“Violence begins where knowledge ends.”
Ancient Greek horseman, Xenophon.
While various aspects of Ranch life might ebb and flow along with the tourist season there is always one constant, no matter the time of year or the weather –and that is the training.
Right now, we have three new horses at the start of their journey; a mother and daughter team of Spanish Andalusians called Tina and Domina, and a super-talented Arab named Shakima.
Tina is nine years old and though it’s clear she has had some schooling, we’ve really had to bring her back to basics in order to fulfil her true potential.
Tina’s daughter Domina is a different story; only six years old she is pretty much a blank canvas, which means we are starting at the very beginning with her. Because Domina is so well put together, with great breeding and fairly unspoilt, we can already see that her schooling will come easy. However, her stable manners and on the ground handling still requires work!
Then we have Shakima, our new, nine-year-old Arab. This handsome little man has had some very nice schooling, but sadly he has been on-and-off lame for the past couple of years, much to the worry and concern of his previous owners. Thankfully, we were able to correct this problem instantly with shoeing, which means Shakima has been able to come back into full training. It’s exciting to see because he is actually very talented.
Of course, the training doesn’t end with the basics, as last year’s newest stars, Lucky, Penny and Toffee, can testify.
Former racehorse Lucky Star has come on in leaps and bounds over the past year. In a huge change from his racing days, he’s now got all the basics very well installed and we are moving on to higher level stuff such as collection and an accurate riding frame. This means Lucky can be put in a variety of outlines, not just test outline, to develop the different muscles he needs to help him with this more advanced work.
Our beautiful Penny has also made good progress in the past year. We’ve had to take it steady because Penny was quite frightened when she arrived so we spent the summer letting her go out on hacks so she could get used to people sitting on her back without getting stressed or feeling pressured. The up and downhill work involved in hacking helped strengthen her muscles and the experienced hackers loved riding her because she’s very forward going, but safe. Now, with the year’s main hacking season at an end, we are concentrating on her schoolwork again and Penny has reached the point where I don’t have to do all the riding as she is no longer so difficult, which means our more experienced riders have been able to step in and help with training. As a result, Penny has taken on a couple of the lessons. She still has a lot of muscle to develop, but she is without doubt a real asset to the yard with all the potential to be a very nice riding horse.
Then we have Toffee; a little lad with a huge heart. We loved Toffee from Day One and he near enough went straight into the school as he has such a nice character. He found hacking a little difficult, which suggests he hadn’t done much of it, so he did get a little bit excited in the beginning, but he’s a lot more settled now. In the school though, Toffee has always been a star; taking lots of different children for lessons, from novice to experienced. And now he’s grown physically stronger, he’s starting to show a real talent for jumping. Toffee has a fantastic canter, really uphill and balanced by nature, which makes him pretty scopey – as well as immaculately behaved.
And last but not least, I was also put through my paces earlier this month, thanks to the internationally-renowned trainer Paul Fielder who visited the Ranch to impart his immense knowledge in advanced level dressage. I’m pleased to say that the boys – Butterfly and Defender – both did really well as we pushed the training up a gear, with Butterfly executing his first working canter pirouettes and Defender excelling in the more technical flying change exercises.
So, as you can see, it’s not only the kids who are back in school! Although I suspect that teaching and learning with horses might be a bit more fun!