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Blog posts about management

24Mar 17

COOLMORE AND A HEALTHY COUNTRYSIDE

THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A PROPER IRISH HORSEMAN

 

Anyone ever heard of Coolmore? You’ve got to love racing to know about this extraordinary place. The racing world is very far from my bed, but when a good friend took me on a little trip to Ireland I was able to admire the stunning valley where Coolmore Stud is situated with my very own eyes and what a treat it was!

It came as a surprise. I have blogged about this trip before; we were staying with proper Irish horseman Ned Norris in County Kilkenny. A warm personality seems to be the norm in Ireland and this man certainly was that. Together with his stalwart wife they made our trip into a complete experience, including being treated as part of the family for the duration of our stay.

 

 ‘THE ARSE WILL TEK YE’

 

We had been looking at and trying quite a few horses during our visit, not only in Kilkenny itself but also in Wexford county which is known for its mean ditches. I have had to politely refuse several great invitations because of those monsters. They would tell me I didn’t have to worry, ‘the arse will tek ye’, which only made me more nervous. The thought to sit on an unstoppable horse in unknown terrain with hedges the size of small houses, a piece of rusty barbed wire here and there, and on top of it the odd ditch of a few metres deep did not at all appeal to me!

 

JAMESON IN THE MORNING, IN THE AFTERNOON AND IN THE EVENING

 

The Irish are incredibly hospitable and if I wasn’t going to ride, I had to drink, Jameson, very delicious, everywhere we went this ‘wee dram’ came out of the cupboard; in the morning,in the afternoon, in the evening. And out would come the old picture albums…beautiful black and white photo’s going back many years. Rugged faces with a bit of gentle mischief in it, completely at home in their beloved countryside on their brave steeds with their hounds and after the fox.

In Holland we only know the drag hunt. When fox hunting turned into drag hunting in England in 2004 it caused a lot of upset and controversy. Among my pupils and friends some were appalled, others took up hunting because of it. Drag hunting is possibly faster, not much waiting around the shrubbery and dens where the cunning fox might be hiding. A good friend, who was taken hunting by her parents as a small child did not like it for that reason. She once told me, ‘I hated it, you were either soaking wet, bored stiff or scared shitless.’

 

MIND BLOWING

 

Other than the fact that the Irish love their hunting, they are equally proud of the world famous Irish thoroughbred and this brings us back to Coolmore.

On our last day, which happened to be a Sunday, the grandchild of our host was being baptized and of course we were invited. It was a grand occasion which, by the way, was in the town of Fethard in Tipperary. (Ever heard of McCarthy’s? This pub, being the regular of the racing fraternity, happened to be opposite the church. I had my first Irish Guinness there!)

So, on this beautifully sunny day, on our way to the service, the car passed through the last line of trees on the brow of a hill and there it was…basking in the autumnal sunshine. The entire valley laid out meticulously with immaculate fields, lanes lined with trees and perfectly trimmed hedges. Some fields had cows in them, others sheep and of course some with horses. Broodmares or youngsters presumably. I can only say, it was mind blowing and overwhelming.

 

HORSE SICK FIELDS AND MUD HOLES

 

What I found most impressive was that, with the Irish thoroughbred being the main interest, it is still run as a mixed farm for the sake of the quality of the fields. As much as I love horses, I do love a happy well-balanced agricultural landscape and have a hard time looking at horse sick fields, or worse, mud holes that don’t even recover anymore during the summer. When I was in Holland last month I saw a few of those there as well and it wasn’t pretty. Not only does it look terrible, colics and worm infections are difficult to avoid when horses have to live like that.

 

THE ULTIMATE BREEDING STATION IN THE WHOLE WORLD

 

The brave fighter pilot Tim Vigors was the original brain behind Coolmore and responsible for extending the farm into a breeding station for race horses. He began after the Second World War with the 175 hectare farm. In 1975 famous horse trainer Vincent O’Brien, together with son-in-law John Magnier and Robert Mangster took over the helm in order to develop the business even further with the vision of creating the ultimate breeding station in the world. The decision to keep the cattle and sheep as a by-product is what makes this valley so extra special and healthy, at the same time still maintaining some of its originality.

