Singing A Tune

I had a challenge and a half this week, which definitely got me rummaging around my tool box for solutions.

I have a young rider who suffers from first-jump-itis. She flies through grids, and any related distances but as soon as I put a course together she falls apart.

In her first lesson this week, a bit later in the evening because of the heat, I built a course as she warmed up on the flat. Then I warmed her up over a cross pole then upright, and then started putting a couple of the lines of my course together. The jumps were well within their comfort zone and she was riding well. We had the odd dodgy jump when she was a bit restrictive with her hands (something we’ve been working on) but her lines between fences was superb. 

Once she’d jumped nearly all of them, bar a couple of island fences, I explained the course. And it went wrong. She had a stop at the first one and promptly slid out the side door. Remounted, she rode it again successfully and the rest of the course got better – it flowed more and she looked more comfortable as she went through.

I upped some of the jumps; still within her comfort zone – especially the first one and she did it again. The first jump was still an issue so once they’d ridden the course with a sticky first jump I suggested we did the course one last time, to crack the first-jump-itis. After all, she’d jumped it a few times now and I think repetition was needed to stop her overthinking it. They had a good breather and then off they went. 

And it all went wrong. The pony stopped, she fell off, then she over rode and got in front of the movement, and then her pony started anticipating and stopping even when she gave him a fair approach. Then she froze and pulled with her hands into the fence. Even lowering the jump didn’t help.

Then of course we’re in this vicious cycle where everyone gets hot and bothered. So I told them to have a walk break and moved onto another fence, and made that a little cross. They stumbled over it and I could see my rider was just in a panic.

I’ve said before, that teenagers can be tricky if there’s an external problem or if they’re a bit hormonal or whatever, it can be hard to solve a problem. Thankfully I know this rider very well, so jokingly checked there were no boy problems, or anything else she wanted to tell me. There wasn’t, so I told her to serenade me the next time she jumped. She laughed despite herself, and moaned that she wasn’t very good at singing. But just her laughter caused her to relax a bit and break the tension. 

She went again, and on the approach to the cross pole started singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. They instantly improved, relaxing and she had the handbrake off so her pony sorted the jump out himself. I made her repeat it a couple more times, singing loudly. 

Then I made it an upright and continued with the singing approach, finding it made her breathing more even and meant my rider sat more like a passenger, which she needed to do so that she didn’t interfere with her pony’s jumping.

That went smoothly so as she landed  I told her to maintain the canter and approach the original jump. Unfortunately getting them up and running didn’t mean that they negotiated the problem jump. Usually breaking the cycle and establishing a flow helps overcome psychological refusals. But I noticed my rider stopped singing on the approach, and freezing her body.

I took the jump right down and got them singing and trotting, then cantering, over it until they’d done the original fence. The important part was that she continued singing and stayed relaxed. As soon as they’d succeeded we finished the lesson … to be continued tomorrow.

I mulled over the conundrum overnight, and the following day realised that it’s been very hot this week and the adults I teach bring their own water to lessons. Parents bring water for their kids in their lessons. I don’t take water with me unless I have multiple lessons because I just end up leaving it in arenas. But this young rider had come down to her lesson alone – Dad was poo picking (how well trained!) – so her performance was probably affected in the last third of the lesson because of thirst or heat. I had a gap in my diary just before her lesson and was feeling quite thirsty myself so headed to Costa and bought two iced fruit coolers, assuming my rider wouldn’t have a drink.

She seemed very pleased with the drink, and I think it definitely helped her having frequent slurps through the lesson. I changed the course slightly to make a three jump grid, which I kept as little crosses and got her jumping through in a relaxed and positive way to warm up. I also got her to jump the grid with one arm out to the side, just to highlight how tense her arms get on the approach, particularly when she’s worried. This also built her pony’s confidence back up.

With the grid going well I then used it as the first element on a course. This was to help her establish the rhythm and get into the zone before continuing on to the courses. I still made her sing loudly, and I was pleased to hear her doing it on her own accord. With her breathing and being more relaxed, and me reminding her to release her hands on the approach, the lines flowed a bit smoother. 

