Firstly, Jack is perfect. I will not allow anyone to say anything to the contrary. Secondly, we have a lot of work to do!
I love this time of year. The busy summer season is over and it is time to step back and address some, shall we call them ‘areas of perfection improvement’? This year, we have actually achieved a lot of progress towards a ‘better perfection’: loading – tick, travelling – tick, putting bridle on – tick, standing when mounting – tick. (And when I say tick, I am fully aware that these need to be maintained!)
However, our main area, this winter, to work on is dealing with busy environments. Jack is a little bit Jekyll and Hyde at times. When he is relaxed and happy, he is epic, like a Labrador who is just smiling, gentle and wanting cuddles. But, when he gets stressed, he isn’t. Monty described it saying “He has fire in him”, the mother calls him a “ginger diva”. I think all top competition horses are never going to be 100% docile. I don’t think they could truthfully perform as well as expected if they were, there needs to be a little fire. We just need to work on maintaining but controlling the ginger diva’s fire!
It’s definitely the busier environments that he struggles with. He loves the calm, openness of Addington Equestrian Center and is very settled there; he scored 19 out of 20 for his ride mark. He didn’t like Newbury Show with a fairground, band and motorway close by and a serious fly infestation on top of that, he scored 9! At both shows though, he jumped an amazing round – it is the standing still and being relaxed that he struggles with.
I was very excited when Monty Roberts invited Jack to his demonstration at Hartpury College last week. More so when I heard they intended for the amazing show rider (and someone I have admired for many years), Simon Charlesworth to ride him in the demonstration. Monty worked with Simon a few years ago with the incredible show horse, Pearly King, who also struggled with standing in busy show environments. During the demonstration, Monty talked through the process of correcting and working on the issue and left me with some serious winter homework. Simon also made some really lovely comments about Jack which meant such a lot to me. (I’ll admit there were a few tears – my usual ice queen exterior softened at his kind words!)
We now start the homework. The main learning point I took away is about letting them make a mistake. I think particularly with standing still, we try and force it to happen. But actually if we let them move, we can then correct it. So, we are starting with ground work (not ridden). We have been laying out some poles to do some general ground work exercises and then a place to stand. When he moves we correct – instantly – using the dually headcollar. Monty says “PICNIC” – Positive instant consequences and negative instant consequences.
And have a boom box in place (is that what they are called? Sounds like something from the 80s) We have started off with some gentle classics – some musical theatre ballards but will be working towards fireworks, crowds, general war like effects…..
Will let you know how we get on.
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