We had a super workshop at Welland today. Thanks to the dedicated attendees who put up with the cold and still managed to stay cheerful and enthusiastic. Sam Pettigrew baked the most wonderful lemon drizzle cake and she and Jo Lewington hosted beautifully – so thank you for making it a great day again!
After the theory session Jo and Sherman had a first lesson in liberty training together. The objective of the session was really to have a look at where they are today, with a view to preparing for her grade 1 evaluation – to observe what is working and what needs improvement.
We then had a look at Des’ liberty training, which Jo has already done more work on, and his transitions were very lovely and sharp and he offered some lovely LFS circles and a spontaneous half pass! His work in hand is much improved since last time, he is getting more accustomed to Jo using two reins and when she asked for a little more connection Des shaped himself up into an absolutely super shoulder fore. A tantalising glimpse of what is to come – a sensitive, talented horse with a lot to offer.
Lu Luan Crawford Crawford brought her gorgeous Icelandic mare, Bjort, for their first ever ST lesson. Bjort took it all very much in her stride, and Lu’s previous good experience with working with horses from the ground was obvious, as well as her good feel on the rein and timing in the release. Bjort is very supple and keeping her very fluid point of mass back and evenly distributed over both front legs was the challenge for Lu in the standstill exercises. They made fast progress with the LFS circles, and with just a little practise Bjort will be showing some nice self-carriage. It will be fascinating to see how this responsive young horse progresses with Straightness Training and it will be super to see her perform the tölt with the 6 keys in place.
On 5 November Jenny Comish brought her mare Stella, and Clare Daniels brought her mare Leia, for private lessons with me at Jo Lewington's yard at Welland in Worcestershire.
It was a fun and relaxed morning, and they both did really well and made very good progress, working on standstill exercises, LFS and introducing haunches in.
Jo took some super photographs and I have shared a few of them here.
Jenny and Stella
Clare and Leia
What a good day we had at Welland (Worcestershire)! The audience were really super, very open to learning and all at a similar level, just starting out with Straightness Training. We had a 30 minute theory session followed by 4 lessons, with Jo Lewington, Sam Pettigrew and Kerry Staudt. Jo took some beautiful pictures, so check out the gallery below. Huge thanks to Jo and Sam for hosting so wonderfully.
Kerry brought her super young mare Ebby for their first lesson and they both picked up the standstill exercises and LFS circle very well. It will be really great to follow their progress as they work through the programme. Well done Kerry and Ebby!
Jo and Sherman had a breakthrough finding that after introducing some steps of half pass which Sherman found a little challenging, he offered an awesome shoulder in with superb self carriage. Interesting how after moving to the next level the previous exercise seems so much easier! It is so wonderful to see Sherman's transformation from from a very stiff and rather resistant cob with a tendency to bolt, moving in a supple, soft self-carriage. Sadly I din't manage to get a picture of it.
Sam had her 2nd training session with Lolita, Jo's rescue mare. Lolita is in her late 20s and has a pelvis injury. In the past she has jumped but she was also trained to a fairly high level in dressage. Last time I saw her Sam had done a great joby by gently starting with the forward down exercises and some LFS circles with Lolita, which she took to very easily. In this lesson we explored the LFS on a straight line and shoulder in. Lolita surprised us by showing very proudly that she can already do shoulder in and she knows how to carry herself. So we carefully introduced haunches in - which she also took to very easily! With an elderly horse that seems very fragile we need to take care not to ask too much too soon, and keep training sessions short. But we must also not treat them like glass, or feel sorry for them. When they go into the field with the other horses they are not given any special treatment. So we need to remember how it feels in our own body when we go to the gym or start with a new exercises, and particularly how it would feel if we are over 60! Listen to the horse. And as always finding the right balance is key.
Jo had a lesson with Hugo. It was the first time I had seen them since the clinic with Marijke last year, when Hugo was extremely nippy and difficult to work with. Jo has done a fantastic job to bring him back into balance mentally, and showed us some lovely groundwork. It was interesting to see how his left hind leg would step beside the point of mass, avoiding taking weight, particularly in the haunches in to the left. And this similarly affected his half pass. Again the picture does not do it justice.
I was left totally inspired by the September instructor clinic. It was full of lightbulb moments for me and it was wonderful to catch up with Marijke and the other UK instructors and to see the progress we have all made over the summer. Marley was offering me the moon which was truly special.
In liberty training my takeaways were to really really REALLY - REALLY - show him that I appreciate him, that I understand him, and to be totally present, to feel him in every step, every request. It gave a whole new meaning to what is meant by 'inner feeling' and how powerful that can be.
And the same translates to work in hand, the stronger your inner picture and inner feeling the clearer your communication with the horse will be, the lighter the aids, so that the horse is free to offer self carriage of body and mind.
The Introduction to ST and demonstration at Welland this morning was a huge success! What a wonderfully positive and friendly atmosphere, with a super audience, so open and ready to learn. Huge thanks to the awesome Jo Lewington and Sam Pettigrew who were superb hosts, and Jo’s demo lessons with Des and Sherman were both inspiring and informative for the audience. Sam’s lemon drizzle was second to none!
