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    February has seen steady progress for Sherlock, we have started to add some schooling work to our hacking, and we even did a Dressage competition . The real learning for me this month, however,  has been with the “Troll Bridge”.

    We have met this bridge before, it is near to our Farrier in <BLOG_BREAK>North Yorkshire. Sometimes when we box over to be shod I will take Sherlock for a ride in the beautiful countryside. The bridge is safe, a proper “horse bridge” with high sides. It does not look very inviting though, narrow so your feet could touch both sides, it takes you over a chasm with rushing water underneath, it makes a hollow “Trip Trap” sound, plus you can see through it to the water below, in fact I will attach a photo!

    The first time we met this bridge Sherlock walked boldly up, until his feet touched the wood, it made a scary noise and he could see the water, and BAM, he reversed quickly away. When I asked him to go closer I was met with a very emphatic NO, and at that time there seemed little negotiation! We made it across though, in double quick time, as I decided to dismount and lead him over.

    The reason that was in my mind was that Sherlock and I have a better relationship on the ground than ridden. I have just put this down to the practice we have done with our ground games, the stepping on the mat, the lorry loading, the clipping (see Sherlock’s Clipping Diary http://www.upbeatequestrian.co.uk/sherlocksdiaries.html) and just the general games that we play. On the ground it seems that Sherlock trusts me!

    On the first day with the Troll Bridge it was instinct that told me to dismount. I guess that staying mounted I was at that time on a hiding to nothing, Sherlock had locked down his thoughts on the small matter of the Troll Bridge, and maybe I still need to develop myself further in ridden tact as I have in the ground work. I believed that he was genuinely worried about the bridge, and I also appreciated that if I were to give Sherlock a lead over the bridge, he would see that it were safe.

    So, the bridge, I led him over, asking a step at a time, Sherlock at my elbow as he knows to be, and we went straight over. I re-mounted and away we went for our ride. As it had been such an easy experience I soon forgot the whole Troll Bridge experience. That was last autumn and I recollect a fantastic ride in the sun, out for a couple of hours, and we were even approached by a herd of bullocks, which were a bit pushy for my liking. Just home from America I made use of my cattle herding experience and instead of them pushing on us, I turned the tables, we rounded them up and we pushed THEM away from US! Happy days!!

    In January we met the Troll Bridge again after we had been for shoeing. This time Sherlock remembered the bridge before I did, he was hanging on my leg before we even got there. I corrected his tardiness with a schooling whip, if you see January’s blog it was about him offering energy with a light request, so he mainly took the correction, but he was not happy. When we got to the bridge there was stalemate. If I asked him forwards it was like nudging a brick wall. If I insisted it turned into a backwards. I could feel that if I got any stronger it would lead to unwanted behaviour, we got as far as a spin and a lock up.

    Hmmm, stuck here. I don’t want to allow Sherlock to “get away” with stuff, believe me he is a bright young man and if I allow him the topside of me in this I know it would spill over into other stuff. Well, it was about three months previously  when he saw the bridge, so, fair game, I could make this easier for him, I dismounted and led him over. That again was no problem, straight over. But it is a problem to me. Sherlock is primarily an eventer (Oh, OK, you have me, he is primarily LOVED, his secondary role is that of an eventer!) and if there is a scary fence (or bridge for that matter)in competition  I cannot get off and drag him over! So, this time I did not feel it OK to just re-mount and ride away. No, this time I wanted Sherlock to respond to my mounted request to cross the bridge.

    Still on the reverse side of the bridge I re-mounted and requested he went over, to ride back over the bridge. Hey presto, he did, no problem! WOW, that was easier than I thought. Big pats, and smiles. Then I turned to ride him over the original way, and NO! He was again well and truly stuck.

    Now, at one time this would have offended my ego! I would have redoubled my efforts to ORDER Sherlock across the bridge! I did this with Sherlock just the once, it was at his first visit to the Sea Side. We had gone with Andy and Charlie, and the tide was quite high. Sherlock was in a state of high excitement, but he held it together. We had just walked up the beach, trotted a few circles in the sand and were heading back. Half way back, smiling at a successful first visit, my judgement got the better of me and despite Sherlock’s raised stress levels I decided to try to order him into the sea.

