Updated: May 18
It is hard to think that we are already approaching the end of the year. So many things have happened in such a short space of time. No competitions, our breeding program evolving, rider biomechanics, classical in-hand training. The list could go on. Let's start at the top! I took a break in September 2021 from competing in order to focus my efforts on training and building our business. I have mentioned it in previous posts that my ego took a bit of a fall because of this, but as my training gains have gone through the roof I really couldn't care less!
Our horses have developed beyond my expectations too and my relationship with each of them has also changed. What do I mean by that? I had got very caught up in the competition aspect and each horses' job was to perform for that reason. Almost solely for that reason. So, when we have older horses who can no longer compete etc they have no purpose generally and are often turned out for the final part of their days. There is nothing wrong with this I might add. Our competition horses likewise are being produced for a job, so if they aren't achieving what they should at the pace one thinks that they should, pressure mounts. This was my old thinking. However, that has dramatically changed over the past year. Our competition horses don't have to compete all of the time and competition is not the be all and end all. What I want more than that is to have a great relationship with them, to have fun and to teach them all sorts of cool sh*t! Our oldies, if they can, don't ever have to compete again but now have a new job piaffing and cantering in-hand, performing pirouettes and learning new skills to give my students a "feel" for the high school movements with a schoolmaster before starting the journey with their own horse. This keeps our oldies mobile, active and most importantly happy, without pressure. Weirdly, having made this total mental switch, I have had two old horses that were previously not sound enough to continue work, come back in to work. Coincidence or something else? I really don't have any idea. But I am grateful.
I have also brought more joy into our training sessions which allows the horses to show their character and their joy too. This happiness in ones work allows us to enjoy our training every day without becoming bored. I am not talking about training just in the arena either. Think a combination of arena work, hacking, ranch riding and mountain rides. Oh and don't forget the Working Equitation that we all had so much fun with! So much fun for everyone!
Take our horse, Bink (Gaffers). He had reached a limit in the competition sphere and initially I didn't know what to do with him. We decided on a plan of action and are now working towards some pretty cool things! His problem is an enviable one! He has so much intelligence and talent that really the competition world isn't challenging enough for him. Essentially it is boring! However, in his work at home he piaffes away for fun, he's learning passage and can canter in-hand. He gets a kick out of tricky exercises such as the following: a pasade (fast canter pirouette) change, change, jump, change, change, pasade. Super difficult stuff. But that is the joy in this kind of mentality. He doesn't have to compete. He learns new skills and gives other riders and trainers a chance to experience these things and LOVES his life.
Our online training has also expanded. We started offering online training during Covid and those lessons are still ongoing. Being able to reach people and help them even if they can't effectively come to you is such an amazing part of this job. We have also launched a new series of Winter Training Webinars that are proving to be popular. I had been stuck for ideas, thinking that I would have to do everything LIVE in order to keep peoples' attention. I had a little pep talk with myself because as we all know, where there is a will there is a way! Low and behold there are so many ways to get our training methods across and these Webinars are LIVE but with interjections of video taken during the daylight hours thrown in. My tech skills have definitely improved! The decision was made to run a series covering a variety of topics. For instance, we have already had "Effective Lunging" and "Classical In-hand Training" and in January our next installments include "Saddle Fitting" and then another bout of "Effective Lunging". These Webinars are open to everyone and I try and make them fun and user friendly so that you can take home a few useful pointers to work on your own with.
We also decided to take a massive leap of faith in ourselves and run our very first Seminar with none other than World Famous, Christoph Hess! Whilst it required more tech knowledge (as if I didn't get enough!), it proved to be a highly successful event and we would love to run more in the future. The insights that you get from someone such as Christoph really are eye-opening, and point our equestrian training culture towards the future with a very horse-friendly training system. We would like to expand on this training and will be working with a variety of amazing coaches and trainers over the next few months so please do keep an eye on our website!
Earlier this year we also decided to expand our breeding program. We had been quietly working away on this for the past year or so, but this year the opportunity arose to purchase two top Welsh Sec B ponies from one of the most famous pony studs in Scotland, Waxwing. We are beyond excited to be welcoming foals from these two mares next year. Waxwing Money Mystery is in foal to the exciting young German Riding Pony stallion, Dallmayr K whilst Aytounshill Anastasia is due to have a foal by Welsh Sec B stallion Waxwing Arkwright. We also acquired two further pony broodmares. Part-bred Welsh broodmare, Golden Grove Harriet who is in foal to the Welsh Sec B stallion, Janpete Iceman and purebred Welsh pony, Burragh Penny Cascade who is in foal to German Riding pony stallion, Dallmayr K. We have always had a hand in ponies and particularly like the intelligence and movement of the Welsh cross. It will be so exciting to see what the next few months bring with these ladies!
What I have learnt as a whole
I think one of the crucial things I have learnt this past year is that you must surround yourself with a TEAM or group of people who are 100% behind you and who have the same values as you do. Believe that there are people out there who think like you do, who believe in the same things, the same values and who are good, honest and hard working people and you will find each other. These people are our people and will stick by whatever happens. With that anything is possible!
That is our year in review! I would like to wish all of our followers, friends and family the very best Christmas and a Happy New Year! And moreover, here is to a New Year that will be sure to bring lots of challenges but also so many rewards. Here's to 2023!