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A Blog Update for August

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I missed July’s blog, so thought that I had better get in early for August. Since my last blog we have continued to update the horse facilities here on my families cattle property. The toilet and shower are now completed and we have added an arena cover over the 60 foot round pen. ( ABC Sheds of Young in New South Wales did an excellent job. ) This should make a big difference for when summer arrives and for the home courses.
In July we also had our first home course since February and hope to have another in October. As always it is great to see the progress that everyone makes with their horses.
I have added a horsemanship article below, that many may find interesting, happy reading.
Arena Cover in the background with large round pen in front and stables to the side

Over the last few months I have been home starting horses and having horsemanship conversations over the internet. A question that recently came up, was what do you do when your horse goes rigid or hollows through the back and feels like they are about to buck etc. When a horse goes into flight mode it is a common tendency for this to happen. Equally it is also a common tendency for riders to pull on the reins. Pulling on both reins is unlikely to help and more than likely work against you. So using one rein is often the better option. If the horse is already rigid through the back you may find that you are still unable to get to the hindquarters. In this case putting the horse on a small circle and using your leg to try to establish flexion through the ribcage and then you may find that your horse starts too soften in your hand. This is of course is knowing what happens before what happens, happens. ( Getting ahead of the bucking or running off. )

Continuing on from this, when you first start with the young horse, riders are wanting their horses soft and relaxed. Lightness is another topic and a good friend, Mike Bridges speaks of this in his book ” The Art of Making A Californian Style Vaquero Bridle Horse. ” In his book Mike speaks of many things and you are going to have to read his book to find that out.

When riders start with young horses and are wanting to progress and add speed, ” it can be easy to come undone” and loose that softness. This may have more to do with balance. As the horse becomes more balanced not only do they become more emotionally stable, you also going to have lightness to signal. As was said to me a long time ago are you working on the start or the finish. Perhaps if we begin with the end in mind that gives more understanding to our horses and our horsemanship progress.

Have Your Horse Pick You Up From The Fence.

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Winter has arrived here in the southern hemisphere and recently we have been fortunate to have a little more rain as well here on my families cattle property in central Queensland.

While travel restrictions have prevented travels domestically, I have been able to put in more infrastructure here at home , with a more up to date ablutions block for home courses. All going well, more improvements will be in place by the end of July.

Currently I have been fortunate to have strong young horse bookings, with horses ranging from all breeds and ages. Over the years many ask why start young horses and while there may be a number of reasons. The main one is to continually improve your horsemanship. When you see a horse started well, it is like art. It is smooth with the human able to fit the situation and the horse. There maybe moments where things do not go as smoothly as you would like. You learn through your own experiences and the experiences of others and keep setting it up and over time you will have more to offer the horse.

An image from a young horse course many years ago in Central Queensland.

With current restrictions, many have not been able to ride, or been “grounded.” I have been asked if I could write an article that might be helpful to those that have been grounded.

An exercise that would help many, is to get your horse to learn to pick you up off the fence. In my travels, where riders use mounting blocks to mount their horses, it is often a struggle for riders and horses. I have seen where horses are lead to the mounting block and then riders are about to put their foot into the stirrup and the horse moves away. The rider then leads the horse back to the mounting block only to again be faced with the same situation.

If your horse can see the block as a place of security or comfort and the rider has their ground work to a place where they can position the horse and direct the feet from the fence, they would have so much more working for them when they did get in the saddle. For a young unstarted horse , this gives them the benefit of seeing you above them without you having to be in the saddle. You may still have to use your flag and your horse may not be comfortable with you on the fence to start with, hang in their. It might take awhile to get your horse to where you can rub them with your foot, flag etc. It is worth waiting for and can really help your horse to be more comfortable with you in the saddle.

The image above was from Australia’s Legacy of Legends a few years ago, and is of Buck Brannaman helping me with a young horse to pick me up off the fence.

