Success is a Journey not a Destination – Reflections on the Spring Show

Little Viking Horse usually writes his own reports on the shows and whilst not doubting what an awesome horse he really is I thought his fans might find it interesting to hear a more balanced view of his achievements and some reflections on how far he has come.

Fleygur’s performance at the Spring Show was my favourite. Of course there were horses there that were more powerful, more flamboyant and more talented, but I was delighted with him.

Loose Rein Tolt

Loose Rein Tolt


Spring Show 2015 533

Impressive Pace Horses


Beautiful tolting

Beautiful Tolting

 

Spring Show 2015 422

Nice Moves

 I was delighted with his recent performance, not because he won his Intermediate Tölt class and came a very close second in the Intermediate Four Gait, although of course that was great, I was delighted because only a few weeks earlier we discussed withdrawing him from competitions all together, and this could have been his last one.  He really pulled it out of the bag at this show and achieved some good scores and placings, but the main reason he will be back is that Fleygur seemed so much more relaxed and Roger wasn’t having to fight with him all the time. They have come such long way since their first ever show, the British Championships in 2013.

Let me wind back a little to give you a sense of quite how far he has come. When we bought Fleygur in 2009 he was our first Icelandic horse. He had been very well cared for (his previous owner was much more successful keeping his weight down than we are!) but he had not been ridden much for a couple of years due to his owner developing a back problem. When we tried him out he was difficult, he was an absolute gentlemen on the ground but the complete opposite when ridden away from his mare. I couldn’t believe my ears when Roger said ‘we’ll take him’. So why did we? Roger describes it like this

He was frantic. He shouted constantly for the mare and felt like he was going to explode at any minute but he didn’t, and he didn’t buck, bolt or rear and I just felt he wouldn’t. He felt really wound up but I thought he was a good stamp of a horse

I could add that as winter was approaching and his owner was keen to find him a new home as soon as possible his price had recently been cut in half and Roger always likes a bargain!

Fleygur continued like this for some months. He did everything you asked of him, but he was always anxious when ridden out alone. He didn’t spook but he lent on the bit and pulled, all the time. If you gave any release he would take off with you and I have never known any horse walk so fast on the way home, an uncomfortable short choppy walk. Even when I hung back on my cob, if you let him Fleygur would continue his speed march home disappearing out of sight round the corners. I once got so fed up with him marching home that I made him stop and insisted he stood still. If he moved I was determined to stand still longer, I now think that it was a silly battle of wills that was not really going to teach him anything, but I was so frustrated and uncomfortable it was what I resorted too. The thing is he stopped every time I corrected him but eventually he started trembling and I could feel him starting to boil over. I really thought he might go crazy so I jumped off and walked him for a bit. He immediately calmed down and I was able to remount and ride him home.

I stopped riding him. He was too strong for me and I didn’t like the amount of contact I needed just to have some sort of control, and anyway he was Roger’s horse!

After we had owned Fleygur for about six months Roger developed a sore back and the more he rode Fleygur the worse it got. In all other respects he was a lovely horse to have around. A real character, quick learner and a dream to handle on the ground, but this wasn’t going to work and Roger said we would have to sell him. Being the sentimental one I offered to swap horses for a while. I was hoping Roger would be able to sort out his back and we could keep Fleygur, so for three months Roger got to ride my lovely armchair Cob, Beanie and I was back on the horse that use to make me cry with frustration.

Over those months a number of things changed. We changed his French link snaffle for a Waterford, which he couldn’t lean on in the same way and gave me something to work with. We went to Iceland where we rode lots more horses and had some lessons. We asked everyone we met, in Iceland and back home about how to deal with horses that pulled. I tried really hard not to ‘pull back’ and to get him to relax but the progress was so slow I barely noticed it. We didn’t really know other people with Icelandic horses back then, and before the days of Facebook groups it was much harder to make and keep the links and find out what was going on.

We visited a Western Equestrian Show locally which seemed to be the antithesis of the riding we were doing with Fleygur, nice quiet calm horses all on a loose rein. It was clear that Roger was seriously thinking of going back to Western riding and buying a Quarter horse. At the event we met a human and equine physiotherapist who gave Roger a treatment and recommended he reviewed his riding position.