 

PROUD HOBBY FARMER

 

For many years I did this myself on a very small scale. On my 20 acres, other than some horses, I had a small flock of sheep and a few beef cows, plus I made haylage to sell. The first and last thing of the day was a walk with my dogs across the fields to check whether everyone was still where they were supposed to be. It was a joy and I took great pride in the fact that my land looked clean and well-managed.

I love riding and looking at horses, but I do also love a well-maintained farmland…

 

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Top picture: Coolmore Stud

Middle: some of the cattle at Coolmore Stud

Bottom: My rescue sheepdog Travel rounding my small flock of Suffolk Mule crosses

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22May 16

A tricky spring for rugs: on... or off?

One of the joys of my job is, that I get to drive through the beautiful Cornish countryside and especially in this time of the year that is such a treat. Although it took some doing, with such a very slow and cold spring, yet again the fields are greener than anywhere else in the world, and livestock is munching away as if there's no tomorrow. I like to check out those fields and of course specifically the ones with horses and/or ponies in it. It surprises and even upsets me when I see some of them still rugged up in the same blanket they've been wearing for all those long winter months on a lovely warm day. 

Only a few weeks ago it suddenly got much warmer and drier at times. Now that I do all my training away from home and I only have one lovely little project in the field, a hardy 15.1 Tinker x thoroughbred who likes it outside far better than in a stable, I ponder every morning and evening what to do with his rug: on...or off. I admit, it is not easy this spring with the wet coming and going and the odd very cold night. Also the midges are playing havoc. But the temperatures are definitely up and for example the previous Sunday it was glorious sunshine all day. On a day like that I can not wait to pull that rug of, as, not only do I know that my horse loves that freedom, a roll and a run without any restriction, but I myself love watching my horse enjoying that freedom.

I know, I know, there's a downside. Mud caked all over if the ground is still wet and having to brush if the rug has to go back on again. But, honestly, isn't that why we've got a horse? Spending time with them with a brush in our hand is well-spent time, a time to connect with your horse, a time where you do the the work for once instead of him (or her).

In professional yards it is relatively easy. There is nearly always someone there to manage any situation. Most competition horses have limited time out as they are worked nearly every day, whereas others have switched by now and are out by night instead of by day and can wear a summer rug at night without any risk of overheating. But then, we have great weather forecasts these days, so it is possible for the general horse owner to make a safe decision in the morning before going to work.

A rug on a hot, sunny day can be as wrong as no rug during rough weather. Even if you don't see any immediate problem, involuntary sweating, because of basically being wrapped up in plastic, can cause skin irritation and summer colds. This is the time of year where a bit of rain during a night with temperatures in double figures, or a dry cold night, only helps your horse to not get too soft. Horses which are not worked regularly, need this rug-less time in order to move their coat, get some oxygen on their skin and enjoy that freedom of which they have lost already so very much. 

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07Mar 16

Pinokkio is telling me: spring is not far off

It is the beginning of March and as always, we're all desperate for spring to arrive. Yesterday when I was brushing my little project turned friend Pinokkio, I saw to my delight the first few winter hairs letting go. However, this also has put me on alert as it inevitably will be going hand in hand with some horses changing their attitude temporarily and generally for the worst, which will make my job a little trickier for a little while. Some horses are more prone to this phenomenon than others; some become listless, others unreliable and a bit 'weird in the head'.

When you think of it, what a process, not only all that hair being released, but also a whole new summer coat has to be produced and installed. And that at a time that nature's food supply is at its poorest. It certainly is one of the toughest times of the year to be on top of our horse's diet and we have to be on alert to increase feeds in time, especially the ones living out. The fields are barren and chewed up and some horses can drop their weight overnight, which is of course nicely hidden by their rug.  

But..... watch the weather forecast as the change can be quick and all of a sudden the grass is growing fast and soon there will be that lovely day when your horse will be begging you for its first roll without a blanket.... in the mud, of course! No better way than to get rid of some of that itchy winter coat.  

