Naturally Horses

Write-ups of Past Natural Horse Events
More Recent Natural Horse Events
(List of Past Natural Horse Events)


Charles Wilson, NH Clinics, 27th - 28th October
- see Carole's write-up
Ken Faulkner,  Clinic, 15th to 19th August,
Buckingham - see Vicki's write-up and the pictures

Charles Wilson, NH Clinics, June 23rd (see Alex's write-up and Ann's write-up)& 24th (See Heather's write-up and Alex's write-up)
Ken Faulkner, Personal Development Clinic, May 29th - 31st - see Kate's write-up
Ken Faulkner, Demonstration, May 12th - see Vicki's write-up
Charles Wilson, NH Clinics, February 3rd & 4th
Charles Wilson, October 7th
(Carole's write-up, Alex's write-up, Heather's comment) and 8th (Alex's write-up) + pictures
Jayne Lavender, August 6th - see Sheril's write-up
Polo Tasters July22nd & July 30th See the pictures
Charles Wilson, June 24th
- see Nettie's write-up; June 25th - see Liz's pictures and Heather's write-up.
Martha Clinic, June 17th, 2006
Ken Faulkner Clinic, May 16th to 20th
Charles Wilson, April 29th and 30th
  See Alex's captioned pictures and Liz's pictures
Great Western Play Day, 20th January
see the pictures
Charles Wilson, 14th and 15th January
Play Day , 1st January see the videos (First and Second) and pictures
Great Western Play Day, 16th December
see the pictures
Play Day, 27th November see the pictures
Great Western Play Day, 18th November see the pictures
Potton Cross Country Course
, 22nd October see the pictures
Charles Wilson, 1st and 2nd October see the pictures
Newmarket Sponsored Ride, 11th September
Summer Camp, 6th to 10th August see the pictures

Le Trec, 17th July see the pictures
Charles Wilson, 25th and 26th June Picture at Hillfoot, Pulloxhill
Norfolk Beach Holiday, 20th to 22nd May - Gillian, Vicki and Carole write
                           see the pictures and
ee the movie clips of the games and races (on YouTube)
Ken Faulkner Clinic, 17th to 20th May - Kate writes
Ken Faulkner Clinic, 19th May - Debs writes
Maisie`s Birthday Party, 15th May
Potton Cross Country Course
, 16th April
Jayne Lavender,
26th and 27th February
Christmas Play Day, 12th December
Charles Wilson,
30th and 31st October
Jayne Lavender, 9th and 10th October - One person's viewpoint
Jayne Lavender, 9th and 10th October - Some personal observations
Charles Wilson,
28th and 29th August

Jayne Lavender
, 23rd July
Jayne Lavender, 23rd to 25th July
Rio Lawson-Baker
, 20th June
Ken Faulkner, 15th May

Charles Wilson
NH Clinics

27th - 28th October
Shuttleworth EC

Carole writes about Sunday 28th (Advancing)

Once again Charlie used all his skill to ensure that the five of us were all challenged at our own level.  I had asked to work on helping Mac to bring his hindquarters underneath more to improve his impulsion and lift him off his forehand. I also needed help to improve the draw when working at liberty.  Here are the main things I picked up on:

Ground skills

  • Do less.  Work on using my body more, bringing my life up and showing my intention by directing my body before any use of the hand.

  • When asking for hindquarter yield use hand just behind the girth, rather than further back under the belly.

  • When asking to lower the head turn the head slightly towards you to a more submissive position before asking to lower.


  • When asking the horse in, turn your shoulder away from the horse (in the opposite direction to which the horse is travelling) thus turning your back on the horse and walk way.  Learn left and right (those watching me will know what I mean!!!)  So far, trying this approach at home has made little difference to the effectiveness of my draw.  Mac happily disengages and turns in to look at me.  He may take a few steps but on most occasions I can't draw him any further to me.


  • I am still tempted use too much leg.  I need to work on active forward before asking for 'rounding'

  • Charlie also showed me how to ask Mac to bring the inside hind more under him using a 5m circle .  However I didn't feel happy with this exercise as I felt Mac isn't supple/ soft enough to do this comfortably.

As always, this was a fun and stimulating day and I came away with more and more thoughts buzzing in my head.  The true secret of soft feel is when you have that level of 'collection and up' without losing impulsion.  What a dream! but looks fantastic when it is achieved and must feel wonderful to both horse and rider.

Thanks, Liz, for organising us yet again.

Ken Faulkner Clinic

15th to 19th August

Vicki writes

DAY 1 - afternoon of Wednesday 15th August.

I promised the guys on the camp I would write up my many notes so here goes, most of it was taken as bullet points.  This is purely my interpretation from what I watched on the afternoon of day 1 and days 3 and 4, I hope I have got most of this down correctly if not I hope those taking part can put me right!

Firstly I will say that Ken was certainly on top form with a softness and refinement I hadn’t seen before.  There was a strong showing from the naturally horses group which was great to see and the horses and riders came on huge amounts from start to finish.  There was a mixed of those further on to a couple of complete beginners so there was a good balance

Val had had her indoor school extended which was fantastic considering the sate of the weather the participants had to work in.!  Meaning what could have been a complete wash out was a successful camp.  Most people had stayed in B& B’s but brave Diane had done it properly and camped on site, a braver soul than me!

When I arrived the group had just finished lunch and were going through the first 3 ground skills the first of those being getting a good soft flex from the head and neck a critical element to all areas of the ground skills and something that should be achieved with a soft feel...  The second, a soft yield of the hind quarters and then onto a soft back up from the nose.

The importance of this exercise was not to push on the horse’s nose but to move the horse’s feet, any stickiness in this is in the feet.  This exercise was started but getting a soft flex from the nose before asking for the back up and getting your fingers in time with the horse’s feet. Ideally you are looking for a two time back up not a four time...  For more flex and elevation in the back up once you have it soft softly lift the fingers up towards the eyes, this creates a lift and elevation in the horses shoulders for more cadence in the back up.  You must get the softness in the back up first before asking for more elevation.  If the horses sticks do not push on the nose but gently rock the head to loosen the poll and use the rope towards the legs to encourage movement .the head should be level with the wither, not up high as this just hollows the back, the horses belly and back should lift, this is the posture you require, If the horse drops his head when backing up this just weights the forehand which is not what is desired.

Once the horses were using themselves correctly, off the shoulders and using their bellies and backs lifted and you have soft feet you can start adding in further movements, i.e. backing corners and circles. One side will always be easier than the other.

A two beat back up means the horse is lifting his shoulders and you should be trying to achieve two beat in both back up and sideways.

Do not loose the softness.

You are trying to achieve soft feet not fast feet. Work on quality not quantity.

Backing up hill is a very useful exercise for a horse that bucks as they have to engage their hind quarters to be able to do this and if their hind quarters are engaged properly they should not buck.

The horses head should not be what stops it should be their feet.

From this which was all very in-depth and I took as many notes as I could they moved onto sideways.

The horses back must come up before the horses feet move.  Care about the horse’s posture before and through the sideways.  Shorten the rein, hand on the horse’s side, get the belly to lift and then ask for a step.

Something I noted was that people seemed to forget about their rein hand whilst asking for steps and the horses started to drift as soon as they had no direction. It was easy to see but hard for the guys on the ground who seemed to forget about the all important feel on the rein and keeping the horses inside the halter, as soon as they were reminded of how important this was it all came together a lot better.

Some of the more advanced handlers were starting to play with the sideways doing it on a circle and asking the head to go to the outside and quarters to the inside  being careful not to let the horses get heavy  and using their phases and being aware of their hand positions.

They then got onto yield to a feel with head lowering and raising exercises using pressure and release. The horse’s job is to follow the feel. Does the horse lower his head towards or away form you as this will be either submissive or defensive.

There are many many different ways to use yield to a feel either through the rope or with hands on.

You are not making the foot move but creating the desire for the foot to move – there has to be something in it for the horse. 

Soft solid feel, not wishy-washy.

Yield to suggestion.

First get the all important soft bend – lateral flexion,

Get in time with the horses feet.

Your energy up should be enough to move the horse if not go through the phases.

Breathe out and rub to a stop.

The horse should be flexed enough to keep the front end up so there has to be control in the stop not just a grind to a halt if that makes sense.

Start and finish at the hind quarters, don’t walk round the horse walk through him.

The quickest way to make a horse dull is to ask three times for one step, be effective.

1 Q = 1 step

Start as soft as you possibly can

The support rein is very important.

Moving the front end to a yield to suggestion:

Arrange your position, get the horse to look into the turn and wait for the inside leg to move. Don’t pull the rein back to stop.

Hand in front of the eye – backwards

Hand behind the eye – forwards

Middle of the eye – sideways.

Get the horse to look into the turn, life up, push. (Don’t let the horse drift forwards)

Remember 1 Q = 1 step.

Hold your position in the start and stop and think about how you’d like to be asked.

At this point Cali was showing some rather aggressive faces towards Diane and although Diane said she always did this Ken said it was not OK for the horse to look at you in a bad way so you must keep rewarding the good attitude not the bad.  This was a hard task as it was a case of keeping her moving around until her attitude changed and her ears came forward and timing was critical, very slight to start with till eventually she was giving Ken ears forward when he was asking her to do something and this was rewarded. It did change her look and attitude until she had her ears forward and a nice soft look.  Calli's feet became softer and this consequently meant less ears back, a remarkable change and a tricky one to sort out with such a big horse as she could seem very intimidating just through her size… a Shire X

Don’t just put up with things like this that are not on, change it.

Ken then got onto correct leading and how it is the key to most issues. Get the horse to take the first step.

No lazy horses -we must have soft feet in everything we do.

Soft feet not fast feet.

Don’t pull on the rope.  Use your hand up in front of the eye to stop.

Tap behind the withers or on back to go forwards – the horse should step under your hand.

Don’t get underneath the horse or you will loose straightness.

If the horse doesn’t stop square keep the head slightly on the outside to encourage straightness.

When asking for forwards the horse should never cross your path if he sees you as Alpha, this goes for dogs as well (apparently)

Use your phase to create a Q.

I did not watch day 2 where they did a lot of other ground skills but went to watch days 3 & 4.


DAY 3 morning of Thursday 16th August

Ken started the morning with a very informative and interesting liberty display starting with a pretty troubled big bay horse.

Again I have taken some key points that stood out to me on this:

When the horse comes into you, stop, don’t walk backwards away from them.

‘Accidental abuse is still abuse’ – This is probably the worst form as we don’t always realise it.  I think this came from this particular horse and how he/she had been brought up. /dealt with in the past by a well meaning owner.

Why would the horse want to do good if there was nothing in it for him - reward, whether this is leaving him to be or a rub when he’s done well.

Give the horse time to answer the question asked.

Need to make sure you point your belly button and twirl rope if needed at the same spot.  Keep checking your draw.

Ken showed dramatically the subtleties of your body position.

Follow your instincts – if your forward is not good it is not a good idea to back up, ‘work with what you have got’.

Start liberty whilst on line.  Let the horse take the first step and walk together.

 The softness in the feet can be fixed at leading – you need impulsion.

A good lead is the key to everything.

Soft feet, soft attitude.

If the horse gets behind you make the circles smaller and as the horse shapes up make the circle bigger.

After Kens various and very different liberty demos in the outside round pens with  three  very different horses the participants spend a long time working on their techniques, some in the pens, some loose just out in the field and others still on line as they still had plenty to refine.  It was fascinating to watch and I was particularly impressed with Kate and Daisy (I know she will hate me saying this) and I do love Daisy, but Kate’s work is really paying off, her liberty in an outside field with all this going on was to die for.  I even spotted Daisy doing circles of canter around Kate, very free and so very focused on Kate there were many many distractions, even buckets of feed and haynets about and Kate’s draw was such Daisy was just with her all over the place.  Fabulous to see.  I know Daisy can still have her moments but it was a pleasure to watch, she is so soft now.  Sal and I had so many different people to watch and all were fabulous and had come on loads, liberty is still the thing that just blows my mind when it looks so great, it seems like magic.  It is however the ‘Truth’

After tea break the guys were told to get their saddles and go back into the school to start some ridden work.  One rein only of course to start with – how could we forget… That dreaded one rein!!! Actually everyone did incredibly well as always.  A bit messy to start with but it all starts to shape up pretty quickly once horses and riders start to tune into each other and ‘get’ what it is they are supposed to be doing.  Prior to getting on everyone ran through the ground skills to check the horses were still settled once their saddles were on.  A couple of horses weren’t and Ken did advise that one in particulars saddle was too tight so saddles were changed accordingly.

Ken showed a couple of exercises to do before the riders started to mount. Including flapping and banging the stirrup leathers onto the side of the saddle to help desensitise, remember to do this on both sides!

Check your flex and have the horses head flexed towards you  before getting on, and through the process of standing up in the stirrup facing the front ask the horse for a bend and repeat this on both sides until the horse is standing happily, Then mount softly and gently keeping the flex.

Once on board every one ran through the lift, reach and relax many times until it becomes second nature.

Asking for a flex from on board - don't pull, preparation is key. Its is the leg that softens the head, it should be a gentle roll of the calf not a squeeze.

Lateral flexion is your half halt.

For a tighter turn lift your hand - flex into an indirect rein.

Think of Indirect rein is a step backwards around a corner.

Push the turns

Lift inside had up the rider’s shoulders should step forward around the turn keeping the shoulders up, not slouching forward.


Focus eyes

Belly button


Pick up the rein to stop the forwards as a last resort

Keep your body posture straight.

Sal and I stayed at a B&B over night and we went to watch great display by the devils Horseman on their stunning stallions.


DAY 4  Friday 17th August

Ken asked everyone to warm their horses up with their saddles on going over all the ground skills as covered over the previous days.  They were then asked to get on when they felt ready with one rein only.  He recapped all the ridden stuff from the day before and the following were excerpts I wrote down as he said then and they came up on the day:

Bend the horse and push the flex.

Indirect rein is a deep lateral flex.

The rein is a hand brake for the front legs.

If you have a lazy horse, resist the urge to use your legs.

The horse should step with a soft touch of the ankle.

Roll your toe in time with the hind leg.

Step backwards around a corner, using your body in a rhythm the same as the horse.

Keep the inside hand higher than the outside

Rider’s shoulders must not be allowed to tip forwards.

Lazy horses will try and fall through the shoulder rather than step through.

In direct rein against the rein (if that makes sense, asking for a bend the opposite way to the side of the rein?)– tip the nose into the right place and then tip the quarters away.

Constant adjustments may be required.

The rein is for balance; put the leg lightly on before you do anything with the hands.

Don’t look down, keep nice and square.

Don’t let your horse make you heavy.

Direct rein – get the flex,

Toes do exactly what fingers do.  With the other hand reach and touch the nose with the loop of the rope for a flex - push the turn, the rein shouldn’t get tight. The inside leg helps the flex.

A little less bend for the direct rein than indirect rein.

For a smaller turn lift the rein. For a bigger turn hand out and forward.

Grouchy horses are lazy horses that aren’t moving!

Learn to push your turns – inside leg for flexion outside hand for the stretch – at this point the legs do what the hands do.

After a while you won’t need to use the rein just the rhythm in your shoulders instead.

If you use your hands to stop you will stiffen the horse’s front legs – he demonstrated this very clearly!

You need to create the desire for the horse to want to work with you. 

Keep your ankles loose.

Lift and push forward – give the horse a corridor to move along i.e. between your legs, keep your toes straight.

Don’t let your hands get lower than your belly button when riding.

Keep your intention and focus.  Don’t let the horse out focus you.

It’s your calf that steers not your heel.

If in the back up your horse tries to out focus you use the belly of the rope to straighten him up.

If the horse starts to go crooked keep your focus and your body straight, keep square hands and belly button pointed straight.

Remember – Eyes, belly button legs – in that order.

Once the back up is good, lift the rein to lift and engage the backup.  Put the rein down and do two more steps before you stop so the horse doesn’t learn to stop as soon as the rein is dropped.


I didn't stay to watch the 5th day but I'm sure the others have advised how that went.  From my perspective I learnt loads, I just hope I can recall it all when I need to and found watching very beneficial when I couldn’t use my own horse.  I hope I have covered everything and that you don’t find my notes too sketchy…this is purely my interpretation and is as accurate as I remember but please don’t take this as gospel as Ken is the professional and I hope I haven’t taken anything out of context or interpreted it wrongly.

See the pictures.

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Charles Wilson
NH Clinics

June 23rd & 24th
Shuttleworth EC

Alex writes about Saturday 23rd (Improvers)

I had been thinking for a couple of weeks about which day to do with which horse.  As you may know I have two mares; one a cob and the other a trakener/tb.  Both are works in progress!  I also had spent a morning on the Thursday doing liberty with Jayne Lavender, which led to a further discussion about whether to take the cob at all.  I say liberty but really it was something beyond that and I am still sorting it out in my mind so more on this later!  I phoned Charlie and we decided together to do Saturday with Dancer, the T/TB and Sunday with Whisper, the Cob. 

Dancer travelled the best she has but in a strange position.  On arriving I just thought she had got in a bit of a mess at sometime on the journey but all had been very quiet and calm in the trailer and in my mirror I could see her bottom.  She put herself with her head beneath the front bar.  However, she did this on the way home too, so any suggestions here would be welcome! 

There were only four of us: Maele with Oki, newly backed; Kerry with Merlin, both newbies to a Charlie clinic; Ann and Cal; and Dancer with me.  The morning was excellent for me and my baby.  We were in the zone.  Charlie showed me the things we hadn’t been doing and we showed off at the things we could do.  In the bag!  I haven’t looked at sideways around the clock so when asked to demonstrate this to the others we failed.  Charlie repositioned my hand on the bottom of the halter and off we went.  Sorted. (Ha ha! See later). 

Lunch over we returned to the arena.  I was so relaxed – this was our day.  I was so looking forward to the gasps of envy, the congratulations on how far we’ve come together etc. etc.  Well, we were Saturday’s floor show!  Could Dancer stand still?  No.  Could I mount calmly?  No.  Could Dancer have a strop in a quarter of the arena and not crash into the three others?  No.  Does anyone who has not seen the mobile phone video of Niki Potter’s believe that I can ride that horse at all?  No.  Did I enjoy myself? Yes.  Will I go again?  Can’t wait.


Ann writes about Saturday 23rd (Improvers)

I guess I took away the following key points for me: 

  • that my emotional state has a significant impact on Cal's performance - I must try harder not to get anxious or harried. 

  • that I need to ask for more and not just accept what Cal offers - eg not being happy with him circling round me in a relaxed frame of mind but ask for more performance in terms of engagement and energy and for longer duration 

  • that I should to do more groundwork and riding in halter - we always make lots of progress at clinics but I don't really devote enough time to it in between times!  

I also found the handling of other people's horses really interesting - especially asking Dancer for sideways which she offered so readily and which I struggle to get Cal to do willingly (though I must admit it was better at the clinic and on Monday at home). It would have been interesting to have seen more of the others will Cal but I was so absorbed in their horses that I didn't really see anything though their feedback was really interesting and helpful.

Heather writes about Sunday 24th (Advancing)

We started with head down from poll.  Slight down pressure and wait.  If no response, gently rock head until drop.  H is not responsive enough at this so we need to do more work.  Lateral flex from poll in degrees good.  Sideways.  My timing is better and lighter but frustratingly still getting forward.  I need to slow down and take one step at a time rather than try to do it all at once.  Riding in the hackamore is a real pleasure and I got exactly what I asked for with knobs on.  Belly-up and varying degrees of vertical flexion however, this needs to become more consistent.

The liberty was utterly magical and Charlie's commentary and instructions accurate and vastly intuitive.  I don't know why, but I find it highly emotional watching horses respond to their owners.  H did not let me down and generously stayed with me of his own free will.  However, the trot and back-up instructions received slow response, so we need to get it more spontaneous and inject a bit more enthusiasm.

Charlie asked me what I had been doing with H.  In amongst the list I mentioned that I was anxious about using a double for the first time in 40-odd years.  Charlie invited me to use it and he would guide me.  I asked for vertical flexion and got it immediately then gave back.  Rode mostly with loose reins and the lightest of light contacts.  Downward transitions need more work as tended to flatten and hollow.  Lots to work on.  What I love about Charlie is his hands-on, practical, usable approach.  Terrific day, fab stuff.  Brill chap.

Alex writes about Sunday 24th (Advancing)

Today, I took Whisper, who could be renamed “Great Reluctance”.  Travelled well.  Stabled well.  I was a bit taken aback by the contrast of numbers as Whisper can be tricky with a crowded space.  But we have been working on that.  I was conscious of the day before not going to plan so I had less expectation this day and wanted to work on Whisper’s lightness in hand so that it isn’t such hard work for me.  Charlie knew about his and did say he could see an improvement in her!  I love this time to focus on the horse in front of me as at home I know I have an eye out for what is happening as the buck stops with me.  I kept checking how much I did time wise as short bursts for Whisper are best.  Another thing Charlie has stressed to us – work out how your horse works best and stick to it!  This gave me time to watch the others and really listen to what was going on.  I learnt a lot!

