During the Summer break from uni I'm taking full advantage of the opportunity to bring on a lovely five year old cob called Ruby. This includes building up her experience with a few little shows, kicking off with her first ever dressage competition!

To get us prepped, I booked in a lesson with Clare Green, from which both Ruby and I learned a huge amount, proving how invaluable a good trainer can be especially where youngsters are concerned. Clare gave me so many important pointers for riding younger and inexperienced horses in general as well as with Ruby in particular. One of the most important things I learnt was not to over-do it. This isn't just because Ruby isn't at her fittest at the moment but also because young horses often get mentally tired quickly. They're also being asked to use their muscles differently which can be tiring too. So, once Ruby had done as I had asked, that was enough, and she was allowed a pat and a stretch of the neck. We still worked hard for half an hour and that was plenty of time to practice some of the movements that would be in the test, with Clare teaching me how to ride Ruby in a way that would help her as much as possible.

One of the things that Ruby found tricky was balancing on a circle. She tended to fall in as a result, meaning our circles became rather, shall we say, ‘lumpy’! Clare taught me to split the circle into quarters, re-applying the bending aid with every quarter whilst supporting Ruby with my outside hand and inside leg. This led to a huge improvement.

The next problem area was the canter which on my own I was having difficulty improving. Ruby tended to hurry forwards in a fast little trot, and then when we did get the canter, it was rather, um…wild! Clare got us to work on lots of walk to trot transitions first, helping her to balance and collect more. She also got us to do an exercise where we came across the diagonal of the school, walked for a few strides, and then asked for canter in the corner, meaning that Ruby was concentrating more and in tune with my aids. The result was a huge improvement in the transition.  But Clare also taught me that it's important that we kept the canter going for at least three twenty-metre circles in what Clare called the ‘three circle rule’, meaning that Ruby learnt doing just three strides of canter and then stopping was not enough!

Since Ruby had never been to a show, in the days before I decided it would be worth-while to mock up our own dressage show in the arena at home. I set out poles around the school to act as the boards of the arena, teaching Ruby to move off them and to not think that they were going to eat her! I also got my Mum to be the judge and sit in her car at C, even gently beeping the horn to get Ruby used to it... As with most things, she was calm as anything when the horn sounded, but best to be prepared!

So, fingers crossed Ruby's all set for her first dressage test - I'll keep you posted!

Ellie Fells


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Excitement and fear are intrinsically linked and those butterflies fluttering in our stomachs can indicate either emotion. My favourite experience on horseback was both exciting and petrifying at the same time!

It began on a wintery Monday morning, around this time three years ago; one of those really cold days when you actually look forward to mucking so you can warm up! I was employed as a working student at Newton Hall Riding Centre, and it was our job to exercise and look after the horses there. The previous week, a few new horses had arrived, one of them being Bluebell, a 5 year old piebald cob. I loved her immediately, greeting her the first moment I could, with a little piece of carrot, a symbol of friendship that I’d nicked from the feed room. So, when I was asked to take her out for her first hack, I was ecstatic, I’d been waiting impatiently for the chance to ride her for days. Bluebell had been ridden in the school a few times by the senior instructors and apparently seemed a bit highly strung but on the whole, she went pretty well.

Off we went, accompanied by two other horses and their riders, plodding down a little road towards the hacking fields. I felt comfortable but a little nervous, a familiar feeling when riding a strange horse for the first time, as you never really know what to expect. As we turned into the first field I felt Bluebell lurch forwards in excitement as the open space beckoned her to enjoy its expansive beauty and freedom. I stiffened but gently asked her back and she complied with a brisk walk, her head bobbing up and down happily. Everything was fine until my friend Callie asked, “Shall we have a little trot up the hill?” Before I could reply, Bluebell was off, not at a trot like the others but at a flat-out gallop.

