Success Stories – Our Latest IH Trainer

Meet Mel – our latest IH trainer

“‘I LOVED the Untouched Horse course and fell completely in love with IH, the methods and the community of ‘like-minded’ people. This completely inspired me to attend a 5-day foundation course. This was one of the most ‘enjoyable’ horse experiences to date and completely cemented my desire to continue my IH journey.”

Horse life before IH

As a child I had a lovely horse Pootle who we had owned from a 4-year-old and we enjoyed eventing, show-jumping, dressage, hunting, team-chasing and also polo for which we competed at the Pony Club Championships at Cowdray Park. As a teenager I had a wonderful horse, Jiggs, who I competed at Pony Club Area and National Championships for Dressage, Show Jumping and Eventing who developed my love of these disciplines. I started my BHS (now BE) eventing with Jiggs, competing in the JRN (Junior Regional Novice) classes.

I spent two years working as a ‘working pupil’ for Gill Watson who at the time was training the U21 British Eventing Squad and then went on to work for Ian Crippin where I had 6 months experience of working with horses that others found too ‘tricky’!

As an adult, on a horse named ‘Monster 😊’ I evented up to and including intermediate one-day events and 2 star 3-day-events (currently named 3 stars). The highlight was competing at Windsor Park 3-day event.

I was then introduced to my ‘horse of a lifetime’ Bryan who I purchased as a 4-year-old. I really enjoyed producing him to Elementary Dressage (BD) and 1.30m BS Show-Jumping – our highlights together were qualifying for the 1.15m Blue Chip Championships, the 1.20m Scope Festival Championships and it was amazing to compete in the Royal Windsor main arena 1.30m open. He was an absolute gentleman, and I had my 3 children while owning Bryan.  He showed me how important it was to desensitise to certain things, for example, to be able to have the children and buggies around him but also with competing in main arenas and having to cope with crowds, umbrellas, and other spooky items.

IH in my life

Since then, I have backed and produced a horse, Kayla, to 1.05m BS show jumping and Medium Dressage.  Kayla introduced me to IH and, Sandra Williams, as she was a mare who knew her own mind and she really did not want to load!  Sandra helped me with loading but also with all elements of ‘groundwork and training’.  I fell in love with the IH methods and the framework it gave to training with my horses. 

At this time, I took on two youngsters as ‘weanlings’ and was inspired to attend the ‘untouched horse’ IH course.  I LOVED this course and fell completely in love with IH, the methods and the community of ‘like-minded’ people.  This completely inspired me to attend a 5-day foundation course.  This was one of the most ‘enjoyable’ horse experiences to date and completely cemented my desire to continue my IH journey.  I attended all the courses and applied to do my Stage 2 exam week in September 2016 which was hard work, but I was thrilled to pass.  Since passing my Stage 2, I have been busy with my own horses (I took on one further ‘weanling’), working and young children but have been slowly working on building up my 15 case studies which I completed in December 2020 (one of which was online!). I have attended 3 Monty Demo’s as a helper and also attended Rosie Jones-McVey and Sandra Williams 2-day ‘practical skills’ course in July 2018 with my daughter Maddie.

My Horses with IH

The benefits of the IH training methods continued with a horse I purchased as a ‘weanling’, Spaghetti. Sandra helped me with ‘groundwork’ and ‘agility’ and with ‘backing’.  After 20 years of not eventing, Spaghetti has completely inspired me to get back to eventing and in 2020 we completed a half season of BE90.  The feeling of going cross country on a horse I have had since a weanling is amazing.  The relationship and trust I have with him inspires me for the future and for helping others feel the same.

As well as Spaghetti, I have Ted (profile picture) who is 14 years old with whom I love to show-jump. We spent a year getting to know each other and competed in some 1.10m classes and were hoping to progress before ‘lockdown no 1’.  He is the first horse I have owned who I have not ‘brought on’ myself.  This has taught me a lot about building relationships with a horse who has had a good relationship with his previous owner. There are different challenges with this than with ‘backing’ and ‘progressing’ a horse yourself or alternatively taking on a horse that has had a ‘troubled’ past. My absolute highlights have been the building of a relationship with him and enjoying the fruits of this trust with our ridden time and jumping. I also ride a horse named Rooney with whom I have loved developing trust with.  He was ridden as a youngster by someone who gave him reason to ‘mistrust’ people and to be ‘introverted’ or ‘shy’ regarding his own talents and abilities.  It has been a privilege to earn his trust and see him grow in confidence.  My absolute highlights with him have been him qualifying with confidence for the final day at the Blue-Chip Championships, competing at Hickstead and successfully completing his debut at foxhunter level.  Since this time, we have focused on dressage and am enjoying learning to ride medium/advanced medium dressage movements/tests.

As an aside, Ted had colic surgery (his small intestine stopped pulsating/working) during ‘lockdown 2020’ and I have spent time rehabilitating him and my daughter’s horse Eddie has had stomach ulcers, so I have spent time researching his diet and nutritional needs also.  This has led me to be interested in diet and general nutrition of the sports horse.  One of my case studies involved help with nutrition/feed options for ulcers and I really enjoyed helping someone else with the lessons I had learnt.

Interests/Demos I have attended in the last 2 years

1.      Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin demonstration of how to train and develop the young dressage horse.

2.      Carl Hester and Gareth Hughes British Dressage Convention – this covered a demonstration on ‘in-hand’ training of the dressage horse.

3.      Ben Hobday Eventing demonstration – training and developing the event horse and training for skinny fences.

4.       Joe Stockdale Show Jumping demonstration – training and developing the young and mature jumping horse including food and nutrition.

Areas of Interest for IH

1.      In-hand dressage movement training – movements from leg yield (we looked at this with Sandra and Rosie on my Stage 2 week) to half pass, pirouette, and passage.

This is an area I am particularly interested in having progressed to working on some of these movements in a ridden way as to whether they could be taught from the floor but without force/violence.  I would like to attend some Demo’s in this area but am aware there will be a large variety of methods for achieving this and therefore it would be finding methods that would be ‘in line’ with IH.

2.      Confidence building and mindfulness techniques to overcome this for the nervous rider.  This was the subject of my ‘psychology’ project and I have furthered with my case studies and I am extremely interested to continue this as it is an area, I am passionate about.  I believe so many riders or potential riders are hindered by confidence issues.

3.      Saddles – the choice of saddle and the effect on rider position and therefore overall harmony with the aids given to our horses.  Again, from the experience with my own horses and helping my daughter I believe that the saddle you sit in has a large influence on the effectiveness of communication with your horse.

4.      Nutrition and Feeding – As mentioned above I believe it to be quite a task to balance out nutrition for the sports horse or the ‘rehabilitating’ horse and I have become interested in this area.

5.      I am always interested in ‘starting the young horse’ or working with the ‘nervous/mistreated’ horse and the developing of a trusting relationship and this was how I found IH.  I strongly believe that if horses are started in the IH way they are more likely to find ‘happy homes’.

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