Whisper disappointed the spectators by not being the floor show but boy did she please me as Charlie got my timing right with pulsing the reins to bring her up in the hand whilst riding forward.  I had a tickling stick and I have been working on riding forward with this horse that really doesn’t see the need as the ground is still going to be there in five more minutes so why rush?  We could even graze as well and make a day of it.  Heather borrowed my tickling stick part way through the ridden afternoon and so I had to really use my aids well.  My bottom and lower leg knew about it the next day but I really concentrated on not tightening.  I think I got results and people were kind enough to say how good she looked.

After lunch we had a liberty session where I was pushed to go to phase 4!  Which I don’t like doing in public but I do at home especially when she is in the hay store uninvited!  On the way out of the pen, Dandy got a bit up close and personal and so got both barrels to the shoulder in return.  That’s mares for you!

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Ken Faulkner
Personal Development Clinic

29th – 31st May
Shifnall near Telford

Kate writes

This clinic was designed for those who are already teaching Ken Faulkner’s principles and those who want to teach in the future.  While Ken would rather you didn’t teach under the ANH name unless he has assessed you for your Level 3, he recognises that many people are teaching already especially if they started teaching years ago under BHS and that those that are a little further on can be of significant help to others.  This course was designed to introduce you to others who are teaching to build a support network, to help improve our skills and to make us aware of the many dangers and pitfalls.  Three of us joined seven others who had just done the 8-day clinic.

The whole thing was amazingly professional, we arrived to personalised information packs full of quotes from Ken and questions for us to ask of ourselves that we could fill in if we chose to.  It was mainly classroom set; on the first morning we decided on some basic rules like no mobile phones, ensure everyone gets the opportunity to speak etc, then we begun the sessions that included discussions on what we needed to ask before we agreed to teach someone, being prepared when speaking to potential students to ensure we get enough correct information from them and how to sort through this information.  We were asked who we would consider teaching and who we wouldn’t.  It was all safety based, making sure we didn’t get our selves in a vulnerable position so we were able to keep our student safe.  We talked about potential pitfalls like students with dangerous horses, having a safe place to ride and asking ourselves if we were skilled enough to cope in various situations.  We talked about assessing the horse and our capability line.  And then we did just that.  An unknown horse from the riding school we were using was given to each pair of students, we were told to go off and assess the horse.  I think it’s fair to say we felt so exposed and on the spot; let me set the scene.  There I am in a school with nine others, most of whom have taught professionally for years, most of whom are far more advanced than me and most of whom have just benefited from an 8-day clinic.  I could barely talk I was so nervous, Ken watched as we chose the best way to assess the horse, I decided to get the horses feet moving with some circling before I tried to ask for lateral flexion and thank goodness that was the right thing to do. Everyone felt so exposed and very on the spot, we then had to keep swapping partners and teach our new partner something, which is hard when they know so much more than you, so you are scared you’re saying the wrong thing.  After that there was more classroom work as we all discussed how we got on, how we felt, were we clear, how we made our students feel? 

The second day was more classroom work and we also brought out our horses, were put in groups and again were given a task to teach each other, we were more confident than the day before and I felt really helped along by the more advanced guys, as they gave me some hints and tips and reminded me of things I’d forgotten to say when demonstrating something.  The school was also littered with wheel barrows and jumps and rakes, etc. to see if we would move them before attempting to start the lesson, safety again.

On the third day we had to teach from horse back and we were filmed!  The group was split in half and you were given a task to teach your half, I had to demonstrate and teach direct rein to four others who knew perfectly well how to do it much better than me.  They were very naughty, they did exactly what I told them which was not enough so Heather Seems got stuck in the corner with her horse, another horse was just walking off in the wrong direction and a pupil without a horse was in the arena texting on her mobile phone, I completely forgot to tell them about the leg aids until one of them asked what they were to do with their legs, after that it all came together.  Ken said they were far too hard on me but I rose to it well and got there in the end.  The plan was then to watch back the tape with one other person so you weren’t humiliated by the whole group!  But my tape didn’t have any sound so I had to do it all over again!  This time I had more students and they were kind to me, plus doing it again gave me the chance to do it better.  We were then given some time with Ken individually where we could discuss our progress.  He told me that now I had the knowledge I had to work on my technique. 

We ended with another classroom session by which time the walls were covered with huge sheets of paper that we’d written on during the week, everything from our hopes for the future, why we want to teach, what we are afraid of.  We discussed these points again and how they had changed for us during the course.  The whole course was brilliantly run by Mick and Martha who have a lot of experience running courses with their other work as drama and music therapists in prisons, it all run like clock work and I think had the right blend of pushing us way out of our comfort zones and making us think about how we can be safe and affective teachers.  I don’t think I have been pushed so far out of my comfort zone before in my life but it was such a supportive environment it was a very positive experience, on top of that being with so many advanced people really helped my own horsemanship.

I would definitely do this course again but it’s not for the feint hearted!

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Ken Faulkner

15th – 17th May

Vicki writes

After finally getting the sign-off from my vet to do the demo with J, he said "Just get on with it!".  J was used for the demo on the Saturday and took it all in her stride.  Along with many things that stuck that day, it reminded me that she needed to be out of my space more, unless invited otherwise: ‘My safety should always come first’.

The demo was successful with an large audience, J, Daisy, Cous Cous and George being the demo horses.  I came away feeling excited that my journey had begun and Ken saying I had done a good job with her so far and she was a nice horse, a clean slate.  It resulted in a very undramatic backing demo which was good and I guess how it should be.

So, with this under our belt, I was then in a panic as to getting everything ready to go on the three day camp at Buckingham.  Kate had very kindly secured the B&B for me on the assumption J would be fine and I would be going to Buckingham.  So I packed all my stuff and we left on the Monday afternoon so we could get set up and settled for the 9am start on the Tuesday morning.  J loaded beautifully, walking straight in but didn’t travel quite so well.  It was pouring with rain and a hideous journey with stupid lorries and cars overtaking in unsuitable places making my nerves frazzled before we got there.  We arrived in the rain and set up our pens, we were the first there so had more space than we knew what to do with.  Setting up and deciding where to put your pen in a massive field proved easier said than done.  Trying to keep J’s foot clean and dry in a waterlogged field was a bit of a challenge.  However, with the kind use of a stable I managed to at least keep it dry half of the time, much to J’s disgust at being shut in at night whilst her new friends were out in their pens.  The weather was terrible but the sun came out early evening.  Kate and I had a nice dinner and put the world to rights and then I met Fiona on site to help her set up and we went off to our B & B and settled in for the night.

Day 1

The next day I was up very early with excitement and anticipation and went to the farm to let J out and muck out so she had a chance to graze before the clinic started.  The weather was terrible so thank goodness we had Val’s indoor school to use, a perfect size for four or five horses but with twelve of us in there, a bit of a squeeze.  Ken firstly asked us what we wanted to achieve and got the intro started.  So much was talked about so I will try not to ramble and keep it brief but this is purely from my perspective.  J at first was just circling round me and didn’t want to stand still, Daisy and Dancer rolled with her following their example, Ken took hold of her after she just wouldn’t settle and within about five minutes she was standing as still as a rock and they soon all settled he used her as a demo for the fist half an hour or so which got her into a place where she was happy to stand still and made me realise she was STILL on top of me even after what I thought I had learned from the demo – DOH the basics still lapse even after all these years of doing this stuff….it's still not stuck in my head…. I am sure I will forget a lot of stuff but we started the day with flexing the head and neck to get a soft feel, a crucial element particularly with a youngster as its almost you emergency stop.  By flexing we were not asking for a twist of the horses head or neck but a soft feel towards you on both sides, we then got onto desensitising our horses to the rope all over their bodies and around the legs, lifting the leg etc.  Some people used a bag on the end of a stick, which opened up a few cans of worms, but obviously areas that needed to be worked on.  We then went onto hind quarter yields to feel, whereupon Ken advised that grumpiness and getting stuck is a resistance to be worked through until the horses feet came soft.  We were looking to get into rhythm with the horses feet with our own soft steps . J got a bit arsey and where I would have normally stopped and backed off due to being unsure or scared of a reaction, I worked through this and sure enough she loosened up and we got nice soft feet eventually, which is when, of course, we quit.  We worked on yield to feel and suggestion on both front and hind ends, in fact on the first day we had only got though three or four of the ground skills, proving how much depth was involved in them and it reminded me of so much work we have done in the past that I had forgotten.  Ken, as always, was firm but fair with the horses and us, the amazing softness making me realise the value of the phases again and not nagging but being more effective initially.  I had some squealy f*** off moments from J when I asked to do a bit more but this attitude swiftly changed the more effective I was and consequently softer it all came.  She just needed for me to be clearer so she knew some boundaries, after all she knows no different and if I'm not clear enough is going to make up her own rules.

We were all so tired after the first day, which went on till nearly 6pm, as so much was covered we all got a bit carried away …. Kate , Fiona and I went to the fish and chip shop got food and took it back to our B&B to drink some alcohol and relax…. I hope Ken didn’t get too fed up with our horsey talk well into the night but he could have gone to bed as he was in our B&B, which was great as we had more time to chat to him (poor man!!).

Day 2

We were outside for Day 2 on Val’s nice grassy area which turned into a bit of a mire by the end of the day.  Again, we ran through what we had done the previous day and found we had a lot more amenable horses.  We got onto circling and Ken used Dancer as a demo to show what he wanted, she showed her true quality revealing some fabulous paces.  Dandy was also a star and Ken said he was the sort of pony you would buy for your children and that Fiona had done great job with him but just needed to boost her own confidence; that little pony can really work well when his mind is on the job and didn’t take offence at anything, he had a really ‘good attitude’.  It was nice to watch, people were working on circling, back up, flexing, all to feel and suggestion.  J had a bit of a paddy when we went onto the circling and Ken took her in hand for a little while to basically show me what needed to be done and, although I had a bit of a sweaty horse afterwards, the change in her was pretty amazing; she was responsive and starting to hold herself in a soft relaxed frame, her trot changed to moments of well balanced work with her starting to drop into a nice shape and stepping under better.

After lunch, Ken started by giving a great liberty demo in the round pen with the lovely dappled grey horse (name I can't remember!) but it was fantastic to watch and, as I would have taken us forever to all have a go, it was time to watch a professional at work; how easy and soft he made it look…one day!

I can’t actually remember what we did for the rest of the afternoon, as I am writing this a week or so later, but I know I had a different, more relaxed horse to work with who was soft, respectful and responsive.  How nice. We all went out for lovely dinner that night and a good chat and a bit of a giggle.  Far too late that night we went back to our bungalow for a decent night's sleep before the final day, whereupon we had been told we would be riding all day….

Day 3

We put our saddles on and then warmed our horses up and I managed to get into the school with only two others as it was raining again and got J really moving forward, which is what I needed to do prior to getting on, the preparation is everything!  However, she was in a different place to the previous day and very compliant, and I didn’t have to do as much though as she was pretty soft and responsive to me.  I used Martha’s saddle, which I think was a mix between a western saddle and an Ozzy saddle.  As hard as a plank for my bottom but very secure and it felt very ‘safe’ to ride in, although I could hardly walk when I got off, I know why cowboys walk as they do!

Anyway Ken got on J and it was amazing to watch as he made everything look so effortless and for her second ride it was fabulous to see, she did everything he asked with no resistance and as if she’d never not been ridden, having seen her you would never have guessed it was only her second ride.  He did shoulder in and out, quarters in and out, and back up with no reins etc etc.  This made me think oh my goodness what if I mess it up….

Anyway, after he had worked her for a while it was all of our turns to get on our horses and practice our flexes and he had us all on one rein riding.  I got on J as if we had been riding for ever and it just felt all OK. How weird, didn’t know what I expected really but she was a star, we were doing the same as everyone else ... my only problem being not enough space to really go forward any great distance before someone else was in your space, my focus was rubbish too, which didn’t help but think I was so thrilled just to be on her that was enough for me!  It reminded me that I hadn’t ridden in this way for at least a year and a half and I realised how much I hadn’t done and how rusty I had gotten…oh dear, I found myself rather emotional at a couple of points but more with frustration with myself for feeling incompetent at it all again and like a complete beginner, everyone else looked like they were doing it so well and I felt like a retard, however I was told in no uncertain terms to get my sh*t together so I did and it all went swimmingly for the rest of the day, except for my poor backside which felt raw by the time I got off at the end.  We did so much that I’m hoping everyone else can fill in the gaps for me…

At the end of the final day, Martha did a fantastic demo on Cous Cous that was stunning to watch and what we should all be working towards.  My goodness how that horse has changed physically since I saw him last year, he looked like a real performance horse, not a pony.  Martha seemed very relaxed and it showed in their work, probably a much better demo as far as she was concerned than the one at Shuttleworth as she was working in front of people who knew her and appreciated what she was doing.  A great end to a fabulous day. 

J walked straight into the trailer to come home and of course the sun had come out then after raining most of the day.  But she did not travel back that well, and as I couldn’t go over 35mph without her jumping about, it was a long, slow journey home.  We arrived back just as it got dark and she was a sweaty mess, but she was glad to see Charlie and chill in the field.  I have ridden her everyday since, bar three days due to weather and my exhaustion! and hope to go on as we left off.  With the August 5th day camp on the horizon, my plan is to get her hacking out and about till then and further our schooling with all systems go for August I hope…..


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Charles Wilson
NH Clinics

 February 3rd and 4th, 2007
Shuttleworth Equitation Centre, Bedfordshire
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Vicki writes about Saturday 3rd (Improving)

I had been thinking about this clinic from the day I sent my form off for Liz with a bit of apprehension due to it being the first clinic I was going to take J to on her own.  I knew she was OK travelling and loading with Charlie from a previous outing, but was apprehensive on how she would react on her own, anyway this apprehension rubbed off on her and so she didn't really go in the trailer that well and so we left later than anticipated.  She had a bit of a panic in the trailer and I nearly thought about turning around when it banged and bounced about but she seemed to settle so I carried on.  A good decision as the rest of the journey I hardly heard a thing from her other than the odd pitiful neigh! 

Anyway we got there half an hour late but Charlie was doing his introductions with Jackie and two new girls to the group, Erica and Aisha, and their two lovely horses, one of them being a lovely ex-racehorse the other a very compact looking little horse who proved to be as solid as a plank to start with but softened up throughout the day.  Unfortunately I was concentrating on my own work not to really be able to see a lot of what they were doing.  Hopefully they will do a write up from their perspective?

J came into the school a little snorty but not too panicked by the new environment without her boyfriend.  We had the local pony club jumping lessons next door with lots of shouting and 'PULL, KICK and GRRRing' going on, there was an air of calm on our side of the arena and a sort of manic confusion going on the other side with lots of parents watching their darling children pulling and kicking their ponies over fences every which way, quite a contrast!!

J was on top of me from the outset, I knew it, but seemed to be a bit incompetent at sorting it out, and felt rather rusty and pretty rubbish to start with, probably also the expectation as to what Charlie W would think I had done to one of his lovely youngsters!!  Anyway, he got hold of her and basically said she needed a firm but fair hand as was a bit like a petulant child, her indigence at being asked to do something she didn't want to resulted in squealing, stamping feet, shaking her head and using her shoulder against you and general annoyance, we worked through this by moving her about using sideways movements, shoulder out, sideways on a circle, backup and circles in a sort of pattern and this got her back with Charlie where lots of licking and chewing and blinking occurred.  She can be pretty feisty at times and Charlie commented I needed to be a lot more assertive.  Once she was back with me, I had to work on getting her out of my space and standing away at the end of the line which she does happily at home but she kept creeping in on me so it was a laborious task of keeping sending her back to where I wanted her to stand, she got it in the end.  We worked on hind quarter and front end yields and I demonstrated to Jackie back up from the nose with a soft yield and the horse lifting its back to move correctly something Murphy was struggling with a bit.  

I then worked on getting her to go out on a circle without squealing and leaping in the air first at walk and then leading up into trot once on the circle backed up with the stick if she didn't respond immediately and to keep her at the speed I wanted until I asked to come down to walk or up to canter, a lot of work in progress here but it reminded me of stuff I hadn't been doing.  She got it quite quickly so hope this will come on slowly.

I think this brought us up to lunchtime where Jackie kept us very amused as always with her wicked sense of humour and stories about Xtra and her fabulous six-week trip!!! out to the Savvy Center in the USA.  J happily munched her hay and wandered round the school occasionally taking a look at us through the window.  

After lunch, we got our saddles and warmed the horses up again.  Those who were riding got onto the first basic rein positions and getting a flex.  Jackie was riding about on Murphy and Charlie suggested I put J on a 22ft line and did walk trot and canter with the saddle on, on both reins to get any bucks and silliness out of her and get her working with me.  We had some fun with this and a couple of rope burns to boot when I had to hang on.  She is obviously pretty unbalanced and looked rather ungainly to start with but this will soon start to sort out the more work she does and muscle she builds up I guess.  After this she was rather hot but really listening to me with lots of blinking, licking and chewing, I was only using my finger as a cue to go up a gear which was good, but again work in progress.  I walked her about and then Charlie suggested I got her used to standing next to a mounting block which I did with me standing on it to a point she rather liked the chair and started to try and eat and lick it!!  I stood on a chair and practiced the leaning over the saddle both sides and putting some weight in the stirrups.  Cathy then very kindly held her for me and walked with her as she needed whilst I leant right over and rubbed and stroked each side, not a very comfortable position to be in however with all my weight on my lunch!!  After we had done this for a while, Row said why didn't I try and sit up, a natural progression so from standing on the chair I put my foot in the stirrup, I rather ungainly leaned over her and gently swung my leg over and there I was, on board, I lent forward to start with and then sat up for a few seconds and then got off and she was fine.  We did the same on the other side and walked a few steps and then I got off again.. Yehaa, fab!  I was very pleased with what we had done and decided to leave it there on a good note at about 4pm.  The others carried on so I did not see what else they did as I went to load up discovering I had a flat tyre, so had to sort that with the help of Frank.  Anyway, she loaded OK with a little encouragement from the carrot stick (more work to do here!) and the journey home was a lot better as she didn't make a sound, I think she was too tired. 

A good day for me in the end with so much work to do.  I hope everyone got as much out of it as I did.  Charlie W was on top form with his analogies making us all laugh as ever……hopefully there are some photos!


Debs writes about Sunday 4th (Advancing)

Charlie started out assessing partnerships by asking you to lead your horse through walk, halt and backup transitions and also with some trot.  At the moment our groundwork is the bit that lets us down and he had some pointers to improve.  He wanted the horse in each case to be listening to the body of the handler and not the feel on the rope.  Eric just didn't feel that he needed to put too much effort in but just a few transitions switched him on and the whole thing started to look better, softer, sharper and more in tune.  Then we progressed to leading our horses from 6 to 8 feet away and surprisingly some horses were better at a distance, others worse.  This exercise looks a bit like a cross between circling and leading.  You use the whole school but use techniques borrowed from circling and sideways to get the horse where you want him, especially after Charlie asked us to add some shoulder-in/haunches out into the exercise.  We have quite a bit to work on there, let's just say we weren't that polished.  Heather and Harry were really very good at this exercise and did some really good work on this with Harry ending up licking and chewing. 

Then we tacked up with saddles and halter - one rein only though - and mounted.  We warmed up a bit and went through our paces.  As Eric and I were already out on the track and the others were resting we did our one rein riding first.  We hardly do any halter riding at all (only bareback up from the field) but bless him the only thing he did was to lean a little on my inside leg a little in canter because he'd rather be with the others.  He did some good transitions and finished with a nice backup from my body.  I was pretty happy with what he offered me.  Charlie said we need to be working on more refinement and that Eric needs to be coming through more from behind, not necessarily faster, just more impulsion.  I guess this is the see-saw of progression. Eric used to rush a lot, very much on the forehand and he is slower now and less on the forehand, but perhaps we've lost some impulsion but gained some balance.  He's not running on now because he's struggling to balance, but it looks less impulsive.

We then watched the other for riders doing their stuff and Charlie had some pointers for each Fiona and Dandy showed a few steps of canter and Jackie and Xtra just be adjusting a few things under Charlie's instruction made some real changes.  Xtra looks to be the kind of horse that can relax as long as he's not being given too many signals and Xtra was initially interpreting some of Jackie's leg movements as cues.  As Jackie became stiller on top, Xtra really relaxed and the partnership came together really well.  Soon it was lunch time so we all got some time off.

