After being given a new horse I began my journey into a more positive form of natural horsemanship. I started riding at the age of 24 although I had wanted a pony since childhood.
The learning was traditional British Horse Society based, whilst that was a good starting point some of it didn’t seem very horse friendly. Why tie a horse when you can teach them to stand and keep out of your way when in a stable. However I did pass BHS Stage 1 and 2. In those days my balance wasn’t good and I had never heard of biomechanics, so the jumping was often painful as I landed on the ground without a horse! The solution – stop jumping – that wasn’t a good decision, I do wish know I had gone on the do more centred riding earlier.
Once married with children we had a pony on loan and when grown out of bought Kit from a friend. I had ridden her since she was 5 and bought her at rising 9. Kit was affiliated dressage pony but we only did unaffliated with her – she did beat a few warmbloods over her career. Kit taught me and the children balance and lightness in the aids, so well trained did she become that just a thought which brought about a shift in weight was enough to stop and start.
I had lessons with a BHS instructor from the Training the Teachers of Tomorrow Trust – based on classical riding – I was never very competitive but my youngest daughter was and took our pony out most weekends.
When my daughter needed a bigger pony we went looking for an event prospect and came back with an Irish cob! A very laid back chap and I started western lessons. Western riding seemed so much more relaxed and he would go and stop from voice cues.
Eventually we did get an event/ dressage horse but found she hated cross-country so concentrated on the dressage but she got bored so turned to show jumping. This mare Merlina had a checkered history. Brought over from Holland as a 3 year old she had 6 riders before we got her at the age of 6. Merlina was never easy – bucking and rearing – we took her back to basics and gradually she became more manageable.
My daughter competed very successfully at BSJA competitions until problems resurfaced due to a back problem. To cut a very long story short we sent to someone who seemed genuine to be a companion horse. Two years later we go letter to ask for her history as she had been sold as suitable for a novice and had started rearing. We tried then to get her back but the dealer would have nothing to do with us. Roll on a year and another message from someone who had bought her as a project. Merlina had been passed as fit so was competing at Riding club level. The woman wanted to sell her on and during the vetting found that according to her micro-chip she was not the horse as named in the passport supplied by the dealer. The passport said Polly. Merlina was on Tracing Horse website as well as on one I had set up. So we managed to get her back and at great expense got a replacement KWPN passport.
Merlina back seemed OK but we had bad memories of her behaviour so sent her to a Parelli professional – the late James Roberts of the James Roberts Foundation Station. Thus began my journey into natural horsemanship. Merlina can now be ridden bareback and bridleless but still has off days. Parelli taught us to recognise a shut down horse and train each horse as the individual that turns up on the day.
As Kit is now 27 she is semi-retired helping with a therapy program – Equine Partners. Therefore I stopped riding and quite enjoyed not having to go out on the cold wet mornings to do the horses. After a while however – follow an inspirational week at JRFS with my daughter and a youngster she had bought on a previous visit – I wanted to ride again.
Sometime later Benny was looking for a new home – so as he was a cob I thought great another Dougal! How wrong I was – he is very exuberant and loves to play but needs me to be more of a leader. As I had only dabbled in the Parelli system it was time to do more.
I had lost some confidence so took thing slowly with lessons from a non-Parelli coach – based on Equitation Science – Training Horse and Rider. A few lessons in the school and we went out down the lane. Benny thought this great idea and marched off as if I wasn’t there – not many brakes or steering. So back to basics and as he had been Parelli trained I booked some lessons with Tracey Duncan a 2 star Parelli Professional. Plus some lessons with Sally Ede a local Ride With Your Mind coach.
We have been doing groundwork – as I am a novice at this it is taking some time to get my timing and rope skills up to scratch. Parelli is based on reading the horse and mostly uses pressure and release to condition the horse. What I wasn’t happy with was that some people escalate that pressure and that to my mind is aversive.
So began my journey to find a positive but natural way to train Benny. This blog will chart that journey and include links to sites I find useful along with a glossary of the terms used. It can be confusing for someone just starting out. I am still a member of the Parelli Savvy club as I find the program a useful resource if you are sensitive with the pressure/release and use touch to communicate your intentions rather than an escalation of pressure.
More information to come – so check back soon.