A Group Exercise

I did this exercise with my Pony Clubbers last week; we used to to it a lot when I was learning to ride as a child, but I don’t see it utilised very often now, nor unfortunately do I use it much myself as I don’t teach many groups.

It’s a very good layering exercise which introduces independent riding, and ensures the horse or pony is listening to their rider’s aids.

Starting with the ride in closed order on the track in walk. The first rider moves up into trot, trots around the arena until they reach the rear of the ride. Then, they should take the inner track and trot past the ride before trotting back to the rear. With more experienced riders, you can have the ride trotting, and the individual cantering around and past them.

This exercise is useful in the following ways:

  • It allows every rider in the ride to experience being lead file.
  • It teaches awareness of the change in a horse when they move from following the tail in front of them, to going off the rider’s aids.
  • It teaches the rider how to pass other horses at the correct distance.
  • Riders need to use their outside aids to stop their horse rejoining the ride instead of passing them, otherwise the horse just falls out and slows down to slot in behind the ride.
  • The horse is encouraged to work independently and the rider taught to plan their route in advance, otherwise their horse tucks in behind the ride.
  • Riders have to plan their transitions so that they don’t crash into the ride.
  • It’s a useful precursor to riding in open order. Once a group are familiar with the exercise the lead file can be sent off before the previous horse has reached the back of the ride.

A different exercise, which I find quite useful for testing horses who are a little bit herd-bound, is to have the ride trotting around and the rear file ride a transition to either walk or halt. When the ride catches up, they ride forwards to trot and become the leader. Some horses can be reluctant to be left behind, so it’s a useful education for them, which pays off in other areas, such as hacking or cross country. It also teaches patience, as horse and rider have to wait calmly for the rest of the ride. The rider also has to plan their upward transition so that the rhythm of the ride is not disrupted, and they also experience lead file. I find you can allow the new lead file to do a few movements, such as circles, serpentines or changes of rein, which develops their independence and confidence.

If the weather’s cold, or it’s wet, and you don’t want a group of riders standing still for too long, these exercises are useful for keeping everyone moving and keeping them warm. I’d like to see instructors incorporating these exercises into their group sessions because they are definitely underappreciated.

Perfect Circles

Last week I had a new experience; I was videoed teaching a masterclass with two young riders for Demi Dressage.

Since Christmas I’ve been involved with Demi Dressage – Which you can read about here – and the theme for the Easter holiday tests is circles, so we decided to have two guinea pig riders of different abilities and record a masterclass to help teach our young competitors how to ride round circles, rather than egg shaped circles.

Considering I’m the person who hated my mentor observing my lessons while I trained for my BHS PTT exam, and she had to leave me with my clients and sneak into the gallery to watch, this was quite a big deal for me. I was fairly nervous, and even got as far as writing down my lesson plan rather than just having the vague agenda in my head.

One of my riders was five, not particularly confident and not ready for canter. The other rider, she was ten I think, was more advanced and cantering competently.

Before we got mounted, we looked at the Crafty Ponies Dressage Arena diagram (not heard of Crafty Ponies? Where have you been) they’re amazing! ) to see what a correct circle looks like in the arena and how circles are often ridden as either ovals or egg shapes. My youngest rider told me that the most important thing about the shape of the circle is that it is round. Whilst my older rider told me that the hardest part about riding circles was making them round.

Whilst the girls warmed up their ponies I got busy with setting up a perfect circle. My able assistant stood on the centre line ten metres from A, holding a lunge line. I then walked the circumference of the 20m circle, laying out small sports cones. These are my new toy; soft and flexible it doesn’t matter if they get stood on (although I do charge a fee of one Easter egg per squashed cone) but they provide a great visual aid for riders.

I used plenty of cones to help my younger rider mainly, but you can reduce the number of cones as you get less reliant on the cones. I also used yellow cones for one side of the circle and red for the other – for reasons that will become obvious later.

