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. 

Turn On The Forehand

Recently I`ve done quite a bit of turn on the forehand, and on the haunches, with different clients and horses, so thought it was a useful time to blog about it.

Turn on the forehand is usually one of the first lateral movements people teach their horses. For some, however, they wouldn`t dream of touching turn on the forehand as it encourages the horse to put their weight onto the forehand.

So before we embark on pivoting in little circles, let`s discuss why we would use turn on the forehand. The first, and most obvious reason, is whilst out hacking. Gates are far easier to negotiate if your horse can turn on the forehand because you can keep hold of the gate whilst manoeuvring your way through. No more swinging gates, or pushing against the unfriendly gusts of wind. In the arena, learning turn on the forehand teaches a young horse the basic concept of moving away from the leg aid. I find it is useful for increasing the rider`s awareness of what the hindquarters are doing, and it is a good way of suppling the hind legs because they are adducting and abducting with each step.

What exactly is turn on the forehand?

Put simply, it is when the horse pivots on their front feet. Put in a slightly more technical way, the horse turns a small circle with their front feet, whilst the hindlegs scribe a larger circle around them. A turn on the forehand can be a quarter turn, a half turn, or a full circle. Obviously a quarter circle is the easiest as there are fewer steps.

Initially you want to establish that the horse and rider can ride balanced transitions into fairly square halts. These could be direct from trot, or progressive through walk. If a horse stops in a balanced way then they are in a better position to perform turn on the forehand.

Once the halt transitions are established, ride medium walk on the inside track, making sure you have enough room between you and the fence for the length of the horse. Ride forwards to halt (remembering that square part). Maintain the rein contact, and flex the horse slightly to the inside. Remember here that inside is towards the direction of movement. Shift your weight to the inside seat bone and place the inside leg slightly behind the girth. Use this leg to push the horse to step around the forehand. The outside leg, behind the girth, prevents the hindquarters from rushing and supports the horse, whilst the outside rein supports the outside shoulder, keeping the neck straight at the base of the neck and prevents the horse falling out through the outside shoulder. If the horse does not understand the driving aid of the inside leg then a whip can be carried to back up the leg aid if necessary.

Initially, you want two or three steps, which takes you on a quarter circle. Ride forwards away from the movement as you praise the horse. It`s important to move forwards away from the movement so that the horse doesn’t associated turning on the forehand with losing energy or momentum.

It`s really important not to over ride turn on the forehand, after all, it will be difficult initially for a horse, but you also do not want them to anticipate turning when you ride to halt, otherwise you sacrifice your final centre line in any dressage tests! Once I`ve ridden turn on the forehand a few times in both directions, and the horse is beginning to understand the concept, I tend to work on another area of their schooling before doing a couple of reminder turns towards the end of the session. Then, to keep revising the movement, you can use it as a change of rein, during a walk break in the schooling session, or as part of a trickier exercise.

Some horses cheat in turn on the forehand and swivel their front feet. This is incorrect, and you want them to step up and down in the walk rhythm, without taking any forward steps.

Other faults to watch out for are;

  • the horse bending their neck and falling out of the outside shoulder, taking forwards steps as they go. This can be caused by the rider using too much inside rein. To correct it, maintain a more secure outside rein contact, and monitor the different aids as independently as possible.
  • the inside hind leg not coming up and crossing in front of the outside hind leg.
  • the rider`s inside leg shifting too far behind the girth, which displaces their weight to the outside.
  • the horse rushing through the movement, hollowing their back and coming above the bit. This can be caused by the rider shifting their position – lifting the seat, leaning forward, raising the heels and using too much of a rein aid. Taking the stirrups away can stop the position being lost, but ultimately the rider needs to improve their seat.
  • Horse doesn`t understand and becomes “stuck”; doesn’t move around the turn, or backs up. If they back up then the rider may have too heavy a hand, but also if the horse has moved one step then become “stuck”, the rider should trot forwards, to regenerate the energy before trying again. If the horse still doesn`t understand the concept, then it can be practiced from the ground, with or without a rider, using a schooling whip to mimic the inside leg aid.

Hopefully you understand my description of turning on the forehand; I`ve found it to be very useful for horses who aren`t very active or supple in their hindquarters, and a real learning curve for riders as they learn to use all their aids independently and control the two halves of the horses body simultaneously. After riding it, the horse usually settles into a steadier contact, are easier to correct on circles and turns, and have a more active, balanced stride in the trot.

