Sometimes I wonder if horses do understand English better than we give them credit for.
Last week, for example, I was cantering around the outside on the arena on the left rein, opening up the canter with some rising and using the scattered poles to get the mare thinking forwards.
As I cantered towards this lone pole, on a perfectly straight line as I followed the fence, a woman in the middle of the school shouted to her friend, “now ask for a right change”. Simultaneously to her instruction, I was going over the pole and I felt the mare change her canter from left to right underneath me.
Weird! I definitely hadn`t asked for a change, if anything I was thinking of turning left, and the mare isn`t really educated enough to know changes, or the aids, or to be balanced enough to do them cleanly. However, she had definitely done a clean flying change over that pole as per the lady in the middle`s directions.
I don`t think the other horse got the requested change though!
As I started writing this I had a flashback to over a decade ago (not that makes me feel old…) when I was still on my little grey pony and in fifth group (we had six groups of lessons, with the sixth group being called top group and the ultimate aim of all of us) – I was between eleven and thirteen years old. We were in one of the far fields because it was too hot for a proper cross country lesson, so we were doing banks and ditches. We had meandered though three fields, jumping the stream and navigating various tracks along the stream and tree line. In the final field, with a derelict barn at the end, we had to canter along the bottom of the field, up the slope next to the barn, along the top fenceline and then down the steep hill back to the rest off the group. It was an anti-clockwise direction and one of the older girls went first. She was at least one generation of helpers older than me, and had recently returned with her horse to the yard (perhaps after university?). Any ways, she and her horse cantered easily around to the top fenceline and she brough him back to trot to come down the hill.
As we watched her lean back and steady the gelding, our instructor jokingly said “And sit down Maldwin”. To which, the large horse did indeed sit down and slip the rest of the way down the hill! His hindlegs were completely underneath his body and his quarters grazed against the grass until he managed to stop and stand back up.
He and his rider were completely unhurt. I`ve a feeling she fell off later in that lesson but that part is a bit hazy. I just clearly remember Maldwin seemingly understanding our instructors words.