F & I Day At Shorthampton Farm July 1st 2014

“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.

Click any photo to enlarge:

Visit to Coolmore Stud and Fethard Equine Hospital

Getting the chance to look inside a world class stud farm is not something that happens all the time, but this is exactly what a group of qualified instructors – including four members of the F&I Association – did on a drizzly Irish day.

Coolmore is known worldwide for its stable of incredible top class thoroughbred stallions. Winners come from these outstanding champion bloodlines worldwide including the recent Irish and Epsom Derby winner Australia.
Coolmore also runs a top class breeding programme with excellent facilities and a wonderful environment for raising thoroughbreds.

We met outside the office at Coolmore and were greeted by Jason Walsh, a member of the highly professional and experienced team in charge of stallion nominations. Jason has been on the team at Coolmore for the past 15 years. He was the perfect knowledgeable tour guide.

The tour itself was extremely in-depth. We started by walking through the grounds past statues of previous greats such as Yeats and Sadler’s Wells. The realism in these sculptures is incredible, and it really sets the tone for the rest of the yard; the attention to detail is incredible. After stopping to pose with our bronze equine heroes, we moved into the stallion yard.
Here we saw Coolmore’s top class thoroughbred Stallions, this time the real thing! We were lucky enough to be shown some of them whilst they were walked from their stables. Holy Roman Emperor and Pour Moi were even more magnificent than they appear on television, but the real icing on the cake was seeing Galileo. Regarded by many as the best sire in the world, he has such a powerful walk that it immediately reminds you of how easily he covered the ground on the track. However, what is also noticeable is his terrific temperament, which is a real testament to how much care the handlers take of all the horses at Coolmore.
After this we moved through the breeding barns and were given a thorough walkthrough of all the different stages that the breeding process includes, as well as the challenges that it provides. It was interesting to hear this from someone with as much experience as Jason. He took us (in between the rain showers) into the holding area and the serving area. Each part of the process is carried out to a minute detail to ensure that the horses are in the best state they can be to aid a successful mating and keep both them and the handlers safe.
After a suitably relaxing lunch break in the famous McCarthy’s Hotel of Fethard, we then reconvened at the Fethard Equine hospital. The equine hospital was opened in 2007 and truly is an excellent top class facility and one of Ireland’s leading equine hospitals. Showing us the inner workings of the hospital was Tom O’Brien, one of the resident surgeons.
It is very interesting to have the time to take in the intricacies of an equine hospital. Usually when you visit one you are too busy focussing on the welfare of your animal to want to see areas like the lab. However, the group spent time in all the key sections of the hospital; the operating room complete with hoist, the stabling facilities, the lab and the washrooms. Tom pieced it all together to emphasise how much work goes into an operation like this.
All in all we had an enjoyable day that not even the questionable weather (real driving rain) could temper
Huge thanks to Coolmore and the Fethard Equine Hospital and all involved for making this wonderful tour possible and so informative and enjoyable.
Many thanks for organising our Stud Tour to the B.H.S. F&I Association and of course to Faith Ponsonby BHSI.

Report by Daniel Horgan.


Training Day with Judy Harvey FBHS: June 3rd 2014

The day started out and remained warm and even sunny in the afternoon so everyone did as requested and bought a chair and the dry weather!

As attendees started to arrive Judy was already teaching her own students who are based with her. They are preparing for competitions up to and including PSG and were quietly working their way through various test movements whilst managing their horses coping with a lot of activity and bustle as people settled in. Judy encouraged the riders to anticipate any spooks, to set up and ride forward. Fiona Brennen is competing at PSG level and now has a youngster so is taking on a more proactive thought process especially in the arena when there is no one to help during the moments that aren’t necessarily planned for.

Once everyone was settled in, Judy rode two of her competition horses, Fitz and Blitz (a pure coincidence in name similarity!). The first one, Fitz, who Judy spotted as a 3 year old and is now 16 years of age, competes at Grand Prix level and has recently returned to serious work following a slight injury. His rehabilitation has been a very slow and careful process with a measured balance of training for fitness which both Judy and Fitz demonstrated beautifully. Judy has just found the added benefits of the aqua treadmill as part of that regime for when they head off to France for an international qualifier competition in July.

Discussions followed on the dressage phase at Badminton this year, and Judy together with Fitz demonstrated some of the weaknesses that could be found in this phase and how to work on improving them – particularly the walk pirouettes.

Her second ride, Blitz, now 8 years of age, is working at advanced medium level and although extremely talented, suffers from nerves at the competitions predominantly becoming distracted with the noise. She envisages that Blitz will also reach Grand Prix level and her focus today concentrated on paying attention to the detail, to not throw away marks on the simple things especially transitions where specific marks at Advanced Medium are to be had, and to not therefore get caught up with the tricks too much.

Discussions ensued in relation to the development of the PSG movements; specifically in relation to the half pass counter change of hand, and again, walk and canter pirouettes, the emphasis being to practise, practise, practise and repeat. When collecting think of bending the hind joints rather than shortening the walk.

