Monday, 26 January 2009

First clinic of the year

After a rather desperate post Xmas dip in energy, we are back!

Just enjoyed a great clinic here, and I got to have my first ever ride on an Icelandic. Ednah invited me to have a ride on Glaesir. What a horse! I've just been looking online to see what's for sale out there, and boy, they are expensive! I'd have to sell at least a couple of my horses to buy one of those.

I was in some trepidation about this clinic. We've learnt a lot this winter and it's always a bit confronting taking new stuff into clinics. I always have this slight fear that someone is going to say, 'Ah, but last year you told us this, and now you're saying this'. Anyway, it was fine. In a way, good horsemanship is good horsemanship. The feel that horses respond to doesn't change.

One of the horses in the clinic was a ten year old Haflinger mare who just pushed her way through everything and everyone who came in her path. We used to go out 'sorting horse problems' and it took me back to the stressy times that go along with that kind of work. We made a lot of progress but even after two days she was no way sorted enough to go home. She is staying with us for a few more days. Today I carried on working towards one of our goals - taking her for a long walk - she was loads better and I am feeling pretty confident she is beginning to glimpse a happier way of being. We have also made a good start getting her to relax her mouth and neck while she is being ridden - I think she's going to be a nice little horse.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Trying to keep it simple.

It is impossible to try to educate the mouth if the horse is not in balance.
Philippe Karl

I promise you I am only here through necessity. I don't mean here writing this blog, I mean here in my horsemanship. I am a happy hacker with not much ambition to be anything else. Having a happy horse has always been my goal. I have always strived to keep things easy, mainly because I am lazy and that combined with an instinctual feeling that 'complicated' is, if not wrong, at least unnecessary.

But things were happening with my horse that I needed to get sorted and this is the way I am doing it. To be specific I realised I needed two separate cues for turning, as on one side she couldn't make the bend, she just fell over sideways (not literally - instead of turning around the bend she fell around it like a board). Now I know this is a very common problem and I have heard many many ways of addressing it. My original plan was that as my horse improved and got more and more happy and clear about our work then surely this would sort itself out. But now I see that couldn't happen because I simply had never explained to her what exactly I wanted from her in the turn. It's not that things were that bad - anyone who knows my horse will tell you she is pretty nice to ride. She goes anywhere and isn't scared of much. I can take her out of the field after a month and go for a hack. She's a good horse.

But the realization that I needed a bit more than her just to be happy and relaxed has lead me to a whole new world. To get to what I want now it is not enough for me to have her just not leaning on the bit, and happy to go where I want. Now I need her mouth relaxed, and I need her balanced from front to back, and I need her specifically cued up for bend on both sides. Don't run away - for any of you who are like me and thinking, phew, this sounds heavy, stick with it. It's possible that more experieced riders will be reading this (actually they have probably already stopped reading it by now) and they will be thinking, 'about time too'.

So that's what I'm up to. It's quite precise stuff and I'm not finding it that easy, which goes against the grain a bit as I have always had this feeling that if it's not easy it's probably not right. I am sticking with it though, because it makes sense to me, and it is getting easier for us both as we go along. But Splodge is one of those horses that tries really hard to get things right, and when she gets confused she kind of seizes up, and then I start to feel I'm letting her down a bit, so I have to be pretty careful to try and keep things clear for her.

I am excited by my horsemanship right now. I have a clear picture of what I am doing, where I am going and how to get there. I'm enjoying it!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Right from the beginning

So we got pretty spaced out over Christmas. See my wife is really lazy, and I am even lazier, so we get a little excuse like a pagan festival or even a non-pagan one for that matter and we are all curled up in front of the log stove checking to see if there are any good films on telly that day.

All we've done is fed, mucked out, and a bit of worming. We worm the horses once a year after the first heavy frost. That kills all the bots too then. It's highly unscientific but it seems to work well for us. It's also the time when we have to handle last years foals. Up till then we have pretty much kept away from them, but they have to be wormed. This year it was really good because we had guests working with us who wanted experience handling young horses, so this was their opportunity. Working with foals is a great way to set up how you need to be to keep the horse onside.

So what's the trick - being soft within yourself, and in all your actions helps, that's for sure. I know it's a much over-used word these days but softness in your mind and body is good. I find it works for most things and also, as a bonus, it helps keep you feeling good within yourself too. And horses tend to trust it too. So in no time you can be putting a headcollar on and off these seven month old foals, and putting your hands around their mouths getting them ready for the wormer. The whole job was done in about three half hour sessions, and the foals were happy with it too.

I don't want to sound cocky about this, because I'm not, but what I do think is important is to try and keep things right with these little horses from the start, because our experience is that then, you get good horses out of it at the other end. This years foals are solid little guys. Simon is going to make a great 15hh plus cob, he is really sound in his mind and you can just see what a solid little horse he is going to be. His little half sister Kate is going to be a really pretty little riding horse. She was just a tiny tiny bit more wary to start with but as soon as she saw we were ok she was fine about everything too. It's just so great to have horses that haven't been cursed with a load of human rubbish in their lives.

Compare that to those poor horses born into human confusion. Horses not born into herds, that know no boundaries, or get weaned too early for no reason other than money or ignorance (sorry, I'm off on a rant here). Just to say, if you are planning to buy a youngster, buy one that's been raised properly - it's worth it, and also the more people who demand that, the more it will happen.