The Eye is the Window to the Mind

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Here we are at the end of February, with March already upon us. Many of us in Australia have now had rain, to see the country change from dust to mud and green grass will have many smiling. At home it has been a busy year as usual from feeding stock and general stock work to starting horses and a home course. My Australian course schedule starts in March with courses in Brisbane, Qld and Perth, W.A. to a course outside of Sydney, N.S.W. in April. More info can be obtained from the website or email me at: info@davidstuart.com.au I have added a horsemanship article below, I trust all enjoy the read.

The eye is the window to the mind is a sentence that many have heard before. When you put your shingle out at the front gate saying that you start horses or give horsemanship courses to the general public, an array of different horses come through the front gate. Some of those horses are very talented, athletic horses and others not. I heard Buck quoting Ray Hunt one day, about an example where a rider did not have one of those talented athletic horses and Ray said that while you may not be able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear you can still make a purse.

I thought that this was very true and another reminder, the better our horsemanship is the more that is reflected through the horse.

Many horses will go on to be nice saddle horses regardless, of what we do, as some don’t. Over the years I really noticed some of those talented and athletic horses were not always easy to get along with. What I also learnt was that I wanted those horses to be my friend, as I did not need then working against me. As my presentation improved and I did not bring that self preservation out of the horse, there was less bucking etc and more progress. I am not saying that the horse would not get scared, but by slowing down the horse got more sure of things. As my feel and timing improved the horses would change and you could see their eye soften and their body demeanour soften.

This is very much a road of constant and never ending improvement.

The Start of a New Year

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The New Year is now well under way and I hope that all found time to relax with family and friends over the festive season. I have just recently returned from Buck Brannaman’s course in Tamworth Australia. It is always good to see a class act and is always a learning opportunity and confirms your beliefs as well as creating new ones.

Presently I have horses in for starting on my families property in Qld and at the beginning of February, I have a 2 day horsemanship and cow working course and in March there is a 2 day foundation course in Brisbane Qld and also courses in Western Australia with Jenny Jackson and Horsemanship First. More information is available on the website www.davidstuart.com.au on the course schedule page.

Horsemanship; One of the many things that Buck spoke on, was the blind spot that horses have either directly behind them or in front of them and under their neck. This was a really important area to take of as it can be the result of horses jumping and spooking and riders being unseated when horses they are not confident in their blind spots.

There are a few ways you can help your horse to gain more confidence in the blind spots. One way is in a round pen and getting to where you can drive your horse around and not only draw your horse to you, but drive them away to where you are changing eyes and going through that blind spot behind them. You could do this while the horse is loose or with a longer line like a lariat rope. ( Be careful and do not get kicked ) Even when riding a young or green horse you need to be careful that you do not ambush your horse with an outside leg aid when they are looking the other way.

Again it was mentioned that until your horse is in balance your horse will not be emotionally stable and to not ride your horse out of balance.

While there where a number of lessons to learn during the course, the above I hope will give more understanding as to why your horse may spook or behave in the way that they do.

I look forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones in my travels through out the year.

Back in The U.K.

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I have now been back in the U.K. for a little over a week. It is a different schedule from years past with no horse intakes in the schedule. We have now finished the week long Dudgeley Camp and have just returned from Scotland. The courses have gone really well and the progress that all riders have made has been great to see and we have managed to make hay while the suns shines.

Transitions & Balance Continued: In my last blog I wrote about transitions and balance and perhaps this horsemanship blog might be a continuation. During the week at the venue of Dudgeley in the English county of Shropshire, we rode a lot of transitions from halt to walk to trot, trot to walk to halt to back up. The walk and trot transitions also helped the canter transitions and all horses improved in the quality of their gaits. The transitions were ridden on a circle and on the straight.

I noticed many riders not riding their corners well. To improve this I created a smaller arena and put cones in the corners. Riders had to ride around the cones and ride deeper in the corners. Another benefit to riding corners well is further engagement of the inside hind leg – the weight bearing leg.

