I’m really looking forward to coaching at Tannoch stables near Cumbernauld shortly. I’ll be teaching every Sunday, and before I start, the proprietor Dawn Harrison invited me down to ride some of the school horses. As she quite rightly pointed out, it’s much easier to structure the lesson and help your clients achieve their goals, if you know the horses. So here are some introductions to some of the charming school horses I met yesterday at Tannoch.
Cruise is a 16.2hh skewbald mare, 6 years old. She’s quite a recent acquisition and is ridden by more experienced riders. The assistant yard manager, Gillian, informed me that she was a kind but sensitive soul who is really starting to come out of her shell. I thoroughly enjoyed riding this horse, she’s my kind of horse, with her engine permanently in “on” mode! My first impression was that she was very forward and reactive to the leg. Even a forward thinking horse has to allow you to use the leg, so I worked a little in walk on some serpentines and circles, until she accepted my leg and started to bend around it (more easily on the right rein) rather than shooting away from it. I have no interest in forcing a horse into an outline, the quality of the contact is far more important than exactly where their head is, and Cruise is a big mare with a lot of power, not all of which she knows what to do with, so I allowed her to use her head and neck as she needed to to find her balance. In trot we worked on maintaining a consistent rhythm through changes of direction, and not coming against the hand. In canter I got up off her back and allowed her to really use her body. She has a long, open stride in the canter, and needs to be ridden forward to engage the hind leg to find a better balance. After a few circles of canter she was more “through” and found a better balance.
Throughout all this I gave Cruise lots of love - pats, and praise with the voice, and she responded by snorting and blowing the tension out. I love hearing a tense horse start to snort and blow and relax.
Cruise is a little green, but has absolutely loads of potential, and Gillian informed me that she can jump too. I don’t think Dawn will manage to keep this one in the school for long before someone falls in love with her and snaps her up!
Another horse which has only been at Tannoch for a couple of weeks, Misty is a very pretty 16hh dark grey mare. Dawn explained that she looked quite poor when she arrived, but is rapidly putting on condition. Also 6 years old, Misty is a more laid back character than Cruise. She has a lovely walk, and a very light mouth. In trot and canter she tends to go a little hollow and behind the leg. Again, maintaining a really consistent, quality contact is key to this mare - she needs to have the confidence that she can “go out to meet the bit”. To help get Misty more in front of my leg I worked her large around the school and rode lots of transitions, being careful to reward and praise her when she stepped smartly forward from the leg. This picture doesn't show her very well, but she has well let down hocks and well made quarters, once she has the ability to work through her back and neck, then the power of this potential engine will be useable. Again, I think this is a horse which a client will fall in love with and make their own very soon!
Piebald Corrie is about 15hh and 7 years old. She is a very straightforward and pleasant ride, forward going without being too reactive, and her rhythmic paces and good self carriage will make her a comfortable and safe feeling ride for all abilities. In the canter I found her relying on my hand a little for balance and she felt quite downhill, so I rode her positively forwards in a light seat to engage her hindquarters, and refused to give her a hand to lean on. The obliging little mare very quickly came into a better balance, within a circle feeling much more uphill. I’m sure she's a firm favourite with many clients and these popular horses who are ridden by many different people always need a little support to keep them going well.
The last horse I rode yesterday was a handsome middle weight hunter type gelding. He is about 12 years old and 16.2hh, and has a great prophet’s thumb mark on the left side of his neck, which I think is just visible in the picture. Prophet felt established and solid, I felt I was sitting right in the middle of him with a good length of neck in front of me and I’m sure he gives a great feeling of stability to his riders. I found him slightly lazy (as most reliable school horses have to be!) to start with, but he soon got on board and became more responsive. The only notable thing about him was a marked propensity to curl to the left on the right rein, making him fall in and cut the corners. This is clearly habitual, and once he realised I was not going to hold on to his right rein and hold him up, and instead was going to activate his right hind leg, he swiftly became much straighter and a really pleasant ride.
Dawn believes that horses shouldn’t do more than a year or two in the riding school, and not only does this give her clients fresh challenges regularly, it avoids the problem of horses going stale and bored in the school. She always has a varied selection of horses for sale, so do give her a call if you’re looking on 01236 733424 or see their website here >> or facebook page here >>