Belle and I had a fantastic time with the children at Elsley Primary School in Wembley this morning.
For some of the children participating in the workshops, this was their very first ever up-close encounter with a pony. And although they were a little nervous/anxious at first, Belle’s irresistible charm and calm temperament soon won them over.
Before long, the children (ages ranging from 4-10 years old) were keen to stroke & brush the pony while using newly learned equestrian vocabulary appropriately.
We discussed how to behave safely around horses, learned that their height is measured in hands and that a brown-coloured horse with black mane & tail is called bay. We also came up with a rhyme to remember some of these new words: Belle’s colour is bay and she likes to eat hay🐴 .
It was amazing to hear the children express that even during that very first session, being around the pony made them feel happy, calm and gave them confidence! Wow!!
I am very excited to be part of their journey through this unique 10-week Programm and look forward to see what insights & new experiences we can all share with each other over the coming weeks…
Remember Ted who wouldn’t stand still at the mounting block?
At long last we are getting there!
Ted came to his current owners with a serious hang-up about mounting blocks. Getting him near one was the first challenge… and standing still while trying to mount a whole different ball game! But standing still & patiently is absolutely crucial for the owners as they would otherwise be unable to mount unaided and ride him.
So we’ve been trying various approaches and methods to solve the mounting block challenge, but all just with limited success – until now J. Jo did some research / homework watching some ‘Intelligent Horsemanship’ (Kelly Marks) videos and put her learning into practice for the last two weeks. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I turned up to our session last week, as Ted stood quietly and patiently at the block, allowing Jo and me to get on board without moving a muscle. What a fantastic result!
However… it turns out Ted only likes the wooden mounting block OUTSIDE the arena and NOT the blue plastic one INSIDE the arena J So we still got our work cut out, but I’m so pleased with the progress that’s been made thus far – as they say: don’t despise the days of small beginnings. Well done Joanne!
I’ve also started schooling Ted in autumn last year to get him back to fitness and we’re making great progress. Ted’s balance and core strength have improved enormously. Where he was previously unable to transition into canter correctly on the right rein, this is now no longer a problem, and his canter is no longer flat and sloppy. I’ve also started with lateral work in walk, and today he’s given me some great steps in shoulder-in.
Ted is a very smart horse and a quick learner, and as his fitness is improving, he’s really starting to enjoy his work.
The aim of our coaching sessions is to prepare Joanne & Ted for a local show this summer and put Ted’s hooves perhaps to an Intro dressage test. So onwards and upwards we go J
The photos below were taken during sessions in autumn last year.
Have a great week, and as always – feel free to share & comment.
Happy New Year everyone! Hope you are having a great start into 2017…praying it will be a healthy, successful and adventurous one for you all 🙂
Having enjoyed a much needed break for family time & reflection over Christmas & New Year, work’s now back in full swing… I have to admit: the extra early mornings (especially at weekends) to fit stable duties into my daily routine are tough, and I am really looking forward to lighter days & milder nights to make our routine a little easier… some way to go…sigh 🙂
After removing the stable mirror from Skye’s stable wall, I’m pleased to say that lasting peace and harmony have been fully restored. No further rise for concern.
I’ve also started with some leg stretching prior to exercising, for the same reason as we should stretch before exercise. It helps loosen, warm up & strengthen muscles and tendons, potentially preventing (some) exercise-induced injuries.
I am so pleased with Skye’s progress to date. I’ve continued working on the LFS, always starting with lateral bending in stand-still. As we’re working on improving her lateral bend, especially to the left, I’m beginning to see small improvements. Where bending her neck about 15-20 cm to the left caused her to tilt her head (due to tightness/stiffness in her left hip/pelvis), she can now stretch to about double that distance, without any tilting at all. That’s huge in my books…
Her right hind leg is a very ‘pushy’ one, over-compensating for the lack of power in the left hind, so she over-reaches as a result. Therefore I’ve been working on slowing her walk down, asking for a bend through her whole body, shifting her weight from her forehand to her hindquarters, and asking for that right hind leg to step forward and under towards her point of mass, thus becoming a more weight-bearing leg too. She finds that difficult and tries to rush through the movements. So the key is to keep her concentration and motivated by praising her often for even the slightest effort and correct movement and offer her lots of little breaks/downtime in between the exercises. That’s working great.