    I found out that day that I am not capable of ORDERING Sherlock to do anything! I did not even have a whip or spurs on me, but a demon took me over and I tried to kick and insist, and there was over an hour of upset. I did in fact “win”, Sherlock apparently “gave in” but the fallout of loss of trust lasted many months. I would seem that when faced with a new stressful situation Sherlock would now not look to me for help, he would see me as a further hazard and I do wonder if some of the trouble with the Troll Bridge is still a fallout from this.

    I do think that insisting and even using a whip has its place, I just think that when the horse is genuinely scared, THAT is NOT the place!

    So, I was sat on Sherlock, looking at the bridge, wondering how to overcome this stalemate. I ask him forwards, he says NO. I decide to work from the premise that he is in fact scared rather than stubborn. It is a puzzle why he will lead over and ride back. I think it may be because of that first time, when he was going to try the bridge  the noise really did startle him. He has never been startled riding back or leading out, but riding out over the bridge is the really scary thing! It did not feel like nappyness, there was something clicked in Sherlock’s mind about the bridge boundary.

    I decide to lead him over quite a few times. He follows, almost with a sense of boredom! So, I reason, the problem is when ridden, at the front of the bridge, maybe we need to spend some more time there? So, we do. Not just leading back and forward over the bridge, but spending some time at the “Danger Zone” walking on, stopping, then continuing. Returning, walking on, stopping and reversing. By the time we are done Sherlock feels safe enough to try to chew the rail whilst half on and half off the bridge!

    So, I re-mount. I ask him forward over the bridge and...........brick wall!

    I reason that now we have been over the bridge so many times that Sherlock SHOULD go over. Dangerous word “Should”. I urge him forwards, bump him with my legs. Soon we are running backwards, he even manages to spin round. This is going the wrong way. I stop and take a deep breath. Sherlock is looking very unhappy.


    Funnily enough at this time my phone rings and as I am not sure what to do next I take the call. It is about work, and I sit and sort that out. Then I put the phone down and regroup my senses. Actually we are doing well, we have been standing near the bridge for some time.

    I decide to try this bit by bit, obviously for Sherlock to just “walk over the bridge” is too much at present. I know better than to to “Should’ve myself”! So, regroup, what do we have. I gently ask Sherlock forwards and we do a step. Aha! Now, rather than ask for MORE I actually reward him for that one very small step. We stand while he snorts at the bridge, what a brave young man, he moved forwards even though worried. I appreciate the move he HAS made rather than being dissatisfied that we are not over.

    Hey, was I after the Macro goal again? Rather than appreciating the whole micro goal, that really is the big picture, that Sherlock was trying?????

    After a while he relaxes, and even looks around some. Aha, if he is relaxed enough to look around, he is ready for the next step, in fact it is a “wrong decision” for Sherlock to stop concentrating on the problem. So, I ask again. One step, and he gives it. We are talking a step of maybe 1 or two inches here, but it was in the correct direction.

    Bit by bit we inch up, until, we hit the imaginary brick wall at the edge of the bridge. Hmmm, brick wall. I can almost feel it. I wait, Sherlock loses focus, so I ask forwards again. NO. Hmmm, well, I can feel the brick wall too, so rather than be frustrated with Sherlock I decide that if forwards is out, let’s explore where the boundaries of the brick wall are. So, I ask SIDEWAYS! Now, Sherlock is again following my direction, we step sideways. We do this a few times. I am pleased ( a breakthrough for me as previously I would have had my ego shout at me that he has not gone FORWARDS yet), so I quietly ride him away with big pats.

    We regroup and try again. One step at a time until we are at the wall. Explore the wall. Turn and regroup. Finally we got to the wall, explored the wall, and suddenly I could feel the wall melt. It was almost tangible. The wall melted, I asked Sherlock forwards and we walked over the bridge! No panic, just a stroll in the park!

    That ride was funny. The bridge had taken about 1 ½ hours, and Sherlock had some residual tension. We trotted up the hill leaping and squealing!

    This weekend we revisited the Farrier for our February shoeing. I took my tack and set out for our ride that would start over the Troll Bridge. I really want to sort this out, to show Sherlock that I can be trusted not to “go off on one” in a stressful situation. Again Sherlock was hanging on my leg. As we walked up the lane I thought about this. The actual bridge, when we did it, was not stressful at all, we strolled over. So why the tension? I guess it may be because both times I HAD at some point tried to FORCE him over. This time I resolved that we would think this through and work it out together.

