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Naughty Neds Image
  Naughty Neds
- kindly written for World of Horses by Karry Gardner
"Look Out Bridget Jones"
Having managed to return from the "wettest place on earth" Mount Wai'ale'ale in Kauai  in time to celebrate Lucy's birthday, "the girlies" from "our yard" decided that we would have an informal dinner party ( ie no tiara's please) at Small Bosses' house so that Charlotte didn't have to bother with baby sitters to look after her two foals.
We also watched (in my case for the first time " Bridget Jones' Diary" which meant that I had to come home and re-read the book again, plus the sequel "The Edge of Reason". This unfortunately means for you, dear reader, that I have started  writing in manner of Helen Fielding, author of B.J's Diary and thus I offer my apologies for this mental lapse prior to writing this months article but must put blame firmly at door of girls from yard for encouraging such lapse  by forcing me to watch film !!
One question  must be asked prior to commencement of article - is ? In the second book, B.J gets to interview Colin Firth . As Colin Firth is playing Mark Darcy, if sequel film is faithful to book, who will play Colin Firth ? Confused  ? Yes, well so am  !!
Since returning from holiday  I have managed three private lessons with The Boss and one dressage clinic with "the girlies". Last Thursday's dressage clinic was taken by Small Boss (Charlotte) . Now , I must explain for those people not familiar with the chronological events surrounding my riding lessons, that Charlotte used to teach me prior to her having babies (for which we allowed her a few days off work ) . She used to teach me roughly once a week and it would take me the remainder of the week to re-cover from it ,such is the ferocity of her equine work out. In fact, I admit, I once spent the day after one of her lessons in bed , skiving and aching at the same time. So the prospect of a dressage clinic with Small Boss is such that if I  used to find out before I arrived at the yard  for 2 o'clock on a Thursday, then I would ring in sick . I knew that if I didn't then I would be completely knackered the day after and unable to work for real. So "the girlies" don't tell me any more - they just let me turn up and laugh at the expression on my face when I find out !!
Moving On Up
It's true that a session with Small Boss differs from a session with The Boss.
The Boss gives me time to work in MGB very slowly so that by the time we get to our first trot transition, I know, at least I know 85 -90% that I can make the transition smoothly . Now, Small Boss likes the horses worked in long and deep and has me trotting in less than ten minutes just to get the horse  moving forward . The contact comes later after the forwardness bit. It's odd that two teachers who work so closely together have such opposite styles of working in and yet both approaches DO work.
We have come a long way in two years and four months of intensive teaching (give or take two months holidays) and I was complimented the other day when The Boss said that now that I can finally ride in a consistent outline (except in canter ) it's time to move up to a different level. (More work !!)
Two years ago I dreamed of being able to get MGB "down and round" .Having achieved that very thing, it's no longer enough to satisfy me and now we are working on "listen , listen".
To execute any movement, any turn , any instruction at all , the dressage horse (and indeed ANY horse) has to listen to you all the time - 100%  and not question anything you ask, any signal you give , by  dis-obeying ,coming off the bit , coming above the bit, eating the bit, hiding the bit behind the feed bins  etc (hah, caught you !).
The horse has to be available to obey your every instruction and your every whim  and he must be trained to listen to you and only you.
"The Woman Who Would Like To Talk To Horses"
So how do we begin to train the horse to listen ?
Like the average school age child, horses  appear to have a very short attention span. In fact, they are "listening" but they are listening with the ears of a flight animal . So they are listening out for dangerous things like tigers who might spring up from behind elephants who are hiding in the bushes behind frightening green monsters with horns. They constantly flick their ears around like satellite dishes picking up signals from Mars and other worlds. Whilst they are doing this, they cannot listen to a rider.
So the key to listening , has to lie in relaxation and trust. There has to be an understanding  and trust between horse and rider . The horse  must know that the rider will take care of him and not put him in dangerous situations . The rider has to know that the horse will listen and obey and take no notice of the flapping green tent which conceals the most frightening things in the universe ie . dressage judges, tax officials ,the VAT man and  possibly my bank manger.
It's true that just like people, there are horses who just get bored of listening to the same "nagging commands" of their riders and just ignore them. Some horses run away from their riders when they put their legs "on" and that's because they don't understand what "leg on" means. if you are a rider who rides with your legs twelve inches from your horse's side and you suddenly clamp them round his middle, he will think that you are a lion attacking him from underneath and so he will no doubt react in the time honoured manner ie. he will run away  from your leg  aka the lion . And that's the rider's fault entirely.
Horses have to get used to riders signals and that does not happen overnight (look, it's taken me two whole years to get this far !!) .
A horse must allow to place your leg any where you want on his side and not resent it's presence. He must not stiffen against it, go hard in his back etc. He must relax and accept the contact in his mouth and your aids and legs.
A few years ago, the Boss went to The National Dressage Finals  and came back saying that he could not understand how some of the horses got as far as they did (and some well known riders !) as none of them were ridden off aids.
I did not have a clue what he meant until recently.
Someone came to the yard for a private lesson declaring that they had designs on competing at Medium level dressage and above and wanted to put their lateral work in place. The horse (a nice one, with talent) had never felt his riders legs touch his side because all the aids were given by  using the rein. The riders legs were eight inches off his sides and the stirrups were too short . There was never a hope that this combination could begin lateral work until the horse accepted the riders leg. The horse was ridden by one of the Bosses' who applied legs and surprisingly, the horse did not get as tight and difficult as he could have done . Some horses are clearly more malleable and trainable than others and that is what separates  great horses from the others. the horse must accept the training which cannot be taught in great chunks of information which swamp his brain and muscles but in little bites and with regularity.