Let me know how you get on!

The Weekends Teaching

Saturday was St David`s Day, and the first real sign of spring. Seemingly overnight the daffodils had popped up along the drive, and the horse`s were verging on being hot under their rugs. Some even had a cheeky little spring in their step.

My first lesson was three little girls; once their minds had gotten out of bed we had some good trot work and circles and serpentines; before going on to some bouncy trotting poles and fairly steady jumping positions. Finally, once my runner had arrived, the canter. All the girls are really starting to sit into the canter. One goes on her own while another who took a tumble a couple of lessons ago is led. She was a bit worried because she hadn`t cantered this pony before. I`m building her back up so she can ride her favourite (who has quite a quick canter) again. The last girl, who tends to curl up like a hedgehog, even sat back for a few strides! It was a great, positive start to my day, and all three girls went away tired but happy.

My next little client is coming back into riding after the winter off and rode a new pony. This pony is quite cheeky, but since last week the helpers have been taking him down a peg or two, and reminding him of the correct behaviour in the school. It seems to have worked, as he behaved immaculately and my client really worked on her sitting trot to get her back into cantering. At the end of the lesson she managed a couple of canters on the lead rein. Not bad for the second time in the saddle in six months. Hopefully another couple of private lessons and we`ll get her into a group of a similar ability.

Mid morning and my next clients were two teenagers; it was great to be able to think on a new level; and talk adults. And of course, no running in canter! One girl has recently started riding a more advanced horse and is getting to know him, whilst the other is less confident and rode her favourite mare. I had them warming up thinking about the horse`s rhythm, suppleness, and responsiveness to the aids. I helped them work individually to warm the horses up. The warm up finished with a little bit of sitting trot and leg yield, and I could then explain how lateral work stretches a different set of muscles than the forwards gear. Back to some circles and the girls were starting to feel the improvement and any imbalances in the horses. It was quite interesting because the more advanced horse has recently had his back treated for a dropped right hip, so I used him as an example as to why leg yielding may be easier moving to the right, and how circles on the right rein are harder because that right hind leg needs to take more weight as it steps under. After a quick canter we moved onto the main focus of the lesson. Trotting poles and cavaletti. The girls both jump so know the reasons for polework, but were a bit unsure as to how it is useful in dressage. They soon learnt terms, like cadence, and how the horse`s leg joints have to flex more in order to be able to ride the cavaletti so it`s a useful strengthening and fittening tool. Gradually we built the five poles up into small cavaletti. The gelding took the mickey a bit and tried to run out of the poles. I gave him a chance, after all the last time he saw poles it probably hurt his back. His rider was sympathetic but didn`t really ride him towards the poles so he quickly discovered it was easier to run past. I explained to his rider that she needs to make the step from passively riding her horses (this is not the first horse we`ve had problems with) to being the boss in the relationship. Yes, it may have hurt him last time, but he needs to trot over the poles to discover it doesn`t hurt any more. When he did he really lifted his legs! Both girls could feel the hind legs engaging and pushing through the cavaletti, which will lead me on to getting them to warm up being more aware of the hind legs next week. They also found the trot after was much improved. It was quite an intense lesson, with a lot to think about, but both girls seemed to enjoy it.

To finish off my morning I taught my youngest client (who is getting that pony for her birthday and doesn`t know it yet – https://therubbercurrycomb.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/shush-its-a-secret/comment-page-1/ ) We did lots of trotting without stirrups and no reins, then both rising and sitting trot with circles and changes of rein. Although she`s off the lead rein her legs are titchy and barely come past the saddle so I have to be within arms reach of her pony to keep him trotting – a great work out for my legs! Then we did some jumping position and two poles (roughly a double) to get her used to going into jumping position and then sitting back up quickly. I put the poles as little crosses, resting on the stand of the jump wing because the first hole is a bit too high for me to jump. At least, that`s what I tell her! A few times through the double and her legs are looking stronger. She even manages to keep her foot horizontal whilst in her jumping position. I`m almost worn out, but she cajoles me into a couple of canters. Thankfully her pony has a tiny stride and I don`t have to run too fast. My clients grandmother was impressed with her skills, and we went back to the yard with one very happy little girl, already head over heels in love with the little grey pony.

