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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wishing you all a very happy and peaceful Easter. It has been a wonderful weekend here, with warm, sunny weather. It’s made a very welcome change from the snow, hail and rain that accompanied my recent clinics in Sweden. But nevertheless I want to thank all the participants for making those sessions so enjoyable despite the conditions. As usual there was a lot of enthusiasm, thirst for learning and warm friendship, which makes my work all the more satisfying.
Together with my Easter wishes I’ve also uploaded a small clip to show recent progress with Vip, our 10 year old Luistano. This time we’re working with greater collection as we progress to the higher school movements.
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.
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.