We had a couple of minor blips but overall a much more positive session. They jumped the grid then onto the course a couple of times successfully and then I called it a day. I felt it was more important to finish on a good note than to change the course in any way and ask any more questions. After all, there were a few little things for them both to go away and reflect on. 

Lessons to learn are for me to double check everyone brings water or refreshments to lessons in hot weather. To use grids the next couple of lessons to establish my rider’s rhythm and get her in the zone. To make her sing to every jump because each time she stopped singing she had a more frantic approach and not such a good take off or bascule. I’m also tempted to do some lunging without reins, and more grids without reins so that I stop her using the handbrake. Then hopefully we can break the cycle and they get back on top of their game. 

My ITT Exam

I had a blog topic all lined up for you tonight, but as I had the very exciting news in the post today that I passed my BHS Intermediate Teaching Test, which together with my Stage IV that I got a few years ago, I’m now a BHS Intermediate Instructor! Yay!! So instead tonight I’m going to bore you with the details of my exam, and my other story will just have to wait – apologies in advance!


I had a very early start to get to my exam in order to avoid the M25 at rush hour, but when I got there with plenty of time I buddied up with another girl, who seemed confident and knew what we were supposed to be doing! Off we went to the indoor schools; to walk the simulated cross country and showjumping courses. We would be teaching one of those lessons, but would only be told in the briefing at 8.15am. The cross country course looked fairly straightforward and walked well. However the showjumping had slightly dodgy striding, which would mean we’d need to adjust it during the lesson. 

Our five examiners all seemed very nice – approachable and friendly. If not slight batty. But I think that happens to everyone in the horse world at some point! They put us at ease anyway, and once all the paperwork and everything was filled out we started the exam.

First up, I had presentations and equitation theory. I think I was quite glad to get the presentations out the way because it was definitely an area that worried me. In the ITT exam you prepare nine presentations on coaching topics, and present a random one. I was given “non-rider injury prevention”. Not my favourite, but also by no means the hardest one! I had to present it to the two other ladies in my group, who got nicely involved. I think the main point of the presentations is that the examiner can see that you engage with your audience and have a discussion more than a lecture.

The equitation theory covered training horses up to elementary standard, describing how to ride various dressage movements, and how you would develop both horse and rider over fences. As well as preparing them for their first competition. All of my friends’ quizzing the week before paid off as I felt quite happy answering questions. I was cut off a couple of times, which always worries you, but I think that was because the examiner was happy with my answer and wanted another candidate to give their thoughts. Overall, I left that section feeling nicely focused and confident, which I think made me feel better for the flat private lesson, which was next!

Two candidates took this unit of the exam simultaneously, so there were two horses ready for us. One, I recognised from my training day as being the quirky one who changed canter lead behind every half dozen strides. To my relief, I had the slightly daunting Spanish horse complete in double bridle … there’s a post somewhere already about that. Here it is!

Anyway, I felt I got a good rapport with the rider and made some tweaks to both horse and rider. I managed to answer the examiner’s questions after and she seemed happy enough so I felt that went alright. I also felt quite confident that this rider would give positive and fair feedback to the examiner.

My next stop was the private jump lesson, and I was in the showjumping arena. My rider was an ex-eventer but had never ridden this riding school horse before. I announced to the examiner that as they were an unknown combination I’d treat it as an assessment lesson so they could develop a relationship. So I lowered the fences a bit below standard. They warmed up and the horse was very honest and straightforward. Just crooked, and drifted left all the time. It was also stuffy so I shortened all the distances to build it’s confidence, and we put together the course in stages. There was a dog leg to the right, and we had a couple of problems with the horse drifting to the left and around the style. So I explained to my rider how to adjust her line so that she had as many straight strides as possible before the style. Then they flew it and the rest of the course no problem. When I spoke to the examiner afterwards I said I wouldn’t take them much over 80cm until the straightness and suppleness issues were sorted, which the examiner said she agreed wholeheartedly with. I felt this lesson went well generally, but I was slightly worried that I hadn’t jumped big enough. But then I’d provided a reason so that was the best I could do really.