    We walked right up to the edge of the bridge first time, good brave boy, but at that boundary point there was the imaginary brick wall and we ground to a halt. This time it was different though, no upset. Sherlock went to the boundary and tested it with his feet. I was pleased, he trusted that I would not hijack him and force him. But, the wall was there.

    As Sherlock had gone straight to the bridge boundary I know he was trying. So, I dismounted and led him across and back. Yes, it is safe. Now to convince him that mum is as good and trustworthy a leader on his back as on the ground.

    We did it as before, one step at a time, when we reached the wall, explore it side to side. Then ride away and rest. I don’t see this as rewarding him for disobedience, as I rewarded him after I had asked him sideways and he complied.

    Soon we had one foot on the bridge. I asked forwards, and he thought that was too much, and we reversed. I asked him to stop, it took a while, he was tense. Was I going to ORDER him? No, we did the side to side again, right back to the point where I made the mistake, and stayed there while I sent a text! (I KNOW doesn’t SOUND good, but it was off road, and it relaxed me!).

    We did this a few times, I was feeling when there was a wall, I was exploring what was a “mistake” and what was a reasonable “ask”. Then I got the timing right. It was not like the feeling last time when the wall melted, this time the wall was still there in Sherlock’s mind, but I asked at the right time, and he went onto the bridge. And strolled over. This time we were calmer on the other side of the bridge. Plus this time it took less than ½ an hour start to finish, including my thinking time!

    I have showed the photo of the “Troll Bridge” to some people, as I was a little disappointed that it still took this long and it felt like I needed validation. Most people have said that with such a scary bridge we did well. I think I need to examine why it is important to me what “Most People” think!!!

    I am interested as to what Sherlock will be like next time we go here. It will help me understand what the actual fear is, how I can help. One thing that some people asked was if I was scared? Hmmm, no not of the bridge, I know that is safe. If I had tried to FORCE Sherlock over then I WOULD have been scared as we would have been going over all tense, and probably would have slipped on the wooden slats. If I had tried really hard to FORCE Sherlock then that would have been scary too- Sherlock is quite an “athletic” horse (!). But no, it felt more like an exploration than a confrontation. And exploration is interesting and even fun!

    And YES, for those of you who know the tale of the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” OF COURSE as we were going over I chanted “Who’s that Trip Trapping over MY bridge?”!!!  


    Jan 10
    January went WELL! We did all that enforced in-hand learning in the snow at the start, then the snow went, and we started hacking out (trail riding for my American friends!) to get fit.
    Sherlock was turned away after the event season in late October, and just it was as we were about to start our hacking that the snow came. We still must do the <BLOG_BREAK>fittening at walk, then increase the schooling gently, so with the delay in starting we will have a later start to the event season. No matter, we have the rest of our lives to do that, and we are having so much fun with the little things that the calendar itself is secondary.

    While I was off I have been working on our ridden work. I know that sounds strange, but thinking about my riding seems to have the effect of working on it just as well as if we were actually doing it. I went to see a lecture Demo by Tim Stockdale. This was on a horse that had only been backed a couple of months, and the horse was having his first experience of jumping under saddle. The whole point of the exercise was how it all felt, not the actual jump, the whole experience of how the horse felt as he was being ridden around the school.

    Some of the jumps the horse threw were pretty green, in particular when the horse saw his first bounce fences, but the entire focus was on the feel to the rider, the forward  movement to the soft contact, the rhythm, the relaxation.

    It occurred to me that I believe I am not so “Goal Orientated”. I mean SOME goal orientation is necessary or I would spend my entire time looking at Sherlock and never get around to riding him, but in the big picture I believe I do not let the goal override the process. For instance we have started the fittening process late so we will be late to start the season, no problem. We would like to move up to novice eventing this season, but only if it is right to do so. So in a Macro sense I am not too goal orientated. I have a plan, and the plan is moveable.

    Watching the demo though I realised that I am still missing something. The rider kept on feeling for the correct feel, helping the horse to understand, using poles on the ground to explain it. There was no excitement, no stress. There was joy, when the horse made a row of bounces, or made a huge effort to clear a fence, so it was animated, but in a positive way, and the feel of relaxation and forward movement to a soft contact was always paramount.

