Life is a bit full on at the moment. Tom, who has been riding for me for 2 years has torn his groin muscle and is out of action for a few weeks. With a full yard of horses, if I wasn’t going grey before, I certainly am now!
Despite the fact I am riding from dawn till dusk at the moment, I am happy with all the horses. Solento, Damian Hallam’s new dressage project, is due to come back into work after a break and Luna the Mule has just gone on her holiday and been replaced by her brother, Fuego, who is keeping us on our toes!
I have been lucky enough to have been given a 3-year-old from William and Pippa Funnell (pictured top) to use for a filming project I am doing. We have nicknamed him Billy (after the Billy Stud) and I have been starting him under saddle. He arrived pretty wild and unhandled straight off the farm so I left him for a while to settle down into his new surroundings and routine.
I always enjoy working with young horses that have not had much handling as although they can be a challenge at the start you are dealing with a blank canvass with no bad habits to un-do. Once they accept you as their leader they pick things up quickly and although all horses will test you as a leader once they gain confidence, horses like Billy will not do it as much.
I view it like this; when horses first come across humans, they view them as predators. As you start to gain their confidence, you become viewed more as a matriarch of the herd. After the horse becomes more familiar, they start to test your position as the leader and it is up to you, the trainer, to maintain that position. If you don’t, you will end up with an inconsistent horse that relies on his own instincts rather than looking to you for answers.
Billy tried every trick in the book for the first couple of times I worked with him on the ground but once he accepted me, he has been a dream to work with and has just had his 3rd ride.
Working with Billy is in stark contrast to some young horses that have been allowed to get over-familiar with humans and view them as an equal rather than their leader. They can be ‘bargy’ on the ground and are happy to walk all over you! When you start these horses, they are generally quiet and accepting of a rider, but they can be unwilling to work for you and you find issues such as napping, spooking and a lack of sensitivity to aids. In these cases, a lot of my job is re-establishing the horse’s respect for me.
Away from the yard, I spent a very enjoyable afternoon last weekend demonstrating at the Bell Equine Veterinary Clinic’s Charity Open Day (pictured above). I had 2 slots and used one to show how to retrain a horse to tie-up that pulls back and the other was a spooking exercise with Arnie, who was in his 3rd week of being started and he acted like an old horse! Over the years, I have come to enjoy demonstrating and I am looking forward to being involved in ‘The Dressage Show’ at Hadlow College in October in aid of the Emily Faurie Foundation, and then Your Horse Live in November.
Last week I also got a reminder of the power of the internet. Every fortnight I put a short video on my facebook page to encourage dialogue and interaction. I had asked Penny, my wife, to do a quick video of a young horse that was very reluctant to go away from the yard. Little did I know that 60,000 people would end up viewing and commenting on it! On the whole, the feedback was very positive, but some highlighted the range in training methods and ideas there are in the equestrian world and the fact that you are never going to please everybody!