Why hello there! We’re sorry we’ve been away for so long – we’ll try not to do it again.
Age – 6
Breed – Norwegian Fjord Horse
Level – Fairly novice. Walk and trot established, competing at Intro.
Temperament – laid back but up for a laugh. Very clever.
Andrew and I are both firmly pro-Fjord. They are versatile, tough, personable, and fully capable of training up the levels. Due to their physique they face a couple of challenges which other horses might not – they have huge heads on big necks which are welded on to powerful shoulders and wide, short backs. They are incredibly strong, but often quite weak in other ways as well – it’s hard to stay on your haunches when your front end weighs the same as a small elephant. This can often lead to behaviour which gets classified as napping (it isn’t, just a coping mechanism) and they can have choppy movement and be heavy in front if they don’t have the right help. However if they do have the right help then they are truly fantastic little horses, and the content covered in this lesson will be helpful for anyone school a native breed, anything croup high, or a horse that ‘naps’, or a young or green horse.
The Warm Up
Andrew hasn’t trained Echo before, and I had ridden him for a total of 7 minutes before today. He is naturally very forward, which I’m suspicious of in horses which are not through and engaged, and it wasn’t long after I started to put him together that the ‘nap’ appeared, in this case manifesting as a fairly dramatic lurch towards the track, coupled with speeding up. To put Echo on the aids in the first part of the lesson we used a parade with the inside hand, which is great for mobilising horses that are thick at the throat, and a low outside hand in order to help him to stay straight. I was leaning back in order to mobilise Echo’s back and to allow me to half halt effectively. The half halt was vital, and had to be used virtually every other stride to help him stay engaged and on his haunches. Andrew told me to combine the parade with an inside leg pump to help him
connect onto the inside rein and step under with the inside hind, and to keep the horse in a shoulder in leg yield position. This is where the shoulder comes in on the circle and the inside hind crosses over. This immediately straightens and uprights the horse, and is really good for getting your leg on early doors. A reverse turn revealed that he is weaker on the right rein, and the lurch to the outside became more pronounced if I wasn’t completely bang on with my timing. Which I wasn’t. Often. After about ten minutes this sequence of movements produced a horse which was through, much straighter, available and flexible. He began to be able to follow the rein down and accept a stretch. It was really important to keep a consistent inside shoulder position – on the right rein he wanted to carry me in left position, and this is something I find with lots of horses. In this situation the rider has to have the discipline to stay in right position no matter how much they want to ‘go with’ the horse. So – outside hand low; inside hand parade with a flutter forward motion when the horse connects; inside leg pumps in time with the parade; leg yield shoulder-in position; lean back, reverse turn, wash, rinse, repeat.