, I would love to just be at home on the yard, but I do get out and about, either conducting clinics or demonstrations away from home, or going out to help with problems at people’s yards.

These visits to other yards can be a bit of a lottery. At home, my yard is set up to be as safe as possible for the horses and me, but there have been times when my heart has sunk as I have been handed a dangerous horse to work with in an open field, with just a bit of wire fencing between me and the next county! On the other hand, I have sometimes arrived to the equivalent of a horsey five-star hotel and I spend the session having serious yard envy.

Last week, I went out to see a beautiful young Lipizzaner that had developed a rearing problem and was becoming dangerous to ride. Luckily, I had decent facilities to work in and after three flash points, the horse finished the session working well, both on the bridle and on a loose rein. Although I would rarely say a problem like this can be fixed in one session, I am very hopeful that this horse will go on improving.

At home with Emily Nicol’s two youngsters

Neurological pathways can only truly be changed with time and consistent repetition. Starting this process can be the most sensitive, and at times dangerous point, which is where I come in. Rearing can be very scary to deal with, and a rider’s understandable reaction of tensing up, or hanging on for dear life, will only exacerbate the problem.

Although the reasons behind rearing are numerous, two common threads are a lack of “forward” and a lack of lateral bend through the horse. This particular horse was well schooled, but rarely felt he was going forward freely, and used transitions as an excuse to plant his hind legs and lift in front. In this situation, the most important thing is to get the hind legs moving and create bend in the horse’s body; horses are much less likely to rear when their head is tipped to the left or right and their feet are moving.

I have also got three rearers in for retraining on the yard. When I have a horse staying, it gives me a lot more time to unravel the problem, and more time to spend with the owner, and as such, the chances of long-term success are far higher.

As much as I enjoy the challenge of horses with problems like this, I do love working with a blank canvas. I mentioned in my last blog that I was starting two of Laura Tomlinson’s young horses. They were going very nicely and after four weeks, were turned out for a break. I’m looking forward to finishing them off over the next couple of weeks and sending them home to start their dressage careers.

I have also just waved goodbye to two of eventer, Emily Nicol’s lovely youngsters, Sansa and Arya, who were straightforward to start and full of quality. Other horses I am currently working with include a traffic-shy gelding, and a new set of babies to start under saddle.

It wouldn’t be right to finish my blog without mentioning Christmas. I had a fantastic time with family and friends, before spending a few days in London with my wife, Penny. As much as we love our kids, it was a real treat to spend some time together on our own in the big smoke, even if I was reduced to Penny’s personal shopping bag carrier at times!

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As far as presents went, my favourite was a map of Australia and newspaper clippings from 1949 from my grandmother, describing my grandfather’s 1,300 mile journey mustering cattle from Queensland to Victoria; an incredible feat of endurance and stockmanship, which I will speak about in a future blog.

As for our kids, I have never seen anyone so excited as my daughter was when she opened her present of membership to the Romney Marsh Pony Club! Two days later, we joined other parents in a freezing cold arena at her first Pony Club rally. It was very similar to my Pony Club days in the Tumut branch, apart from the difference in weather conditions and the fact we all rode our parents’ old stock horses rather than the little Welsh Mountains that were on show!
Jason