The new year is already under way and many new years resolutions have been made and cast aside. What is it, that you want to do with your horses? When you ask riders or auditors on courses, many have not really answered that question. Whatever your answer, be it for recreational reasons, competition or work, the horse is the common denominator and horsemanship is nondenominational. To have horses in your life shows you have a love of horses, improve your horsemanship and develop a riding horse that you are proud of. ( Horsemanship should not be thought of as a fad or style )
Over a few decades of teaching I have observed riders that make the most amount of progress in their horsemanship are the ones that educate themselves and then go away and do their homework. In this case they are the ones that over time develop a good riding horse through increasing their knowledge and refining and honing their skills What you define as a good riding horse today will be different tomorrow.
The horse above was a horse that came through a young horse intake a few years ago, he could kick and strike and buck a little. What has been exciting is to see how this little horse has developed into the riding horse that he is now. He is not perfect and will probably never win any ribbons etc. His self confidence has grown and he can work a cow both inside and outside an arena, rope horses or cattle, gather or muster cattle and amongst many other thing he puts a smile on my face when I ride him. Also what makes me smile is that I know if I had this horse 10 years ago he would not have ended up being the horse that he is evolving into.
Having a horse that is good to lead, tie up, bridle and has good ground manors is just as important as riding. Your ground work, is preparation for your riding under saddling. If your horse is not sure of you on the ground they will also reflect that when you are riding.
As a teacher/instructor I gain enjoyment out of seeing students progress, ( most instructors do I believe ). I also gain enjoyment out of seeing horses progress, from when they are started under saddle to their development into a nice riding horse. The horse below in the U.K. could really get to bucking and to be able to see the owner ride him was a highlight. It took time and dedication on both the rider and my part for this to happen.
If we can help develop ourselves our horses will reflect and benefit. Enjoy your horses and horsemanship.
Its been a month or so since I have updated with a blog or E-Newsletter. In that time I have had young horse intakes and the Legacy of Legends in Tamworth. The Legacy event is always a great time to catch up with friends and colleagues from around the world and this year was no exception. The image below was of the colt that I had to start this year. The New Zealand course has been rescheduled for later in the year, a date and venue to be confirmed soon. My Australian and U.K. schedules are up on the website for viewing, schedules may change from time to time.
Events Coming Up
February: Qld – Nebo – Lesson Day Feb 4, March: Canberra – Green Horse Course – March 23, 24, 25, May: Qld – Nebo Young Horse Intake. For more info, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Horsemanship: Transitions are an important part in our horsemanship and riding. Transitions are relevant from riding young horses to older horses from one discipline to another to hacking/trail riding your horse out. When many riders are riding a young horse they are looking to survive and perhaps have the view that they will start riding their horse well when he gets a little older with a few more rides. Why wait, ride to the best of your ability every time, your horse will appreciate it and benefit from it.
Transitions will help the horse with impulsion, balance and collection, keeping the transitions smooth both up and down is also a tip for riders. At first work more on your transitions at a walk and trot, don’t try going from canter to walk while you are on the straight. In other words don’t override your horse to the extent that the downward transition becomes difficult.
As your transitions become better you will feel your horse is more off the leg and seat than being dependent on the reins. For a very forward horse you may want to do your transitions more on a circle and for a less forward horse more on the straight.
Hope all enjoyed the above, happy riding, stay safe and I look forward to catching up with everyone throughout the year.
Best to all – David
My travels for the year are now finished and I am now back home in Central Queensland for the first time since the end of June. There is still a colt starting course here at home in November and a young horse intake to finish the year out and with the Australian Legacy of Legends event in Tamworth to start the new year in January.
In the last few sessions that I had with Ray, a couple of the points that he really seemed to be wanting to emphasis or get across was the importance of expression and getting down to the feet. The reality was that he was always trying to get those points across. It is amazing though if your horse’s feet are freed up and your horse is going forward then the horses expression is also more likely to be more positive. If your horse is going into a jump with the ears pricked forward then the horse is also more likely to jump and while I have used jumping as an example it is also true for other situations. Crossing a stream or a creek while out riding, leaving the stables or riding back to the stables may be the better example.
It was always emphasised not to drill your horse on any exercises and to keep setting it up and to help your horse gain in confidence. You were trying to get the exercise done with a positive expression. As we all gain more experience and our judgement improves it is the small things that matter, the end result will take care of itself.
The 2017 U.K. summer has now almost come to a close. The last intake of horses is going home this weekend, after the handover course. Then there is a couple of courses left before I leave for sunnier climates. A big thank you to Tina and Total Horsemanship in organising the courses and horse intakes and to all those that come along to courses and the weeks at Dudgeley in Shropshire. What is really pleasing to see is the progress that all have made over the many years. I wish all well and look forward to when we next catch up, below is a small horsemanship article that I hope all enjoy.