And the icing on the cake was Lisa Hudson’s very first lesson with her lovely young gelding Colin, a very interesting lesson that I really enjoyed, which demonstrated how to get started with a new horse. We learned that every horse is different and if it’s not working then we should change our approach and break down what we are asking into smaller chunks. Colin learned so quickly when we took our time and allowed him to process what we were asking using Release, Reward, Relax, (or Redirect) and Repeat. And Lisa already has very good timing and feel and I’m sure they will be super successful with ST in future.
Now we are looking forward to our special lesson days on Sunday 25 September and Saturday 22 October, there are lesson places available if you contact me direct.
The June 2016 instructor clinic was an amazing 3 days of learning and inspiration. Marley and I found what we had been missing to move to the next level and made huge improvements after our lessons with Marijke de Jong. It was super to watch the other instructors' lessons, inspirational and so much to learn that way as one way or another we generally come across the same challenges.
For me the theme was the importance of getting a proper connection over the back from the tail to the poll, no look-alikes allowed, and to be totally consistent not to accept the compromise the horse will offer us. Getting the fine details right in every exercise to allow the horse to find the point of mass is key.
We had a great time trialling the new ST for riders which will be hugely beneficial, I felt the effects of the new exercises immediately. And this really made us think about how the horses must feel when we ask them to move in a new way, or stretch a certain muscle when they are not used to it. It is so important to allow them time to rest between exercises when they are learning and to listen to their feedback.
Our 2nd workshop at Walford College today was a great success with 5 super horse and rider combinations. It was a perfect sunny day and the horses - and humans - were all relaxed and in good mental states, ready to learn.
Huge huge thanks to Kotti Brewin for organizing so brilliantly (sorry you were not able to stay) and to Jo Rawlinson for helping out.
For me the theme that came out of this workshop was the importance of having a correct lateral bending, and consistently correcting the inside shoulder when the horse falls in. This is in all of the movements but particularly the LFS and haunches in. There were super improvements in the horses’ posture when the point of mass moved out of the inside shoulder and with correct bending, and even a tiny 2 mm correction can make a huge difference.
First was Cilla Allmark with her young gelding Finn. Cilla is new to ST so it was a great way to start the day, with an explanation about the 6 keys of Straightness Training and how to get started. Fen is very much into his shoulders so he didn’t find it easy, but Cilla made a good start and finished with some nice steps of LFS on the circle.
Gill Cooper and her mare Fen were next. Fen was very much more relaxed than last time and Gill was able to show some lovely LFS and work on the haunches in. Fen was in the habit of pushing through her shoulders - and through her handler - and she responded very well to strategies to correct that, which Gill picked up brilliantly.
Karen Whittaker and Tango were super again. They continued from the last workshop working on diagonalizing the walk and half steps to improve the trot. They did a great job and were fabulous for the auditors to watch.
Jane Dove and her mare Hon have made a great start at home from the home study course and we were able to make a start on haunches in – which Hon picked up straight away! ST will be a perfect therapy for her injury, and I’ll look forward to following their progress.
Finally Mastery student Jill Griffith with her Spanish gelding Atomico were a treat to work with and to watch. We looked at the 2mm details in preparation for their level 2 groundwork and they made some very nice improvements.
All in all a super day!
Well we had a super day yesterday at Walford College, with 6 horses and riders, beginners and more advanced, and a healthy audience which included some complete beginners. There was a super positive, friendly and open atmosphere.
The horses were all very open and willing, so ready to learn and eager to please, and offering behaviours before we even asked for them, such great mind readers they are! All of the lessons were in groundwork.
Huge huge thanks to Kotti Brewin for organizing the day so well, and providing most excellent tea and biscuits.
Kotti kicked the day off with her lovely gelding Bozwell, by demonstrating beautifully the standstill exercises – forward down, stelling and bending – and the LFS on a circle. (So sorry Kotti I didn’t get a picture of Boz)
Rachael Childs made a great start with the beautiful Oregon, who mastered the standstill exercises and LFS circles. A lovely gentle horse, a great worrier who looked much more relaxed and confident by the end of his session. Changes in his mental state will be very interesting to see as Rachael progresses with Straightness Training.
Karen Whittaker and Tango – it was a treat for the new people to be able to see the advanced groundwork routine in walk through to the haunches in turn and renvers turn in the walk. Karen did a great job and Tango was giving his all and, although he was excited, he was still able to learn about diagonalizing the walk in preparation for the half steps.
Gill Cooper brought along her lovely mare Fen, who gave us a fascinating lesson about leadership and how the horse will be grounded when we are grounded, and will follow our leadership when we offer it. Counter shoulder in was invaluable to condition her to the spooky boards on the wall. Gill did a really great job bringing her back down to earth and in the end Fen was really quite relaxed and did some beautiful LFS without pushing and we were able to improve her haunches in.
Kate Martin and young George, such a sweet character and super sensitive, he demonstrated just how powerful air pressure can be from quite a distance from the horse, and how very light our aids can be. He is more than ready and will be a fast learner and a wonderful horse for Kate to work through the Home Study course with.
Pauline Daley and her wonderful thoroughbred Alf ended the day in a huge storm through which Alf stood like a rock. He was all the time ready to learn and trying his best for Pauline. A strongly right bended horse he started out very stiff on the left rein and after a really good release and giving him time to process he was able to offer a lovely LFS with good bending on both reins, with a good connection over the spine.