Beverley from Nottinghamshire reflects on the progress she has made with her ex-racehorse, Duke:
"Duke was stabled at the same yard as my horse. His feet were terrible, no farrier would shoe him unless he'd been sedated, and he had not been ridden for about a year.
I had been learning about horse behaviour and making great progress with Sprite. I wondered - could Duke overcome his issues and could his life be turned around? Could I help him and learn from him at the same time?
I asked his owners if they would sell Duke, and in no time at all I was the new owner of a 16.1hh ex-racehorse I knew little about.
Some things were obvious. His teeth were terrible, his back a mess and his feet shocking. Once these were addressed, I could start helping him with the other issues he had.
These included bucking, rearing, biting, kicking, panicking, plus nervous and aggressive behavour. He wouldn't load, he hated sprays, and he couldn't be clipped or tacked up. He was terrified of the vet, farrier, dentist, and back man, and being around other horses blew his brain.
He would suddenly explode, dragging me around. it was hard keeping my adrenaline down and staying focused. I had never experienced anything like this before. His behaviour was unpredictable and erratic.
I started to see small changes in him, but his confidence and emotions were very delicate.
The first time I got on him he panicked, tried to buck, rear and run off all at the same time. He was biting himself, trying to bite me.
That’s when I needed help. I didn’t have the knowledge or confidence to go further. So I rang Mickey Gavin, my instructor, and arranged for us to to go there for a week.It was the best thing I could have done.
Duke's issues are nearly all behind him now, we are making huge progress. My goal is for us to compete at dressage, not for the rosettes, but because it will be a massive acheivement in itself.
No matter how hard its been we never gave up. This horse deserves the best. He has overcome so much, and he now trusts people. I am very proud to be his partner."
Is there a topic in the horseworld that you really want to rant about? Something you want to get off your chest? Is there some aspect of horse-ownership that really makes you laugh? We'd love to hear from viewers who want to write a one-off guest blog post about everything and anything. Send a max of 400 words to [email protected], and we'll choose the very best to use on our site. Views do not necessarily reflect those of H&C.
H&C's camera girl Katie Gormley gets to go on some great filming assignments. She creates all our Top Marks series, and during filming of an upcoming episode she received a bit of a helping hand from a certain Monty Roberts...
Katie says: "I was filming Kelly Marks recently during her first ever jumping lesson on 18hh Harry. Pat Burgess (the jumping coach legend) was giving the pair a lesson as Kelly wants to get Harry jumping in case they come across any obstacles when out Bloodhounding. They started out with a grid and Harry was picking it up really fast.
Monty Roberts was also there, giving Kelly some encouragement and wisdom from the sidelines. I had filmed a few different angles when Monty came up to me and said 'I can see it being a really nice angle from down here, from under the jump,' so I tried it, and I think I got the best shot of the day. Monty carried on giving me more tips throughout the day, which was great. He's had so much TV experience, and it was lovely to have his ideas."
Top Marks: Harry Goes Hunting will air in December on Horse & Country
“So here I am at the end of the fourth and final week of the Fast Track course at the Parelli campus in Florida. It’s been yet another intense and exhilarating week, packed with teaching and our final tests.
Lesson with Linda
Last week I mentioned that I’d watched Linda Parelli teach the Game of Contact to some of the instructors. Imagine our surprise and delight then when it was our turn on Monday morning. This was a horseless session, with Linda using a simulator to help us practise our seat, rein position and movement. She spent three hours with us giving demonstrations and then helping us individually to experiment and feel. Linda loves teaching, and this was a great opportunity for her to get some feedback from us as learners as how best to teach it. It was a privilege to be part of that process and to start learning in a whole new area. After that it was back in the classroom to learn about the steps needed to set up flying lead changes, followed later by simulations – a lot of fun!