I also got my two sons Elijah & Aryeh involved in the training process, because I believe that this is the best way to raise a new generation of great horsemen & women, developing their skills & awareness from a young age. I am so proud of these two as they’ve made some great observations over the past weeks and we’ve had some very interesting conversations about Skye’s journey. The boys noticed the difference in stride length & rhythm and were able to articulate the benefits of the LFS on the circle ( I had not discussed this with them before) – I could not have put it in better words myself! You may say I’m biased as their mum… well, perhaps I am a little, but I was impressed none-the-less 🙂
We all can learn so much from our children when we are willing to listen and give them a platform to shine…
Skye has such a big heart and just loves to explore, her inquisitiveness makes teaching/ working with her so easy and such a pleasure.
And last week she greeted me for the first time with a little neigh in the morning as I entered her stable…that was such a special moment 🙂
So we are on the right track, and I am very hopeful for Skye’s future.
I am having the privilege & pleasure of starting this handsome young horse Fin. He has a super-sweet character and is a very quick learner. The pictures were taken from his 2nd session last week, as he starts to learn correct lateral bending, stretching forward down and stepping forward under towards his point of mass.
At only just three and with lots more growing & maturing to do, his owner (& my lovely friend) Lynne will give him all the time he needs to learn & develop in a happy, calm environment. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your exciting journey.
6-7 sessions into schooling, we are continuing to focus on the basics of Straightness Training (ST), working on the LFS standing still and on circles in walk & trot. The quality of Fin’s steps, his balance & rhythm have already improved so much. He’s always so focussed and mirrors my energy & intentions. My cues to transitions from one tempi to another, to turn, to back up etc. are becoming more subtle as we’re becoming more in tuned with each other. I’m really excited about our progress so far.
I’ve also introduced the mounting block for the first time last week (see video) and it was great so see how relaxed and inquisitive Fin was, despite the fairly strong wind that day.
We revisited the mounting block this morning again and I was able to lean across his back without him moving or getting tense.
At the end of the session the opportunity arose to check out a trailer and see how Fin would feel about exploring it close up. At first, Fin thought it was a pretty scary thing and was snorting and shaking like a leaf. But with a little reassurance and patience, he soon relaxed and was happy to “test the waters” with both front feet on the ramp!
What a brave boy! Proud moment for his mummy Lynne and a perfect finish to a great session.
Watch this space for future updates on how Fin is getting on.
Time flies…and my plan to blog weekly went straight out the window. But here I am with an update on what we’ve been up to over the past 12 days.
Skye’s settled in brilliantly, so much so that it feels like she’s always been here. If anything, I’m the one having to adjust to a new routine of fitting her care & training into my existing, already very busy work & family schedule. But I’m getting there…
According to her owner, Skye has always been at the bottom of the herd hierarchy. So to everyone’s astonishment, Skye has become best buddies with the ‘bossiest’ mare out in the field! So when none of the other horses can come to the gate because ‘bossy boots’ Millie is hogging the spot, Skye is right by her side and no-one is troubling her 🙂 What a smart move, making catching in even easier. Not that this has ever been a problem, as Skye came to call from day one. That was such a lovely feeling…
I mentioned last time that Skye has started to show some aggressive behaviour (launching, biting & kicking) at feed time towards her reflection in her stable mirror, which she perceived as potential competition for food. Having monitored her responses closely during the week, my husband and I decided to take the mirror off the wall tonight, as Skye became progressively more defensive, protecting her food & stable against the perceived intruder. When bringing her into her stable tonight, she initially turned towards the wall the mirror had been on, but when she didn’t see ‘the other horse’, she turned to her feed bowl and ate her dinner calmly. That was a big relief – I’m sure for her too.