We often talk  and read about  acceptance of the riders hand but what about leg aids ? How many horses have you ridden who kick out at your canter aids  ?(Mine still does sometimes !).
So where is this taking us and how  am I teaching MGB to listen and obey ?
Like the down and round thing, it's not easy and it requires patience and consistent training methods which I haven't got in place but the Bosses have. (Thank goodness)
I must now  command her attention at all times and I must get it without allowing her off the contact. This means that I have to push her into the contact and not pull her into it (which only makes her rein back) . Inner thighs (mine) are loose and knees are off the saddle and it is the seat and calves which push her forward . There can be no gripping up with the knees.
I have to have her so that she is listening to me, waiting for my instructions . This involves a great deal of "talking" to her so I ask for flexion and bending even on the straightest of lines. Having got the attention, I must keep it so I must now think and ride every stride we take together.
If I feel an irregularity in the timing of the pace, I know that her attention has wandered and so I must "do" something to get it back without fiddling with the front end which will stop her moving forwards. So perhaps that's a tap with the whip (very light) or a squeeze or even a kick. I can now feel her stiffen in her back just before she becomes irregular and often it's accompanies by a grinding of teeth (hers, not mine). That's the signal to me that impulsion has been lost which is followed by stiffness and inattentiveness Often ,  I am still not quick enough to react and we grind to a halt and have to start again.
Often , the key to the whole thing is that if my attention wanders because I am thinking about the movement rather than the preparation for the movement, then her attention drops of too. After all, why   should she listen to me if I don't do the same for her ?
I used to believe, many moons ago, that horses were things that you could "master" . If you have read any of Monty Roberts' books, Monty's father did some appalling things to horses when he was "breaking" them in.
Horse training is based upon mutual trust and respect . Horses have no chance of learning our language so we must learn theirs as best we can and come to some mutual arrangement if we are to have a future together.
Is Cloning Future Of Sport Horse Breeding ?
As MGB is now 23 years old, I often stop and wonder just how long we can go on together . At the moment ,we keep getting a better  understanding of each other but I can just imagine at the moment that we are finally selected to represent Britain at the Olympics, MGB who is by this time 34 and myself  who would be 55 -ish , MGB shuffles off her mortal coil and joins Red Rum  and her other heroes in the celestial stable  yard .
Apparently, it's now possible    to clone your cat (God forbid - two of each of my felines fiends would be several too many) so I wonder if I can get MGB cloned (soonish rather than later).
Can you imagine MGB's first encounter with her "self" ? A leggy, ginger/orange spiky punk haired  cheeky filly with a big blaze down her face   meets a cobby , ginger/orange spiky fluffy (this meeting takes place in winter ) grumpy old mare also with a big blaze down her face .
MGB: "So, you are my replacement - I am no longer wanted, needed, loved . I am cast aside like an empty husk. Years and years of service have I given and we come to this. My rugs/saddle/bridle, polo's  mollichop, manger and magnotherapy boots are given to a young whipper snapper and I am nothing !"
Mini - MGB : "In a word, Mom (for she was cloned in USA ) Yes. I am the future. I am carrying on "the line"  .All that was yours is now mine . Your stable your lovely burgundy Thermatex rug, the matching bandages and the fleecy exercise sheet . Everything.
MGB: "And I suppose you will take away my human too. My owner, the woman who saved me from a lifetime of drudgery in the school, the person who  paid loads of dosh to have my teeth removed."
Mini-MGB; Which one's that then ?
MGB: That one over there, the one who brought you here.
Mini - MGB : The wrinkly old thing with the short legs you mean ?
MGB: Yes, that's her and don't call her wrinkly, she doesn't like it !
Mini-MGB: You mean, that thing with the bum the size of a small planet is going to actually ride me ?
MGB: After a fashion ; some call it riding others would tend to disagree and call it bumping around a lot on one's spinal column.
Mini-MGB : So, at what point did the wrinkly remove your teeth then ?
MGB : (Sensing an opportunity to bend the truth here) Oh, well, it started quite early on, I was about three when they removed one lot and two years later she had me operated on again and again when I was 22  .It never really stopped  - bad jaw alignment is hereditary you know .  And then there were the hair extensions for competition and then there was all the treatment we had for  IVF plus the twelve foals she made me have for her not forgetting the pin-firing, leg transplant , waxing and bleaching my mane and tail  and  all the other  cosmetic stuff.
Mini-MGB: So, the wrinkly sits on you, pulverises your spine with her bum, pulls out your teeth, waxes and bleaches your  hairy bits , forces you into loveless liaisons with unidentified blokes   to produce illegitimate  babies for massive profit and then sticks pins in your tendons ? Are you telling me that this is my future?
MGB : Yes, as an exact reproduction of me, that's what you will have to look forward too. (Shouting) Excuse me, Mini-Me, where are you going?
Mini-MGB : (Breathless) Sorry , big mistake , wrong yard , wrong life! (snorting and galloping off into the sunset ) .
MGB : (Aside) Thank God for that !  Burgundy Thermatex indeed!  I wonder what Mrs Fat Bum will say when she brings my tea !
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