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 🐴💖💖💚