The first private lesson of the day was with Carol Bennitt on her own horse that she had had since a 3 yr. old. He is now working at Grand Prix level and is yet to debut in a GP competition. After a short warm up, Carol rode through the entire GP test (another first for Carol who tends to work on parts of the test at home) whilst Judy gave a detailed running commentary from a judges perspective with marks included – whilst also managing to explain why she gave those mark and how to gain more. As well as being extremely informative, it also clearly demonstrated Judy’s close attention to detail, sharp and quickness of eye and complete depth of knowledge. For improvement Judy suggested that Carol keeps the shoulders of the horse “up” through the corners and specifically during the turns onto the centre line to aid with the straightness.

Carol also takes lessons with Carl Hester twice a month and a discussion pursued at this point about variable coaching styles; that coaches are as individual as riders.

Next, Nicole Biggs rode her Intermediate event horse who jumps brilliantly and loves the x/c but doesn’t really get dressage; possibly viewing this phase as a necessity rather than desirability. Her mare can become quite stuffy and needs a lot of encouraging; all aided and improved by the constant repetition of transitions, particularly within the pace – with perhaps more emphasis to the down ward transition to help maintain the hind leg activity. Careful reminders from Judy helped Nicole’s awareness that she can be easily duped into doing much of the work for her horse. However, in contrast, there needs to be a balance when riding forward that the horse doesn’t then become more unbalanced, so that if she comes out of a natural rhythm, the hand brake goes on even more.

Discussions took place about how the extraordinary top dressage horses are less likely to tire so easily when they are competing especially in the circuit, in relation to a horse that isn’t as well designed in their conformation; that they are required to work harder to maintain their level of work and expertise, especially at Grand Prix level; whereas eventers for example, canter more forward as oppose to a dressage horse whose canter is designed for a more uphill motion.

This thought process followed through with the next rider, Ann Bostock whose horse for this session was a 12 year old retired point to pointer. It took a while, but once he had settled into the job in hand, worked beautifully. Ann confirms that Judy is always looking for the positive in any partnership and is as enthusiastic with a TB as with a “proper dressage horse”. She reminds herself to not hurry her horse through the canter transitions allowing him to prepare mentally and then physically before producing his answer. Again by the repetition of correct management of the exercise, her horse visibly relaxed and his confidence clearly grew.

Nicole Biggs then rode her second horse, a now retired Intermediate event horse who currently concentrates on his dressage to Advanced Medium level at 21 years of age. He gave Nicole a lovely ride and quietly worked his way through most of the movements required at this level. His parting shot to the session was 2 perfectly executed flying changes that have been somewhat of a nemesis but came just right on our day. Judy explained that horses who clearly understand their job need to work on the areas that will enhance their weaknesses without taking the strain.

Finally, Jo Ivimey brought her stunning 9 year old dressage horse who is currently working at medium dressage level; with the view of wanting to know if he would make the PSG grade. As with many riders who train for periods independently, Jo relished the advice and help that Judy was able to offer, with particular regard to tweaking the rider position and reinforcing the correct way of going. Judy also worked on the importance of horses that have a tendency to run away or become onward bound, that it is still imperative to keep riding them forwards, and keep the leg on to re-engage the hind quarters.

This training day with Judy Harvey, her guinea pigs, volunteer riders and a selection of super horses, proved to be extremely inspirational and thought provoking, with many ideas taken away and worked upon. Whilst at the same time, similar veins of a training philosophy ran through an assortment horses at different levels and backgrounds, which enabled the observing participant’s a valuable opportunity to look at the similar themes but from a variety of perspectives.

Report by Pippa Hattan; BHSI reg’d


Course Walk at Tattersals Horse Trials, Ireland, with Nick Turner FBHS, Irish Team Trainer.

Walking the course with Nick Turner FBHS
Walking the course with Nick Turner FBHS

Tattersalls Horse Trials was a great success again this year.  It is located in Ratoath, Co. Meath across from Fairyhouse Race Course.  It is a benificial event for the Irish riders as it attracts competitors worldwide.  This year’s WEG is a chance for Ireland to qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016 so, ‘Tatts’ is an important event for the Irish riders as it enables them to see their progress and to see where their weaknesses lie.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to go on the BHS F&I Association’s course walk on Friday  30th May with Nick Turner.  He gave me a great understanding of a cross-country course.  From his positive attitude and calm way you would think it was easy!  I picked up a lot of information and enjoyed watching the beautiful horses earlier in the day doing the 3* dressage test.

Fences one to seven were relatively straightforward (according to Nick) and this was to encourage the horses to relax into their stride and make sure they were paying attention.  As show jumping is my sport I was interested to learn that the sunken roads and coffins needed to be ridden in a showjumping canter.

Towards the end of the course the square oxers in the water on a bendy line for the 2* horses looked much more difficult than the two big Owl Holes for the 3* horses.  And that’s how they rode even William Fox Pitt had to ride the oxers carefully on his 2* horse!

We had a small but enthusiastic group that included Grainne Sugars BHSI, on a motorised scooter that we all wanted to ride! Jane Kennedy, owner of Brennanstown RC and Jillie Rogers BHSI Chairman of the F&I Association, these ladies brought a good atmosphere to the occasion.  Walking with us was Jane’s daughter Louise Bloomer and this gave the group a very realistic feel for the course as she was riding in the CIC***.  Whilst Louise walked and counted the strides in the three water complexes we watched and took notes.