After lunch I taught an adult rider who predominantly hacks, and wanted to attack his bad habits. It was a good chance for me to be picky; He`d almost forgotten what sitting trot was, but he managed a little bit. His main problem, however, was that he tended to lean on his hands. They were fixed on his horse`s withers, and very tense. To begin with I got him to hold his whip horizontally in his hands, tucked under his thumb. And think about his elbows being bendy with nice, light hands. It seemed to work and he used his seat increasingly to control the speed of his horse. Once the hands were stabilised we moved on to canter; big problem. He snatched his hands back, effectively putting the handbrake on and ending up with a fast and unbalanced trot. We really worked on the transitions and using the neck strap to stabilise his hands before finishing off with some reasonable canter and trot work. He has a lot to think about whilst hacking in the next few weeks.

Finally, to finish off my busy, but pretty successful day, I taught my teenage client who is very stiff. Recently she`s made loads of progress and really developed her feel and riding intelligently. I taught her leg yield today, which she had heard of before but not fully understood. With a bit of arm waving and leg crossing from me to demonstrate, she went off without her stirrups to ride the leg yield in walk and trot on both reins. I was pleased to see that she was starting to feel the horse`s legs crossing underneath her. The canter afterwards was improving too and she was a bit more effective in maintaining the canter. I decided to finish off with a bit of jumping. It was a single fence, and I had my rider riding the trot, as she had on the flat, active with a good rhythm. A straight approach to the jump and she had to maintain the trot. First of all the trot got a little rushed, and after the mare slowed right down on landing, so her rider found it hard to rebalance herself out of her jumping position. After a couple of tries the approach improved, and subsequently the jump did too. It took a few more attempts to get my rider riding away from the jump and rebalancing herself quicker. We finished on a 2`3″ upright with my client riding effectively and adjusting the mare before and after the jump.

Overall Saturday was a successful day with the teaching and all my clients enjoyed themselves and you could see the improvement in all of them. Best of all, it was sunny!

How Old?

This week has made me think back to the following article I read a couple of weeks ago – http://kickingon.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/just-a-number/

I taught a seven year old girl on her pony at the beginning of the week; she was to be assessed for the walk, trot, canter group lesson on Saturdays but the first thing her Mum told me was “she`s not cantering yet”.

We trundled down to the arena and I set horse and rider walking round the outside. Immediately I could see that the pony had the upper hand; cutting corners and drifting wherever he wanted. We started the lesson by her walking and halting round the track before walking a change of rein. Then we moved into trot. That pony is sharp! He jiggled and quickened in his trot, so I soon taught his rider how important it was to keep her pony at her speed by using her body language. Once she`d mastered a steady trot we did some change of reins, 20m circles, and then had a five minutes rest whereby we walked a serpentine. I spent a lot of time working on her steering; that it shouldn`t be an inside rein quick pull, handbrake turn, but more of a curve so her pony didn`t slow down or speed up. By this time the poor pony had started snatching at the bit, despite his side reins. To begin with his rider snatched back, then carried on rising, waving her hands round and tugging at the bit. I explained why she should keep her hands still and then we practiced sitting trot. Which was a revelation. She`d never heard of it and could barely do two strides. Never mind the pony thinking it was canter time … By the end of the lesson I thought she`d worked very hard and achieved quite a lot. Rising trot was a bit tidier, her hands were stiller and she managed to ride some good changes of rein and circles. Still some work to do with the left and rights, and the sitting trot periods were getting longer but I thought we`d laid the foundations for the next few lessons.

Anyway, I found out the next day that her Mum felt my lesson was too technical and she wanted her daughter to be doing “fun” things like trotting poles and bending to work on her balance. Personally, I thought the pony was the quick type who might well speed up approaching poles. Before trying it I`d like his rider to be confident and well balanced in their seat. Apparently my lesson content went over her child`s head.

She has another lesson with another instructor, who does all the birthday parties so her Mum is hoping that it will be much more fun and child orientated.

This brings be back to the article linked to above; when should you teach and child and what should you teach them. People have commented on the original article that children often learn riding skills which are inappropriate to later riding (such as inside rein pulls) which I would tend to agree with; certainly in this case. I always try to instil to my child clients the correct aids, even if the inside rein is a bit more dominant due to their physique, and that they should think of pushing their pony round the school, not pulling. Then I make them consider their pony; what he thinks of the exercise, why he doesn`t like wobbly hands, and why he might not want to leave his friends, so that they are sympathetic riders.