 

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17Dec 15

From problem horse to gentleman

Today I visited Paddy for a lunging session. Paddy is a 17 year-old, Irish Draught cross and as his owner has a full-time job, I see him twice a week, once for a lunging session and once for a lesson, unless it is too windy. In that case the lesson tends to be a lunging session, as well.

I've known Paddy for nearly ten years. He was bought to hack and for light schooling. When I saw him work the first time I could see he more or less knew all the tricks, but also that he was not supple, very lazy and with a tendency to shy when pushed a little more. This work pattern was established at his previous home as he had not been here long and his new owner had only hacked him as she did not have a huge amount of experience doing flatwork.

As we started the regular lessons it became obvious to me that this horse was virtually beyond ring sour. He was brainwashed and so depressed that he couldn't even be bothered to nap. He would go on the vertical but with a neck so straight and horizontal that he was blocking his own shoulder completely. Whether it was the chicken or the egg, I do not know, but he tended to move on three tracks, as well. This looked more and more like a problem horse.

The first couple of years we kept it simple, pole work; lunging without side reins and just about going forward and hacking. Once every two weeks we met up for a flatwork session. gradually he was cheering up a bit, but he did have an issue about softening the poll and was still blocking his shoulder far too much. Also, although he would appear lazy on the lunge, if you dared to touch him with the lunging whip he would have a fit to the point of nearly falling over.

I love a challenge and that was a good thing in this case. A major accident on the road turned Paddy into one frightened, but not very little, bunny. It was impossible for his owner, pregnant at the time, to cope with this and so we had to make a plan.

I decided on lunging twice a week and schooling once a week. As Paddy lived out most of the time that could possibly work. The only thing that bothered me was the fact that he had been brainwashed before and I worried about him becoming ring sour again. This was not the case, as a matter of fact the opposite. He became more enthusiastic, gradually got used to the lunging whip and when schooled, started to love his lateral work and we managed to move from a perfect simple change onto a flying change!

By now his owner was ready to ride again and things went well for a time, until disaster hit again. This time a tendon injury, having played too rough when out in the field. After sufficient rest he was put to work again, however, there was more lameness, on different legs without really being able to pinpoint exactly what was going on. By then a vicious circle was established as Paddy was virtually spending most of his time indoors for worry of more injuries, which made him go even more crazy when he did go out. In the end between owner, farrier and trainer the decision was made that Paddy was going to go to his field and time would tell.

After several months Paddy seemed sound again. I suggested that I would be able to set up a remedial lunging plan and was fairly confident that this would be successful. 

A few years on and we are still going strong. It blew a gale today, but Paddy did not mind. We've moved from lunging without side reins to fixed draw reins running through the bit rings behind the poll, to only one side rein on his stiffer side and on to the current situation: side reins attached higher to the saddle so if he wants to, he is able to  go above the bit. However, he is so happy and forward, that he is up in the shoulder but round and softer in the poll than ever, looking for a light contact on the side reins and also my hand. The lunging whip is not needed other than the odd small flick under his belly, in order to remind him to use his core strength. I barely need my voice, it's all body language. 

Paddy's owner rode him the other day and, although occasionally he will try to fix his eyes on some fictive ghost at least a mile away, the two of them did a solid bit of well-balanced work with some shoulder-inns, great simple changes, finishing up with his party piece, his trot extensions.

Woaw, I was so proud. This horse is having fun and it looks like 17 year-old Paddy  might just be on the way to finally becoming a gentleman heading for a sound retirement!

                                   

                                   MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A SOUND NEW YEAR!!

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27Aug 15

Successful come-back after kissing spine for Hazel Clewley with Trundle

It was a tough year for Hazel Clewley and her horse Trundle. During the previous spring it gradually became obvious that the stalwart bay gelding had a problem. Although he wasn't exactly lame he was increasingly irregular in a weird sort of way and when Hazel asked me to get on top in order to feel him, his two canters, right and left, felt completely different. Much more than I could see from the side.

