In my last blog I was packing up to go and play polocrosse against Ireland. Today sees me kitting out the truck again as we set off to play in the Polocrosse National Club Championships at Onley Equestrian Centre in Rugby.
I’m pleased to report that the UK had two good wins over Ireland and we are all waiting with baited breath for the announcement of the UK team that will meet the USA in September.
All of these internationals are key to shaping the team that will represent the UK at the World Championships that are being held in South Africa next summer.
My nine-year-old Australian Stock Horse gelding, Banjo, (pictured top) is in the form of his life. These top polocrosse horses are incredibly athletic and capable of performing “dressage” moves like turns on the haunches at top speed. Most are ridden in snaffle bits and as we are only allowed to play on one horse, they are treated like gold dust!
The horses in for training are all going well and we have some lovely competition prospects in for starting, including a very elegant three-year-old that stands a good 17.2hh. He is a little insecure about life, particularly when his friend leaves him, so there have been a few interesting moments when he has grown another hand and practiced his piaffe on the yard!
With horses like these it is tempting to back off and avoid upsetting them, as it can be quite disconcerting for the handler. However, if you have a plan it gives you confidence and keeps your focus no matter what the horse is doing.
The most important thing is to gain their attention on the ground before you start training or riding them, as horses like this tend to want to go past, away from, or if you’re unlucky, over the top of you!
I have been using his excess energy to move his hind end over so he is facing me, and once does I leave him alone. Each time he goes to leave, I have repeated the exercise until his focus is solely on me and ready to start the lesson.
It is always lovely to hear how our “ex-pupils” are doing and two in particular have been catching the eye in disciplines outside of dressage, eventing and show jumping.
Sheer Bliss (pictured right) has a large place in our hearts as she is by my demonstration horse, Diesel. In my first appearance at Your Horse Live in 2011, she was the horse I used to start under saddle. Out of an Arab mare, her owner Sallie Dudley bred her specifically for endurance, and now as a six year old, she has just completed her first FEI 1* (international 80k) endurance race finishing 5th and 2nd British horse. The future certainly looks very bright for her.
The other horse is a little four-year-old Appaloosa mare, Cleese National Gem (pictured below left), who I started at the beginning of the year and was just awarded Reserve Champion at the ApHC UK National Show. This is a wonderful result for owner Diane Bundy who I first met when she owned a very tricky gelding that had shattered her confidence. I did question whether taking on a young horse was the right move for her but she has put so much time and dedication into Gem and her training; she comes to regular lessons and clinics with us and I couldn’t be more pleased for the partnership.
Although working with horses has its challenges at times, helping people like Sallie and Diane achieve their aspirations makes it all worthwhile!