We decided we needed to know more about Fleygur and contacted his breeder for help, We booked a lesson with Janice Hutchinson at Siamber Wen Icelandic’s where we discovered that Fleygur had always had a good tölt, and that he use to have a nice trot too, though we had not been able to find it up to that point, but we also found out that he had always been an anxious type of horse. It appeared that Roger was right, he was a ‘good stamp of a horse’, but he did have issues!

Janice told me I might make a good enough rider in a couple of years time if I worked at it and although I had only recently returned to riding, I had ridden since I was six so I took this quite badly! The thing is, now I look back she was right, I am still working on it, but my riding is significantly better now. After her feedback I made a determined effort to stop ‘wiggling’ in the saddle and Janice made a significant correction to Rogers riding position too, which he has maintained ever since and his back problem has not returned.

We continued to research, got help and lessons from Fi Pugh at Old Hills Icelandic’s and that summer we took Fleygur and Beanie to the Gower Peninsular on holiday, and on one particular day riding over the Common at Cefn Bryn I commented to Roger that Fleygur really wasn’t pulling, even though we were heading back to the yard. We swapped horses and Roger rode him the rest of the way home. He announced that it was like riding a different horse. I was so chuffed.

The Gower

The Gower

Although this was a break through the problem wasn’t fixed and there were plenty more challenges to come, but now at least we knew that we could give some release to Fleygur and that returning to a softer feel was not out of the question. As Fleygur became more relaxed and his bond with Roger grew stronger his character really began to shine through. He has become so relaxed at home that Roger often doesn’t tie him up and I really think he would go anywhere with him.

Two years later and we were offered the opportunity to buy Gydja, Fleygur’s mare, how could we say no? When we brought her home it was clear that Fleygur recognised her and although this now presented us with the opportunity of each taking an Icelandic horse to one of the shows, we had not really thought through the likelihood of this increasing rather than decreasing his separation anxiety! Nevertheless I am glad we bought Gydja, she is a lovely gentle but spirited horse and I think Fleygur was pleased too! You can read about his Favourite Day Ever on this link

It was around this time that Fleygur began his celebrity career, I started his Facebook page and later the website and YouTube channel. Later that year he even got short-listed in the Finals of the Equestrian Social Media Awards 2014 (Talking Horses category) and got his photo in the Guardian Newspaper! Clearly it was time he had his own logo too, designed by a colleague.

Little Viking Horse in the Guardian Magazine

Little Viking Horse in the Guardian Magazine

   

We started taking Fleygur to clinics (or Boot Camps as LVH calls them) at Old Hills Icelandic’s and had lots of good advice from Karen Birgitte Rasmussen and began to think about shows….

The first show we attended was the British Championships in 2013. You can read Fleygur’s account here, but believe me he underplays what a disaster it was! Fleygur was barely controllable, and shouted the whole time for Gydja. Roger tried his best to calm him, but nothing seemed to work and he scored a very low 1.8 in his first ever class. Despite putting a good face on it, and lots of encouraging comments from people, Roger was gutted.

P1020637_1969

A very wound up horse

We attended more clinics and started to attend shows at Oakfield Farm in Dorset. These were much more relaxed events where we were able to work on Fleygur’s separation anxiety. He still shouted a lot but his did sometimes put in some quite good performances and at the next British Championships in 2014 were he was much improved and brought home the shields for Elementary Tölt Champion and Elementary Combination.

Elementary Tolt Final

Winning the Elementary Tolt at the 2014 British Championships

 However his anxiety constantly hampered his performance and even though he was often placed in his classes he was still too stiff, too ‘upside down’ and often called out for his mates. We had a long way to go, and had begun to question whether taking him to shows was really fair on him, as he got so wound up. Quite how far we still had to go became most apparent when Roger took him on his own to a team training event (otherwise know by Fleygur as ‘Mega Boot Camp’). He travelled well on his own, but once at the event he called – all night and when Roger rode him the next day he was exhausted and tense, this was not a winning combination. It was a tough weekend for Roger and although he got some good advice about preparing for the Easter Show the following weekend his confidence was not high.

