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My Journey With Hugo Second Session by Janet Adams

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Respect and Boundaries

It’s a big ask to try to do justice in writing to the wondrous second lesson with Avril and Hugo but I shall try!

I turned up all excited as usual and Avril took me to the side to give me a briefing before we went in to say hello to Hugo. She explained about energy and how it affects our horses. While she fully understands obviously I am all excited to be turning up to see Hugo, she explained how my energy would affect him. Unlike greeting a dog with excitement where the worst that will happen is that he jumps up, horses pick up on our energy and his natural response will be to become anxious or try to put some distance between us. Avril likes to reminded me that horses constantly seek peace and security. So, after promising to show me more constructive ways to channel my natural happiness at being with my horse, we did some grounding breathing, helping me lower my energy before starting to work with Hugo.

As we were talking, Hugo was standing as instructed by Avril at the open door to his stable. Avril explained how she wasn’t looking at him, or talking to him, but keeping him in her awareness at all times. She notices every move of the head, flick of the eyes, every breath, and is reading him and being with him fully at all times. It’s magical!

We set out for the round pen with me leading Hugo on a loose rope. The gate opened to reveal a big puddle inside due to the amount of rain recently. I hoped my boots were water proof and gingerly found some shallower bits to walk through but Hugo was less motivated and stayed at the gate. He was definitely in a mood to teach me how to lead with intention! Avril showed me how to move his lead rope to get his attention, and to visualise him walking with me to the middle of the pen. Well I jiggled and visualised for what seemed like an age but he didn’t budge🌱 There was never any sense of confrontation though, he was just nice and relaxed, happily ignoring me while staying outside the pen with Avril who seemed very amused 😉 Eventually, she explained that we were in a standoff with neither of us succeeding in moving the other’s feet and with no clear leadership position, Hugo wasn’t ready to follow me. With more encouragement and a little bit of a sideways move, I managed to get one front hoof to take a little step and we were off into the middle of the pen, phew! A great lesson in staying calm and  quietly working with a technique until it has the desired effect.

And that was just the beginning. Avril then showed me how to introduce myself into my horse’s presence, standing calmly by his shoulder and giving him a little stroke on his neck before offering the back of my hand for him to read my energy signature, not shoving it under his nose so he has no choice as I did at first!. We discussed respect and acknowledging each other’s personal space. I was made aware to resist the temptation to invade his space with kisses and cuddles and fuss around his head but rather wait to be invited in.

So, with greetings completed Avril showed me how to move him backwards just a step, then two steps, eventually trying to get a tiny move of a few inches of his front left foot so it was lined up with his right all nice and square. When I succeeded Avril was very pleased with me and I felt like a star pupil!!

We then moved on to bending Hugo’s neck towards me while I stood by his shoulder. This was achieved by relaxing my arms and elbows, and putting my fingers either side of his nose bone and gently coaxing his head round to me. It was a beautiful gentle moment, reminding me of yoga or stretching exercises. I continued with a very gentle give and take with Hugo’s gorgeous muscley neck as he gradually turned towards me. We repeated the movement on the other side, and as he brought his head round in this gentle exchange of touch and movement, I felt like I was really communicating with a horse for possibly the first time ever. My little heart nearly burst and I was very close to tears when Hugo curled up his neck and raised his whole body up into a big beautiful tremoring shake, releasing lots of tension and deeply relaxing, then moving into me for a cuddle. Best horsey moment ever💛🐴💚😘

My Journey With Hugo by Janet Adams

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The Preamble..

Having completed the majority of my parenting duties in life, with an established career ticking over, a happy home and marriage etc, I have now only two more things I want to achieve in my life. One of those is becoming an accomplished horsewoman, with all the joy and discovery of a relationship with one of these incredible animals, and the wind beneath our feet as we ride.

