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Blog for July and August 2016

At the beginning of July we had a visit from our saddler fitter who came to measure Fulltide for her new Harry Dabbs saddle as we had been borrowing a friends saddle. Harry Dabbs has very kindly loaned me a saddle whilst ours is being made so we could make a start on our training and developing our partnership further. They are the comfiest of saddles fitting both the horse and rider perfectly.

Everything seems to be going in the right direction and Fulltide has the kindest of natures. We have made huge progress together in the last two months. We have been developing our partnership both on the ground and in our training. As a rider I think it is just as important to have trust on the ground as it is to have a partnership on board so I have been spending a lot of time getting to know Fulltide. She loves one to one attention of being fussed and groomed as well as the ridden attention, she is generally very easy going taking it all in her stride. I have had a few lessons with Fulltide now and our partnership is getting stronger as well as our understanding of each other. My first task was to teach Fulltide that my aids were going to be different to that of her previous owner who had owned her since a foal. Fulltide quickly learned my aids, they just need fine tuning now as we need to develop the consistency within the paces as the rhythm can change a little but we are getting there and we need to establish the difference between asking her to walk more forward and trotting, all things that will take time. I have also been learning to control Fulltide’s shoulders as at first she would either fall in or out as she was not used to not having a leg aid to support her, to do that we used a square exercise with shoulder in along the long side and a quarter turn in the corners, she soon understood what I was asking and I use this exercise each time we train as a warm up exercise after warming up on a long rein as it is also helping us to develop our quarter turns as well as our straightness and accuracy. We have also been focusing on our accuracy focusing on centrelines in walk and trot and 8m circles. I have also been working on my contact making sure my contact is always forward, soft and consistent. We struggled with straightness on the left rein at first due to this being my weaker side and Fulltide not quite understanding what I was asking but with lots of practice this has got better, however its not quite as good as I would like it yet, after all it is about picking up those extra marks. I am thoroughly enjoying training and working with Fulltide and looking forward to seeing what progress we can make in the next couple of months. As with all things with horses it takes time and patience so I am pleased with the progress that we have made in such a short time. Over the next month I will be focusing on more of our test movements as well as teaching her medium trot.

In August I was lucky to take Fulltide on our first outing together to a clinic with Paralympian Dressage Rider Nicola Tustain MBE. I am very grateful to a friend who kindly took us as we are struggling with transport at the moment. It was a great opportunity to take Fulltide to a new school and to see how she loaded and travelled before taking her on any longer journeys to competitions. Fulltide was foot perfect to get ready, having a bath, putting travel boots on ect. Our next task was loading which was the bit I was not sure was going to go well as I was not sure whether she had ever been it a trailer before but she walked straight on and stood happily whilst we got ready to go, so that instantly put me at ease knowing she was happy in the trailer. She also travelled perfectly to the point you would have thought we had forgotten her as you did not know she was there. Once we arrived Fulltide stood perfectly to be tacked up and for me to get on. Once in the school where we were going to be having our lesson she was a little tense and lit up by her new surrounding which I was expecting as she has not done anything in the way of going out and about to see different things but she did not put a foot wrong and most importantly she was completely safe. We even worked in white boards without any issues which was fantastic opportunity to see how she would react without being under pressure to ride a full test. For the first couple of minutes I just walked Fulltide around so she could take in her new surrounding and relax a little as the whole idea of the outing was for it to be a good experience for us both and to learn to trust each other away from home and in different situations, it taught me a lot about Fulltide, that I can trust her and if she is a little worried/tense she just goes a little more forward and is a little stronger than she is at home, which I am sure will only improve with more outings. It was a great opportunity to have a lesson with Nicola as she was able to help me cope with the slightly more forwards and stronger Fulltide than I had at home giving me lots of tools to help as well as making me relax. Once we both took a breath out Fulltide worked fantastically practicing our half-halts especially in the trot which was a little onward bound, different sized circles, centrelines, transitions and changes of reins as well as focusing on achieving left bend as when Fulltide is worried she holds onto the right rein so it is difficult to get left bend but we achieved it together – it doesn’t help that I don’t have a left leg that I can use to bend her around the inside leg so I need to teach her the a whip in my left hand replaced my left leg, easier said than done but we are getting there. I carry two whips not so much to use as Fulltide is very responsive to my voice and other aids but to make sure I am equal and not confusing her.

As well as focusing on our training I have also been hacking Fulltide out down our off road track at our livery yard and around the field which gives us both a break from training and time to relax, she has also enjoyed having a trot around the field which I have not had the confidence to do on another horse before.

We also had a play with jumping some small jumps for fun and for something a little different to do. Fulltide is so genuine and sweet as I can not canter due to my disability (I just wobble off out the side door!) that she just trots up to the small jump and carefully goes over it and lands in trot. Lets say I will never make a showjumper, think I will stick to my dressage.

All in all our first two months together have been a success and I am looking forward to what the future brings, she is such a special little horse.