Hazel, being a veterinarian herself, decided to visit Western Counties Equine Clinic near Exeter for a thorough and specialist investigation. Trundle was seen by Chris Johansson, who diagnosed kissing spine. Considering Trundle's age (14 at the time) together with the level of severity he decided to inject  Pitcher Plant extract (as a pain management) and steroid between the affected spinous processes. Trundle was put on rest for a couple of weeks and after that lunged with the Pessoa for another month. Gradually normal work was introduced, however, between Chris and Hazel the decision was made to work him less often, two or three times a week. This would give him sufficient time to relax and avoid another spasm.  As Trundle spends most of his time out in his field and is naturally fit this wasn't a problem. Chris was fairly confident that Trundle would be able to pick up his eventing career again as there was little growth on the vertebrae and the discomfort largely caused by muscle spasm.

Initially I took the muscle spasm quite personal as I'm the one who introduced lateral work in order to help Trundle to become more even. When I met him for the first time he was very stiff to the right and Hazel explained to me that this was an issue from when she bought him. His x-country record was excellent, which was, together with his honest character, what attracted her in him.

I very much kept in mind that he was not a young horse and felt we built it up as gradually as possible. Maintaining the counter canter on the left rein was also an issue for him. Just before it all went pear-shaped all of the hard work seemed to have paid off as shoulder-in, travers, renvers, both counter canters and the beginning of a decent half-pass were established. Also, he really loved his powerful medium trot on the diagonal. .

During Trundle's recovery I helped Hazel with the remedial lunging as it was important that he would work softer when going into his stiffer direction which,  because of the spasm, now had reappeared. Surprisingly quickly though, he started to get happier again and was snorting just as much going to the right, as well as going to the left, maintaining a good rhythm and correct bend. After more or less three months he was back into normal work, what's more, he looked better than ever.

I must say, when I teach Hazel and Trundle I have to restrain myself, as lateral work is now not something we want to do too much of anymore. Pity, as he looks so good when doing it.

But this weekend at Bicton, seeing the two of them take off so very happy, for what turned out to be an excellent x-country round, put tears in my eyes. Driving back the rosette for 9th place gloriously hanging behind us meant a lot more than being placed.

                                   --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  

Top picture: Hazel and Chris Johansson watching Trundle being lunged during his investigation at West Counties Equine Clinic.

Bottom: Hazel and Trundle going strong.

 

 

 

Comments

Such great news that Hazel and Trundle are back enjoying competition. It was about time for a change in fortune for them both. Lx
Lizzie B , 15th September 2015

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27Jul 15

Timing and competition riding

Every so often I join one of my pupils at a competition. It has happened that I am sat waiting in my car in order for the rider to arrive some time later. I'm a strong believer in the  fact that arriving too early never ruins the day, but arriving  too late does. I simply do not see the point of putting all that training time in, paying substantial entry fees, filling my lorry up with a hundred quids worth of fuel in order to end up feeling rushed. Enough nerves are involved already and (don't take me wrong, a healthy lot of nerves can up your game) do not want to be running around like an idiot, proceeding to not be able to find things, getting moody with my horse when trying to get studs in, or worse, not getting them in at all.

I am going to paint you a picture: A red faced rider is moving in a stiff trot to the ring steward to find out where to go, knowing very well that there is very little time left to warm up. The horse had already figured out, the way it was yanked of the lorry and saddle and bridle chucked on that things weren't exactly relaxed and after the stiff trot has its adrenaline running even more so.  Result: frustration is unleashed with perfect timing when the bell of the judge rings.

What a shame, not only is the day partly or completely ruined, but also the chances of the next outing as horses do not forget anything, ever.

I am lucky to have sensible pupils  but also they occasionally underestimate holiday traffic or maybe their horse is a little less willing than normal to walk on the lorry. First piece of  advice: do not pass your hurry on to your horse, but stay in control of your emotions as that gives you the best chance to save what is left. A short but relaxed warm-up is always the better option.