I started my horsewoman journey about 7 years ago when I bought my first horse at a school sports day. I was over-horsed and after selling her quickly went on to buy a further two horses who were too much for me. I then decided I would never buy a horse again unless Avril was with me. So she kindly came and tested out a sure fire perfect pony, 14 year old school master who never puts a foot wrong, and within 20 minutes of riding him brought out the side of him we weren’t meant to see. When she asked the right questions, simple requests such as briefly standing and small figures of eight in walk taking him away from home, he was nappy, starting to bunny hop and threatening to rear. She didn’t push the point since we could both see loud and clear he wasn’t right for me. Phew!!! Another disaster averted!

So Avril kindly offered to find me a beautiful horse in France which she did which is how I came to have Hugo. After a few months with Avril she confirmed the fabulous news that he is going to be a suitable horse for me. I am overjoyed!! And to top it all off, in addition to training Hugo, Avril is also kindly training me, with the hope that our training will converge somewhere down the line 🐴💖🏇

So this blog is about that journey, taking Hugo from genuine, sweet and lovely but very green to the Foundation course finish line, (and maybe beyond), and I go from slightly awkward and nervous, but excited around horses, to calm, composed joyful horse communicator and rider!!

Lesson 1 – Introductions and Long Lining

On our first session Avril was wholly in charge of Hugo, tacking him up for some long lining in the lovely new sandy grassy arena. We set off walking down the path and onto the road towards the arena, Avril explained the basics of long lining, including communicating though your hands on the reins, through thought and voice while always being present in the moment with the horse. She explained how to lead from behind as Hugo was walking out in front, by this stage not worried about the rein presence around his sides and legs. Hugo, bless him, wasn’t at all sure about passing some statues of lions outside a gorgeous house on the way.  He stopped and tremored and clearly didn’t think passing them was wise! How right he would be if they were real lions!!

So I got the chance to see Hugo’s spooks from my safe distance behind, and how he reacts. Reassuringly, he just shook a bit and didn’t try to run off or lift his feet off the ground, which is exactly what I want of course in my horse. I also learned how Avril gave him firm assertive confidence using her voice and the reins, to reassure him that it was okay to walk on, and he did, good boy Hugo (I am so proud!).

We did some long lining in the arena when we got there, giving me a chance to appreciate his handsome shape trotting around the arena and I saw how Avril is doing her famous voice training through the gears which was fab! Hugo and I also had time for some cuddles and snuggles. We brought him home nicely tired and pleased with what he had learned, or so I imagine ☺️

 

Lesson 2 – The Big Green Balls

I arrived on Friday for our second get to know you session with Hugo. Avril asked did I have my riding gear with me, and sadly I didn’t because I had thought riding was a bit of a way off in our journey. Avril explained that Hugo had a lot of riding this week, and she had “gotten to the bottom of him” – an exciting landmark in a horse’s Foundation training it seems!! However we decided to introduce Hugo to the big green ball in the training pen instead.

There were two green balls, one was the size of the small ones at the gym and a ginormous Parelli one. We started with the small one, Avril rolling it to Hugo, and bouncing it in front of him, introducing him to this strange thing. I also got the chance to play with him, and credit myself for him learning how to kick it! While Hugo is obviously very attached to Avril, following her around the pen wherever she went.. with the help of the green ball for fun and amusement, I managed to pry him away from her so we were rolling and playing around the pen together. What magical fun with my horsie ⚽️🐴💛 .. .. Avril explained that it was an opportunity for me to be completely present in the moment with Hugo, and he was delightful.

We then introduced Hugo to the huge Parelli ball and Avril was rubbing it on his shoulders and back, gradually moving up to dropping it over his back  – and he was as good as gold! Although he had a bit of a reaction when it hit his back legs, Avril said it was because he didn’t know what it was and showed me how to gradually overcome that with gentleness and patience. It didn’t take long until he was comfortable with it touching his back legs too. He looked mentally tired by the end as he had learned so much (my clever boy!). I was on wings 🐴💖💖💚

 

 

 

Is Your Horse Centred Continued

Among numerous imperceptible signposts horses hold up to us to show how they are feeling is one that says ‘Restlessness.’ There are plenty of horses who don’t like standing still even with their owner on the ground beside them. Restlessness is the counter side of relaxation. While a horse or person is relaxed, it can be said that they are moving towards becoming centred. For us, relaxation on demand is a choice, albeit a difficult one. For the horse, relaxation is the absence of fear and insecurity. Or to put it another way, when fear or anxiety is present, the horse’s presence, his body language, will be more or less chaotic. In physics, chaos is defined as the property of a complex system whose behaviour is so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions. That sentence can also apply to horses whose emotions are relatively complex. They are ultra sensitive to the smallest change, often smaller than we are aware of. Horses can and do behave randomly and unpredictably. They are flight animals and despite thousands of years of domestication, they retain instinctual reactions that are a great departure from often what we would like them to be doing.