Making positive changes for the future
As you may have read in my previous posts, riding with confidence is one of my biggest challenges, and I’ll readily admit that, even with last week’s successes, I struggled during this course to find the energy and determination to really push myself out of my comfort zone and up to the next level. But on Tuesday morning I finally reached the point where I simply wasn’t satisfied to keep staying where I am – who wants to be mediocre forever? I don’t! Okay, so it had taken me quite a while to reach this point, but better late than never, eh?! Thanks to some individual coaching from US-based Three-Star Instructor Farrah Green I had the most productive and pleasurable afternoon’s riding, finishing up with a relaxing ride around the campus with one of my fellow students. One of the best days on the course!
On Wednesday the final testing began, starting with the theory test. I was excited and ready to take it – who knew I’d ever get excited about taking a test?! That evening a spectacular storm arrived and brought hours of heavy rain. With flooding all around, we all wondered what would happen regarding our practical tasks. The rain stopped just as we began the practical tool testing (knot tying, rope handling and tool management), and the sandy ground drained the water away amazingly fast – although some serious machinery was needed to drag the trailer we’d be using for the On Line testing out of the pool it was sitting in!
Before lunch we completed the ground skills tasks, which included On Line (with ropes) and Liberty (no ropes). Although the pressure was undoubtedly on, the process was a fun one, with plenty of support within the team. After lunch it was time for the ridden tasks. Horses now dried out, we saddled up and prepared for riding. After mounting I spent quite a bit of time preparing myself and my horse for the tests before lining up for the first one – I was excited to put to the test everything we’d learned and very happy that I was feeling so confident about it. Then the most annoying and disappointing thing happened. I was halfway through the first task when another horse lunged at mine, ears back and teeth bared. My horse defended herself by leaping sideways. It all happened in a split second, and unfortunately I lost my seat and ended up on the ground, landing shoulder first. Ouch! I was taken for X-rays but fortunately nothing was broken – just muscle damage that required nothing more than rest, ice packs, and ibuprofen. Phew!
On Friday morning we had our final group session and then split up to meet with our coaches individually to get our results. Although I’d been unable to register a score for the ridden tasks due my fall I was delighted with my final result, especially with a Level 4+ score for Liberty! I achieved the score needed with regard to ‘professional aptitude’, theory test, and tool skills to go on to pursue the instructor course, and once I have improved my horsemanship scores (which I am able to do back home with my own horse) this is something that I would definitely like to do.
On our last day we were also able to share the news that Parelli had won an Equestrian Social Media Award for best use of social media from a riding centre (as well as best YouTube channel and best Facebook page!). Check out the short acceptance speech video we made during week two that we had to keep secret until the results had been announced – you’ll see the whole Fast Track group!
That’s nearly all folks
In my last blog next week I will share some of my overall reflections about the course. For now though, thanks for sharing my weekly journey with me. It’s been a pleasure to share with you and I hope that you have a good insight into what the Fast Track course looks like. If you’d like to find out more about Parelli or the courses available in the UK, US or Australia,visit the Parelli website and come and meet Pat and Linda Parelli themselves at the UK Celebration at the LG Arena in Birmingham on 9-10 April 2011. See you there!”
Lou on one of her horses (H&C recommends riders always wear a hat)
“Well, I never thought that the day would come when I would be asked to write a blog and what makes it really exciting is that I can talk about things that happen daily in my life, which should make it a little easier. If I was to say the last eight to nine years since I started to work as a professional in the horse industry have been eventful, it would be an understatement. My life has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, so to be asked by H&C to write about my daily life seems quite bizarre - but here goes.
My Hetic life
As you probably read from my biography I ride and train Western horses. My home is in a beautiful part of Somerset where my partner John and I spend every day working at our equestrian centre,The Mendip Stud.
The last ten days or so have been fantastic and very full. I’ve started some young horses, given lessons and tuition, cared for a litter of pups from our Labradoodle, run a Horse Agility Clinic and a Foaling course and been involved in the last demo on the Monty Roberts and Kelly Marks February tour. Life is hectic to say the least.