Charlie rode Eric after lunch (he often rides all the horses on a clinic) and I guess this is where being a youngster shows.  Although he was good for Charlie, Eric wasn't as impulsive as Charlie wanted and Eric needed a string to remind him to put a bit more effort in.  Eric also looked unsettled in trot, and couldn't relax his head down.  He does usually relax for me and the other few people he's used to but wasn't convinced about this stranger riding him.  But Eric did eventually give Charlie some nice shoulder-in at a jog trot on a circle and gave him some nice lateral yields.  Charlie showed us an exercise where you take a 12m circle and ask for a shoulder in on the circle.  You do this by moving your hips and having the inside sit bone slightly in front of the outer.  Then you gradually make the circle smaller and make the shoulder in more of a sideways yield until you end up doing turn around the FQ, just yielding the HQ and you gradually spiral back out the other way.  Eric found this quite hard and did need to be taken back to HQ yield to get him moving his HQ.  He made a reasonable job of it once his hips became unstuck and he understood the question. 

Charlie rode Whisper, Alex's horse, who, after a couple of grumpy kicks out, really showed us what she could do.  She's quite a talented and athletic horse, showing some very nice lateral and elevated work.  We were sat watching thinking 'wow'!

After some more riding practice it was getting cold so we left early at around 16:30, just after we watched Fiona and Dandy canter on the other lead. 

I had a good fun day and was reminded of the stuff we need to get polished up.  Thanks to Liz for organizing and Charlie for making the trip.

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Charles Wilson
NH Clinics

 October 7th and 8th, 2006
Shuttleworth Equitation Centre, Bedfordshire.

Carole writes about Saturday 7th

Meg and I arrived at Shuttleworth in good time.  I took my bits and pieces round to my stable and proudly showed Meg`s paperwork to the yard manager although she wasn't particularly excited by it.  Then I went back to the trailer to unload Meg.  This can be quite a dramatic event as she loads beautifully but is inclined to shoot out and leap off the ramp.  Today, however, was different.  She decided she couldn't possibly come out of the trailer.  When I asked her to come forward she braced herself.  I actually thought I must have trapped her tail when I put the back up at home.  I put the bar back up and checked the back end.  There was no problem.  Then Charlie miraculously appeared.  We took the front bar down again and just waited for her to decide it would be OK to come out.  About five minutes went by and she lowered her head and came out, albeit with a bit of a rush.  Drama over.

She was a bit wound up at first but once we got moving and working together we were fine.  There were only four of us: Ann, Alex with Whisper and newcomer, Natalie, who had come all the way from Kent with the adorable five year old Baron.  Charlie was able to pinpoint where we were and tailor the tasks to each of us.

The morning was ground work.  There was an exercise new to me of throwing the rope over the hors's back while in trot in a circle so that the horse comes down to halt.  Eventually you should be able to let go of the rope.  This showed me how quickly Meg learns as she was soon anticipating my movements and the rope action became secondary.  My challenge then was to keep changing what I was asking for so she was listening to me and couldn't anticipate. Next we worked on sideways, but at an angle of 45degrees.  This made a lot of sense.  It was a more natural movement for the horse and they could move more freely and with rhythm.  Before lunch we were backing up between two poles and realised how much more difficult it is when you start in front of the poles, ie so the first backward steps take you into the pole corridor. 

Lunch at last!!  Why am I always so hungry at clinics?  I was talking to another new face (another Heather) and I thought she asked me if Meg was "crabby " but what she actually was asking was "Is she a Crabbet?"  This meant nothing to me but it's to do with her blood lines so now I'm interested to find out more.  During lunch, while Sue from Biggleswade saddlery was microchipping saddles, a riderless horse appeared minus stirrups.  Someone set off by car to find the rider.  Luckily, neither was hurt but someone took them home by trailer.

In the afternoon, we rode.  At home I've been spending quite a bit of time with Meg helping her to realise that she doesn't move off as soon as I get on.  Charlie took this a step further for me and suggested I move my weight around in the saddle, ie leaning forward or touching my toes and asking her to stay still.  This is going to be my main "homework ".  This exercise progressed to an assimilation task of opening a gate, at which we'd been so useless at my Trec day.  More things to practise at home.

During the afternoon, Charlie rode each of the horses.  Meg went like a dream for him.  So there's my next challenge!!!!!!!!

We also had quite a discussion about weight and balance when riding a circle and also about bits.  I shan't go into detail as it's now stopped raining and I'd rather be out riding my horses.  Thanks guys for another great day and thanks to Liz for organising us all.  It seems you all went up another gear on Sunday.  Sorry I missed it but I was enjoying watching Lucy's Trec day.


Alex writes about Saturday 7th

Firstly, I recommend you read up about Charlie on his website which explains his training and therefore his approach.  He is now saying that he teaches horsemanship rather than just natural or classical or whatever and I think that showed up this weekend.  I also asked him to me on his way home on Monday and we continued on from the clinic for Whisper and rode in her bridle. 

I sadly could not take Dancer to the Saturday and in the end took whisper - in my heart thinking that she would be bored and therefore wooden.  How wrong!  We did so much I can barely remember and so hopefully some others will fill in.  Charlie got us to introduce ourselves as usual and than asked us to warm up by trying to apply what we knew to playing over a pole in whatever way we wanted and then he started off a newbie with a young horse that had not had the right start and now was a bucking frenzy.  This was Natalie who did fantastically and I learnt so much just by catching sight of her sometimes.  Charlie then came round and asked us what we were doing, why and show him!  He then helped us correct and suggested what to do next to build or if necessary, what not to do and to go back a few steps.  During this exercise and throughout the weekend we were constantly asked to consider the type of horse and the type of emotions our horse had so that we worked relevantly. We are always able to tell him of any problems we are having generally with the horse or specifically and then Charlie will tell us how to do what we were working on to help that issue or honestly say that it could all be a work in progress! 

We moved on to circling the horse with body language starting at halt(!), moving up to walk, trot and possibly canter but stopping the horse by throwing the rope over the back as we dropped our life and turning our body.  Easier to write than to do.  Simple as it sounds, this was the foundation of the past 3 days for me.  No endless circling with cracking whips which saps Whisper's will to be in the arena with you; but concentrated intention to move the horse to the lightest response using leadership, body language and yielding the hindquarters only as necessary to get the stop.  This is to be built on.  At this stage I think we started to talk about how much time to spend doing things with your horse.  Charlie felt small amounts and then a break for Whisper and other horses needed to do more and maybe more complicated to stop them playing their own games.  I think Cal needed a few things linking to have his attention and, on the Sunday, Liz was asked to string a few tasks together to keep Nins entertained and at higher gaits.  That seemed to me to work very well.

This last exercise showed Whisper lack of hind quarter yield and this is to some extent a conformation problem as well as behavioural.  Charlie demonstrated this and the lightening of the forehand to go with this and although we have done this before this time we got it established calmly in a way that will stay.

During lunch, we talked about the gate problem some of us had at Carol's le Trec.  Charlie leapt on this and we did gate practise in the afternoon.  Brilliant. Three gate tasks were set up: a pole on the ground; a pole between two chairs; and a pole on two jump wings.  Before this I had asked for help to get sideways towards so that I can get on from a fence.  Quite quickly, Whisper shows how she bullies me and got cross about being asked for more than slobbing around the arena.  Charlie got on and really sorted her out but she was not going to go parallel to that big gate.  We were occupied with these tasks for the rest of the day as it showed up so many things to work on.  Precision stopping, backup, squeeze, turn on the forehand, hind quarter yield, leaning out of the saddle, one hand guidance(!), scary poles, making a noise with the gate, more than one horse doing the task: actually just about everything!  Whisper became so soft it was amazing and fantastic backups.

Heather comments on the tasks:

The first task was to come out of line using single rein and perform a 20m circle demonstrating a good flex to the inside and ribs away enabling the horse to step neatly underneath himself.  Smugly, I sat there thinking 'piece of cake' and was just musing whether to demonstrate our proficiency at said task on his easier rein (right) or the more difficult one to the left when we were called out of line.

Whilst at standstill, we gave a short demo of how beautifully we can achieve vertical flexion, then proceeded to give what has to be the most cringingly embarrassing and disgraceful exhibition it is possible to imagine. I was all over the place, and 'Harold' (name used in times of severe provocation) was not listening.  It went from bad to worse until Charlie got up on him and within a second was calmly and peacefully trotting my horse around demonstrating stunning lateral flexion with his ribs most obligingly scraping the sides of the school.

Serves me right.  I am not normally sure of myself, quite the reverse in fact, but oh the shame!  Happily the rest of the day passed with good friends, in a welter of laughter, learning and lots of fun whilst trying out a variety of fiendishly thought out tasks invented to test our ability to learn and our bravery in roughly equal parts.

Super day, great company, brilliantly inventive tuition and can't wait for next year when Charlie will be back with us again.

Alex  writes about Sunday 8th (and Monday)

Sunday saw another bunch with me and Whisper being the only ones to do two days.  Whisper was livid to be there a second day!  The power of a Charlie clinic actually had Fiona there before it started (HE HE).

Charlie told us that he teaches a lady with one hand so asked us to start warming up over the pole again but with only one hand.  Very challenging and really really fascinating.  I ended up trying to reinforce my request by blowing on her.  Try it at home and let's hear your results.  I found that my body language had to be spot on and it can then work.

The exercises were all to soften the horse to improve the ridden work and we rode in the morning as well as the afternoon.  Flexion is a problem for Whisper and again I received help quickly from Charlie who can see what we are all doing.  We were encouraged to admit any worries and then gently encouraged to confront them or at least received advice on how to work on them.  What can I say except that we achieved the same softness as the day before?  Whisper was being better at being with other horses.  Vicki and I found that we needed to ask Charlie to separate the arena so that we could work on a task he had set - spiraling in and out on a circle to get a good flexion and bend to the outside with the ribs.  All targeting riding from the seat.  This is difficult in an arena when we are all moving all over the place.  Typically, Charlie decided to put us under the spotlight one by one after this request and a lot of basic tidying up was done with Charlie getting on when necessary.

After lunch, we each had a liberty session.  Whisper decided not to pick up any tips and went to sleep on the floor at this point.  Chilled or what?  I have done little liberty but this was our most successful yet and I put that down to the summer camp at Charlie's (with Dancer) and the improvement in my leadership of Whisper, helped by better riding and timing of cues.

Later, we worked on riding with our seats which meant stick riding.  We prepared well with using the stick at the proper length and tapping in the right place.  We did not drop the reins until we had flexion from the leg and the stick at halt and walk moving on to trot, if possible.  Then we were set free and it was fun but challenging.  Heather did it with single rope rein!  Much laughter and a few sharp intakes of breath.  We were challenged enough so that any latent fears surfaced and in as much as possible in the time Charlie helped us to overcome them.

We were asked if we rode in bridles and Charlie said to bring them next time as he would be happy to see us use them and get the right results.

Onto Monday and Charlie came to me in the afternoon.  We started by single rein riding with Whisper and then put on the bridle.  I did the same work as at the clinic in that I was trying to engage Whisper in lightness and therefore bringing her up into the hand.  I was pleased that Charlie confirmed that I was in the correct bit and I am pleased to say the ridden was really enjoyable but Charlie achieved straight away a beautifully light horsey, up in the hand and engaged in the hind quarters on a circle whereas I got her better in a straight line and my circle needs work!!!!! We then did a little two year old and it was a really good session to see first manners being established.  Next onto Dancer.  Charlie helped me to safely approach her poorly back legs and I am pleased to say that I have dressed both this morning safely and calmly.  We then worked on her trailer loading or rather my trailer loading!  This was done in my big courtyard where she has rarely been and never loaded.  Three quarters of an hour later she was in eating hay and not all sweated up!  I did it all and Charlie gave me advice on timing and the way I asked her was pared down.  It was dogged persistence really but in the correct way.  Exhausting for me but very satisfying to think I have found the way with her.  So a busy three days but I really feel I have stepped through another barrier on this horse journey. 

Well done Liz for organising Charlie to come.

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Jayne Lavender
NH Clinics

 August 6th, 2006
Shuttleworth Equitation Centre, Bedfordshire.

Sheril writes

There was a film entitled 'The Truth about Cats and Dogs' - well Sunday could have been called 'The Truth about Horses'.   We have come to expect a lot from Jayne and she really delivered, helping us to push the boundaries in the relationships with our horses, at whatever stage we were at.

Lucky participants were me and my Arab mare Zippy, Tanya and the enormous Flo, Fiona and coloured cob Dandy, and Anne and the palomino character, Cal.  The first three have all been at this natural horsemanship thing, in various guises, for quite some time.  Anne got involved more recently and well done to her and Cal that they jumped in this weekend at great depth and without water wings!

A preliminary chat in the tea room revealed that Tanya and I had rather lost direction and were seeking fresh challenges so that we could really develop the relationship with our horses further.  Anne was seeking more softness and responsiveness from Cal.   (I have been wracking my brains to remember what Fiona wanted to achieve and then remembered that she had not yet arrived at this point!)

Jayne announced that the image for the day was to be Shadowfax - the lovely white horse that thundered across the New Zealand plains for Gandalf, bareback and bridleless, in the Lord of the Rings movies.

She also quite reasonably pointed out that we would not ever meet all our individual needs in one instructor - and might have to seek help with our riding positions, for instance, from classical riding instructors, or Alexander practitioners, or whatever was appropriate for our needs, alongside the stuff we are learning from her.

With that we set off into the small indoor arena, warmed the horses up and tuned them in with some very brief ground games, and then removed their halters for what was supposed to be a 10 minute liberty session, prior to getting on.  Suffice it to say we were all still there at lunchtime!  They say liberty reveals the truth about your relationship with your horse and the truth can be quite uncomfortable to experience.

I learned a tremendous amount from watching Jayne do a short demo with Zippy - and the penny finally dropped for me about allowing her more time and more space and just 'listening' rather than 'doing'.  That was a lesson well learned because for the first time ever in such a pressured environment - at times there were three other horses thundering around and past us at full gallop - she chose to stay with me, even when she was prancing and up on her toes and had that 'joining in' twinkle in her eye.  I cannot describe what a joy that was and how privileged I felt by the experience.  It was a gift from her to me that I will always remember - even if it never happens again!  As Jayne kept saying, 'Zippy is just pleased she is being listened to…' and I could add to that '… at last!'

Meanwhile Tanya, with Jayne's help, was uncovering some deeper issues with Flo that probably have been sabotaging the development of their relationship in other areas.  Outwardly soft and compliant at the clinics, and with a lovely bond to Tanya, at liberty Flo was now showing a reluctance to move her feet that revealed some deeper emotional baggage.  She kept becoming stuck in her front feet or showed a slow response to stepping under with her rear - impulsion was lacking and it was coming from her emotional state.  Jayne had to use persistent pressure and accurate timing to obtain a more fluent response - and it was definitely a case of having to crack some eggs to make the omelette.  Flo felt the need to leave, and went, sometimes at a gallop, several times over the course of the morning.  But gradually everything began to come back together again and Flo and Tanya began to find a new harmony - and that new level of harmony and impulsion became even more apparent in the afternoon when we were riding, which goes to show how important the liberty session had been.

Cal, on the other hand, was exhibiting what Jayne described as that 'there's something missing but I'm not sure what' young gelding characteristic.  He felt that he was not finding the right sort of leadership from Anne and he kept leaving, looking for a new friend somewhere else out there.  This can be really tough to take - I know, as it has happened to me more times than I care to mention - so credit to Anne that she was able to keep her emotional cool and listen to Jayne's suggestions and suddenly things began to turn around.  The look on Cal's face altered completely and his eye became softer as he began to latch onto Anne more quickly each time and go back to her.  One really useful picture that came out of this for me was Jayne's description of the three parts of the eye in the horse, front, middle, and rear - and how it is so easy, when a horse is leaving you at liberty, to end up in that rear portion of the eye (looking miserable and deflated with no tools to bring the horse back), and actually to end up driving the horse, which is the last thing you want to do. Much better to step to one side away and forwards to bring yourself back into the mid or front part of the eye, where the horse will be more willing to see and come back to you.

At the times that Dandy left Fiona he was, according to Jayne, showing all the signs of a fellow deciding it was time to form his own herd.  So Fiona had a different set of challenges, to show him that she was more important than anyone else in the arena.  Soon he too was sticking with her.

We moved on to circling game at liberty - but only asking the horses for a very small try, then bringing them back in.  It is easy to get over-ambitious here and 'send' the horse right away with too big an 'ask'.  Zippy was tending to leave me with a brace in her neck and shoulder and her ribs towards me - a sure sign that she was thinking about leaving altogether.  Jayne demonstrated a way to 'draw her a picture' of what we were asking, by using two hands on her to request the desired shape.  With a very light hand on her nose and the other hand just behind her withers, asking for the 'forwards', it was possible to form her gently round the circle and soften her to the inside.  This was also a good exercise for Zippy because she showed hesitancy to move into the lightest of pressure of hand on her nose - and this is typical of what she does in a bridle as well, when she tends to back off any light contact and come 'behind the bit'.  Gradually, she began to understand what was required and move forwards into the pressure while softening at the same time.

Suddenly, at a point when all the horses and handlers were paired up and an air of restful harmony pervaded, it was lunchtime.  Some emotionally drained souls repaired to the tea room for sustenance while the horses got some much needed down time in their stables.

After lunch it was time to ride.  The instruction was to put on the horses as much kit as we felt necessary to feel safe, but as little as possible.  We all got going in a variety of halters, one rein, two reins, saddles or, in Tanya and Flo's case, bareback pad.  We also had the savvy strings around the horses' necks as the 'main rein' contact.

The first exercise was to establish the stop, as far as possible without reins.  This was done initially from a halt to back up.  Once we started in walk, we were only to think about halt and back up - no directional aids at all, so it was like a mini- passenger lesson, where the horse chose where to go in the arena.  Those that were ready for it were able to move up into faster gaits - trot and canter - again with only slow down and halt aids from the rider, no directional aids.  This was strangely liberating and the horses really seemed to enjoy the freedom and the single focus as well - and became much softer and more tuned in as a result.  It was like they were focusing on one thing so it became easier - rather than dealing with all that background 'static interference' we constantly throw at them.

Working in halt to back up, Fiona and Anne were shown how if necessary they could use their full weight leaning back on the savvy string for a moment, to reinforce the back-up cue if the horse was leaning on its front end and not responding.

We all went on to work on forequarter yield and hindquarter disengagement using seat aids rather than the reins - and moved on to ask for small hindquarter yields from the hips in all gaits.  I found that Zippy had to break gait down to trot when asked for this in canter - which Jayne said is not unusual at this early stage.

At a certain point in the afternoon, Jayne announced that it was time for Tanya and I to take Flo's and Zippy's halters off altogether, so we were riding only in the savvy string.  Actually this felt quite OK by this time, having built up to it gradually in appropriate stages.  The horses certainly seemed to enjoy the experience and Zippy for one kept stretching her nose downwards as though relishing the freedom.

Coming to the end of the session, we were asked if there was anything else we wanted to know or ask for the day.  I piped up with my personal challenge/goal - which is that I would love to teach Zippy flying canter lead changes as I have never had a horse that could do this under saddle, other than accidentally!

So for the last half hour or so Tanya and I, still with only savvy string around the horses' necks, were attempting half-pass in walk and then in trot from the centre-line to the side of the arena.  Quite a challenge, but we both got a few creditable steps each time before it all went pear-shaped!  The idea being to build up until you can do this in all gaits and then add the change of direction, in other words being able to start heading right in half-pass, and then switch directions to left half-pass - at which point, if it all happens as planned, Jayne said leap off and reward your horse because that is the foundation of the lead change.

All in all a tremendously inspiring and interesting day - and one of those where I, for one, felt that some quantum leaps had been made for everyone taking part.  Jayne did add one caveat at the end, which was to be very careful in trying these things outside a managed environment, for example at a play day where no instructor is present to guide the progress.  The liberty games in the morning were very carefully supervised by Jayne and in an unregulated situation, with no-one to interpret the behaviour correctly and guide the responses, could become dangerous for both horses and handlers.

If I have missed anyone's special moments of the day - I apologize unreservedly and admit that the day was so intensive and I was so wrapped up in what I was learning with Zippy, that I did not always pay full attention to what was going on elsewhere in the arena.

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Charles Wilson Improving and Advancing Clinics

24th and 25th June, 2006
Shuttleworth College Equitation Centre, Bedfordshire

Nettie writes about Saturday 24th

On arrival at Shuttleworth the first item on the agenda was to secure a stable for Hal.  This entailed finding a member of the staff to whom I could present his passport to satisfy them that all required vaccinations were up to date.  The appropriate entry was eventually located, (after initial approval of the wrong page!), although there were no checks that the passport produced was for the horse which was to occupy the stable - obviously a very trusting soul!  I still do not quite understand the logic of why we could bring a horse on to the premises and into the arena without a vaccination status check but could not put it in an adjacent stable unless the required paperwork was apparently present.  As there were only four stables for six horses and it was first come first served, I was very grateful I was in time to claim one though.

