Poca favilla gran fiamma seconda” – “A great flame follows a little spark”. (Paradiso: Canto I; The Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri)
Each day working with horses creates a small step forward. But these small steps create great strides over time. It’s often only when I look back over photographs of my journey with a horse that I can appreciate how far we have travelled.
This time I have had fun looking back on my work with Dante. In September last year, I wrote about his arrival at Quinta do Brejo. It will soon be a year since those words were written. Dante was then a spirited little horse with a funny short mane and a big personality. He has matured into an elegant horse with deep intelligence behind his kind eyes. Here are some photos that will show you his progress. I hope you will enjoy them.
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.