New Bairn / Nytt Barn & New Barn

Once again there are only a few weeks to Christmas and there are so many things to fit in between now and then. The last few months have been very busy too, what with my growing family and horses to train and clinics to teach.  I feel very lucky though, that I have been able to combine all of these these things. To everyone who has attended a clinic or lesson since our daughter was born, I want to express heartfelt thanks for being so welcoming and patient with us and all of the paraphernalia and distractions that come with a new baby!

There has been plenty of exciting work in the making since my last post. I had a very interesting seminar in Sweden as part of the project I am collaborating on with two  very experienced Swedish colleagues – a project called Ridanalys. We are three instructors working in different fields: Toini Pettersson is a teacher in Centered Riding and Ewa Åsberg is a Personal Coach.  I then focus on the training of the horse. Together we have developed a Swedish-language programme of online training and support which can be accessed via http://www.ridanalys.se. The project is still in development so please be patient for more information to come.

My recent demonstration at New Barn in Cheshire was a very exciting and enjoyable experience for me. I hope that everyone who came to watch could take something useful away with them. I demonstrated ‘work in hand’, showing some of the steps from the basic foundations toward more collected work. My horse Cartuxo was helping me and behaved very well – especially considering he’s newly gelded.

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Following the demo we had a one day clinic, which – being just down the road from our house in Cheshire – meant that I didn’t have to pack up the suitcases and catch a plane this time! A new experience and a very enjoyable one for me.

I’m pleased to say that two further dates have been added – the 14th and 15th of December – for  one day clinics at New Barn. 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 too 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 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.

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.

 

 

Back in the Saddle

Long time no see! This time there really has been a loooong wait between posts, for which I must apologise.  But, these last few months have been a big adventure. More of that later.

First, to more familiar matters. There have been some wonderful courses held at Quinta do Brejo in Portugal – not least during the week of the Golegã festival. My guests – now also dear friends – shared many emotions under the tutelage of our Lusitano horses. Of course, we ate wonderful traditional meals cooked by our host Donna Antonia. It was a real joy to go back to work in surroundings that I love, and I hope and think that our Swedish guests felt the same. It was then very rewarding to see their progress again on a later clinic back in Sweden – to see the changes in their riding and the developments they had been able to achieve with their own horses at home.

I have been continuing with my programme of clinics in Sweden and the UK, with many long-time students and some very welcome new faces.  I look forward to sharing their progress in 2014 and beyond.

group at Quinta do Brejo www.charlottewittbom.com

And so to the big news. In September last year, we packed up the car and moved lock, stock, dog, little one and us to our new home in Cheshire, England. Two of my Lusitano horses have joined me here at the farm – Equador from Portugal and Cartuxo who had been with me in Sweden.

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My life and work will now be based here, even though I will of course keep up my regular clinics in Sweden and my work in Portugal.

So, that’s all for now – a little update after the long silence.  Normal service will resume shortly!

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.

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