Firstly, please excuse the mud, there is only so much you can do with the swamp-beast Saf at this time of the year! On Saturday, a different lesson with Max. I’ve hardly ridden Saf recently other than hacking, so I didn’t think it would be fair to expect her to do a lesson (apart from the fact that the ground is still far too wet really). So, we had a wonderful in-hand lesson. There’s a lot that can be learned from books (I have Oliver Hilberger’s ‘Schooling Exercises In-Hand’ and have just started ‘Horse Training In-Hand, A Modern Guide to Training from the Ground’). However, there is only so much you can read until you need to be shown by a pro!
We started by working on keeping Saf out of my personal space, something I have neglected over the years. It’s odd, but I always thought Saf was good to handle but when you really analyse it it’s obvious that she does get into my space. As with everything with horses, repetition is key. She got the idea well enough, but it’s just so ingrained into her that it’ll be difficult to fix, so I must be aware of it all the time. She was also extremely looky, there were major building work going on next door, and she can see right into the site and the guys next door were gathering for their bi-monthly shoot. It was interesting to watch Max working with Saf, and she was constantly scanning the area with her eyes with every footfall. A combination of the personal space work and keeping her interested in what we were doing got her attention back on her handler, but it was only fleeting and had to be constantly sought.
After a lot of work by Max, she’d softened quite nicely on the left rein, so I had a go to see if I could co-ordinate my arms and legs. Just like riding, there are a million things to think about. I need to have my leading arm extended but not rigid, it should be in front of Saf’s nose. I must never, ever step back (personal space issues!) then I’m holding the whip in the other hand for any forward momentum, then the same hand is aiding the shoulder to move away. Max explained that if I were to just pop Saf on the lunge and send her on, unless she had been shown properly how to move on the circle, it would be pointless as she’d be moving incorrectly.
On the right rein I had more trouble as this is her stiffer side anyway. I worked on a small circle, keeping her shoulder out of my space, having her attention and gradually managed to increase the size of the circle. Very hard work! It was an absolutely fascinating lesson, and I can’t wait to have another. Just need to get lots of practice in in the meantime.