So as many you will know we adopted a fabulous pony from the Bluecross just under five years ago in 2018. We have been on a fabulous journey with him and I thought it was time to give you an update on his progress.
Being too small for me to ride, we have done masses of groundwork with Pumpernickel, in hand, in long-reins and on the lunge and this really shows as he is so polite to handle and understands us so much better. It also set him up brilliantly for when we did back him.
Pumpernickel is super responsive to voice aids. The key to achieving this is to be consistent with the voice aids you use; always use the same words in the same way for each transition or movement you are trying to establish.
So often riders use a generic click for multiple movements which to the horse could mean go forward, sideways or backwards. With Pumpernickel and anyone else who handles him I have been keen to make sure the same voice commands are always used so he is really clear on what they mean. Eg, walk-on, trot-on, can-ter for the upwards transitions, and aand-trot, aand-walk, and aand-stand for the downward transitions. Responsiveness to these and other basic voice commands is invaluable and something I think all horse owners should constantly work on.
Exercises on the way to the field?
We love poles here at Horses Inside Out. All of our horses work regularly over poles either on the lunge or ridden. Pumpernickel is no different. When he arrived he had never really worked with poles and he was relatively inexperienced on the lunge. He can now be considered a bit of a pole work master. It took time and lots of patience, we started out doing basic training on the lunge, we use a simple set of voice commands for both upwards and downwards transitions. Transitions also proved to be really important. He used to run a lot and he had a habit to lean on the lunge line, now he is very well balanced although he does sometimes struggle to pick up the correct canter lead. To get to this stage a key part of his training has been the use of poles, initially starting out with basic walk poles and then progressing to trot and canter poles. We also used raised poles with him which has really helped with his hoof to brain coordination he now rarely taps the poles and it really helps with his balance and core strength.
One thing that we have discovered about Pumpernickel is he has an incredible natural jump. On a number of occasions he has jumped out of his paddock, easily clearing a 5 bar gate, to reach the grass which looks greener on the other side and loose jumping we have had him jumping 1.20m. With a capable rider he comfortably jumps a course of 80cm. This is quite an achievement for a 12.2hh pony. We took a lot of time to build up to this but he really enjoys it and it is something to vary with his training. We are very fortunate that Harriet Hess, a talented professional rider, comes to school him once a week.
For those of you who have seen a Horses Inside Out lecture demonstration or watched some of my polework and gymnastic jumping webinars you will know how highly I value poleowork for improving posture, strength, coordination, balance, flexibility and adjustability. So it will come as no surprise to learn that we have done a lot of polework sessions with Pumpernickel and now he is quite the pro! I think all horses whatever their discipline can benefit from regular polework to support their musculoskeletal health and performance.
This year we have also introduced Pumpernickel to cross country jumping. We have a few small fences at home which he has jumped many times so we felt it was time to take the next step and take hime to 2 of our local xc schooling facilities. This was his first introduction to water, ditches and banks, all of which he took in his stride. The key is preparation and building up gradually so it is not a surprise. Cross Country is another opportunity to vary his work load and training and he has proven to be a solid and reliable pony.
Horses Inside Out Courses
Pumpernickel loves the courses we run at our HQ in Leicestershire. These are small practical courses where participants often have the opportunity to get hands on to learn new techniques such as massage, myofascial release, palpation, pilates and energy techniques. Pumpernickel is usually everyone's favourite. He is a real character and clearly loves the techniques!
We are planning Pumpernickel's next steps carefully, he is a super pony with many talents and he needs to keep progressing. We are currently on the look out for a good and sympathetic rider to come and rider Pumpernickel on a regular basis. So if you know of anyone do let us know!