Day 5 at JRFS started with more online work, Benny not too thrilled with all this work and decided to leave twice. Rebecca helped me with some strategies to get him more connected. Direct and indirect rein changes on a circle were what worried him so we did some sideways along the rail until he relaxed. Used the stirrups to simulate the leg position for the hindquarter yields both at a standstill and whilst walking. Much better then when I rode him. We got some decent hindquarter yields and turns. Finished the session with a canter, I had difficulty sitting the trot so Rebecca reminded me to use my core to stabilise and got me to use one hand on the saddle horn and the outside hand back on his rump so I was sitting up. Rebecca stood in the corner to encourage him forward and we cantered the longside of the school. We both need to get fitter to maintain this, both physically and emotionally. a really enjoyable week with lots to think about and lots to play with.
April 25th – day 4 started with a session learning the basics of liberty work. We started with walking round the pen with the horse next to us, Benny ran off as soon as we got in the pen so it turned into a circling game. Once he had calmed down I disengaged the hind quarters with a look and he turned in. The first time he didn’t come back to me but I rewarded the try. He soon got the hang of it and stayed with me and stopped when I stopped. He trotted from my energy and walked when I slowed down. Only did a short session as this new to us both.
Then off for a trail ride round the farm fields, as I haven’t cantered Benny in the school for more than half a circle I wasn’t confident to let him canter on the farm track he did feel like he wanted to go but was very polite and stayed in trot. Once in the field we did a little shoulder in and haunches in round the edge – then a little show. I stayed in walk and trot whilst the more advanced did a proper showing show.
On the way home 2 people wanted the canter on the long track and 2 didn’t – so the 2 that didn’t (I was one of them) trotted up the track ahead of them and waited by the gate at the top. Benny had a very forward trot but I felt in control. He got a bit joggy on the last bit of the ride home and my confidence level went above a 5 so I wanted to stop and get off but Vicky talked me through it and we stopped and flexed and relaxed and then walked on a looser rein. Benny was very good on the roads, with tractors, dogs and sheep in the fields. We had a nice softness as we entered the yard.
Benny then had his back checked and I learned he is a little tight in the left side of the saddle area. nothing a few carrot stretches and a saddle check can’t sort out. Also he is a little stiff in his hocks probably due to arthritis, so I will give him some sort of supplement for this once we get home, and exercise him more to keep him supple.
Day 3 at JRFS – more flexion today this time leg yielding on a circle with Rebecca, got a better circle and change of rein online. Benny getting better at the forequarter and hind quarter yields ridden. Then after the 10 minutes trotting on both reins. to find rhythm and relaxation. we did leg yielding on a circle. Then it was time to try a canter, got a few strides on the right rein with a few half circles but couldn’t maintain gait for a whole circuit of the school. The left rein was worse with both of us struggling on our stiffer side, just managed a few strides. In the afternoon we joined the other students for a lesson with Vicky. Again working on flexion and impulsion. A more forward walk and trot and sideways out of a circle. Then on to counter bends on a circle to improve suppleness and softness. We then did some shoulder in and haunches in – Vicky was quite impressed that Benny could do them – and so was I. The back to finding more rhythm and elevation in the trot by using poles and then raised poles. Benny managed very well and only kicked the poles once.
Day 2 at James Roberts Foundation Station.
The 2nd day at JRFS – started at 9 am with the horses in the outdoor arena, it was a beautiful sunny day. We spent the first part of the session online getting the horse to yield fore and hind quarters. Benny got away on one circle but came back fairly quickly. We played touch it after 4 circles to give him a focus. Benny still a bit sticky with the lateral flexion in the halter in company. Then time to mount and do the fore and hind quarter yields in the saddle. Benny was much better on the ground with the hind quarter yields than he was when i was riding, something to practice. Forequarter yields are OK but not perfect but we have been doing them in the arena at home on the turns. Then we trotted for 10 minutes on each rein. Benny eventually had a nice forward trot and one imprompu little canter as he tried to catch everyone up. I had to put up my stirrups for the trotting as felt much more stable. Did circles and straight lines. Then we went for at walk round the block to cool off. I rode in the halter but found Benny would not stop when asked so had to do some lateral flexions – the sheep were very interesting but every thing else he took in his stride – tractors and barking dogs.
Had a good first day at JRFS, watched the colts in the morning then had The Plan explained. We then got our horse in the indoor arena and worked on relaxation. Benny was a bit anxious about his new environment and snorted and leapt a bit on the way to the school. Once Rebecca showed me how to be a better leader for him he began to relax. We then did touching all over and danced around them. We finished today with Benny very relaxed and even going back out to the field he walked calmly. Then after their dinner he and Smoke were mutually grooming.
