I have just returned from a trip to Ireland to play polocrosse in a Tri-Nations competition between England, Wales and Ireland.
It was a long way to travel the horses but at least it was a successful weekend, with a win for England. Billed as a “development” competition, I enjoyed playing with some of our up and coming players who performed well, although I’m not sure I like the idea that I am the old timer of the team!
I was very pleased with the horses too; Banjo, my 10-year-old gelding who I brought over from Australia as a two-year-old, won the best men’s horse prize.
I often wonder what riders from other disciplines would make of riding a polocrosse horse like Banjo. He may have the odd fault but he is very athletic, light and responsive, regularly gets me out of trouble and is very adept at covering up any rider errors! At any rate, he definitely puts a smile on my face when I ride him.
This morning my daughter Rosie finished reading War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. Both Penny and I have got very choked up every time we’ve read a passage or listened to Rosie read! It’s a wonderful but harrowing story, that really brings out the horrors of war and the amazing feats of bravery and endurance from the soldiers and horses alike.
Almost the saddest part was at the end when the horses got sold off at the end of the war. It got me wondering about what happens to all the horses that have come through my yard and where they are now. Many owners keep in touch and some I see regularly at clinics and camps. Some I hear about second-hand, and what better way than to read about them in Horse & Hound?
Last week’s dressage round ups featured “Moose” (Royal D’Accord), who won a novice qualifier at Merrist Wood. It gives me so much pleasure to see a horse that had been written off as dangerous, winning and comfortable in his work.
Although some physical issues had been successfully treated, when he first arrived I realised that even though he had been trained to a high level, he had a “block” that resulted in him rearing and spinning when he felt under pressure.
When he was with me, all the training with him focussed on going forward in all situations. At first this was out and about round the farm and over obstacles, before coming back into the arena and going through the same processes in more collected work. Most importantly of all was giving Desma, his owner, the tools and confidence to deal with the blocks if and when they arose. The partnership has obviously continued to improve and I can’t wait to hear about their future successes.
Although Moose was difficult, he was by no means as dangerous as some of the horses I get sent. When dealing with these horses it is always in the back of my mind whether I can “fix” the horse for that particular owner. I always want to give the horse a chance but at the same time, my priority has to be rider safety. At the weekend I saw another great example of an owner persevering with a horse that would have scared many riders off.
A young player on the Welsh polocrosse team, Beth Scott, had problems with her horse rearing during games. After two or three years of working on the mare, she came away with a best ladies’ horse prize and best lady player at the weekend. I was so impressed by the mare, I would have offered her a lot of money for it if I thought for a minute that Beth would take it!
I don’t have any tricky characters on the yard at the moment but I am enjoying the usual challenges of starting a variety of young horses, from ponies and racehorses to 17.2hh warmbloods.
Now the weather seems to have cheered up, teaching has become even more of a pleasure and I honestly think that the sun relaxes both horses and riders. It definitely makes it easier to stay loose and “open” in the saddle when you’re not being rained on!
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I’m also looking forward to demonstrating at Chelwood Equestrian Centre tomorrow, where I will be working through some ground and ridden issues. I’m a big believer in spending time on my own education too and at the end of the month I can’t wait to pick up some tips and ideas through some dressage lessons with Damian Hallam and spending time with a visiting Australian horseman, Scott Keogh. I’ll let you know how I get on!