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Monday, 26 September 2011

My Book!

I bought a book recently about training cobs, by someone who has trained them to a high level and, although I haven't finished it yet and there's loads of useful information in there and I'm sure I'll learn a lot, I'm slightly disappointed that it's not quite the book that I thought it was going to be.

This is all very good though as it's spurring me on to write the book that I wanted it to be! Mine won't be specifically about training cobs but about bringing out the very best in the ordinary, family type horse or pony.

This has been a bit of a theme with me for the whole of my working life. I could only ever afford ponies that no-one else wanted and they ended up being ponies that everyone wanted!

The first, when I was about 20, was a 14 hand very round cob called Ben. He had a reputation as being uncatchable in the field and a runaway when ridden (one potential buyer had said he should be put down before he killed someone) but he'd been through a few dealers hands and had just become very scared of people. Once I'd spent enough time with him and he'd realised I was a friend he was the sweetest, gentlest, kindest, most genuine pony ever born. People used to say that he always looked happy.

I used to take him hunting and have people on big, flashy horses looking down their noses slightly at us at the meet, then they'd be queuing up behind him for a lead after a few fences as he'd have a go at jumping just about anything! He also did a very respectable dressage test and qualified for The South of England Family Pony Championships, and was 7th at the final in a huge class (and some of the spectators became his fan club, saying he was the only true family pony there!). I bought him when he was 8 and kept him for the rest of his life and he's buried here.
Ben. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can see what a lovely, kind face he had.

Then I was given a 14.2 very cobby grey called Jonesy. He had been much too strong and lively for his owners and when he got excited he would literally try to jump anything, even if you didn't want him to! After some very hairy moments we began to understand each other and he calmed right down, to the extent that I used to ride him out around the lanes and fields leading Ben and my Golden Retriever, BJ, both of them on lead reins with BJ trotting along in front of Ben. Not very safe, I know, but I was young and even more foolish, and my animals luckily had more sense than me so we never came to any harm!

I was invited to go Team Chasing with a team of TBs. There was no way we could keep up with them but we'd catch them up at every fence with a ditch because they'd have to wait for Jonesy to give them a lead, then they'd disappear over the horizon until the next ditch fence! I had Jonesy from the age of 12 until he died at 30 and he's buried next to his great friend Ben.

There was also Robert, 15.3 with attitude! Robert had decided that he didn't like work and went in for passive resistance! I was asked to ride him because he'd plant himself and refuse to go anywhere he didn't fancy, which was just about everywhere! I long-reined him to get him going then discovered that he too loved jumping and we were away. I managed to get him over refusing to load by riding him into the horsebox (not to be recommended really but nothing else had worked and we were desperate!), as he was by then so good at going wherever he was asked when I was on his back. We could then go to shows and won loads together, including local opens up to 4ft, which would look absolutely massive to me now! I rode him for a couple of years and he then went to a lovely home to do Pony Club Show Jumping with a teenager.

I've always concentrated on making friends of my horses and tried to base training them on reward as much as possible. The clicker has just speeded everything up so much, made communication so much more clear and precise, and eliminated all those elements of misunderstanding, and the inevitable frustration that goes with it, for me and for my horses. It opens up so many more ways of discovering what horses are good at and enjoy, and so many more possibilities for bringing out the best in them and training them to have a good attitude towards their work and towards their trainers/riders.

I had part one of an article published online recently, here,
and was then asked by the sister magazine, Your Horse, to answer a reader's training question which I think is going to be in the magazine. I was embarrassed at being described as "clicker training expert" but the editor of Horse Deals has a Dales pony she was having trouble with and has had so much success after following my suggestions that she is now my number one fan!

I love writing and think the book will be my next project!!!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Trying Something New.

Mike and I have booked a western lesson at David Deptford's Sovereign Quarter Horses in a couple of weeks time. I'm having an hours lesson and Mike half an hour (I've only had him riding twice so far and, although his confidence has come on in leaps and bounds, he hasn't even trotted yet so we must find time to do a bit more at home before then!).

