“Impulsion with Enthusiasm” with Joanna and Roger Day.
The venue was Mandy Holloway’s Shorthampton Farm where Mandy was the host for the day, ably assisted by Tasha de Grave.
The morning began with Joanna explaining about her method of training horses where they had to be very quick to react and respect the handler/trainer from the ground and when ridden, using cues from our body language and positioning together with pressure and release techniques.
Annette Christie was the demo rider and her lovely horse Kiitos where we were asked to observe them warming up for about 10 minutes in the walk, trot, canter and jumping a small fence and then discuss what we observed from the riding point of view. We agreed that a common aim was how to get the horse sharper from the leg and thinking more forward as he tended to be too laid back.
Joanna helped with this and suggested that the riders core position, power of thought and light leg aids had to be used and that the horse has just become lazy to the leg as Annette had used more leg and stick to get him to respond which made him even lazier. Joanna wanted the energy to be 60:40 from the horse and we were seeing that Annette was working harder. A few transitions later with a lighter aid did have him responding better. Joanna emphasised that this type of horse would be a good candidate for the “in hand” work which followed in the afternoon.
Joanna then discussed the equipment which she found useful – an array of different types of halters and lunge cavessons and different lengths and thicknesses of ropes and lengths and flexibility of sticks to suit the handler and the horse combination. Roger uses western rope halters and works off the chin for manners and behaviour issues. Joanna prefers to use a light cavesson as she likes to work off the front of the horse to get the whole horse in bend.
Joanna explained that she liked very inflexible types of stick to work in hand – she had some normal jump sticks and just the butt half from lunge whips with the end taped off and also some driving sticks.
Joanna explained that it was important to channel your energies into the horse and for example, the energy should be of an approximate ration of 60:40 from the horse to the handler. Joanna stressed the significance of who moves who – and the horse will quickly test how easily he can get you moving!
Joanna then fitted a lunge cavesson to Kiitos and proceeded to work him on the lunge – on a small circle, making his reaction quicker and using turn on the haunches to improve his suppleness and responsiveness. Joanna was explaining that she must keep the horse’s eye on her and ask the horse to respect her and keep his attention on her at all times – shown by the horse’s inside eye and ear focussed on her.
Using body positioning and cues from the stick and using a shaking of the lunge line when the horse lost focus, Joanna made this look very easy. She commanded respect from the horse and waited for a “gentling” or “accepting” reaction from the horse, shown by “bowing” the head, licking and chewing. The reactions of Kiitos became quicker when worked “in hand” using this method, he appeared to become looser in his movement on the lunge on a small circle using just the cavesson and short lunge line and working well without the use of gadgets. Small circles are only used briefly to explain to the horse the desired bend before moving out to the bigger circle.
Mandy provided 4 unique ponies for us to practise and master our acquired skills:
Pepper – a grey welsh pony who was just mastering the flying changes
Lily – a miniature Shetland pony
Another miniature Shetland called Lucky.
Rio – an ex stallion who was cut late and is owned by a child
Each of us preferring and choosing different equipment – relating to the length of stick and type of halter/headcollar/cavesson.
We all had a go of practising the techniques of pressure and release as superbly demonstrated by Joanna.
Di, Liza Faircloth and Tasha put their techniques into practise whilst Roger worked Lucky – one of the miniature Shetland ponies to establish manners.
Our body energy was focussed upon and for the quiet charges, a high energy was required to sharpen and motivate and for the nervous or tense horse or pony we would have to use lower body energy.
Joanna and Roger then helped us to develop the techniques and show improvement of being aware of our body movement, positioning and energy. This helped us to realise that we had to adapt the body energy and take it down if we were quite intimidating, depending on the type of horse/pony being worked with.
A superb lunch was provided for us by our host, Mandy which also was a chance for some entertaining and educational discussion around the farmhouse kitchen table.
After lunch, we worked the again in hand, practising our acquired skills.
The ponies were Pepper, Lily, Rio and Tinkabelle which was one of Mandy’s competition horses worked by her head girl, Tasha.
Annette was encouraged to take Kiitos and work with her horse to promote looseness and quicker reactions from her body language and targeted application of the stick.
This session also included “Spook busting” which included objects like a very small bright red blow up horse, hats, flags and tarpaulins.
Methods used to spook bust included:
Walking around the scary object but not looking at or sniffing it
Then kicking it around but asking the pony to not take any notice and acclimatising the pony with the object by rubbing it all over its body and placing it on the body and allowing it fall off (resembling a small child falling off – useful for horses and adults too!).
Roger included flag work and was waving a large union jack around and there was acclimatisation of a tarpaulin whereby all of the horses stood on it and were nonplussed. The tarpaulin was moved closer to the fence as it was accepted and eventually the horses would stand quietly on it. Clapping was also introduced – as in acclimatising to the sound of the audience when at Prize giving. Methods used here of advance and retreat related to introducing with a low energy and raising the energy/enthusiasm/body language and height of clapping as the horses accepted it. Where one did not, it was a case of turning a pirouette and “gentling” the horse to get the focus back whilst the noise was still going on and rewarding the desired quiet behaviour by “retreating” the stimulus.
Annette, Mandy and Tasha rode the horses “spook busting” – with the emphasis on maintaining the regular footfalls and rhythm by keeping them in front of the leg and soft whilst moving over the tarpaulin and around the flags.
The emphasis was that the horses “Must not drop off the leg or run through the bridle. Attention must be on the rider”. The theme for the day “Impulsion with Enthusiasm” was met throughout all of the activities that we used and furthermore, was very well demonstrated by the riders.
This was a very informative day into body language and energy awareness and it was a great shame that it was not attended by more people as the participant’s learnt a lot about their communication techniques.
Thank you to Mandy for providing the venue and the wonderful “demo” horses and ponies which enabled us to put the theory into practise, and the wonderful lunch.
Thank you to Joanna and Roger Day for giving up their time to put on the training, discussion and insight to this topic and patience shown in helping the participants and spectators improve their communication techniques and also providing personalised signed copies of their published book “The Fearless Horse”. This was a thoroughly enjoyable day.
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