Kisses from Doc Martin
Monty uses our horse Jay’s Master Copy as his show horse on his UK tours and it’s really great to be part of the show team. They are a great crowd to be around.
Monty’s demo at the Hand EC was just awesome, not only because of the amazing turnout of 1600 people but also to see Monty on such great form. Martin Clunes was also there with his Clydesdales and he also rode Copy. I still can’t really believe ‘Doc Martin’ kissed me goodbye and promised he’d come and have a go at Western riding later in the year. You’re on, Martin!
Riding Porscha and keeping Electra
I am now concentrating hard on the youngsters. It’s so rewarding seeing them grasp the principles of what we are asking and progressing really happily from session to session.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be working with a quarter horse filly called Porscha that we bred and whose new owners have sent back to us to start her ridden career. Porscha is a real sweetie and ever so keen to work. So far she has taken everything that I have tried with her in her stride and is now happily hacking round the farm on her own as well as partnering with some of the other younger horses.
One of my other favourites is an Andalusian mare called Electra, and wow what a horse! She has been a broodmare for the last few years and in now knuckling down to work and enjoying every minute of it, I secretly want to keep her.
The next ten days too are pretty busy with groundwork and free schooling courses, as well as new horses arriving for training. I am looking forward to the arrival of Spring too, let’s hope for lots of sun please and not too many showers.”
Beth on her horse (H&C recommends that all riders wear hats)
"This week the overall teaching focus moved on to riding with collection – also referred to as Finesse, the fourth area of learning in the Parelli programme, where we begin to ride with a contact. Not to be confused with the discipline of dressage, the goal of Finesse is riding with precision and starting to shape and flex the horse a lot more (laterally, longitudinally and vertically).
As we discovered through the many simulations we’ve done, it’s also about finding that flex and shape in our own bodies so we can then ask for it in our horse’s body, our horses can only be as athletic as we are. This morning I watched Linda Parelli spend time with some of the instructors helping them with the Game of Contact, a level five to six technique and got even more insight into higher levels of Finesse riding. At the moment I’ve only really scratched the surface of what’s involved, but it’s certainly something I’d like to know more about when my horse and I are ready.
Freestyle riding testing confidence
My personal focus through the week remained on improving my Freestyle riding skills (i.e. riding with a casual rein and no contact). I must admit that I found riding a horse new to me in this new environment quite daunting, so the ridden part of the course has really tested my confidence and emotional fitness. Having a daily plan to guide me really helped me stay on track and avoid the procrastination that I’m often so good at at home. I had some fantastic coaching that not only gave me some new practical strategies and techniques, but which also helped me with some of the more psychological issues I needed to work through. Each day I stepped out of my comfort zone one step further and stuck with it until it felt good. This wasn’t always easy I must admit, but I was very happy to end the week having achieved the goals I’d set myself. It hasn’t always looked pretty, and we won’t be winning any medals anytime soon, but for me this progress has been a pretty significant breakthrough and I’m excited about what comes next!
A little light relief
Amidst the various teaching sessions and studying for the theory test we’ll take next week, it’s been great (and important) to balance this with some fun. One evening a group of us watching the movie How to Train Your Dragon – if you haven’t seen it already I highly recommend it! The next night we went out for ice cream – not only incredibly yummy but also another opportunity to relax and spend social time with my fellow students and get to know each other better.
More fun and games
On Saturday the campus was opened up again for another Parelli Games. After such an intense week, I took my horse out with the intention of just spending some time together while watching other people take part in the games, but I couldn’t resist having a go at the Liberty challenge! I’m glad I did as I was asked if I would like to do another Savvy Spotlight the answer was most definitely yes. This was an opportunity for me and Lucette to play in front of an audience and have a bit of fun showing what we can do. I was very happy to receive a level two rosette, although inside was kicking myself for having missed out one thing I needed to show in order to get a level three rosette – I hadn’t realised I was so ambitious!
