LEINSTER TREC �?? HORSEMANSHIP WEEKEND (16/17 June, 2018).
The excitement levels were high and the atmosphere was electric as a host of riders arrived on the Friday afternoon at Spruce Lodge EC in Co Wicklow for Leinster TREC�??s very first Horsemanship Weekend, over the 16th and 17th June, 2018.
Organised by Caroline Aragane, the Keogh family�??s wonderful facilities were perfect for the various training sessions throughout the weekend. A magnificent all-weather arena, part of which includes X-country obstacles and a water complex, was the principle centre of action. And for non-riding activities, a conference room for the scheduled talks and canteen facilities for refreshments on site were also provided. Furthermore, top class stabling for the horses meant that riders could have everything to hand for the whole weekend.
Day One (Saturday) started with riders being divided into 2 groups, according to their TREC level and skills, ready for their 1.5 hour session. One group went with Nicky Mummery (HSI Level 1 coach & biomechanics practitioner) to practice PTV Obstacles around the water complex while the other group accompanied Orlaith Delamere (HSI Level 2 coach and 2* Event rider) to the other half of the huge arena to polish up their flatwork and way of going.
Nicky�??s first focus was on the riders�?? position and the biomechanics of this in relation to the horse�??s movement. After helping riders to make a few adjustments and also practicing how to ride a light seat, it was time to start the obstacles.
First was the Water Crossing, which was tackled by a confident horse �??buddying�?? one with less experience. This was a very successful technique and very rapidly all horses were happily striding through water by themselves with no hesitation.
Next came the Step Up, and again to build confidence, horses started with a small Step and then moved to a higher one, with no problems. On to the Ridden Drop next and at this point, some excitement began to creep in, with some horses doing it calmly whereas others clearly thought it essential to leap off! However, the calm atmosphere and lots of repetition meant that all finally took it in good style. Nicky�??s reminder to �??Look Up!�?? was a frequently heard comment.
Next came the Hedge, with 2 pretty troughs of flowers underneath. But they were no problem to any of these horses, who all took the obstacle beautifully. And finally, on to the Ditch. This was approached in small steps again, to build confidence. The riders who wished to do it In Hand first were encouraged to have a go and then mount and try it Ridden. Others who were more confident or experienced tackled it straight away. By the end, all riders had successfully jumped over the Ditch and it was a great way to end the morning session on a high note.
Meanwhile, Orlaith had also started her group preparing for their flatwork session. She first asked how long each rider had owned their horse and also about the horse�??s background. Then she checked on the riders�?? position and contact through the reins, giving some correction and advice to each. As the lesson progressed, Orlaith encouraged riders to keep moving forward in a good rhythm, while keeping straight on the long sides of the arena and using a nice bend around cones placed at intervals. She also used plenty of transitions up and down through the paces, to help horse and rider keep their focus and improve their whole way of going, while all the time commenting and suggesting on how riders might help the horse go better. By the end of the session, it was noticeable how well the whole group were moving and the improvement in both horses and riders.
Everyone was more than ready for refreshments after that. Horses were comfortably stabled with their lunch while riders headed for the Canteen where Caroline�??s Mother and her friend, Marion and Liz, and daughter Jess, had prepared a multitude of delicious sandwiches and cakes for all, which were eagerly devoured (Thank You!).
On then to the next session of the day I the Conference room, a talk by William Micklem, entitled �??Going over the E.D.G.E.�??. This 2 hour session, which flew by, was truly inspirational. Drawing on his life experience and using research and quotes from many reputable organisations and individuals, William summarised his findings into a simple acronym:
E= Enquiring �?? develop an enquiring mind, keep asking questions. Learn. Have a GO!
D= Demanding �?? keep stretching yourself. Have another GO.
G= Generous �?? cherish difference. Cherish your own skills. Have empathy. Have another GO.
E= Empowerment, the total of the above three together.
And many of those present thought his best quote was �??Inch by Inch, life�??s a cinch, yard by yard, life is hard�?? and riders could be heard quoting this one to each other throughout the rest of the weekend, such was the impact of William�??s excellent and motivational talk.
Back in the saddle then, for the afternoon sessions and this time the two groups swopped over, with Nicky taking the flatwork group from the morning to now work on their PTV Obstacles and Orlaith taking over the PTV group in order to improve their flatwork.
Serious faces and great concentration were observed as riders endeavoured to make the most out of these coaching opportunities, also inspired further by William�??s lunchtime talk.
End of the day�??s training, and tired horses and riders returned to stables to bed down (horses!). Riders refreshed themselves and then met up for a meal in Micky Finn�??s Pub in Redcross village, where a Spanish Tapas night with delicious food and authentic live music was included in the weekend�??s entertainment. And so to bed, ready for the next day.
Day Two (Sunday) started with Nicky�??s group continuing with the TREC PTV Obstacles, this day including the Low Branches, the Slalom, One-Handed Figure of Eight and the S-bend. As before, all obstacles were tackled �??step by step�?? so that success was experienced at all times, many horses for example ending up cantering the Low Branches successfully. And during the session, horses once more had opportunities to refresh the previous day�??s obstacles so the Water Crossing, Ditch and Hedge were also practiced. By the end of the session, confidence was really high with both horses and riders working as a team to successfully complete the obstacles, and the more experienced riders getting chances to tackle bigger obstacles as well.
Meanwhile, Orlaith�??s group had moved on to a Jumping session with a large number of poles and jumps laid out around the huge arena. Following on from the previous day�??s approach, steady progress was the order of the day to achieve success. Orlaith started with a series of trotting poles, either on a straight line or after a turn. As horses and riders got their eye in and rhythm developed, she progressed to working on turns into a jump followed by a dog leg to another. All done with trotting poles at first, followed very soon after by raising each jump to X-poles. This having been successfully jumped, Orlaith then made each into an upright, and it was really obvious how this steady approach led to success as each horse and rider confidently tackled the jumps and managed to cope with the dogleg turns. By the end of the session, the more experienced riders also had the opportunity to jump higher jumps, with cheers and yippees being heard after each successful clear, as onlookers and riders enjoyed their achievements.
On then again to another delicious lunch in the canteen. And this time the talk in the Conference Room was by Joe Tobin, Master Farrier, entitled �??Your Horse�??s Feet�??. Joe has a wealth of experience and knowledge gained over 30 years and he also judges at the RDS as well as internationally. He brought along a collection of over 40 different horseshoes used for many purposes and explained how many could help the horse. He also had some sections of legs and hoofs and it was a revelation to actually see the inside structures in reality, rather than as a diagram in a book. Joe was a very entertaining speaker, who had a wealth of anecdotes gained over the years, and the time flew by as he answered many questions from his fascinated audience, who gratefully thanked him for his time and patience.
Finally, back in the saddle once more for the last session of the weekend. And as before, Nicky and Orlaith swopped groups and the afternoon sessions were a repeat of the morning�??s ones, for the different groups. Despite the demands of the whole weekend, both horses and riders were still willing and able to find the energy to get the most out of their training. Even the weather co-operated and what had been some rain in the morning turned into a fine hot sunny afternoon to finish on a high note.
So the whole weekend ended with smiling faces and high spirits. Everyone had a great time and learned a huge amount, gaining in confidence and partnership with their horses. Sincere thanks go to Caroline Aragane and her family for organising a seamlessly perfect weekend for horses and riders, to the two trainers Nicky and Orlaith for their excellent coaching, to the two excellent speakers, William Micklem and Joe Tobin, and to the Keogh family for the use of their truly wonderful facilities at Spruce Lodge EC.
-- Sheila Fuller