Every time we buy a new horse, we always say we’re going to take before and after photos so we can see how much they have changed. When you’re working on something day in day out, it makes it difficult to take a step back and see all the minute improvements that have been made to create a better overall picture. We have had Midget for just over 6 weeks now, and it’s amazing how much he has developed in such a short space of time.
Anyone who knows me well, knows I absoloutely hate change, so you can only imagine just how sceptical I was about diving into the unknown with a new horse and two new coaches instead of one. It’s not so bad if you already have a relationship with the coach and change horse or visa Versa, so I thought the whole idea of having to create a whole new system between us all was going to be very difficult.
If there’s one thing that makes me feel even more uneasy than change, it’s entrusting new people within the team with the biggest task of developing and improving my horse in a way that suits my riding ability. Over the years of working with various trainers, I have seen how difficult it is for trainers to adapt their riding style in a way that can set the horse up to my aids for when I get on, because they all just revert back to making the horse feel how they want it to feel for them, not me.
If I’m being totally honest, that was my biggest reservation about working with Jade initially, because her riding is so neat and tidy, I wasn’t sure if she would be able to adapt in order to be an effective support rider for me, but she couldn’t of proved me more wrong about this if she had tried! Every time I get on after she has warmed up, I can feel more and more of a difference, which shows just how much Jade is able to adapt her riding in order to create the feel I need when I get on. Those who know me will know I struggle to give compliments out loud, as it makes me feel soppy which gives me this sickening feeling , so feel honoured about the sentence above Jade!
Two of the main things we have to work on at the beginning with a new horse, including Midget is the forwardness and the contact. Forwardness is a fundamental that has to be incorporated with any training, regardless of whether that’s a Para horse or not, but due to the fact I more or less ride one handed with a rigid bar rein, the forwardness is the key to the horse being maneuerable for me, which in turn enables the contact.
That all sounds pretty straight forward, but the only way I can produce a still and even contact through the rein is by taking a hold of the bar, which initially means I have to hold the bar as close to the pommel of the saddle as possible until he gives and accepts the rein, which as a reward I will release too. Obviously, when the horse fully accepts the contact with the bar, the aids I give to soften will be a lot more refined when Midget fully understands the aids,
It’s also important to understand that the half halt aid for horses that have worked at a lower level is actually by taking up more of a hold on the rein as well, which causes confusion initially when teaching them to go into the contact with the bar, as their usual half halt aid is the same as my soften aid, which is why we have worked hard on improving Midget’s forward thinking attitude, so we can then teach him the soften aid, and later on teach him that the half halt aid is actually when I tense my seat and core muscles.
The whole process of getting Midget to accept a true contact with the bar rein has pleasantly surprised me, as it’s taken a lot less time for him to fully accept the rein, but more importantly, it’s enabled myself and Jade to start building a good working relationship a lot quicker due to the fact we have had something to properly get our teeth into, and work in synchronisation with the system and process we have put into place in order to achieve that correct contact before we can move onto the next building block of our journey together.
The first month of owning a new horse is also busy for everyone else within the team, as it includes initiial visits from the physio, farrier, and saddler to assess what work we need to do with Midget over the next month or two to crack down on the fundamentals in order to optimise any improvements we make in the correct way, which ultimately will have a positive effect on the improved performance Midget produces in the long run.
My team have always had a divided opinion on most of the horses I have had in the past for some reason or other, whether that’s because they’re not trainable, too Asymmetric, not great confirmation to fit a saddle too, or the hoof anatomy is difficult. I think that’s because we have been influenced far too much by others with regards to what we should and shouldn’t buy, with the last few horses, whereas this time everyone seems to really like Midget, and I think that’s because we went with our own gut instinct this time, without anyone to influence us. Me and Mom have a really strong idea of the conformation and size that works for me, and for us the temperament always has to come first.
I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge everyone within my team and thank you all for your support during this period of change, and I’d like to thank Betta Life for being such supportive sponsors, and enabling me to have the use of their amazing product, Pharmaquin, which is the best joint supplement any of my horses have ever been on, and I would not use anything else! Even the newest member of our team, farrier, Ryan Derbyshire felt a huge difference when shoeing Midget for the second time, and was very impressed with the transformation over 6 weeks.
Ryan did a fantastic job with Alfie’s shoes previously, so we really wanted him to shoe Midget for us. He is so passionate about his work, and is always posting photos of his work on Facebook , and once again he made a vast difference to her m on his first shoeing.
As you know from previous blogs we are eternally grateful for the support Jo Beavis has always given us, so it was great that she was so complimentary about Midget when she came out to fit his saddle for us.
Also now we have control back, it is lovely to have Gemma Key back on our team as our Physiotherapist. Gemma has the magic touch of making sure that my horses are always comfortable with the work we do with them, and untying any knotted areas that may be having an impact during training.
Last but not least of all huge thanks to Jade and Sue, firstly for being crazy enough to take me on, and making us feel so welcome. But most of all for listening to my thoughts and ideas, and for actually working WITH me, and including me in the process, it actually feels like we are all working like a proper team, and I’m really excited to see what we can all achieve together, as their attention to detail and training has made such an improvement already.