Fleygur was entered in two classes but when we got to the show it was clear he was not feeling himself. He was subdued and didn’t eat all the food provided – which is unheard of for him. He played it all down a bit in his Easter Show Report but we were worried about him. Roger withdrew him from one class, and declined to ride in the final of the other. For the first time Fleygur came home with no rosettes. Had it all been too much for him? Was it fair to keep asking him to perform on the Oval track when he got so tense? Had he gone as far as he could? Perhaps it was time to gracefully retire him from competitions and for Roger to concentrate on bringing on our new youngster, Jandi.

Time to retire?

Time to retire?

We decided to give him one more go at the Spring Show at Oakfield Farm Icelandic’s. It was a place Fleygur had been to several times, and the atmosphere there is relaxed. Roger entered him in two intermediate classes, Tölt and the Four Gait. We would give it one more go, and decide whether or not to take him to the British Championships in June based on this.

As we attended more shows we had progressed from me having to hold Svipur near to the track to keep Fleygur calm, to me walking with him in hand after Roger had warmed him up. This meant that Roger could watch the other competitors and concentrate on what he had to do in his next class while I focussed on getting Fleygur to relax. I kept him moving and focussed on me, talked to him and knew where he liked to be scratched or massaged best. It seemed to work and both Roger and Fleygur were more relaxed entering his classes. We couldn’t do this for the Intermediate Tölt as I was riding Svipur in this class too, but probably because he had Svipur with him he stayed calm and went on to win the class.

Fleygur in tolt 

He performed well in the Intermediate Four Gait too going on to win second place with a score very close to the winner, but it was not his placing that pleased me the most. It was how much more relaxed he was, and although he still needs to bring his hind legs under him more, and we need to try to help him be less stiff in his back, his shape was much improved – and he didn’t shout! Well maybe once. He just looked so much more relaxed. This video shows the tolt section of his Intermediate Four Gait class, there is still more to do, but for anyone who saw him at his first competition in 2013 this is a huge improvement.

Svipur and I got a third in the Intermediate Tölt and Roger and I were also presented with our Winners rosettes for the 2014 Rider Rankings.  So the Spring Show was a big success for the Little Viking Horse.

Spring Show Success

Spring Show Success


2014  Rider Rankings Winners - Non-FIPO Elementary Tolt (Catherine), V5 Elementary Four Gait and T8 Elementary Tolt (Roger)

2014 Rider Rankings Winners – Non-FIPO Elementary Tolt (Catherine), V5 Elementary Four Gait and T8 Elementary Tolt (Roger)

 

  

Roger and Fleygur in the Four Gait

Roger and Fleygur in the Four Gait


So much more relaxed

So much more relaxed


It was a lovely show with good food, great company and excellent hosts. When we started with Fleygur we knew next to nothing about Icelandic horses and the gaits and sometimes I still feel I know nothing, but what I do know is this – being with our horses should be fun. It could have been the right decision to withdraw Fleygur from competitions, it’s no fun seeing your horse so stressed and at some point he will retire from being a ‘sports horse’ and just be a rambler instead. The competitions are actually a small part of what we do with our horses. It’s not all about winning but knowing that you are making progress and being recognised for that is a wonderful feeling.

The Icelandic horse community in the Britain is welcoming and helpful and there are many people who’s advice and help we have sought along the way, so thank you to everyone who has been part of our journey so far.

 

A final few photos from the Spring Show.

Flegyur in tolt

Flegyur in tolt


Five Gait Class. Riders of all ages.

Five Gait Class. Riders of all ages.


Relaxed at Oak field Farm

Relaxed at Oak field Farm


A well earned shower

A well earned shower

 

 

 

 

 

Fleygur relaxed on the track

Fleygur relaxed on the track


Discussing saddle fitting

Discussing saddle fitting


Who said Icelandic Horses can't jump!