What are everyone`s thoughts about what to teach children, how to teach it, and when children should learn to ride?

Question 3

“Riding jargon confusion: I can honestly say that I get so confused with ‘on the bit’, ‘in a contact’, ‘in an outline’, ‘working from behind’, ‘self carriage’, ‘on the forehand’ etc etc, I have a vague idea what is meant by them, but a very confused view of how to achieve or correct them, as is the case with most novice riders in my opinion.”

This was the next question asked to me by my friend and novice adult rider.

It`s a good question and another minefield. Ultimately as a rider you shouldn`t feel like you can`t ask your instructor to elaborate on their terminology or about to achieve or overcome them. I guess the terms are often misused as people get their own definition for them, kind of like a colloquialism. After all, as an instructor I can tell a rider what to do and when their horse suddenly tracks up and lifts over their back I says “Can you feel that? He`s working correctly by …” but how do I know that the rider is feeling what I`m seeing? Or are they mistaking the feeling of being pushed from behind and lengthened stride for the horse leaning on their hands and getting heavy in front? Then add in the fact that each horse feels slightly different …

From an instructors point of view you should try not to overload clients with technical jargon. Bring it in when relevant, and take the time to explain what it is (even a demi volte – I`m always having to explain that change of rein). Make sure you practice that or use the term over the next few lessons so that the client learns what it means and how to do it instinctively, before progressing onto another topic.

British Dressage are quite good at giving definitions to terms, so you could look at their website for help, or do any other internet search to view video demonstrations, discussions, and explanations of terms you are struggling to understand.

One I found which is useful was: http://www.classicaldressage.net/members/lesson_pages/on_the_bit.html
Another is http://dressagenaturally.net/reading-room/essays/34-self-carriage-dressage-naturally

The Right Way or The Wrong Way?

A friend of mine recently posed a few questions to me; she is a novice adult rider and has several ponderings, which I`ll bring up over the next couple of weeks.

Question 1: “is there always a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way of riding? I have had loads of instructors over the years (including you of course) but can honestly say not one has instructed me to do things the same way, in fact many say the opposite. I am having lessons at HP at the mo and whilst I am taking some good points from my male instructor there, he has basically told me everything I was told before is wrong! Confused!!! Was previously told to hold a firm contact, particularly on the outside rein, he has me loose and giving with the outside to achieve better bend…different things work on different horses I guess.”

Okay, this is quite a tricky one really. Going right back to basics I guess within equitation there are various schools of thoughts, I thought it was quite similar to the various schools in psychology (I studied it for A-Level and vaguely remember cognitive, Freudian, biological and behaviourism as schools of thought). Showjumpers have different approaches to riding and schooling from a show rider, or a dressage rider, as they ultimately want a different outcome, and have different focuses. Whilst an eventer is an amalgamation of all disciplines.

From this you can see that if your instructor competes in dressage then lessons will lean towards the flat work, focusing on position and depth of seat, as well a subtlety and correct use of the age. A hunter, or cross country rider, will concern themselves with you riding effectively, even if that sacrifices your position slightly. After all, you want to make it round the course in one piece! I hope this makes sense and you can see how different instructors can teach you different techniques.

The next deciding factor on how your instructor teaches is when and how they were taught. About twenty – thirty years ago there was a lot of poor training, and quick fixes so that flashy horses were produced, but they did not have life long careers. This training is reflected in those instructors who were trained and qualified twenty years ago. They tend to know all the gadgets that were popular at the time and train horses to be very submissive, and the riders dominant. At least, that`s what I`ve deduced from my experience. Additionally, it is only recently that more knowledge (due to scientific advances, the internet etc) is more widely spread and accessible. For example, professionals are now sharing their training techniques so the amateur rider can learn from them and hope to produce horses as perfect as Valegro. In our dreams.

But anyway, I think that in my lifetime the average instructor has become more qualified (due to BHS and ABRS exams) and more knowledgeable, which has led to a revival of sympathetic, classical techniques. Instructors as also taking the time to keep themselves up to date with developments within the equine world, and share this with their clients. Your problem with different instructors may be to do with the era that they trained in.

