Sunday, 12 July 2015

In-hand clinic

Had a nice morning with my friend and trainer Trudi Dempsey at the Swang Pony Centre and a lovely little pony called Alice. She is 7, but pretty much untouched. I went to meet her as she was tied up waiting to start work and she really didn't seem keen on people in general, and me in particular! It's so easy to forget that not all horses are trusting like mine......She was OK with me scratching her neck, but wasn't at all keen on me going further back than her shoulder, and any move towards the rear end was met with a sharp step away!

Anyway, we took her into the school, she really wasn't at all reassured to start with. We swapped her rope headcollar (which was one of those ones that tightens over the nose) for a sidepull, and then had a look at her conformation and how she moved. As with most cobs, she is solidly built and so probably wouldn't find it as easy to flex and bend as a finer, larger horse. She was also very tense in the neck, due to her anxiety about the total strangers in charge of her.

Trudi started by showing me how to do some simple neck flexions, just asking her gently to move her head first to one side, then the other. It was immediately apparent that she found this easier to the left. I led her around to see if she would stop and start when I did (bit sticky at first, but she soon started looking to follow me) and back up (needed quite a lot of energy the first time, but she quickly got the idea).
Then I had to combine the asking for bend with moving forwards. Again, she was pretty quick on the uptake, and after a very short time she was lowering her head and the tension in the neck was lessening. We worked on flexions both towards and away from me, and stopping with the slightest lift of the rein. She was very responsive. When she got a bit "stuck" I was able to change the bend to the other side and she would carry on walking.

I was very impressed by how quickly she decided to trust me and let me move her around. At first she didn't want me anywhere but where she could keep both eyes on me, so we had to start with leading from the front, but she soon realised that it would be OK to let me stand by her shoulder instead. However, the back end is still a no-go area, that will need more time I think!

By the end of the hour, we had a far more relaxed pony who was starting to step under with her hinds as we circled and was stopping, backing up and moving off from the lightest of signals. She lowered her head of her own accord and accepted scratches and strokes on her poll and ears. There were a few yawns too! I turned her out in the field next door and she promptly wandered over to the other ponies and went for a lie down. Lessons are obviously  hard work ;-)

Trudi took some video so I could see what her feet were doing. As you can see, at the start, we got stuck a few times. It's amazing how little bend you need to get those hinds really stepping under the body.

After that we stayed to watch some other lessons. There was another in-hand lesson with this rather gorgeous chap

......and a ridden lesson which was very interesting. The horse was falling in to the inside when circling and spiralling but with the simple addition of some outside bend when on the long side of the arena, it helped the horse support itself better in the bends.
What was really interesting was that the rider started off thinking she needed a lot more rein contact to get the horse to listen to her but when Trudi showed her that less is more and how to lengthen the reins a bit the horse seemed a lot more relaxed and responsive.
So a great morning and lots of things to take home and try with my lot :-) And hopefully we can get Trudi to come and do a clinic at the new yard now we've got somewhere to work.......two of my new fellow liveries came along to watch today and found it very interesting :-)

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