In my last blog, I spoke about getting some lessons as there’s nothing like spending time with other professionals to freshen up, try out new ideas and get new perspectives.
As my work is generally with young horses or those with behavioural or ridden problems, I find I need a reminder every now again with the more advanced, performance side of things.
I took Jazz, the eventer that I now own, for a great lesson with Damian Hallam who set to work on our dressage. I then spent the weekend with Australian clinician, Scott Keogh, who took a group of thirteen of us at home. Not only did he provide us all with some great insights, Scott was very generous and open with his knowledge (and not everyone in the horse world is!) and told good stories in the pub afterwards!
When I am the one teaching, I often find that I explain methods and ideas that can be unusual to riders in the UK. At a recent coffee morning on the yard, I was demonstrating how to put a horse over an object for the first time with a lovely young dressage prospect I had been starting. When I asked the audience if any of them had problems with ditches or water and how they got their horses over them, all of them replied along the lines of: “I keep kicking until they eventually go over!” The problem is that when a horse is scared of something, they are in an adrenalin-fuelled “flight mode” and if you kick or put pressure on them they stop thinking. Even if they then go over it, they will tend to always panic and rush over these types of fences.
It’s not rocket science, but I always make sure I have controls in place and my horse understands and responds to the forward cue first (not as easy as it sounds!). It is then a case of asking for one forward step at a time and allowing the horse the time to check it out, give it a sniff and let him make the choice to go over it. You have to wait until your horse’s natural curiosity overcomes his flight instinct. Hopefully, in time, your horse will learn to trust you over all “scary” objects and fly over them without batting an eyelid!
Yesterday, I spent a fun afternoon with Seven Acre Rescue Centre, a small family-run charity that takes in neglected horses and ponies. I have worked with a few of their horses over the years and some of their staff have incorporated my methods into their handling of the horses in their care. Yesterday was an opportunity for their whole team and their volunteers to learn the same handling techniques, in order for them all to be “singing from the same hymn sheet”; something that is very important when handling horses with such sensitive needs.
I also spent an evening at Chelwood Equestrian Centre where I worked with some lovely horses in a demonstration. I usually try to use horses that I am currently working with so I know which topics I can cover. This time, they had been provided by local riders but they behaved in the opposite way in which they had been described; the flighty one was very quiet and the “behind the leg” one was very lit up by the situation! I definitely had to think fast on my feet but hopefully the audience came away with some useful insights. At the end of the evening, an eventer that was bound for the Rio Olympics was bought out for me to work on. I did a little desensitising with him but I have to admit to being a bit nervous of doing too much with him before his competition of a lifetime!
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Speaking of the Olympics, I’ll be watching the majority of it from the sun lounger on a much-needed holiday in the sun. Although a fan of all sports, I am obviously going to take a keen interest in the equestrian disciplines.
In our household, the sporting dream is well and truly alive. Although Jack has started playing polocrosse (which is terrifying as he seems to only have the one gear of “flat out”!), his passion definitely lies with football. On the other hand, Rosie has well and truly caught the pony bug and Penny took her to her first show with her pony, Lola. A few rosettes and a trophy later, and she declared that she was going for the 2028 Olympics! I better start saving up for that once in a lifetime horse now!