In this case I also worked with riders one on one on the smaller arena. Again still riding transitions and riding the corners deeper, the outcome was that horses started getting more on the aids and starting to gain more drive and power in their gaits. Riders also started to ride their horses to the corner and began to ride with more accuracy.

Transitions & Balance

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It has been a while since I have put pen to paper, so now might be a good time to add a few words. At home in Australia I have had horses in for starting, plus stock work and have also had courses as well, it has been a juggling act. In the next few weeks I head out for the U.K. for a shorter visit. I have been travelling to the U.K every year for the last 20 years. This is the first time that I have seen a July in Australia for 20 years. I now know why I have followed the sun.

An image from a recent Western Australia Course.

Updates: The website has a full U.K. course schedule and also an Australian course and young horse schedule. So please check out the appropriate schedules. I have also added articles below for you to download. They are articles that I have written for Horse Deals Australia.

Transitions and Balance: Over the years I am sure I have spoken of transitions and balance and shared my thoughts and experience. So maybe I am adding to those now.

As a generalisation riders mostly feel resistance through the hand and as a result it can be easy to think that you need to be firmer with the hand or get a bigger bit. You often see horses over bent and running through the riders hand or hiding behind the bit, as well as horses above the bit. If you can keep your horse more in balance then you are more likely to avoid the already mentioned. Maintaining your riding position is easier, if your horse is in balance.

As a rider, work on keeping those transitions through the gaits and within the gaits smooth. You will have more success at keeping your horse in balance if the transitions are smooth and not rushed or sluggish. Equally not over riding your horse and pushing the horse out of balance will help with your transitions. Not staying in the gait to long is important, for the horse that may get lost or have a lot of energy. Think approach and retreat.

Where your horse is still running through your hand, bending your horse down the transitions maybe more appropriate. I often use circles to work on my transitions to start with. Bending down and going through the centre of the circle to make the downward transition. When I have smooth transitions up and down through the different gaits, I will ride transitions on the straight.

Many riders become obsessed with longitudinal or vertical flexion of their horse. If the weight is right, the flexion is more likely to be correct. If you put the flexion first your horse may end up over bent or heavy in the hand. The horse below, while not running through the riders hand is not at a stage where she can carry herself with any degree of flexion at a trot. At a walk she was able to carry what Ray Hunt called a soft feel. As she develops and her transitions improve, this will change.

There are many ways to help your horse with balance and transitions is one approach. As I heard spoken sometime ago; “Until your horse is in balance they will not be emotionally stable.”

Do Simple Things Well

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In the southern hemisphere we are going into winter and soon it will be time for me to head for the summer of the northern hemisphere.

The title of this months blog, “Do Simple Things Well”, is very true. Ray Hunt summed it up in three words feel, timing and balance, those words may take a life time to digest and understand. Often riders are looking to progress, but until you can do the simple things well you are not going to advance.

If we pay attention to the little things and do the simple things well our progress tends to happen more organically.

  • How are your horses ground manors.
  • How well does your horse lead.
  • How well does your horse saddle or bridle.
  • How well does your horse trailer load.
  • What is the quality of your lateral flexion.
  • How well does your horse back up.
  • As a rider, do you have an independent seat.

The list above are examples and you can certainly add more to this list. While it is probably human nature to take the path of least resistance, if you do the simple things well then the results take care of themselves.

Projects: Over the last month I have had young horses in for starting, plus I have also been in the process of building a new set of stables. I have been fortunate to have had the help of a couple of friends that are more skilled in this area than myself. All going well they will be in use very soon.

New Stables, still a work in progress

Upcoming Events: My U.K. schedule starts in August for more details please look at https://www.davidstuart.com.au/courses/

In the next few weeks I will also update my Australian and New Zealand course and young horse schedules on the website.

Happy New Year

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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: info@davidstuart.com.au

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

 

 

 

 

Your Horse’s Expression

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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.

A U.K. Summer

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MapMarkerI 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.

IMG-20170726-WA0020While 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.

IMG_5259While 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; infouk@davidstuart.com.au  or  info@davidstuart.com.au