There was nothing I could do to slow her down as disastrous scenarios ran equally as fast through my mind, “what if I fall off… I could die… I might never be able to ride again…”. I felt the icy wind cut past my stinging cheeks, heard the repetitive thud of hooves against the hard, semi frozen mud. I pulled firmly on the reins, leaning back, pushing my feet forward into the stirrups, trying my best to win this tug of war. Of course, it was useless. Bluebell was possessed, ignoring my requests to slow down as we thundered across the field. My heart beat fast and hard in my chest, I gulped down air, slightly choking on snips of mud churned up from the hooves of my now uncontrollable steed. I helplessly looked to my left, faintly hearing the low drone of the huge combine harvester in the neighbouring field. Then Bluebell threw her body to the right and everything went blurry.

I saw the blurred ground come closer as I began to fall but somehow I managed to hold on, my arms wrapped around Bluebells thick neck, one leg scooped around the top of the saddle. She slowed slightly, cantering through the middle of the field away from the big monstrous machine. I heaved myself back into the saddle, gathering the reins, I gave one last pull and sat there limp and shaky, grateful for the relatively slower pace of a brisk trot.  I have no Idea how I stayed in the saddle that day. My hacking buddies finally reached us as I was nervously trotting Bluebell round in a small circle, thanking God that we were both unscathed, and slightly calmer now. We then continued the hack at a very sedate pace, with a few excitable bursts of energy from Bluebell, in the form of a little buck or two. Amazingly, we managed to get home in one piece and when I dismounted, honestly, I nearly fell to the yard floor. My legs were like jelly!

I’m sure we’ve all had one of those moments- your heart skips a beat and the adrenaline pumps around your body as you glance at the ground and realise just how fast you’re going. For me the excitement of moments like these are intrinsically linked with the frisson of fear, and that’s what makes riding so exhilarating. Let’s face it, it's the chance of a spill that gives you that thrill!. It's rather like when you’re standing on the edge of a cliff or tall building and you just have to look down when you know it’s only going to scare you. You have to do it!

I would love to know what YOUR favourite experiences have been when riding. Maybe something went a bit wrong and you’re proud of yourself for dealing with it. Or you just felt really good about how your horse went. Or maybe you just went for a good old gallop! We all do this because we love it, so let’s celebrate and share our favourite moments… even if they were a bit scary!

Megan McCusker

 

 


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Author, Jackie Parry's recent book release A Standard Journey - 5 horses, 2 people and 1 tent is the story about how she and her husband, Noel adopted five horses and sold everything they had. Life became horses, trail, and endurance: all seven reliant on one another as they trekked along part of Australia’s Bicentennial National Trail - a learning experience if ever there was one... Here, Jackie shares with Trot On, some lessons learned.

I learned a lot about myself while trail riding in the Australian bush – unaided – for several months. But I learned a lot more about the horses.

Lesson Two.

In lesson one I talked about Charlie’s entire demeanour altering, but what about their personalities?

I’m lucky enough to have a partner that allows me to be me. I have no pretence of who I am, and that’s an incredible freedom. But what would happen if you gave this same liberty to a horse?

Neddy-boy came to us with his nerves in shreds. He was terrified of everything – us, dried leaves blowing in the wind...

In the beginning he always hid behind Charlie

When his nerves would take hold of his emotions we’d talk to him and explain that he didn’t have to worry any longer; he listened intently. He’d then heave a huge sigh of relief and release the tension from his body.

He’d listen to us intently – Ned and Charlie

Due to his fears Ned curtailed his personality. He kept himself to himself and was quiet, subordinate.

He was quiet, even though he didn’t initially like the packsaddle gear

Gradually, through trust he learned he could be himself, and suddenly we had a very cheeky chappy on our hands.

Ned learned to trust us and his cheeky personality shone through without a hint of malice

One evening, at our camp at Caloola Farm, I was debating whether to rug them up or not. It was warmer than it had been, but during the night the temperature could drop and their weight could then drop quickly too – something we couldn’t afford to happen on the trail. We had to search for food for the boys every day.

