Mixing It Up This Winter
Irish Harry Hall Ambassador Jenny Caldwell has been mixing her dressage with experiences of new disciplines this winter. And finding out which kit you simply can’t live without in a wet Irish winter...
They say time flies when you are having fun, and what an amount of fun we have had in my yard in the last few months. Actor and philosopher Bruce Lee once said “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not and add what is uniquely your own.”
I think most coaches would agree that it's important to never stop learning and this season I have absorbed so many little hints, tricks and techniques from fellow equestrians. I know it is possibly stating the obvious but there is so much riders can learn from each other’s disciplines if we are open minded and keep observing our horses and their many unique qualities.
A great instructor taught me 'it takes two to have a row' this might sound simple but how many of us really think about this before leaping to the conclusion that our horse may be the only one who is for example pulling or leaning… perhaps they are just responding to what we are doing? Can we let go? If we can't then perhaps it's time to try some lessons before jumping to that new training aid or new bit?
Learn from watching. Not everyone has the benefit of mirrors but pretty much all of us own a smart phone. Get someone to film you riding particular movements you are having problems with, then ask your instructor to go through it with you.
Take suppleness, for example. All the time I hear pupils saying “my horse is stiff”. I'm not saying that their horse isn't stiff but if you watch the best sporting or dancing partnerships each member of the team is equally fluid and supple so my question is as a rider how supple are you? In my experience you can have the most supple, elastic horse in the world but if the rider on board is inflexible the horse will suffer, my advice try yoga or Pilates and reap the benefits.
I've always believed that knowledge is power and that the more we learn about these fabulous, graceful creatures, then the better owners and riders we can be to them.
Western and Trec
This season I have had the privilege to meet and learn from some amazing people. One of them was the well respected Western rider and trainer Bob Reader, and while I definitely wont be swapping my beloved Harry Hall safety hat for a Stetson anytime soon, it was a fabulous experience comparing and discussing training styles, techniques and ideas.
We are running a Western clinic in March.. crash hats are compulsory and we can't wait. Other real highlights of the season have been the dressage competitions being held in the yard, they are going from strength to strength and it has been such a positive experience seeing so many of my liveries and clients progressing up through the levels and having so much fun doing so.
Along with the everyday disciplines of flatwork and jumping in my yard, we have had great fun running showing shows and even dabbled in a little Trec — a competition based around navigating, judging pace and handling the sort of obstacles you might find in a long hack. It was great chatting to the organisers and seeing how much they valued the importance of good training in flatwork, communication and teamwork with their horses. I am pleased to say that even with all this going on I am continuing my own dressage training with Anne Marie Dunphy and my horse Ben and I are having a ball and looking forward to getting out competing.
What I am wearing
We were totally blessed this winter with the weather as there has been very little rain, but a few weeks ago the cold weather descended which is partly how I fell totally in love with my Harry Hall Higham Soft-shell Breeches. Oh my goodness they are so good! I had to order a second pair as I am literally living in them. Thanks to the base layers, Higham breeches and Cubeck jacket I have never had a cosier winter.