Demonstration and a clinic, New Barn, Cheshire

There’s a lot for me to look forward to this autumn – three trips to Sweden for clinics; clients horses coming to stay with us for training, and some students coming for short courses here on our farm in Cheshire.

I’ll also be giving a demonstration just down the road at New Barn, Ollerton, Cheshire on Friday the 17th of October.  The focus will be on the ‘work in hand’ exercises that I use to supple my horses and that I believe are very worthwhile for everyone to learn and use in their daily work. 7pm start; £10 admission on the night. Further details in the flyer below.

Classical demo New Barn

 

Following on from the demonstration, I will be teaching a one day clinic on Monday, 3rd November – again at New Barn, Cheshire. There will be one work in hand lesson in the morning and one riding lesson in the afternoon, with your choice of 30 minute or hour long lessons.  Lessons are on a one-to-one basis. The work in hand will be very suppling and is worked in walk so it will not be tiring for your horse.

Cost: EITHER 2 x 30 minutes sessions = £65 in total (inclusive of arena hire), OR 2 x 1 hour sessions = £130 total (inclusive of arena hire). Boxes are available for daytime stabling if required, for an additional charge. Please email info@charlottewittbom.com for further information.

Sessions can be tailored to the requirements of horse and rider so  and your horse so please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. The places have already started to fill so please let us know as soon as possible as the numbers are limited.

 

 

It’s the little things that matter

The summer is soon changing to autumn and I am aware that it has been another long absense in my writing. The family is now one person larger and our daughter Sigrid has already been introduced into the horse world. I am very grateful for our ‘Baby Björn’ that allows me to combine my work with motherhood. 

It is wonderful to be back in the saddle again. But a lot of things change after giving birth. Our bodies change physically and it’s taking some time to get the same feeling back that I had before my pregnancy. Also, in my mind I am more aware of the things that are not allowed to happen, since I now have another little person who needs me. So the need to do things safely is at the forefront of my thoughts once again. I suppose that being near to such a life changing event makes us aware of our vulnerability, as it does when we suffer an injury or a frightening experience with our horses.  But, these feelings, I think are by no means a bad thing. My own response has been to reflect on the detail and the method of my work – slowing everything down so that I clearly see the progress in the small steps.  I make sure that I first lunge the horse, even though it might seem not to be always absolutely necessary. This helps me to read my horse – his mood, his fitness and energy, as well as the context we’re working in – the weather and any distractions around us. I can assess how he can use himself in the three gates without the rider.  I also then work a little from the ground, making sure that the horse is supple and relaxed before I start to ride. If I come across a problem that we can work on from the ground – we’ll address it there and then.  It helps to concentrate on the small details in these situations because our work then becomes more considered and methodical, which in turn builds confidence and a sense of ease and control. Look after the detail and the bigger picture will look after itself.  

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Clinic in Stockholm.

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Clinic in Stockholm.

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Clinic in Stockholm.

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Clinic in Stockholm. Amendoim and his rider.

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Teaching work in hand with the Lusitano Amendoim.

Equador da Encosta

Equador da Encosta

The summer has been full of meeting up with people and horses who I haven’t seen for a while, because I’ve not been able to ride or travel. Very happily for me, we welcomed Equador back for a short stay while his new owner was on holiday. It was wonderful to sit on his back again. I also returned to Sweden to teach several clinics and enjoy seeing the advances my clients continue to make with their horses. Now, we’ll enjoy the last days of summer back in Cheshire. Until the next time…

Saudade

Saudade is a Portuguese word without direct translation in English, but which characterises so much of the Portuguese national character. It is a kind of deep, melancholic longing for something cherished but absent. The traditional Portuguese folk music, Fado, expresses this notion through beautiful, lyrical stories, usually sung with guitar accompaniment.  A group of my Swedish clients at Quinta do Brejo were recently treated to a Fado performance by Manuel da Câmara – a dear friend of our hosts, Antonia and Tomaz Alercão.

Fado at Quinta do Brejo. www.charlottewittbom.com - Photo by Sören Belin.

Like all great art forms, Fado music resonates across cultures. Even to foreign ears these songs about love, loss, displacement and homeland speak of universal human emotions. It was a wonderful evening where friendships and memories were made.