I ran through the aids for riding a circle with the girls: turning your head and body to look halfway round the circle, indicating with the inside rein and pushing with the outside leg. The girls then rode the circle in walk so that I could see that they were using the correct aids, and also check their level of understanding. This is more important for the younger rider really. I had gotten the older rider to ride a 20m circle at C in the warm up, with no help so that she could compare her before and after circles.

Using the perfect circle of cones, we could see where the ponies tended to lose the shape. All ponies are reluctant to leave the track and security of the fence line, and the cones made both girls more aware of this so they had to apply their aids earlier and more strongly in order to leave the track at the right place. With my older rider I could talk about the balance of her aids, and fine tune the circle, whilst with the younger one I kept it simple and focused on her looking further around the circle, which automatically applied her weight and seat aids.

The girls worked on the circle in walk and trot in both directions, and then the elder rider cantered it on both reins. The canter was more interesting as we could see the difference in her pony’s suppleness (I racked up a few Easter eggs here!) which led to an interesting conversation on the asymmetry of the canter gait.

With the girls understanding and experiencing a perfectly round circle, we then talked about how to ensure that the second half of our circles are the same size as the first half.

I got the girls to ride their circle in trot, counting their strides all the way round. This part of the session would go a little over my young rider’s head, but I felt she’d still benefit from learning to count her strides and the theory. The bigger pony got 32 strides on the whole circle, so then we tried to get sixteen strides on the yellow side of the circle and sixteen strides on the red side. With the cones to help, she pretty much nailed it first time.

With my younger rider we aimed to get twenty strides on each half of the circle, and whilst she struggled to count and get the circle round, it did help improve her understanding of the previous exercise, and she did manage it with some help from Mum counting aloud with her.

I didn’t do this exercise in canter as I felt my older rider had enough to digest, and she can apply the same theory to it another day. However, I did set her a challenge to finish the lesson. We tidied up the cones, and I asked her to ride a twenty metre circle with sixteen strides on each half.

Which she did correctly first time! And could analyse the differences between the circles she’d ridden in her warm up, and her final circles. Overall, a successful and enjoyable lesson I believe. And the videos aren’t too cringeworthy either – to my relief!

Outgrowing Ponies

It’s inevitable with kids really. They grow. And whilst it’s easy to buy new trousers, and give the outgrown pair to charity, the same cannot be said about ponies.

This is where learning in a riding school has it’s advantages. You get used to riding a variety of horses and can easily be put on one the next size up. However if you loan, own or share your own then the transition can be made all the harder.

One of my clients has been looking a bit leggy on her share pony for the last six months. Far from being too heavy, her legs just resemble Puddleglum’s (Narnia reference for anyone who’s childhood is far forgotten). I mentioned a few months ago about have to consider upgrading from her veteran school master. He’s lovely and a real confidence giver, but with his age and near perfect manners there’s a limit to what she can learn from him now.

I want her to be challenged more, so she isn’t complacent about her riding and learns to think about the horse and begins to influence and improve the way the horse goes rather than just directing them. We’re doing the theory, but it’s hard to put it into practice when her pony is limited by his good manners and expertise.

I suggested she asked around her yard to see if anyone would be willing to let her have a lesson on their horse so that she got a feel for riding taller, thinner, wider, faster, slower horses which means that she’s in a better position to find a share horse and to transition successfully.

But it’s very hard to find the right horse to try. Going from your ultimate schoolmaster, you need a bigger (but not too big) horse, who will tolerate a slightly heavier leg aid and not take the mickey if she makes a mistake or isn’t clear enough in her aids. Yet can be geed up and give her something to think about in her riding.

With me stopping work in a couple of weeks, I thought we’d better get the plan put into motion. One of my friends keeps her Connemara at that yard, so I asked her if he would be suitable to try, if she was willing to offer him, or if she could suggest a horse.