I was even happier though to end the morning by riding my big horse bareback for the first time. Standing at 16.3 hands my horse here is dauntingly tall compared to my tiny 14.3 hands Paint mare at home. Once I’d found my balance point and relaxed into her big walk, I was having so much fun I didn’t want to get off – a big boost to my ridden confidence.
Dancing with horses
On Sunday I had the opportunity to take part in a workshop with dancer and teacher JoAnna Mendl Shaw of the Equus Projects. Through demonstrations and exercises on big gym balls, I learned a lot about the core stability and mobility I need to really connect with my horse and her movement, as well as ways to engage both the right and left sides of my brain through various movements such as the “Brain Gym” techniques. It gave me a lot of food for thought, and I’m now especially looking forward to getting back in the saddle tomorrow as our fourth and final week begins!"
“We are now halfway through the four week Fast Track course. Each day continues to be fascinating, with a combination of sessions in the classroom and out on our horses, demonstrations with the instructors’ horses, as well as exercises on the ‘seat builders’, which help us practise our riding positions in movement away from our horses. We also have a daily choice of ‘focus stations’ to practice what we’ve learned from the instructed classes and where we can call on the coaches for additional assistance or ask questions if we need to. And of course we also have time for ourselves to either work on things with our horses or just hang out. Topics for the week included warm ups, rein positions, posture, conformation and saddle shimming, trailer loading, leadership, Freestyle riding patterns, 45’ rope handling skills, advancing games on the ground, and the path to Liberty (see my previous blog for a description of Online, Freestyle and Liberty)... to name but a few. It’s been a pretty full on week!
Bitten by the bug
On Monday night I got a lot of mosquito bites. The next morning my left arm began to swell and I began to feel pretty rough. My energy and confidence began to wane, and this had a big impact on my progress. Wednesday was also a write off, and although I did spend some time with my horse. Thanks to support from the coaches (and anti-histamine tablets!), things began to get a lot better towards the end of the week and I was able to recover myself physically and get my mental and emotional fitness back on track. Phew!
Results and resolve
Being a couple of days behind my personal schedule and with so much to achieve lying in front of me, the week’s events really caused me to re-assess my current position and realign my goals for the course. On Friday I received my mid-term results and these have given me a clear picture of where I need to make progress. I met with my personal coach, 2*instructor Sharon Crabbe from the UK, and shared with her my plan for the coming week. It’s a realistic plan I think, and one that sets me up for success and builds a good foundation for what’s to come after that.
The Road to the Horse
The weekend saw a very special event take place in Tennessee, where Pat Parelli participated in a colt starting competition called The Road to the Horse. Over two days, Pat and his fellow competitors Chris Cox and Clinton Anderson each had a horse to break (or ‘start to develop’ as we’d prefer to call it in Parelli-land), ending with a 35-minute test including ridden elements and obstacles. Pat did a lovely job with his horse in the time they had. He told the audience part way through that he had bought his horse, who he named “Howdy Partner” at the time but has since renamed “Troubador”, so we will also be able to follow his progress over the long term. It’s just the beginning for him.
Chris Cox also did really well with his colt and ultimately won the title of champion for 2011. A large group of us watched the event via a live webcast and there was a lot of cheering and whooping as he took his colt through the tests. Great job Chris!”
“My first week at the Parelli centre in Florida has hurtled by. We started with a series of tests designed around what we know already – and what we don’t! At the end we’ll take the same tests. The idea in the meantime is to get all the information, and then practice what we need to improve our results. I found it a really different and interesting way of doing things.