After a really long lunch break because of the timetabling, I had business management. Again, I felt that went reasonably well and I answered all the questions; including the bonus one that DEFRA can randomly inspect yards to see if all horses have passports and if they haven’t you can be fined up to £1000 per horse – ouch! Some of these questions were a bit of common sense and some purely educated guesses so fingers crossed!

Then I had to teach a group of riders on the flat – thank god I didn’t need to test my grid distances because these riding school horses would struggle with competition distances and it would have upset my frame of mind. I had three riders and two stuffy horses, and one which didn’t bend. After watching them warm up I introduced a four loop serpentine (the arena was 70m long!) which would benefit all the horse’s suppleness and then I put in transitions to help those that were behind the leg. Then we did trot-canter-trot transitions to help improve the quality of the canter. Everyone seemed to improve and the riders gave me good feedback, which I hoped they’d reiterate to the examiner.

Finally, I had to do a lunge lesson. I felt fairly well prepared for this, but when I arrived I saw a rather dour looking woman. And I was reminded of the conversation over lunch … “I had X to teach. She wasn’t very helpful. She didn’t listen to anything I said.” 

I knew it was the same lady, so felt a bit put off. And I was also feeling a little tired by then, so I made a couple of mistakes – forgetting to undo the reins until the last minute as she was mounting, and not encouraging her to hold on to the saddle in her very bouncy trot without stirrups. So I came away slightly frustrated, but at least I thought I had raised a smile and she had complied with my instructions so hopefully she would give the examiner fair feedback. 

Thankfully I missed the rush hour back to get home in time for Pilates, and since then I’ve been reflecting and dissecting the whole day until today’s post! 

Along with my certificates I had feedback from the lessons, which is really great. The examiners all said I managed the lessons safely, improved the riders, developed a rapport, had good structure to my lessons, used open questions to engage my riders, and gave relevant technical knowledge – I’m so pleased!

So now I’ve bored you all to tears about my ITT exam, I’ll finish my glass of wine and make a start on the very large box of chocolates my long suffering husband bought home with some flowers. 

Solving The Myth of Washing Down Horses

Whilst the UK is in the midst of a heatwave, a discussion is going on about the best ways to cool horses down. Usually we don’t have this problem and almost any method is sufficient.

It makes me wonder how equestrians cope in hot climates. Would any readers from those countries care to enlighten me? I think I was told when I was in Dubai that the polo horses had air conditioned stables and were exercised very early in the morning. Horses from those climates also tend to be fine coated and thin skinned, unlike our hairy natives who are all struggling as the thermometer nudges thirty degrees Celsius.

Some people advocate hosing and scraping, others say to hose and let evaporation do the cooling down.

In fact, the best answer is to do a bit of both. Imagine you are standing next to a very sweaty horse. Quickly run the hose over him. Touch his side; the water is warm isn’t it?

Now comes the pseudo science part. By which I just mean I’m haphazarding a guess at the science but. Heat from the horse’s body transfers immediately to the water, so the water becomes the same temperature as the horse. The water then acts like an insulator (although scientists will say that water isn’t a particularly good insulator, some would say it’s enough of one in this case) so preventing the horse’s body from losing any more heat. At this point the horse can’t cool down until the water has evaporated.

Now, scrape the excess water off the horse and hose him again. Keep removing the warmed water until the water runs off cool. Now the horse’s surface temperature is returning to normal, but he still needs to continue cooling down. This happens when the cooler blood leaves the skin and goes to the hot muscles, so removing some heat from there.

It’s at this point that leaving cool water on the body to evaporate, mimicking the sweating process, is effective.
I found this explanation of why sweating cools you down:

Beads of sweat on your skin are in liquid form. When the water temperature rises, the molecules become more active and gain energy. When a molecule gains enough energy, it can break free from the bonds that hold the liquid together and transform into water vapor. This is evaporation. As the molecule evaporates, its energy — or heat — is removed from the sweat that remains on your body. This loss of energy cools the surface of your skin.

In the same way, water and sweat evaporating from the horse’s skin will cool them down. 