She told me a bit about him and offered him for a lesson. He’s six or seven, can be cheeky over jumps but on the flat works fairly quietly, although can have a bit of a spook. And is a hand bigger than my client’s pony, so not too much of a leap up. I decided that he was our best option, and with my rider getting increasingly nervous about riding an unknown horse, I knew we had to just get it over and done with, before she could mull over the idea.

First off, my client realised that she needed to be a bit more awake on the ground – no more daydreaming as she leads in from the field because this Connemara will stop for a cheeky snack of grass. Once tacked up, she mounted in the school.

She had gone mute, with nerves, so I got her to walk round the edge of the arena and to tell me her thoughts of him so far: how his size compared to her pony’s, how the walk felt, could she feel any tension in his neck, was he focusing on her or the dog walker on the far side of the field? As she started thinking and talking, she relaxed and so did the Connemara. After all, he was probably wondering who on Earth we were and where his Mum was!

We then started looking at his controls.

I used the analogy of cars to my rider, even though she can’t drive I think she can still appreciate the theory. Her pony is like a corsa. This horse is an upgrade … perhaps a golf or something (can you tell cars aren’t my strong point?). Some horses can be Ferraris. I told my rider that she wouldn’t need as strong an aid on this pony, but as we didn’t know the precise level of squeeze, it would be best to apply a Ferrari light aid, and if nothing happened then progress to a BMW level aid, and so forth until she got the response she wanted. It’s like learning to balance the clutch and accelerator on a new car.

In the walk we did some transitions to halt and back into walk, before some changes of rein and circles so that she could get the feel for him and felt more confident.

Progressing into the trot, I reminded her about the importance of preparation – her biggest complacency with her schoolmaster is that she’ll kick for trot then half a dozen strides later organise her reins. Once she was organised we went through the lightest aid, which didn’t get a response, to a firmer squeeze which did propel them into a steady trot.

I let her trot around a couple of times to get the feel for him, before getting her to assess and describe the trot in relation to her pony. This horse was bouncier, bigger striding and more energetic. Once she’d ridden some circles I got her to ride some serpentines, which highlighted to her how she needs to prepare a little earlier because he’s younger, slightly greener, and a bigger moving animal.

Then I addressed the fact that this horse was easily distracted. So far, I’d overcome the issue by telling her to ride a transition or school movement. I drew my rider’s attention to how the ears were pointing, and any turning to the outside as the horse looked off into the distance. Then I told her to try to be more aware of his body language, and if she felt he had lost focus, then she should draw him back into the arena by asking him to do something, such as a transition or circle so that he had to think about what she wanted him to do. I then got her to do some independent riding – choosing her own movements and changes of rein – to check that she was starting to think about the horse and how he was going.

They got the hang of the trot fairly quickly. I didn’t do too much about the quality of the trot and how to improve it, but I did make her aware of the fact that a younger horse needs reminding more frequently than a schoolmaster of the tempo, rhythm and not cutting corners, so she needed to stay on the ball about that too.

Towards the end of the lesson I suggested we tried a canter. Again, I checked she was preparing, and used the light aids until he reacted, although she was getting a feel for him now and almost immediately got canter. In the canter, this horse did try to fall in on the left rein, but after reminding my rider that he wasn’t remote control and she wasn’t a passenger, she managed to used her inside leg and outside rein to keep him going large. They had a couple of sloppy downward transitions when they fell into trot, which was largely to do with the fact that the horse needed a little more riding in the canter to maintain his balance and rhythm which my rider hadn’t quite mastered. It wasn’t bad though, and she did start to feel when he was about to fall into trot, so corrected him a couple of times.

The right rein was more interesting. Basically, the horse heard something in the distance and just cantered a bit faster, which caused my rider to clamp a bit with her legs, which didn’t decrease the speed. However, she remained calm and reacted to my instructions about dropping the heel, relaxing her calves, sitting up and half halting. Obviously I made her have another canter, which went much more smoothly and the important part was that she understood why he had cantered a bit faster and the effect she had on him and what to do next time.

