Saturday, 22 September 2012

Piggles first trip to The Callow

   On Auguest 31st me and Piggles came one step closer to achieving our goal of one day hitting the Endurance Pleasure Ride and Social Ride scene and we took our first trip to The Callow together.
   The Callow is a bridleway about a 20 minute drive away from where we are, I came across it back in 2004 when i used to board Blaze at the Hereford Equestrain Centre in Grafton. Its such a great ride that no matter where me and Ann Maire have moved to we have always boxed the horses back there when ever we fancy a change of scenery when riding.

Me and Piggles ready to begin our first ride together at the Callow
 ...To put his mile stone in context here is the background info on our ridden journey so far...
   We bought Piggles back in August 2007, and 10 days later myself, Piggles and Blaze were involved in a car crash. We were towing them in the trailer and due to the impatience and ignorance of some 20 year old Sebastian Vettle wanna be the trailer flipped on to its roof, Piggles fell on top of Blaze and then they both we catapaulted through the roof and across the road.
   Thankfully the injuries Piggles sustained were n't too serious, he suffered a lot of soft tissue damage and some cuts to his face and legs but most the damage he sustained in the accident was mentally, not physically.

   After the accident, it was a very long time till i could ride Piggles again, when i finally was able to i didnt very often becuase it was no longer a very relaxed and enjoyable experience. On the ground Piggles became very spooky and very bolshy. Doing simple daily chores were harder than before becuase he was so flighty and would just run through you, not only that but he was becoming intolerant of people. His behaviour got more extreme and it got to the point where Piggles was having to be sedated in order to recieve treatement from the physio and he was being fed calmers everyday in order to try and calm his behaviour.
   What i didnt realise untill a long time later was that these events knocked my confidence too, in my ability to be a leader and in my confidence and competence as a rider.
Parelli Celebration NEC 2008
   One year later, August 2008 and i found Parelli, my savinng grace! I went to the Parelli Celebration at the NEC Arena, Birmingaham, i had no idea what Parelli was or did other than their ethos was one that based communication on naturual principles, but looking back im not sure that i even 100% knew what that meant. Well, by the end of the weekend i was amazed at what i saw and with my new carrot stick, rope halter and 12 ft line in hand i was excited and eager to get to grips with this "Horseinality stuff" and start playing the 7 games. Blaze was still injured and this was back in the day when i wasnt overrun with horses so that just left Piggles, and the rest is history.

   Being a Right Brain Introvert i dont like to leave my comfort zone and my comfort zone soon became the on the ground Savvies, i enjoyed playing with Piggles both online and at liberty and it wasnt long before our skills on the ground surpassed our skills in the saddle. At one point we were doing some level 4 liberty stuff but i had yet to ride him in a simple level 1 figure of 8 pattern.
   When ever i did attempt to ride i would immediately fill with anxiety. I think this was for a number of reasons;
Liberty Circles to the left

  •     After the accident i was not in control when in the saddle, he was very spooky and if the horse in front trotted off Piggles would tank off to catch up and i couldn't stop him, i wasn't in control, where as when i play with Piggles on the ground i am in control, i am in control on a level that i never knew possible, to the point where we could be in a 2.5 acre field, we were at liberty (there was no halter or ropes attatching him to me, he was loose and free to do and choose as he pleased) and i could canter and he would canter, i stopped and he would slide to a halt, if i pointed left he'd trot circles round me to the left and if a tilted my head he would disengage and trot to my feet.
  • Fear of the unknown. Because i never rode Piggle i didnt know how he would react to things, take for example Blaze, i'v had her since 2004 and we've clocked up god knows how many hours and miles, iv ridden her in pretty much every situation possible and so i know exactly what she is going to do, i know when she is going to do it and why etc, this gives me huge amounts of confidence as i know that what ever she does i can handle it and i will still be in control. 
  • Being a little pony Piggles can be extremely sharp and quick, compared to Shinobi, my 15h Irish Gyspy Cob, who is so much bigger and so his movement are bigger and slower too. Piggles can jump sideways and spin round in less that half a second and not only this but being a 13 hh pony his strides are so short that he is a very bouncy pony to ride. All these things make it harder to maintain balance when riding him and add to the feeling of being out of control and incompetant.
  • When ever we played on the ground it was just so wonderful. Everything was fluid and effortless and relaxed, the harmony between us was just the best feeling in the world. He was so willing and chrasmatic and he would try his little heart out to please me. I felt such closeness when ever we played on the ground. When i tried to have a ridden session because we were starting from the very begining we didnt have that same harmonious closeness. Things were nt so fluid and effortless and amazing. If ever i did get brave enough to try and progress and work on harder things i would always be met with resistance, usualy in the form of a buck!
  We went away to Shropshire for a 3 day riding clinic which just made everything worse. Our instructor was a NH instructor and incorporated lots of different NH approaches including Parelli, there is no doubt that he was a great horseman and a great teacher but not for a Right Barined Introvert. Yes me and Piggles accomplished a great deal over the 3 days by the end i was about ready to explode. Instead of coming away motivated, inspired and equipt with the tools to progress i was upset, disheartened, afraid, angry, and put off riding all together. So i hung up my stirrups for a very long time and stayed on the ground. 