Who said Icelandic Horses can’t jump!


Third place in the Intermediate Tolt

Third place in the Intermediate Tolt

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Learning from Feedback Part 2 Fleygur and Roger

Roger wonders how a horse that can be so calm and cooperative, while out hacking, can be so wound up, and mad at a competition. Basically Fleygur does not like to be separated from his mates, and this is probably the biggest challenge.

The comments from the Judge, for Roger and Fleygurs’ practice round were,

“Rather tense and slightly pacey, but improving. Straight on the diagonals”  NB Fleygur was ‘screaming’ at this point!

” Tenses on circles, and not fully co-operative. Rather uneven tempo at times.

“Good on diagonals, beat very good”

“Second circle irregular, owing to horses disobedience”

“Rather high shape/outline. Rushing in walk, but nice movement and good halt”

“Some conflict between horse and rider, but well done for keeping him as calm as possible!!”

So a lot of room for improvement! At this point, Fleygur and Svipur were on the same score.

Here is his second performance.

Roger comments…

“Basically, Fleygur, who usually hangs on my every word, was not listening. In fact he was in another universe . So for most of the test, I am trying not to be tanked off with. Any release I give, he simply goes faster, or turns for the door, where his mate Svipur is. He does not so much pull, but is constantly evading contact, raising his head higher, and thus  making it harder to engage his back-end, the only way I can get direction is with my seat, and leg. It feels like I am riding a different horse, but at least he isn’t pulling, and screaming like he did at the British Championships. At the walk, he comes back a bit, and feels like he is listening to me. So basically, it all felt a real challenge. So would I do it again? Yes, because he improved from his last outing, he showed no signs of distress afterwards, and I think teaching him to cope with stress in a competition environment, will transfer to the other things we do.”

 

Seeking Harmony

Seeking Harmony

Isn’t it amazing? I think Roger looks so calm, and controlled on horseback – and all that is going on in his head, and in his ‘seat’!

Judges comments on the second performance,

First Movement – figure 8 – ” Good even beat. Accurately ridden. High outline. Some tension”

Second Movement – circles – “Circles a little irregular, 2nd better. Riders hands a little high. Horses shape high”

Third Movement – walks – “Rushing, but outline nice. Good halt”

Final comment – “Well ridden, though hands a little high”

Plenty of work to do before the Spring Show, in Verwood, Dorset. 2nd to 5th May. Watch this space!

Learning from Feedback – The Judges comments

Fleygur has shared his experiences of the U.Ks first Tolt in Harmony Competition in an earlier blog, and has posted the links to the YouTube videos. There is a lot to be gained from watching the other performances too, and I will certainly be studying them hard, to see what I can learn for Svipur and myself.

I was very nervous about taking part. I have never ridden in an Icelandic Horse competition before, or even very much in a school, and it was my first time at such an event, with my young horse, Svipur. I did so much better than I expected, and the encouragement and support from all the others was great.

I think that Tolt in Harmony is a great event. I really wish to be the best rider I can be for my horse, and for us to go in harmony. I am concerned that many equine competitions lead to rough riding, and dubious methods, so I really wanted to support something that is designed to promote harmony, and does not value flashy action over the welfare of the horse.

The feedback for my practice round was:

“A little tense and pacy, but improving. Even speed, not quite relaxed enough and head carriage too high”

“A better beat in the circles. much better tolt, but circles irregular”

“Nice transition to walk, rushing the walk, not quite straight, try a longer rein”

“Very good halt”

Here is my second performance on Svipur,

He slowed down every time we got near the gate, and was reluctant to go forward in the last section. I was trying to give a longer rein for the walk, following feedback from the practice round, so that he could stretch out and relax, but I ended up with uneven reins, and not a straight line! Something to work on.

So, here are the judges comments that go with the performance on video.

First Movement: Tolt a figure 8: “Beat slightly pacy, but better than earlier [the practice round]. Much lighter contact” [than the practice round]

Second Movement : Circles: “Beat better on the circles. Nicely ridden”

Third Movement: Walk : “Early transition to walk. Rather tense and rushing. Outside rein longer that inside, but good halt”

 

I hope this is helpful. Image

Judges comments for Roger and Fleygur to follow in the next post.