Horses can sense and feel the slightest inner shift or spike in us. They are superbly attuned to the energy of emotion and thought waves. In recognising this, it behoves us to be the best possible custodian of our inner selves. When we come into authentic alignment with our thinking, emotions, and actions, our horses will start to listen, even if outwardly it seems they are not paying attention. To make order out of chaos, to become centred, a horse needs boundaries. Boundaries represent a navigational system, providing guidelines towards harmony and balance through straightness with forwardness.

When we ride, pleasurable as it is to sit there and let the horse carry us along the route, he or she will still look to us for direction. Those who are younger or lack confidence will also need support. Sometimes we confuse the two by thinking we must control the horse. Indeed, it can be hard to resist the urge to do so. It is always easier to deal with a situation when we are in control of ourselves. We earn the right to enjoy the feeling of centredness when by firstly working on the personal level. Their reactions become less dramatic, and their movements more predictable, through their understanding the limits (boundaries) within straightness. They are less impelled to cart the rider all over the place when given choices with immediate release from pressure within defined parameters.IMG_6208

LETTER FROM AMERICA –Why I travelled miles to attend a course a Mysafecobs

Ronan

Despite a lifetime of riding, including 20 years hunting and having owned many different horses, I had run into a metaphorical wall: My riding was never going to be at the level it once was due to increasing age coupled with weight gain, and its many attendant physical limitations, compounded by past falls that produced a fracture every time. Once upon a time I was young, strong, and relatively fearless! Not to worry, I was fortunate to have a totally made steady Eddie, a lovely old Foxhunter to keep me going. Sadly he suffered a major injury and had to be put to sleep.

So, the search for the next “perfect” horse began. I spend hours each day scouring horse sales sites on the internet. I asked everyone I knew for any information on a suitable horse, faithfully following up every lead. I didn’t think I wanted much, only a “bombproof”, big bodied, 16 hands plus gelding who I could ride on the buckle without ever getting fizzy or nappy. One with great brakes, who stands perfectly, doesn’t spook, hacks out alone, and goes first or last in company. He also had to be good to catch, tack up, load, haul, shoe, and clip. Oh, and it would nice if he were good looking too!

After eighteen months of fruitless searching for what was obviously a mythical animal, more elusive than the fabled Unicorn, I was seriously considering giving up riding. My poor, patient husband, who only took up riding so we could do it together, was left to ride alone; he wasn’t too happy about it either and gamely embarked on a four to five hour horse shopping drive every weekend to look at yet another super hot bombproof prospect that turned out to be anything but.

In my experience, and I’ve had a LOT, more fifty years with horses, dealers seriously mis-represent what they have for sale while most private people don’t seem to know what they have. Meanwhile, after too many bad experiences to list, what little nerve I had left trickled away. I found Avril’s site on the net and quickly became interested and intrigued with the content. I started reading her diaries and watching her videos. The things she did and said really resonated with me. Her combined Classical with Natural Horsemanship approach to riding and training got me thinking: I began to realise that perhaps the horses weren’t the only problem; maybe the problem was me!

So there here I am in England after day two of Avril’s course and finally I feel that I am getting my “mojo” back. It’s hard work and scary for someone like me who has gotten totally unfit and timid. As Avril says, “Riding is mostly mental,” and my thoughts were all about fear after so many falls, bad horse choices, and injuries. I was in no position to be the leader my horse needs so stay tuned for more on my transformation from total passenger to supportive leader!