I constantly worried about their weight on the trail. They all did well, Noel and I – not so!

Loose in their paddock they all stood patiently as we strapped them in, they knew the routine.

Ned had been proving how smart he was. He’d listen to everything we asked of him, verbally or otherwise. By now we’d been trekking along the Bicentennial National Trail for several weeks.

We’d been on the trail together for several weeks. Ned knew his job well and enjoyed overcoming his fears.

But as I walked towards Ned carrying his rug, he walked away. His ears were up, his eyes twinkling.

‘Ned, Neddy-boy, come on.’ I called.

He stopped and looked at me.

He waited until I caught him up and just before I reached him, he trotted off for a few strides, stopped and looked back.

I’m sure he grinned.

A happy horse, waiting for his moment to have fun!

I walked around to approach him from the front.

He threw his head in the air and chased the rest of the team away as if to cover his antics in a show of following his mates.

He circled around us, head still high, still grinning.

He stopped, snorted, and then lifted his tail high and cantered off. A small buck was pointed in our direction and he watched me carefully as he flung his back legs out behind him.

Every evening he’d accepted his rug without question, until tonight, clearly he didn’t want it on and he playfully told us so.

His eyes were wide in challenge, head high, and he carried a smile of an animal who has finally found home – a place where he can be himself.

I’m on Charlie leading Ned, he became so confident he’d try and stride out in front of Charlie!

Lesson three coming soon…

The boys are with friends while we are near family in the UK. I miss them everyday – they don’t miss me at all, they are living like royalty.


 

If you want to read the full story, A Standard Journey: 5 horses, 2 people, and 1 tent, take a look HERE.

At least 50% of profits from this story are donated to horse charities, see HERE for more information.

We adopted our boys from the Standardbred Pleasure and Performance Horse Association of NSW (SPPHA).

If you have any questions about trail riding, or anything else please do contact me, Jackie Parry here on Trot On.

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Author, Jackie Parry's recent book release A Standard Journey - 5 horses, 2 people and 1 tent is the story about how she and her husband, Noel adopted five horses and sold everything they had. Life became horses, trail, and endurance: all seven reliant on one another as they trekked along part of Australia’s Bicentennial National Trail - a learning experience if ever there was one... Here, Jackie shares with Trot On, some lessons learned.

I learned a lot about myself while trail riding in the Australian bush – unaided – for several months. But I learned a lot more about the horses.

Lesson One

It wasn’t just Charlie’s behaviour that changed, his entire demeanour altered too. He’s a completely different horse.

Taken when Charlie arrived, with his thick winter coat

Taken when Charlie arrived, with his thick winter coat.

I wasn’t sure how his scrawny neck was holding his massive head up!

On the trail camping at Crookwell showground (this was the one time Noel rode Charlie – he was my riding horse).

Charlie’s 16 hands high and he came to us a coward. He’d competed around the trotters’ racetrack all his life, and had only ever lived within the boundaries of his paddock and the track.

The landscape we trained on in Kangaroo Valley, NSW, is hilly and steep. Charlie was fascinated with the countryside; he’d lift his enormous head to look up hills and down ravines. He was captivated, it was as if he was saying, ‘I never knew all this existed.’

During training, we’d let Charlie go free while trekking (he had become a great riding horse and we had to concentrate on training the others in packing) – but whether on the trail or on a break he’d wonder off and scout the area ahead – periodically returning (and often causing hysterical mayhem) to check we were all okay.

When I did ride him, he’d become an energized mischievous bundle of fun. He’d sneakily sidle towards the bottom of a steep incline, as if I wouldn’t notice, and then try to leap up it!

I was sure he was going to reach the top and burst into song, ‘The hills are alive…..’ The rough terrain built all their muscles and their coats started to gleamed.

A different horse!

We earned their trust, they felt safe with us.

