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The fruits of our labours...

Herd of horses cantering alongside wolf dogs at Pippsway Classical Natural Horsemanship Wellington Somerset near Devon

Recently Bronson and I have been focusing on hacks at a walk and as it turns out, and much to my surprise, they have proved invaluable to my overall progress and set us up really well for my lesson today. Now when I say walking, this is walking Pippsway! Which means an extended walk with both horse and rider completely focused and going forwards with intention and a sense of purpose. Not having a mindless bimble! In fact nothing is done mindlessly at Pippsway and having learned to be this way around horses it becomes shocking that anyone does anything else!

Pip has moved all the barrels and tyres from the ménage up to the top field so we can enjoy a change of scenery, a bigger area to work in and get used to working and focusing in a different setting, so whilst Pip grabbed herself a coffee Bronson and I headed on up to the top field. I had realised on our first solo hack yesterday that I rode with far more focus than normal, because I had to! Bronson is a rehabilitation horse who Pip has corrected from being nappy, so to ride with anything less than total confidence and complete focus would have been disastrous. I was solely responsible for our safety and I really upped my game. Having experienced this whole new level of focus I knew I had to bring that into the ménage to take our schooling to the next level. So I brought that sense of purpose, intention and complete focus to the top field. When Pip arrived she was pleasantly surprised to see we were doing so well. Hurrah!

Now, I have a history of being rubbish at rising trot. Old habits brought from when I rode 20 years ago. Sitting on my horse and having all my weight in my stirrups, rising too high and so on. This is all exacerbated by the fact Bronson has a big movement. Again our walks around the lanes have been the perfect opportunity for me to really work on my riding position, posture and feeling Bronson’s natural movement. As my riding position has improved he’s been able to move more freely and it has been wonderful to feel that.

So I’d asked Pip if we could tackle my rising trot once more, in my lesson today, and to take it from the top, the idiots guide to rising trot! Pip talked me through how my feet should be as light in the stirrups as my hands are on my reins. That I should be ‘standing’ on my horse (ie if the horse was removed from between my legs I would be standing, not sitting) and how my weight should be spread over my inner thigh. She then showed me where the movement for the rise originates and how, married with the horses movement in trot, it’s a subtle lifting of the weight from the saddle, but only small, and with the weight staying on the inner thigh.

We got off to a bumpy start as I was trying too hard, had stiffened up, was trotting too slow and Bronson had tightened mentally and physically. Pip called me out on it and then I remembered to smile and bring my ‘8 year old riding on her pony’ energy to bear and hey presto we got some lovely work! I’m chuffed to bits!

We then did some canter work and for the first time ever I did seated canter where not once did Pip have to say ‘you’re bouncing on his back!’ Hurray! Interesting to note that all this improvement in trot and canter was the fruit of working at extended walk!

Before my 5 month hiatus (because of an old RSI injury) I was struggling to get Bronson to canter uninterrupted around the ménage so it was wonderful to complete 5 circuits of the top field, no problem. Pip had to correct me for ‘motorbiking’ in the corners so I concentrated on staying upright and balanced. It felt fantastic!

We changed rein to repeat on the other side and Bronson kept cantering on the wrong leg. This was down to me of course as he will happily canter on whichever leg you ask of him. Flying changes and counter canter are no problem for him at all! I realised that all my extra focus had worn me out and that I was mentally dulled. So we did a circle with some good trot and called it a day.

It’s amazing to me that I did my best ever work today and that all that improvement came from hacking around the lanes at a walk! Albeit a Pippsway power walk ;-D

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