A friend told me that endurance riders advocate washing and scraping until the water runs cool off their backs and then leave the rest to evaporate. Which makes me feel better in my hosing the horses until the water feels cool against my hand, then scraping off excess and then turning them out to roll and dry out naturally. 


I found the following article about the cooling process followed at the Beijing Olympics – Read it here – which makes the valid point that if you continue to apply water to the horse’s body then warmed water will be displaced so cold water is always next to the skin and heat will displace to the water. So scraping excess water away can be replaced by just continuous hosing. This article also points out that to maximise the cooling effect of washing down it’s important to cover as much of their body as possible to increase the area that is being cooled, so don’t just wash the sweaty shoulders, wash all the neck and hindquarters too. 

My Introduction To Parelli

Some people advocate Parelli, others resent it. It’s had good press, it’s had bad press. Whatever. Each to their own. I’m not going to go into depth here – do some reading and develop your own opinion.

Anyway, I’ve never really had anything to do with Parelli, nor have I had a need to try it with my horses.  But when I went to do a practice lunge lesson with a riding club member last week I was horrified, embarrassed, whatever you want to say, that I couldn’t get the horse to lunge when I warmed her up.

“Oh, she’s Parelli trained” announced her owner as an explanation. That still didn’t help me, so she gave me a quick lesson on lunging the Parelli way.

Firstly, she explained that my belly button should be pointing in the direction I want the horse to go. So to send a horse forwards, turn to look (and point your belly button) in that direction. When you face the horse, they think you are wanting them to reverse. Which was the problem I was having. 

You can also fling your rein arm in the direction you want them to go, thus giving a clearer instruction. Once I’d got the hang of this then it did make a bit of sense and the mare responded well.

To slow a horse the Parelli way, you either put the whip out in front of their body, or waggle the lunge line. I found this part trickier, until I accidentally said the word “Good” at which point the mare stopped dead! Apparently that’s a cue word for the end of the session and tit bit time.

Parelli people also don’t use many words, as this lady told me. They expect to say go, and then say nothing until they want the horse to do something different. Which when we’re riding is something we should aim for so our aids remain subtle and clear, but most of us use a dialogue when lunging to either settle the horse, or to regulate their gait. 

The whip is also often used instead of the voice to get a horse to move off. Smack it on the ground behind the horse twice, and they should move forwards until told otherwise. This is more to do with the obedience aspect of Parelli, so apart from being told about it I didn’t use this technique.

Regardless of my views on Parelli, it was actually an interesting learning experience because it means I have another trick up my sleeve if I ever come across a horse who “won’t” lunge – I may just be talking the wrong language to them. 

Tickling Their Bellies

Whilst chatting to someone this week, they told me that one of the benefits of a water treadmill (more on this another day) is that the water splashes up onto a horse’s belly, which causes them to tense and engage their abdominals.

Thinking about it, when I’ve been waist deep in the sea, or another cold body of water, and tried walking around splashes invariably land on my torso, and I’ve felt my stomach clench in anticipation or dislike. It must be the same for horses.

Then today I was hacking one of the big horses. He can sometimes be a bit lazy in his posture, and I find him very big to correct, or support him. We were going around the mown edge of a field and it suddenly occurred to me that I had heard a long time ago that long grass tickling a horse’s belly can be useful in engaging their abdominals.

So I gave it a go; we ventured off the path and did some walk and trot in the long grass, that came up to my stirrup irons. He definitely seemed to float more, and I could feel his body working harder. He was exhausted by the time we had trotted halfway up the hill, and I was surprised by just how much of a workout it was for him, whilst being comparatively easy for me.


We can’t always use long grass to do our training for us because of the time of year, but it’s definitely something to bear in mind when I’m hacking at the moment. Plus we saw so much wildlife around – the swallows swooping around as we walked, and the deer that challenged us to a stare off, and the fox hiding in the woods, as well as the bird of prey that flapped frantically to hover over us in the middle of a vortex when I turned him out.

My Livery Yard Part 2

Going back to my imaginary livery yard – that you can read about here – I was today thinking about how I`d organise the staff, keep liveries happy, and other bits and pieces.