CANTER EXERCISES WITH RONAN

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After the last post on our ride in the rain with Ronan, I was asked to talk about the relevant exercises to help him over a couple of specific difficulties in canter. Before I do so, I will need to back track for a moment so that you can better understand the building blocks, as the elements associated with a horse’s training can’t be considered in isolation because they are all connected. One leads to another like the diagrammatic branches on a family tree.

In the beginning, Ronan was the easiest horse in the world to stop. He still is most of the time except that something has changed. He now knows how to go forward and that it is expected of him. He is still hesitant from time to time, even getting temporarily stuck, but overall he is embracing “go.” Before we reached this pivotal point, at any pace faster than a walk, the slightest pressure on the rein would make him stop, often in his tracks. It wasn’t so much a case of slowing down; it was just as if an invisible handbrake came on. With everything else, his mouth had the sensitivity of a plank of wood. Despite that he is without doubt top of the class when it comes to standing still!

Before I could start work on transitions, I needed to move him beyond his former lack of confidence based mind-set. Some of you may have ridden horses like him who are hard to get going, and when you do, fizzle out the moment they feel the rein on the bit. A young, green horse is extremely impressionable, so much so that they quickly learn to associate a blocking hand with a sense of danger. That’s almost certainly the case with Ronan. He was entrained to think stop before he really got going, creating both an upside and a downside.

The upside is that his flight instinct is practically switched off. The downside is that now he knows how to go but hasn’t been taught how to stop! “But I thought you said he stopped at the slightest touch” I hear you say. That is true but what he did was Stop Going. I am teaching him Go to Stop! I hope this isn’t too mind-stretching but therein lays the key to unlock his brakes; the ability to go forward into a downward transition. Lumbering along on the forehand prevents true forwardness in stepping down through the gears. With bodyweight displacement almost entirely in front of the wither, it becomes physically impossible to slow down or stop on command. Horses can pull and lean on the bit in an effort to remove pressure from too strong a hand. They help balance themselves in this way too even though they can never achieve true equilibrium whilst carrying a rider.

To help Ronan understand how to alter weight distribution, there are several things we can do. We start by reining back a few steps. Done in the right way, this will temporarily lighten the forehand. If it feels right, we will go straight to trot. It’s worth mentioning briefly that riding is all about feel. It is hard for us to tap into this area of awareness. As a society, we are encouraged to develop left brain thinking associated with logic and rationality. We also have a watchful master in the frontal lobe responsible for critical thinking and judgment. It is in our right hemisphere and temporal lobes that we can access centres for feelings, sensory impressions, intuition, creativity, and instinct; essential tools for horse training. In describing the exercises there are many factors that affect how they are done. The weather, environmental considerations, my mood and health are all influencers. I always try to feel my way into the situation as much as I use analytical concepts for Ronan’s bio-mechanical responses.

With a little note on the training mind-set out of the way, we will continue. After a rein back or two, we move onto trot to halt transitions without leaning on the hand, or evading it by coming behind the bridle. The quality and tempo of the trot, even the way I sit will impact on the transition. All this is done by going back and forth in a straight line. If I am happy with the way he is going and feel the time is right, we can start working on the canter. This is often the hardest gait for cobs to master so results take time. Because they often struggle to go from trot to canter without rushing and losing rhythm, I will ask for walk to canter. This may seem back to front as it is more advanced but for Ronan and others like him, it is just the ticket. Initially Ronan just ran forward through the bridle, a completely natural reaction. To remind him of our previous work, we would go back to trot/halt transitions, possibly including some rein back. I never cease to be amazed by their intelligence. Horses learn to configure walk to canter quite quickly unless there is psychological damage or they have been wound up in some way like taking off as soon as their feet touch the grass.

Contrary to common belief, the most effective way to develop a balanced canter that can be stopped in an instant is achieved through transitions, not by keeping the horse in canter. Once Ronan is cantering, within two or three strides he needs to think about stopping. Walk to canter is hard but canter to walk or halt is harder still. The increased energy and momentum propels Ronan forward and thoughts of stopping are far from his mind. In order for him to understand that isn’t what is required, I must do what it takes to make the downward transition. The way in which rein pressure is applied has a direct bearing on how successful I am. Constant contact will encourage him to lean and pull on my hands. I use a combination of squeezing and alternating tension to get him to listen. As soon as I feel the slightest response, I soften and release. This is absolutely pivotal to achieving a good result and must be instantaneously executed. It is in this way that learning evolves. Any form of release brings its own reward but the value of praise can’t be overlooked. I make sure to congratulate him in a big way with pats and words of encouragement.

