Friday, 22 May 2015

More practise.....

Another little session this week doing the stuff from the Western clinic. Sky really wasn't wanting to be with Ali at first and wanted to be back with the herd (presumably so she could get back to flirting with the boys). So when Ali got on bareback with just the lead rope, she was having real difficulty getting her attention!

If she'd been in her usual tack, and with schooling whip, Ali could have forced her to pay attention and move away from the gate. Not so easy with just a headcollar, it really showed her how much she relies on her tack! So she got off and went back to groundwork. Sky was just doing her own thing, so Ali needed to get her attention, which she did (sorry about the blurry pic, only had my phone with me)
After that, when it was clear that Ali wasn't going to give up and go away, she decided to cooperate for a while......

I showed her some of the leading from behind technique we'd done with Adam Shereston, that seemed to go quite well, Sky was willing to be "led" away from the herd....
And after we'd finished and took her lead rope off, she didn't immediately get her head down to the grass or wander back to the gate as I thought she would, but stayed with us for few minutes, just standing (and thinking?)
So she got lots of scratches :-)

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Putting things into practise.....

Had a little session today trying some of the stuff from the Honest Horsemanship clinic last week. Sky was trying to go off ahead of Ali when we fetched them from the field and was generally not taking much notice of her or me, so I started by showing Ali the disengaging the quarters, then I did the kicking backwards when she got too close. I didn't need to touch her at all, but it certainly got her attention, this is the pic Ali took just after!
Left Ali to do some stuff with her, and I moved on to G. Who decided he didn't want to do anything except eat and actually raised his back legs at me! So I swung his quarters around and got him moving how I wanted him to. Was very surprised to be honest, but maybe shouldn't be, my fault for neglecting his groundwork.....

Next we moved on to the mounted stuff, planking and all ;-)
 (obviously I had to cheat and go up to the yard to use the mounting block )

Mr G was good as gold after his "telling off". Then we went for a hack (with saddles)

Going to play with this stuff some more :-)

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Honest Horsemanship clinic

By useful coincidence, this clinic was on just across the river from us last weekend. Would have been rude not to go along and watch. Bob Reader was the clinician, he's the guy who used to be based in Northern France where a friend of mine sent her youngster for some training. He rides Western and does clinics to help people using western riding techniques to get a better understanding of their horse.

So the day started with him giving a quick demo with his horse to show just what you can achieve:

Yes, he has the big hat and frilly chaps, but he didn't seem to be selling us his "method" and a load of equipment/videos needed to do it and the stuff he says mostly made sense. So he started off getting his students into the school on the ground with the horses on long ropes. He had them lead them around a bit and then identified the ones who weren't "with" the handler and were doing their own thing. He showed them how to get the horse's attention by disengaging the quarters:
This horse, a Spanish cross I believe, really was not seeing his owner as a leader (and was mostly trying to mug her for an apple) and needed a bit of work, but he quickly reassessed the situation after a short sharp shock! He didn't hit him, just used his body language and a twirling rope to get the desired effect......after that, his owner took over and was able to move him quite easily:
Some of the others really struggled with the body language bit though, which is why I guess he teaches them the rope twirling.......After that, he had them leading with the horse behind them and stopping to see if the horse was paying attention and would stop too, pretty standard stuff - apart from if they didn't stop, he got the owners to back up into them kicking their feet out backwards, not to try and kick the horse (although the ones who really weren't paying attention and got too close to the handler managed to get kicked) but to show them they needed to keep their distance a little bit.

Next he told them all to jump up onto their horse's back. This resulted in some priceless expressions! He jumped up onto his little horse and showed them how.....

Then he took it step by step, as some of the horses weren't too keen on the idea either. He got them to jump up and down next to the horse, then he lifted them up for a bit, they gave the horses a rub to reassure them, then off again.
Next step, up again but plank along the horse's back, lots more rubbing and praise.
Then up again and sit up, rubs and scratches:
Some of the horses, like this palomino mare, were not happy about this at first:
Was very interesting to note that this rider was one of those having problems with the body language/control on the ground and how that followed on once she was on her back. The rider was tense and out of her comfort zone and so was the horse. But bit by bit they began to relax, Bob stayed with them as long as he needed to.