We spent the first few minutes of the day with a discussion over a cup of coffee, discovering what each of us thought were our aims and our good and bad points, which led on to Charlie's stated theme for the day - balance, both physical and mental.  Then it was into the school to make a start online.  I was slightly taken aback to discover when I entered the school that there was a loose horse in there - at that point I did not know it was Jackie's Murphy, who did not have a stable.  Of course Murphy immediately came over to greet Hal and Cal, who were first in, and Charlie had to send him away while Hal showed off by performing passage.  Fortunately Jackie very quickly appeared to secure Murphy and Hal settled down in record time.  Heather with Harry and Carol with Meg then appeared and we made a start on just getting some language going and the horses listening to us.  Alex joined us a few minutes later with Dancer, having been slightly delayed by having to do the school run on the way.

Hal decided he just had to roll in that nice surface, and unfortunately I was just too slow to get into the right position with the rope, so it ended up underneath his back as he rolled over and I had to let go or risk being flailed by those incredibly long legs.  I could not get round and grab the end again before Hal upped and left, to renew his previously interrupted acquaintance with Murphy at the other end of the arena.  Fortunately Charlie was very sweet about it all and caught him for me and returned him to my care, telling him who was in charge en route, a message which Hal seemed to take on board very nicely.

Charlie then issued us each with a pole, to use in whatever way we wished in order to develop the communication and softness.  I do not know what others did with theirs (presumably not pole dancing though!) as I had all my concentration on trying to get Hal to back up along one side of the pole, move sideways across the end and come forward along the other side, then back again.  The only thing was, the backwards which is so easy at home had somehow become broken in transit!  We had to mend that before anything like my intended move could be achieved, but we got there.  Having done it a couple of times facing one way, we turned around and did it in the other direction, with a different view, which of course set us right back to square one.  However the time flew by amazingly quickly while we repeated this from four different compass points.

It seemed no time at all before we were fetching saddles and the poles disappeared.  I always like to tighten up the girth gradually and ensure all is well before mounting, and Hal certainly showed that this is a good policy, as he decided to have a tiny bucking session online - very half-hearted though, for him.  Charlie suggested that I might like to defer getting aboard until he lowered his head and showed some submission - a suggestion I was very happy to go along with!  However, all went fine after that and within a very few minutes I was tying up the rope into reins and climbing on top.  We then spent a while just establishing that we could stop and turn at will.  Charlie showed some individually how to maintain their weight over the correct side of the horse to aid the turns rather than unbalance them.  There were a few minor distractions - there was a moderate degree of activity outside and those inside could hear horses moving about outside and the sound of running taps/hoses.  We also had doves fluttering about in the rafters, but nothing too problematic.  I think Anne and Cal had a bit more difficulty with them as Cal is more naturally spooky than Hal.  It seemed that as soon as everyone was walking and trotting round happily with the horses going softly and freely forward, but also coming back on a suggestion, then it was time to stop for lunch.

After lunch, Charlie used each of the horses present to illustrate various points of conformation and point out how they affected the horse's ability to perform various activities and how comfortable they might therefore be to ride.  He explained how an upright shoulder, with weight naturally more on the forehand and a shorter stride will be less comfortable to sit on and incur more concussion through the horse's joints than one with a more sloping shoulder and with the hind legs more naturally underneath to carry the weight.  I was slightly surprised however that he did not mention length and slope of pasterns, although these often tend to echo shoulder line in any case.  Hence Murphy, although very kind and obliging, would tend to jar more than, for instance Dancer, simply because of the way they are put together.  All the horses had good and bad points, as would be expected - the perfect horse has not yet been born.  Hal, in common with a couple of the others, has rather straight hocks, although in his case this is offset by the fact that he is very short in the back and naturally carries a lot of his weight on his hind quarters, and uses his hocks actively to step forward and under.  Meg had a rather straight back which made saddle fitting, and especially securing, quite challenging, and Harry was generally a very good sort but had a plain head!

After this discussion of the individual conformation of each horse we went off to practice an exercise which would hopefully help each one's way of going and balance, with a major emphasis on going forward.  The walk must be really marching and the trot must really track up.  For some this would mean lots of transitions to try and get the weight more to the back, for others it might mean bending or sideways.  I decided that Hal's suppleness and attentiveness would be best improved by trotting circles in a shoulder-in position to get him bending round the inside and stepping right under. Charlie was quite complimentary and said how smoothly he was going.  Then, once again, time to mount up, this time with the suggestion that we should consider riding with one rein.  Here begins the hilarity from my point of view.  I have not actually done this before, and I soon discovered that I had far less control than I thought over direction - in fact very little at all!  At about the same time some riders from the Centre started setting up show jumps and jumping, but this caused less disturbance than might have been expected.  I had no problem turning to the side where the rein was, but moving away from it was another kettle of fish altogether.  At one point poor Hal got the loop of rope in his eye as I was flailing it frantically near his face in order to turn him away from it.  We eventually sort of got some turns but clearly some work is needed if we are to make that look in any way natural!  And there I was thinking I rode reasonably well with my body and legs - just goes to show how much we kid ourselves into believing what we want to believe.

The day flew by very quickly, and I was very pleased indeed with how much more quickly Hal settled down and focused on me than previously.   Charlie ended the day with a little discussion of a horseman (Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling) who had classified horses into 26 different character types, and further stated that horses and their people generally had similar characteristics. I cannot remember everyone's type, but apparently Murphy was a 'friend', which I guess confirms that Jackie is a nice person, but Hal would come under 'difficult' - although Charlie later decided to amend it so that Hal and I are merely both 'full of character'.  Maybe I should send him one of those flyers I keep getting at work advertising courses in dealing with difficult people?


Heather writes about Sunday 25th

Charlie's smiling face appeared from the depths of his car to welcome us on another hot and sultry day at Shuttleworth. 

The participants were Caroline with her snowy white probable Andalucian/Lippizaner, Luna, Liz and her personal yellow peril, Nenagh; a newly Parelli Level 1 passed, Diane and the lovely chestnut, Ola; Fabulous Fiona and Dinky Dandy, Sheril and her nearly-four, quarterhorse/Connemara, Woody, and lastly Harry and I - who are not by any stretch of the imagination 'advancing' - but we thought we would 'give it a go' to make up the numbers.

Ever a stickler for a prompt start, Charlie herded us into the lecture room and started with a chat over a cup of tea (aaaaah, tea). Charlie asked us in turn, what would give us the greatest joy and what would be our greatest nightmare with our horse. Then went on to ask what quality in ourselves, we could offer our horse.  Lastly, what our greatest strengths and weaknesses were.

The replies were fascinating and gave a good insight into why the human/horse partnerships are perhaps as they are.

Charlie then summarised our replies and asked us to apply our strengths to our work and be aware of our weaknesses as we progressed throughout the day.

In the school, each person was given a pole and instructions to aim for imagination and lightness in conducting each game, whilst Charlie wandered around, corrected, encouraged, reminded us of our weaknesses, or to play to our strengths, and demonstrated for us.

In a rare moment of relaxation, I watched Caroline who was producing some good stuff once the exquisitely vertically flexed, passaging Luna had finished having a nervous breakdown over the heavy breathing issuing from Charlie's loud speaker!

When satisfied that our horses were 'with us' we were asked to saddle up.  After the initial flex to a stop, disengage on both reins, Charlie wanted us to ask our horses to flex to the inside whist keeping our weight to the inside to enable the horse to melt round our leg.  This was done first in walk then in trot.  As each person demonstrated this it became apparent that for most of us, either the horse flung our weight to the outside, or we 'forgot' to keep the weight to the inside after the first couple of circles.  This proved to be a great exercise for discovering how loose the girth is on the saddle…  For those that had trouble with the horse bracing against the request (generally coming to a stop) Charlie demonstrated that diminishing circles increasing to larger circles and then to smaller ones would encourage the horse to keep the flex going.

I looked up at one stage and watched Sheril and Woody.  It struck me at this stage that Woody was doing everything that the older and more experienced horses were doing.  He was beautifully behaved for such a young horse, which says a great deal about the competency of the owner.

After lunch Charlie took each of our horses in turn and gave us a critique on its conformation.  He then advised and demonstrated the best exercises to improve the weaker qualities.  For example, those with an 'upright' shoulder and consequently a 'pony' or 'choppy' trot tending to lean on the forehand would benefit from more engagement from the quarters, and the use of straight lines as well as lengthening and shortening of the stride exercises.  Necks that were more developed on the underside than the top would benefit from lengthening and head/neck stretching exercises on the circle.  Those with poor quarters would benefit from circling and flexing thus encouraging the horse bring it's legs underneath it and thus use its quarters in a more effective way - and so forth.

Charlie gave us time to practice on the exercises he had recommended.  Following this we were then invited for five minutes of his undivided attention each whilst the others looked on.  He put us on a circle and asked for a flex.  Quite apart from the specific task in hand, he addressed the horse's way of going.  My horse, who has a lack of impulsion and a tendency to be heavy off the leg, had me doing transitions (still keeping the flex and the weight distribution going) with back-up's in between, each time aiming for lighter and lighter phases.  Fiona (who arrived back to a well deserved round of cheers and applause) Sheril and Liz were also encouraged to push their horses forward and step up the impulsion.

We were treated to a short but spectacular demonstration of relaxed horse and rider transforming into a twisting, bucking and rearing rodeo show, all in the space of a few seconds by a freshly bitten Ola and a rather surprised Diane.  It says much for Diane's exquisite balance and stickability that she stayed on.

Charlie gave us so much positive instruction that by the end of the day everyone felt they had really cracked on', we all left with a smile on our faces, but no one more so than Liz, who had reins the length of washing lines and was roaring around at a spanking pace on a very happy and relaxed Nenagh.  It was really a joy to watch.

Another step on the ladder, and with another experience under our belts, we departed tired, hot, dirty and happy.  Great stuff!

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Martha Clinic

June 17th, 2006

Diane writes

I was very apprehensive about taking Ola to another clinic after her objection to going to the Silke clinic in February but I needn’t have worried as she was like a perfect horse.  The morning was devoted to ground skills.  First of all Martha got us to work on the last four games to warm our horses up and so she could see how we handled them.  She said that Ola responded by a suggestion and so we were going to work on moving her with a feel which I found really difficult at first but it was amazing to see how quickly she picked it up.  The first task was to move the horses near side front hoof to tread on the savvy string that was by the off side front hoof whist standing a metre in front of them.  Ola’s norm is once moving her feet she can’t stop moving them and Martha explained to me that it was because she was on her shoulders all the time so I had to make sure that she was up off her shoulders before asking for that one step sideways at a time.

Next, we did short circling.  This involved holding the rope about a metre from the halter and sending the horse around first at walk then trot with feel on the rope.  This was really interesting with Ola as it showed up how unbalanced she was and how supportive it was to her to show her how to find her balance.  Another task was to move the horses front feet only on a circle one step at a time.  All these tasks I found really difficult to start with but when I set Ola up correctly they became really easy. 

After lunch was the ridden work.  The main objective with all the horses was to get them off their shoulders as we all had the same problem.  We started by warming up on a large circle.  This was not only for the benefit of the horses but for the riders as well, to get all the joints oiled and supple as if we were stiff it would reflect in our horses.  We worked on trying to remember to lift our body first before asking for a forward flexion to lift them off their shoulders and to keep the inside hand higher, all things we know we should do but forget, well I do anyway.  Then we practised our backing up and sideways all things that helps to get the horses off their shoulders.

I enjoyed the day enormously and felt that Ola and I achieved a lot and I would like to thank Kate for providing a great venue and all those much needed drinks on such a hot day.

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Ken Faulkner ANH Clinic

May 16th to 20th, 2006
Fleckney, Leicestershire

Kate writes

The venue in Leicester was only about an hour and a half drive with the trailer and Daisy was happy to stay inside while I made up her pen.  After feeling sick with worry about all the logistics, never mind the actual horsemanship, I soon realized there was no need for concern.

Debs put the gorgeous Eric in beside Daisy and I reckon it took her about 3 minutes to come into season.  The class was a real mixture of people, some had done quite a bit of ANH with Ken before, there was one total novice and 2 newly started 3 year olds, the one that was started at the Shuttleworth demo and the other that was started the night before at a demo in Leicester.

The novice was a very nervous lady in her 60’s with a bargy little pony, she even had to be helped to get it from the field into the ménage – I thought she would never last.  But the transformation of her and her pony was a joy to see, the lady tried really hard and the pony got beautifully soft.  I don’t think anyone felt held back by her and we were all rooting for her and being as encouraging as we could be.  At times she was so frightened it was as though she couldn’t even hear Ken but she came through it, Deb’s confiscated her Pelham bridle and eventually she was riding along with the rest of us.

We spent the first 2 days on ground skills, but with an expectation of a Level 4 feel, there is no end to the different combinations of how these can be done and I never once felt like we were covering old ground.  The circling game was mind blowing with all the different ways to speed up, slow down, turn quarters out and in, get elevation and lengthening.  Even Ground Skill 1 was a revelation, first of all we were told not to do it first, this is because when we came into the ménage obviously most of the horses were a bit on their toes so we moved them around to the extent that each horse needed.  Daisy was circled long and short, lots of sideways and back ups from all angles, front, side, back, more circles until she decided I was worth listening to.  Only then was it even worth doing Ground Skill 1 (friendly game).  This was done at all times with soft feel and I began to remember all the times I’d done it with Daisy hard as a plank and me still flicking the string over her achieving absolutely nothing.  Sounds obvious now.

There were no ‘no go’ areas, if we needed to use the end of the ménage we did it and the horses just had to get over it.  I’ve also had in the past a fear of riding with others in a ménage as Daisy would harden and flatten her ears, I felt I had no control and was worried she’d back into another horse.  If your horse did that at the clinic you were told to discipline it by using your rope on it’s neck, after all how can you expect to be Alpha when it’s your horse that’s deciding where to go and who to stand next to.  So we had to immediately ride very close to the horse our horse had decided to not like and if we didn’t discipline it the other horse’s owner could, after all why should their horse risk a kick.  When we had tea breaks we were all desperately looking for willing souls who would hold our horses so we could get a cup of tea (thanks Heather, Carol, Sam etc), so that they would stay still and not bother the other horses but by the end of the clinic Ken would just say ‘right park up’ and we’d get off and walk away leaving the horses wherever we were standing and when we got back they were still there.  Amazing!  Suddenly I was important to Daisy.

Martha and sometimes Mick rode on the clinic too which was really useful because you could ask them for help or copy them if you got stuck and Martha gave us a little demonstration of Spanish walk and the beginnings of passage and piaffe.  Her dedication and expectations of herself and her horse are amazing.

Ken rode Daisy quite a bit showing some sliding stops, spins and fantastic turns, she was quite naughty at first and made some worryingly convincing attempts and curling herself right up to bronc and leaning right over on her shoulder to evade his feel.  There was no pussying about with Ken, her just made her go forward and rewarded every effort. I thought putting his western saddle on her was a bit much though and told him it was like putting Victoria Beckham in a track suit.  He didn’t agree. All very complimentary but when you get given back a horse that’s as soft as butter only to make her hard with Ken shouting at me ‘ Kate you’ve made my horse look like a dog again’ it’s embarrassing to say the least. But we just have to remember he does this for a living so he ought to be good.

A few things to remember:

  • The first 10 minutes of your ride are the most important. Spend the time getting them ready – if they’re not soft go back a few paces ‘till they are don’t just carry on.

  • The last ten minutes of your ride are your first 10 minutes next ride.

  • Don’t expect to get at home the quality you got here, with all the support and intensive training. Just practice what Ken’s said and it will all come together.

I can’t possibly relate to you all the amazing knowledge that Ken showed us but I feel I’ve learned so much. Ken’s teaching is first class, sensing when you’re getting emotional and stepping in, when you need to be left alone to work it out, when you need to move on.  He’s available to ask questions anytime at lunch and breaks and is sociable in the evenings.

I’ve had an enormous amount of fun and the organisation was great thanks mainly to Alison our host who also arranged things to do in the evenings like a Pilates class and a demonstration of Spanish Horses and a talk by an equine dentist all of which you could go to or not what ever you liked.

I’m back again in August for more along with a few of you guys, the South East Clinics are all so full they might have to put on a 3rd next year so if you didn’t get a place this time you might next year. Good Luck.

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Charles Wilson Improving and Advancing Clinics

14th and 15th January, 2006
Meldreth Manor Riding Centre, Hertfordshire

Nettie writes

Saturday,14th January

There were six of us on Saturday for a highly informative day with Charlie.  Two of the people were new to our group and indeed to natural horsemanship.  They were Chris and Julian with a pair of young Haflingers.  The rest of the party comprised Liz with her wonderful piebald cob Henry, Alex with old hand Whisper, Heather with her new partner Oz the ex eventer, and myself with opinionated Hal.

Initially, we were simply asked to move around, backup, do some circling and disengage to establish that in fact the horses were paying attention.  We then moved on to leading around the arena, where the horse was to match our movements and not take charge or overtake.  If the horse overtook or turned on halting, then we were to back up and repeat the exercise until we could walk forward, stop, step back and every time the horse would softly halt or reverse with us.  Hal appeared not to be feeling quite right, and said he needed to roll repeatedly.  Charlie said it was OK for him to roll if I told him when and where!  Having been given permission, Hal rolled repeatedly.  He was also a little warm considering the degree of activity, and also his pulse was perhaps slightly faster than expected, although that might have been due to the emotion of being there at all.  A little later we tried some lateral flexion from the ground – an exercise which Hal and I have always found incredibly difficult because Hal firmly believes he cannot possibly achieve this without moving his feet.  The idea was to work both sides equally but Charlie expressly asked me to put myself on my horse’s right side more often as Hal kept wanting to get me back on his left, despite having been led from either side all his life (well, since 13 months when I got him).  In fact, after a few minutes he did settle for me being on his right but still had to have several more rolling sessions before lunchtime.  He seemed to feel a little brighter just before we broke for lunch and seemed OK when I put him in the stable although he only picked at the hay supplied.

During the afternoon session the focus this time was on how we sit and how it affects the horse.  We began the afternoon with some more online preparation, playing with some obstacles which Charlie had set up.  These included a ‘trailer’, cones/poles, parallel poles, a small jump, a mounting block and the only instruction as to how we used them was to use our imagination and to move around and use different obstacles.  The mounting block proved interesting for Hal and me, as he was very reluctant to come up close to it and stand still with me on his right although he was quite happy to do so if I was on his left – the usual side for mounting.  Then it was time to mount up.  Hal actually managed to stand still for 20 to 30 seconds before moving off, which was in fact a first for him!  We then walked around the arena, with emphasis on disengaging the hindquarters by use of the focus, body and leg aid, only using the rein last and if necessary.  The general idea is that it is body focus that directs the horse.  When (?if!) we could do it in walk, we could try trot.  Hal ended up doing lots of walking around, with small circles in different areas before trying for straight lines, as although I find setting the direction relatively easy, I find control of the pace considerably less so.  Only when Hal was then really settled could I try to do it in trot.  We therefore stayed on very small circles and only took a few strides in trot, although repeated a number of times, as Hal tends to run on and get faster otherwise.  Chris and Julian kept their Haflingers online for the whole day because they are young and not yet backed, or barely so.  Liz did only a little while mounted with Henry because he was very unfit, having not been ridden since November.  Heather seemed very relaxed and confident with Oz, a very nice ex event horse and appeared to be doing so much, most of which I did not really see as I was concentrating so much on what I was doing myself.  Alex was working to perfect some detail in order to get softer and lighter, and this appeared to be working much better than I had previously seen.  From my own point of view, I was very happy with what appeared generally to be breakthrough in Hal’s security and ability to concentrate and the audience only felt in danger of being jumped on by him on one occasion!  Or perhaps it was just because he was not feeling 100%.  Anyway, he seemed fine the next day though, so whatever it was must have been fairly transient.



Cathy writes

Sunday,15th January
Present: Sheril & Zippy; Fiona & Dandy; Vicki & Charlie; Liz & Claude

Online work
Everybody warmed up for 5 to10 minutes.  Charlie commented on how all the horses looked pretty relaxed.  He talked about the three ‘Ts’: Taming, Training and Technique.  He commented on the fact that all the horses were Tame and we were working on Training them. Technique could apply to ourselves as well as our horses.

Charlie talked about how a horse can learn to carry our weight through self carriage.  The horses’ back is like a suspension bridge and we sit in the middle, ‘saggy’ bit.  We can help the horse by asking it to transfer more weight onto its back legs. How successful we are at this will depend on the horse's conformation and age – if the horse is stiff and un-athletic it will find it more difficult.  Horses that are naturally ‘uphill’ (withers higher than bottom) will find it easier.  To teach the horse on the ground to shift its weight back, Charlie asked the group to ask their horses to change direction on the circling game on the 22ft line.  A good HQ yield is essential – get this really good on the 12ft line before progressing to the 22ft line.  Disengage your horses HQ by walking towards them – don’t let your horse come in towards you.  Once the HQ are disengaged lead your horse in the opposite direction with a direct rein. Use supporting rein (carrot stick) if needed.  The horse should change direction by rolling over its hocks.  Get this good at the walk and trot first – then when you do it at canter, you should get flying lead changes!!

Charlie said it was important to mix and match – if you do fast, high energy stuff, then alternate it with concentrated low energy exercises.

