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Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year

It’s the end of 2010. Time to wipe the slate clean and start afresh.
If you make one resolution make one to change the way you approach schooling your horse. Learn to enjoy it. It’s never boring when you know how.
Follow my warm up routine and be clear on your plan every time you ride. Make this year’s resolution one that you can keep.
Don’t set you goals too high. Why pressure yourself? Goals are meant to be scored after all.
Happy New Year.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Had a Bad Day?

It’s not the end of the world if things go wrong. But if they do take responsibility. This was your idea remember? Be flexible and prepared to alter your plan. There’s always tomorrow.
Did you pick something too difficult? Overfacing yourself or your horse always ends in trouble. Keep your aims small and most importantly achievable. The only pressure is coming from you.
Was the weather against you? Be honest, who can concentrate when it’s blowing a gale or raining in bucket loads? Perhaps a trot round the block or a day off would have worked better.
Whatever the reason, don’t dwell on it. Never feel like you have wasted your time. You always learn something – even if it’s what not to do next time!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The Other Way of Stopping

Not all horses are slow off the leg. Others are too quick. In this situation it’s your arms not your legs that need the break. Your horse can only pull if he has something to pull against so you need to teach him that there are other ways of stopping.
So much is written about your lower leg but how often do you read about your upper leg? Pushed into the saddle your knee and thigh restrict the muscles that work the shoulder, automatically slowing your horse down. This means you depend less on your reins.
Warm up and try this exercise.
Start in walk.  Choose a marker to make a transition to halt. Think of your thighs and knees as a clothes peg and squeeze into your horse as hard as you can.
At first you might find he’s a bit confused by your change of style. He’ll slow down but may not be sure whether to stop. Use your reins initially just to make it clear.  When he halts be quick to praise him. It’s too easy to forget and only criticise.
Walk and halt until you can stop with just the pressure from your knee and thigh. Don’t release the pressure until you want to move on. This works on all horses and results can be instant. If you have no reaction you just need to squeeze harder.
Once you’ve mastered walk to halt try trot to walk and canter to trot. Release the pressure the second you feel the new pace. It takes some practice to be able to create smooth transitions but when you’ve really got the hang of it you can try direct transitions from trot to halt or canter to walk. Just squeeze with your upper leg until you reach the pace that you want.
Practice until it becomes second nature. Every time you want to slow down use your knee before your hand. Your horse’s mouth will appreciate it and so will your arms. In time you’ll be able to collect and lengthen just by changing the pressure from your knee but that’s something to think about another day.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Be a Lazy Rider

The best thing you can teach your horse is that legs don’t just mean “Go”. You shouldn’t have to kick for every stride.  He should continue at the same speed until you tell him otherwise. It’s easy to get into a habit of kicking every stride but eventually your horse becomes dead to it.
Become a lazy rider. Teach your horse to go forward from the slightest of squeezes. You’ll need to be consistent and patient but it will be worth it in the end.
Warm up as usual but be prepared to spend the rest of the session in walk. Once he’s picked it up you’ll find the other paces come a lot easier but trot before the penny’s dropped and you’ll be wasting your time and energy.
Start by riding large and expecting him to walk from one marker to the next without you having to kick. At each marker give him a squeeze but if he slows down before because you’re not kicking then you need to use your whip.
When you use a whip don’t dither. Use it and mean it. It’s better to use it once and get a reaction than have to use it five or six times and get half the response. Riders often feel guilty about using a whip but never worry about banging at their horses sides with their heels. Which would you prefer?
You may find initially that you have to tap him every few strides but if you’re consistent he’ll soon learn and you’ll find you’re able to get further and further without using your leg.
Your aim is to increase the distance you can go without having to kick on. All horses can learn to do this in all three paces. Their riders just have to believe it too.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Your Plan

Having warmed up it’s important to have a plan. Be positive about what you want to achieve. Confusion breeds tension in you and your horse.
Remember schooling is just another form of exercise. Ride ten three loop serpentines on each rein. Canter ten circuits of the ménage. Ride ten walk to canter transitions on each rein. Why not? No one said schooling had to be tough.
Enjoy finding things easy. You can always try something harder next time. Overfacing yourself from the start always leads to trouble.
Never lose sight of the fact that your riding is meant to be fun.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Warming Up

You warm up to stretch your horse’s muscles so he doesn’t pull something the minute you get to work. It also sets the standard for the rest of the session.
Use the same routine every time. Your horse will settle quickly when he knows what’s coming. You’ll be more focused because you have a clear idea of what you want to do.
Try this simple warm up. Use it every time you ride in the ménage. You’ll soon notice the difference.
1.      Walk two circuits of the school on a long rein then change the rein and do the same the other way.
2.      Take up your reins. Walk two figures of eight.
3.      Trot a 20m circle at A, B, C and E. Change the rein. Do the same the other way.
4.      Canter a 20m circle at A, B, C and E. Change the rein and establish a steady trot before you ask for canter the other way. Repeat circles at A, B, C and E.
5.      Make a good transition into trot and when it’s settled, walk. When you’re ready, not when he decides, halt. The halt tells him he can relax. Pat him and allow him to walk on the buckle while you decide what to do next.
This warm up uses all three paces evenly. Follow it and you’ll probably find you’ve already increased the time you spend in the ménage.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Top Ten Tips for Schooling

1.      Pick your time. Before you go in the school make sure you’re in the right frame of mind. If you’re feeling tense or miserable then go for a hack instead.
2.      Allow enough time. An average session should take about forty minutes. Allow longer. Never school under pressure to get finished.
3.      Set realistic goals. Never set out to change something overnight. Leave the real challenges to the days when you know you have time.
4.      Be consistent. Constantly changing your expectations will confuse and upset both you and your horse.
5.      Set your own goals. However well meaning other people’s opinions can hinder not help your sessions.
6.      Be flexible. Be prepared to change your plan for the day if things don’t go as well as they should do in your warm up.
7.      Don’t nag! Be quick to correct but quicker to reward.
8.      Use your paces. Spend an equal amount of time in walk, trot and canter. Schooling isn’t boring. Trotting endless circles is!
9.      Don’t have double standards. Blame yourself before you blame your horse. Most schooling problems stem from the rider not their horse.
10.  End on a high. Everyone has bad days. When all else fails pick something you know your horse will do well and call it a day.  There’s always tomorrow.

Schooling your horse

Once I get this site up and running I'm hoping to blog an idea each week for riders out there looking for inspiration when schooling their horse. Schooling needn't be boring. There are hundreds of things you can do to liven things up and you don't have to be on the bit. If you have access to a menage then, no matter what horse you have, you can school.
Schooling is only another way of exercising your horse. You don't need to be a competitive rider to do it.
Watch this space!