Recently we welcomed a new friend to Quinta do Brejo for a riding holiday. She revealed a wonderful talent to us that we would like to share with you…
This series of photographs was taken by Ulrika Malm – a recent guest at Quinta do Brejo who works as a professional photographer. You can click on the images to enlarge them. And you can see more of her beautiful work at www.ulrikamalm.se. Thank you to Ulrika for allowing us to share the images here.
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.
We’re enjoying beautiful winter sunshine here in Portugal and looking out over the quiet fields with horses grazing, my mind is taken back to my recent clinics in Sweden, which were as rewarding and interesting as always. One of the favourite aspects of my work is to see the progress of long-term students and how each of them has taken something different from our sessions together and made it their own. And of course it’s very exciting to meet new students with their individual challenges and aspirations. Each and every combination of horse and rider is unique and I never get tired of taking my part and seeing where it can lead for all of us.
Now, back in Portugal, the new year is in full swing here at Quinta do Brejo, where we have three new arrivals waiting to begin their schooling with us.
Two are three year olds; the other – whose name is Diamante (featured in the video below) – is four, and yesterday was ridden free in the arena for the first time. Diamante has Veiga blood (one of the most significant and historic of the Lusitano bloodlines) and – as is typical with those from his line – he is sensitive, but he has shown a very good mind. Diamante is the Portuguese word for diamond and we’re certainly taking a lot of pleasure from polishing him. We will introduce the other horses to you in the coming weeks.
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.
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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The other day we welcomed a group of professional photographers to Quinta do Brejo, who observed how we train our horses. We recorded this video which we thought you might like to see. Afterwards there was a dinner with Fado (traditional Portuguese music)… a lovely evening.
The video shows Charlotte riding and schooling our Lusitano, Vip, in a way that is very typical for their work together. Each schooling session is different, working with what Charlotte feels the horse needs at that time – they can be short or longer in duration, work on particular movements or simply on the horse’s gymnastic deveopment. Particular problems may also present themselves during the session, such as stiffness, which Charlotte can then work to improve.
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.