Like the trot to halt exercises, we go up and down in a straight line, repeating the sequence. In doing work like this, I need to carefully monitor his reactions. I don’t want him associating halt with being the precursor to canter. Any anticipation is deflected by interspersing with regular halt to walk. I also include voice cues which are highly effective in promoting trust and understanding. Working in straight lines involves turning each time a change of direction is made. A turn is a great opportunity to also bring Ronan off his forehand. Depending on the feeling he is giving me, I either ask for a pirouette or a turn about the forehand. I like to include more than one change of direction, asking for different types of turn on different reins.

Combination exercises like these really gets a horse thinking and listening. There are plenty of videos of our horses going quietly from walk to canter and back to walk in fields or forest with just the voice and little or no contact. Almost without exception, they learned how to do that from regular, consistent work on transitions, just like I’m doing with Ronan. It won’t be long before he is also able to shine in the same way. To do things like that time after time involves muscle memory which he doesn’t have yet. When he does, his responses will be automatic. At the moment I am planting metaphorical acorns, seeds I nurture so that they will grow into mighty oaks of desired response. Ronan’s days of carting me in canter will shortly be over because I am showing him how to control his body within different gaits. Every day he will become increasingly adept at going forward to slow down or stop. Although I’ve tried to keep everything as simple as possible, for most of us it is easier to grasp information visually. Once the weather is more settled, we will be creating detailed videos to show how to do this step by step. I hope this post is helpful for the reader and invite you to comment with your thoughts. We love to receive them!

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I am getting really well with Clara and not a little in awe of her giving and forgiving nature. She is listening to me throughout our session, ready and waiting to oblige with whatever strange, or seemingly difficult, manoeuvre I ask of her. She really is as steady as a rock but we shouldn’t confuse that with the idea she is dull. Not at all, she walks out positively and is responsive to the leg. I am getting her where I want her in terms of being to the leg rather than in front of it, which is how it felt not so long ago. Although I could tell she had a lovely stride, it was too forward and hurried. Now she is starting to think rather than rush which is lovely. She is also no longer frightened of the whip either so I can use it to help her understand the nuances of leg pressure, as well as remove flies. She has a really fine, silky coat, more like a thoroughbred than a cob, and is quite sensitive when they land on her. Stoic that she is, she doesn’t make a fuss but you can tell they’re bothering her.

Her trust in me is growing with every ride which is all the more remarkable as there hasn’t been many. She only has to look at me with her large, soft, light brown eyes to make my heart melt. My plan for the next couple of weeks is to alter her centre of gravity sufficiently that she comes more off the forehand. Because she is low energy and unworried about things in the environment, I can get straight to work on specifics on a relatively short ride. In order for her to come off the forehand and lighten in front, she must learn to step under with the hindleg while having greater overall control of her body so that she is aware of where each leg is and what it is doing.

We can achieve this in a variety of ways; one that is very effective is to go from trot to halt in a dead straight line. It may sound too simple until the elements are considered. Firstly, the quality of the trot dictates whether or not the transition is on the mark so to speak, or whether it has an awkwardness about it. Secondly, it is more effective if the rider doesn’t sit. I won’t go into the reasons why here, it would require a separate blog post which I’m happy to write if anyone would like to remind me! Thirdly, the use of the rein needs to carry the message to lighten into the transition rather than leaning on the bit. When the horse leans on the bit, throws its head in the air or runs through the bridle, lightening the forehand can’t be achieved. Fourthly, the timing as to be spot on. Without almost simultaneous release of pressure on the mouth, no matter how light, Clara isn’t motivated to bring her weight further back. Lastly, true straightness is crucial and so hard to accomplish. Initially, horses, and sometimes their riders, believe it is impossible to change gear with no deviation from any foot. Picture a practiced dancer or gymnast running along the mat, jumping in the air and landing at the standstill in perfect balance. That’s only attainable through body straightness. If the body were crooked, even for a second, the landing would be inferior. Such is the value of straightness in improving balance and suppleness, both of which are essential in lightening the frame.