    The Macro goal of jumping the jump was always secondary to the Micro goal of how it all feels.
    It was all food for thought, and now we are starting our hacking I can see how what I have seen will fit into our ridden routine at home.

     I have always thought I am pretty on the ball with hacking. I can stay relaxed and be “plugged in” to the horse’s psyche enough that I can usually stop a shy before it happens. You know, feel the tense ribcage, neck or back, and tell the horse gently “don’t worry, I got it” before he feels the need to react. Often I don’t even need to know WHAT it is that the horse is reacting to, it could be the “horse eating bird” or the JCB, but I think it can be counter productive to try to figure it all out, it must seem to the horse then that you too are scared. If you are “plugged in” well enough you can feel the first trace of nervousness, and calm it right down before anything happens.

    Of course with a horse you still have to be alert, to stay safe in the traffic, but I still do not want to be nervously scanning the hedgerows and gardens for scary things. Instead when I am training a horse I use an experienced “outrider” on a steady horse, they will look for things that may well startle a young horse, and control the situation, such as sticking out their arm to indicate to traffic that we are taking the road. For instance in the case of say a drain clearer lorry they will take the road for me, controlling the traffic danger, so I can calmly ignore the hazard.

    It can be so funny when we do this, the horse I am on tenses up, I know my partner will have controlled the danger, and I say “I got it, no worries” without even looking at or paying attention to the hazard, and we will stroll on by as if the scary lorry-with-generator-and huge-hose-sucking-drains was not there at all. Embarassing even, the cars must wonder why we “took the road” as we are obviously on the steadiest horses ever!

    So, before Vegas we started hacking and I was looking at how Sherlock and I were together. And yes, when we were riding out then as long as the “macro goal” was going OK (you know, walk, on left side of road, head down) then I was being satisfied with that, that was my goal, and we were achieving it. Usually whilst chatting with friends!
    I remembered the lecture demo, and started looking at the stuff that is really important and I have realised just how much I have let go. Sherlock tends to be a bit lazy, he is unsteady in his contact, can be inattentive. And I have been letting all this go, I have been satisfied as we were achieving the walking down the road on the left hand side goal. I did make attempts to improve out forwardness, contact and bend/straightness, but it was a puzzle as it was not really improving, it just seemed I was nagging at him more. I was working harder, but Sherlock did not seem to be.

    Then Vegas, a great few days away with my mum, and more time to think. I also then had a dressage lesson on another horse I have been schooling, and there too was food for thought. The horse I rode went well, nice schooling, on the bit, doing his various exercises. Macro goal achieved. But I was asked to think about the feel, the amount of effort put in. Ah ha, that was not so good.

    It also revealed to me a very bad trap that I was in, the trainer helped me see that Sherlock and this horse are actually very similar. Both go “nicely”, calmly and happily, but both are in a little soft spot, which is somewhat on the forehand, but quite pretty. In asking for improvement it seems to have to get worse before it gets better, and it is that transitionary period that I have been backing off. The “Macro Picture” of horse going around on the bit has been more important to me that the fact that it did not feel as nice as it looked, and I am working double as hard as I would like.


    For our next ride out I decided to do a 40 minute at walk SCHOOLING SESSION with Sherlock rather than a plod. WOW. It was HARD! WE started off with Sherlock in his slightly overbent, a bit stodgy off the leg, intermittent in the contact place, and we worked at it. We did half halts, lengthening and shortening. In fact that took half of the ride, to have Sherlock on my leg, in my hand and paying attention and working. I had not realised how much I could put my leg on and not have that come through to the rein. Oh, I KNOW that can happen in front of a jump. Then I put my leg on, he does not always respond and the jump goes wrong. Why oh why did I not investigate where THAT started, as the forward response was not happening for me even at walk around the village! After we were more responsive we then did some lateral work, and we finally ended up straight too!

    What a fantastic ride out! I was exhausted. It seems that I do not really RIDE when I ride out. I guess Sherlock needs me to ride all of the time. I have sort of realised this from the start, but it surprises me how many layers there are to paying attention. Maybe it is to do with paying attention passively, where you correct stuff (that “plugged in feeling” ) Verses  paying attention proactively, directing softly every stride. Hmmm, I knew I would have to think on that one. The way Sherlock and I was going was BETTER, but still I am having to work too hard myself.