After a while, he let them go and everyone had to mount up and bend the horses one way and the other just using the rope and swinging it from one side to the other over the horse's head when they needed to change direction. The palomino still wasn't totally relaxed, but was getting better.
The bay, whose rider had nailed it on the ground, was good as gold:
We could see a lot of progress made in a short time. Some of them were even trotting bareback.
He left them to have a play with it for as long as they wanted, then we had a break for lunch. Sadly, not a two hour French affair, but we had stopped off at the new services on the M5 on the way to get some goodies for a picnic, boy did they have some gorgeous food. The wild boar sausage roll was great. They were also selling my brother's cider so we had to have some of that......

In the afternoon, they were allowed some tack. Most had western, but one horse was in a Pelham and 2 reins.......

Bob started with a quick lesson on western bits and bosals, then a technique to get the horse to respond to poll pressure, you squeeze the lump of bone at the top of the skull until the horse lowers its head.
Tried this on Sky earlier today and it did seem to be helping her release some tension.......

Anyway, they mounted up and started with a western style warm up. You slide your hand along one rein towards the horses head, leaning forwards as you do so, then take the rein out so the horse turns and bends, then sit back up. You do this on both sides a few times and it stretches the horse's back and gets them warmed up and supple.
Then he didn't give them too much time to think before getting them all trotting, moving with the horse, loose reins, no pulling, just opening the rein to turn. Before they knew it, he was getting them to canter and telling them to throw away the reins, the less confident ones were trying to hold on too much, but they all got there in the end.
(Discovered that the guy in this pic is French and lives down the road from me, who knew?)

Then he was working on getting the correct canter lead by pushing the quarters across before asking for the transition. Some of them weren't really getting this, so he got them playing with the reins and their leg aids to see if they could get the horses to move laterally in some way, I liked that he wasn't expecting them to do a specific movement, but just encouraging them to experiment.....
And yes, Bob reckons it's OK to cross the withers with the inside rein..... ;-)

So by the end of the day, people were really getting a sense of achievement and we could see the difference in some of them, even though they had a way to go. Well worth the £5 spectator fee. Also discovered they could transport my horses up there for the cost of the diesel, reckon we'll go and do a clinic or something one of these days. Would do Sky good I think!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Elentári update.....

My little fat baby horse was a total star today. She's been going out in hand and doing ride and lead with Gandalf for a while now, and as she's 3 already, we started her long-reining. She was fine with the equipment, although she looked a the white saddle blanket a bit funny, but didn't mind the surcingle being done up round her rather large belly, or the long reins flapping about. We went off down the quiet little lane along with our friends riding the other 2 horses.

Ali was at her head to start with, but it soon became apparent that she didn't really need her there. She was fine with me walking behind her. Took her a little while to work out the brakes, she was in her new sidepull rather than the rope headcollar she's used to, but she picks things up quickly and although it took a while to respond to pressure on her nose the first time, after a few stops and starts she hardly needed a touch on the reins. When the other two trotted off, she listened when I asked her to stay with me.
In fact, the only problem, inevitably, was the temptation of the grass to either side of her, so I had to make sure she didn't start zigzagging along from verge to verge for a snack! She's been wearing a grazing muzzle all the time since the herd went onto the new grazing for the spring and she's still putting on weight. She's figured out how to eat pretty efficiently with it on, but at least this way she can be out with the others getting plenty of exercise.......

I grabbed a branch on the way back to drag it along behind her and see how she'd react to the noise - she just tried to turn round and eat it......I can see if we ever do any logging, the young hazel shoots won't stand a chance ;-)

When we got back, I decided to try something, so I summoned my crash test dummy and we did this:

She really doesn't worry about the strange stuff we do - as long as she's getting bits of carrot! Good girl :-)

Sunday, 3 May 2015

European Grand Prix - Stage 1

Horseback archery, of course. The only sort of GP that's worth watching, as far as I'm concerned. This weekend, Team GB are over in Grunwald, in Poland and from the photos I've seen, it looks like they're having fun (and not getting too wet).

Wish I could go over there one year, not to compete, I'll never be that good, but to take a load of photos and join the guys for the après.......

Still, have managed to blag a weekend in France for the next stage since they'll need an interpreter, right? Limoges at the end of June should be nice :-)