It struck me during that evening how the concept of saudade describes well the feelings many of us will experience in our journey with horses.  Often the guests I have welcomed at Quinta do Brejo, and to my clinics around the world, have expressed a powerful longing for a kind of connection with their horses that has been elusive, yet present for them. We surely can all recognise the feeling of catching glimpses of how our horsemanship could be without ever seeming to obtain it. It’s almost to have loved and lost simultaneously – to know we have had something heavenly in our grasp that we may never fully recapture.

Fado at Quinta do Brejo - www.charlottewittbom.com

But in the concept of saudade and in Fado music we also see the importance of communal human experience, of telling stories and of learning to see the beauty and power in our feelings of longing. I suppose this is why there is so much benefit in a riding holiday or clinic shared with others – there is great solace in seeing that our deepest desires, fears, disappointments and joys resonate in the experiences of other people.  In sharing these important stories, we find companions, hope and pleasure in the journey to come.


In other news since my last post:   I was very honoured to be nominated as a ‘Magic Mentor’ in the UK magazine ‘South East Rider’ by a dear student of mine, Christine West. She has a beautiful Lusitano named Zunido.  You can see the article in South East Rider magazine here: http://www.southeastrider.co.uk/2013/south-east-rider-june-2013-2/

I’ve also been giving clinics in Sweden and England. I think the pictures will speak louder than my words – I hope you will enjoy them.
Photos courtesy of Colin West.

Photograph by Colin West.

Photo taken by Ulrika Malm.

Photograph by Ulrika Malm.

Photo taken by Ulrika Malm.

Photograph by Ulrika Malm.

Photo taken by Ulrika Malm.

Photograph by Ulrika Malm.

Photo taken by Ulrika Malm.

Photograph by Ulrika Malm.

Photos courtesy of Colin West.

Photograph by Colin West.

Photo taken by Ulrika Malm.

Photograph by Ulrika Malm.

Photo taken by Ulrika Malm.

Photograph by Ulrika Malm.

Cross Country Jumps

It’s been a while since my last post and there’s a lot to write about.  The biggest development is that I’ve moved myself and my little family – human, equine and canine – to be closer to my nearest and dearest ones in Sweden.  In some ways it’s the end of a very important era for me – starting with my education with Mestre Luis Valenca; the tours with Apassionata; working at Morgardo Lusitano and more recently developing my own business at Quinta do Brejo.  On the other hand I’m pleased to say that while Portugal will no longer be my home, it will still be one of my places of work.  I’ll be maintaining my relationship with Quinta do Brejo as a venue for regular courses and riding holidays, so it will still be possible to come and ride with me in Portugal. And I’ll continue to work with local breeders, of course.

But my day-to-day life will now continue in the North.  And I’m really looking forward to the challenges and opportunities this will bring.  To mark the closing of this particular chapter, though, I thought I would share a few glimpses of a typical working day at Quinta do Brejo.

The film shows horses in training and under development. The first is a horse we have used for giving lessons, who – before he came to us – was originally trained for traditional Portuguese mounted bullfighting, but was found not to suit the purpose. He has such a good heart and is very willing to work, but he has needed time to find his own balance and feel comfortable with a rider.

The darker grey horse, Cartuxo, is my own. He is a lovely strong horse with a very good mind. He was started quite late, and has taken some time to find balance as his physique has developed, but he’s really starting to show his potential now.

As you will see, our small 15×30 indoor arena is often busy with different riders and horses at different stages of development. But the work we do is essentially the same, regardless of size, age or experience. The little boy is practicing movements such as piaffe and passage on our own schoolmaster, Ulisses. You also see a man riding his mare.  I think Mestre Nuno Oliveira would be pleased to see his farm so full with activity and passion.

Rein, Rein, Go Away!

Photo by Ulrika Malm

Teaching clinics in different countries shows me that there are still cultural differences in this global age. In Portugal, a spot of rain or a cool breeze is reason enough to hide indoors. In Sweden – where I have been teaching clinics for much of the last month – temperatures of -22 degrees aren’t sufficient to deter clients from bringing their horse to a riding clinic. Then, in England – where I have been teaching this last week – clients come fully prepared for twelve months of weather in one day! But thankfully we have enjoyed beautiful early spring sunshine this time.