Next Charlie asked people to back their horses in a circle.  Have about three foot of rope and think of it as a bamboo cane.  Ask your horse to take up the feel in the headcollar and keep it.  Direct the horse around the circle by using a direct rein to place the front feet.  Or, if you can, use an indirect rein to steer the backend.  People then backed their horses up in a straight line but from different positions – ultimately asking their horse to back up from steady pressure on the tail.  To begin with, use the wall of the school or fence to help keep your horse straight.  There was a question from the audience that they had stopped teaching their horse this because they needed to pull on the tail for physio treatment – so they didn’t want their horse to come backwards in this instance. Charlie suggested playing the yo-yo game with the tail.  Then you can teach your horse to go forward whilst you holding the tail.

Ridden work
Charlie got everybody working on a circle and gave them an exercise to help their horses engage their HQ, come light in front and get lateral/vertical flexion. See Fig.1, below.

Fig. 1

Imagine the horse’s front feet on the inside track and the horses back feet on the outside track.  The horse should be bent around the riders inside leg. If the horse has trouble with this to begin with, start off by asking the horse to go sideways and then lead the front end around with the outside rein.  When you get good at this, try it with the other bend and along a straight line. NB watch where your weight is in this exercise; it’s easy for it to get thrown to the outside.

Next was riding without reins – Charlie made sure that everybody had a good stop and back up before they were allowed to ride forward.

Back-up without using reins: Look up and sit up – take a focus way out in front of you.  Don’t hunker down as this will make it difficult for the horse to use its back.  Suck your stomach muscles in and put your legs slightly forward and weight in the stirrups.  If your horse doesn’t backup from this, maintaining your position, create some rhythmic pressure with your feet.  Phase four would be lifting a rein and giving a sharp upward bump.  When teaching the horse, reward the try, which may be just a shift of weight backwards.  Once you’ve got this good at a standstill – do it from a walk, then trot and canter! If it all goes Pete Tong, go back a stage.  Riding without reins : FOCUS !!


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Potton Cross Country Course

22nd October, 2005

Vicki writes
See the pictures

Sal and I arrived at Potton about 15 minutes early to supervise arrivals and make sure the venue was happy.  They had arranged for us to park in the field due to the high number of trailers expected - in actual fact it turned out that only Carol and I turned up in trailers, Estelle and Fiona on foot with Dandy and Seanog.

Carol and Mac arrived with Amy and Clare, and Terry who did a sterling job as photographer.  We unloaded and put their boots on , I always like to use brushing boots if jumping solid fences as you can't be too careful!  We went up to the top of the field to warm up the horses on line before popping them over some of the smaller jumps to start with.  Sal did a fab job of trying to keep Charlie's focus on her as he was particularly excited and poncing around on the end of the line with tail in the air and some lovely elevated paces along with legs from both front and back end often leaving the ground altogether.  Quite interesting to see!!

We started by popping over some of the small fences of which there is a good variety including, tyres, steps small bank and a variety of different fences, all rather solid.

We all went off and did our own things with plenty of space to move the horses around.  Charlie started to settle and Sal and I made our way round the course over a selection of fences pretty successfully on line with only a couple of let goes.  In hindsight, it's better to do this with a line longer than 12ft but not quite as long and bulky as the 22ft line.  I found that a light weight lunge rein worked best for me.  A couple of times Sal and I jumped over the fences rather unathletically ourselves to keep up with the horses.  You certainly have to keep your focus on where you want them to go otherwise it leads to not having a good line into a fence which Alfie, I will say, is good of getting himself out of and jumping any slightly non perfect angles whereas Charlie will tend to stop if you're not spot on with your positioning.  They were going well and Charlie, who doesn't like going down slopes, (think this is a balance issue - doubt racehorses ever really need to go down slopes!) managed well and soon got the idea and was popping down them and over the pole as if he'd always done it.  We worked our way round and Amy got on Mac and was flying round the course and looked fab.

Sal and I were quite happy working on line so decided with 15mins or so to go we would make the most of this as a confidence builder.  We popped them over a couple of the bigger open fences in the far field which, although pretty solid, the boys flew over without too much problem.  Alfie really doesn't bother too much with respecting a jump unless he is working in canter when he jumps very nicely, just needs a bit more impulsion I feel.

Estelle and Fiona in the glimpses I caught of them, as always were doing nice soft light work with Dandy and Senog who seemed happy to do what they were being asked.  I'm sure Dandy would make a fab jumping pony as he can certainly lift himself over the fences well!

Our hour was up before we knew it and we realised that we hadn't done the steps so we took the horses over to these where they all navigated them well. I just managed to avoid getting jumped on top of by Alfie but both him and Charlie were happily jumping up them and down them, which I must say is a bit of an achievement from Charlie as this is something he has had a real problem with in the past.  The next test will be if we can do it all ridden next time ...

I think everyone enjoyed themselves, I know Sal and I did.

See the pictures

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Charles Wilson Improving and Advancing Clinics

1st and 2nd October, 2005
Meldreth Manor Riding Centre, Hertfordshire

Fiona writes

Sunday was a day that I'd been dreaming of for the last two years and to be honest I think Dandy is finally happy that he can start to trust me more and let me be leader.

We started off with some groundwork.  This was good.  Charlie got some of us using the 22' rope, which is actually quite heavy when you're used to the 12' rope.  Dandy still tries it on with me and knows exactly how far away the carrot stick will reach. He makes me have to step towards him to get a decent Phase four and then I have to start again and ask him to go out.  He's a lot better than he was.  At least once you've got after him a few times he will stay out there for a while, but then the trick is to ask him back in before he gets bored and tries it on again.

Charlie decided to get us to line up on the centre line between B and E facing A.  We then had to disengage so we were in a straight line. Now we had to stand on their nearside and ask them to walk sideways to C.  This was quite good as Seanog was in front of us, so Dandy didn't try to walk into him.  Then back again to the centre line.  Then Charlie re-arranged us, so the same people weren't by the wall.  Poor Vicky and Alfie were still in the middle.  Alfie felt a little claustrophobic and didn't want to go sideways with us all.  Charlie then made Vicky get Alfie to do it all on his own while we stood there.  This was actually good for us as Dandy was in the corner with his nose to the wall so I got to practice telling him to stand still where I wanted him to stand.  I must admit, having a smaller horse going sideways is an advantage as I can see over Dandy's back, which makes my focus a lot easier, when I've tried this on Seanog and had to stare at his back it made it a lot more difficult for me to keep a decent focus.

It was great seeing Charlie riding Dandy, especially with the one rein riding, which we hadn't done since Charlie's clinic last October!  Charlie didn't want me to chicken out and have two reins, so he got on Dandy.  Charlie showed him what a support rein was and even though Dandy tried to rebel and react, Charlie just patiently, persisted and Dandy agreed and did as asked.  Dandy didn't over-react, just tried to disagree, but no signs of bucking or anything.  Charlie managed to get a couple of nice support reins, but still needed the belly of the rope as a back-up for the majority and called him a little tinker for still trying it on with him, but that was okay I could cope with that as a starting point.  I then got on knowing that Dandy could do it with a little persistence from me.  We did it! Then we did it again.  I even got a few without the belly of the rope being needed as well.  The support rein is great as it stops Dandy falling out through his shoulders and makes him make a nice turn.  I think it also means that you can't pull, which is always a bonus.  The one rein riding is certainly an eye opener.  The fact that you can ask them to do anything and they do it is amazing.  Like Liz said, the HQ yield with the rope on the other side was great.  Admittedly, I cheated as I know once I've got the flex with Dandy he'll do the yield, so when he didn't listen to the leg or the support rein, I smooched and clicked my fingers, which made him flex, so then do did a great HQ yield with the correct leg aid.  Maybe not quite correct, but we did it. T hen once he did it once he did it again without the smooch.

After lunch Charlie had set us out a few tasks, one of which was five trotting poles on the ground on a circle.  Charlie got us to do it one by one.  After everyone had done it wonderfully it was our turn.  I knew my hardest problem was the circling game, let alone the poles.  We started on a nice circle and Dandy warmed up and was going reasonably forwards so we went over the poles a few times, now to change the rein.  This is when you realise you're all ropes and fingers and thumbs.  With the rope in the right hand asking Dandy to go right, the carrot stick in the other.  Phase one, two, three, now hit.  The savvy string was caught.  I usually get it tangled with his legs, but this time it wasn't coming free.  Somehow I'd managed to wrap the string around Dandy's tail, who then clamped it in.  Rope in one hand tight, carrot stick stuck in the other hand doing now a rushed trot.  I thought what do I do?  I tried to full the carrot stick, but this only made Dandy rush forwards, so I thought I'd have to disengage, but with no spare hand I couldn't work it out as when he tried to disengage he pulled the carrot stick in my left hand.  Luckily after half a circle I was then able to really pull the carrot string loose.  How embarrassing?  Back to learning how to play friendly with the savvy string I feel is needed for me.  Then Dandy went on do some lovely trotting over the poles.  At least it got him moving forwards!

The small jump was another of Dandy's party tricks.  Instead of jumping an easy pole, Dandy decided he'd cut in on the circle and jump the pole, block and another pole used to guide the 22' rope, making the jump much larger than need be.  Okay lets try again.  This time I asked his shoulder to move away, no, my fault still not lining Dandy up right.  Let's make the rope shorter, now we're at about 9', the carrot stick ready to be used on his shoulder and me looking for the line of the jump, yey Dandy jumped the pole.  Now we've got to do it again to show we can jump smoothly, yey we did it again, perfect.  The aim was to be able to stand with our back to the jump and the horse should carry on around and jump it.  We're definitely a long way away from that, but at least we jumped it on a circle.  As Charlie said, Dandy certainly makes me work hard for his reward.  Other horses would have given me the benefit of the doubt and jumped the jump, but Dandy has to make sure I ask him correctly and get his line perfect or else he will show up my failings!  That might be a little critical, but what a horse to learn on.

Then it was time to tack up and get on again. This time we're allowed two reins. Dandy started to get a little nappy as we tried to go to the C end of the school without the others, but I kept my focus, kept breathing and tried to keep going.  I thought I'd pushed it a bit, so asked him to turn a circle.  Dandy now rushed forwards to turn to the others and get back to them.  Usually I'd disengage him and try to get him to relax, but this time I went with him and asked Dandy to do a full circle, which he did and then when his back was turned to the others he was a lot more relaxed.  This just shows that I need to trust Dandy, allow him forwards and just go with him.

There was only one point that I thought I might get off and that was when the horse in the paddock next door went charging around.  One horse in the stable the other side started squealing.  Seanog got a bit emotional.  I kept breathing did a flex one way, then the other and Dandy lowered his head again.  Seanog clammed up, so Estelle got off and told him off, but Dandy just stood there, so that was definitely a winner for me.  So next time I can think of that and remember how good he was with all the commotion around him.

I am most definitely on a high and can't wait to get on Dandy again.  Of course when I go to see him I still have a few doubts, but as long as I get on with it and have Estelle telling me to get on with it I will be fine.  Thank you everyone for your kind words.  It is very surprising how just feeling a little more confident and having your pony that bit relaxed how much you can improve.  I see everyone else riding and when things come up against them, they don't let it phase them and just ask their horses again, that's how I'd like to be.

There was so much that was done, but I can't think of much more at the moment.  Hopefully Liz's notes will remind me of lots of the other tasks completed.

I even think Charlie enjoyed teaching us Sunday.  I think he even thinks we're improving. I know he said on one exercise that Estelle and Seanog were nearly perfect and then he said that Tanya and Flo didn't have to do the exercise again, which was his way of saying it was perfect. Charlie seemed to just give us suggestions and then help us if we got stuck or give us a few hints on how to improve.  That's the sort of teaching I like. It gives you a chance to show what you know, use it and then improve on it.

Gosh I feel happy.  Maybe I might be up to a little jump on the cross-country course.  I know at one point when Charlie was making us trot very forwards and Dandy's little legs were going like the clappers I thought he might do a stride of canter and I would have been fine with that (with certain egging on from the audience), but Dandy kept trotting, which was great.  It's with days like that that make it all worth while and make you remember what it's all about.

Thank you to everyone else for the organising and all the support and thank you for reading all this. I will make sure I read it again when I'm feeling a little less confident.


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Naturally Horses Le Trec

17th July,2005
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Estelle and Fiona write

It was a really hot day but the horses still looked keen.  We started by having Carole’s great sandy school all to ourselves while the others started on the gate task (luckily we got out of that one).  Dandy found it a little difficult moving on the deep sand, but it will make him stronger and work harder.  We then thought we’d better catch up with the others who were about to start the slow canter and fast walk task.  We started walking both ways, with Fiona riding behind on Dandy.  She then led back in a walk.  I then had a lovely canter up the row of cones, first time to canter on him for over a year now, so very pleased, and a lovely walk back.  We then had to weave in and out of cones, we were supposed to be in canter, but to keep Fiona and Dandy happy we walked first.  Then I managed to trot in and out of cones and finished off with a lovely hour hack, which to my surprise Fiona rode for most of it. 

The orienteering was certainly exciting.  We had to walk down the edge of a farmer's field (which Carole has kindly got permission for us to use), then Fiona dismounted to show us how to get across this huge ditch.  I rode it with Ely kindly taking me gently over.  Unfortunately we lost one of our fellow riders who’s horse hated ditches.  She then sped off to go the roadway around to meet us half way across the field, this meant David had to run and get the key for his gate.  While walking through the field we noticed at the top of the hill Nins (Nenagh) and Claude looking down on us wondering who had given us permission to enter their field.  We slowly walked on to the gate awaiting our fellow hacker.  Nins told Claude to move on and have a word with us, but we kept deep breathing to say that we were not worried by them and we were supposed to be there.  Then, while waiting, our horses had a few words.  I was pleased to be on foot and then I covered Ely and Estelle from Nins who decided she didn’t like him.  David then opened the gate and we were all in the field ready to continue.  David also told the others that we were fine and they left us to carry on walking.  We then passed some cows, who were luckily the other side of the field and half of them were lying down.  I hid Dandy behind Ely, so he would stop to think about them too much as he’d never met them before.  They were the brown variety and not the black and white sort, so Dandy didn’t get too confused!  Then, after the field a little look at Carole's made I got back on.  We rode down a little road.  I then got asked if Dandy was a donkey!  Just because we were the little cob in between the Pure Arab and a huge thoroughbred cross.  We passed some pheasants, which were quiet, then saw a Red Kite, of the birds of prey variety.  By then Dandy was getting hungry and kept diving into the grass banks to munch.  Then, just as we were on the last stretch, there was a killer trunk across the pathway, so I just got off and led Dandy over without too much trouble.  At last we were back at Carole’s to have a rewarding drink. 

Thank you Carole for letting us use your facilities and all your organizing, so much was put in to it all.  We’re sorry we didn't manage the longer ride it was so hot and Ely was quite sweaty when we got back.  I am sure deep down they enjoyed their turn out or should I say the first hour until Finn realized he was sharing with them.  Dandy has been very well behaved and runs away from a light phase, so thank you.  Ely recovered as soon as we gave them a bath when we got back. 

Also, thank you Pippa for making sure we didn't get lost on our hack and putting up with us you made it even more enjoyable.   See the pictures

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Charles Wilson Improving and Advancing Clinics

25th and 26th June, 2005
Meldreth Manor Riding Centre, Hertfordshire

Nettie writes

Having watched (and videoed) a previous clinic with Charlie, I was keen to come with a horse.  However, due to various injuries to myself and horse, we have been unable to ‘get it together’ for quite a while, leading to Liz accusing me of inventing my ‘mythical’ horse!  Well, we got to Meldreth for Charlie on Saturday 25th!  I may of course now have to rename Hal ‘March’, as he came in like a lion but went out like a lamb.

After some very impressive passage and even piaffe, Hal eventually agreed to tone down his exuberance to a walk.  Not until I (or Charlie!) starting pushing his quarters around would he agree to stand still for a even few moments.  After going round the ‘class’ to establish what we all wanted out of the day’s activities (turns out we were all pretty much in agreement – confidence boosting in assorted situations was the underlying theme, with a few minor variations and add-ons).  The first exercise for the group (I had to do some other stuff before that in order to get any attention at all from Hal) was to use the halter to ask the horse to lower its head, a calming exercise because of the endorphins released when the head is lower than the withers, followed by doing the same thing using our hands on poll and nose, and then leading the horses by using hands only, not halter.  We also asked for a slight flexion in a similar manner. 

Another very valuable exercise was walking around the edge of the arena and halting, the idea being that the horse walked at our pace and halted when we did without pressure on the halter.  Those horses which did not halt immediately were asked to back up.  I found this a particularly useful exercise, as although Hal will certainly halt with me, and indeed walk backwards with me at home, I had not achieved anything of the sort away from home – he is more likely to overtake me and turn round to face me.  We also walked and trotted with a hand on the horse’s back, necessitating our being beside the horse’s body rather than its head or neck.  This produced some interesting results, and in my case a serious case of being unable to see where I was going as I cannot see over the top of Hal!

There then followed a division into two groups, one working on their sideways and the other circling, until lunch time, with the two groups swapping over after lunch.  The level and variation of sideways was stepped up with Vicki doing a fantastic demonstration of sideways in a figure of eight, requiring Charlie (her horse, not the instructor!) to move hindquarters and forequarters at different speeds to achieve this.  One of the aims of the circling was to get the horse to give a ‘handshake’ by lowering the head on stopping.

Most of the afternoon was devoted to riding, with a strong emphasis of leaving things alone when the horse was moving calmly forward in the right direction, and only intervening if they were not.  There were a couple of interesting moments, the best spectacle being Vicki giving her customary unusual dismount (how many more variations do you have up your sleeve, Vicki?) and sliding off Charlie over his rump (OK, so he was vertical on his hind legs at the time!). Becky and Finnegan did a quick run for cover down the middle of the arena at one point (I think he was running away from Hal, who was trotting towards him at the time, but not too sure), and Hal did a similar if less determined run from Dandy, for no reason at all that I could discern.  I actually find directing Hal around an arena without reins pretty easy at home, but was absolutely delighted that we were able to achieve something approaching this in company – my main difficulty is that he is so sensitive and emotional in company and to have him calm and focused by the end of the day was an absolute thrill.  I cannot say how delighted I was with him for this alone.

Fiona did a solo turn towards the end of the day, and was an absolute star.  Dandy is so good looking, but Fiona has had her problems with his manners in the past, and was understandably worried about being asked to push both him and herself beyond their usual comfort zone.  However they were trotting briskly round in circles with great aplomb and looked fantastic together so I hope she is also delighted with what she achieved.

I hope I gained some clues from the day as to how to become the sort of leader that my horse can feel secure with and will therefore be less uptight when we go out.  We will of course have plenty to practice until the next time.  On Sunday I went back as a spectator/auditor, and videoed a few highlights.  Apart from Alex with Dancer and Kate with Daisy, the group was composed of entirely different people and horses from the previous day.  There was much more emphasis on the ridden work, using a single rein whereas the Saturday crowd had had two reins, and a couple of them even wore bridles although I am not sure if they actually used them.  There was some initial play on line but as soon as the horses were settled people mounted up.  Some were on board sooner than others, and Katy had to spend a while longer on the ground with her big mare before she settled and started to listen to her leader.  Dancer decided she was being unfairly treated by being asked to do two days, and was generally communicating her feelings pretty clearly.

An interesting exercise was getting the horses to move one foot at a time, followed by actually placing a single foot on a target, generally the carrot stick, with the leader several feet away at the end of the rope.  Wow!

We were treated to a wonderful display of backing up between poles with the lightest of reins or even no reins.  Tanya and Sheril particularly impressed me in this task.  In fact they impress me generally. Sheril is so unobtrusive and so effective yet so modest and self-effacing – if I can be like her at some future point I will be well pleased.  Tanya also is always a joy to watch with Flo as they have such good rapport.  Another rider I would particularly congratulate was Liz, who when I saw her last was quite anxious every time Nenagh moved in an unasked direction, but on Sunday appeared perfectly relaxed and happy, although she kept going off at all sorts of tangents.  Liz’s confidence has clearly grown so much in the intervening months.

Later in the day, the pace sped up, with everyone circling around each in opposite directions, thus getting the horses constantly meeting and passing each other.  Some were more accepting of this than others!

The final exercise of the day was cantering a circle and round the arena, which from where I was sitting, went extremely well, even if Daisy (I think it was her) definitely had a preference for one lead over the other.

Many thanks to everyone who was there and made it great fun and turned a blind eye to misdemeanours on the part of horses and their people, to Liz who did the organising, to Row who as always made sure we were all fed and watered, to Royda for allowing us the use of the premises, and of course to Charlie, who not only spent two whole days instructing us, but also rode each and every horse through the weekend.  I look forward to the next time.

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Norfolk Beach Holiday
Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd May, 2005
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Gillian writes

As an outsider I should have been worried about who I would be spending time with at Norfolk but the contact with Heather through e-mails seemed to put me at ease. 
The organisation was so slick everything seemed to happen without you even realising it ,which made the break so relaxing.

Enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and so did the horses with my old horse Jackson having a field with his loved one Phroebe all to himself. 

Experience was brill with cantering Phroebe the first time for more than eight strides along a deserted beach.  She is so comfortable. What a relief! 

Can't wait to do it again.  Fun fun fun.  Gillian

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Vicki writes

I had been excited and worried about the Norfolk trip for weeks; my worry being the three hour tow up the bumpy old A10 from Buntingford to Kings Lynn and beyond.  We stopped half way and poor Alfie was shaking in the trailer but, once we were there, we unloaded and put him into his paddock for the weekend and he seemed relaxed and happy and as if he'd been there forever.  We arrived early, greeted by Heather and, once Alfie was settled, we checked ourselves in to the fab B&B and then went off for a nice lunch in the pub waiting for the others to arrive.  By 3.30ish we were all there except for Sam who arrived a bit later on in the evening. 

At about 4pm, we took a wander down to the beach with our horses on line.  What fun it was.  We had to cross the scary golf course and onto the path between the dunes whereupon the beach opened up into an amazing area of beautiful sand and a vast horizon.  We walked down to the sea and let the horses sniff at the new smells and start trying to dig for Oz , or that seemed to be Whispers intention anyway!!  We spent a good hour or so with all the horses eventually going into the sea quite happily and splashing around, it was great fun and we all got extremely wet.  The skies blackened and we decided to leave the beach before a great storm was upon us which proved to be a good idea as it poured with rain about half hour later. 

We all went for a fab meal that night and it was great to have our husbands and boyfriends involved in our exploits.  

The following day was Heather's show piece, the 'Norfolk Games', we met at the field at 8.30am and some of the men went off to play golf, others stayed in bed!  

We made our short walk to the beach where the tide was right out in the distance and we set about on the games that Heather had organised.  There was a wide selection testing all our skills and with wellies full of water and sand, Heather and her loud hailer announced Carolee and Mac were the supreme champions of our games.  They were awarded with a cup and there were lots of apples and chocolate to go round.

We had lots of fun and I decided to hop on bare back for a bit until Alfie saw something rather exciting in the distance when I decided to hop off again sharpish before I fell off. 

We then all did out own thing and I decided to take Alfie for a ride along the beach on my own so went back tacked up and then took him out for a fantastic long canter and gallop along the beach and through the water running back to sea.  It was a fab experience and something I have always wanted to do.

I headed back just in time before the heavens opened.  Horses back in the fields Andy and I headed to Hunstanton for some lunch ...  Nice cafe but a rubbish place, particularly in the rain.

Later that day some of us went back to the beach again but tide was coming in fast so we played and paddled for about an hour before returning to the fields where the horses went back with their playmates and we all went for a very nice dinner and lots of wine.

Andy and I set off home early on Sunday as he wanted to go and watch the Grand Prix.  We had a fab time and look forward to next years escapade. 

Thanks, Heather - I think the pictures say it all!  Vicki

See the pictures

Carole writes

Driving back from Norfolk two Sundays ago I was on cloud nine.  We had had a brilliant time.  Heather had found fab place for us all.  The photos, showing the horses on the beach show how much fun we all had.  (Thanks everyone, especially Simon.)  For me the highlights were filling my wellies with water as Mac made sure I went into the sea at least as deep as he did, riding on my own in a strange manège and riding on the beach on Sunday morning.  It was very windy that morning and I was desperate to keep calm, especially as there were on other horses with us (only Terry to record the moment on camera).  The whole weekend boosted my confidence 100%.

However, just outside Ely on the busy A10 on our homeward journey disaster struck.  I suddenly looked in my mirror and saw one of the trailer wheels rolling across the road.!!! PANIC  But luckily I have insurance and thanks to ESS (Equestrian Support Services) Mac travelled the rest of the journey in style in Julie Magnus`s enormous lorry.  Thanks, Sam, for stopping to help us.

But life is a strange affair.  After such a wonderful weekend, on the following Tuesday evening my world was turned upside down.  My lovely Welsh cob mare developed colic. The vet couldn't help her and sadly at midnight she was put to sleep.

Our horses give far more than to us than we can ever give to them.  Carolee

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Ken Faulkner ANH Clinic

17th to 20th May

Kate writes

I arrived on the Monday night with Daisy to find I wasn't the first there, a girl called Cassie had beaten me to it being there 2 days early, she looked as nervous as I felt and made me a cup of tea in her caravan.  It was good to make a friend.  The horses were in electric fenced paddocks that we made ourselves, there was loads of space and shelter from hedgerows.  Val was our host and lived in the farmhouse next to the field, she was very laid back and welcoming, she encouraged us to make our paddocks as big as we wanted.  Other people slowly started to arrive and were sleeping in a combination of tents, horseboxes, caravans and even an old van.  I was the only one who had booked into the B&B down the road, there was no way I was going to spend an intensive five days outside without a few comforts - like a bed.

The next morning Ken came to meet us in the breakfast tent and then we all made our way to the small paddock that was to become our ménage for the week.  There were 13 horses and handlers and a smattering of spectators; we started to do a few basic ground skills while Ken worked his way round and met all our horses.  Everyone had done some form of Natural Horsemanship, except a young girl called Tracey who was handling a halter and line for the very first time, she had a four year old Arab and she didn't have a clue; she made a sawing action with her arms and said she always rode like that. Tracey spent the five days looking bemused, confused, frustrated, then slowly the lights switched on for her and she became excited, studious and finally overwhelmed with the experience of the five days.  She even got the sack from her job as she had only booked on for the first two days but stayed for the whole week.  Other people were quite advanced.

On one side of our ménage there was a field of cows that Daisy decided were terribly dangerous, her attention drifting away from me, Ken was trying to explain the finer points of moving the shoulders when Daisy exploded rearing and pulling back.  I moved away from the others and sent her on a circle, I could vaguely hear Ken shouting instructions at me and when I got her back together he called me over and took her from me.  That was the beginning of the Daisy show.  From then on Ken used Daisy for every demonstration for the next two days, I had lost my horse but at least I could see how Ken could influence what she did with her body.

I'd like to be able to give you some instructive tips to use on your horses but my brain is scrambled, I'm afraid you just had to be there.  With every five minutes that passed, Ken packed fascinating, easy ways to communicate with your horse; it all made so much sense, I understood everything and could see it working, understand why it was working.  I only hope that I can remember just a quarter of what I heard to have some hope of putting it into practice.

We spent the first two days doing ground work and on the third morning we did some liberty.  I think we all did really well; eventually all the horses had no halters on and were happy to do as we asked most of the time.  Daisy went backwards, forwards, sideways, in a circle around me (that's hard), and trotted towards me, even with all the distractions I lost her only a couple of times.  In the afternoon everyone rode except me because Daisy kept tightening up so Ken rode her.  It was good to see her being as naughty with him but eventually he had her trotting around and she carried him as though he weighed no more that a feather.  That was one of the most amazing things about Ken, the horses changed underneath him.  Big square cob types looked almost Thoroughbred, Cassie's skinny, weak looking Thoroughbred looked strong and brought her back up perceptively to meet his almost non existent aids.  As Ken rode he talked, there was no mystery, everyone was delighted. 

Ken is as good with people as he is with horses; he expects a lot, doesn't accept whinging but can see when someone just doesn't get it.  Debs shows a lovely picture of Ken with Cassie when she just couldn't get her horse to listen to her, he took her hand in his and didn't let go till she had made some progress.

The fourth day was spent with liberty in the morning and riding in the afternoon, I rode and it was great having Ken there giving instructions to us all.

On the last day it rained so hard, but someone asked Ken if he would ride all our horses in turn, evaluate them and give ways that we could carry on with their progress at home.  It was interesting watching how he changes things for each horse, we broke for lunch. I wasn't sure if he'd bother with me and Daisy as she'd already had so much attention but while every one else was still eating he put his hands on my shoulders and told me to go and get tacked up, he knew we had some unfinished business, I still wasn't riding her forward enough and needed some help.  We got into the ménage and the heavens opened, but I thought, well if he's prepared to do it in this I'd better be, so I sent Daisy in some circles checking my lateral flexion, it started to thunder, then lightning, I could hardly see through the rain.  Ken came over and said it was no good we had to go in.  I was wet through to the skin but disappointed, I knew I'd missed my chance.

We all had a talk in the barn then said our goodbyes to Ken.

It had been a hard week, we had watched each other go through a roller coaster of emotions.  I was so proud of Tracey and Cassie and others who had made fantastic progress and worked really hard, I couldn't stay to say goodbye.  Will met me outside the barn and I told him to just keep on walking till it was safe for me to blub in private.  I can't stand crying in front of people, it's so humiliating and my face swells up, it's not a pretty sight.

Unknowingly to me, while I was packing up my stuff, Will went and spoke to Ken and before I could regain much composure Ken was standing in my trailer and I was blubbing again, he wiped my tears away and told me how well I was doing and gave me some more tips for the future.  I had learned a lot but felt I had achieved little in my riding, missing that last day because of the weather had been a real blow to me and Ken knew it.  Will told me later he asked Ken whether we should just get rid of the 'bloody horse', is the challenge too big for me as I was too stubborn to see it myself.  Ken said no, I could handle Daisy, it would just take time.  This is my horse, my challenge and I'm more determined than ever to keep going. It's going to be really hard but I think I can do it.



Debs writes about 19th May, and see her pictures taken at the clinic

Ken started off doing some liberty work with Daisy, although sadly I didn't get any of pictures of this.

Here are some bits that I got from the liberty demo: 

  • Your draw is one of the most important things you can introduce to your horse, without it - you've lost your horse.

  • You don't want your horse to move his HQ away because he's scared you spank it, you want him to want to give you his nose.  The two things are very different.

  • You want your horse to really 'get' what liberty is, rather than him just performing a series of linked 'tricks'.

  • Horses that lack impulsion have often been over-faced with gear or tack that is too strong early on in their training.  The key to overcoming this is to go back to basics with the halter and find the impulsion and not throw more tack and gadgets at the problem.  You need to get your horse's muscles to turn loose to what you want in order to get him to be motivated to give you your desired outcome.  If I gave you some money to go to the shop and buy yourself some sweets, the way in which you walked there would be very different than if I asked to go to the shop to get some sweets for me knowing that I wouldn't share them with you. 

After working with Daisy it was everyone else's turn to play with there horses at liberty at whatever level they were at.  Some went to liberty straight away, others played online for a bit.  Whenever there was a loose horse everyone else had to drive the loose horse away (discomfort), back to the owner which was the only place the horse could find comfort. 

After lunch, Ken and Couscous did a display of ridden work with no saddle and bridle.  Couscous has only ever been ridden using ANH techniques and was backed about 4 years ago. 

This is some of the things I got from the ridden demo.

  • Lack of impulsion = handbrake half on and horses ears halfway back.

  • "Direct Rein" is a misnomer - it should really be "Direct Leg".

  • Collection is absolutely nothing to do with the reins and everything to do with the horse engaging his belly muscles, pulling his HQ in underneath him and standing up properly on his shoulders so he can then stretch this topline.  The topline stretch comes last in this.  Pulling your horse's nose in so he looks like a turtle is not collection.

  • Backup comes from bringing up your life and directing it backwards, having an image of a horse backing up in your head, and pulling your belly button to your spine which will make you sit slightly more on your back pockets.  Only after then should you begin to suggest and then aid with your feet.

  • As you are, so will your horse.  If you want your horse to walk with stiff legs then ride with stiff legs (Ken then did a demo of Couscous walking with stiff legs).  Hold your shoulders square with your horse's shoulders, or how you want them to be.  Your hips talk to your horses hips.  If you want to turn, make like you are walking the turn with your own body, point your toes in the direction of the turn so that you legs make a corridor down which you horse can be guided.  This lines all your muscles up and enables the horse to easily turn in that direction.  Weighting the inside of the turn using your calf or seat bone, serves no purpose but to make it difficult for the horse to lift the inside shoulder and turn properly.

  • When you are not communicating with him you want your horse's ears to be forward looking where you want to go. 

Ken then proceeded to give an amusing demo of how he could get couscous to bring each individual ear back as much or as little as he wanted.


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Maisie`s Birthday Party Ride and Picnic

15th May

Mac and I arrived safely at Sunderland Farm, having followed Row`s excellent instructions.  The long drive up to the farm was most impressive and the electric gates even more so. Vicki , Tanya, Liz and David were all ready there.  While we were settling our horses and getting them used to riding around together, Fiona and Estelle arrived with Chip and Eli.  Herbie (Maisie`s buddy) was surprised to see another diddy pony to rival him in the ahhh category !!!! 

We set off to a chorus of "It's not going to be like last year!!!!" and me thinking quietly to myself "If it is, I'm getting off ".  Alfie led the way and was happy to be in front which kept him calm (apart from later on when Flo had to show him it was safe to cross the wooden bridge in the gap in the hedge). We had a pit stop and graze which also helped to keep them calm while we waited for Debs to catch us up on foot.  There were some strange noises coming from the back from Liz or Nins, or both.  It was a beautiful day and the country side was fabulous.  On the way back through Sutton we made a diversion to cross the ford.  Liz was really chuffed that Nins went through but our fun was causing havoc with the traffic so we headed for home.  Along the last track, Maisie decided to show us that she was still quite capable of choosing her own speed and direction!!!

We got back to the farm.  The riders were tired enough in the heat so poor Fiona, Estelle and Debs who had walked all the way must have been really kn*******.  I was just elated to have stayed so calm for so long.  We were out for over two hours and we walked the whole way !!!!

Kate, Nicky (Sunny`s mum ) Sam, Jackie and Magnus joined us for lunch when we toasted Maisie Flo and Alfie with bubbly and cake.  Despite being hot and sticky, we rallied ourselves for pass the parcel and then a wicked version of an egg and spoon race . This was done at liberty walk and then in trot.  Some people managed it; others held on to their horses, some held onto their eggs and some held on to both!!

Thank you Maisie for a brilliant day I suspect Row did something to help you organise it, especially the weather.  The power of positive thinking ?? 

Cheers to all, Carolee

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Potton Cross Country Course

16th April, 2005

Vicki writes
See the pictures

We all arrived at Jays Farm in Potton a little early to ensure we got there for 2pm.  It was a nice day.  We avoided the killer dogs that were kennelled up but we all had the feeling that we hoped they couldn't get out as they were very aggressive - good guard dogs, I sure wouldn't want to be a burglar on the receiving end!!  The owners of Jays Farm came out and briefed me on what and where we could and couldn't do and go.

The days participants were: 

Tanya and Flo
Heather and Goldie
Carolee and Mac, with Amy and Clare, her two daughters
Vicki and Alfie
Fiona and Dandy
Estelle and Chip

We headed off in our halters and lines to the sand piece of open arena at the top of the field to warm up a bit before we took on the fences.  All the horses settled well, as usual, and seemed to really enjoy being in a new place as I think it added further interest.  Alfie wasn't quite with me initially and was busy looking about but once we popped over a few jumps his focus was more on me and what are we doing next?

Its difficult to say too much about what individuals did as it is quite a big space and we all went off and did our own thing.  It was quite difficult to jump the horses on-line over the fences without trying to clamber over yourselves as they had a tendency of wanting go straight off afterwards.  It proved my disengagement needs some work on it.  I managed not to break my ribs when Alfie jumped over a fence far bigger than I could and I just managed not to let him go the other side but was right at the end of the line.  Everyone looked like they were having great fun people and horses alike.

We drew a bit of a crowd as the venue's owner and his wife and a neighbour came to watch our madness and afterwards he said they had never seen anyone doing this on-line before.  Not sure whether he was impressed or just thought we were as mad as his dogs!!  (Fiona comments: The chap opened the gate and I though he was going to turn us away.  He said "Where's your saddles?"  Estelle said we were doing the jumps on-line and he opened the gate with surprise and scepticism.)

After a while some of us decided to saddle up and do some ridden work although not in our halters, we opted for bridles. Three of us rode while the others played happily on-line. Liz and David came and watched and were on photo duty so we wait to see the results of our exploits.

I had great fun on Alfie and, although he at first was a bit reluctant to go away from everyone, we were soon popping around over a variety of fences and jumping some of the bigger options with ease; Mac was also flying along with Amy on board.  Tanya very sensibly took things a bit easier with Flo, which was a wise move as she was being so good and did not want to upset the apple cart.

By 3pm I think we were all exhausted and we went back to the trailers to load up and head off home.  The owner seemed to have loosened up a bit and you could even see the start of a smile on his face.  I said we'd be back! 

This is defiantly a venue for future events and I will make enquires whether it would be possible to hire for an afternoon's playday in the summer.


Heather writes:
See the pictures

Well, that was the best afternoon's entertainment I have had for ages.  What an eminently silly thing to do.  The owner was so astonished to see people jumping over jumps beside their horse - instead of on top of them that he, his family and a few neighbours came out to watch specially.  I think it gave the old boy such a laugh that his rather stiff demeanour when we arrived had creased into an eye watering all over grin by the time we left.  Clearly he thought we were all short of a few marbles.

Big Ginge and I had a terrific time heaving ourselves down ditches and over banks in between himself running off to sample the clover (thanks for the retrieval service, Liz).  My husband wanted to know why my blue shirt had tyre tracks all over it.  I told him it was where Ginge and I attempted to jump a load of tractor tyres together.  He cleared it and I didn't.  Ruined it is.  I think I have a whiplash injury too.

By the time we got back, Fatso was ready for his bucket of carrots and I was more than ready for my bucket of gin!  Oooooh me feet!  The pain ... I'm still laughing.

Great fun and thanks so much for organising it, Vicki.

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Jayne Lavender
NH Clinics

26th and 27th February, 2005
Shuttleworth Equitation Centre, Bedfordshire.

Vicki Austin, who attended both days with different horses, reports on what she can remember, as her brain is in overload now!!

It was so nice to have Jayne Lavender back with us once again, as she has been very much missed.

Saturday 26th of February (Beginners and Improvers) was a very cold day.  I was praying that the snow held off on Friday night so we could all get there safely.  I arrived a bit early alongside Alex whom had the misfortune of following me driving very slowly most of the way from Buntingford.

We put Charlie and Whisper into their stables and went and had an essential cup of tea whilst everyone arrived and sorted themselves out.  We all met in the tea room before proceeding to the school with our horses for our day of intense instruction!

As usual, most of the horses rolled as soon as they were inside the school and my horse Charlie proceeded to jump up and canter about on line having a buck and letting off some steam as well as some air! - they all seemed in high spirits and it took a while of moving them all around to start to get them all settled and they then all chilled out fairly quickly.

I have been trying to rack my brains on exactly what we did to start, as I am on information overload, but Jayne soon said that, although the class was for beginners and improvers, there was nobody there who was actually a beginner; nice to know we are all progressing!  My friend (yes I do have some!) Louise was watching and hasn't been to a clinic for a while was impressed with the progress that had been made.

The main objective to start was feel on line and the rein positions on line so we could apply these to the riding.  Direct , Indirect and Support Rein; Jayne reiterated how important this was to get right before we got on.  The use of the indirect rein is basically a half halt so you can either ask a horse to slow down or stop with a move of the hand with the nails facing up.  The indirect rein is used to get the horses hind leg stepping underneath, either to slow the pace or go down a transition i.e. trot to walk, or just a slow in the pace.  She then asked us to try and get a change of pace within the trot by doing this and combining it with a direct rein for an extension in pace but not necessarily speed.   When the horse is doing what you want go back to a support rein and leave them alone.

We worked on quite a lot of circling and sideways trying to get the horses to take a feel on the line.  It turned out to be very hard.  We played around for quite a while and we did some horseless exercises as well, which were particularly useful (any non horsey spectator would have thought we were seriously nuts!); with one person holding the halter and the other the rope, we shut our eyes and the handler used varying rein positions to give instructions down the line, and it made us realise how confusing our signals must be to our horses.  A wiggle down the line done in a certain way can actually feel like asking for a forward step when actually we want back up. It became more apparent how precise and clear we need to be with what we want and how easy it is to ask for something completely the opposite to what we actually want.  Hence the horse sometimes comes forwards when you actually think you are asking them to go back - poor horses!

We also had a bit of fun with the circling, starting with two people standing back to back and passing two horses around us - Charlie and Dandy did this well to start.  We then introduced Daisy and Kate and had a few successful circles with the three horses together.  Pile ups ensued when one decided to turn and face us.  We realised how sensitive Daisy was as moving the rope just a fraction differently made her disengage and face in causing the others to hurriedly stop before piling into her.  It was a darn site harder to do than it looked!!  Caused much amusement.

We introduced an extra element to the circling game by hanging a spare line over the horses back leading up to almost long reining with the rope draped around them.  Some of the horses, like Dandy, took to this easily along with the ever graceful Daisy; Claude was a bit unsure of it but Charlie was desperate to buck off this snake like creature.  He was fine until it reached his kidney area and then it had to die.  I learnt a lot from this other than how to avoid getting kicked in the head, Sam reminded me to do a small amount at a time and quit before you get to the bucking.  We sussed it in walk but now need to build this up until he is happy to have the rope around him in trot and canter - more desensitisation required, I feel!

