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.

 

 

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.

Step Back; Collect; Allow Forward

Greetings from snowy Sweden!  I’m enjoying a few quiet days with my family before heading north to teach clinics this coming week. I hope 2013 has started well for all of you.

Snow 2013

The beginning of each new year can bring forth a mixture of feelings – excitement and apprehension for what is to come, of course, but maybe also sadness for things which have passed or ambitions not yet achieved. If it seems that we’ve been stuck in a routine or maybe not made the progress we had hoped to make, it’s a luxury to look back over a full year and see that in fact the many little steps and experiences along the way have added up to much more than it previously seemed.

For many of us, horses play a central role – whether consciously or unconsciously – in how we feel about where we are in our lives and the sorts of people we want to be.  Some of us have a simple goal to canter across fields in a state of unbridled freedom; many create a social life and important friendships around their horses; some may seek a philosophy of how we should train and ride which becomes a whole way of life in many ways.

When we have invested so much of ourselves into our relationship with our horses, it is all too easy to become frustrated or disillusioned with the progress we perceive we are – or perhaps are not – making.  And it’s very easy to put our focus on the horse at these times.  There is a huge industry dedicated to telling us how best to correct our horse’s faults and ensure we achieve our goals. But of course the ambitions we have and our failure to achieve them are of our own making – our horses are just being themselves. In my view it’s very important to reflect on our own personal development and to try to understand our motivations for the goals we set ourselves.

It’s not easy to do this.  When our horses seem to want to do the opposite of what we know is good for them, it’s hard to take a breath and reflect on exactly why we’re getting so annoyed about it!  But it’s a worthwhile thing to do – it helps us to understand what we really want from the relationship, what simple pleasure it brings and where our own mental and physical boundaries (and possibilities) lie.

Of course frustration is not wholly a bad thing – it shows we care. It shows that we strive to do more than our mind and body allow us to at any given time. Or perhaps that limitations of weather, work commitments, finances and so on are holding us back.

For some of my dear friends and clients, 2012 brought big life changes. Some became horse owners. Some took the leap to import a horse from Portugal. Some even became horse owners for the first time.  Of course there are huge practical implications of taking such a step – not least the commitment of our finances and time – and many people are put off by the obstacles, even though it is their dream. But for those who make the leap, there is romance and excitement and fear, because… perhaps… they will be able to grasp the opportunities that this horse will bring to their lives.

And when we invest so much of ourselves, we can also learn a great deal about ourselves.  It’s as easy as falling off a horse to feel crushed by the realisation that we might never be the next Charlotte Dujardin, or even the rider we thought we were.

Horse ownership can magnify these feelings.  Everything can seem so much more significant when we are responsible for the horse we ride. But it is important to see our horsemanship as a journey.  And the journey is made up of many small steps.  Each individual step is of little consequence, but small steps add up to make surprising progress over time.

For those who have taken steps into horse ownership, it’s important to bear in mind that it’s a big change for your horse too.  Changes in culture, climate, environment, routine and so on take some getting used to.  Along the way you will inevitably question at times whether it is all worth it. But there will be those glimpses of what you had dreamed of too.  And at those times – whether you’re lying face-down in the dirt, or taking off your boots after a beautiful ride across the hills – pause for a while to think about how far horses have helped you to come, rather than how far away you still are.

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

Blazing Trails

The time seems to have passed so quickly since my last post but I have neglected my writing for long enough. A lot of things have been happening here at Quinta do Brejo and beyond.

I had a very nice week in England – giving my second clinic at Birtle Riding Centre near Manchester and then teaching some private lessons around the North West of the country. I’m looking forward to returning there in a couple of months to see how everyone is progressing.

Back over in Portugal I’ve been busy with guests of both the two legged and four legged kind. Most recently a beautiful new friend has come from Quinta da Encosta to stay with us for a while – a 3 year old horse named Esquivo da Encosta. He’ll be with us for a period of training before moving to his new owner in Sweden.  Esquivo moves wonderfully and is a very tall and handsome horse.

Esquivo da Encosta at Quinta do Brejo - Charlotte Wittbom Classical Dressage

Esquivo da Encosta - 3 year old Lusitano - Charlotte Wittbom Classical Dressage

We have also been scouting out some hacking routes for clients who come to stay here. And my goodness the scenery around the farm is beautiful. On horseback you can wind your way through the woodlands and over the hills surrounding Quinta do Brejo, eventually looking out on the small villages around Malveira and toward the  ocean. When it’s clear you can see as far as Sintra. To smell the wild herbs and eucalyptus trees; hear the gentle song of church bells and ride through villages alive with the daily chores of laundry, bread baking and the gossip of elders: it reminds me of the reasons I fell in love with riding in the first place. Sometimes it’s good to put aside our projects and just enjoy how the world looks when you’re sitting on a horse.

Springtime hacking from Quinta do Brejo - Charlotte Wittbom Classical Dressage

Quinta do Brejo in Autumn - Charlotte Wittbom Classical Dressage

Quinta do Brejo in Autumn - Charlotte Wittbom Classical Dressage

Happy Easter

Wishing you all a very happy and peaceful Easter. It has been a wonderful weekend here, with warm, sunny weather. It’s made a very welcome change from the snow,  hail and rain that accompanied my recent clinics in Sweden. But nevertheless I want to thank all the participants for making those sessions so enjoyable despite the conditions. As usual there was a lot of enthusiasm, thirst for learning and warm friendship, which makes my work all the more satisfying.

Together with my Easter wishes I’ve also uploaded a small clip to show recent progress with Vip, our 10 year old Luistano. This time we’re working with greater collection as we progress to the higher school movements.

Polishing Diamonds

We’re enjoying beautiful winter sunshine here in Portugal and looking out over the quiet fields with horses grazing, my mind is taken back to my recent clinics in Sweden, which were as rewarding and interesting as always. One of the favourite aspects of my work is to see the progress of long-term students and how each of them has taken something different from our sessions together and made it their own. And of course it’s very exciting to meet new students with their individual challenges and aspirations. Each and every combination of horse and rider is unique and I never get tired of taking my part and seeing where it can lead for all of us.

Now, back in Portugal, the new year is in full swing here at Quinta do Brejo, where we have three new arrivals waiting to begin their schooling with us.

Two are three year olds; the other – whose name is Diamante (featured in the video below) – is four, and yesterday was ridden free in the arena for the first time. Diamante has Veiga blood (one of the most significant and historic of the Lusitano bloodlines) and – as is typical with those from his line – he is sensitive, but he has shown a very good mind. Diamante is the Portuguese word for diamond and we’re certainly taking a lot of pleasure from polishing him.  We will introduce the other horses to you in the coming weeks.