Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Yorkshire Training Weekend and Sherbourne Castle Country Fair

Well we had an absolute monster of a weekend at the end of May - I feel exhausted just writing about it!  It started on the Friday afternoon when Becca and I set off with all four of the horses up to North Yorkshire.  We were on our way to spend the weekend with Hannah Dawson, who I met back in September when she came down for a vaulting lesson with me and Tinker.  Hannah is a very established clicker trainer and Becca and I were keen to learn more about this method of training - as we've always gone for the 'make it up as you go along' approach!  However, setting off on the journey we had forgotten it was a Bank Holiday afternoon and consequently spent a looooonng time sitting in triffic traffic.  Boring!  I spend a lot of my time driving backwards and forwards to North Yorkshire as this is where Ben (my boyfriend) lives, so I sort of knew where we were heading which always makes a journey easier - not so for Becca who got quite irate with the whole thing!  We finally made it up there and having settled the horses were treated to a very lovely meal cooked by Hannah and her boyfriend Dexter, all very civilised!

In the morning it was down to serious business.  We started off talking through the theory of clicker training and how it could help each one of our horses, who are all very different, and what it was we wanted to achieve with each one.  It was fascinating talking about all the different training methods and experiences we'd all had with our various horses - I'm more than sure we could have talked all day!  But it was soon time to put it all into practise and see what the boys made of it all.  

We started of with Casper.  I wanted to work on him to be able to concentrate more and not be so easily distracted by everything going on around him.  He does his tricks beautifully at home but as we discovered back in November if I take him out of his comfort zone away from other horses he gets very bad separation anxiety and cannot calm himself down enough to concentrate on what it is I'm asking of him.  So, out of the paddock away from Tinker and into the barn with him!  And he was not happy!!  He ran around like a total mad brain and wouldn't settle at all.  Tinker didn't help either by being an idiot and whinnying back at him - not conducive to calmness!  After a little while he settled enough to start doing some basic work, and he picked everything up really quickly!  We worked with him for a little while before putting him back out with Tink to think about what he'd just done.  

Then it was Navvy's turn.  At home Navvy is quite bargy and pushy, so Becca was wanting to work on manners with him and also how to progress with his tricks.  Hannah recommended starting with the barrier (just a couple of rails) in between them to try and deflect the pushiness.  However, Navvy totally surprised us by being very wary of the barrier, almost as if he couldn't believe we'd done such a thing to him!  He was very quiet and a totally different horse from what we were expecting.  Becca then did the work without the barrier and Navvy was very responsive - and the politest he's ever been!

We swapped backwards and forwards between Casper and Navvy for most of the day - and couldn't believe the change in them!  Casper became more responsive and picked new things up ever so quickly, and Navvy also really concentrated and was polite for the whole day - result!!  Although we both know our horses really well the work we did throughout the day seemed to amplify their personalities.  Along with Hannah's insights we picked up aspects of their characteristics far stronger than either of us ever have before.  By the evening all five of us were really tired - and then it was Tinker and Ronan's turn!

We bought them into Hannah's arena where we set up the 'Pony Playground'.  This consisted of a lot of 'toys' to try and engage the boys a bit more.  The problem we've been finding with both of them is that they lack enthusiasm (they've both been doing it a long time now!), so we were trying to encourage them to play and just enjoy themselves.  The toys included a pedestal (Tinker's personal favourite - he kept just wandering off to go and stand on it!), a rug, a giant gym ball (football size for horses!), an umbrella, some tarpaulin and a little jump - all good fun for horses!  Ronan thought the whole thing was wonderful and played with as much as he possibly could, chasing Becca around and generally having a whale of a time!  Tinker is much more reserved and as a result I sometimes wonder if he's only doing what I ask him because he feels he has too rather than because he wants to, and that he really couldn't care less about the whole thing!  However, Hannah had a different take on him and made me realise that he does engage totally with me, just in a very quiet understated way.  I must be more considerate towards him!  We had great fun playing with them with all the toys, and adding their tricks in as and when.  Because they were enjoying themselves they really worked hard at their tricks - for the first time in a long time!  Both Becca and I certainly have a lot of work to do to maintain their new found enthusiasm!!

By now it was really quite late, but Hannah bought out her pony Toby to show us what clicker training can achieve and what he can do.  Coming down the yard he really didn't look very impressive - he's a twenty-one year old small cob, and looked like a little old man!  However, as soon as he started working the transformation was amazing!  Hannah was working him at liberty and before long she had him trotting around her on a circle, performing shoulder in, with a beautiful collected outline and really working up through his back - no more little old man!!  All this was done with nothing but voice and body language, and was just beautiful to watch.