Staff

In my experience, the professional equestrian world has two types of people; those who are very good with horses but not very good at mixing with people, and those who aren`t quite so good around horses yet are very good at dealing with the public. In order for businesses to be successful, I think you need both types of people in management. I`ve already decided that I would want a partner in my livery yard, so I would need to find someone who complimented me.

I think I would also have a core of three managers. The head groom, who would be in charge of the day to day running of the yard, caring for liveries, and helping exercise horses if needed. I think they would also have at least one permanent groom working underneath them, and then in winter they can be in charge of contracting another groom or two to help cope with the workload of the winter part-liveries.

I would then have an instructor, who would teach liveries, have external clients, and exercise horses. Instructors are usually good at communicating, so I would have them as the point of contact for the liveries. Let`s face it, I would be the instructor and point of contact, which means I would need to find a partner who had very good knowledge and experience of horse care, and was devoted to looking after them.

I would then have a maintenance manager, who preferably had a farming background so knew all about caring for the land and building robust fences, yet had animal sense around horses. I think I would have quite a laissez-faire approach to them, just meeting once a week. Their jobs would involve maintaining the buildings, fences, water system, arenas, and also caring for the land. Unfortunately, most horse owners have very little knowledge about when to rest, harrow, fertilise their fields, so the maintenance manager would oversee caring for the fields and advise liveries on when to rest paddocks, and organise the rolling and harrowing. I would have a separate email address for maintenance so that liveries could contact them with details of damages. The email system would also enable to maintenance to communicate directly with liveries. For example, “We will be fixing the fence in your paddock tomorrow afternoon,” or “Next week`s forecast is dry and warm, so we will be rolling your paddock on Tuesday”. Which should mean that everything runs more smoothly because the jobs don’t go through a middle man, and horses will be brought in if necessary.

Arena Booking

Everyone wants lessons, or to have enough space to jump, or to avoid an over crowded arena, but it can be so difficult to organise an arena booking system. I have a solution though! I would have a website for my livery yard, where the liveries are all members which gives them access to the Arena Booking System. That would mean that liveries can check to see if anyone has booked lessons for the following day and week, so can plan to hack on the day there is a jump lesson, or ride earlier in the day. People could book the arena out for a lesson, state that they are willing to share the arena, state if it is flat or jump lesson, or even if someone wanted to set up a jump course to jump on their own then they could and those who don`t want to school around fences know in advance. I would put restrictions on booking though, so that only one arena (assuming I have two or more arenas at my yard) is booked at any one time, and at peak times there would be no option of booking lessons unless people are willing to share.

Paddocks

Paddocks are also a difficult topic with livery yards. I think I would have individual turnout, but with over the fence contact with their neighbours. Depending on the land I had, I would assign each horse two paddocks. If possible I would have “winter grazing” and “summer grazing” on each side of my land as that would allow the tracks to be completely rested, and be easier to care for the land. The winter grazing will be the drier side of the land, possibly uphill, and the track and gateways would be of hardcore so that they don`t get as muddy. Winter grazing should be closer to the yard because with fewer daylight hours time is of the essence.

The ideal fencing is post and rail; I`d try to have that with electric running along the top rail, and I would definitely avoid stock fencing because of the amount of wire, and the fact they are not as solid looking so are more likely to be pushed or leant on.

Socialising

In order to keep liveries happy it is important that the manager is approachable, and knows the ins and outs of the yard. It is also important to encourage liveries to be friends – the yard becomes a happier place and there are far fewer politics around the yard. To help solve this I would organise a monthly livery get-together. In summer it could be a pub hack, or a BBQ, and in winter it could be roast dinner at the pub, or pizza in front of the TV watching Olympia. Just bringing people together without the horses and encouraging them to chat will help build friendships, as well as the staff being approachable so that problems don`t fester. The staff will also be able to get an idea of the vibes around the yard, which should also prevent arguments developing.

 

I think that`s as far as my daydreaming got me. There are definitely other aspects to consider, which I will probably think about on one of my next hacks!

Counting Strides to a Jump

When learning to jump it can be difficult to meet jumps on the correct stride and to learn the feel of a good jump, so instructors use placing poles to assist the horse in finding the correct take-off point, thus enabling the rider to focus on their position and the feel. However, sometimes the riders and horses can over focus on the pole and it doesn`t help improve the jumping technique.

