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June 2015

It is hard to believe that we are already nearly half way through the year! A lot has been happening everywhere, but in our little corner of the world:

Diva has been to her first two dressage tests. She was a little tense the first time out (tried to canter up the centre line – I think she was looking for showjumps!) but scored 70% in her second test. Only intro, but a promising start to her dressage career. Lexi has been out of work with a strained bum muscle (too much kicking up the heels in the paddock), but is back on walking exercise now, along with a diet. The grass is coming through in vast quantities so it pays to watch their waist lines at this time of year to avoid metabolic problems later.

Congratulations too to Mairi and Irish. For those of you who remember, Irish started his ‘schoolwork’ with Carol and was sold to Mairi last year. Although various things have held up their riding, they qualified for the Unaffiliated Champs at Hickstead when they did their first ever Prelim. dressage test (for both of them). Due to the holdups during the year, their second ever Prelim dressage test was in the Championships themselves where they gained a very creditable 60+%.

Carol has just come back from the Home International for Para dressage, where she was chef d’equipe for the two Southern Teams. A very busy weekend, not helped by half the team and Carol being stuck on the M1 for hours due to accidents. Fortunately the venue rearranged the vet check, which is compulsory as it was under FEI rules. There were some strange comments from one of the judges for some of the tests, but overall everyone enjoyed themselves and many people gained ribbons.
For those of you waiting for the next dressage day at Church Farm in Ripe, we are hoping to squeeze another one in at the end of the month. Watch out for notices at the venue and other local livery yards for more details.

During Diva’s outings, it has been very interesting to listen to comments from other riders about things that they think will influence their horse’s test. Although we all know that the rider affects the horse, I think people sometimes underestimate the magnitude of this and can actually ‘make’ their horse misbehave without realising it. Remember that the horse is a herd animal and if another herd member says their is danger then it can ‘power up’ and start looking for where the danger is! So, you have to get it into your head to ignore the chickens, rain on the roof, other horses, flower pots, people moving, dogs barking, children shouting, cars driving past, shadows, puddles, etc. etc.
–Some spookiness is due to lack of habituation to things (i.e. the horse ‘checks out’ something novel that might be dangerous), which can be improved.
–Some is due to the rider ‘warning’ the horse that all these things are dangerous, which again can be improved. Many horses spook with a rider that they never spook at when they have no rider (e.g. in field/stable, being led). There are a number of research studies around that link human and horse effects e.g. one where people leading a horse was told that an umbrella would open suddenly and theirs and the horse’s heart rate both went up, even though the horse had no idea there was an umbrella there (this occurred even though the umbrella was not opened, but didn’t occur if the person was not told about the umbrella.)
–Some is due to the horse being a flight species and reacting before processing something (again a survival- adrenaline response), which can be overcome to a large extent by training.
–Some is due to eyesight problems, although in reality i think this is blamed sometimes when it is not the eyesight at fault.

Have a read of our free article ‘How to make your horse shy and spook’ on the Articles page if you think that you may be one of the causes of your horse being unpredicatable in a dressage test.

In the meantime, happy riding and remember that your horse doesn’t care what marks you get in a dressage test or event, so long as it still gets its treats and care and attention!

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