I`ve just started schooling this horse for a lady, which is proving to be surprisingly fulfilling.
The cob mare is a happy hacker, who was broken in late, after being a broodmare for a couple of years, and over the winter she has just been hacked out in walk with a bit of trot. Now, her owner feels she needs some more education so that she is better balanced to hack out, and is overall a safer ride.
The yard has limited facilities; a grass arena and a few poles which are used for long reining. But I understand this; after all, if you only want to hack then why choose between a yard with a perfect arena and set of jumps and a yard perfectly situated for accessing all the best hacking in Berkshire?
So last week I went to meet this mare and had my first session.
I`ll admit, I was a bit concerned with the enormity of the task; the mare walked in a unco-ordinated way, with the head looking around, the frontlegs going in one direction, and the hindlegs following a week behind. I worked the mare in walk initially, riding some transitions and large circles, getting her to walk in more of a rhythm, and to maintain her walk over the slight terrain. After ten minutes or so I had a trot. It was ungainly and wobbly – like a drunk on their way home from the pub …
I started with short periods of trot, aiming to get the mare trotting in more of a rhythm and in straight lines.
After about half an hour of slow, steady work we managed to get a more balanced trot in a two time rhythm. The transition were still a bit wobbly and front-end driven, but she was responding to the aids. The walk circles were improving slowly, and the mare was beginning to understand the outside leg, so I left it on that note.
Earlier this week it was a bit wet and slippery, but I went to ride the mare anyway. With such steady work needed I could utilise the grass arena, or in the worst case school her on a hack.
I began by walking numerous circles and walk-halt transitions, and the mare began to respond well, stepping into a more purposeful walk, and riding better shaped circles. Then I went for a trot up the lane, riding transitions up the hill, and amazingly, in the last couple of transitions she was pushing forwards with her hindquarters!
Today I went back to school the mare, and there was already a huge improvement! The initial trot was as good as the last trot of the first session, and the mare was much more consistent; trotting large circles and changes of rein, staying balanced on the gentle inclines and even managing to trot over two poles. I`m not forgetting about the walk though, and am still incorporating plenty of transitions and getting the mare to bend around the inside leg on circles.
I was really pleased with how quickly the mare has taken to her schooling. Between sessions she is being hacked and long reined which will help improve her fitness and muscles tone. Next week we`ll look at transitions within the trot; increasing the length of her stride slightly to help further improve her balance and secure the trot rhythm, and will do the same in walk, and utilise the poles to help with the transitions and rhythm of the gait.
Sure, this mare isn`t going to break records, but it`s very satisfying bringing on such a green horse, especially one who learns her lessons so willingly!