Impatient to begin as always, I bought a used treeless Barefoot Arizona saddle on eBay last week and I LOVE it!!! It's incredibly comfortable and doesn't put me in a chair seat, which I had thought it might. I've ridden Jack and Grace in it so far and they seem very happy in it. I am finding it difficult to tighten the cinch sufficiently (it's so different to English girthing) which means the saddle is slipping back quite badly but never slips at all laterally, Jack and Grace don't seem to mind but I do need to sort it though as I end up with far too much horse in front of the saddle!

I think that Jack would be perfect for western as he's much happier and more confident if he can keep his head carriage low and I always feel mean trying to encourage him to raise it. He copes with his limited sight much better with his head low, in the 'confident horse' position and I'm sure he knows what's best for him in this case. I'm also much more of a western style rider really, I think, and it would be great to find something that Jack could really shine in - outdo his younger sister Bella for once!!

I'm really looking forward to having a ride on a Quarter Horse as it's years now since I sat on a different type of horse to my cobby lot.

Photos of Jack and then Grace with the saddle.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Cycletta South

I took part in a 40k cycle event on Sunday. It was the first women only event of it's kind, designed to promote cycling as a healthy activity for women. I entered some time ago and really meant to train for it but never found the time, apart from one longish ride a month ago!

I LOVED every moment of it!!! Everyone else looked very professional, in proper cycling gear, and I was the only person I saw with a basket on the front of the bike so I was convinced I'd be the slowest by miles! In fact I started to overtake people as soon as we hit the first steep hill (there are lots around here!) and carried on overtaking all the way around. I LOVE overtaking people - I am such a sad case!!!!

I finished in a respectable time and determined to train properly next time and get much faster! I even escaped any aches and pains so I must be fairly cycling fit even without doing any, which can't be bad! I love my trusty bike which was given to me second hand and beat loads of flashy bikes!!! Can't wait until the next one!

Here is a link to the photo I've ordered as a memento:

Saturday, 3 September 2011

I've been really enjoying my ponies lately. We've had some lovely weather and I'm very happy and positive about life again now. I feel that I really am 100% recovered and it's only taken two and a half years!!!!!!!!

Through a friend of a friend I've managed to arrange for Anne Wilson to come here and give me a lesson on Bella soon. She's been very ill but is also just about 100% recovered now. I've been doing lots of trot, rein back, trot with Bella and now sometimes get such big, bouncy strides I have trouble sitting them so I'm hoping Anne can help me progress towards piaffe and passage (I don't ask much, do I?!!!).

Bella is looking brilliant at the moment - very fit and shiny, and is full of enthusiasm for work including for cantering, which is a real breakthrough!

I've also started riding Jack regularly again. I've hardly ridden him at all for the last two and a half years and I can't believe his attitude to work now. I have to keep steadying him in trot as he starts to rush sometimes, he's so keen to please, and he carries himself beautifully. He is so much bigger and more powerful than Bella that he gives me a totally different feel and I'd forgotten how much I love riding him.

Merlin is coming on really well too. I'm doing lots of in-hand work with him at the moment, to teach him to accept the bit and aids, and to bend and step over Into the the outside rein. He is very sweet to work with, always happy and trying his best, and he is fast getting the hang of lateral work, rein back, etc. He's still a bit "chompy" with the bit at times but I'd been working him without one until quite recently and he's already carrying it quietly in his mouth for some of the time.

He's also amazingly bold these days, unrecognisable from the scared, bedraggled pony who jumped and snorted at everything and everyone when he first arrived.

Grace is also very well and much in demand with liveries who want someeone quiet as an escort. I was riding out with a friend the other day who said she was the perfect pony and "I want one just like her - in fact I want that one!" pointing at Grace.

I am very lucky!!!
Three photos of Bella, then Jack having his post work snack, then Merlin looking rather round!


About Me

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I am a clicker training addict and there is no cure - thank goodness!!!