When writing these blogs I try to leave readers with something that will help them with their horsemanship. I am not the first to emphasise the importance of having your horse in balance both on the ground and in the saddle. Many look at balance as being longitudinally, you must also consider latitudinally and this is just the physical. The horse may be out of balance and or pushing on you for a number of reasons from fear to learned behaviour and or for other reasons. Some time ago I heard it said that until your horse is in balance your horse will not be emotionally stable. In cases where you horse is pushing on you or rushing and are are out of balance, while you can back them up etc, if you do not get the horse back in balance and the weight right, then the horse may not make a mental change and as a result continues to push on you.
I may not have found all the right words here to explain the above, but hope these words are insightful in some way and wish all well.
I am now back in the U.K. and almost halfway through the schedule. Starting the schedule in Lancashire we have since been in Scotland, The New Forrest, Cumbria as well as having the first intake of horses going home this weekend.
While in Cumbria last week I was lucky enough to be offered a ride in a Ferrari, this horse still prances and dances impressively. Many thanks to Tommy and Sally Spencer for their hospitality and the opportunity to be a passenger in this red horse.
I have included a horsemanship article below that I trust all will find informative.
When I first started, starting horses for the general public which was back in the mid eighties, horses where around 3 years of age with the odd 5- 6 year old. In recent years I have noticed a rise in the age of horses that are coming through the young horse intakes. In some cases these horses are 10 to 12 years or older in age with the average being 5 – 6 years of age. The horses are mixed from horses that have been started as 3 & 4 year olds then not ridden since, or are unable to be ridden because of bucking, not going forward or bolting etc, others have had injuries and not ridden for many years to now be deemed sound to ride. In many ways you could say that these horses are now not young horses but green horses, or in some cases, horses that are a serious challenge to ride.
While I appreciate that the above scenario is not ideal and these situations occur for many reasons, it would be better if they could be prevented. For many owners & riders once they have had their horse started it is almost a case of what happens next. In the U.K. I run a hand over course after every young horse intake to help bridge the gap between horse and rider. While I am supportive of riding these horses out and giving them a job to do, you still need to have a handle on your horsemanship both on the ground and in the saddle. Having observed this situation for some time now, offering a course for green horses was a possible solution.
Both in the U.K. and in Australia this course has been included in course schedules. While still not being a course for those with series ridden issues with their horses it is aimed to help those that have just had horses started or their “green” horse has been spelled for a period of time and they are now wondering how to get started again. If you would like more info on this course please email; email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
My Australian schedule is coming to an end for a couple of months having just completed a 2 day home course this past weekend plus the ongoing young horse intake. It will then be time to start to get ready to head out for the U.K. at the end of next month. During the month of April I have travelled to Bowral – N.S.W., Canberra – ACT and Serpentine in Western Australia with courses and lessons etc. It is always great to see the progress of all in my travels. Particularly for those that have been attending courses for some time, I always remember where you started from.
The image above and below was a young horse start with the owner riding the young horse for the first time. This was in Serpentine, W.A. at a course organised by Horsemanship First organiser Jenny Jackson. These sort of situations are great learning for all, regardless if you are participating or watching. Every horse has the ability to learn and to teach.
I have just started to put together next seasons schedule so please keep an eye on the course schedule over the next few months. In November it is likely that there will be a cost starting course here at home in Qld. This will be invitational, so please email me if you are interested. I have also added a horsemanship article below as well for all to read.
Feel is such an intangible thing and what it means to you today will change over time. To get your horse to operate from a feel both on the ground and ridden is something to aspire to. Many can drive a horse but still not have the horse following a feel on the halter or feeling down to the feet. Many riders can get to where they are just pulling on the reins or lead rope rather than feeling of the horse. As a result of just pulling you may be building in resistance or a brace. In a recent conversation with a friend an observation was that when a horse steps over a pole on the ground with feel, the horse will not knock the pole. I remember Ray pointing out to a group of us one time, a horse that was not feeling down to the feet and then when the horse was really feeling with feet. It was too completely different pictures, observe your own horse in the way that they move at different gaits and in different situations. Equally before the horse moves they have to get ready to move, in this case the weight must shift.
While appreciating that many have heard and read the above several times before, we do have start living this more to gain the benefits.
When I started putting this blog together it was the beginning of May and now we are at the end of May. The year is flying by, I look forward to meeting up with all those in the U.K. in the next few weeks.
I am now back from the spring of the Northern Hemisphere and into the autumn of the Southern Hemisphere. The past week has been spent putting up flood fences etc from the floods of Cyclone Debbie, we were lucky with no stock loses or building damage and grateful for the rain.
Next week I will be back on the road again in Australia starting with a 3 day private course in Bowral, N.S.W. and then riding horses in Canberra before flying back over to the west coast for a week long course with Horsemanship First Organiser Jenny Jackson. On arriving back home I have horses coming in for starting and then I have a home course that will be a Horsemanship and Cow Working Course. For any that are needing more information or enquiries please go to the website course schedule, www.davidstuart.com.au courses or alternatively email me at email@example.com
I have again added a horsemanship article or rambling that I trust will prove helpful.
The above images are from the Legacy of Legends in Fort Worth, Texas.
