As I write this the rain is lashing down, it's blowing a gale and it's a dark, cold winter's evening in the UK. So it's nice to reflect on my recent trip to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands.
Back in October I was contacted by Louise, an English lady who lives in Fuerteventura, asking if I'd be interested in going over to teach for a few days at the yard where she keeps her horse.
So on a frosty December morning I found myself jetting off to warmer climes, armed with a case full of equipment and ready to show what Enlightened Equitation can offer.
My students for the four days were Louise and her PRE mare Princessa, yard owner Fatima and her Lusitano gelding Elijah and Fatima's daughter with her PRE gelding Emire. All three horses are ten year olds and have had basic education including a little lateral work.
We started off with a dismounted group lesson, to demonstrate and establish just what the Enlightened Equitation approach comprises of and how we can synchronise our seat with the movement of the horse. This led to me giving a ridden demonstration of how to put theory into practice.
The following days consisted of morning and afternoon sessions where the ladies learnt how to move in sync with their horses and go from being 'pretty passengers' to being able apply discrete but effective aids with seat, legs and reins and really begin to influence not only what their horse's were doing but how they were doing it.
The information on riding/aids I was giving is quite different to what the ladies had previously been taught, having been encouraged to use quite strong aids, leg and rein, this led to what I felt were slightly backward thinking horses with a certain amount of confusion and frustration at times. I did ride each of the horses in turn to demonstrate light aids, body position etc. and so that I could feel what each rider was dealing with. I felt that each horse could be lighter in the hand, so we changed them to the stainless steel mullen mouth Pelham bit with double reins and just a soft elastic curb strap, not because they were strong or to use force to create an outline, but because the Pelham having a different action encourages softness with just a light touch. I also removed flash straps on the nosebands and loosened the cavesson part as much as possible. They all became settled and soft in their mouths and the riders were able to start to ride with just a light contact.
Fuertaventura Clinic 4th - 7th December 2019
Once the ladies became more confident with using new aids, they began to see the difference in their horses, who became soft, light and flowed forward easily, we were then able to introduce some lateral work and general suppling exercises.
Louise had already asked me if I would take a saddle with me (HM Softree Vogue*), as the ladies were having trouble getting saddles right for their horses. Might I just add that there are no saddle fitters on the island! So having assessed their existing saddles and ruling a number out, they were keen to try the Vogue. These saddles are extremely easy to fit and just need the correct padding or shimming to ensure correct balance is achieved, and being treeless they will fit almost any horse. This in itself created softer horses as they were able to work more softly through their backs with unrestricted shoulders. They loved the saddle so much that I came home with an empty suitcase!
Below: a few images from the trip.
Some of the local flora, me in Corralejo on the North Coast & my lovely hosts (it wasn't all warm sunshine!) who looked after me superbly.