Happy new year! How are your resolutions going? I made a few, but already my main one of being more punctual is proving hard to keep. I do have a tendency to get sidetracked, but sometimes with horses you have to stop looking at the clock and spend a little more time to get a result. I’ve also promised to give myself the chance to enjoy my own horses more as they tend to end up at the bottom of the list.
I spent a fantastic Christmas with my wife’s family and caught up with lots of friends. It was good to see Tom, my assistant trainer, recovering so well from his serious car accident and we are looking forward to having him back in another few weeks.
I usually have a complete break from the horses over Christmas, but as I had been to Australia at the beginning of December I kept some trainers going, which hasn’t been very pleasant in all the rain. An indoor school is always at the top of my wish list, but after the last month, I think it has become a necessity! However, our bottom fields did get a new use over Christmas with all the kids going out on dinghies on our new “lake” (pictured top).
I’ve also tried to take advantage of the dark mornings and evenings to do a little studying of my own. The internet is an amazing source of ideas and knowledge and I’ve been following certain horsemen in Australia and America to keep me on my toes. My next mission is to learn more about classical training. An incredible Australian horseman, Steve Brady, stayed with me in 2012 to conduct some clinics and introduced me to the work of Nuno Oliveira — someone who I am sure will be familiar to many H&H readers. After watching his videos, I now have a selection of his books and articles to read through.
On the yard, we have a real mix of horses at the moment and I’m excited Hazelhope Firefly, or “Fly” is back with us. I started this fabulous mare by Furst Romancier at the beginning of 2013 and ended up taking her to her first dressage outing in the summer (pictured right).
We entered a couple of classes and the fact she won the prelim with +70% despite me going the wrong way twice (!) shows what a quality mare she is. She was then turned out for the rest of the year to mature and has now come back into work to be sold. It has been a great opportunity for me to continue to work with a high quality horse beyond the usual 4 to 6 weeks I have them for starting and I would love to do more of this in the future. I’m not sure that the breeches, white gloves and diamante bridles suit me though!
I also have a horse in that’s more of a long-term retraining project. He is a youngster bought from Holland who has developed a real fear of being ridden. He is a nervous horse by nature and a few bad experiences have confirmed his belief that humans should not be getting on his back! He is slowly improving, but it is a case of 2 steps forward, 1 step back. With horses like this, I used to get frustrated and think there must be a quicker fix, as some nervous or “rushy” horses become reliable in a matter of 2 or 3 weeks. However, I know from previous experience that when the fear is this ingrained, consistent and patient training over time is going to offer the best solution.
As for looking ahead into 2014, I think the best way to describe it is going to be “exciting and full on”! I hope you all have lots to look forward to with your horses and the best of luck with achieving your goals.