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Lessons, Lessons everywhere...

Bronson and Henry out for a walk together at Pippsway Classical Natural Horsemanship Wellington Somerset near Devon

Having allowed my weight to creep up over the last few months, I found myself in a position where I couldn’t ride. All horses have a maximum riding weight (this includes the rider, plus the weight of their riding garb and tack) and although some people think that the bigger the horse the more weight it can take, the truth is that smaller stockier breeds can take far more weight than a thoroughbred. Whilst I’ve been out of the saddle I’ve instead been enjoying my time at Pippsway in different ways. Recently a new horse called Henry came to Pip for backing. He has had the luxury of a lovely life, since being rescued by his owners, and thankfully was largely unspoiled, with the exception of the fact that he would rear, turn and leave when you tried to lead him anywhere. Before Pip backs any horse she achieves everything from the ground first and of course this leading issue needed to be resolved.

My horse, Bronson, has been acting as ‘big brother’ for Henry, to give him confidence walking from the field up and down the lane to the yard and, after a few journeys down the lane, Pip took Henry in front and I followed behind. We came through the gate, which I closed, and I saw that Pip had asked Henry to stand whilst she got him a scoop of feed. This is a new skill for Henry and what I hadn’t appreciated was that it was a little test for me too! Having closed the gate I did what I always do and turned around to walk Bronson up to his stable. Of course Henry turned and followed us, dragging his lovely clean lead rope over the wet floor and Pip had to call out to get my attention, as I still hadn’t noticed! She explained that it had been a test for both Henry and myself. Henry was being asked to stand, and that’s new for him, but also it was a test to see was I paying attention? The only way Henry would stand, at this early stage in his training, was if Bronson and I had stood and waited’s a big responsibility being allowed to be present during Henry’s training and I had made a mistake. Lesson learned! It’s not enough to be aware of myself and my horse, I need to have 360 degree awareness of not only us, but also everything that is going on around us, being mindful of what is happening with the other horses, dogs and people in my sphere! I always need to consider what I am doing and how it affects those around me.

Pip has also been freeschooling Bronson and Henry together, which is a joy to watch. The pair of them are like peas in a pod. Henry was wearing his saddle whilst being freeschooled, to help get him used to the feeling of it on his back, and Pip asked me to grab her a breastplate as it was slipping. I went and got one, brought it into the menage and handed it to Pip. Then I turned and walked away and Bronson began to follow me. I had forgotten to ask him to stand and stay with Pip before I walked away. It’s funny how something that I do so naturally in other circumstances didn’t occur to me in this new situation, a great reminder of how, regardless of what is unfolding, I need to be mindful that I am always in conversation with my horse.

Henry has been coming along so well that Pip decided it was time he could come out for a walk. Now when I say walk this is of course a walk Pippsway, which means walking as fast as is physically possible with the same posture, energy and intention as one would have when riding. This was the perfect opportunity for me to get some extra exercise, practise everything I need to do when I’m out hacking and of course spend some precious time with my boy!

We yomped around the lanes and Henry was a super star! He passed vans, a truck with a trailer and a cyclist and didn’t bat an eyelid. I had some practise in responding to what is unfolding and making decisions, after all, finding a place to accommodate two horses and four dogs is rather different to finding a spot for just horse and rider, and on our first walk out I made the wrong choice in the first instance. Pip was following behind and corrected me so it was fine but it was yet another reminder that it is not enough to be aware of myself and my horse but that I must also have that 360 degree awareness of everything that is going on around me and be mindful of what is happening with the other horses, dogs and people in my group.

When I was younger, if I wasn't jumping with my horse then I was bored. Grooming was a necessary evil and hacking was rather dull, unless we were going at mach 2! One of the many things I love about Pippsway is that everything becomes fun. Because I now understand that I am in conversation with my horse every moment that I am in his presence, every single thing we do together is interesting and enjoyable; I have to be so engaged with him and focused that boredom isn’t even a possibility! It hasn’t been easy to gain the level of awareness I have already achieved and, as I’ve shown a few times this week, I am still a work in progress, but it’s such a wonderful way to be and to experience this relationship with my horse and the world around us.

Only a couple of lbs to go and I’ll be back riding, but this little period has been invaluable in teaching me new skills and honing the ones I already have, I’ve loved every minute!

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