Some of you might remember the photoshoot that was taken a few months back at Quinta do Brejo with Vip. Well, the photos have now arrived with us and I thought I would share some outtakes with you.
As promised: Here are some pictures of Moon Fox – the Spanish Mustang mare – after one month of training with me at Quinta do Brejo. She has been a lovely horse to work with – strong, willing and trusting. Our early work focussed mainly on developing communication and rapport through lunge work and then on suppleness and responsiveness through working in hand from the ground. With that foundation, she’s now feeling lovely as we begin our ridden work.
In the pictures (which you can click to enlarge) you’ll see we’re working a lot in walk, with some transitions in and out of trot, to help develop Moon’s balance and musculature. A young horse, or one early in her training will often have a tendency to fall onto the forehand and be a little uncoordinated until her strength and poise improve enough that she can carry herself in collection underneath the rider. So while we’re schooling I’m encouraging Moon to work toward a better balance with the influence of my own position in the saddle and with sensitive use of the hands. We take things little by little, so that progress is steady and surefooted and we both finish on a good note, looking forward to the next time.
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!
Happy New year to all! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that 2012 will bring peace and much happiness.
I’m now in Sweden looking forward to my first clinic of the year which starts tomorrow. It’s now full up with old friends and new, so it will be a great start to the new year.
I have a few places left on my next clinic near Manchester, UK on the 29th January. The clinic was originally organised with Tony Dampier, who very sadly died in a riding accident in November. Tony had visited us at Quinta do Brejo to work with our Lusitanos in the late summer last year. He was a lovely man and spent his whole life working classically with horses. This facebook page contains hundreds of tributes from people he taught to ride over many years and who have been touched by his kind, understanding way with horses and with people. It’s very sad indeed that Tony won’t be able to share his experience and expertise at the clinic but we hope that he’d be pleased with the work we’ll do.
29th January 2012: 1 Day Clinic – Birtle Riding Centre, Bury, near Manchester, UK
£45 for one lesson (special taster session price). Please enquire if you wish to share a lesson. Non-riding spectators welcome. Lessons can focus on any aspect of classical training for horse and rider, including work in hand on request. All horses and riders welcome. Please contact either Charlotte directly or Birtle Riding Centre (tel: +44 (0)161 764 6573) for bookings or further information.
Download a flyer here: charlotte-wittbom-clinic-290112
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.
What a full and interesting beginning to the month it has been. On Monday I had the honour to deliver a presentation to the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS) annual conference in Oxford, UK. I want to thank ABRS for their invitation and the delegates for their warm welcome. It was also interesting to have an insight into how it is to run a riding school in the UK and to listen to the other speakers. I like to take every opportunity to learn from other riders and from other horse cultures. It was a very giving day.