After lunch, we got onto the riding, after moving the horses about with their saddles on, and for me, not having done a lot of ridden halter stuff with Charlie, it was really useful to reiterate a lot of the work we have done before.  We started with the crucial getting flexion to left and right with a support rein and then eventually getting it buy using the calf only and not the reins.  We are not looking for a complete bend round in the neck.  Flexion can be as small as an ear turning in the direction you want.  Jayne said that over flexing means the horse is not using its poll but the other vertebrae further down the neck and it is the poll where we are looking for flexion.

The flexion to the side eventually leads to vertical flexion.  Once this was OK we practiced it in walk and trot with the use of an indirect rein to get the hind quarters stepping under to prepare to slow down or a change of direction.  We did lots of circles and changes of direction.  Jayne also got us using a direct rein to move the front end over and the suggestion of imagining a thunderbirds figure with a piece of string attached to each leg gave us a good idea of how a rein should influence the movement of a leg, almost picking up the individual leg and moving it.  This can be practiced on the ground and then applied to onboard.- and isolating each movement to one step at a time.  Tricky.

I wish I had more time, facilities and memory to take it all in and then practice it all at home.

By the end of the day, we were all knackered and it was freezing cold - everyone seemed to enjoy it and said they had learnt a lot.  The spectators also seemed to have learnt a lot, too.  Personally, it was good for me and Charlie to cover some stuff we had done before and add some new ideas in.  I just wish more of it would sunk in; from each clinic, a small amount seems to stick.

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Sunday 27th February - (Advancing)  An even colder day than Saturday but gloriously sunny with a heavy frost first thing.

Alfie loaded well luckily enough and we got there at about 9.30am - there were a few new faces on this clinic as well as those from the previous day.  It's always good to see new people to the group and think that everyone, whatever their previous experience, took a lot of homework away from it.  Alex and Whisper and Kate and Daisy were gluttons for punishment doing two days in a row on the same horse and the horses had a sleep over at Shuttleworth. 

Whisper was feeling rather hormonal the next day and decided that Alfie was particularly attractive along with any other male in the school.  Poor Alex had a job on her hands keeping her in hand but she did a great job and Whisper was a lot calmer later in the day - maybe the spring is on its way.

The usual suspects where there along with some new but experienced faces.

Row brought Maisie, who unfortunately seemed lame so she was taken home at lunchtime but Row returned to spectate and help poo pick (the best way of keeping warm!) and to help with tea - she's always such star.

Anyway, we started the day with Jayne telling us we would be riding in Cherokee bridles by the end of the day - What, are you mad? - No she wasn't mad, it did happen for most of us at the end of the day without too much trauma.

Jayne asked us to get our horses used to the string in the mouth first thing in the morning so by the time came in the afternoon they would be adjusted to the feel.  With much spitting out we eventually had these fastened just the right way to ensure they were not tight nor pulling, but enough to stay in attached to the halter whilst we did other work in the morning.  Again we concentrated mainly on the horses taking a feel and again found it very very hard.  Getting backwards sideways and back and front end yields with the horse taking up the slack on the rein is very very hard and sometimes they fake it as well.  This is one to work on and we could have spent all day doing it.

We swapped horses for a while to see what we got by working with others.  I always find this very beneficial.  I worked with Zippy, Sheril's lovely Arab, and found her very light and responsive, I tried with her the same as I did with Alfie but she responded very lightly and easily where as Alfie had his usual 'if I have to but your going to have to make me' attitude.  We got onto riding fairly quickly and started with all the flexes and then on to one rein riding, which I always find hard.  We concentrated on our indirect and direct reins and after lunch progressed to using the Cherokee bridles.

This, though it sounds scary, I personally found to be easier than I thought it would be.  Alfie responded quite well and Jayne remarked that we should not hold the string by our finer tips as if it would break but to take a feel.  We practiced our direct, indirect and support reins like this and nobody lost complete control, which showed we were doing better than we probably thought we would do.  The main problem was changing sides with the Cherokee bridle, most of us had to get off to swap sides and re put it in the horses mouth. There must be a knack of doing this from on board but I certainly couldn't do it.

Later on, towards the end of the day, we did the fun bull fighting game, which improves your indirect rein and stepping under and then your direct rein to hopefully move the front end round smoothly.  Timing, as always, is crucial to ensure the horses moves freely round and not grinding onto the forehand to make an awkward turn which seems to happen quite a lot at this stage.  It seemed to be that horses falling onto their forehand was one of the main issues to come form the day and something we need to constantly work on correcting.

To finish the day, we tried liberty.  We started off with the horses on a loose line and perfecting our draw and moving front and back end and getting the horses to stick to us.  This worked well to start and very well for the majority.  We then took the horses halters off and tried the same.  Most of the horses stuck with their handlers despite their being 11 horses loose in the school; quite amazing if you think about it none of them really galloped off and messed about too much.  Alfie, who decided I was very boring and according to Jayne wanted to find fun elsewhere although nothing dramatic from him, he just mooched off to do his own thing and occasionally decided to come back to me and bite me for good measure - this is what he does with Charlie in the field when he wants to play.  Jayne told me to go back to a loose line and up the anti a bit which seemed to work.  He made people laugh however with his usual nonplussed attitude and is a horse who things defiantly need to be made challenging for - Jayne said a similar thing to Kate about Daisy; they need to be stimulated to keep their interest and not get into the rut that I have with him.

At the end of the day, the main emphasis for us was practice and practice but to keep it exciting and challenging for both us and the horse.  Roll on the dry weather when we can have a field to work in again. 

Phew - I hope I have covered everything here . Overall I think everyone enjoyed themselves and took a lot of homework away with them!

I hope I haven't missed anything vital and, if I have, feel free to add your comments in.  (Please send an e-mail to

Roll on the summer camp when we have the pleasure of both Jayne and Charlie.

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Christmas Playday

Sunday 12th December 2004
Shuttleworth Equitation Centre, Bedfordshire

See more Christmas Playday pictures

The instantly established Annual Christmas Playday all started with an email from Fiona outlining plans for an unusual December playday.  This was loosely based on traditional gymkhana races, however, modified to include making full use of all the seven games of NH.  The response from the members was terrific so Liz swung into action and booked Shuttleworth for the afternoon.

Naturally Horses Christmas Playday 2004

Reading the email again, it suggests that fancy dress would be optional.  I wish I had paid more attention to the 'optional' bit.  Goldie and I arrived seasonally attired as Santa and Rudolf.  The outfit took me hours to make - at the expense of the more pressing tasks, like wrapping pressies and writing cards.  To get the Rudolf-effect red nose on Goldie, I bought some scarlet lipstick, (which my husband eyed with hopeful interest at time of purchase) and drew a big red circle on his soft pink nose (Goldie's, not my husband's).  Red and white fur leg wraps, rug, bells, antlers and tinsel completed the picture.

I am in no way a seamstress as the unexpected disintegration of my Santa's trousers so effectively demonstrated, and to add insult to injury we were the only ones in fancy dress.  Still, we won a bottle of wine for the 'best costume' which helped in some small way to anaesthetize the embarrassment.

First was the Tack race.  Put the saddle on without moving your feet; ride/lead to end as fast as possible; turn the horse to face the other way with his tail to the cone at all times and race back.  This was hysterical, as the horses sensing something was up would not stand still.  There was an interesting choice of swear words issued from most unexpected quarters followed by hundreds of blurry legs shooting to the other end to meet the cones.  Well, cheating or what?!!!  If anyone in my heat managed to keep their horse's backsides to the cone, I will eat what Maisie had left of my Santa's hat.

Who has ever been to a winter's playday or clinic and been warm?  We were.  This phenomenon was just unheard of as horses and owners alike puffed and laughed their way through a variety of just plain silly to highly cunningly thought out races.

We had some fairly spectacular surprises.  For instance, the 'back-up' race stars were Julie on her ex-racehorse, which, if not ridden exactly naturally, could still have given Paula Radcliffe something to think about.  Chris and her lovely grey 'King' were very good too, backing with precision and at a good pace.  This combination also gave us some good entertainment in the 'silliest dismount' and performed impressively in the 'Chase me Charlie' race.

The apple-bobbing race was something else.  After a normal egg/apple and spoon race, the apple was deposited in a bucket of water and the horse had to eat the apple.  Simple enough one would think.  Therefore, why is it that a stomach on legs will not recognise food when it is floating?  Several interesting methods for encouraging the horse's head into a bucket of water were observed: the 'head down' method; the 'porcupine down' with various degrees of insistence and finally the head being unashamedly pushed hard into the murky depths.  NH was in severe danger of being overtaken well and truly by the competitive spirit.

Chips was the megastar superhero of the Jumping.  This little Grey Shetland jumped what many horses three times his size failed to do.  He did it with as much style and panache as a top-flight show-jumper would have done.  Dandy surprised us too.  The little coloured pony has certainly got a 'pop' in him - which could be channeled to good effect, Fiona!  There is little doubt that the eternally graceful combination of Vicky and Alfie jumping the 3'3" won the day for the most heart-stoppingly joyous performance.

Still on the subject of jumping, a word or two must be said of the soulful and substantial Claude.  Claude is 17.2hh, I think.  Big anyway, with plenty of bone, polite and looks as if he is slightly surprised at being asked to take part in such base activities.  Darling Claude made absolutely no effort whatsoever to jump anything.  He just did not bother.  It was far easier to plough straight through in a determined and gentlemanly manner.  He may of course have been confused by which handler he had at the time.  The one with the legs that could jump houses and give Bengal Tigers a run for their money or the more reserved but careful one with the frilly hat that encouraged him with love every inch of the way except upwards.  Wonderful, and utterly delightful to watch.

I always think that Ginger is a great colour.  Ginger animals have that certain special and enigmatical 'something' that other colours do not possess.  Sonny Jim is bright 'ginge'.  This was to be Sonny's pre-retirement appearance, and he lived up to his name.  Sunny and bright were each and every one of his performances especially so the 3'6" which he cleared with the very able guidance of Kate, his pilot.  His ears were pricked and he loved the game.  Soft feel went right out of the window as his blood and tail rose in unison to this his final challenge.

Row, resembling a frog littered mushroom patch topped off with a Christmas hat complete with blobble (which Maisie showed every sign of wanting to eat) was doing a quiet but sterling job of undermining the opposition.  Row was the one listening to the instructions whilst everyone else were laughing and talking and I noted the steely glint in her eye as she weighed up the competitors and her position within the group for best advantage.  No unnecessary frivolity for Row.  Maisie, when she could tear her mind away from demolishing the blobble on my hat, was of much the same opinion.  She raced, sashayed and jumped with the best of them.  Not bad if you happen to have a kissing spine.

Carolee was an excellent score keeper and kept us in order amidst the hilarity.  I should imagine that, as good looking as she is, that she was probably once a hockey mistress as it was very much a case of 'right girls, orff we go!'  Without Carolee and poor bruised and battered Tanya, the proceedings would probably have dissolved into total chaos.

We overran our time and at 4.30 we 'formed a horseshoe' for the prize-giving.  Estelle received the Naturally Horses Annual Challenge Trophy for gaining the most points and Kate and Chris tied for second place.  Thanks were given to the organisers.  Everyone got a prize; a bit of chocolate or some cakes kindly baked by Fiona, and all the horses got an apple (and a bit of cake and chocolate) as well.  In honour of the occasion and with a tear in one or two of our eyes we sung 'We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year'.

A great and magical way to finish a fantastic year.


See more Christmas Playday pictures

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Charles Wilson
Advancing Clinic

29th and 30th October 2004
Shuttleworth Equitation Centre, Bedfordshire

Cathy and Loops describe their experience

I've been a spectator at several clinics organised by Liz for the Cambs/Beds ANH lot, but never had the opportunity to join in before.  I thought I was going to miss out again when Sheril rang me the Wednesday before the clinic with the news that Jayne had had to rush back to Oz - 'quick, ring Liz', she said.  Well, Liz did us all proud and pulled Charlie Wilson out of the hat - many thanks to both for pulling out all the stops.

I was the first to arrive at Shuttleworth on the Friday evening and settled Loops into his stable next to an 'ordinary' horse.  Loops took about 30 seconds to decide that his neighbour was way too daft and spent the rest of the weekend ignoring him!  Hardly slept a wink on Friday - just too excited at the prospect of spending two quality days with my horse (am I sad!!).

Charlie got all of us stepping outside our comfort zones over the next two days, although at the time I didn't realise it (which would be a good thing).  On the Saturday we played some games on the 22ft line and lots of ridden work.  Charlie's individual advice and feed-back was invaluable.

Everybody gathered around Row's on Saturday evening for a great Chinese and chin-wag.  Many thanks for your hospitality, bed and great shower, Row !  Oh, I found the sandwiches I made for lunch - they had slipped down underneath the car seat !

Halloween dawned and Loops and I donned our grim reaper costume in honour of Jayne. Charlie had us doing lots more ridden work, which is what I really needed - direct, indirect reins, lateral flexion, back-ups and carrot stick riding.  After lunch, Charlie had us all play with one another's horses - very interesting and good fun.  I'll never forget how light and responsive Foxy was.  Being a big horse, I just assumed he wouldn't be light on his toes - how wrong I was.  Sam has done a great job.

A brilliant weekend was finished off with a game of bull-fighter and steam trains- great laugh!

Loops and I got home that evening absolutely cream-crackered but very happy and I was Soooooo pleased I had hired a lorry and didn't have a trailer to clean out - all I had to do was pour myself a drink and reflect on a brilliant weekend!!  Once again, many, many thanks to Liz and Charlie and to everybody who attended the clinic and made it such great fun - the best way to learn.

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Jayne Lavender
ANH Beginners and Improvers Clinic

9th and 10th October, 2004
Shuttleworth Equitation Centre, Bedfordshire.

One person's viewpoint 

Before every clinic I give myself plenty of time 'just in case'.  I always seem to need it and this was no exception, but for a very different reason this time.

During the summer I had a self-loading horse that would trot up the ramp with no halter when asked to and stand there for as long as I wished.  I then taught him how to reverse down the ramp by holding his tail and yo-yoing back.  He has now decided that reversing is the greatest thing since sliced bread and no sooner do I load him than he reverses at high speed.  It became a toss up as to who was going to win.  Him reversing, or me slamming the ramp shut first, much to the amusement of the incoherent with laughter onlookers.  My loading game is not only broken but shattered into tiny pieces and needs fixing a.s.a.p.  We did make it to the clinic on time - but only just.

It was nice to see Jayne again.  She genuinely seems pleased to see everyone and treats us like friends she has not seen for ages.  She has a very pleasant and relaxed way with her.  Unusually for an Australian, she understands that we British do like the odd cup of tea and require refills at regular intervals throughout the proceedings.

Refreshments over - and all of us approaching the day with high expectations, we entered the new arena on our first day.  We were not to be disappointed.

It is difficult when one has had such a magic time not to gibber, but here goes:

Jayne's theme for the two days was firstly, 'feel' and secondly 'ribs'.

After Jayne's last clinic, we was expecting to be asked for a snappy back up.  Not so, she asked for a three-speed backup concentrating on feel and direction.  After a while, it became quite obvious that most of us were asking for more effort and forgetting to stop asking when the horse was complying.  'Nagging' in fact, making the horse dull and unresponsive.

We were then shown, after a backup on a short circling game, how to push the horse's ribs away and using feel, tip his head slightly towards you thus bending him round the circle.  The concept is easy enough to understand but it is very, very difficult for the untutored eye to see when the ribs need encouragement to bend away.  Practice is the answer.

Sideways towards us was a new concept for most.  The method being to position the horse next to a wall.  Stand next to the horse's head facing him.  Hold the snap.  Tip his head away from you so that he can see the carrot stick.  Suck in belly button, reach over his back and do 'rib up' small circles on the offside, increasing phases as necessary.  As with all things, quit when he does it right for the first time and don't keep nagging.

Claude - 17.1hh Clydesdale x TB x Zebra at Jayne's clinic

Following lunch, we were mounted after the appropriate warm-up and Jayne offered to ride anyone's horse that the owner did not feel comfortable riding first.  Kate's 'Daisy' was ridden and we had a good demo showing how to shift the inside fore to an almost sideways movement when asking for a flex, at the same time asking the ribs away from the direction of the flex with the calf. Good stuff.

Following on from the theme of 'ribs' at the halt was 'ribs' on the ridden circling game.  This was great.  Half of us dismounted and took the mounted rider's horses for a circling game at the walk, and, if everyone was comfortable, a trot using the same principles as on the ground.  It is amazing how one can start to feel what the horse is doing when the responsibility of speed and direction is taken away.  Several people swapped and rode different horses.  It was very interesting to note that the rather anxious owners of 'problem' horses happily laughing and trotting around on other peoples 'problem' horses with no control, possibly giving credence to the theory that trouble exists only in the mind.

Balance of the rider in conjunction with body language is crucial to the way a horse is going especially round corners.  To get us all balanced and the horse following our body language correctly, we were asked to balance a carrot stick over our two outstretched hands in support position with thumbs up and over the stick.  For instance: to turn left, the stick must be raised with the left hand and pushed slightly forward with the right thus preventing the human body collapsing on the side of the turn and enabling the horse to step under without hindrance.

Sideways was brilliantly explained.  To go left, imagine a drawer being pulled out of the left hip.  Eyes front and focused on an object, then close with the right leg.  Simple but so effective.  We had horses sashaying all over that school in no time.  All those gorgeous, plump sideways bottoms reminded me of Hawaiian dancing girls on a sunlight sandy beach - well, forget the sunlight - we had the rest!

Backups were similar.  Focus, suck in belly button, imagine someone pulling a pony tail out of the back of your head (do not use your seat in a downwards motion as it will block his back - his back needs to be lifted to perform the maneuver), ankles forward and back and if all that failed, use the reins once and drop - or so my notes say.

There was so much that was new to me and I loved it, and more to the point, so did my horse - especially when Jayne went for his quarters with a stick, then when she got a yield, drove the head away, whilst we were doing indirect and direct reigns.  His ears were pricked and he could not wait to have another go.  Scary.

For me, Jayne is the best.  Her explanations are excellent and she pushes us on and constantly challenges, but remains within each and everyone's comfort zone.  It is so cool to have some new stuff to practice and some new concepts to contemplate.  Brilliant stuff.  If anyone drops out of the advanced course at the end of October, I want to be first reserve and b****r the Barclaycard.  I simply can't wait for more.

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A few personal observations from Alex

The main impressions I came away with were refinement, consolidation and a true understanding of where I am supposed to be going with all this.  Jayne's explanation of the horse having to wear the halter and to get the horse to do this through feel was so well dealt with that it was blindingly obvious and really we only weren't able to do any task well because we had not got that right.

It quickly became apparent that most of us at one time or another had not taken up enough of a feel and were confusing slack contact with lightness.  The single most important thing Jayne showed me was how long my rein contact should be.  Only when that was right could I get on with the ridden work and, as I am incapable of controlling my rope well, I was introduced to riding with it in my teeth at one point!

I stopped riding earlier in the day on that last day than on other courses, not because I had had enough of Jayne, but because the tuition had been so comprehensive that I felt I had so much to work on, to improve on, ready for the next chunking with either Jayne or Charlie and that I wanted to be ready for that next stage.

The people on the course actually also make it such a pleasure to learn and this includes the audience.  I found that seeing someone with similar problems and overcoming them really helpful and the politeness of everyone in the arena to each other when riding around a welcome change from the last Snetterton course where it was mayhem and if you couldn't keep up then you had to get off.  This is where Charlie and Jayne really have the gift of group teaching.  Everyone felt they were being taught individually with the pleasure of group participation.

The individual horses also did so well and it is inspiring to see their development.  Dandy, of course stole the show at every opportunity and I would find it a little flat if he didn't do something! 

The tea was very nice too!

Two more comments:

I realize that I had not fully understood how to move each horse’s leg separately from the ground by changing the feel on the head collar and I well remember hearing murmurs of "ooh yes” whilst we did this aspect and I would be very pleased if anyone could put up an explanation of that.  

To anyone who may doubt the necessity of following the very good advice and teaching, I did a little experiment on Sunday.  I did not do any natural work at all before riding Whisper and this included just tacking her quickly in the stable and getting straight on.  I also walked her straight off as well without my usual sit for a couple of minutes and relaxing.  Indeed, as I used to do it when I first had her and as she had done in lessons.  The time on horseback to get her to listen was much greater than the ground work would have been and the quality of the ride was poor.  Immediately, on asking for trot we went back to our horrible arguments and total leaning on the rein (I was in the halter with the rein tied as double).  She presented me with the same problems I had when I went looking for natural horsemanship and I had no front flexion!  What to do?  Answer (as I had no dressage whip to back up my seat and leg and no instructor to yell instructions): Either get off and do the ground work, but that would leave Whisper having won the trot again; or go through everything I had learned this summer at the clinics.  I did the latter and after 30 minutes! I had a circle of acceptable trot and could finally get off.  I won’t bore you here with what I did but it was a combination of Jayne, Charlie and some Parelli passenger lessons and it does really give you the tools to fix a well established problem.  Charlie’s supporting rein tuition and personal teaching on Whisper were invaluable in getting her off the fence.