Learning to relax whilst on Piggles
   One year later, now summer 2010 mine and Piggle ground work was just fabulous and our relationship was going from strength to strength, i also had begun working with Shinobi my at the time unrideable, unleadable extreme Left Brain/ Right Brain Introvert, Blaze was in better health and so i was riding her a great deal more and i was also doing a little bit here and there with Ebony. The desire to begin ridden work with Piggles grew all by itself, like a natural progression from the online work we had done and i think because i was now working with Shinobi (and quiet sucessfully) my confidence in myself as a horsewoman was begining to grow. This fear i had was holding me back and i was finaly ready to face it move forward. 
   To begin with my freestyle sessions consisted soley of finding confidence. On days where i felt up to it after my online session i would get on Piggles and my aim was just to find confidence and relaxation. When i finaly exhaled with that "Ahhhhhh" Zen feeling i got off and that was our ridden session done (Piggles thought he was in heaven!) 
   Pretty soon i reached the stage where i could walk up to Piggles in the field, without a halter or bareback pad on, completely bridleless, jump on and confidently and calmly sit up there, even when he walked around i didnt panic and could stay 100% relaxed. Everything just snowballed from there on!
   Yes we had our worse and better days, worse being `piggles would buck every time i asked for something and better days involved us actually achieveing some fun and harmony. We progressed so much. I progressed so much, in savvy, confidence and ability (oh yeah if i have nt mentioned already, i didnt ride with a saddle or a bridle or a bit. I ride in a halter and in a bareback pad!)

   In the summer of 2010 i did what i thought was the undoable (for me anyway) 
I rode Piggle, bridleless! Completely bridleless!
We did transitions up and down, halt, walk, trot, canter, sideways. We did sliding stops and we even did out first ever jump!
 All Bridleless!
Extreme Friendly Game Bridleless

      There was no deneying all the progress we had made and now the next step was to conquor hacking out! Piggles would always go Right Brain out on hacks so along side ridding him round the field at home i took him on some online hacks around the woods that back onto our land. An online hack basicaly means going for a hack only im on the ground too instead of riding. I took Piggles on the 22ft line and encouraged him to go and explore. If i simply led him he wouldn't learn or grow becuase i would be going through all of his threshold first, he needed to learn to lead. 

   I used to stand on the track and id ask him to go up the banks, amoungst the tree's ect building his self confidence and his confidence in his environments. I took him down to the stream and we spent so many hot summer afternoon playing in the water. 
  My confidence had grown and so now i was able to be the leader Piggles needed and i could then help him grown in confidence too.
   Unfortunately for the majority of 2011 i was ill and so my horsemanship took a backseat and the horses became field ornaments...
   But this summer i was able to start working with them again and i was determined to continue progressing with mine and Piggles freestyle work. We focused on hacking our rather riding in the fields and he became such a super star! He would hack out alone or in company and be 100% confident and relaxed. If we went out with friends and they trotted off he was happy to walk behind instead of running off to catch up, he had the confidence to go through and past scary things and as time went on these scary things and places became few and far between. Dogs, bicycles, cars, gun shots, tree felling machinary, Piggles took it all in his stride. The perfect happy hacker!
   I was ready, Piggles was ready. It was time for the next step. The stepping stone between hacking out in the woods at home and actually going to a public social ride. I was taking him away to the callow! What makes this such a great stepping stone is that Piggles is traveling to and hacking round a new environment but there wont be loads of other horses, people and lorries like at a social ride. 

   Took Piggles to the Callow and he was a super star! He hadnt been loaded into a lorry or traveled in over 2 years but he did it all like a professional. When we got there he was so calm and relaxed whilst i tacked him up. Out on the ride he went through all the scary things first (we went with Ann Maire and her youngster) He led for the most part. I could not have wished it to have gone any better. He was calm, confident, willing and responsive every step of the way and i was so proud! Some of you may be thinking "Well it took you long enough!" Yes your right it did take a couple of years thats becuase we took the time to do it right! I took the time and worked from the foundation up. Its not about the fact that i rode Piggles around the Callow, its about the fact that becuase of all the hard work we had done online and riding at home me and my horse were truely prepared, he handled the situation like an angel. He was 100% calm, relaxed, willing, responsive and obiediant. I did the whole thing in a halter. I didnt need to strap his mouth shut with a flash or tie his head down with a martingale or pull on a bit to get him to stop. 
   I took the time it took to do it right and Oh Boy! Did i reap the benifits!

   At one point on the ride i even dropped my reins and whilst riding through open fields i was doing walk to trot back down to walk transition using energy! Thats not me being big headed! Thats me demonstaring why building a strong foundation and relationship with my horses is so important to me.

(Slight typo in the video. Its supposed to say "Undersaddle" not "Unsaddle")



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