I`m a big believer in the rider getting the correct canter on the approach and then allowing the horse to adjust themselves to find the right stride. Additionally, I find that novice jumpers have enough to worry about without trying to “see a stride” and position the horse themselves. One of the exercises we used to do as children was counting down to a jump. I could never get my head around it. I could always see the stride but I struggled to count “3,2,1,jump” on the last four strides before a fence. Perhaps my instincts worked quicker than my brain?

Moving on. Counting canter strides is important, but instead of counting down the strides, counting in threes or fours, will help stabilise the canter rhythm and the rider is thinking positively because they are counting upwards.

Even on the flat counting canter strides can help improve the canter rhythm. I`ve done it so many times that it has become autonomic. I often find myself mid-canter saying “twenty one, twenty two, twenty three … What am I doing?” because I`ve subconsciously been counting canter strides and reached a ridiculous figure.

A couple of weeks ago I introduced a client to the idea of counting her strides towards a jump. Her horse has quite a big, scopey stride so can do a mini-leap over poles which tends to complicate jumping as she gets left behind or he gets too close to the fence. To try to prevent my rider having too many dodgy jumps, and to instil the correct feeling and hopefully teach my rider to see where her horse will take off over fences so she can go stay in sync with him over jumps. This will make courses flow more smoothly.

Before she started counting her strides a few yards before the jump the horse either backed off slightly or lengthened his stride too much. Then my rider tried to correct the canter, but it was too late. When she was counting her canter strides, “1,2,3,1,2,3” she noticed instantly when the canter changed and could apply her leg, a half halt, or adjust her upper body position to regain the canter. I felt that she was then attacking the fence a bit more – I don`t mean chasing her horse towards the jump, but closing the leg and riding positively towards the fence instead of having the hand brake on. From then on, every jump was met on a good stride.

Now that the canter is becoming autonomic and consistent, I want to build up to riding lines between fences, around corners, and through combinations so that courses become flowing and smooth.

 

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Thighs In … or Out?

Last week I read an article, by a blogger who I usually find very informative, but to my surprise I was left very confused. The article is here.

I think many other readers were also confused by the article, judging by the conflicting comments flashing across social media.

So I stored it in the back of my mind until I was out hacking on Thursday, when it popped back into my head.

If you`ve just read the article you will have seen that the author is pro thighs in.

I didn`t want to judge, I just wanted to know where my thighs were, and the effect of moving them had on the rest of my body.

Firstly, my thighs were relaxed – I could wobble the muscle easily with my hand. I could feel my seat bones, I felt quite central and sat tall. My knees and ankles were soft and slightly flexed. My feet were horizontal – it was a dressage saddle and I hadn`t bothered to shorten the leathers by a single hole, but I was still comfortable and safe – we weren’t on a gallopy hack!

I turned my thighs out. My lower leg came into closer contact with the horse`s belly. Imagine sitting on a ball; as the knees come out the ankle closes. My gluteals contracted and my seat lightened. I would have also found it more wobbly if we had trotted.

Then I put my thighs in. My knees gripped the knee rolls, the angle of my seat changed and I felt like I was blocking the movement of the horse, limiting him. My lower leg also came away from the girth, making it harder to apply the leg aid. I think the tension in my thighs would have caused me to become unstable in the saddle in trot and canter.

My humble thoughts on whether your thighs should be in or out? They should be sitting on the fence in the middle.

You don`t want your thighs tense, bringing your centre of gravity higher up your body and making it harder to absorb the horse`s movement, yet you also don`t want floppy thighs which make you sit like a sack of potatoes and destabilises you. Your thighs, in the ideal world where we all have toned, cellulite-free legs, should be relaxed yet engaged, causing them to drape around your horse`s barrel. In a similar way that a strong core is not difficult to maintain and looks effortless, your thighs want to be self-sufficient and holding themselves against the horse`s sides with just the muscle tone.

