Sunday, 24 January 2010

Jive Pony Vaulting Group

We did our second vaulting session yesterday, and once again it was a huge success! The first one was a few weeks ago, but what with all the snow we had to cancel a couple of Saturdays unfortunately - but now we're back in business!
We're running the group at a local riding school, Durham's Farm, and have had a group of about nine/ten girls come along, all of whom are really lovely and enthusiastic - and all seem to have boundless energy! We generally split them into two groups, with Rebecca taking one group to work on Ronan, whilst I teach the other group on the barrel. Barrel work is really important as a starting point in order to give a feel for how to move you body around in the space you will have available on the horse. It means I can teach the girls where their bodies should be in relation to the roller, how to use techniques to stay light and soft, and how to move about without getting off balance. I can then send them over to Rebecca so they can put all they've learnt into practise on Ronan! It's obviously completely different on a moving horse, so they take what they've learnt on the barrel and Rebecca builds on the techniques and helps them understand what they should be aiming for.
Ronan has been his usual wonderful self with all the girls, really looking after them. However, all the canter work has been a bit of a shock to his system - he was a hot sweaty thing even after having all his belly fluff clipped off! However, he wasn't nearly as hot or sweaty as Becca, who was cantering around next to him with each of the girls - she did have a huge amount of clothes on to keep warm but after all the running she definitely didn't need them and looked like she was going to have a heart attack! It's good to remind the horses what work is though (and us - I nearly died after leading a warm up for the girls!), as the show season will be upon us in no time so if we're vaulting regularly hopefully we'll remember what to do when we get to the first one! We're going to take Tinker to do the group next week, so the girls can try a different horse and also so Tinker can remind himself about vaulting!
Becca and I are also going to be embarking on a training course in order to become Level Two Vaulting Coaches. This will hopefully give us more ideas about how to structure the lessons and also improve our teaching skills. The course is one day a week for six weeks, starting next Wednesday in Northampton - it'll be a bit like going back to school! I must dig out my pencil case...
We did manage to get some photos of the group this time, just click here to have I look at them, and I'll let you know how we both get on the training course next week!
Lots of love
Rosie xx

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Horse Hero Filming

I spent yesterday doing something very familiar to me but at the same quite different, as I was involved in some trick training filming for Horse Hero. In case you've not come across it, Horse Hero is a website described as 'a paradise for horse lovers', where you can watch an almost infinite number of videos on everything equestrian you can possibly imagine. Amongst others, there is also a section where many equestrian celebrities write blogs, a couple of which I read regularly such as the fantastic trainer Tanya Larrigan (whose book 'New Sensations for Horse and Rider' is a must read!), and Jo Eccles, the Scottish vaulter who is now European Champion. (Special mention for the lovely John Eccles who very kindly let me compete on his fantastic horses more than once, back in the day!).
Fiona and Lucy arrived in the morning, and got straight down to business by telling me I didn't look smart enough - and I'd even put clean jeans on! Admittedly, my coat is pretty grubby, but as I spend most of my time with muddy horses and muck heaps it's hardly surprising! Anyway, I soon raided Becca's clothes and found something that met their requirements, and I have to agree I did look better! Having relayed this story to Becca she burst out laughing and said its definitely the first time anyone has ever borrowed her clothes to smarten up!!
Spruced up and ready it was time to start filming. We started off with Aristo, who has never had any trick training. Aristo is a four year old stallion, and although he is broken in he hasn't done any work for the past six months. Come spring he will be off to learn polo before hopefully becoming a polo stud - lucky him! However, today was his big day - and having never really even handled him I was a bit apprehensive about how he was going to behave. I needn't have worried - he was fantastic! Considering all he's done since the summer is wander around the field, and then all of a sudden he got brought in, brushed and then spent the best part of an hour being trick trained, he couldn't have done better. I started with the head shake, which he did perfectly a couple of times, before getting wise to me tickling him and just ignoring me! We then moved on to the leg cross, which he took to really well, even balancing himself enough to bring his leg back rather than fall out of it after just a few attempts - very impressive. Finally we started the kiss, which he also worked out very quickly, and unlike Casper refrained from licking my face! I was so impressed with him, he is a clever little thing and I'm sure if I were to carry on the training with him he'd pick everything up super fast - I'm now a big fan of his!
Having shown how to start a novice horse off with some basic tricks, it was then time to demonstrate the finished tricks with my two boys. We all trudged through the muddy field to the school (which was still half covered in snow!), and started the filming with Tinker. I introduced him as 'my professional horse who I can take anywhere and I know he'll perform', which was a big mistake! To be fair to him he did do all his dancing, but it was sooooo lack lustre he looked like he was about to die of boredom. It was almost as if he was saying 'Where's the audience? Where's the music? Where's my applause? I'm not going to bother unless it's worth it.' Just like a true artiste!!
Thankfully Casper saved the day. He is the most enthusiastic little horse - I think he's stolen Tinker's quota too! He did all his tricks really well, although some were quite over zealous - the Spanish walk was more like a speedy Spanish stomp, and the kiss was definitely a dirty great snog! I was really pleased with him, he kept focused on me throughout the session, managing to ignore both the camera and Tinker in the background - a definite improvement from the pantomime! Having finished the filming he then did more tricks for the camera, you can see the snaps Fiona took of us by clicking here. (Or see some in the Horse Hero gallery by clicking here - we're right at the bottom).
I really enjoyed doing the filming, although I did find it quite difficult sometimes - I never realised how much I say 'umm' - must try and stop that! It was also hard to give a running commentary as to what I was doing. The reactions you need to give to reward the horse when you get the desired behaviour are far quicker than I can talk, so I think I may have stumbled over my words a bit. Afterwards, I also thought of loads of things I should have said but didn't - typical! It was good fun though, and I hope very much I get to do it again one day!
Hopefully the finished videos will be up on the site early to mid February, and as soon as they are I'll put a link up so you can watch them (unless I'm horrific in which case I won't tell anyone!!).
We're doing our vaulting group again on Saturday, so I'll take some more photos and tell you how we got on next week.
Lots of love
Rosie xx