Icelandic Horse World Championships 2013

Our first trip to the Icelandic Horse World Championships in the summer of 2013 won’t be our last.

We had booked the trip several months in advance, but as time progressed we were having second thoughts. Going to Berlin for the ‘WCs’ meant that we wouldn’t be going to Iceland again this year, and we had had such a fantastic time in October on the Round Up, that we wanted to go straight back!

But, we were already committed. Tickets, hotel and flight were all paid for well in advance. The arrangements had been made following an invitation on Facebook from another Icelandic horse owner, and despite only having met her once, and never having met any of the others in the group of ten, we signed up. At this point we did not really know that many ‘Icey’ people, had not been to any shows or clinics in the UK, and therefore didn’t know what we had let ourselves in for! Fortunately, we got to meet some more people at the British Championships, at a clinic run locally, and a Horse Agility Event for Icelandic’s, before heading off to Berlin.

Everyone was really friendly and welcoming, and in the final weeks we began to get more excited about the trip, and made a long shopping list of all the horsey things we wanted to buy while we were there!

We arrived on the Tuesday, a few days into the show. I won’t dwell on the location of the hotel which was, at best described as “edgy”. Suffice to say that once we had established where to buy supplies of water (or beer), snacks and salads for lunches, and which train to get for the fifteen minute journey to the show ground, we were happy.

Most of the “old hands” headed off to explore Berlin, or get some rest before the next day, but Roger and I couldn’t wait to get to the show even though it was late in the day. I am glad we did. It gave us an opportunity, while it was quiet to locate our seats, and explore the grounds. Basically meaning finding out where the best stands were in the shopping area, and seeing some horses. We were already having equine withdrawal symptoms since leaving our little herd the day before.

Early in the week there are not as many people about, so basically you can sit anywhere. We were able to sit near the front to watch the Mares Breeding Assessment, and enjoyed it more than we expected to. The young mares were graded for their confirmation, and the scores announced as they came in to show off their gaits. It was really helpful in helping us understand what was being looked for in each of the gaits, and we got so see a lot of horses, several of whom we would have liked to have brought home!

We also really enjoyed the Pace Test, and the Pace Racing, and it was great to be able to cheer for the British riders in these events. I think Fleygur from Siamber Wen should be worried, as Roger definitely has his eye on these events!

In the days that followed we watched the early rounds of each of the classes and very quickly became experts in which gaits were the best 😉  It was good to be able to sit with members of the British Team for some of this, as well as other supporters, and learn from their experience and expertise.

The last couple of days of the show were certainly exciting, with the finals in each of the classes, but actually we found some of the earlier events more impressive and memorable. The horses and riders compete individually in the earlier rounds allowing you, and the judges I imagine, to focus properly on the performance of each partnership, and they get to choose their own music. I know that many people felt that the Icelandic rider who rode to “First we take Manhattan then, we take Berlin…” was arrogant, but there was no doubting it was a powerful performance, and it is true, it would have seemed supremely arrogant if he hadn’t won, but he did! For me though, the most impressive performance was from Magnus Skulason, in the Five Gait, whose transitions were amazingly smooth, almost breathtaking.

But Icelandic Horses are not just about gait competitions. In fact, for me they are not even mainly about competition. It is the Icelandic horses’ nature and versatility that has won me over to the breed, so it was also great to take time out to see the performances in the small arena. “Youth in Motion” was an entertaining display from young German riders and their horses, including everything from bareback, bridle-less riding, to jumping, quadrille, dressage, tolt and pace demonstrations; and some dancing around with poles, which I think has something to do with working with bulls!

 Bull fighting

 

It was great fun. As was Connie who has somehow managed to teach her Icelandic to hula-hoop!

Hula hoop

The Icelandic Horse is hardy, and long lived, and it was moving to see so many twenty year old+ horses in the “old heroes” display, and although one or two looked as if they may have been better off staying in the paddock, most were impressively fit, and a great advert for the breed.