 

Foundation Training Day Twenty Eight

After what feels like an age, I was able to ride Clara this afternoon. It rained all day and we all got soaked but since I was already wet, I decided to keep going. Clara is a really sweet mare, quite loving really, in a soft, polite kind of a way. If you didn’t know her, you might miss it but I am so pleased she feels it is ok to respond to the love we show her.

The farrier removed all her shoes last week. I want to see what difference it makes to her way of going. She has excellent feet so I’m hoping that despite her weight, she can cope barefoot, at least in the short term. We’ve also put her on a diet as she was getting larger by the week. All she is getting is hay, no grass or haylage. It is very good hay, just the sort horses like, soft and green with a lovely “nose”.  I haven’t noticed much of a difference in her waistline yet but regular exercise will no doubt help. Her ridden work has been a bit stop and start due to the haematoma on her chest and waiting for the dentist etc. She has been taken out by the others but it hasn’t been on a regular basis so unfortunately the continuity hasn’t been there. In terms of safety, it makes no difference, she will always be absolutely reliable no matter how much or little she is ridden. In terms of performance, she still feels uneducated rather than green and will continue to do so without the consistency.

Even though she is a big girl, she is light on her feet, she never trips, and her movement is surprisingly good. There is a degree of stiffness, not from too much work but rather the lack of it. Her legs are totally clean and unmarked without a smidgen of wear and tear so it’s obvious she hasn’t had a hard life. Even though it has been a while since I’ve ridden her, she hasn’t forgotten what we were doing, it was as if it were only yesterday. That’s one of the many things I love about the breed, they are so very open to making changes. They have such a positive attitude to training which is very rewarding.

We spent nearly the entire session doing suppling exercises in lay-bys, driveways, across roads, up and down curbs, anywhere where there was enough room to circle. Clara has no idea what she can do with her body and when she gets it right, she doesn’t necessarily know what it is that she’s got right. She’s pleased to receive praise and feel the release of pressure but the degree of finesse I’m asking of her is still a bit of a mystery. That all translates as my asking something and her offering something. If it’s not the response I want, I will ask again or perhaps phrase my request slightly differently. Because her attitude is of a helpful nature, she will keep on trying to work it out. The minute she figures it out, I reward her by not asking anymore. We walk on in a straight line, have a long rein stretch or simply stand still. She is very much at the learning stage and as I said, doesn’t necessarily know what I want or even that she has achieved it. I show her that she’s got it right by stopping the “ask” when she gives me the “try”. Understanding this concept is absolutely vital in riding and training to avoid the horse becoming confused and anxious, eventually going into a spin mentally and physically.

It won’t take long for her to learn by association what is “right”. From the horse’s point of view, there is no right or wrong, they just want to feel safe and conserve energy. So to get her on side, there needs to be something in it for her, to motivate her to offer the same response each and every time. The absolute best way of doing that is not repeat the movement if it is moving toward being of satisfactory quality, even though she needs consistent repetition to make lasting changes. This apparent contradiction makes sense when requests are followed by a period of relaxation or other appropriate release of pressure.

I hope I get the chance to work with her again tomorrow.

Foundation Training Day Twenty Seven

Clara was good, remarkably so considering how little we’ve done with her. She seems to get sweeter by the day, bless her. She is one of those rare jewels you can leave for weeks or months and still find her the same when you next get on. We took it easy again today, choosing the short route round the village. Clara is particularly spook free, a clear indication she has seen life and feels ok about it. I remember the first day I rode her, we were out for an hour and it was as if she had been doing it all her life. However, she is a horse and something did catch her attention; a small branch lay slightly across the lane with the underside of its leaves facing up. They were a pale silvery colour and almost gleamed where the sun fell on them. Clara’s head came up, making her appear very grand. She couldn’t make out what it was so she peered at it intently with her neck curved as she walked past. Not quite a shy but it drew her attention as it wasn’t there on half an hour ago.