I hadn’t realised horses lose speed when they are jumping into water and this must be taken into consideration when you are walking from fence to fence.

‘Tatts’ is not on vast parkland like Badminton so the course builder had to put in loops to account for the distance and time.  Nick felt the course was technical but shouldn’t cause too many problems.

I enjoyed the opportunity to gain such an insight into a different sport from my own and am thinking 1m 20 is big but at least my horse can knock it down if I get it wrong!!

Report by Falone Whelan pre BHS Stage 2 student.

F and I day with Jeremy Michaels FBHS coaching the coaches, 24th March 2014.

Glorious sunshine welcomed the hardy few who arrived to enjoy and benefit from the coaching day offered by Mandy with

GPTania-IMG_2936Jeremy Michaels FBHS as the coach’s coach. Always a wonderful setting at Shorthampton we were all very appreciative of the improved weather.

Four lucky BHSI’s Mandy, Judith Murphy, Jo Ivemey, myself and my guest Sue Barr were to benefit from a marvellous days coaching. Mandy had produced for us a diverse selection of her clients, a wealth of wonderful horses and riders of every possible type. Our grateful thanks to our Demo riders…. Tonya Wood, on a lovely young eventer and another big horse competing at novice, young riders Lucy Goodey and Alex Byrne, and Fiona riding her pony gold medal winning daughter’s 3 eventers aiming at juniors. The horses also varied from small and athletic to big and strong eventers and ranged across all stages of eventing training up to 2 star. Even Mandy, riding the sweetest little welsh pony, was coached by my nervous guest Sue Barr!

The morning session began with dressage with Jeremy coaching the first few riders and asking us all to participate in assessments and suggestions for improvement. There was such an interesting variety of combinations that every aspect of coaching skills was needed. Jeremy rode two superbly, demonstrating the huge benefit of having a ‘sit upon’ to feel of the horse’s way of going. Many different ideas were tossed about – but the overriding conclusion was to try to think positive and seek and enhance the good bits in each combination. The importance of having a horse working willingly off light aids was agreed as key to success as was the essential requirement of a secure and balanced rider.

Much mention was made of Chris Bartle and his ‘wheelbarrows’ analogue for helping riders not to pull back at the horses head. Also the benefit of a clear riders ‘body statement’ helping to set the horse up for the intended movement or transition.

IMG_2954Molly Sivewright was also frequently referred to, especially the value of ensuring the correct distribution of the riders’ weight and the effectiveness of a rider lifting their diaphragm to prevent them tipping forward. The benefits of many transitions within and between the gaits were shown to improve the horse’s willingness and hind leg engagement – and the horse and rider partnership. Mandy added the wonderful contribution that ‘what’s in the brain goes down the rein’! Molly Sivewright’s and Chris Bartle’s brilliant books are still as relevant today as when they were written!

Each person had a chance to coach one of the riders, overseen by Jeremy, and comments were offered from him and then from the riders. My rider was young Alex on a lovely big grey welsh gelding who was very sharp and we worked on the riders role in calming the horses emotions. I asked my rider to ignore all the horse’s little dramas and crises concentrating on controlling his rhythm and breathing whilst maintaining a secure position – she found this helpful. I do find hot horses can cause themselves problems when they forget to breathe out! Everyone found Jeremy’s comments very useful and encouraging -and then we all repaired to Mandy’s lovely old farmhouse for lunch.

Mandy had made a wonderful Scandinavian chicken – a light creamy version of coronation chicken with fruit added – delicious. Quite an impressive feat as Mandy had only returned from skiing the day before! During lunch many ideas were tossed about and discussed especially the BHS exams, UKCC and how to encourage new coaches – younger or older – to seek qualification.

reflecting-IMG_2956In the afternoon some of the same combinations of horses and riders came forward for jump coaching and we started with pole work before moving on to grids. Again each of us took a turn to coach and further discussion, comment and encouragement was offered. We then set out a jumping exercise with 4 small jumps set out on diagonals at 15-16 metres that could be jumped in various ways and proved effective and very helpful to all. It was also a quick and easy exercise to set up and put away!

Jeremy is a wise, encouraging and helpful coach for us all and I especially found it helpful to work in front of colleagues and receive feedback and comment. Coaching can be lonely business and sometimes a bit of an ego trip… so these days are so valuable to keep ones coaching and social skills up to scratch – and ego in check!. Thank you to Mandy for organising wonderful demo riders for us, a brilliant coach and a delicious lunch. Roll-on the next Mandy Holloway F and I day with Jeremy Michaels FBHS planned for later in July 2014.

Meanwhile Mandy and Joanna are offering a day of ‘schooling horses from the ground’ and ‘developing successful horse and rider partnerships’ at Shorthampton on Tues 1st July – cost to F and I’s £30 – others £35 – or further information please contact Mandy 07753 367252 mandyholloway@hotmail.co.uk or Joanna 07968 544448 orinfo@fearlesshorse.co.uk.

report by Joanna Day BHSI BE acT