Finding a Routine
Harry Hall sponsored rider Emma Woolley describes how she’s re-thought some aspects of her horses’ training, and found a routine that keeps them happy in the heat
Since moving to Keysoe Equestrian Centre in Bedfordshire early last year my routine has had to change! I was a person who liked to school my horses in peace and quiet, with their total concentration. Keysoe is a busy competition centre meaning peace and quiet is limited however I’ve realised that the only way to get total concentration from them at shows is to get them used to schooling at home with as many distractions as possible. There are seven arenas at Keysoe, and now I make the most of the tractors harrowing, people and other horses popping out of nowhere, assorted traffic, bikes, electric scooters, children running around, ponies all over the place, dogs, horse drawn carriages and literally hundreds of horses coming and going every weekend for different shows – it’s the perfect place to train a horse to concentrate!
One horse has shot into the limelight this year, Hancock V. He is syndicate owned by myself, Samantha Synge-Craven, Seonaidh and Lee O’Neill, Lis Astall and Viki Powell. We bought him at auction in Holland at the end of 2016, and for a good year I was thrilled to have survived each schooling session without being launched into orbit! I knew he was going to be a handful, but being 18.1hh and having a phenomenal amount of movement and elasticity, I was often caught by surprise at how he could twist and turn so quickly. However he never got me off, and I knew that it was all worth it because he felt so mega, and does actually have a really nice temperament. I started training with Nikki Barker who gave me loads of little handy tips to put all of his exuberance to good use.
Training my horses from the ground
I still train with Nikki, as well as Charlotte Dujardin and Jenku Dietrichsen who specialises in in-hand work, and piaffe specifically. I’ve always taught all my horses the lateral movements from the ground, so expanding my knowledge with Jenku really suited my own training techniques, and Hancock’s now got a good grasp of half steps. The in-hand training has really helped my relationship with all the horses. It’s a great way of putting the ‘buttons’ for movements into a horse with very minimal amounts of stress on their legs. It’s mentally tiring for them, and I find it really suits warmbloods, they’re thinkers and need to be stimulated.
Training with Charlotte is intense, as you would expect it to be. She’s so good at making everything seem so unbelievably simple! I’ve felt much more test ready from training with her and getting Hancock in a better balance.
The horses’ weekly routines vary depending on their ages, stage of training and fitness levels. The fully fit horses will school Monday and Tuesday, hack, polework or in-hand work on Wednesday, school again on Thursday and Friday and hack or lunge on one of the weekend days. The breakers do a small amount each day until they are riding away, but once they are I only ride them three times a week. That’s plenty, and it’s only for around 15 minutes.
Horses and hot weather
I have to say I’ve really enjoyed this hot summer! However it’s been far too hot to thoroughly school horses, so we got up really early and started riding between 5am and 5.30am. That meant we could exercise all of the horses before midday, and they could be left to relax during the hottest part of the day.
We like to get the horses out in the field every day for between two and four hours. They go out three at a time, apart from the two stallions who go out one at a time in the mornings.
We hose the horses’ legs with cold water after exercise, and I am a huge fan of the Protechmasta range. When their legs are dry I like to stand them for around two hours with the Silveraid leg wraps on. They have infrared technology which assists the blood flow which then flushes through any toxins to reduce inflammation. They also help to encourage cell growth and speed up repair. I also like to travel them in the Protechmasta travel boots, and in the rug when it’s cooler. In the winter months I don’t think they would survive anymore without the Protechmasta quarter sheet, it warms them up gently and ensure their muscles are ready for the hard work ahead of them It’s brilliant that there are products like this available to help keep the horses at their very best.
I hope everyone else has enjoyed the lovely summer with their horses, here’s to the rest of 2018!