With your point of different horses needing different things I think you are quite right. Horses are individuals so some may prefer a quieter more asking rider, whilst others prefer to be bossed around (Have you heard the saying “Ask a mare, tell a gelding”?) but also horses are trained in different ways. Many riding school horses have had a previous career, which may reflect in the way they are ridden (for example if one is an ex racer or a polo pony) and you may also need to make allowances for any problems they may have developed as a result of that past career or even their training. As a rider you should aim to work with your horse in a sympathetic way so that they are comfortable and want to work well for you; you should know the correct techniques but also know how to assist your horse if they struggle or don`t understand the aids. For example, if you are training a young horse you initially use the inside rein to turn along with the leg aids. As the horse starts to understand the leg aids you reduce the inside rein so that the horse is moving from the seat and leg in a positive way.

I hope this answers your question, but you should never be afraid to question your instructor; it helps your understanding and makes the instructor better able to explain and support their techniques.

What is Contact?

Recently I have been trying to teach a client, whom I have taught from the beginning, a bit more about rein contact. It can get a little sticky, so I thought I should do a bit of research.

When people begin to ride I teach them to hold the reins; but with a fairly loose contact, so that any wobble they have on the reins, when starting to trot or generally steering and lose their balance slightly, is taken up by the slack and doesn`t jerk the horses mouth. This client has mastered trot and is now getting to grips with the finer art of control; i.e. keeping the horse at her rhythm and speed. We are also continuing work on school movements, and being accurate.

Last week I explained to her that she needed to shorten her reins to get closer to the ideal straight line from elbow, through the wrist, to the bit in order to more discreetly affect her horse, with the half halts and guidance down the reins to back up her leg aids. My client shortened her reins, but almost instantly they got longer again. Which led me to explaining that the horse relies on the rider`s contact for guidance and support, and it is her duty to provide a quiet and consistent hand. This means closing your fingers tighter round the reins, so they can`t slip through. Not a clenched fist, but a closed fist. At this point, I had to define the contact. For this client at this stage in her riding I called it a line of communication between the rider and the horse; hence why it needs to be consistent and clear.

My rider is beginning to understand this basic concept of contact, but it led me onto thinking of how people confuse “contact” with “outline” and “on the bit” The contact is the basic form of communication, and only when it is steady, light and consistent with a horse working over his back will it develop into an “outline”. I believe “on the bit” to be an old fashioned term, and rather suggests the horse`s head is ridden from the front end, as opposed from the engine of the hindquarters and through to the poll.

I don`t really teach outlines to any clients, I teach them the correct contact, and how the horse should work correctly from their hindquarters and over their back, in order for the horse`s body to function well and to reduce the risk of injury to their muscles and tendons. This very often results in the horse taking the contact forwards and lifting their back, which means I can then explain this process to the client and they can learn about how it should feel, and what they should do to create it in future (in terms of rhythm, activity of the gait, bending and transitions). Once they develop a feel for working the horse correctly the horse carries themselves and are less likely to damage themselves mechanically.

I`ve done a bit of research into different people`s explanations of contact, and how it is important to horse riding:

http://horselistening.com/2012/03/24/demystifying-contact-in-horseback-riding/

http://www.classicaldressage.co.uk/Contact_/contact_.html

http://www.classicalridingannewilson.com/outlineandcontact.htm

http://www.meredithmanor.edu/features/articles/faith/rein_aids.asp

https://www.dressagetrainingonline.com/riding-from-back-to-front.html

http://www.successful-horse-training-and-care.com/elastic-contact.html

 

Happy Reading!!

Teaching Beginners

It`s quite an ask really to give a total beginner their first lesson. Ever.

On the face of it it seems like the easiest thing on earth, but when you look a bit closer there are the problems of the rider being completely clueless so it takes up 90% of your attention ensuring the horse is doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing with the rider still aboard. Then you move on to your explanations of various techniques – legs, hands, seat, balance, position, horses movement, etc. How much depth should you go into? How long should you spend focusing on particular elements? Or should you do a brief overview with the hope they enjoy it and rebook so you can focus on different elements in future lessons?

I find how well my total beginner lesson goes depends on how recent the last beginner lesson was (I hate repeating myself, so end up skipping bits thinking I`ve already covered it) and who I last taught. If I`ve taught a rider I am switched on to the technical terms and end up overcomplicating it. If I`ve been teaching children I`m in a slightly patronising mind set.

