Archie has now been with me just over 4 months and has changed so much in such a short space of time. When he arrived he had done little more than hunt through the winter so the plan was to continue his education whilst getting him stronger. Once the weather cleared we finally managed to start some basic schooling at home to work on our steering, lack of right bend and general balance. After riding my advanced horse it feels very odd to have to think about every aid I give to him, fortunately I know a little more this time round so I can help Archie understand what I’m asking more clearly than I did with Bailey and we seem to be making good progress.
Due to Archies size and age he needs to do plenty of hacking to get him stronger and fitter. The off road hacking from the yard includes a bridge over the M25, something that Archie hasnt experienced before due to his rural up-bringing, and this had to be tackled. Escorted by experienced horses the first time, he was completely unfazed and is becoming so much fitter thanks to all the hills around the yard.
As chairman of Limpsfield Riding Club I am lucky to be able to take advantage of the varied training opportunities the club offers and to this end we have been going out to quite a few clinics. I have been struggling a little in my standard size school at home with canter because of Archie's huge stride and lack of balance, so using the bigger school at a local equestrian centre has helped enormously with both our confidence and circles, and transitions are now happening more consistently. We also took part in a horse agility session at my yard, at which Archie demonstrated how bold he was coping with all of the obstacles first time and showing the older horses how it was done.
During the summer I combine holiday and horses and travel down with Bailey to train at AM Dressage in Gloucestershire. I had a trip planned in early May with a friend but a family crisis meant she couldn’t come so I took Archie even though I hadn’t really had him long enough to know how he would react to the change of environment or travelling. I need not have worried as he was fine and settled in the yard for the 3 days away like an old hand. We had lessons with Justine Sole working on the basics of getting him accepting the contact and exercises to help develop his balance and cadence. The thing I found with Archie was that he was nicely off my leg in the school but any effort to regulate the pace usually meant we stopped, so Justine had us working on lots and lots of transitions within the pace. Keeping my leg on to keep the activity but using my core to steady him and to get him understanding the idea of slowing instead of rushing but not stopping. The trip was a big success and I felt it helped me bond with Archie as he needed to trust me in a new environment and we came away knowing each other that bit more. We have another one planned in mid-August and have our homework to do in the meantime.
May ended with us taking on an Endurance GB fun ride in Horsham. It was the first really hot day of the summer and the route took us along parts of the Arun and Wye canal, something many horses would find a little daunting but he coped with it brilliantly and dealt with narrow boats bedecked with balloons, kayaks and a lot of people, pushchairs and dogs. Archie was in the lead most of the way, enjoyed our first open field canter and was so very happy to see the finish as we got lost and ended up being out for nearly double the estimated time!
I firmly believe that biting a horse is as important as saddle fitting and so once back from our travels we had a visit from Hilary Vernon of Informed Designs. Hilary has so much knowledge and has helped me work out the best bits for Bailey over the years and I really value her opinion and wanted her to advise on what she felt would be best. We settled on a Harmony snaffle with a D ring which helps back up the riders aids by applying gentle pressure the side of the face. At the moment Archie seems to like the bit and is really settling in the contact. We will see her again in September for an update and to make any changes.
Sadly the heat and dry ground is now making me rethink many of our plans for the summer and hacking is confined to local shady woods and some early or late in the day schooling. Hopefully by the time I update again in a few months the weather will be more suited to working horses and getting them fitter for the autumn when we hope to go out and tackle some dressage tests.