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.

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

Moon Fox Spanish Mustang with Charlotte Wittbom

Over the Moon

And so with heavy hearts we have waved goodbye to Moon Fox, the Spanish Mustang mare we have had the pleasure of training here at Quinto do Brejo for the past four months.

Moon came to us as a five year old at the beginning of her schooling and has now rejoined her owner to continue her development into the very fine horse I know she will become. It has been a wonderful experience to work with such a beautiful strong mare and to know her unique characteristics as well as those she shares with her Lusitano cousins.  Every horse I come to know brings new experiences and new learning.

Spanish Mustang Mare 'Moon Fox'

At five years old, Moon’s musculature was already beginning to be well developed, but having lacked the gymnastic work that would often take place from around the fourth birthday, her physique was quite tight and inflexible.  We started then with a lot of work in hand to supple and free her in walk. This helped to build the right foundations for the balance and strength necessary for ridden work.

Moon Fox Spanish Mustang with Charlotte Wittbom

On the other hand, being five years old, Moon had the mental maturity to progress quickly with the ridden work. You will see from the photographs that we found we were able to introduce the double bridle relatively soon in her training. For a young horse at Moon’s stage of development, this is more helpful in encouraging and supporting flexions of the neck and the suppling work from the ground, than as an aid to collection (as the horse matures, there will be more potential for collection in ridden work).

Moon Fox Spanish Mustang with Charlotte Wittbom

The early photographs also show that Moon’s physiology gave her a tendancy to fall on to her forehand. Therefore we incorporated lots of exercises – such as rein-back from the ground – to encourage her to carry her weight more evenly.

Moon Fox Spanish Mustang with Charlotte Wittbom

By the end of her period of schooling with us, Moon had progressed very well through the basic lateral work and is beginning to find self-carriage in the more difficult lateral exercises such as haunches-in and half-pass.  She is very attentive to the seat and can be ridden with a very light hand, which shows that she has both the physical and mental maturity to enjoy her work at a higher level of training.

Moon Fox Spanish Mustang with Charlotte Wittbom and owner, Julie Ann Rees

I’ve had a lovely time training Moon and I wish all the best for her and her owner. They have the makings of a great partnership and I’m sure will have a wonderful journey together.

Spanish Mustang mare, Moon Fox and owner, Julie Ann Rees with Charlotte Wittbom

November news from Quinta do Brejo

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…

Charlotte Wittbom at Quinta do Brejo, by Emma Noren

AT GOLEGÃ

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…Charlotte Wittbom in Hästfocus Magazine

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.

GIFT VOUCHERS…

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 info@charlottewittbom.com to discuss your requirements or ask any questions.

Charlotte Wittbom Gift Voucher

With very best wishes, Charlotte.

*Photo of Charlotte above by Emma Noren.