As she is much more comfortable in her mouth, I maintained a light but steady contact.  I am going to try and describe one of the best ways to do this to ensure absolute consistency while allowing her to feel unrestricted. I invariably hold the left rein with my hand laying against the wither and my thumb across it. In doing that, she feels a solid support and a connection with me through the rein whose tension isn’t strong. The right rein is slightly looser and isn’t in contact with her neck or wither. If I need to give her a signal, I open and close the third finger of the right hand, a sort of sponging effect that every horse appreciates. My legs were firmly on her sides to keep her enormous barrel in line with her forehand. Clara likes this approach because she can depend on it, it isn’t in and out, there one minute but not the next. It’s a guide and marker for her to follow in maintaining a steady head carriage. When she licks and chews, yes, horses do that when being ridden but mostly it goes unnoticed, I relax the left rein. In doing so, I am acknowledging what she has offered and she will know that she has been heard and that I am listening.

I won’t do that forever although horses like it so much, I use an adapted version to suit their level of training. If they could speak, they would say floating hands are their biggest concern because of the lack of connection. I asked Clara for a more active walk to avoid feeling as sleepy as yesterday. She doesn’t find that difficult, her walk is naturally good. Now that she is more relaxed with me, her trot is a lot steadier although she can’t sustain it yet without returning to walk. I am so impressed with how quickly she learns, especially as nearly everything I am doing with her is completely new territory, and that she has remembered it all. She seems so happy and chilled, she is clearly enjoying a side to life that she never knew existed.

Foundation Training Day Twenty Six

I got back from a ride and saw that someone had kindly brought Clara in. She has been grazing a small paddock below our fields, it’s a bit of a trek to fetch her. I wanted to see if the rest has helped to reduce the haematoma from a kick to her chest. We think this has caused the unlevelness in trot. She is perfectly sound in walk and it occurred to me that the girth maybe a contributory factor when it’s tightened.  It could well be impacting on the anterior pectoral in trot as her foreleg extends causing discomfort.  The swelling has considerably reduced and after a very small lunge I decided to ride her as she seemed sound.

The grass and rest has certainly done nothing for her waistline which is enormous. She looks as if she is about to drop a foal any day. Her coat looks fantastic, sleek and shiny, she looks in great health. I found a suitably long girth and mounted her from the block. She stood patiently until I was ready with a steady head carriage. I was pleasantly surprised because we haven’t done much with her. We had her teeth attended to last month as she was very fussy in her mouth, a lot of head tossing and pulling at the reins. Now that things have had time to settle, I can really feel the difference. Lots of licking and chewing, no bearing down on the reins or trying to get away from the action of the bit. The difference is unbelievable, I’m so pleased.

We ambled along for nearly an hour, mostly in walk as I didn’t want to do too much. It never ceases to amaze me just how beneficial a break from work can be. Clara hasn’t forgotten a single piece of her initial training, in fact it feels as if she has been thinking about everything during her time off. She’s so quiet and relaxed, my eyelids began to droop to the rhythm of her feet on the tarmac as she carried me along. She stopped without moving each time I said “Whoa” and didn’t flick a muscle at the tapping of the stick on her sides. She was rather nervous of the stick, you could carry it but not use it but today I was busy brushing her all over with it against the tormenting flies. Despite her barrel of a tummy, she is surprisingly sensitive to flies, giving her neck a good work out as she swung it round to remove any settled insects.

When I dismounted in the yard, I couldn’t help but notice her large, soft eyes, full of honesty and genuineness. I’m going ask the farrier to remove her shoes next week. When I first rode her, her trot was fantastic, she felt like she was floating. After being shod, I didn’t think her action was as pure. As I can’t do a lot until she loses weight, it will give me a good opportunity to compare the difference.

I was looking forward to riding Della, especially after our fairly intense session yesterday but the day wasn’t long enough so Zarah took her out for me. She said she could feel the improvement since she last rode her which was nice to hear. Michael has taken a shine to Melle who he rode for the first time on Monday so hopefully at long last we can keep all three in work.