The first time I competed in Cornwall it was in Launceston at Andrew Reeve's yard, some 25 years ago. Being Dutch the problem already started at home. I had to drive the lorry for some 10 minutes along a steep narrow lane, mirrors in, with no passing opportunities at all. No satnav to depend on then, so direction's written out on a large piece of paper. I knew my horse well enough that, it being her first competition as well, she would be 'full of it' to say the least. When I arrived Andy wasn't even up yet and there was no one to be seen. I was on top ever so relaxed well before the rest of the competitor's started to arrive and Marie took it in her stride, literally. I got of again and gave her a hay net for half an hour before I got back on for a short warm-up and she did great.  

Another timing problem, often for event horses at the beginning of the season, is that I hear riders  say: my horse was like an idiot for the dressage but when I got back on for the show-jumping it was fine. 

Simple solution, arrive early, work your horse for a short time, put it away just as you would between dressage and show-jumping, and get back on. Nine out of ten times it works.

If all this rings a bell to you,  then set your alarm a little earlier than you used to at a competition day. I bet it pays off!

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12Dec 14

Winter blues

Although still not terribly cold, winter has definitely brought all the wet and the dark which makes it not so motivating to get tacked up and face up to the elements with a straight back and relaxed seat and all else needed in order to improve our dressage achievements. Often a hack between the hedgerows is a better option as trying to soften your horse on both reins in horizontal rain is a near impossible task. Also, when working full time one is limited to the weekends which adds another challenge to horse training.

Some years ago a pupil of mine had a horrific accident when hacking out on a crisp and sunny winters day. It was triggered of by the sudden appearance of some ferociously barking dogs storming for the horses legs. However, it did not help that the horse was more frisky than usual, not only because of the freezing temperatures but also because of a forecast for quite a major gale.

I am convinced of the fact that horses still have an instinctive sense of what is to come and are far more alert to the point of sharp when there is rough weather around the corner. If they were living in the wild they would have to look for shelter so naturally more adrenaline kicks in which creates the energy needed to take on that task.

Also, twilight seems to frighten them more so as that would be when the animals of prey would be out to look for their meals. In the winter when I am teaching in artificially lit outdoor arena's I prefer to teach when it is completely dark if the lessons are later on in the day for that very reason. 

Twilight is not the time to be hacking around the dark lanes either as for cars it is virtually impossible to identify what is coming towards them. No matter how fluorescent we make ourselves, it is a confusing picture for drivers and doesn't necessarily cause the correct response. 

All this needs to be taken into consideration before we decide to hop on our  horse during winter time. Unless your horse lives out with possibly a shelter the restriction of their stable for most of the time might influence their temperament. You have to know your horse before you decide to go for a hack on a Saturday when your horse has not worked through the week and is stabled as well. Not just for the chances of getting yourself in trouble but also think of its muscles and realise that your horses condition will deteriorate when not worked or out regularly.

Clipped horses should be covered up until the rider gets on and maybe even be worked with a quarter sheet. The cold will make them restless and stiff. Anybody who refuses to accept that should be made to brush their horse in their underpants and see what that feels like.

Lunging or hacking are sometimes better options than training on top as rough weather can really turn a horse of the job which it otherwise likes doing.

And last but not least, additional feeding needs to be sensible. Horses get fit from riding, not from high energy feeds. The best hay or sufficiently dried haylage is often enough for the horse limited to weekend riding. Overfeeding is just as dangerous as underfeeding. The main thing is to assess your horse's condition daily in order to pick up on the small changes. For the well-being  and safety of both of you! 

