I get a lot of people telling me that they would love to do my job, particularly now the sun has decided to come out and we aren’t knee deep in water!
Although I feel very privileged to be able to make a living out of doing something I love, working with horses is not for the faint-hearted and it comes with a lot of responsibilities to the horses, owners and staff I work with. I have worked very hard to now be in a position where I can hand over the yard work and majority the office, admin and marketing side of things, but for a good few years I did it all, although I was sacked from mucking out very early on in my career…
A typical day
My typical day starts at 6am when I get woken up by the kids clamoring for their cooked breakfast — I was bought up on steak and eggs in the morning to keep you going for a long day in the saddle and I haven’t lost the habit! I try to catch up on a few emails and do some stretching before heading out the door at 7.30am to meet with my manager Sarah and plan the day with my assistant trainer, Tom.
The rest of the morning is spent on the 20 or so horses in for training. Some take longer than others depending on what stage they are at and we often have owners in to watch their progress. The afternoons are usually reserved for clinics and consultations either on or off-site. At the end of the afternoon, I’ll make a few phone calls to owners and I try to have half an hour to catch up on the business side of things, which always seems to include paying VAT bills!
Like the majority of small-business owners, I can get caught up in the daily routine and lose sight of where I want the business to be in the future, so I also make sure we have regular meetings to make sure things are on track and look at the bigger picture.
At the moment, all the horses are being quite straight-forward although one young filly in for starting is proving interesting. She was sent here to start as she kept climbing the walls and jumping out of stables. The first thing I noticed was that she was nervous to handle and if she started to get worried, she would half rear and try to get away from the handler.
All of these signs point towards a very claustrophobic horse so I have had to spend a lot more time on basic groundwork such as my catching exercise so she becomes less suspicious of someone being in her space. I have now given her a couple of rides, but there is still an element of uncertainty with her that should pass as I repeat her lessons and consolidate the basics.
Interesting clinics and consultations
I have also had some interesting clinics and consultations in the past couple of weeks. I went to Speedgate Equestrian for the first time and did a number of one-to-one consultations. A common thread with the groundwork sessions was that handlers allowed their horses to travel with their heads turned slightly to the outside of the circle when lunging. This means that they are not traveling forward in a true fashion as they are falling into the circle through the shoulder and not engaging the hind end properly.
These horses are often a bit “bargy” in other situations, such as grooming, because they are used to leaning towards the handler with their shoulder. Therefore noticing and correcting these small points on the lunge can lead to a much easier and respectful horse to handle and consequently, ride, as they are used to giving the correct bend when you ask your horse to flex their ribcage round your inside leg.
This weekend sees Tom and I at Horseman’s Calling, the first “horsemanship competition” to be held in the UK. It is based on the popular American events. I have spent some time thinking about how to condense my starting program into the 2hrs we have with each unbroken horse, without compromising its education.
Hopefully, we have got it down to a “t” but as everyone knows, working with horses is not an exact science and we are going to have to be led by how each horse handles the situation. Once the weekend is done I’ll be off to Texas for a couple of weeks for a bit of “R and R” and time with Penny and the kids – can’t wait!