Another highlight for Roger and I, was meeting so many people we knew. We met up with people who had been on the Round Up with us in Iceland last year, and with a number of the staff from Ishester who had organised the trip; and a couple of the horse farmers/breeders whose horses we had ridden. Roger, who has a great memory for faces, also made sure we had a long talk with the guy from the movie “Kraftur” and talked saddles with Benni. For those who have been around a long time, and know “everyone” this is probably normal, but for us it was like meeting all our favourite celebrities at once!

Having said that I am not sure I will forgive Fannar, the MD of Ishestar for setting us up to be interviewed on Icelandic TV so that the whole of Iceland could laugh at our attempts at pronouncing Icelandic Horse names. It was slightly surreal to get a message on Little Viking Horses Facebook page the next day, from a fan in Iceland saying she had seen “My Mate Roger” on Icelandic TV!

I can’t say the closing ceremony was particularly impressive, and it did drag on a bit, but I am glad we stayed right to the end, and that I got to run down onto the track to grab a picture of most of the British Team. I think they had had a tough week (flash flood in the campsite, injuries and a disqualification!), but they were all smiling at the end.

British Team

A final thought. When we got home, Roger and I put on some DVDs we have of Icelandic competitions, some of which were over ten years old. We were struck by how much the riding has improved. In all competition, and equestrian sport is no different, there is a risk of using extreme measures to win. Sadly, for horses this can mean poor riding, or inhumane methods. I hope that we continue to see improvements in the training and riding of Icelandic horses, and that judges remember to reward the spirit and free flow of the Icelandic horse….and don’t just score highly the flamboyant or extravagant, at the expense of the function of the gait, or the welfare of the horse. 

The majority of what we saw in Berlin was good riding, beautiful horses, and friendly people, but with hindsight, and I little bit more knowledge, I now see that some of what looked impressed at the time would not meet the criteria I set out above, and arguably should not have been scored as highly as it was. This is an issue that needs more debate in the Icelandic Horse community, and in Equestrian sport in general.

At the end I was struck by what a small world it is, and how the Icelandic horse is uniting people in many countries. The next World Championships is in Denmark in 2015. We intend to be there.

 

The Gentle Touch

I am passionate about horses, and spending time with my horses has helped me reflect on how I deal with people and on my leadership.

It is not a spiritual journey. I don’t believe that horses are a more superior beings trying to help develop us towards a greater purpose or a higher evolutionary level, or that they have insight into our thoughts, or that we can communicate with them telepathically. Though there are some people who believe all these things. This is a personal reflection on my own learning that I shared once with some colleagues on a leadership course.

I have been passionate about horses for as long as I can remember. The photo below is of me with my mother and brother. I am on the coloured pony. Wow. No hats, no bridles and our feet don’t reach the stirrups! How things change.

photo(21)

I was 46 before I realised my dream and bought my own horse, a lovely Welsh Cob called Jackobean (known as Beanie). My partner and I now have three; the Cob and two Icelandic horses, including the famous Little Viking Horse whose blog I have appropriated to post this.

I have found that just like my forty-two toy horses when I was a child, real horses are collectible! I have promised my mother that we will stop at three ….. 😉

Three Ponies

My partner, Roger is fond of saying that “horses are a lesson in humility”. When things are going well this reminds me not to be complacent, or to forget that the unpredictable can catch me out. But it is also good to remember this when things aren’t going as I intended. Before getting cross and reacting in possibly counter productive ways, I try to ask myself “why did the horse do that?”

Horses are prey animals, essentially when they see something they don’t immediately recognise they ask themselves “will it eat me?”, and make ready to run away – or sometimes run away first then turn to look to decide “will it eat me?”

With the exception of the Tahki in Mongolia, there are no truly wild horses in the rest of the world. All other horse breeds are created by humans, but all horses have kept this highly developed flight instinct.

Mongolian Horse
Mongolian Wild Horse

Though it is also true that Icelandic horses, bred for 1000 years in a country with no natural predators, seem less inclined to ‘leg it’ than other breeds when faced with the unknown.