 

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So very true! Love the photo, is that 'Marie'?
liz Read, 19th December 2014

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17Nov 14

Goodbye Paul Martin, hello Mike Douglas

For many years Paul Martin was very much in my way. On Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons that was. It started well before he ever shod my horses and it wasn't in an equine environment either. Together with his brother, Paul was racing a very fast modern design dinghy and I was crewing on a Troy, a seventy five year old little racing yacht and part of a one-design class in Fowey. At some point during nearly every race we met in the most inconvenient places and our boat nearly always had to 'give way', as they call it in the nautical world. 
Some years later Paul started shoeing for me and other than the fact that he kept my horses sound in the most professional way, he was definitely the most 'on time farrier' I've ever come across. Also, if there was a problem out of hours, including the weekend, Paul would be there. During  the years many of his apprentices turned into very good farriers and I dare say, this had a lot to do with his desire to pass on his knowledge. Often, when I turned up with the coffee (Paul liked my coffee!) he was patiently talking the boys through some or other issue. I myself learned a lot from those sessions.
Paul has always been able to give his life an adventurous twist. He once managed to book a flying lesson in order to take an apprentice to Peterborough for a college interview . The reason being that it took less time than driving up there and not a days work would be lost.
When Paul and his wife Jenny got together, some years ago, it was obvious she had a similar liking for a bit of adventure and both seemed to be drawn to island life, tropical I hasten to add. So soon the gossip went around that plans were being made to up sticks and try a different life style in the Virgin Islands.
Well, I think they are flying in a couple of weeks time.  I know the area well as I used to crew on yachts for which the destination was exactly there. It is beautiful, great sailing and lush and warm.
I wish them all the best with their new life and am saving for a ticket! And we, horse owners are lucky to have Mike Douglas who has stepped into Paul's shoes with similar dedication!

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We will miss him!
liz Read, 17th November 2014

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07Aug 14

The thing you really don't want to think about

When you are thinking of buying a horse, there are lots of things you have to consider. One of the things to think about carefully is the one thing you never like to think about. One day your horse will probably have to be put down. Hopefully because of old age, sometimes because of an injury or a disease.

In the twenty five years I have owned horses I had to make that decision more than once. My farrier at the time, Brian Webber, gave me some great advice: You, as an owner should probably not be holding your own horse when it is put down. Your emotional state could very well worry your horse. Ask a dear and competent horse connection to do it for you.

It made sense at the time and several times I took his advice. The last one, however, my very loyal Prix St. George horse Marie, was a different matter altogether. She was not to be trusted with others and I knew it had to be me at the other end of the rope. It went as well as it possibly could….. for her. I was proud of the accomplishment, but traumatised.

It is different from a dog or a cat, somehow. That is because it’s so very big and to put it bluntly it makes a terrible thumping sound when this huge body lands on the ground. That’s what they call dead weight.

Also, for your vet it doesn’t make things any easier when confronted with your emotions. For them it is something that comes with the job but not something they enjoy doing. It is important for them, in order to do it right, to be able to concentrate and not to be distracted by your emotions.

So I do think my friend Brian was right. He had some more advice, though. He thought shooting was better than injecting. Being from Holland, it never occurred to me to have your horse shot. But I did see the point Brian tried to make about how quick it went and how slow sometimes the injection is. So I did that several times. Somehow, when it came to having to hold Marie, I could not face up to the shooting. Since that time I have held more horses when put down by injection. I honestly have never seen a horse worry and do not think there is much in it. Also, if your horse needed an operation it would go through the same initial thing.

A horse can’t think in the future so it does not know whether the injection is for getting better or in order to die.

Oh, and one more piece of advice: don’t wait too long and keep the suffering to a minimum. We owe them that, after everything they have done for us.

 

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19Jun 14

Your horse as a body-builder

Your horse as a body builder

The process of guiding your horse through its career is not always a smooth one. We are learning as the horse is learning so mistakes will be made. My philosophy has always been: as long as we are not purposely torturing our horse and doing everything we can to overcome the obstacles, our horses will forgive us.

In the wild horses are busy looking for food, water, shade or shelter and can’t always find it. It is freedom but tough. Predators are another serious issue. When our horse lives with us it has none of those problems (I hope!). Fresh water every day, a field shelter or a stable with plenty of bedding and probably more food than necessary. In order to have that cushy life they have to do one hour of work for us six days a week, with the odd uncomfortable moment because we get it wrong.