We have arrived at the James Roberts Foundation Station for our experience week. Benny loaded well and traveled calmly, I did give him some extra Magic Calmer as he seated up badly on our last journey. He was sleeping most of the way until we got t some roadworks where the traffic lights didn’t seem to be working, then he got a bit agitated. Only slightly sweaty on arrival. As my daughters horse is already here, for their 3 weeks foundation training, Benny went out in the field with him – very pleased to see one another.
Will try and write about our progress over the next 5 days.
Another good session with Benny and Tracey Duncan. I started before Tracey arrived with fore and hind quarter yields. Benny remembered from last time that he was to move his feet around the box made from poles, i.e his hinds in the box with his front moving and vice versa. Then some sideways over poles and barrels – both away and towards me. Then we tried some stick to me round the arena, halt and back up. When Tracey arrived we some figures of 8 round the barrels on a 22 foot line. I must do more with me standing still and Benny moving! I did manage in the end – he tried to leave and I managed to catch him and divert the energy to something else. His fore quarter yields are getting better, we did a few and some yo-yo to get his attention. Then on to the saddling – still need more practice as the saddle is so heavy. He moved so did some more stick by me, backups etc. Finally with saddle on we tried the barrel jump, the first time he tried but didn’t jump over. The right rein is easier for him as he has limited vision in his left eye. He left when on the left rein as he gets too worried about it. Back to me running with him so he can see me and then making a gap between the barrels so he could squeeze through to gain confidence. He jumped it beautifully after going through the squeeze a couple of times. He turned and faced me and I made much of him. Hopped on board and did some lateral flexions, 9 step backups. Then on to trot to achieve rhythm and relaxation on both reins. I wanted to do more carrot stick riding so spent the last part of the session doing that, and getting the lateral flexions and direct and indirect rein without using the reins but only the carrot stick. Need to perfect that for the bridleless riding!! No good taking off the bridle if we can’t turn or stop. Benny was such a good boy didn’t spook at the scary horses and carriage trotting up and down the lane. Only on little jump before we started as the dust cart went by, but he didn’t leave me just jumped away and then immediately came and stood by my side.
We went on our first hack today, a friend came down to play with him and ride him out for me, but he was so good that I hopped on board half way round the block. I rode him down a quiet lane, he isn’t phased by cars but he is very inquisitive and likes to look over the hedges and in the garden gates. Then we rode in the field with no rein contact.
I am trying to play more at liberty with Benny. The first session he stuck by me and played nicely. Today he was very much doing his own thing, and upped my energy with a big breath out send him out and he just cantered round the arena not paying much attention to me. I sent him out when he decided to stop with out me telling him to but he did stop and turn and face me when I did a big breath in, and he waited ’til I relaxed. We played with walking round the barrels and he stuck by me for the first barrel and then decided to walk off round the arena. We walked round together and he stopped when I stopped but he wasn’t very connected and soon got bored. Need to do more of this, although he seems better connected after an online session first.
Tomorrow I have a friend coming so we can go out round the lanes.
Today we had a breakthrough moment, the session started with Benny going backwards through 2 poles. Then backwards with the pole between his feet, he kept offering sideways so we did a bit of that too. He was excellent at away and towards me sideways so definitely remembered our last session.
We tried the squeeze over the barrels next but he wouldn’t jump them – may be he had frightened himself last time so I made a gap between the barrels and walked him over – turned with a look and walked him back. Did this 3 times and rewarded the tries.
Whilst the barrels were out Benny did nice sideways over the barrel even if he didn’t go quite straight and was waving a leg around wondering where to put it, he sorted himself out.
Then I thought why not try some liberty – so let him loose and breathed out to get him to trot round me, didn’t quite go according to plan but he did trot round the arena from my breathing. He stopped and turned to face me when I took a deep breath and relaxed when I relaxed with a sigh. Then on the some stick by me and backwards – when I walked backwards. Did have to direct on the first go but then it was no problem.
Then the breakthrough moment came when I decided to try him with the handheld trimmers I just bought. I had treats in my hand as well as the trimmer – he was a little apprehensive at first but his stomach won. After he let me move the trimmer over his neck I switched it on – again with a treat in hand – he took the treat with the trimmer next to it. I then kept the trimmers on and moved them too his neck – trimmed off some of the long hairs on his neck. Benny was very relaxed and just stood and let me trim his neck and face. All this at liberty – he made no attempt to leave, I am so pleased with him. Well done Benny.