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Snow, Snow, Snow!

I was going to tell you all about our little vaulting group we started up last Saturday, but as I didn't manage to get many photos I thought I'd wait another week, get some more shots, and then write about it. And then the snow came.

The snow quite literally put a stop to everything for me. I couldn't get my car out of my road (parallel parked nice and tight on a very steep hill!) so was completely stranded. Thankfully the horses live with Becca, and she managed to squeeze looking after them into her busy schedule - for which I am eternally grateful!! Having not seen them for about five days and getting very bored Becca again came to my rescue and drove the ten miles to pick me up, take me to see them (and muck out!), before bringing me home again - oh for a four wheel drive truck!

I finally managed to dig my car out on Monday and make it over to my boys under my own steam, although the journey did take me 45 minutes instead of the usual fifteen! Having got back home I left the car at the bottom of the hill, which was a good decision as following the further two inches we had that night had I not I would have been stuck again! I took my camera over to the horses when I went today and took quite a few photos of them, despite the fact that everything is starting to look quite dirty now! On my way home I was amazed to see the hounds being exercised along the main road - it was a wonderful sight and just goes to show how quiet the roads are at the moment, they don't do that normally! Just click here to have a look at the photos.

The snow really has been exquisitely beautiful; I'm especially drawn to the icicles which have been absolutely stunning - I've even seen one which must have been about eight foot long! (Wouldn't want that one falling on my head though!) Aside from the beauty of it, one of my favourite things about the snow is that it makes the horses so lovely and clean! Although I turn them out covered in stable stains, by the time they come back in they have lovely white legs and feet again! They also have fluffy faces and clean manes! Self cleaning horses - brilliant! If only that happened in the summer when I need them to look smart...

Speaking of smart I will have to spruce them up a bit for Monday, as we're due to be doing some filming for Horse Hero. Fiona and the team are going to be making a short film on trick training, featuring Tinker, Casper and myself, as well as a novice horse completely new to the idea. This last part is in order to demonstrate how to start your very first session, and I will be using Aristo, a very sweet little stallion who also lives at our yard, but is unbroken and out of work - hopefully he'll enjoy doing something different and won't embarrass me on film! I'm also going to use Casper as much as possible, as after the panto debacle he needs as much 'atmosphere and distraction' training as possible. And of course Tinker, the professional, who will show us all how it's done (hopefully - he does pick his moments to embarrass me and this would be an ideal opportunity!!). I'll let you know how I get on!

Unfortunately we had to cancel our vaulting group both last week and this Saturday due to the snow, but as soon as we do the next one and get some photos I promise I'll tell you all about that too.

Becca is off to Paris again in the morning for more Annie Oakley, so is going to miss the filming on Monday, but will hopefully be having much better weather than us - fingers crossed she brings it back with her next week!

In the meantime I hope everyone is coping with the snow - and the thaw!