Getting to know my horse
For me, the tests were a perfect opportunity to get to know my lease horse, Lucette. I had seen some of the things she is capable of at home, but this was our time to find out how we would do together. We began with a theory test, followed the next morning by a tools test, and then testing with our horses in four different areas of learning – on the ground ‘Online’ (with a rope attached) and at ‘Liberty’ (no ropes!) and then ridden tests in ‘Freestyle’ (riding with a casual rein) and ‘Finesse’ (riding with contact). I had different results in each area, as expected, and I now have a much better idea of what areas and ingredients I need to focus on over the next three weeks. Towards the end of the week the teaching began with classroom sessions, demonstrations with the coaches’ horses, practical tool skills sessions, and plenty of time with my horse.
More fun than I bargained for
On Monday we were invited to go and support Pat Parelli at the Ocala Equestrian Center where he was taking part in a charity fundraising event for the Make A Wish Foundation. The competitors were in teams of two – one a Western reining rider and the other a show jumper. The Western rider had to complete a round of jumps against the clock on the show jumper’s horse, and the show jumper had to do a reining pattern and then do a cow horse reining pattern on his partner’s horse. It was a really fun test of horsemanship. Pat was partnered with US Olympic gold medal winner David O’Connor (who is also is also the president of the USEF - United States Equestrian Federation) – what a team!
Broadcasting around the world
On Wednesday we got to be in the audience for the first live tele-seminar to all Parelli Connect members around the world. Nearly 300 students were logged on and watching the live streaming, as Pat and Linda answered questions submitted by chat. We live in a truly connected world.
On Friday I was invited to watch the media crew do some filming. Linda played with her chestnut gelding West Point at Liberty, followed by Pat playing with his black stallion Casper, still looking amazing at 20 years old. He then played with another stallion, Peppy – what a power house! – ,and ended with Vision, another stunning horse from the Atwood Ranch, while Linda rode West Point in the background. It was a real treat to watch them both in action at such close quarters, as well as see what goes on as part of the media production process.
Wait, there’s more...
Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly fit anything more in, on Saturday the centre opened its doors to a morning of Parelli Games. People from outside came with their horses and joined some of us ‘Fast Track-ers’ to take part in a series of fun tournament-style challenges, either Online, at Liberty or Freestyle. I chose to try out the first two sets of challenges, and ended up volunteering to do a ‘Savvy Spotlight’ at the end where I got to show off a little of what Lucette and I have been able to achieve so far at Liberty. I’d love to be part of a demo team one day so this was my first toe in the water of what it’s like to do something in front of an audience. It was great fun and Lucette was a star. Dinner with new friends on Saturday night finished the week perfectly!”
"Hello, I’m Beth, a 39-year old from Sussex. Over the next four weeks I’ll be attending a “Fast Track” course at the Parelli centre in Florida, USA, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to blog about my experience here on H&C.
Although I rode quite a bit as a teenager (hacking out over the beautiful Ashdown Forest in Sussex) my horsemanship journey really started about five years ago when, after a long break from horses, I went on a riding holiday on Dartmoor and discovered this thing called ‘Parelli’. Little did I know it was to be the beginning of a much bigger adventure which led to me buying my first horse, a now 11-year old American Paint mare called Solero.
Bitten by the bug
I’d never heard of Parelli before I went to Dartmoor, but what I experienced there blew my mind and I just knew that I wanted to know more. So to cut a much longer story short (you can read some of it in my bio), here I am in Florida looking to improve my horsemanship skills further. I knew I’d arrived in horseville when the customs officer started telling me about his Tennessee walking horse and the taxi driver who took me from the airport to Ocala told me all about his Paso Finos, pointing out all the horse farms along the way – there are a lot!
Chomping at the bit
Today has been an opportunity to rest and acclimatise. After a brief visit to the Parelli centre with my housemates and fellow course members from Germany, I went to meet the horse who will be my partner for the next four weeks, a beautiful and sensitive 16.2hh Friesian mare. I then met up for dinner with 20 or so people also attending the course. Tomorrow we check in for the first day. In my next blog I’ll tell you more about the course and how our first week goes. I can’t wait for it to begin..."