April 23rd 2013

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.66043_10201082259047013_729345074_n 923110_10201082262767106_1896941680_n 430260_10201082274527400_865663937_n 62685_10201082275007412_539394588_n

April 22nd 2013

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.

JRFS Wiltshire April 2013

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.

First hack

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.

A breakthrough

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.

Exciting Session

Well I had a lesson with Tracey Duncan (a 2 star Parelli Professional) today and Benny was very lively. We started off doing some nice weaves around the cones, circles and figures of 8. He seemed fairly tuned in but did get a bit excited in trot. I need to up my energy to match his and run when he runs off, keeping up with him in zone 5 until he stops then I need to stop too and wait. If he looks at me I turn away until he becomes inquisitive and he either moves forward again or comes to see what I am doing.

After saddling him we worked on the squeeze over the barrels at which point he was super excited and took off bucking and leaping in the air, unfortunately his saddle slipped at this point which set him off even more! Once all sorted we tried again until he was doing it calmly.

When he ran off I ran behind him and stopped when he stopped, slowed my breathing and relaxed until he relaxed. Then I use my energy and a big breath out to move him forward again, still walking in zone 5. Then traveling circles until he was back by the barrels.

At one point during the session a horse and trap went down the road, he was loose at the time (having just got away from me on a circle). He was standing looking down the road to see what was happening – I breathed slower and relaxed, as the trap got nearer Benny looked at me and approached as if I was his safety zone – a huge breakthrough for us both. I stood by him as the horse trotted by stroking him and then got him to lower his head on a cue. At this point the other 2 horses in the field decided it was scary too and galloped around the field next to the arena, Benny took no notice and stayed with me.

We then went on to do some nice sideways by the fence and then tried the sideways towards me. He got a bit confused at first but Tracey showed me to direct his quarter towards me and he soon was coming nicely to a cue.

Once he was calm and connected to me I hopped on board to do some one rein riding, I am getting better at changing the rope over and changing direction. Did follow the rail with Benny nice and calm and listening, he stopped on a breath except on one occasion when I had to do a one rein stop.

Very please with Benny and my progress, got lots to work on now the weather is better.

Apple Sauce

Benny is very food motivated but I need him not to ask for treats. So I have been teaching a bridge (a cue so he knows when he has done something right) which is then rewarded with a treat. The aim is to get him to react to the word i have chosen – “EX” (short for excellent) so I say the word and treat until he associates the word with the treat, it is a slow process but one which should last.

Today however I was also trying to get him prepped for worming, he just turns his head away from the syringe so I filled one with apple sauce only to find he doesn’t like the sauce! Oh well tomorrow I will try honey to see if he likes that. As my hands were then covered in apple sauce he didn’t want the treats either so I may have to start again teaching the bridge.

Bitless and Barefoot

Benny has been barefoot for a while and I see no need to change that. The farrier says he has good feet and will be OK on the roads, he may have some problems with the stony tracks but will have to see how he goes. If shoes are needed then he will have them – hoof boots may work but his feet are so huge!

I rode Benny in a halter at first and then went to the Parelli Cradle bridle he came with – for refinement. At a recent clinic with Terri Martinus I rode in the halter with one rein – really gets you off the hands, I am just getting my balance back. Then we did no reins and just a stick for direction when needed. The problem I had was that Benny wouldn’t stop from my seat – he does in the school on his own but with other horses around or indeed when I took him down the road – no brakes.

I have had a few lessons with a Ride With Your Mind instructor – Sally Ede – very good for the posture. Biomechanics and breathing are taught – useful as I seek to be a more balanced rider.

I have also found a useful resource in Jenny Rolf with the focus on breathing to be more intune with the horse. A book and DVD are on the way – so watch for updates.

In the meanwhile I have bought a Light Rider bitless noseband to convert the Cradle Bridle to bitless – not had a chance to use it yet but it fits well. I have ridden both Kit – my Connemara and Dougal – an Irish Cob – bitless with success.

Not done much with Benny over the last 2 days but he is very good now with the verbal cue “whoa” to stop – both online and at liberty. The head down is working nicely too, need to keep up the training until we can get it every time and then transfer the cues to the ridden work.