Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Schooling Sessions

I've been trying to read back through my blog, to see how I left things on the schooling front.  I think I'd basically given up, but lack of funds has a lot to do with it as well.
Anyway, I want to do some showing with Barnaby this year, and he really is hopeless in the school, so I've got Nicky Hunt back, who I used before, and finally, finally, we are beginning to make some progress, but it is very slow going.
You can see, just from Barnaby's build, that schooling him is like asking a rugby player to do ballet, but if I don't do something with him, he will just get worse and worse.  I do think for his own health/bones/muscles, he needs to do some schooling.
So Nicky has been coming every week.  One session she rides him and the next session I ride him.  Last week I got so frustrated I actually swore!  I have never sworn at an instructor in my life, so I was a little bit taken aback myself, and I did apologise, but if I don't say what I think, how is she going to know where I'm at?  Basically, she is phenomenally good at schooling Barnaby, who is coming along nicely, but she's not as good at teaching me.  I need her expertise, so that when Barnaby does something wrong, she instantly corrects him, and I don't always know how to do it.  I feel totally dim, as if I can't ride at all.  To be fair, I've never ridden a horse as bad as Barnaby is in the school.  Even riding school horses can canter around an arena and keep themselves upright, for goodness sake, how hard can it be?  Max never had any problems with it.

Every so often, you have a conversation with someone who makes a passing
comment without realising the huge significance behind it.

Mr O and I were talking the other day and I mentioned that Barnaby really drifts to the right on a hack.  Obviously it's very noticeable on a road, as he drifts towards the traffic, so I have to regularly nudge him to make him stay over to the left.  Mr O said, "Oh, he never does that with me."  Further discussion led to the revelation that Mr O keeps his leg on the whole time to keep him over (strength as usual).  So he spends an hour providing a leaning post and Barnaby says, "Thanks very much!" and spends the hour leaning on it.  That in itself explains an awful lot, because the whole of Barnaby's schooling is about him learning to carry himself.
So Nicky is teaching us at a level that I always knew must be out there but was never allowed to have.  It makes me want to cry and shout, "Why was I never told this before?"  It makes me want to cry because my money might run out before we get really good.  It makes me want to cry because we'll do some showing soon and it'll still be a disaster, because you still have to be able to canter and he still can't do it.  Grrrr!
So I'm going to school him twice a week, because if I do more than that he'll mutiny, I know he will.  I'll have my lesson with Nicky on Wednesdays and then I'll school him in a double bridle on Saturdays when he'll have to start cantering.
You probably know how showing works, but basically you all go in a ring together and ride round, sometimes all cantering together, which is lunacy, but shows you have control of your horse.  Then you go and line up near the edge of the ring, all facing inwards in a line, and one by one the judge calls you out, and asks you to do a little 'show' which is a riding display showing walk, trot and canter on both reins.  My concern is that Barnaby will just tank round in canter with his head down and crash into the line of horses, so we'll see.
I'm going to do two little local shows, one in June and one in July, then the main show I'm aiming him at is in August in our village.  It's actually a county level show, but you don't have to be affiliated to take part.  In the cob class the judge gets on and rides each horse, so I don't know how that bit will go either, but as it's cobs, you ride in a double bridle, so I'd have more control and so would the judge. 
So we'll just have to see.  I feel a bit more accountable now I've written it all down.  Sorry it's a bit long today, but it really helps to get the frustration out of my system.
I've decided this is make or break year for us, because life's too short to have a stressful time with what is, actually, a wonderful horse.  We will try some showing this year.  If it goes well, I'll be thrilled and I'll do some dressage this winter to keep him going and we'll do more showing next year.
If not, then we'll do pleasure rides and the odd fun thing and that will be that. 
I went out this morning to get Barnaby in for my lesson and he wouldn't budge.  I put his headcollar on, attatched to the leadrop and pulled and pulled.  He just looked at me.  I flapped and shouted and even got on his back.  He said nothing, but his feelings were perfectly clear (something about "You can keep that up all day love," but it wasn't quite clear.)
I sat down on the floor and cuddled up to him.  We had a bit of a chat about the time I'd sat with him in the field for half an hour at the old yard, when his foot was still bad, and admired the view and that I'd known all that time ago that he should have been mine really, and now he was, and we dozed and I knew in my heart how much I love him.
And because my friend has been told by her vet that today is the last day her 26 year old Arab will spend on this earth, and it just puts everything into perspective, doesn't it?  None of us knows how long we have together.  Let's not waste a single day of it. 
Mrs O.


  1. Part of the trick of the canter is not letting the horse dictate your position. You will need to sit up on Barnaby and use your seat in the saddle to encourage his hind end to come under so he can get off his forehand. When he is racing about, that's not easy to do, but you do need to try hard to sit up and not let him tip you forward in the saddle.

    Good lessons and a good trainer are so wonderful. Wish there were more money in my own budget to afford more. I haven't had a lesson in at least a year. Enjoy as much as you can......

  2. Oh Jane youve certainly got your hands full with Barnaby, I do hope you find the way to cope with his wilful manner and get him to co operate with your commands. Good luck with hugs Shirleyx
    Hes a bit like a wilful child, my hubby laughed when he heard that when he doesnt want do to something he really shows he doesnt.

  3. You'll get there! Dylan didn't have a clue when we got him but 3 years on he is a different horse - he just recently figured out how to do left canter properly every time & came 4th in his second dressage test last week!


  4. Good luck with Barnaby...I know you'll get there with him!


  5. I must share this with you because this has worked with Bruce who's similar to Barnaby and for me, who was at as much at a loss as you are.

    We did groundwork- in the school me at one side standing by his shoulder on the ground, reins over his neck like I was riding him but I did everything from the ground (yes, including shoulder-in, trot and canter puff puff PUFF!)

    It showed not only where he leaned but exactly where I did and didn't help, and we still have a session every week to keep "in touch" and he really understood it and listened.

    Then when I got back on we abandoned "proper" canter aids and simply slowed the trot, said 3-2-1, breathed in and visualised canter.
    For a horse that could NOT canter on the left rein due to hip injury, he can now canter in the school- ok, not a 20m circle but he can actually canter.

    It seems as you breathe in your seat goes down into the saddle and your ribcage lifts, and you remain perfectly balanced.

    To come back to trot I do the same thing in reverse visualising my trot

    I do hope it might work for you both

  6. sorry- didn't mean to say canter on the groundwwork, I couldn't run that fast!

  7. I'm back! Just catching up with all my bloggy friends. Your post about appreciating what we have is so, so true. Sorry to hear you've been ill, and glad you're feeling better. SueXXX

  8. There is so much to say but as it is getting late where I am I will keep it short, first of all you said about pulling on Barnaby’s lead rope, quick tip if any of my horses or ponies refuses to lead I lead them from side to side this works because it is hard for them not to go to the side unlike the front they can’t just plant themselves to the ground. Anyway then cantering, the other comments have said a lot about it so all I can really say is don’t be stiff, try to move with him, don’t block his movement, engage him with your own movement, sit up, look forward with your head up, sit deep, keep contact with his mouth, there is a lot more but like I said it is getting late. I would also say you may want to look for a different instructor, they need to be good at teaching you as well as the horse, anyway good luck with everything hope it all works out.


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