Love Rosie xx

Friday, 1 January 2010

Pantomime on Horseback

My boys and I have just had a very busy week, as we were taking part in The Devil's Horsemen Christmas Pantomime. Tinker, Casper and I set off on Boxing day morning for their Buckinghamshire base, and were thrown straight into rehearsals. We rehearsed all the acts and all the horses all afternoon, but before we knew it it was 6pm and the doors were opening for people arriving for the first show!

For the past two years we have done Cinderella on Horseback, but this year we had an all new show - Christmas in Fantasia. The basic story was Father Christmas being kidnapped at the beginning, and his two elves (Cam and Karina complete with bells on their costumes!) travelling through various different panto lands to rescue him. This meant we all had lots and lots of costume changes as the acts we had included Dickens, The Wizard of Oz, Aladdin, Snow White, Cinderella and Harry Potter - all complemented by fairy godmothers, wicked stepmothers and of course the ugly sisters! Phew!

For my part I had a vaulting act on Tinker as part of the Wizard of Oz section. We did a walk section and then quite a long canter section, where I pieced together both my normal show freestyles into one - I was certainly out of breath by the end! Tinker was absolutely fabulous, and didn't let me down once. Although he'd never been in the shed before he took to it really well and wasn't at all phased by the proximity of the audience - he is a proper professional! He did get quite tired towards the end of the run, but after seven shows plus initial rehearsals all in four days I can't say I blamed him! He's back out in the field now seeing 2010 in with a well earned rest- and mud bath! As well as our vaulting act Tinker and I also performed a dance during the Cinderella act. This went down really well, and as per usual after his performance I got asked plenty of times how I train him. The answer is basically bribery, although there is slightly more to it than that!

Seeing as how I'd bought Casper along for the ride (he's still not at the stage where I can do a complete vaulting act on him - much to Tinker's disgust!), I'd decided that the least he could do was some dancing to ease Tinker's load. I'd been working him in the shed to get him used to the surroundings every day, and he'd been going really well - he was really settled in there and didn't seem too bothered by anything that was going on. So, on Monday I decided it was time to put him to the test. The afternoon show had about one hundred and sixty people booked, and Casper was ready to make his debut! I'd already worked and danced him in the shed in the morning, which had gone really well - he'd danced a perfect dance and performed his catch four times in a row without mishap, even with people bustling about and providing possible distractions. So.... showtime!!

As we were backstage waiting for our turn to go on Casper was quite jumpy, the atmosphere of a show is very different to that of a practice, and one that you simply cannot create. However, he settled down far quicker than I was expecting and really concentrated on me for a few warm up tricks - including another perfect catch! Next the curtain came back and we were out in front of the 160 strong audience! Bless Casper, his eyes went out on stalks, his head went up in the air and all thoughts of concentration went completely out of his head! I managed to get him into the middle of the arena, stop, and get his concentration for a kiss. However, as soon as we did this the audience clapped, which completely threw him and he just spun around me. I then got him back and he managed a leg cross each way, but then more applause, more spinning and less concentration! We carried on like this for the duration - concentrate, trick, applause, panic - for the entire dance - if you could call it that! Despite this I was really pleased with him. In the end he did manage a nice kiss, leg crosses both ways, spanish walk in two directions, and finished with a lovely bow - you just had to pick the tricks out from all the messing around in between! Although his repertoire is far far wider, the fact that he managed to concentrate enough to do anything is quite an achievement for him - he is far higher strung than Tinker and I always knew he'd be harder to focus. Hopefully when he's in an outdoor arena the atmosphere will be less intense and he'll be more able to concentrate - he'd better because he WILL be in the shows this year, whether he likes it or not!

The other acts I took part in were the opening Dickensian street scene (complete with a milk yoke!); Snow White, where I was fed a poisoned apple before waking up to dance with Dan and Dante; the ridden Can-Can as Cinderella, and; the comedy vaulting on the gorgeous Percheron Daffodil, also as Cinders. We also had ridden pas-de-quatres, a roman riding race, carriages, Laura's impressive hoop act, Caesar the donkey, Gerard and his black horse, smokey joe and of course trick riding. The two hour show was definitely full of action! Although I've not managed to get any pictures yet, people have been posting videos up on YouTube, a couple of which you can see below - have a little watch to see what we got up to!

Becca and I have an exciting day tomorrow - we're trying to start a little vaulting group at a nearby village's riding school. Becca did a taster day back in December, but it's the first official session tomorrow, so I promise to take lots of photos and tell you all about it next week!

Lastly, a very happy new year from all of us at Jive Pony, and we look forward to seeing you at a show in 2010!

Love Rosie xx