    So often I find that when I have a puzzle the answer comes in the lessons I teach. So, this week I taught two people, on the outside quite different, but both with the same “lesson”. One person aspired to walk well around the arena, the other is ready to start with affiliated competition. Both horses taught me the need for FREELY GIVEN forward movement, into a soft contact.

    We worked at it with both of those horses, and they both responded at their own levels, and the difference in both is amazing. With both of those horses the FREELY GIVEN forward movement to a soft contact made all the difference to the feel that the rider had. When we achieved that the horses were easy to steer, soft and willing. The whole feeling was of forward power, harnessed in the nicest possible way. Of course I have been teaching this concept for years, but when so involved in riding your own horse it can be "difficult to see the wood for the trees". Seeing the results on two such different horses is a timely reminder, and I think it helped that both lessons followed each other.
    A friend of mine was discussing this idea of straightness with me and I quote from her "straightness, which is really just softness with being able to direct easily" I have found that to have this work though you need freely given forward movement, so you have something TO direct.

    So, here I am, ready for more hacking out, now expecting more than the macro goal of walking down the street and ready to work on the micro goal of the feel. Because I am realising that the micro goal is the biggest one of all!



  3. Sherls in snowSnow, snow and more snow. It makes it challenging to keep the horses healthy and <BLOG_BREAK> sane. Sherlock and Charlie are very different characters. Sherlock has a very active personality, he needs to know who is in charge, and if you don’t step up to the job, then he is quite happy to take charge for you. Charlie is a whole lot more laid back, he is happy to be off work for a long time, and you can hop onto his back and go for a nice ride, and the worst you will get is a bit of jogging. With Sherlock, he has no malice but he likes no grey areas either, he is better off either in work, or out of work on a turnout regime.

    That is where we are this winter, Charlie in a bit of fun work, Sherlock on arena turnout as the fields are out of action October to May. No horse of mine has ever had a day purely in the stable. They are either worked or turned out daily, no exceptions, it is one of my “things”.

    This month we have had the snow. The arena has  frozen solid, I am mostly working during the daylight, and I have two horses to keep sane. This week has been educational for both me and Sherlock, as I have had to think on how to structure his mental workouts as he will quite quickly get a handful if he is not occupied. What I have found is that it is not only his physical exercise that needs work. As long as he has reduced feed and  is walked in hand for 20 minutes- ½ an hour each day that does seem to keep his body ticking over, but not his mind. What has worked for us has been small “mental challenges” that I have set for him.

    Take today, all is frozen, and we have just a small area of the yard suitable for walking on. So, we have him out, groomed, booted, and we walk. But not just walk. We play too, firstly we play at “shadows”. When I walk, he walks. When I stop, he stops. And, if he oversteps his mark he is reversed up and corrected. For this to work as an exercise, ALL of my attention has to be on this job. Fresh out of the stable Sherlock is wanting to look over at the road for something more exciting to occupy him. The exercise HAS to matter to me so that it will matter to him. He has a bit of a strop when he is first reversed into place, but I am not angry or frustrated by this, I am too busy concentrating on having his feet EXACTLY where they should be, and as it is so important to me he soon joins me in the quest for perfection.

    It is SUCH a different feel when this happens. Sherlock loses the high head carriage and taut muscles, he lowers his head and feels almost submissive. His muscles are soft, and he is mentally concentrating. We only have this small area not covered in ice, so I up the stakes by bringing out an old doormat, but I suppose an old towel would do the job equally well. We now work on having Sherlock walk to the doormat and step on it with one foot. At first there is some “to-ing and fro-ing”, he again needs his focus bringing to the task in hand, then we are there, a foot on the mat. Big rubs on his neck and we walk away from the “puzzle” although I think he knows he has done well simply by the delight in my voice!

    Hmm, next task, BOTH front feet on the mat simultaneously. This takes more doing, I am very aware to use my hand on the halter as a SIGNAL to Sherlock for what I want rather than using it to bodily MOVE him into position. That would be a case of me becoming “task orientated” rather than seeing the truer benefit of each part of the exercise in communication and focus. The first time for this was slow! Sherlock was not “scared” of the mat, so one foot on was not a problem, but the other foot kept stepping OVER the mat, rather than joining its partner ON the mat. I have found that Sherlock will not find the answer while he is “locked out” on me, that is when his head is high, maybe a defiant shake of his head. The real “play” is in finding how to soften the whole outlook, so he can understand.