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Charles Wilson
Australian Natural Horsemanship
Pre Level 1 and Advancing Level 1 Clinic

Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th August, 2004

One person's viewpoint 

After a month's worth of intermittent torrential rain and thunderstorms, the day dawned grey and overcast on the first morning of the clinic.  It certainly did not look too promising as I pulled up into the eternally beautiful Willow Tree Stud's yard for the first day. I was at least an hour too early after an easy trail and unloaded the macs, wellies and waterproofs. 

Charlie had also arrived early after a 4.5 hour trail in his horsebox from Yorkshire.  I asked him if he had brought a horse with him and he said 'no, the box was the only transport left', as his wife wanted the car.  He was a warm, relaxed and friendly person whose evident sense of the unconventional greatly appealed to me.  I liked him straight away. 

Charlie likes to teach small groups and requests a maximum of six people per session.  Fortunately for the pupils, there were only five people booked on the first day but only four turned up.  This was a good start as we were assured of plenty of individual attention.  This was to prove the case throughout the two days.  Charlie divided his time equally between us all and had the most extraordinary and unerring eye for people's weaknesses.  After every task he set us, he gauged the individual performance and asked us, for instance, to take one step - for those who had a problem with life down/buzzy horses; to do a complete circle for those who had a problem with life up/lazy horses etc.  He made us do it properly and did not stop until he was satisfied.  Mmmmm, it became plain that one could not 'fluff it'.  This man knew

Alex's horse, Whisper, had an attitude problem with reverse gear.  When Charlie took issue with Whisper other problems became apparent.  Whisper had no respect for humans and kept running through Charlie and trying to barge him out of the way.  The problem was tackled head on and if one method did not work then he changed tactics and made her move her feet in another way until he had her respect.  I guess this took around 20 minutes to address.  But is was addressed.  As with all other issues he addressed with people's horses throughout the course, he kept up a running commentary so we should understand what it was he was doing.  This was great as I have seen other instructors avoid wayward horses altogether.  I have also seen instructors who have taken an issue with a horse, remain silent until the debrief at the end.  Having the commentary at the time allowed the students to see and learn at the time.  Impressive. 

My respect for Charlie deepened as I watched him ride all the horses on both days (especially Dandy, Fiona!).  He got exactly the response he wanted from a variety of fat, thin, sharp, dull and downright awkward mounts.  He then knew exactly what issues we were struggling with. 

For the first time for me on a pre level 1 course, we were mounted after lunch on the first day.  He had everyone (even those who had never ridden in a hackamore before) wandering around in a sort of free range, dazed melee by the end of the day.  I can't wait to see the video of this as major traffic congestion occurred every now and then with people coming head on at the walk and not being able to think or act quickly enough to take avoiding action.  The horses were having to sort themselves out mostly.  It was fun.  I guess others like me learn quicker when having fun.  You are so much more relaxed. 

I loved the way we were constantly challenged and stretched.  I loved the riding and I loved the way he taught us.  Charlie struck a good balance between the natural and conventional with the emphasis definitely on the natural.  He even took the time and trouble to write down notes for us to go away with; a first for me - something concrete to take away and practice with instead of trying to remember exactly what it was that made your horse respond in a certain way when you get home.  (The only possible complaint I have about this, Charlie, is that the typeset is too small, so I have to get my glasses out to read your notes whilst on my horse's back!)  A small price to pay.

On a personal note I was completely blown away by how good both Fiona and Estelle were when they were mounted.  For such quiet and unassuming girls, they are seriously good at this.  Definitely a case of 'hiding one's light under a bush', I thought.  I cannot wait for Charlie's next clinic.  Put my name down first on the list please, Liz.  The man is an excellent instructor and has a really good hands on approach.  I can't wait for more.

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Jayne Lavender
Australian Natural Horsemanship
One Day Beginners & Improvers Clinic

Friday 23rd July, 2004


One person's view - By a six month Parelli system starter

I arrived in the car park stressed to the limit before the day even began.  My new tow vehicle on its first 'live-tow' outing was busy telling me that the transmission was overheating and to stop the vehicle immediately or else Doomsday would be coming early.  Ignoring the audio and visual alarms I pressed on regardless groping around for the fire extinguisher and mobile phone the while.  There was no way I was going to be late for this clinic, but the price for arriving on time was high both in the cost of a new gearbox (covered by warranty, I hope) and adrenaline (covered by a good few swigs of 'Rescue Remedy'). 

Some 18 days after starting the Parelli programme, I attended a course with Jayne at Shuttleworth on Valentine's Day earlier this year.  I thought Jayne and the course were brilliant, but at that stage I had no real idea of what it was that had hit me and all I can remember was my brain regressing into retard mode at the end of a long day.

All I can say now after a few more months' worth of experience down the line is WOW! That girl is incredible

At this clinic, Jayne had us backing up with speed and direction without wriggling ropes in no time.  Tim became very adept at this exercise once his handsome cob joined in the fun.  'Porcupining' with the backs of our hands (my horse was much more responsive to this method), yielding with intention only (seriously spooky) and addressing the horses' forelegs and hindlegs with the application of direct and indirect rein.  When everyone seemed to have 'hacked' it, she then wanted us to do it continuously in a circle and smarter.  There were controlled legs whizzing about in all directions.  As I looked up at the others 'doing their thing' I was at once was reminded of the show 'Riverdance' whereby thousands of dancing Gaelic legs are but a mere blur and shoot off in all directions at a million miles an hour whilst strangely, the body head and arms remain as still as a rock. That's Irish dancing and ANH for you!

Can someone tell me why if you stand to the side of the horse, have no contact with his headcollar, and turn the rein and your fingernails skywards, the horse takes one step with his hind leg away from you?  Whilst I am on the subject, why on earth will a horse touch an object that the human is focusing on when walked up to it?  Is this some sort of magic mind-reading thing, or is there some rational explanation?  I seem to be coming across these (ostensibly) strange mind reading things more and more and am no nearer an understanding.  Maybe the answers will be revealed further down the road less travelled. Who knows?

At last!  Non wall-hugging 'sideways' was achieved by everyone with feel and feeling.  The lovely grey, Minty was by far the best and sidled through the assembled throng with considerable panache and elegance.  Whilst Kate's 'Princess' Daisy forgot to be a typical teenager and really quite enjoyed the exercise in spite of her rather gorgeous self.

It is good to laugh every now and then; it breaks the tension of holding high concentration levels.  Dandy supplied an excellent excuse on an exercise that entailed twenty steps forward at the same pace against the wall.  Dandy decided that he had been a really good boy, and had quite enough for one day and what he most wanted in the world was a good scratch.  He backed up his plentiful posterior onto the wall and swayed with ecstasy to the rhythm of his needs.  So much so that his hind legs were almost doubled up beneath him.  The arena rocked as his eyes rolled, and his top lip would have won a prize as the world's most authentic Pinocchio impressionist. 

Jayne told us at the end of the session that she was expecting to teach a Beginners & Improvers class.  She then had to adapt the content of her session to accommodate the fact that no one was a complete beginner.  This was stimulating and exciting.  The more we as a group performed for her, the more challenges she threw at us.  Super stuff.

I could even hear what she was saying as she now has a radio microphone.  It makes such a difference for us geriatric old bats that are hard of hearing.  For us it is quite normal to receive just every third or fourth word and then interpret what is meant from that.  The radio microphone makes all the difference in the world.

I have been trying to work out what makes Jayne such an excellent teacher.  Apart from the fact that she knows, (that is, knows herself, her job, horses and humans), it is her ability to translate such complex and intangible subtleties, such as 'intention', 'focus' and 'feel' into words and actions that the uninitiated can understand.  Most instructors have some of these attributes to a greater or lesser degree; it is just that Jayne excels in every sphere.

Amazing soft and gentle stuff from the land of Oz.  I was enthralled and enchanted with ANH.  Due to the vagaries of the internal combustion engine, I missed the second day and until the moment I die I will regret it.  As the only consolation, there is always the October Clinic to look forward to.  I'm just counting the days.

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Jayne Lavender
Australian Natural Horsemanship
One Day Beginners & Improvers Clinic
- Friday 23rd July, 2004
Two Day Advancing Clinic - Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th July, 2004

Kate's Experience

I was at all three days of Jayne’s clinic, the first day I took my new mare Daisy to see how she would cope, this was supposed to be a day for Beginners and Improvers, but in fact there was not one beginner there, which means a lot of people are under-estimating how much they've learned.  Daisy coped very well and I couldn't wait for the next two days that were for 'Advancing', when I took my old friend Sonny Jim.

The only way I can think of to write this is by telling you how I felt at the end of the course and then attempting to give a brief synopsis of what I learned and where I improved most.

To be honest, after dropping Nicky and her pony off on the way home I had a few tears, well it had been a long weekend.  I felt incredibly grateful, to have had the opportunity to learn to connect with my horse, this isn't the first clinic I've been to but it's the first one that I've learned so much and felt so peaceful and at one with my horse.  I felt grateful to have been in the company of people who really rooted for me, as we did for each other, and who willed me to succeed.  Towards the end of the course we were set some tasks that were to be done one at a time while the other riders and spectators watched, most of us felt nervous, some of us were terrified.  As we watched each other struggle to remember how to achieve what we'd been set and try to keep our composure so that our horses would be clear about what we were asking, you could feel a collective will that the horses would understand and do what we asked simply because they wanted to.

All the tasks could only be achieved by using the slightest of feels through the halter and weight shifting with shoulders, legs, etc.  I have to say that without exception we all did marvellously well and the horses were relaxed but sparkling too, not bored or fed up with the constant demands of the weekend.

So, specifically what did I learn?  That soft feel is exactly that, soft feel, no exception.  If I feel like reverting back to pulling, going hard in myself, losing my rag, growling, that’s fine but I still won't get what I'm asking for - you have to find that peace in yourself where you can say 'OK’, breath, ‘What do I want?' and just touch, softly.  Oh yeah, and 'What's in your head is in your body, you gotta feel your way', (man).

And that’s the bottom line.

Ideally, I'd like to have had Lyn's poise, Tanya's laid back attitude, Vicky's sparkle, Nicky's feel, both Dawns’ experience, Sheryl and Carole's quiet determination, Row's sense of humour and my Sonny Jim, now that would be a winning combination.

I would not have learned what I learned without Jayne; she taught me to feel, I don't know how, but I didn't have it when I went but I've got it now and I intend to hang on to it.  I feel confident and I just want to learn more and more, only a very good teacher could bring that out of their pupils.

I would go again, tomorrow, when's the next course Liz ?

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Rio Lawson-Baker 
Beginners & Improvers Clinic

Sunday 20th June, 2004


One person’s view - By a four month Parelli system starter

The sun shone over the manicured paddocks and quietly grazing horses at Willow Tree Stud in Little Gransden.   A sparkling gem of a place tucked away in the heart of the Cambridgeshire countryside surrounded by trees and cornfields.  A church with a beautiful spire was just visible in the distance pointing heavenwards, messaging the Almighty that a NH group was here, and at least something was going to be right with the world today.

This was the perfect setting for seven students ranging from complete ab initio’s to those of higher levels who felt in need of a basic refresher, and their horses to be given a thorough day’s grounding into the mindset and body language required to execute the seven games of natural horsemanship.

We started with an unusual game.  Two course members were paired up.  One to be the horse and one the ‘trainer’.  Plastic bags were put over the ‘horse’s’ heads and the ‘trainer’ had to guide the horse around an obstacle course using only the four phases of the porcupine and driving game, and a ‘rub to a stop’ without recourse to speech.  For some of us this was easier said than done  (especially when a freshly masked ‘horse’ commented that her husband preferred her that way too).  The object of the exercise was to appreciate from the equine point of view the value of clear, concise and precise instructions at all times.  The group found this exercise to be of immense value.

Next we took our (real) horses into a field and started work on the games.  Rio’s creed throughout was to teach us how to achieve softness in everything we did.  Backup from Zone 1 being an example of how a horse tends to brace against the request by stiffening his poll and neck (opposition reflex?).  We were shown how to soften the head, maintain the softness and get the horse to respond with a quiet and directionally controlled backup.

Magic stuff – most especially if your horse does it!

Rio showed us how to achieve the best from all the games using many little techniques that enhanced the quality of the exercise.  She showed us how to extend the yo-yo game from Zone 2 emphasizing that in all matters of gait, it helps you and the horse to remain in step at all times.  Small gems but so, so true.   Rio also suggested we use the ‘beckoning’ signal, (with a crooked forefinger), every time we moved forward or asked the horse to come to us as it would be invaluable at a later stage when we get to those dizzy and far off distant heights of Liberty.

After the session was over, a few of us were discussing the day and as a pure observation on learning we found that when someone shows you something that can be transmitted by you to the horse and he responds accordingly, it is like champagne running through the veins.  The very stuff Black Magic is made from and here we all were – empowered beyond all dreams and expectations to a point where, say, at the mere strategic placing of the hand on a horse’s nose we can cause him to back up softly.  Amazing and stunning stuff. 

Rio was great (if a little tetchy at times if she thought we were not paying attention!) and general consensus of opinion was that we would welcome her back with open arms for more of the same please.

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Ken Faulkner
Multi-level Clinic, Buckinghamshire

Saturday 15th May, 2004 

Notes by Rio Lawson-Baker

For every question there's a hundred different answers.

Simulations on Hands and Knees - experience weight shift and walking in a circle
Horse needs to keep weight on outside legs - gives strength in movement.

If the horse steps with his feet before his shoulders, balance is not lost.

Pulling inside rein unbalances the horse to the inside,
- Supporting rein pushing turn doesn't.  Lift the inside rein when you turn.

Ken used a carrot stick with strings on to demonstrate this.

Reins should be loose or active - not halfway between.  It's a grey place.
Use Active rein for change of gait or direction.

Lateral flexion is the jaw and poll area rotating, not the neck bending.

Exercises for loosening your horse :-
Loosen jaw with your fingers, rock HQ with tail, lift belly, lift forearm, point toe, roll rump, rock hock.

There might be work to do before you can get to Ground Skill 1.

To be Alpha you must control horses speed and direction.  Horses want to be with the Alpha, but being a 'basher' is not being a leader and horses don't want to be with these.

Establishing Alpha status depends on the degree you can control the feet, it doesn't involve phases and can look ugly, never mind…..look for a change, you are demonstrating dominance.

If a horse is tight in the tail…..don't get on !!

Make sure you have lateral flexion while desensitising - its proof of submission and acceptance.

Work on Impulsion and Flexion to get Respect.

The most important gait is STOP !

A horse goes sideways till his ribs are soft - then its sidewards.

Teach something and then walk away.

HQ yield.  When yielding HQ ask horse to do it out of a forward movement, then pivot then move forwards again before it becomes a defence.  It the horse moves backwards during the movement its ribs are defensive.

FQ yield.  Hand in direct rein position (under knot) to control opposite front leg (inside leg in direction of turn) Above the knot is an indirect rein and the HQ will move. 
Lead the horse forwards so you don't get outside hind pivoting.  You need inside hind to pivot. If HQ spins push more on the nose as the FQ is stuck. 

Don't allow the horse to suck back.  If he doesn't lead with his nose he's not yielding.  When yielding with nose inside toe will point in direction of turn.

Back up.  Use lateral flexion to move bracy jaw.  Horse must back up with a soft nose.  Use rhythmic pressure from rope to push the feet (push on foot that needs to move next).  Don't push from the nose.  You'll create a brace.  If feet not soft shift head to foot that needs to move (lateral flexion in backup).  If the horse is not straight the problem is the front leg on the same side as the HQ swing towards.

Bracing can be in the hip or nose (shows in shoulder). Work out where the brace is and fix that end. ie. if the brace is in the shoulder yield the nose with lateral flexion (not the HQ - its not the issue)

Own the hind quarters -v- own the lateral flexion…….you have to find the balance.

If there is no stiffness in the horse then HQ yield will give you lateral flexion.  If it is stiff get the flexion right at the front end.

Keep HQ out on a circle when the horse is negative mentally and emotionally.
Get HQ in when horse is attitude is positive mentally.

If a horse takes the first step forwards with the front end it walks out of collection.  If it takes the first step with the hind end it walks into collection !

Emotional unbalance shows in the physical as impulsiveness.
A trigger causes lost balance (emotional)

Yield to suggestion. Rhythm is the key, whether its suggestion or feel.

While disengaging HQ the horse has to lift inside shoulder to get light.  The head will be up if the feet are pushed into the ground (braced)
If a horse cant drift sideways he isn't stopping properly because he is not using his hips.

Gauge the horses respect by the softness of his feet.

Types of downward transition.  There are 3 types.
1. Feel, reach to active rein, throw a flick down rein.  Don't get stronger to make him walk, let him learn how.  For downward transitions using a feel on the rope it should be a downward flip, not a backward bump as that is an indirect rein and will result in HQ out.
2. Partial disengage, push hip out.
3. Block with stick in front of nose.
If a horse cant do downward transitions of phase 1, get it more balanced.

Change of direction on a circle - Roll back (indirect, direct and supporting reins)
- spiral backwards (s-bend)

When changing direction wait till horse is soft or it will turn over its hocks.

The parts of a horse that sweat first are the braced parts, work them the most for softness.

Use the end of the rope to push the horse to the feel - the feel will then shift him.

Lateral flexion - weight should stay on outside leg.  If it moves to inside leg it's a brace.

You cant beat respect into a horse, but you can work it in.

If a horse is likely to strike you, don't let it face up.

Sideways.  If a horse shuts down when you get close it is successfully shutting you down too !

Pressure is a positive thing. It says 'you're not in trouble, you just need to try harder' (use phases). Punishment is negative.

You want the horse to work with you….not because of you !!

Don't ask a horse to come up too close, its claustrophobic and may cause a pattern of it looking away.

CUE - gives signal
LIFE - gives amount

The body is the cue - the rein is the quality
The body says what - the rein says how

Verbal communication is not to do with the words, its effective because it changes your attitude.

Close range circling game. If the horse leans in with his shoulder, drop your hip and shoulder to the outside.

The performance horse can canter the close range circle, but only if the shoulder is upright and balanced - get it good in trot first.

Under perceived pressure the prey animal is programmed to do the opposite of what the predator wants.

Warm up with respect, impulsion and flexion.  Do 'flat' work to start with before asking for flexion.

Indirect rein is not to make a turn.  It is to balance for a turn.
If the horse is already balanced an indirect rein will unbalance it because it moves the HQ.

If balanced but you want HQ out, don't do too much with the rein

In warming up play games 4 - 7 to see where the horse is at….respect (mental).  Then friendly game with lateral flexion (emotional)

YoYo. Do this from all zones

Circling. Close range and freestyle.

Sideways. Ideally this is a 2 beat gait.

In sideways, build from sideways on a circle, then sideways from Zone 1 then from Zone 2 etc….get away from having the stick out in front to block forwards movement.

When you address the forwards drift properly the horse will assume half pass position.

With a more advanced horse get sideways to be a backwards movement and a forwards movement, play with crossing feet in front or behind.  Always start at the beginning ie. with easy movements first.

In close range sideways from zone 1 don't lead the front end out to start sideways as it destroys the correct shape and causes the HQ to lag. Get HQ to go first.  This will give 2 time gait instead of 4.

Balance is from good posture.  Our normal riding styles make weight heavy into shoulders.  Our groundskills are to give the horse good posture.

If a horse is swishing its tail, ears back etc etc it is emotional and its feet wont be moving right.

Lateral flexion - use inside leg first (even on the ground with your hand on ribs) don't use your rein to get the flexion. Make sure that when he softens to the rein it is not with the ribs towards you. Flexion of the hips allows the head round. With the advanced horse get him to step sideways into the flexion without loading the shoulder.

Pulling the inside rein will wreck lead changes and lateral flexion.

Horse must never make you squeeze with your leg as it will make him bracy.  Only caress with your leg.  If not jammed the horse will move .

Direct rein.  Don't pull - push with the outside.  If he leans, bump the rein.  Height of rein regulates degree of turn.

Turn your own toes in the direction you want to go. If the horse turns right your toes will not look turned! Like car wheels on a corner - they look straight.

Backup. Phases - sit up, suck back, legs [together, then alternate then invisibly with toes in boot (cert 3)]

When riding, if the horse leaks the HQ the FQ is stuck … just fix the shoulder.

Your horse will mirror your body if he's not defensive.  If the upper body is correct the hips will be correct.

Bosal fitting ... If it's tighter it will release quicker.  The bosal needs to fit to get the horse soft.

Teach Him - Don't Make Him !!!

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