Her ST training is progressing nicely too. We are working on improving the LFS standing and on the circle. The lateral bend to the left continues to be difficult for Skye, and I am more and more convinced that this is due to stiffness/tightness/ asymmetry in the left hip/left side of her body. Correct exercises will address this over time, by stretching the tighter muscles on the left side of her body and helping the longer muscles on the right to contract more. As Skye learns to shift more of her body weight from her forehand towards her hindquarters and carry more weight through her hocks, the lighter her forehand and the more uphill her movements will become.
I also introduced Skye to Long-lines for the first time this week. And she was an absolute ‘pro’ – the proof is in the pudding…well, in the picture 🙂
So far, Skye hasn’t put a hoof wrong and she is just a delight to be & work with. Life is sweet…
Have a great week and please feel free to share & comment.
Last Sunday, 13th November, this beautiful 3yo Thoroughbred mare ‘Skye’ came to me to be retrained and schooled over the next 3-6 months.
Skye was bought at auction as a 2yo by her current owner Liz , when it was decided that life as a racehorse was not for her. She then enjoyed living for 12 months in a small herd in her new home, forgetting the racing world and just being allowed to grow, play and – well just be a young horse 🙂
When my family and I first met Skye some months ago, we were most touched by her gentleness and calmness (apart from her gorgeous looks of course!) Even my non-horsey husband felt so comfortable around her in and out of the stable and was quite happy leading her to and from the field. She really just loves people! During a recent conversation with Liz, she felt that it was time for Skye to re-start her education and that this young horse would really benefit from Straightness Training (ST) (www.straightnesstraining.com). So when asked, I agreed to take Skye on to help her develop her potential.
And so our journey began….
Over the last 7 days Skye has settled really well into her new home here with me in Greater London. In fact she is so well adjusted, it seems like she’s been with us forever! She loves her ‘deluxe’ stable with a great big mirror on one side 🙂 But it was interesting to observe that a couple of days ago at feeding time, she started to treat her reflection as an unwelcome ‘intruder’ and tried to tell the ‘other horse’ off!
Although I’m not quite yet greeted with a little neigh in the mornings, Skye and I are bonding well during grooming and our training sessions. She loves a cuddle and a good scratch just at the base of her neck and between her shoulder blade & withers. She’s a bright little mare, learning really quickly. She’s learning to yield to pressure, rather than going into it, and to choose to do something rather than just to ‘be obedient’ – which is quite different.
So far, we’ve had 4 short ST sessions, working on LFS (L=lateral bending; F = stretching forward down; S= stepping forward & under towards to point of mass) standing still and walking on a circle. Skye is finding bending to the left quite tricky, sometimes tilting her head a little (which may indicate tightness in her hip), while bending to the right is a little easier and we are achieving a much rounder shape/bend through the whole body. But it is early days and improvement will come with time and patience – both of which I have in abundance. And what I really like about this little mare is her ‘can-do’ attitude. She does it all with a smile…well, she would if she could 🙂
The specifically designed & structured exercises will help Skye to develop balance (physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually), core strength, rhythm and the right muscles for self-carriage and to carry a rider.
I am really pleased with the start we’ve made and I’m so excited about what lies ahead of us on this journey we’ve embarked on together. I will endeavour to post weekly updates on the progress we’re making and hope you’ll be following us keenly as Skye is ‘finding her hooves’…
On Sunday I delivered the 2nd Equine Facilitated Leadership workshop for a group of teenage girls from Kensington Temple London City Church’s Youth Mentoring Programme, held at Moorwards Farm, Equestrian Coaching Facility. The girls & leaders were fantastic participants and we learned so much from each other and the horses during the afternoon. We came away with fresh ideas and inspiration about discovering who we are, finding our purpose in life, and how to become better future leaders. This is what some of the participants had to say:
“Bea has inspired me – she is doing what she was born to do & I want to do the same.”
“I learned the virtue of gentle obedience.”
“Thank you so much for this wonderful experience. I feel as though I am more conscious.”
I feel incredibly blessed and privileged for knowing that I am walking in my purpose, doing what I was created to do and sharing my passion & knowledge with our future generation! Go and inspire someone today…