The horses that come to me for training are generally split equally between young horses in for starting under saddle and those with behavioural or ridden problems that come for retraining.
At the moment, I seem to have more youngsters in, and I am enjoying working with a range of shapes, sizes and temperaments!
The Headley Britannia twins that I wrote about in the last couple of blogs have gone home for a short break, but in their place I have everything from a rescue pony to a gelding and filly from top dressage rider, Hannah Biggs, to start.
The photos show me working with Hannah’s stunning filly on the ground in preparation for her first ride.
She has obviously been well handled by Hannah and her team, but it has taken her a while to settle down and start focusing on me. However, when she does switch on she is also very quick to learn and I think she has the makings of being a special horse.
Over the years, I have developed a pattern to starting horses. The whole process takes about six weeks, but I split it into two training blocks; an initial four weeks, followed by a break before two weeks of consolidation. I used to have a tendency to try and get everything done in less time but patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to training horses. My demonstration horse, Diesel, taught me a lot about this. I can train him in something for a couple of weeks but often he doesn’t quite get it until I have turned him out for a week or two. When I then bring him back in he can suddenly do it!
Incorporating breaks into the training programs has definitely saved me from frustration and the horses from becoming sour, particularly with the young ones.
This week I got a phone call from a friend who rescued a pony from a very dire situation. She had managed to get the pony to her home and into a stable but she was very concerned as the pony was so wild, defensive and aggressive that she felt she was in danger whenever she went near it.
I went and saw the pony and advised her that the best thing to do in cases like this is to give the pony care and attention without putting any pressure on it by trying to handle it or by getting in its space. It is going to be a slow process but it is the easiest and safest way to humanise horses that have been through neglect or trauma at the hands of humans.
During this week, my friend has been feeding and watering the little pony and by just being around the stable yard, the pony is starting to settle and show some interest in her.
Horses are inquisitive animals and after a while I would expect the pony make steps towards her and at that point some contact can be made. In a couple of weeks time, I’ll go back over and see if we can get the pony safe to handle and develop a rehabilitation program.
End of the season
Last weekend also saw the close of the polocrosse season and our club, Kent Target, finished on a high winning the A grade, C grade and junior divisions and the overall points trophy.
We were definite underdogs going into the final against Highlanders after having lost one of our group games, but the team rose to the occasion to win by a couple of goals. We were playing against one of the players on the World Cup winning South African team, which was a huge challenge, but my teammates were amazing. I was was also riding my wife’s little mare, Fanta, who was having her first season, so it was also a big ask for her. She answered every question and won the “Rookie Horse” (novice horse) award and I’m delighted that she is now going to my niece who is keen to represent the UK at the top level in the future. The photo is of Rosie about to lead our team out onto the field on her brother’s amazingly quiet pony, Janey Mac!
It is always a bit of a relief that the polocrosse season is over but it now means that I am off round the country conducting camps, clinics and demonstrations.
I am going to Cornwall tomorrow night, hosting a camp at home and then heading up north in the next couple of weeks. I’m also fitting in more work in the office hosting webinars and forums for the Your Horsemanship subscribers. I’m really enjoying this work and since my wife has point blank refused to do any more admin for me, my typing speed has definitely improved too!