By now it really was very late, and as we hadn't let up all day we were all exhausted!  It was pizza and chips before bedding down in the lorry again - tomorrow was a full vaulting day!  We were due to have two three hour sessions, with six people in each class.  First up were the more mature group - a bunch of lovely ladies who mostly wanted to work on their confidence and feeling more relaxed on the horse.  We did lots of barrel and walk work with them all - and then came the canter work!  Despite some of them saying they wouldn't be cantering (Hannah's mum Rachel included!), by the end of the session all of them had!  The looks on their faces as they were cantering around on Ronan was brilliant - some of the grins were just huge!  They all did fantastically well, and I gather that they are all keen for another go!  After lunch we had the more confident group so we were able to push them a bit.  Given that Hannah had already had a lesson we really pushed her and by the end of the session she was mounting and standing in canter on Tinker - no mean feat I can tell you!  I also have to mention Elaine, who having tried a flank off on the barrel just went for it and did one off Tinker at canter - I hope I'm that active at 63!!  We had a lovely day again and met some brilliant people, in fact the whole weekend was really interesting and we were hosted amazingly by Hannah and her parents - we will definitely be back!!  (One slight issue though...  The Yorkshire wind was really strong all day, and on the way back both our faces were just glowing red - we'd both got really bad wind burn!  We both spent the next couple of days looking really embarrassed - which in itself was embarrassing!!).

No rest for the wicked though.  No sooner had we finished the afternoon session than we were on the road home (along with a delicious packed lunch from Rachel - thank you!).  The idea was to truck on home, hopefully arriving at about 11.30pm, then unload the horses.  Ronan and Tinker to stay in the stables with Navvy and Casper going back out in the field.  Unload the lorry, reload the lorry with all the show kit, snatch a few hours sleep before getting up again at 4.30am to load up and set off for Sherbourne Castle down in Dorset - phew!  And that's exactly how it happened!  Tim arrived at Becca's shortly after we did, and with his and Bryn (Becca's boyfriend's) help we soon had the lorry sorted.  I slept really well although when my alarm went off again at 4.30am it felt like I'd only been asleep for a few minutes!

We arrived at Sherbourne to friendly faces but a very grey sky.  Luckily the rain held off until we'd got the awning up and were able to get the horses under cover.  I think they were just as tired as us and were quite happy to just stand munching away on their haynets.  Then the rain set in.  It was that horrible persistent drizzly rain that just seems to soak you right through and chill you to the bone - so much for a sunny May Bank Holiday!  Nevertheless the show must go on - and on we went!  Despite the horrible weather the show went through really well.  We were quite concerned about the roman riding as not only was it raining but also the arena is on quite a slope - cantering down hill standing up on two horses in the rain is not much fun!  We needn't have worried though, Tinker and Ronan looked after us so well, they just went beautifully steadily and the whole thing went without a hitch - they really are fantastic horses!  We put into practice what we'd learnt over the weekend with trying to engage them before their dances - and the results were two very good performances from them!  Happy days!

Unfortunately, for the first time ever, Ronan was unable to do the second show.  A combination of the extremely hard ground we've had recently, a lot of different work and lots of travel had all combined to make him really stiff and slightly lame, so there was no way Becca could risk him by doing a show.  So it was Tinker and me on our own!  We hastily cobbled together a solo show with the available costume and music, added in the skipping, and hey presto a new show was born!  The arena was quite large so I had to make everything even larger than usual, and in trying to make the strip fill the long duo track all on my own I got so carried away I actually ran out of music!!  The arena was really slippery, I was skidding about all over the place, especially on my mounts and dismount-remounts, but good old Tink caught me on every one and I managed not to fall over!  Same can't be said for Tim, who's body went one way and feet another doing a spectacular fall whilst carrying the pom-poms early on in the show - he looked like some sort of crazy pom-pom explosion as he went down!  Despite the horrible weather the crowd were amazing during both our shows, cheering away from under their umbrellas, and it really does make all the difference.  Thank you Sherbourne for keeping our spirits up!

It was finally time for a very bedraggled and tired Jive Pony team to head home.  Having eventually arrived back we all fell out of the lorry, sorted the horses out, before heading back to our respective homes and, finally, beds.  It really was monster of a weekend, but  a thoroughly enjoyable one!  As we were so busy we hardly managed to get any photos, but please click here to see the ones Hannah took.  (I'll add ours when we find the camera card!).

We've got another busy one next week as we're off to Bolesworth Castle up in Cheshire for a four day duo at the Bolesworth Show Jumping Classic and Country Fair.  This is organised by the same team behind the Champion's Tour we did over the winter with Geoff Billington and Ollie Townend, so we're looking forward to catching up with a lot of familiar faces.  I'll let you know how we get on soon!

Lots of love,

Rosie xx


Miste said...

I totally love reading about your fun weekends etc!

And I love clicker training! I use it with one of my horses and he catches on super fast.

Rosie said...

Hi Miste,

Glad you enjoy the blog - I have got a lot of catching up to do with it though!

Casper is learning things super fast too with the clicker training - there's no stopping him now!

Rosie x