Some people have narrower hips than others, some have legs which turn inwards slightly; both aspects make it harder to drape the leg around the horse. These people do sometimes have to think about relaxing the knee, and letting the thigh roll out for a few strides to prevent them gripping too tightly, to drop the weight into the foot, and to allow their muscles to develop or change. Other people, perhaps those duck-footed or with bowed legs, sometimes have to think about closing the thigh in order to correct the position of the lower leg and seat, and again to improve their muscle tone and the way they carry themselves so that the whole of the upper thigh is in contact with the saddle, ready to apply aids and adjust to the horse`s way of going. The contact between thigh and horse should be uniform (both legs gripping to the same extent), enough that he knows you are there yet will not so heavy he becomes dead to the leg. It`s like holding your hand on the detonator button – ready to blow up your enemies at a moments notice, yet not blowing up your allies.

In the end I decided that I didn`t fully agree with the article because thighs should not be either or; they should be closer to the median because at different times in your riding you may need to adjust the position of your thigh to stabilise you in that particular moment on that particular shaped horse. He does highlight the errors of both ends of the scale though, and it`s a useful exercise for getting the rider aware of their body, position, and self carriage.

 

It`s Pony Club Camp

Today is the first day of Pony Club Camp – how exciting!

The forecast for the week looks warm (not as hot as last week thankfully) but overcast so hopefully it will all go smoothly and there won`t be too much running for cover.

This will be the third year that I`ve taught at this camp, and I have to say it is extremely well organised. A couple of weeks ago all the instructors met up for supper and were given our folders, which list all the different rides, some information on the levels of the individual riders, the individual tack and turnout, and report sheets. And most importantly, the timetable for the week. That’s right. At this camp I know what I am doing on the last day before I even get there! Normally camps are organising their instructors as the kids mount the ponies! We have a meeting every morning over breakfast to discuss the day, make changes if necessary, and generally gossip.

However, this camp does have a huge advantage over many other clubs, in that their camp is held on an idyllic private estate. That means that there is no sharing of facilities with liveries or riding school lessons, and the riding arenas are set up the week before, and stay up for the week (just think of how much time you save not moving fences every lesson!) Additionally, they have space. Acres of it. In the riding field there are usually three dressage arenas, a junior showjumping course, a senior showjumping course, a gridwork arena, an arena cross country arena, the senior musical ride arena (juniors do theirs in the menage) and half the cross country course! I will be walking miles – better charge my fitbit!

I`m sure this week will be totally exhausting, given that my riders are six years old; filled with laughter, that happens when you mix kids and ponies anyway; a few eyeball rolling moments (well, I do have four boys to contend with); and hopefully a bit of learning thrown in too. Everyone particularly looks forwards to the last day, when there are dressage, showjumping, handy pony (for the little ones anyway) competitions and the highly anticipated fancy dress musical ride.

I’m sure it will be a blast, and will provide plenty of anecdotes for The Rubber Curry Comb.

Wish me luck!

 

Who`s To Blame?

This is more of a debate really, and down to you guys for your input.

When things go wrong with your horse, be it at a competition, in a schooling session, or just on the ground, who do you blame?

Do you blame yourself?

Do you blame your horse?

Do you blame external factors, such as the venue, the weather, the rest of the competition?

Or is it a mixture depending on what the problem is?

One thing I`ve learnt about myself recently is that I blame myself. Unless there`s a blatently obvious reason, such a hailstorm during my dressage test, I come away from a competition being very hard on myself. Even if it`s not achieving an aim in a lesson with Otis, or even a client not completely understanding a concept during a lesson, I go away and beat myself up about it, feeling like a failure.

What does that tell me about myself as a rider? That I`m a perfectionist? That I’m a workaholic? That I have low self-esteem? That I over-analyse things?

Who knows, I sure don`t. Except that I then have to make a firm plan to sort myself out!

But anyway, back to you guys. Who do you tend to blame when everything goes pear-shaped? And what do you think that tells you about yourself as a rider or horse owner? And how do you then plan to overcome this blip? More lessons, change of equipment, refuse to ever do that type of competition again, or refuse to visit a venue ever again?

Comment below with your thoughts.

On a lighter note, here is a headcam video of Otis flying today – click here