Annie Joppe brings her horses back into work

Since my last blog work has recommenced with the horses.  Chiara and Wizard started work three weeks ago and Fantom about a week ago.  Dilmun, on the other hand, is destined to have a rather long holiday and won’t be brought back into work until February as it would be impossible for me to have four in work at one time, especially as the days are now so short.

My first task was to detangle manes and tails, scrape layers of mud off and endeavour to make them look as presentable as possible.  Once accomplished, although they didn’t really look like the athletes they can be, walking work started with 10 minutes each and gradually building up the time walking and the different terrain over which we walked.  To cut down the time spent in this activity, I thought that I might be able to ride and lead Wiz and Chiara.  The first time riding Wiz and leading Chiara worked moderately well but trying to swap the ride and lead horses over resulted in disaster with Wizard and Chiara trying to outdo each other in the walking stakes.  That was a no go, probably never to be repeated with two determined horses focussing on getting their nose in front!

I gradually introduced a little schooling, in walk initially, with a view to getting Chiara to listen to me by clocking onto the idea that walk, means walk and that a loose rein walk means longer strides and stretching down into the contact rather than an excuse to speed up.  So far this is marginally successful, possibly more so than Chiara’s interpretation of halt which is done, as with most things Chiara, with ultra enthusiasm resulting in complete cessation of movement at whatever point the aids are applied.

My next exercise for her was working over four poles on the ground arranged in a star shape where she could practice moving straight over the pole, taking care not to hit it, followed by smallish circles leading back to a straight line over the next one and so on.  That at least was the idea and to a great extent it did have the benefit of forcing her to concentrate so this will be an exercise that will be repeated.

Wizard, now that he has moved onto a little trot work, is doing some schooling too.  He has, I noticed, developed an annoying habit of jogging when out on the tracks which is DEFINITELY not allowed.  In the school we are working on walk, halt, walk transitions, improving the free rein walk and transitions walk, trot, walk.  Combined with a little leg yielding for suppleness this is designed to have him a little sharper on the aids.  Today I lunged him for the first time since coming back into work and confess I found him a little stiff so I kept the circle very large to help him maintain balance.  I am a little concerned at his stiffness at the beginning of winter but am confident that if I build him up slowly, he will benefit from the work.

Then there is Fantom.  Fantom has now begun his two weeks of walking and we are almost halfway through this.  I must admit that it isn’t a very interesting time in his conditioning programme as he can be somewhat lazy and switched off just walking around the lanes.  However, the dog usually comes and that can liven things up a bit with a little squirrel chasing and barking at unidentifiable bits of plastic!

We have just had the local endurance branch dinner and awards ceremony and Dilmun managed to become runner up in the veteran’s trophy which he truly deserves.

I am hoping to give Wizard and Chiara a little outing just before Christmas in the shape of a Christmas pleasure ride where we all get dressed up in something Christmassy and go for a wonderful ride around one of the local estates in Cornwall.  Just have to hope we get in to this popular event.