Life is definitely full of ups and downs. After a wonderful weekend at Your Horse Live, we have been left reeling because Tom, my assistant trainer and friend who has been with us for more than 2 years, was involved in a serious car accident. He is in a critical condition after being air-lifted to King’s Hospital in London.
I went to see him in intensive care last weekend and it is horrible to see someone in that much pain. However, the doctors are very hopeful that he will make a full recovery. Knowing Tom’s determination, and seeing all the support he is receiving form friends and family, I am sure it will be sooner rather than later.
Your Horse Live was a fantastic weekend for us and all the other demonstrators. I used Saskia, a horse rescued from near starvation by a great client of ours, Jane Bishop, for 2 starting demos. After working with Saskia on the ground in the 2 days leading up to the event, she had her first ride in front of hundreds of people and took it all in her stride. I also got time to have a bit of fun and games at the end with Diesel (pictured right) , who is rapidly forming his own fan club!
The third demonstration was with a spooky horse that I met on the day. Podge (pictured top), owned by Christina Jones, is a lovely horse but a real “worrier”. I started with some desensitisation on the ground before going through the same process under saddle. I then decided to try him over some tarpaulin on the ground and that’s where I started to sweat a little! It took quite a while, but Podge plucked up the courage to put his front feet on it before taking a giant leap for horse-kind over it — not ideal, but a result nevertheless!
Outside of the demos, I sat on a Q&A panel with Lucinda Fredericks and Geoff Billington (pictured below). It is always interesting to compare notes on horses and of course, Geoff kept everyone entertained!
Our stand was kept very busy over the weekend too. We were lucky that the event also coincided with 3 new sponsors in Champion, Toggi and Equilibrium joining Aloeride in supporting us. We are very grateful to these companies, not least because we looked a lot flasher than usual!
So I am now back to riding in the winter weather with Dodger, my dog, for an audience! I have picked up Tom’s horses too, so I am back to riding in the dark at either end of the day for the near future, unless I can find someone who can step into Tom’s shoes for a few months — any offers out there?
I have some interesting horses in at the moment, including a horse imported from Holland bought by the current owners as just backed. Unfortunately, the backing process can’t have gone too well as he bolted twice with the new rider resulting in him being sent to me to work through his issues. Horses like this are still carrying a lot of tension and are not properly desensitized to the rider.
My tip when buying a new horse, particularly young ones, is to ask the owner to ride it first and get them to move around on them, wave their arms, rustle their jacket and generally be a little “loud”. This will give you a good idea of how “solid” they are under saddle and alarm bells should ring if they tighten up and try to rush off.
Of course, some horses, including this one, are a lot more sensitive than others. When he arrived, I started with a lot of groundwork, exposing him to different things and being positive and “realistic” around him. People sometimes make the mistake with flighty horses of being too quiet and “softly softly”, which can actually make them more nervous.
During this groundwork I taught him that when he did get a fright, his response should be to turn his head towards me and move his hind end round in order to straighten up. This has the advantage of disengaging his hind end to prevent him from going into full-on flight mode.
I am now in the process of following the same exercises under saddle and he is coming along well. Yesterday I took him into the arena to do a course consisting of bending poles, trot poles and other exercises. This has the advantage of keeping his brain engaged as well as lots of changes in direction and I only had to use the “disengage the hind end” tool a couple of times — great progress!
With all the rain and the cold setting in, I am glad to be jetting back to Australia for a fleeting visit for my sister’s wedding. However, after talking to my family, I feel it may be a busman’s holiday as they seemed to have lined up a few homebreds for me to sit on when I get there… at least it’ll be in the sunshine though!