Saturday, March 5, 2016

5th March, 2016 Dropping In

Off towards Melksham this morning and we saw this horse on the way that I have often admired in passing. Julie, Maddie and I were on our way to a clinic for 6 people and 3 horses with a pretty packed timetable.

With horses produced at regular intervals, all ready to go, we got through an amazing level of subjects all of which we will be able to follow up on a future occasion. Within the first hour, each horse had two lots of ten minutes of free schooling, enabling their respective sharers to see and then experience the use of body language.

We started with eighteen year old New Forest pony, Piglet...

Before working with Thoroughbred mare, Skye...

and Criollo Polo Pony, Baya...

After this we had short sessions with each horse throughout the day. Piglet has belonged to various pony club families during his life but has learned to switch off to people and be a little distant. His sharers wanted to work on groundwork...

and we also covered long reining which should be better both for his mind and body than lunging, enabling him to balance himself, use his hindquarters better, and work without switching off to human/horse communication. Here we are using eye on eye contact and walking slightly out to one side in order to keep his attention and ask him to listen.

When ridden he tends to dawdle and to ignore the ever present leg aids. Here L is asking him for a 100% walk; once achieved she leaves him along until he drops back again.

Ex-racehorse Skye, followed her career with ten years as a broodmare. Another kindly soul, we needed to teach her to long rein so that her owner can work on strengthening Skye's tummy muscles so that she can lift her back.

She accepted direction easily apart from wanting to investigate a few things. The owner is right to give her a few moments before asking her to move on.

L is likely to graduate to riding Skye and so we worked on confidence techniques to enable L to bring joint adrenalin levels down and take out any tension in her body.

Originally from Argentina, Baya has some problems with anything that looks like a stick, or a human with a stick. She was too volatile to ask her young handler to work on this problem and so I demonstrated how it is possible to overcome her fear. She was fine while she was touching the feather duster with her nose but not so keen on having it on her body...

...particularly her legs...

...but once I had found a nice itchy place to rub, she could see that such things might actually be useful.

She was fine with anything she could chase...

...and happy to walk over the tarpaulin.

During a later session we looked at her ridden work. Megan indicated that she had trouble with the fact that Baya would go wherever she wanted to go rather than where Megan wanted to go and that her trot was rather choppy. When you think about it, Polo ponies are trained always to go for a target, the ball, and their riders simply turn and go. We recreated this by putting different objects in different parts of the school and calling out the target and the pace by which it was to be reached. Each time Megan had to turn to look for the target and then go.

The other problem however was more complicated. Whilst Polo ponies are agile and can turn on a sixpence, this is not achieved by a true understanding of the bit - have you seen how much gadgetry they wear? Their heads are also restrained by the use of standing martingales which prevent them throwing their heads up and smacking the rider in the nose. This combination creates a horse that walks and canters everywhere, and creates a braced horse.

Megan and I worked on asking Baya to soften to the bridle just momentarily before giving her a release in the reins. This does not mean pulling at all - more thinking about what you want her to do and imagining giving her the reins back. Under saddle you can see that she has softened her jaw and therefore her mind just a little bit in the above photo...

...and asked from the ground she is able to do the same.

All in all a really fantastic and rewarding day covering body language, touch, putting on and fitting the Dually halter, groundwork, desensitisation, long reining, riding confidence and ridden work. Notes on all of these subjects and photos from the day are all being uploaded to Dropbox.
"Thank you Sarah for yesterday, it was amazing. Going to get some long reins and practice." FB
"I had an amazing time! We will definitely have another session soon!" MN
What an amazing day! Achieved so much & learnt more... Making horses step back with just the power of the rider's mind was mind-blowing! Wonderful to see we already have a bond with our horses & fantastic to see Grace back on Baya, bareback no less with a smile on her face & a hunger for more! Mission accomplished!!" VA

Just reflecting on what made this such a wonderful day and it was the earnest, empathetic, enthusiastic attitude of everyone who took part. I really really loved it.