Soon, instead of bowed heads, uncertain ear flicking, cautious steps, and worry-lines creasing above their eyes, the boys – and especially Charlie – lifted their heads high, pushed their ears forward and strode out with brave leadership qualities.

Walking out in front, at first he was worried about what was around the corner, not anymore!

The face-off with enormous grey kangaroos, one day, caused Charlie’s heart to thud against my leg. But he only hesitated for a second before walking right up to the stubborn roos and seeing them off.

Charlie became my war-horse; a proud beast with the appearance of a leader, he’s no longer a submissive coward.

Comparison, from worry lines above his eyes, to a relaxed, happy horse.

Lesson two coming soon...

The boys are with friends while we are near family in the UK. I miss them everyday – they don’t miss me at all, they are living like royalty.


 

If you want to read the full story, A Standard Journey: 5 horses, 2 people, and 1 tent, take a look HERE.

At least 50% of profits from this story are donated to horse charities, see HERE for more information.

We adopted our boys from the Standardbred Pleasure and Performance Horse Association of NSW (SPPHA).

If you have any questions about trail riding, or anything else please do contact me, Jackie Parry here on Trot On.

Facebook: For the love of horses

 


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1. Competing will be 80% bad and 20% good.

You’ll be sky-high one minute, and then back down to earth with a bang the next minute. Riding is tough. Very tough. Every rider will no doubt more or less agree with the above statistic. It takes an incredible amount of hard work and determination to be successful in riding. I wish I’d known just how hard it would be when I started!

2. You will become horse obsessed

Horses become more than just a hobby. You will eat, sleep, breathe, horses and become totally wrapped up in the equestrian world. Weekends will no longer be about spa days and shopping, but instead what competitions are on and where you can take your horse for a play.

3. Your non-horsey friends will think you’re crazy

To your friends you will be considered mad, damn right crazy in fact. People will wonder why you do it? Why you spend so much time? And money? To you however, it will be worth every single minute and penny.

4.  Your horse will become your therapy

At your time of despair you’ll go straight to your horse for a hug. If you’ve had a bad day at the office, your horse will be the one thing that makes everything better.  He becomes your therapy and life would be very daunting without him.

5. You will fall off – a lot!

In the early days you will fall off a lot! You’ll probably really hurt yourself and break at least one bone along the way. However, as a committed equestrian you’ll always get back on and give it another shot!

Abi Rule

 


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When one of your closet friends calls you and says “Sarah..I’ve just had the most amazing experience of my life, swimming with horses!!! You’ve GOT  to come and try this!!”  What are you going to say? "Hmm, I’m not sure..it doesn’t sound very exciting.” No, you say “Hang Ten” I’m on my way!!! So, in the time it takes to source the appropriate clobber, (it’s surprising how many friends just “happen” to have a spare wet suit hanging about) I’m merrily making my way down to Penzance to saddle up (actually there are no saddles involved, but I’ll get onto that later) with the Cornish Sea Horses.

Cornwall Sea Horses is the brainchild of Chris Cooke and Vikki Timmins. Chris has always swum with his horses, so when people kept asking if they could have a go they decided to organise supervised swims. The safety of the horses and clients is paramount, starting with a rider assessment in the round pen on a suitably matched horse, plus specialised quick-release reins and bridles (so there is no danger of the horses getting their legs caught in the reins and dragging their heads under water) and long ropes to help guide the horses, oh yes, and definitely no saddles.

Carolyn Seager, LArtisan Photgraphe

Chris and Vikki are both naturals with horses and as we wander down the lane to pick up our steeds from their fields, a mixture of Friesians and sturdy cobs (Chris also drives horses for weddings) Chris talks of the affinity that riding has with surfing. "The great thing about surfing is that falling off is part of the experience." He believes that for someone who is new to riding, riding horses in the sea is a wonderful introduction because what holds most people back with horses (and in life) is that we are most afraid of what  we can’t control. Letting go is really difficult for most of us but in the water you usually have no choice but to go with the flow!

