Dear gorgeous readers,

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a very merry festive period with lots of fun.

I enjoyed my second Danish Christmas here at Hoffmann Towers and we even had some snow, turning the forest into a beautiful winter wonderland. It was fairly quiet at Søholt as the Hoffmann’s were skiing it up in Switzerland with the Bechtolsheimer’s.

Alexander (one of my collegues) and I were left to hold fort until it was our turn to be away for five days over New Year.

I flew home on New Year’s eve and made it down to Bristol from Stansted airport in good time for our little party (pictured below). When I picked up my hire car, they had run out of the small cars. VW Polo/Golf being my usual, the only one they had for me was a massive Ford Galaxy — father of five/taxi driver was not the look I was planning on going for! On the plus side, it was an automatic which definitely makes pulling off from a traffic light while eating a sandwich and drinking a Red Bull so much easier. Just kidding, I try to keep off the Red Bull — too much sugar in them!

Shaun Mandy NYE

It really was a fabulous five days back home and after New Year’s I drove down to Bournemouth for some family time. My brother, Mark, has recently purchased a lovely house in Parkstone where he has settled in with his gorgeous girlfriend, Maria.

I am quite sure it won’t be long before I need to buy a hat!

I stayed with them for a couple of days and mum and dad joined for dinners and a fun day out in sunny Bournemouth was had.

My next two days were spent back in Oxfordshire, coaching my beautiful clients at my dressage clinic in Stanton Fitzwarren. I was particularly greatful for the fantastic indoor venue at South Farm that weekend due to some showers! It was lovely to welcome some new clients and to see the progress of my existing ones.

Søholt in snow

Søholt in snow

Add colour with a little leg yield

Variety within your schooling session is so important to build up and strengthen your horse. Remember, your horse needs to be a gymnast underneath you so do more and keep adding colour to your riding.

Leg yielding is a great exercise for creating suppleness through the body and helping to develop self-carriage. When teaching your horse to leg yield, I find it easiest to start on a 20m circle. Make sure you have an active, working trot.

As you are making your circle, turn a bit sooner on one side as if you are going to make the circle smaller and then change your mind and ask for a leg yield back onto the bigger circle staying on a curved track.

The young horse will want to draw towards the wall or side of school for support so you are using this to your advantage to teach him the leg yield.

In the leg yield exercise the horse is moving forward and sideways at the same time with flexion to the opposite side to which he is moving. Your outside rein is supporting, restraining and can also be guiding by opening it to the direction your horse must travel. Your inside rein is flexing, but it is your outside rein that dictates how much flexion your horse has. Your inside leg is placed just behind the girth and is asking for sideways while your outside leg is on the girth and asks for forwardness if necessary. The outside leg can also be restraining if the horses quarters need to be controlled. In this case the outside leg will move back a little behind the girth.

Remember to start the exercise with a half halt and to sit straight, but step into the stirrup in the direction you are moving. These will progress to centre line and diagonal leg yields. I use a lot of them in my schooling, including in canter.

Wild horses

I arrived back to Denmark on Monday and all my horses were feeling slightly fresh due to the quiet two weeks over the mini-holiday period.

There was one rather funny moment on Tuesday (I shan’t mention any names), but it did involve three (out of four of us) jumping off our horses at the same time whilst hacking down a track and leading them home. Spot the dressage riders —safety first!

To be fair there was a massive hill/mini canyon to the side of the track. Before anyone says how silly it is to go out as a foursome in the woods on fresh horses, we didn’t — we just happened to meet up at the same point en route home!

Then would you Adam and Eve it? My saddler from Copenhagen who was meant to have ordered my Fairfax saddle about 12 weeks ago, and who I have not been able to get hold of and left about 100 voicemails, (the last one expressing my concern for his wellbeing) rocked up at the yard yesterday unannounced and without my saddle!

I am not sure how he still has a business, but he does and is at least a very nice man. I shall not be getting a saddle from him, though, and am having an Equipe saddle fitted for Dressage International Dompadour (Poppy, pictured below) this weekend. Super excited and all going well it will be ready for our next competition on the 24 and 25 January in Grenaa!

Until soon,

Shaun xx

P.S. I am reading the brilliant, Body Mind Mastery by Dan Millman and so am going to include a little quote everytime I write to you. Here is the first one:

‘Nature’s way is simple and easy, but men prefer what is intricate and artificial’ — Lao Tzu

Poppy looking over the lake

Poppy looking over the lake