All in all, it was a very useful lesson. My rider has come away with an awareness of how she needs to improve in order to upgrade from her corsa; she had a good experience so hopefully now feels more confident about trying another horse, and will hopefully get another couple of offers from other liveries there. The downside? She’s fallen in love with the Connemara!

In the meantime, I need to find another couple of horses for her to try before I get too fat to go to work.

Dressage for Juniors

Back in the summer I blogged about judging the Pony Club dressage at camp, and how difficult I felt the basic test was for young children, and perhaps that if the Pony Club did some simple tests aimed at young children it might encourage a higher standard of flatwork, and nurture an interest in dressage from an early age. You can read that post here.

Over the summer I saw some lead rein intro dressage classes, which seemed really popular. With the young riders anyway. I think the leaders just needed oxygen because the BD intro tests have a lot of trotting in! I did see that a couple of venues made their own lead rein tests as a result of leader feedback.

Then, I heard of this online business which runs monthly competitions, called Equi-Mind. I had a good nosey on the website, and decided that it was definitely worth following up.

Last year I did a couple of online dressage competitions, which is where you video a set test from the letter C and send it in. Unfortunately, that company folded.

Equi-mind, is actually fairly local to me, which gives me another reason to support them – local businesses and all that. Anyway, they have a variety of competitions to suit almost anyone who can`t or don’t want to go off site competing.

There are showing classes, where you video a short show and send in some photos. Entrants are judged according to the class requirements – best turned out, native class, ROR etc. There`s Western classes, vaulting classes, RDA classes, Horsemanship classes and dressage classes.

Then, I spotted another category which really caught my attention – My First Pony Club. This is aimed at novice and young children. Perhaps those who loan a pony, or don`t have access to transport, or don’t have horsey parents. There are a couple of levels of these tests in walk and trot. I`m waiting for a canter test to appear. The tests can be ridden on or off the lead, and are very straightforward. The focus on the tests is riding between markers, using the whole of the arena, keeping the walk or trot rhythm. There are some circles, but I find that children find it very difficult to visualise and ride a round circle of a particular size, so often movements from letter to letter are more achievable for them. The whole point of the tests, to me anyway, is to introduce the first scale of training – rhythm – and to test their ability to accurately steer their pony.

I liked these tests; they weren`t too long for leaders, and weren’t too daunting for young riders to try on their own. They also struck me as being easy to teach a child the test, and straightforward to feedback to them.

A couple of weeks later I had a young rider who had badly lost her confidence jumping, so I suggested we tried one of these dressage tests. I wanted to give her a new focus, and I`ve always thought she has the right aptitude for dressage – an eye for detail, a lovely position, and a mature understanding of the way a horse moves and feel for the correct way of going. She can canter quite happily, but the fact that the dressage test was walk and trot meant that even when she was feeling wobbly, she was still happy to give it a go.

We used one of her lessons to introduce the idea of dressage tests, and for her to start getting her head around movements, before videoing the test the following week. I thought it looked pretty good – she was accurate and being a tidy rider anyway they gave a good overall impression, but I wasn`t really sure what the judges were particularly looking for.

Much to my delight, and her surprise, she won that class with 65%. It was the much needed confidence boost that she needed. I`d like to get her doing an intro class soon, with more trotting and circles, but it would be nice to see a couple more tests in the My First Pony Club category which are slightly harder than the one they did, but still easily understood by children. Perhaps a couple more changes of rein or transitions, or a couple of 20m circles?

There were also some horsemanship tests designed for children, which I thought looked fun. In these, you video the child doing a series of tasks such as putting on a headcollar correctly, tying a quick release knot, leading their pony, picking out feet, giving their pony a treat from the palm of their hand. All useful little tasks which are achievable by the smallest of riders, and designed to encourage them to get involved in the care side of horse riding.