One of the things we must take quite seriously, though, is muscle soreness. We ourselves complain, after a serious flatwork session or even a long old hack, about barely being able to walk. We often forget that our horse will probably feel the same. Our horse needs to be treated like an athlete, just like for example a body-builder.

It is very important to be able to detect whether the horse is muscle sore and find out why. Is it because of the correct exercises and it will settle down with a long walk, have you overdone it and need more days with light work to overcome the stiffness or is it a balance problem between you and your horse which needs attention?

As the horse moves from being an inexperienced and undeveloped youngster to the higher levels dressage, show-jumping, eventing or any other equine sport the changes in its body are enormous. Here are two interesting examples.

Years ago, when fairly inexperienced but really keen, I was visiting a top dressage yard. As I was wandering around the stables when most horses were having a nap after their midday feed they all seemed to be asleep kind of `on the bit’ but in a completely relaxed state. So far all the horses I had seen asleep were dangling their head way down. By the time I produced my first horse to Prix St. Georges she slept the same way. I realised, it is all muscle!

Not too long ago I was lunging a very good horse for a client. I have lunged him once a week for just over a year, as he was a bit of a challenge for his owner, at times. At the end of the session I asked her to come and have a look at the side reins. I wanted to show her on the horse the difference in length of the side reins between now and a year ago: three inches. Also they now were attached nearly on the withers. During that process he has developed a keen interest in his job instead of pulling tricks to avoid a bit of sweat. We monitored this development like hawks.

A sore horse just does not enjoy its work and also, it is cruel and can create serious injuries.

 

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31May 14

Ghosts

In most riding arena's will be a stack of jumping poles somewhere. My worst scenario is that there are jumps all over the place as it restricts me sometimes in my teaching. A few poles nearby come in handy with younger horses or horses that are not that interested in flatwork.

The strange thing is, that whenever the jumps are stacked outside the arena, for whatever reason they seem to always be at the far end. 

Imagine you are a young horse and you are going to have your first ridden experience in an arena. As soon as you come in there is a ghost lurking in the distance. you know where you just came from and where it felt safe. So that is where you want to go back to. This is exactly how often in the very beginning a pattern with `a ghost in the corner' is set.

Horses are animals of flight and in an arena most of them are secretly dreaming of their stable or their field. In my experience the whole issue of `the ghost at the far end' changes a great deal when for starters the jumps are living near the entrance and the end of the arena is made as inviting as possible. As a trainer, when I realize there is an issue with shying, I position myself near the spot where it occurs -more often than not it happens at the same spot- and talk the horse through it. Also, that is where it will be given a brake, a pet and sometimes a treat and also where the rider and I discuss what we are doing and why we are doing what, during the session. This way the area where the shying kept occurring will hopefully turn into a good place to relax a bit.

Do not... get upset or angry when your horse irritates you no end with shying at the same place, again and again. It will make it worse. There are other ways and better ways. One with a person on the ground in  the right place, as discussed above. And for the more experienced horse and rider there is a more technical approach. But that is for another time.   

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22May 14

Welcome to my blog

As a horse lover and dressage trainer I have watched, sat on, lunged, in short, studied horses and riders for over thirty five years and loved every minute of it. It is what makes me tick. Through those years many issues keep on reoccurring. What interests me particularly is, no matter what anybody’s aim is with their horse it should always be fair and with the best interest of the horse in mind. So, if you love your horse and you are a rider, please keep reading

I am aiming to give you solid and clear information so you will understand your horse and its potential problems better. If this improves your competition results, well, that is a bonus. For me competition was never the drive to train horses, although I did compete, really only to check whether I was where I wanted to be, and thought I was, in my training. Some people need competitions to stay motivated. No matter what your drive is, at the end of the day you will get most out of your horse when it feels good, in its spare time and its work. No romance will blossom unless your horse is on your side. It is all about partnership and not about ego trip.

I hope you will enjoy and appreciate my effort to give you a regular tip so check the website and if you have questions, send me an e-mail and I will try to use it as a future topic.

 

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Hi Liz! I will think of some topics soon!
Helen Chandler, 27th May 2014

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Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

About Liz Barclay

Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.

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