Christmas seems like a long time ago now. I had a good break from riding and a very relaxing time with family and friends.
As always, the New Year provided an opportunity to evaluate the past year and make plans and goals for the year ahead. 2019 promises to be an exciting and action-packed year for my family and I. I will be representing the UK in the Polocrosse World Cup in Australia in April, so Penny and the kids will be flying out to support the team, and taking a little trip to the Great Barrier Reef and the Gold Coast at the same time. As I’m now the wrong side of 40, this is likely to be the last time I play international polocrosse, so it would be fantastic to go out on a high. The last World Cup in 2015 in South Africa will take some beating. I acted as player/coach to the UK team, and we finished fouth in what was the highest standard of competition I have played in, or watched. I am actually writing this having just finished a tough session of CrossFit, which is part of my commitment to getting as fit and strong as I can for the event!
On the yard, we have started 2019 with a bang. We welcomed a range of horses in for training after the New Year, including three of the Bechtolsheimer’s home-bred horses for starting. I have been doing groundwork with them and will be giving them their first rides this week, although I may need a ladder to get on one of them! It’s always exciting working with horses that you know have the bloodlines and the training opportunities to reach the top of their discipline. Even better for me, is the fact that they have been left to grow up without much interference, so I am working with a blank canvas. I work with a lot of young horses that have been handled too much, or that have had a bad experience when being broken in, and it takes a lot more time and work to undo the habits formed and rebuild new pathways.
An example of this is a young gelding I have in at the moment (who I’m pictured with, top). I usually only have horses with me for around six weeks, be it starting them under saddle, or retraining a behavioural or ridden problem. But after an assessment I told the owner of this particular horse that it would take at least three months, and no guarantees, to fix his bolting issue.
Contrary to what many people think, bolters aren’t generally created through being mistreated, but more typically during the starting or breaking-in process, something has alarmed the horse and they have taken flight, resulting in the rider falling off, and the horse having had a very bad experience of a rider getting on his back. Some horses get over things like this quickly, but with those with a nervous disposition, it can make a lasting impression.
I worked with this particular horse at my coffee morning demonstration last week, and I could give the audience clear signs of what a bolter looks like; head held high, tension throughout the neck and body, ears facing out and back, and eyes looking back at the rider. With this kind of problem, you can have a breakthrough one day, and then feel like you’re back to square one the next, which is why they take a long time to retrain. I do feel like in this case, there’s a lovely, successful horse that is going to emerge from underneath his nerves. He has made so much progress already, I’m becoming quite fond of him!
Off the yard, I, like most people making a living from riding horses, have been forced to diversify. I started my online training business, Your Horsemanship, a couple of years ago, and after taking a breather and letting it run along, I am now ready to get stuck in for a second round of filming in order to update and add to the content. Over the years I have done quite a lot of riding and talking to camera, but I still have a very annoying habit of getting to the end of a really good piece before totally fluffing my lines! This, added to the fact that you also need the horse you are filming with to perform to the script, can make it a frustrating process for all involved.
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We have also been developing the facilities on the yard to include a new office and function room, so it has been fun thinking of ways to use this room to increase revenue. For example, I am looking forward to Russell Guire from Centaur Biomechanics coming to do a clinic and evening talk, and to conducting more business leadership programmes, which is something I have really enjoyed doing with Sainsburys and JLT Insurance.
So, whatever you 2019 has in store for you, and whatever New Year’s Resolutions you have made (and hopefully not broken yet!), I wish you every success for the year ahead.
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