    Soon both front feet were on, big pats, delighted voice and a walk around the yard. A couple of repeats and Sherlock is almost saying “OK, I get it, feet on the mat, got it”.

    Hmmm, the front feet are sorted, how about the BACK feet? Oh dear, THIS has not computed! The back feet take longer than the front ones did, Sherlock manages to find frustration again when he realises that what WAS the answer is no longer the WHOLE answer, as we start each exercise with the front feet, the move on to do the back feet. We go sideways, too far forwards, resist the reverse backwards. My job is to not join him in his frustration, but to explain the task to the best of my ability and allow him to work it out. I find the frustration occurs in him if he is told that he has not found the right answer too often, so I break the problem down into manageable “bits”, like at first it is “right” to just step a small way off the mat. And when the first back foot makes it square on the mat you would think he had just won the Grand National, delight and a walk around the yard.

    We repeat this quite a few times until we can come to the side of the mat even, and side pass onto it. That did take some doing on my behalf, I had to realise that in forward motion Sherlock is quite confident. He is OK about back too, it is in sideways that Sherlock does not seem so confident, and tends to go too far, or if I am too demanding he locks up and actually comes back INTO the pressure. This is a good exercise in concentration and observation for me, and very bond building for the two of us.

    Once we have done this a few times Sherlock and I are both exhausted, just as if we had completed a difficult schooling session! He has been exercised in a very small area geographically, as that is the only safe area we have to work in. Sherlock goes back into his stable happy and relaxed, his mind fully exercised, and he is feeling submissive and I think protected and cared for. This is because today his mother was a leader!

    Other times this week we have been in this situation, we have worked on various exercises. For example Sherlock is not keen on having his beard trimmed, so we have worked on that, mentally exercised without even leaving the stable! The one cautionary note I would give is that if the horse is “phobic” about any particular task then the time he is in a heightened mental state by enforced rest is not the time to work on this! So, we work on tasks that I believe I am not being “greedy” in asking for.

    There is more I can do. This afternoon Sherlock had his rug off while the day was at its warmest and he had a massage and a thorough groom. I WOULD have done some “carrot stretches” but actually Sherlock is a bit TOO competitive with those, I have found that food is best kept OUT of his training environment. I guess if this icy weather continues I COULD work on devising a way for the carrot stretches to be initiated by some reward other than FOOD!

    I have spoken to other people in this time of bad weather, dark evenings and ice on the floor, and people all round report that their horses take on a different persona. I believe that it is not only the reduced exercise that does this, it is also the need for having a firm leader. For example how many of us get home late at night and fetch the horses in from their turn out area, and allow little “misdemeanours” when leading that we would not normally allow, but because it is cold/raining/late we allow a little bit to slip, like jogging, barging pulling on the rope. I believe that the horses soon feel less settled with us when we do not expect consistent behaviour OF them, they see that as us being inconsistent WITH them. And an inconsistent leader is not a strong leader, and horses with spirit like Sherlock see that as a reason for them to become the leaders themselves.

    Personally I have found this “down time” a fertile ground for finding out more about Sherlock and myself, our relationship and power dynamic. And all that from having to lead in hand for half an hour! Or I COULD have chosen to just walk around for half an hour, cursing the weather conditions.

  4. Out with the old- In with the new!

      ruth santaWell, its the end of 2009, and what a year that has been. Teaching and helping so many people, some working at their relationship <BLOG_BREAK> with their horses, some wrestling with the demons within, and finding that once confronted those demons were not real after all! Some people moving on competitively and some happy now to hack out, enjoying time with their horses.

    There was the American clinic, thanks to Cordy and Lee for making that so “Alive”, a wonderful experience. Thanks to Andy for being there, photographing and blazing on his own journey, and to Giles for being there with his support.

