What a weekend for the Kiwis! Top 3 placings at Burghley and a very happy 29-year-old in Jock Paget — what a fantastic achievement. Unfortunately I missed most of the action over the weekend, but have enjoyed catching up on the news via Horse & Hound’s news feed!
I am full of admiration for the eventers, the trust they put in their horses and their horses in them, and enjoy picking their brains whenever I can. I have 3 or 4 potential eventers in for starting at the moment including one of Emily Baldwin’s homebreds, Betty, who has just had her first few rides and is going sweetly. It would be very exciting if she ended up at the top level one day.
In my last blog I spoke about a couple of horses that I am currently working with. Damian Hallam’s Solento has been with me for 4 weeks to be started under saddle and has gone so well he is now enjoying a little break in the field before doing another 2 weeks and a handover with Damian. The picture (right) is of him hacking up our driveway on the way back from a trip round the local lanes. I try to get the young horses out and about round the farm and lanes as soon as I am confident I have the necessary controls as it prevents them getting sour and gets them used to the big wide world.
When Solento arrived straight from the continent after being bought up in a herd, he took a while to settle down, but apart a couple of “interesting” groundwork days in the first week he has been an absolute pleasure to work with. He is closely related to Serupgards Salut, one of Damian’s top horses, so we are all looking forward to following his progress once he leaves Risebridge Farm.
I also spoke about a young horse whose nervous rushing tendencies were developing into a bolting problem. He has done well and is now with local event rider Matt Selby to put some competition miles on his clock before being sold. Although his owners have made the difficult decision that he is not going to be right for them, I am confident that there will be a positive outcome and he will go on to be a successful competition horse.
Now onto a Luna the Mule update! Although I now know where the saying “stubborn as a mule” comes from, we have made great progress and she is being ridden. The main difficulty came with bridling her as she was incredibly head shy and didn’t like her (large!) ears being touched, so you can see that we have actually started her ridden work in a halter (pictured top) whilst we work on that area.
With headshy horses you first have to gain control over their feet so you can always get them to “face up” to you (stand still facing and looking at you) if they move away from you when you approach their head. I then work on their head and neck flexions and making a low head position their “default setting”.
I then move my hands in a pattern around the head and once they have accepted me rubbing their face I work towards the poll and ears. All the while I am making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard and should they turn and move away, I move their feet quickly to make them face up to me again before repeating the process. After this it is time and repetition in order to truly establish the low head position and develop confidence in contact with the head and ears before introducing the bridle.
In my spare time (which admittedly I don’t have much of!), I play a bit of polo and polocrosse and earlier in the year captained the UK Polocrosse team in South Africa. I am pretty excited about an ex-hurdler, Lady Deddington, who I bought earlier this year and rode at the weekend in the UK Polocrosse Association National Club Championships. We won the A grade with my club, Kent Target. She is a complete natural and has made me smile every time I ride her.
No matter how many talented dressage and jumping horses I ride and the pleasure and satisfaction I feel from seeing them progress towards realising their full potential in the competition arena, the Aussie outback boy who grew up chasing cows on stock horses isn’t too far under the surface. There are few things I enjoy more than sitting on such an athletic and intelligent horse that is built for speed, is as nimble as a cat and who finds her job so easy… bliss! I know I should look at selling her but I just can’t quite bring myself to write the advert…