Yesterday I did have a new client, who had been bought the first lesson as a Christmas present. Sometimes this means they aren`t at all interested, but thankfully her friend had informed her of a few bits and pieces. It was quite successful so I thought I would share it with you.

So I kit her out with a hat and boots, take her to the pride and joy of my riding school (14.2hh mahogany bay chunky cob, who does everything ever asked of him!) introduce them and she immediately holds her hand out to stroke him. Good! That means she`s not totally petrified! I explain briefly the mounting procedure as we walk to the mounting block and she gets on easily. Once she`s holding the saddle I move the horse on so I can access both sides.

Already I`m at a crossroads. How much technical jargon can they take? I`m not talking piaffe or engagement of the hindquarters, but reins, stirrups, girths etc. A colleague of mine told me the other day that she got a rollicking for using too much technical terms in lessons, so now instead of saying “change the rein” she says “change the direction”. Talk about dumbing down! I was gobsmacked, I used that sort of language with my four year old clients, even if I have to supplement it with easier language for the first few lessons. There`s no point learning to ride if you don`t learn to speak equestrian! So back to my beginner; we adjust stirrups and her girth, explaining what I`m doing and then show her how to hold the reins. I then tell her she`s going to be lead down to the school and all she needs to do is sit there and get used to the movement of the horse.

Once we reach the arena I stop her on the track (so long as no one else is there) and explain how to ask the horse to start and stop. I keep them on the track to encourage their horse to go round the outside. With the aids I start off simple, breaking it into bitesize chunks. Initially it`s just legs for go, reins to stop. We do this a few times, ensuring the hands are a smooth movement. Now this is where you separate the wheat from the chaff; some people have limited control over their body and can just about control the legs without the hands moving too, as a puppet moves. Thankfully, this client was quite athletic and found this easy. So I introduced how the seat should work in a subtle way to help the horse move correctly. A few more transitions. I`m getting bored of this rein now, so introduce a bit of steering to change the rein, again just the hands gently. I leave their position alone for the moment unless it is awful, because I want them to feel in control and balanced, which for some people means leaning slightly forwards. We do a couple of nice transitions on our new rein and end up halting at specific letters. Now I bring in a bit about their position, the lines instructors look at, how they should feel in the saddle, and then we move on to some more steering. It`s going well so far and within moments I`m explaining the outside leg pushing the horse over as opposed to the inside hand pulling; the hand is guiding. I mention the shift of weight and how turning the body helps the horse move correctly because of the change in weight distribution.

Now. It`s time for trot. I like to give all clients a trot in their first lesson so they have an idea of progression, and can mull the feeling over for next time. If they are not picking it up easily I may only do one trot before more walk work, but if like this client, everything is fitting into place in the walk I try and do a few trots. Other instructors will know the trials of leading and teaching; you can`t see your client. I always have beginner children led, but with the adults I try as soon as possible to step away from them so I can see their position. My little cob is a superstar though, and I can walk, holding a schooling whip about four foot away from him and he will stay on the track, with a wave of the whip in time with the riders legs he moves into an armchair trot, I have to keep up with him, and as soon as I fall back or lower my whip he crawls into walk. Brilliant!

We start in sitting trot, holding onto the front of the saddle, and down the long side. This reduces the chance of a very wobbly rider wobbling off the side. I always tell my clients to think about what they feel underneath them, i.e. hopefully they get the idea of moving from side to side. After a couple of goes at sitting trot I usually then explain the concept of rising trot and have them stand up and sit down in halt and then walk, correcting their lower leg and balance. Now we have a go at trotting, starting in sitting trot we progress to rising after a couple of strides. Sitting initially, helps the rider find their rhythm. Success! My rider gets the rhythm instantly.

As she`s picked it up so quickly we rapidly move on to holding on with one hand, then the other, and then not holding on with either hand to the saddle. Bear in mind that my clients here have a loose contact, so they can do a bit of steering and apply the handbrake if necessary, but any movement by the hand is taken up by the slack of the reins, not the horses mouth. We did a few more trots on both reins, and before I knew it the half hour was up!

It was a really satisfying lesson in which somehow I managed to pack in loads of information, but it helps to have the rider as receptive as this one was, and I look forward to helping her progress over the next few weeks.