    It has been a FAB year with Sherlock, a real journey for both of us. From 3 years off to Sherlock’s own competitive journey, with 5 placings out of 11 British Eventing starts, and a win in his final event.  That year can be seen by this link http://www.upbeatequestrian.co.uk/sherlocksdiaries.html

    Next year? Well, Sherlock threw a splint at the end of the season, he was just a little sore, so had the required 6 weeks off, then the ground froze, and it still is frozen! I am due to go to Las Vegas with my mother at the start of January, we are meeting up with Cordy and Lee if we can arrange it (burning fires of inspiration for the 2010 clinics!), so I have decided to leave bringing Sherlock back into work until after I get back. Then he will have light schooling and road work to get fit, after that back into training.

    Next year we hope to do just a few pre-novice events before upgrading to Novice events, now THAT will be exciting! There will be a lot of training, and for the extra effort at that level we will take it all a bit more seriously, for example hiring the Northern Racing College Gallops, so we can do faster work without straining or concussing Sherlock’s legs. I do love that facility, the good ground and the white “Racecourse” fencing allows me to be off in a flight of fancy, I am Frankie Dettori, training the Derby winner, obviously!

    As for the grey Charlie Horse, he may be in for an exciting 2010 too! Charlie is 15 years old now, and I retired him from eventing when he was 9 years old, as he did not seem to enjoy the cross country. He will jump anything unless he cannot see the ground on  landing side. Then he has to slow right down, and when he can see the landing he will jump. This tactic worked for Charlie at Intro and Pre Novice level, he often won a numnah! However, when we upgraded him to Novice the jump was just too wide to be jumped if he slowed down for a look, we did lots of training, including hunting and team chasing to “light the fire in his belly” for cross country, but no, it did not work. I could ORDER him to jump the jump, and we did get around a couple of Novice courses, but neither he or I enjoyed it so we stopped.

    Charlie retired sound, and has messed around a bit with some dressage and Show Jumping since, and David (my husband), and good friend Andy have been riding him too. Well, this year they would both like to start training towards doing a BE Intro Event.

    Andy has done 2 dressage competitions, and also a couple of Show Jumping competitions, up to 85 cm, but as yet has not done any cross country other than to escort me with Amber and Sherlock when we have been training. David has done 3 dressage competitions, and was even placed in one. David has not yet, however, learned to jump! Two years ago he started, and got to trot at a cross pole or two, but, no jumping since. So, lots of learning for David and Andy!

    On 21 March the real “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan is coming to Sheffield Arena, and Andy has kindly bought his wife Lorraine and I a ticket. I am SO looking forward to this, Cesar has much the same ideas of leadership and fairness with dogs as I feel is right with horses. I don’t know his work well, but intend to go with an open and enquiring mind to Learn Learn Learn!

    The “America 2010 Clinic” is set for June, watch this space for details when they become available. It amazes me how Lee and I, from such different backgrounds, have such similar thoughts on training horses. It is good to see how the experiences may be wildly different,  but as Lee says “Good Horsemanship Is Universal”.  

    At some point I am going for a Car Rally Driving Day, and I look forwards in trepidation to this! It will be a whole new set of skills to try, to put me out of my “comfort zone”, and probably to scare me half witless! I Love new experiences, a chance to “feel alive” and practice observing what is happening.

  5. Sherlock\\\\Hi, Christmas Day 2009, and no presents as yet as David is at work this morning. So, time for a leisurely coffee and to visit my web site, and maybe even learn to use this blog page!
    This page will take the place of the very popular "Sherlock's <BLOG_BREAK> diaries"  page, but the past exploits of Sherlock will still be available here.....
    I am continuing working on the UK Coaching Certificate level 3 qualification, not because I "need" any more "qualifications", it is because learning more about how to help people is fascinating to me. The emphasis is on helping people to access their own resources to learn rather than relying on me to "instruct" (although anyone watching me help Andy warm up for Dressage last week would agree that I have retained the ability to "INSTRUCT"!!! See photos on http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/photo.php?pid=447007&id=1352978090).
    Later this morning Charlie and I are participating in the Legendary Sykehouse Christmas Ride, thank you to Di and Russ from Sykehouse Arena for organising that. So, a group ride out, laughter with friends, a glass of something warming at the pub, and hopefully Charlie will see me safely home! (Newsflash, this was FAB- see pictures on http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/album.php?aid=26387&id=1352978090 )
    I will take this opportunity to wish all clients and friends a very Merry Christmas and a happy, fun 2010!


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