It’s lovely to see the stables full once more here at Quinta do Brejo. The yard feels like a different place with the coming and going of horses and people about their work. It’s just as it should be. The addition of the Spanish Mustang mare Moon Fox to our ranks is a bit of a novelty in a place so synonymous with Lusitanos and it has prompted me to write something about the ways in which our classical training applies to all horses and riders.
My journal here has mainly been filled with photos and videos of Lusitanos working in a traditional Portuguese riding hall and maybe it is then difficult for people to imagine how the work we do here can be applied to other sorts of horses in other contexts. So I want to explain that what you see here is very much applicable to your horse, whatever he or she is and wherever you are.
Of course all horses are individuals – within their respective breeds as well as between. So yes, we must take care to make exercises suitable for the individual horse – depending on its musculature; mind; history; athletic ability; frame and the relationship it holds with the the rider. It is also true to say that different breeds have different characteristics we value, such as their propensity for collection; agility or higher gymnastic work. But the classical principles we work with here allow us to progress toward the potential of each horse and rider, through a careful, sensitive and intelligent programme of schooling. Through building a strong foundation in walk; using exercises to supple the horse; working the on the balance of the horse such that he can carry himself, and then being able to both stretch more and collect more – these are universal principles which can be applied to all horses. We are not trying to fit the horse into a fixed scale of training, but rather we tailor our approach to the needs and abilities of the horse.
In fact, when I give clinics I see relatively few Iberian horses, but our way of working in the clinics follows just the same principles as I would follow with a horse at Quinta do Brejo.
Just last week I had a short stay in Sweden where I was asked to work with a Swedish Warmblood that I have had the privilege to follow for some time now. Ture had been out of work for a few months, but showed a lot of will to start up his work again. The owner and her husband have visited us at Quinta do Brejo a few times now and whenever I am in Sweden I try to visit them to see their progress.
Over the past year, using the principles she has explored on our clinics and through her visits to Quinta do Brejo, the owner of this beautiful warmblood has succeeded to school her horse at home – in higher collected work, progressing through piaffe, passage and tempi changes. He’s quite different in character and feel to a Lusitano and of course the point of classical training is not to make this Warmblood into a baroque horse. We’re simply using sound principles to help him work toward his potential with the special characteristics he has. Ture’s owner is doing a wonderful job and even though he was a little rusty from his time out of work, he was really a pleasure to ride. I’m looking forward to next time!
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.
So now the annual phenomenon that is the Golegã horse fair is over and it is with a satisfied tiredness that we now look forward to beginning the preparations for Christmas. Here’s what has been happening with us over the past few weeks…
The week of the Golegã fair was a busy time for all of us here at Quinta do Brejo – Don Tomas and Donna Antonia Alercão and myself. We had very dramatic weather including heavy rain, thunder and lightning and of course some sun in between. But thankfully we were lucky to experience the horse fair under calm skies.
It’s almost impossible to describe the atmosphere of Golegã – the confusion of horses and riders criss-crossing with pedestrians; tourists and locals pouring through streets and out of restaurants and bars; the smells of nuts roasting and regional delicacies being cooked from street stalls. All life is there, from smartly turned out dressage riders performing their perfect flying changes, to the comical sight of Shetland ponies pulling small wagons filled with big burly men. We took a lovely group of guests to visit the fair, all of whom had also decided to stay for some riding lessons with us. It’s a wonderful way to get a taste of everything the Lusitano horse and Portuguese horse culture has to offer.
CLINICS IN SWEDEN…
I was also recently teaching a series of clinics in my native Sweden, where I was really pleased to see my students making some great steps forward. Of course progress always develops most strongly from the foundation that understanding and a thoughtful approach brings. To want to gain this understanding requires a certain patience and calmness from the rider. And as a teacher it is always very encouraging and empowering to see students who really want to learn with an open and inquisitive mind. So it was with real pleasure that we started to work with flying changes, half-steps, piaffe and passage. I am really looking forward to seeing them all again in the new year.
IN THE MEDIA…
This month I am featured in the Swedish magazine Hästfocus, which gives some training advice.
You can click here to take a look at the article via the publisher’s website.
We now have gift vouchers available to buy at any value you wish (minimum €10), which can be exchanged for clinics near you, or for riding holidays here at Quinta do Brejo. We will happily provide a simple voucher, or please do contact us to discuss a suggested package for a clinic, riding lesson, 3 day or 7 day programme to give as a gift. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your requirements or ask any questions.
With very best wishes, Charlotte.
*Photo of Charlotte above by Emma Noren.
Here is a small video clip of Vip, showing his recent progress. He is a horse that really wants to please – sometimes even too much! He’s starting, though, to become more confident and relaxed in his work, which has meant we’ve been able to attempt some of the higher collected movements, such as flying changes. Each time we train, we work on small progressions – satisfaction comes from a simple improvement done well.
Quite often while teaching clinics or lessons, I’m struck by the way that we can all too easily focus on small detailed things rather than the bigger picture of what we’re trying to achieve with our horses and ourselves. I think it’s very important to have a holistic sense of the training of horse and rider – what we want to achieve and how we’ll try to get there. Every exercise we do in training is then a preparation for the next, progressing steadily toward the objective of a supple, light horse that enjoys work and moves in self-carriage and balance without getting injuries or other problems.
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This is Castor, a young stallion. A client brought him to me for training in April this year and – although he is still young and inexperienced – has shown very good qualities. While making this video, a mare and foal were free in the adjacent field, but Castor has a good mind and enjoys his work – he stayed focussed and calm. I have been very pleased with his progress.
This is Cheque, the 4 year old Lusitano Stallion I’ve been training in our new home – Quinta do Brejo. Having said farewell to Morgado Lusitano, how wonderful it is to be opening a new chapter of my life and career where Maestro Nuno Oliveira lived and schooled his horses.
At this stage Cheque is only four months into his training, and 6 weeks after being backed for the first time. In Portugal – and according to the classical principles – horses are normally left until around three years old before any kind of handling takes place. Training is then at a slow pace, sympathetic to the horse’s physical and mental development.