I have to say that I`ve been impressed with the support from Equi-mind, with the clear feedback given after the classes, and the instructions for entering. Check out their website, http://www.equimind.co.uk/ , and see if there`s a class for you to enter for a bit of fun. I sent off a photo of Otis jumping for the Jump in Style photo competition to get some feedback, whilst I was doing some reminiscing and grieving for the fact I`ll never jump him again.

Gallop To The Top

I was reminiscing on one of my hacks this week about one of our favourite things to do when we were younger.

From the spring onwards, if we’d been very good in our lessons, or it was someone’s birthday, or any other reason, our reward would be to gallop to the top at the end of the lesson.

I should explain more. The arena was set at the bottom of the aptly named “school field”, which was a large, fairly gentle uphill field. Behind that field was situated the “little field”, the “bank field”, the “middle field” (which funnily enough was the centre field).

Galloping to the top, meant leaving the arena and turning left to the field gate. We all walked through it, attempting to walk anyway, around the corner so we were past the arena side, and then we went! Galloping flat out diagonally across the field, past the giant oak tree and eventually pulling up in the corner, at the bottom of the bank field. 

Giggling, panting and full of adrenaline, we would then walk back down the field to the yard.

We loved it, and the ponies loved it! They definitely knew what was happening because there were some pogo stick style antics as we used to walk around the corner, and invariably someone would go on the countdown, causing everyone else to just kick and try to catch up!

When the horse’s were turned out in one of the top fields, and the school field was rested, we often used to ride up bare back. But it always ended up as a gallop up, even if we were riding solo. The ponies loved it so much! Of course, we didn’t exactly try to stop them!

I remember one time I was allowed to ride in “top group” with the older girls on Asker. A 13.2hh native bay mare of some description, who could definitely jump. She was also a witch to girth up and you had to watch out for her snaking neck. I can’t remember if she was just mareish, but she was always tied at the end of the yard, on the corner, and Billy was the only pony she tolerated being next to. I loved Billy too … Anyway, I’d ridden Asker for the whole of the lesson, and we’d asked to gallop to the top. The older girls had much faster ponies, so I was very excited! I remember just past the oak tree, in flat out gallop, the reins went light. When we pulled up, I leant to look at Asker, only to see that her bridle had fallen off! 

One of the older girls helped me put it back on, and in doing so we discovered that one of the buckles hadn’t been fastened securely by Asker’s loaner when she’d cleaned the tack. No harm done, but I never worked out how I managed to keep the bridle together for the duration of our lesson! 

We also used to gallop to the top in our cross country lessons, but this was shorter and not quite so much fun. Until one time all the gates were open, and we raced from the cross country field (which was adjacent to the school field) up to the middle field gate, jostled through that and straight over to the bank field gate, through that, and galloped as far up the very steep bank that our ponies would go! I’m pretty sure Matt ran out of steam halfway up there, but it was great fun!

Good times! 


This is the only photo I can find to illustrate the school field. The horses are in the arena before it was resurfaced, and the school field is behind them (see the oak tree?). The cross country field would be to the right of the bushes, and you can just about see the bank field behind the oak tree. 

Moving House

In psychology A-level we studied stress, and more particularly the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. It was developed to measure the effect of life stressors on health, with each stressor being given a value. The top one is obviously the death of a spouse, but I remember being surprised at how high the value of moving house was. Now in my experience, moving house hasn’t been stressful as we moved into our first home from our childhood homes so could do it over a number of weeks and had few belongings. Now I look around and realise it would be quite stressful trying to move all of our belongings to a new house in one day, which frequently happens in estate chains.

I digress. Recently a couple of people have told me that they’re moving out of the area, and moving their horse too. Then I realised that moving region with a horse must rank pretty highly on the Stress Scale. Probably as highly as moving house…

I started making a list in my head of all the things you would need to consider.