When I was in the U.S recently I had an opportunity to spend a few days with some good people not only are they good with the horse, they have an empathy for the horse and are also good people to be around. While there is always a lot to be learned when you are riding a horse, I also believe there is a lot to be learned when you are having a conversation in the evening. The more experience that a rider has around horses, good or otherwise, often the better the conversation.
This conversation probally leads on from February’s blog and so with one of my friends we were discussing a soft feel. The conversation stared with me asking a question. Do you think that the soft feel is misunderstood, from what Ray Hunt intended. We both thought that this was the case, of course we might both want to review our current understanding over time. It appears today that many believe that a soft feel is more related to vertical flexion, while this has a part to play. If we can understanding the preparation to the position more, then perhaps we might have a better understanding of what we are trying to attain. ( That has to help the horse to start with )
As riders we may not appreciate how sensitive the horse is and we can often get to where we are just pulling on the horse to try and get the horse to come to the vertical. I am sure that this is not what Ray meant, when he spoke of a soft feel. When you would see Ray ride a horse, irrelevant of the horse being a young horse or an older horse. The horse was always in balance and the flexion was appropriate. Equally Ray always looked like he was a part of the horse and in balance with the horse. The question was put to Ray one time if he had ever had any equitation lessons, his answer was no. As he elaborated he said that it was easy to ride a horse that is in balance. Equally the soft feel has more quality and weighs nothing, even if the horse is not at the vertical, they feel like you have them on a thread of cotton. The horse is operating more on a feel than a physical containment, of course for may of us this may only be for a moment or to, but that is a start anyway.
These days I get a little reluctant to speak of Ray to much, for fear of misquoting him. Many have a part or an understanding of what this is about, so the above is more about causing us all to broaden our horizons and perspectives. A quote that Ray would sometimes use was that the last thing that you learn is the first thing that you need to know.
It has been a good start to the new year with young horses and cattle work. My course schedule started off recently with a 2 day course at home in Central Queensland, everyone made a lot of progress and the riders were a great group to teach. There is another 2 day course planned for May 20 & 21, this will be a horsemanship and cow working course.
I am now in New Zealand and have just finished a great 2 day course in the North Island at Russell Higgin’s facility, Brumby Farm. I have not seen Russell and Ruth for some time, so was great to catch up, and thank you for your hospitality. There is now a 3 day course this weekend in the South Island near Timaru, details are available on the website.
Also there are still a couple of young horse places available for my next intake in May in Australia. Places can go quickly, so if you are interested then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have included a small horsemanship article below, I trust that all will enjoy.
In reading a recent interview with Carl Hester, he spoke of situations where riders have a horse that has impulsion at the canter, but is not in balance and how riders then slow the horse down to where there is more balance in the canter, but no impulsion. Equally you could say this is true of other gaits as well.
Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance spoke of Feel, Timing and Balance. As a rider, and as your position and effectiveness as a rider improves, so to will your feel and timing. You will not use the reins for your balance and you will gain a feel for when the horse is in balance.
If you can count strides with your horse’s feet, at the different gaits, you will develop your feel and timing. Equally an exercise to try, might be to count how many canter strides to a marker and as your eye for a stride develops you can increase the strides. This exercise will also help you to develop a canter that is adjustable and one that you can lengthen and shorten.
With time you will continue to refine and redefine what a good saddle horse means. Most of all, we need to enjoy the process and realise that this is not a race and there is not a finish line.
My First Website Blog for 2017. The new year is now upon all of us, my 2017 schedule is up on the website and will adjust as needed. So please review the schedule for new updates. Presently I start my course schedule off with a course here at home in Queensland, this course has one rider spot left. I do have another course planned for May here at home as well. After the Queensland course it is off to both Islands in New Zealand, a quick trip back to Australia and then I am off to the U.S. for a month for the Legacy of Legends in Fort Worth and will catch up with Mike Bridges in California. In April I have another course in Western Australia with Jenny Jackson at Horsemanship First. There are also a couple of young horse spots left for the young horse intake in May.
Horsemanship: With the courses here at home I often have a horsemanship and cow working course. It is a good combination and works well together. In recent conversations with friends that are involved with the cattle industry we were speaking about how many riders when having issues working a cow tend to work more cattle. ( There is a ball cap with the lettering: Just One More Cow, anyone coming from the cow working competition arena would smile at this.) Knowing when to quit and take a different approach is all part of knowledge and experience. The same may be true of other disciplines as well.
If we could be a little more lateral in our approach and look at improving our flatwork and working on our horsemanship, the results maybe different. There are times when you see a rider get the horse engaged in front of a cow or going over a jump and without the cow or jump struggle to get the engagement or are trying to force it. I also have knowingly used the cow or jump to do the same, equally I also tend to spend more time improving my flat work, working on transitions, straightness, balance, improving my horses confidence. I may do this from the ground or from the horse’s back.
Then when I come to the cow I and my horse are more prepared. Ray used to say that confidence is knowing that you are prepared I believe that this is true for both horse and rider. Use the purpose or discipline to find out where the holes are in your principle.