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…
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.
I’m sure many of you will remember Cheque. As a three year old he was the first horse to join me in my new adventure at Quinta do Brejo. Soon after he turned four a visitor from Sweden fell in love with him and decided to change her life by becoming a horse owner. Her decision was (after spending many years away from riding) taken with the heart, but even then there was no denying that they suited each other very well. And after only a short time back in the saddle for the rider, and a short time under saddle for the horse – a lovely and fitting partnership started to develop.
Now another year of schooling and maturing has passed and it is getting close to the day when Cheque will make the trip to Sweden and his lovely new home. The year has prepared both horse and owner for what will soon take place – both mentally and practically. After some initial fears about the task she had let herself in for, Cheque’s new owner has taken an active part in her new horse’s development, visiting us at Quinto do Brejo regularly and making all the right preparations at home.
Cheque has been a joy to train. His confidence, balance, temperament and movement have combined to make a very capable young horse, whose potential his owner can soon continue to realise. In the same way, Cheque’s owner has also developed her riding, her way with horses and her mindset as the trainer and guardian of a beautiful Lusitano.
The next few images show some glimpses of the journey Cheque and his owner have taken together, from their first meeting, through their training sessions together over the last year (including just last week). I hope you enjoy them….
Cheque and his owner, Summer 2011
Cheque and his owner, April 2012
Cheque and his owner, Summer 2012
We have another new arrival at Quinta do Brejo: Equador. He is a handsome 3 year old PSL Lusitano from the breeder, Quinta da Encosta. His movement is beautiful – we’re really looking forward to how he develops over the coming months.
We’re almost overflowing with riches now! Our stables at Quinta do Brejo are full with horses and there’s a wonderful vibrancy and productivity about the place. Very soon though we will bid a fond farewell to a few of our favourite horses as they reach the end of their training here and join their owners elsewhere. There’s always a bitter-sweet feeling when that day comes, but seeing how horses and their riders form a bond and go on to enjoy their life together makes up for any sadness we feel in saying goodbye.
I’ve also had a busy time in Sweden giving a number of clinics. One thing I love about teaching clinics is the variety of work I find myself involved in. I never quite know who and what I’ll be asked to work with and I need to improvise and work flexibly to help with the many different riders, horses, problems and opportunities I see. In these photographs, you’ll see we’re using pole work as an aid to improving the horse’s balance and strength. In particular we were working on developing the passage over poles. I think it’s very important, as well as enjoyable, to add as much variety to your schooling and riding as possible. Both you and the horse will benefit in lots of ways from the new challenges, but it’s also stimulating and fun.
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.
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.
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.
This is Cheque, who you might remember from a previous post. He is a 4 year old Lusitano stallion – the first horse I brought with me to Quinta do Brejo. Now he’s been in training for almost a year.
Cheque is going to stay with me for a few more months of schooling before he moves to his new home in Sweden and I’m very pleased I’ll get the chance to see him develop – he’s a lovely horse to work with. At this point in his training we’re still working on the basics, but now I’m also adding some lateral steps and a few transitions from walk to his programme.
This video shows our first attempt at a counter canter in our small arena. The counter canter is a good exercise to help a horse develop his balance, but Cheque is a little young to do very much of this exercise, so we take it gently and only every now and again. His canter in general is now becoming more balanced, even though he sometimes drops a little onto his forehand. He can do this in trot too, but he is a big young horse with a lot to carry and is still growing. With time, and as his musculature develops, his balance will improve. It’s important not to rush a young horse into advanced work before they are ready. And adding lots of variety in the work we do ensures we don’t ask too much of them too soon.
I also do a lot of work from the ground with Cheque, which helps with his suppleness. Cavalettis and easier jumps help with his athletic development, but they also add variety and stimulation in his work – it’s good that he has fun too!
I try always to read the signals the horse is giving me so that I only ask for what he can give me. A young horse goes through different stages of growth and development – their physicality, mental maturity and even their changing teeth will all impact on the way that they respond to the work we’re asking of them. So if it sometimes feels that the horse is a bit unbalanced again or not always developing forward, I don’t worry. I try to think of our development together (and the relationship he’ll form with his new owner) as a long journey, not a sprint – given time and patient work, the pieces will fall into place.