Sunday, 27 July 2008

This is my new blog.... I hope! I have little faith in technology, and even less in my ability to work with it, so I will believe it when I see it up there on the website. My original server gave up the ghost some months ago, and this has added significantly to my inability to get my act together. So my true confession is that I have written nothing since November last year, and it is now August. I would love to say that I now have great hopes for my future blogging, but I am more of a realist than that!

The new 'Ride With Your Mind Clinic' book continued to haunt me through the autumn and into the new year, with pages winging their way between me, my illustrator and my editor. Then finally came the lull before it appeared in print. It arrived on my door step the day before I left for America in February, which was fabulous timing. I am sure that there are few greater thrills in life than seeing and holding the book you have laboured over - the book that was nothing but files on a computer until it is miraculously given substance. Imagine seeing it there in your hand in black, white, and beautiful colour...what joy!

Thus I have had advance copies to sell during my lecture-demonstrations etc, but it has only just been officially published, and reviews are starting to come out now. So I have my fingers crossed!

Whilst writing it, I kept thinking about how much more time there would be once it was finished, but the truth is that so much gets put aside to make time for writing that there is an existential 'catch-up' that has to happen afterwards. I am now emerging from that catch-up, and feel that my head is above water for the first time in a long time. I am now trying to put some finishing touches to my house - having lived for a year with much of the downstairs as a concrete floor I am longing for my floor tiles to be fitted! I also have a pressing need for some more shelves etc., and as the price of oil escalates, I hope to enter the winter with a few more heating options.

Meanwhile my horses are doing well, and I am now the proud owner of five of them. I bought Astro, one of our school horses from Sam Twyman last summer, and have now also bought Golly who was on loan to Karin Major. She took over from Sam as the manager of Overdale, and when Golly's owners wanted to sell rather than loan I could not let such a good horse slip through my fingers. My wonderful pony Ellie is still going strong, and whenever I ride her I learn a lot in the experience. She is a great teacher. Quite, my Lusitano (who is pictured on the cover of the
'Clinic' book) is progressing really well, with big improvements in my ability to access his various gears, and to match his power in 'big trot' and passage. He is also doing really well with piaffe, which gives me great pleasure as when I bought him the owners were convinced that he would never do it. He has started teaching a few lessons to my more experienced pupils, and is now tollerant enough to give some of them their first taste of flying changes, piaffe and passage. Last on the list is my new horse Merlot, a 7 year old warmblood who has been given to me by Page who hosts my clinics in Wellington Florida, (and who appears in the 'Clinic' book). He has only been here for 2 months, and he is not an easy kettle of fish. But there are lots of good things happening as he chills out and becomes more ridable. I shall update you later!
This has been the summer of conferences. In June I spoke at a conference entitled 'This Learning Life' held in the Postgraduate Department of Education at Bristol University, and organised by Professor Guy Claxton. I had so much fun, and revelled in meeting some of the foremost thinkers on learning in both this country and the world. It was exciting and vallidating that they found my 'learning conversation' so thought provoking.

I have just been to Dublin to speak at the Conference of the International Society for Equestrian Science (ISES). I have only just discovered them, and I hope they might be left thinking that they have just discovered me! They are a group of academics including vets, zoologists, animal behaviourists and trainers, who are researching many facets of horse behaviour, and how we can best manage and train them. There were some interesting papers given, for instance, about the stresses of starting horses and travelling them (interestingly, cortisol levels increased much more on a one hour journey than they did when horses were first saddled and ridden).

There were also a few practical sessions, of which mine was one. I had only 25 minutes to work with 2 riders, so it was a whirlwind trip, which I think came together remarkably well considering the time constraints. I hope I really was able to make the point that how the rider sits matters, that our sitting is our primary tool for doing the job of influencing the horse, and that we (and the horse) pay dearly when our centre of gravity/tone/symmetry do not allow us to be precise enough in our organisation.
One of the leading lights of the organisation is Andrew McLean - google him to find out about his approach to groundwork and operant conditioning (the trial and error learning that he believes is the foundation for all of the horse's later responses under saddle).

I am soon off to Denmark to teach a clinic there and to watch Heather Blitz for a few days. So I am really looking forward to that. Heather teaches a clinic at Overdale on 20 and 21 September, and anyone who wants to come and watch should telephone me. I really recommend seeing her in action.

All in all it's an action packed summer - but I hope to be back on this blog much sooner than previously!