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Certification & Licensing as ST Evaluator
2022: ST Trainee Evaluator
“I thought I would say hi and share with you a little of my background and my own journey in Straightness Training since I started in January 2017.
I have always had an interest in finding ways to improve the lot of my horses. Both in their welfare and in their training. My lovely horse Limerick was a truly gorgeous boy when I got him as a 4yr old, but it was when I started competing in dressage with him that he started having issues in riding, lolling and spiralling his tongue for example. He was a really talented boy and always gave me his all, but I could not find the answers to this tongue lolling and I really wanted to find a better way than ‘strapping his mouth shut’ as I was advised to do by more than one instructor. I tried natural horsemanship and for several years I trained with the Ecole de Legerete method, which helped to a degree.
Events led to Limerick developing further physical problems, he developed underrun heels which led to deep digital flexor tendon damage and collateral ligament damage in both front hooves and he had a 9month period of rest with a guarded prognosis for return to work. I had spent years trying to improve his hooves and it all had sadly still led to this, what was I doing wrong?!
In 2016 Fernando joined my little herd as a project horse and my goodness he was a challenging boy! So now, I had my old horse with physical injuries, poor hooves and asymmetry and my new horse with more mental issues and asymmetry. In fact, we between us, we had a whole raft of issues that needed to be resolved. Fernando was a very anxious young horse that at only 5yrs had already developed some pretty serious training issues. He had huge separation anxiety and was very nappy.
He was very crooked and wobbly and when riding him it felt like we had no steering! He did not really understand basic aids and was very opposed, really shouting for help and he completely dropped behind the vertical when ridden in a bit as he had only ever been trained with side reins and consequently had learnt to avoid any contact. Now he already had these issues when he arrived with me, however I was/am a high energy person, a bit loud and bolshy and I had a lot of my own habits, backwards hands, lack of balance in the saddle and very stiff in my seat legs, arms and back. It’s funny how you can think that after many years of riding you might be ok at it when actually the opposite was true, oh no!!
My seat and my own habits developed from years of practicing the same mistakes, exacerbated Fernando’s natural asymmetry (and Limericks!), plus I was a little overweight and borderline too big for him. Over the years I had spent a lot of money on lessons and really nobody had really been able to help me with any of these core issues. Interestingly these are very common issues with dressage riders.
in December 2016, right at the time when I was contemplating starting to introduce some rehabilitation training with Limerick and at a point when I was feeling a little lost with Fernando, Straightness Training popped up in Facebook, with Marijke’s tour around the globe. I was fascinated and excited to have found such an in depth and well thought out training resource. I also had a strong desire to find a better way and (I hoped) eventually teach it, and I could see that there was already a clear training path for instructors, so all I had to do was join up and get started!
Because I had already decided that I wanted to become an instructor I really threw myself at it. I wanted to give it my best shot and I became a little addicted to the search for those 2mm improvements once I had received feedback for my touchstones. With two horses that each had their own issues to deal with I had my work cut out! When I started seeing results I was just amazed and along the way I found out a lot of truths about myself.
I feel like I have reinvented myself and can barely recognise who I once was. I had to change myself to be able to help my horses, looking at my own mental state, becoming more grounded, and learning to leave my problems outside the arena. I learnt some extremely important lessons in the Liberty pillar, as when you step into the arena with the wrong energy or expectation, your horse would usually prefer to be elsewhere!! I had to learn to be the interesting and empathetic person that my horses want to work with.
It has taken me a long while to get this far and I can see a long journey ahead, but I am every week excited by the improvements, unpeeling the layers to find the magic within. This is such a satisfying and fascinating process and I love how my horses want to join in and be a part of it.
If I had not embarked on this path with ST I am not sure where I would be. I have made so many changes to my life as a result of joining.
The program has given me such confidence and the Self Mastery and Life Coaching elements have helped me to make immense changes in my life, literally life changing. I guess I would be in a house I didn’t love, with my horses at livery, riding the same way and getting the same mediocre results. Fernando would perhaps be ok to ride out on but I would never have developed such an amazing relationship with him and I am not sure that I would have been able to resolve his many problems as I just did not have the tools or knowledge to really help him. I did not know what I did not know and so I thought I could help him, but at times he was quite dangerous so it could have ended rather badly. Fernando has transformed both physically and mentally.
I love working with him on the ground and all of the four pillars on the ground; Groundwork, Lunging, Work in Hand and Liberty were what he really needed to be able to become more balanced and overcome his asymmetries without the added influence of a rider. As he grew stronger and more balanced, he grew more and more confident, and the issues just melted away. My favourite thing is to mix groundwork with liberty with the aim to work as one with the lightest feel.
It is fascinating to train horses in this way, and it has become a little bit of an obsession. In riding he is just getting better and better, however we do still have a long road ahead as we go through the grades together, it is nearly always the human who is the main problem, and I am definitely the main limiting factor in our training. I recognise this now and I have learnt to always ask myself the question, “is it something that I am doing?”
I was so excited in 2020 to be invited into the instructor programme and happily in 2021 I achieved my original goal to become a certified and licensed Straightness Training Instructor, plus I also graduated as an Evaluator!!
I am really enjoying helping as many people and horses as I can, and as I am also a member of the Scholars program, I am secure that I always have access to the most up to date training which I can pass on to my students.
I have fallen into just about every training hole myself and climbed back out, so I have plenty to share . I love seeing horses change in the lessons, as they start to realise that this work is ok and we are listening to them, seeking to understand them and doing our best to help them.
I lost Limerick to colic sadly in October 2020 but before this happened, I was so proud of him and how at the age of 18yrs he was finally starting to reach some of his potential and had developed the right muscles.
I even found that his hooves had transformed, his forefeet were finally a more balanced pair. Just 2 weeks before I lost him, he gave me the gift of a beautiful Riding 1 evaluation, I was so proud of him as we had travelled a long journey together to get to that standard where he could relax and search consistently. He was a great teacher as he could not relax and search if I was in any way blocking him so I had to make the changes in myself to enable him.
I currently have seven four legged friends in my herd. Oro, a PRE colt of 15months, Luciana PRE, Zozia, Phoebe and Pip all warmblood cross, Fernando warmblood cross 12 yrs and Katy a Welsh A 21yrs old. Straightness Training has given me the confidence and the tools to help all of them with their issues and to be able to start all of my young horses. Each horse has their own story and I have learnt a lot through working with them all.
I am very excited for their future and especially to one day working with my very special colt Oro.
I wish all of you joy and success with your horses ”