  1. Somewhere to keep your horse. You need to consider livery packages, facilities, cost, location…
  2. Farrier. What services do they provide, which areas do they cover and how much do they cost? I think I would make sure my horse was shod just before the move to give me time to do some research.
  3. Vet. The internet is probably the best source for comparing vets and seeing the areas that they cover.
  4.  Feed. Where are the local feed merchants, what do they stock, and what deals do they do? Does the new yard supply forage, or do you have to source it yourself? Where can you store your feed?
  5. Dentist, chiropractor, saddlers and all other regular check ups that you need.
  6. Local hacking routes, people to ride with, nearby competition venues.
  7. Instructors, places to train, local riding clubs.

All of these things would need to be planned in advance, or if not then almost immediately after you have moved; whilst simultaneously settling in to your new job, home and lifestyle. 

Then of course is the physical moving of your horse and all your equipment. Just think of all those rugs, tack, tools, grooming supplies, your own riding gear, first aid kit, feed bins, any unused feed, buckets, boots, bandages, haynets, lunging equipment, whips …

Honestly, I can’t imagine doing it. I think I’d need the trailer to transport Otis, and then another trailer for all of his belongings!

Like people, horses take different amounts of time to adjust to their new surroundings, and whilst some can be naughty when settling in, others can be quiet and depressed with the stress of a new home. I think it’s important to keep some semblance of their old routine; exercise, handler, daily routine etc to help them adjust. Hopefully with a couple of consistencies in their life a horse won’t take long to feel at home at a new yard, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a horse didn’t seem to settle for a couple of months, particularly if they weren’t the most confident and stable horse initially.

Can anyone shed some light on the joys of moving yards and house at the same time and if these life events were as stressful as I envisage.

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Counting Elephants 

This anecdote came up recently with a client and I wondered when it stopped being taught.

When I began horse riding at age six I joined the lead rein lesson. All six ponies were led and we did steering in rides and on our own, before halting at B (always on the right rein) and trotting “to the rear of the ride”, a phrase I took for granted by didn’t fully comprehend until about ten.

When we trotted we had to count our elephants whilst sitting (or bouncing) before rising – “one elephant, two elephant, three elephant, rise!”

I hated this for two reasons;

  1. Why should I shout nonsense in front of other people? Doing it in my head was far better – more grown up, I thought. I was forever being told to speak more loudly.
  2. What is the point in counting elephants? There aren’t any and I might as well go straight into rising.

Unfortunately I was a child who needed explanations so I was glad to see the back of this exercise, but now I realise the purpose of the exercise.

I think elephants were the chosen animal as the word can be broken down into its syllables easily and the number combined with the animal equals four syllables, which is two trot strides.

When making a transition you should be in sitting trot so you can use your seat aids more efficiently; the two beat rising won’t confuse the horse moving into either a four beat or three beat gait. Have you ever ridden from walk to trot and begun rising only for your horse to fall back into walk? If you sat for an extra stride you would have established the trot and the loss of your seat aid while you rise won’t upset the horse’s rhythm. 

Counting elephants makes beginners practice sitting trot, so it is not such a scary practice, a few strides of sitting helps them find the rhythm so it is easier to grasp the rising. I also believe that it improves your feel and awareness of the way the horse moves. I always encourage beginners to stay in sitting trot for a few strides before rising, but have never mentioned elephants.

Perhaps more advanced, but when you count elephants you almost always rise on the correct diagonal. Perhaps it is the extra time to feel the inside hind leg coming under to push you up, or perhaps luck, but I think the two are linked in some way. 

I think elephant counting should have been taken forwards to other transitions, such as trot to walk, or around the canter work. It would encourage more preparation from riders and improve their sitting trot, as well as teaching the horse not to alter the trot in the transition from rising to sitting.

Next time you ride, have a think about counting elephants and see if it does anything for your transitions or even just improve your sitting trot! Hindsight is a great thing, and I wish the concept behind counting elephants had been explained to my six year old self, and used in relation to all transitions and with trot diagonals.