This was definitely going to be a new experience for me, as falling off, or the fear of falling off is a huge preoccupation of mine so as negative thoughts and feelings swirled through my body at the same time the urge to swim with horses was overwhelming! During a previous conversation with Vikki, I made sure that she was aware of my (lack of) confidence levels, however she assured me that she had just the horse for me. My equine flotation device was to be the unflappable mare, Diamond.  Wet suit, riding hat and trainers on and assessment completed, I was now ready to ride to the beach but first there was the tricky issue of riding bareback and trickier still, mounting a horse whilst wearing the most restrictive  garment I had ever worn. After a couple of failed attempts under my belt,  I think I gave Chris a swift kick on the chin as he manfully gave me a leg up, third time lucky and it was time to head off to the Long Rock-No turning back now! Thanks to the wet suit, my legs were clamped to Diamond’s sides and dismounting planned or otherwise was not an option!

There’s something rather freeing and relaxing about riding bareback. It's something that I hadn’t done since childhood I had forgotten how much I loved it. Chatting to my friend’s daughter Kaia who was on her second swim in a month, I found her excitement infectious. As we passed cyclists and walkers, not one person turned a hair to see what I imagined to be an unusual sight...obviously not in Cornwall.

INTO THE SEA ON HORSEBACK.

Soon we arrived at the Long Rock beach (waiting for us there was another helper whose job it was to stay on shore and keep an overview of the swim.) We kicked off our shoes and hat and it was time to SWIM!  Vikki led me in SPLASH! SPLASH! SPLASH!  It was clear that Diamond was looking forward to her swim too! Walking out into sea was such a surreal experience; gradually the water was rising up above my feet up my legs then past my knees. All the while Vikki held onto the rope and swam alongside and told me to steer Diamond exactly the same way as I would on land.  The deep   rhythmical sound  of the horses breathing was hypnotic. When I'd found my sea legs, Vikki handed me the rope to take up with my reins and swam alongside as I went as deep as I was comfortable with. The feeling you get it difficult to describe which is a pity  when you have to write about it. Words like, "utter joy, freedom, exhilaration" come to mind and as Diamond's hooves left the sea bed, "weightlessness"-you’re floating but moving with power, effortlessly swimming.

Previously describing Diamond as a mere flotation device, was a total injustice to this lovely mare. As we strode out into the deeper water, just for fun, she bobbed her head underwater, and then threw it back out again, bringing copious amounts of salty seawater with her, splashing anyone who was nearby. As we headed into the deeper water, with Vikki still at hand, suddenly I was taken back to a time from my childhood, a time when I was a pony mad child without a pony. There used to be a travelling fair that visited our town and I would always beg to ride the carousel. Astride these colourful horses, their eyes and mouth wide, nostrils flaring, up and down we would go, leaving my stomach behind, my hands clutching the twisted pole. I used to wish that they would be set free from their musical round pen. Forty years later I have got my heart’s desire.

Then Vikki swims over to us and mindful not to tire the horses says that it's time to swim back to leave the sea. We have a few more trots along the shoreline and SPLASH,SPLASH, SPLASH we are back on dry land.

According to my friends I didn’t stop smiling throughout the whole experience...I’m smiling now as I write.

 

YOU CAN TAKE A HORSE TO WATER, BUT YOU CAN’T MAKE IT SWIM.

Chris and Vikki have set up Cornwall Sea Horses after years of experience, and every attention to safety for horse, rider and equipment has been taken into account. Training the horses to swim takes time, from taking them to the beach for the first time then gradually going into water.  Chris even swims in the water complete with flippers, to be sure that he is quicker in the water than the horses. All this goes on behind the scenes, allowing  people like me  to have a wonderful experience.

If you fancy an experience like mine then check out Cornwall Sea Horses.

Sarah West

 


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