Horses are also social animals and are very adept at reading body language and facial expression.

Relaxed Beanie
Beanie and I relaxing in the field

So my first lesson on being successful with my horses is that I have to be acutely aware of myself and the messages I am giving. If you get on a horse and tense up, breathing quickly, the horse will pick this up and, believing there is something to be scared of (will it eat me?), it is likely to run. It’s a bit like nuts and bolts really – if the rider is nuts the horse bolts!

The second thing I noticed is how important my focus is. I was riding up a country lane one Sunday and enjoying the view across the fields, my mind off in a world of my own. So having spent the last ten minutes staring off to my left I should not have been surprised when, on reaching an open gateway, Beanie promptly turned left into the field! How was he to know that I wanted him to continue straight up the road if my focus and attention was somewhere else? He just went where I was looking.

Gydja enjoying the view

 
Horses move away from pressure and are extremely sensitive. A horse can feel a fly on its back and twitch a muscle to dislodge it. In other words you don’t need a megaphone to communicate with a horse. If you apply a small amount of pressure, and keep it there until the moment horse makes the slightest effort in the right direction the next time less pressure is required. This is how an accomplished rider can move anyone one of his horses feet in any direction – and you will barely be able to see the rider move.

However the consistent use of excessive pressure, such as the ‘kick, kick, kick’ of an inexperienced or poor rider has the effect of “deadening” the horse to the cue. The communication gradually becomes less effective. Equally excessive and unjust pressure can be counter productive in other ways. Like the rider I observed at the Horse of the Year Show once trying to bully his horse around the course by hitting him with a whip at every jump. At the fourth jump the horse said “sod this for a game of soldiers” and slammed on the brakes sending the rider over the jump on his own – much to my satisfaction. (Editors note: he wasn’t hurt).

I try to understand the horse from the perspective of the horse, and it is perfectly understandable that Beanie, being a prey animal is reluctant to walk into our horse box. It’s a dark enclosed space from which he can not escape.

trailer

Believe me if a half ton horse does not want to go into the trailer you can not achieve it by force. Using the principles I have outlined has enabled me to go from taking two hours to load my horse, to five minutes. Though, remembering that horses are a lesson in humility, I probably should not have told you that until after I have loaded him on the trailer for our next holiday!

Roger also says that every horse should have a job. To have success with a horse it is important to keep in mind what you want to achieve and work towards it. It could be as simple as riding out on your own. After all one definition of riding is “going in the direction you want, at the speed you want and keeping the horse between you and the ground”! Even this can be a challenge for some horse owners.

People are not prey animals so how does this translate into how we might to relate to people? I think what I have learned since having my own horses and spending so much time with them, is the importance of being aware of how what I do impacts on others.

Gentle approaches can more powerful than some people imagine.

My horse related lessons for leadership are:-
1. Be self aware and stay calm.
2. Be focused if you want others to follow – if you stop paying attention don’t be
surprised if you get unpredictable results.
3. Use the gentlest touch and reward the slightest try – if people are going in the right
direction quit nagging and don’t shout.
4. Reward people who are trying to do what you want – or they will stop trying.
5. Understand what motivates people and work with this not against it
6. Have a clear vision and build steps towards it

When I started this blog about my passion for horses – some of you may have made assumptions – so for the record – I don’t want to win any horse races, show jumping or dressage competitions – and I don’t hunt.

Gydja is my Icelandic mare.

10 13 12_0991

We are still getting to know each other – but if you want to know my vision for us take a look at this… We are a long way from this yet, but making small steps

Very clever horses have stripes

It’s common knowledge that zebras are in fact very clever horses who, observing their equine counterparts being hunted by humans for meat, arranged to have stripes painted all over their bodies in order to fool their less well endowed (intellectually speaking) foe into thinking they were some sort of tiger…and to be avoided.

The zebras were almost unbearably smug when the hunting progressed to include riding, and deciding they were not destined to be the servant of humans, had the stripes tattooed on all new born zebra foals.

No horses here, nothing to see…..move along…..