Top Training Tips - Olivia Wilmot
The last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind and been a bit crazy! I now have 4 weeks until baby no 2 is here. My own stables and arena that are getting built at home are taking shape but things have progressed quicker than anticipated with the sale of my parents house (where my horses are currently based) so my horses are moving into my friends for hopefully only a short time. My parents are moving out this week and after 29 years you can imagine the amount stuff (some junk!) that has been collected.
The plus side is my friend lives closer to me than my parents so at least I'll be doing less driving. I feel it's been lucky I'm having a baby and not trying to prepare for Badminton as it's just been so hectic (plus what would have been one of prep runs, Burgham, was sadly cancelled at the weekend there. As they say everything happens for a reason.) My horse have been ticking over and in work, just the last week they've been in much lighter work with all the moving (and the horse walker has been removed from my parents and getting re erected at mine!) I was riding a couple of times a week to keep myself ticking over. I'm able to do as much as I like now! I was doing things such as at circles (see photo) to keep me supple as well as balanced and straight.
I haven't jumped my horses at all during this pregnancy as they were on their holiday when I found out so by the time they were back up to fitness I felt it was probably a little risky. They have been doing pole on a regular basis though both ridden and on the lunge. I like to vary it and do walk, trot and canter poles. With the walk poles I have them roughly 3' apart and raised at alternate sides. These are harder than you first think so always good to build up gradually. Walk poles are very good for building up hindquarters. With trot poles I have them approx 5' apart and also raised at alternate sides. I normally start with 3 poles for walk & trot and gradually increase.
Canter poles are set for horses at 12' but often what I do I set up single poles around the school so I can bring them in as part of any pace and also as part of a shape (such as a circle or square) My Tottie gloves have been invaluable this winter as it's cold and damp here (literally rains every day in the winter!) and my hat has barley been off my head! I've found the gloves great for riding and teaching in as my hands always stay warm, even though I live in Scotland I really feel the cold!
Here are my top tips for training at home
• Be consistent
Horses don't speak so you need to be consistent in what you reward them for (and what you tell them off for) so they understand what you're asking. Everything needs to be 'black and white', no grey areas
•Have an flexible plan
It's a good idea to have a plan of what you're aiming for each session but also remember some days things just don't work out so have some flexibility.
Horses don't always get what you want first time so make sure you stay calm and just repeat. If you're having a bad day it's better to go for a hack or lunge or possibly not even ride rather than risk taking it out on them and getting frustrated and undoing any work.
•Variety of work
It's important to vary your horse's work so he doesn't get bored and he stays interested. I also find that the variety helps build up muscle better. For instance one of my horses Cool Dancer (Axil) doesn't like dressage so I do a lot of hill work and try to do some dressage while out hacking. The hillwork I find really helps to build up his hind quarters and top line. We do a fair bit of walking and trotting up hills. I'm also lucky that I live relatively close to the beach so I like to take the horses there. I never gallop on the beach, we do lots of walking and trotting especially in fetlock deep water. The horses love it but it's also a really good work out for them.
There are times where we all get a bit stuck in the school due to circumstances so try to be inventive to keep it interesting such as use poles around the school and to help you ride different shapes. Try leg yielding from one pole to another etc.
We all learn better when things are fun and enjoyable, it's the same for horses!