  

Vaulting

Has anyone been watching the WEG? I saw a bit of the vaulting yesterday, which is surprisingly underrated. I was impressed with the gymnastic ability of the Eccles sisters, and they made my demonstration of full scissors this morning look like a feeble attempt. I can only just do full scissors, let alone do it vertically!

Anyway, I was thinking that vaulting is very much a team effort. You need an exceptional lunger, who can keep the perfect circle, and a horse capable of cantering slowly for minutes at a time in a perfect rhythm. I thought it was quite nice that Mr Eccles went onto the podium with his daughters, which showed great appreciation.

So with vaulting fresh in my mind today, I experimented in my nine o’clock lesson. The two girls rode well, and seemed really confident cantering around. After the canter they said to me “on our pony day in the holidays Karen told us to get you to show us how to do full scissors”.

Great. Cheers for that, Karen!

Back to my nine o’clock lesson! I had the girls walking around doing some balance exercises. They’re quite supple and I think I’ve exhausted the windmill and helicopter ones, so I got them to sit sideways whilst walking. They managed it easily except for one wondering how princesses rode side saddle because it wasn’t very comfortable! Then I got them to sit backwards. And then to the other side, before sitting back to the front. They found this a bit harder, and became quiet for about thirty seconds.

Next we halted and practised Around the World with their hands on their head, and half scissors. I was building up to full scissors, and borrowed the biggest pony to demonstrate. It takes a bit if effort, and I’ve never been very graceful at it, but I did it a couple of times before dismounting. Then my clients had a go. They giggled away at each other as they leant forwards and tried wriggling around. After I’d pushed them back onto the saddle and man-handled them so they performed full scissors without sliding off their ponies they had a go on their own. One of the girls, who’s a gymnast, soon got the hang of it, and I think with a bit of practice the other girl will be able to do it too.

With a couple of minutes left, the girls asked for another exercise. I scratched my head for a moment, before suggesting that they swapped ponies. Without touching the ground!

I remember doing it as a teenager, but on 16.2 horses, which is a bit further to fall! The girls lined up closely, and it talked them through swapping. One of them slid to the front of her saddle, whilst her friend sat sideways. With one foot reaching into the stirrup, she leant across and then swung her right leg over the cantle to be sat behind the other girl. This caused a lot of giggling, while they worked out what to do next. It didn’t take long for both ponies to have a rider and I could breathe a sigh of relief as the girls walked back to the yard, chattering happily about their lesson and telling everyone who would listen what they had done.

The best thing about today’s lesson, was swapping ponies, apparently. You can forget about canter and trot, exercises are top of the list!

Forwards to Walk

One of my kids asked me an enlightening question the other day.

“Why do you always tell us to go forwards to walk when we`re slowing down?”

It was a good question and I took a moment to gather my answers, and then concoct them into a format easily understandable by seven year olds.

In the end I came back with: “we may be slowing down but we don`t want our ponies to lose their energy and think they`ve finished the lesson. When we go into walk we want to keep marching forwards so that when we trot again our ponies are active and eager. It`s about keeping the energy in our horse. So when you`re all trotting as a ride you can all keep your ponies trotting at the same speed, or rhythm. When the ponies are trotting in a good rhythm they`re listening to you, their riders, and we don`t want to lose all this good work by slowing down to walk and letting our ponies fall asleep, do we?”

The girls nodded in agreement and afterwards we practised riding trot-walk transitions and compared it when they rode sloppily into a slow dawdle and then had to ask four or five times for a lethargic trot, to when the girls rode forwards to walk and then only squeezed once to return to their active trot.

Walking Through The Woods

I was finishing off a lesson with two young girls last week by walking through the woods. As we entered there was a large purple flowering bush on our left.
The girl in front admired the colour “ooh I do like those purple flowers!”
Whilst the one at the back, in a totally deadpan voice replied “it really brightens the place up.”

I chuckled for ages at the seriousness, yet completely truthful, comment.