30. Lion-Heart

Blog 30 – “Lion-Heart”

We continued training with P.K who, to his credit was receptive to the clicker regime, although I toned it down a lot for sessions with him as I did not want to disturb the sessions immediately preceding or following on from mine by littering the place with Filly’s toys!

Progressing after the original 3 year course to the advanced course brought new challenges.  On one particular course Filly, who had had a good day 1 was then struggling with even the basics on day 2.  I was at something of a loss, as evidently was P.K. and after coming up with various suggestions with little or no effect he rode Filly and shared with us a technique known as the Effet d’Ensemble.

This more or less translates as the Combined Effect and sometimes referred to as “Baucher’s Golden Key” and combines the use of the rider’s hand and spur on the pectoral muscles at the same time.  It is the exception to the classical rule, “Hands without Legs, Legs without hands” and therefore must be done with extreme tact to avoid confusion in the horse, hence not going into great detail here.  It is analogous with using the accelerator and the brake in your car at the same time and in classical riding may be considered a “point of departure”, creating a reflex response in the horse to engage its core and lift its back creating “submission”. Without doubt it has this effect but Filly was “unwilling” (unable) to maintain it, even under P.K, who rode her for over an hour “generously” giving up his morning break so convinced was he this was the lesson she needed.  P.K. then suggested, and I agreed, that Filly return to the arena for a second session with him that day at lunchtime and a third, ridden by me under his instruction in the evening.  Thankfully the advanced course is 3 days rather than 4 and on the last day we had another Effect d’Ensemble lesson and rather than invite my feedback regarding our homework P.K. categorically told me that this was to be my homework.

I trusted P.K. and, to the best of my ability, I followed his instructions but felt uncomfortable, not necessarily with Effect d’Ensemble as a technique but as to why it should be necessary for Filly and the seemingly endless repetition with no positive tangible change.  On the 4 hour drive home I decided that there had to be a reason for Filly to have struggled so much and that I would not continue to use Effect d’Ensemble until I had ruled all physical issues out.  I thought back through the session and realised that things had started to go wrong while training the piaffe, using transitions, rein-back – trot – rein-back, an effective strategies to train piaffe but not for Filly on that day.

Martin demoing with me, Mark, Debbie and Katie
Filly’s SI issues, while improved were not resolved, I had tried a lot of skilled bodyworkers, most had not impacted on it and some did - a bit and on the recommendation of a numerous clients I called Roger Meacock.  He confirmed she had SI issues then put a Houseman’s gag on her and inspected Filly’s teeth.  He told me that there was no point in him adjusting her pelvis until I had got her teeth sorted out.  I was shocked, I had always had my horses’ teeth attended to regularly by a qualified and experienced dentist and told him I was at a loss.  Fortunately he recommended Martin Fox, Filly had two sessions with Martin then Roger returned and Filly has not had an issue with her SI since.  
It is very upsetting when we put our trust and our horse’s welfare in the hands of others only to discover that our horses have been let-down.  

However, I do not blame P.K, past dentists and bodyworkers for failing Filly, I am responsible for what happened.  Nobody forced me to follow P.K’s instruction, or use specific dentists or bodyworkers, I chose to do so.  

While upsetting I learned from this experience that if my horses have recurring issues then we are not (yet) at root-cause and I need to keep investigating.  And if someone, however experienced and skilful they are asks me to do something with my horses that doesn’t “feel” right then I won’t do it.

I was very concerned about the impact that this experience would have on the relationship I had with Filly but on bringing her back into work it seemed, remarkably that she had put the whole experience behind her and was ready to forgive me.  She is the most generous, wonderful little horse and as my friend Verity says, “A lion hearted mare”.

Next time "Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy" published 21st May. 

For those searching online for more “instructional” resources than offered in these blogs please make use of my video downloads www.ashenec.co.uk

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