Photo by Ulrika Malm Photo by Maria Håkansson

Difficult weather conditions – whether extreme heat, sub-freezing cold or torrential rain – can get in the way of our enjoyment of riding and any training programme we may have planned. Our horses too can become frustrated if we can’t ride, work them or let them loose as usual. Then when we can take an opportunity to work with them, their stored up energy can make them difficult to handle.

Of course, having access to an indoor arena makes things easier, but when it is -22 degrees, it even freezes inside! In such circumstances, attempting concentrated work with a horse that just wants to run and buck is very difficult. The best thing is to accept the situation, ride when it is possible and work the horse in hand when the weather or ground conditions don’t allow riding.  If you can hack out, perhaps incorporate some leg yields, shoulder in, or other lateral work on a quiet road where it’s safe to do so.

Any kind of developmental work you can do is better then nothing at all, but if you can’t ride or train at all for a while – it’s ok: your horse won’t forget what you have been doing. In fact a break can help him to process things and mature, so that when you pick up training again he’ll be better prepared in his mind, if not in his body.

Thank you to my students and friends across Sweden and in Oxfordshire, where I had the pleasure to teach for the first time last weekend. It was a joy to move from the bleak Scandinavian winter to see snowdrops hopefully heralding the lengthening sunny days in England.  I’m looking forward to the next visit.

Thanks to Ulrika Malm and Maria Håkansson for the photographs from my clinics in Sweden.

December Reflections

And so to December: the closing of the year. At this time, I – like many of you, I’m sure – often find myself reflecting on the achievements of the preceding months while looking forward to new plans for January. It has been a very rewarding and busy year at Quinta do Brejo so far – full with the coming and going of horses, guests and friends, both old and new. And beyond Portugal I’ve enjoyed developing my clinics in Sweden and the UK – there will be more of those next year, I’m happy to say.

My Swedish roots feel strong at this time of year: Even after all this time spent in Portugal, December for me means snow and mulled wine and log fires. And I know that many of my friends from the North are already enjoying beautiful winter landscapes and life-affirming cold!  But here in Portugal we can still enjoy some sun, which is not all bad, of course!

This month Swedish magazine ‘Kentaur’ have published a beautifully written article about Quinta do Brejo and our riding holidays – http://www.kentaurmagasin.se. In all good Swedish stores now!

Charlotte Wittbom clinic, Sweden -www.charlottewittbom.com

I’ve also just returned from another teaching trip to Sweden and I want to thank everyone for making these clinics so interesting and enjoyable. I love to revisit long-term students and see the progress they have made since the last time. Of course it’s always lovely and gratifying to welcome new students too!  Each introduces different horses, challenges, experiences and hopes, yet they are bound together by a common love of riding and desire to improve their horsemanship. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to share their journeys with them.  Above and below are some photos taken by Ulrika Malm from a recent clinic in Sweden.

Charlotte Wittbom clinic, Sweden -www.charlottewittbom.com

Arte Equestre

Recently we welcomed a new friend to Quinta do Brejo for a riding holiday. She revealed a wonderful talent to us that we would like to share with you…

Bailador, Lusitano stallion www.charlottewittbom.com

Quinta do Brejo - www.charlottewittbom.com

Diamante - www.charlottewittbom.com

Diamante with Charlotte Wittbom - www.charlottewittbom.com

Diamante with Charlotte Wittbom - www.charlottewittbom.com

Diamante with Charlotte Wittbom - www.charlottewittbom.com

Quinta do Brejo - www.charlottewittbom.com

Erus - www.charlottewittbom.com

www.charlottewittbom.com

Dante with Charlotte Wittbom - www.charlottewittbom.com

Dante at Quinta do Brejo www.charlottewittbom.com

Dante with Charlotte Wittbom - www.charlottewittbom.com

Quinta do Brejo - www.charlottewittbom.com

This series of photographs was taken by Ulrika Malm – a recent guest at Quinta do Brejo who works as a professional photographer. You can click on the images to enlarge them. And you can see more of her beautiful work at www.ulrikamalm.se.  Thank you to Ulrika for allowing us to share the images here.