Saturday, 8 July 2017

Ideas to move your horsemanship forward

Handsomely fixated by a goat climbing through the hedge
I'm riding Zed again, and this very fact makes we wish to launch fireworks from the roof of my house while performing the can-can. Maybe dressed as Wonder Woman. Or a bumble bee.

He is doing really well, and barely headshaking. He's also back in a full bridle complete with noseband and browband. To be on the safe side he had an endoscope to make sure nothing was stuck up his nose or lurking in his guttural pouches and everything looked as it should. No slime. No pebbles etc. 

I think now that the headshaking happened because he's allergic to something that's no longer in bloom (maybe rapeseed or summit?) or was just some kind of frustration spawned during evil box rest. 

Either way, he's rideable, and for the past week that's just what we've done. Mainly in and around the big field where the cross country jumps live because I'm starting to feel arena-phobia. 

But man-oh-man it has been weird going from schoolmasters back to a youngster. Suddenly all my nasty little habits have sprung up again. Lower leg rammed forward? Check! Hunched shoulders? Check!


So where else to turn but to my Facebook friends, searching for words of wisdom relating to progress and hopefully turning me into an Olympic-style dressage rider in seven days or less.

This was my question. 

Horsey friends, can I pick at your mighty brains? What's the best action you took, or habit you developed, that really moved your horsemanship forward? All ideas welcome! Thank you.

And I was not disappointed. In fact I was really surprised at how different many of the answers are, and how many are actually just really good life advice. Some are super practical, some more philosophical. Number 8 made me laugh, number 4 blew me away because it's simple but so true.

Here they are, in no particular order.

1. I think learning signs of pain was important - so I could differentiate between 'naughty' and red flags for painful. The other major thing for me was to not bring my problems with me when I went out to my horses - if I was having a bad day at work I needed to learn to take a few deep breaths, go catch my horse and turn off to all other things that were outside 'just me and my horse'. I found this to be a conscious thing I had to do.

2. Pretended a fence was just a BIG canter stride! Especially cross-country and hunting. Didn't try and set him up, just got the best approach, with a forward going / thinking canter stride....kept the leg on and looked above and beyond the fence. 

3. Gave total control to my horse.

4. You have to learn to feel, not think.

5. Teach and train the horse don't force.

6. You have to learn to control your own emotions so your horse can control his.

7. Control the horse's feet, don't let them control yours.

8. Best action - ditching the horses and moving to dogs. I'm not even joking. I have no advice. Maybe shut your eyes and kick if you are scared?

9. Patience! Nothing comes easy you have to work for it.

10. Stopped caring about what other people thought and told me to do with my horses and just did what I felt was 'right' myself. Moved off livery yards and got my own place! 

11. Think outside of the box, realise there is never one right answer when it comes to horses and be confident in your decision. If it's wrong you learn from it and move on.

12. Both my horses have taught me great patience, to think outside the box (not something I'm that good at) and that sometimes it's best to take a step back, breath, do something else then revisit and usually we take a step forward no matter how small. One habit I've learned is to take a positive or learning point out of every situation and try not to dwell on the negatives too much - not always easy.

13. The fear of losing my horse made me lose my horse goals and gave me so much peace.

14. Horses will throw anything and everything at you. It never goes according to plan. But there's no substitute for hard work, always stick with it cos when it all eventually comes together it's the best feeling ever.

15. If you can improve just half a per cent each day - in 200 days, you'll be 100 per cent better.

16. Do what you enjoy with your ponies and be brave and do what they love too, the bond you gain is priceless.

As I said before, number 4 really stood out for me and this morning I crept out of the house early to ride in the quiet sunshine. I tried my damnedest to just clear my head and feel what was going on and it instantly made me feel more sympathetic and less reactive. Zed seemed to appreciate it too and was much more relaxed. I'm pretty excited to see where all these ideas take us. 

What about you? What made the crucial difference? Or are you still searching for answers? 

I am concerned Zed will never be slim again. Six months off was not kind to his lard levels


  1. I love reading your blog, you have a wonderful growth mindset. .Zed is a lucky man xxxxx

    1. Thank you, Kelly :) That's really kind of you to say. I'm not sure he agrees now that his six-month holiday is over ha ha ! xxx