Saddle Fitting Training and a short break with Jenny Rolfe

And Breathe!!

The last two weeks have been so busy I have not had even a minute to consider writing a blog. This week is a little quieter so PHEW I now have a little bit of time! I am really enjoying my saddle fitting appointments and although I am not yet qualified its just fabulous to see a horse move better and behave better from the saddle fit. You realise more and more that getting it right affects so much for the horse.

I have seen several ponies with severe muscle wastage over the last few weeks all due to poor fitting saddles. Again I am not an expert but muscle wastage is obvious, and in most cases it is caused by pressure from a saddle that does not distribute the weight evenly. So for instance if its to narrow it will sit up in front and the back of the saddle will press down - in severe cases it will rub the hair away and cause bruising.

To be honest most owners when you highlight the problem they are mortified, and will do whatever it takes to fix the problem. Sometimes temporary padding under a well fitted saddle is your only short term option. It just helps to take the pressure away from the sensitive and possibly bruised area while you work on building up the muscle. Short term a pad may solve your problem - Long term the back needs strengthening, the muscle needs building and the bruising may need rest from a saddle on the back altogether.

Luckily most owners will take your advice and do the best by the horse. But sadly some owners just want hear of it and are in complete denial that there is a problem. These owners I usually walk away from very saddened. After all I am not there for any other reason than to help that horse - thats my passion and thats why I want to help find saddles that work.

As its been so busy, and I have missed out on valuable time with my two lovely horses I decided to take a break to North Devon with them. We stayed in the most beautiful shepherds hut hosted by another lady passionate about her work - Jenny Rolfe. In my quest of learning, I love to look at every aspect of the relationship with the horse and how we can work with them in partnership. Jenny Rolfe is an author, trainer and has a deep love for the horse.

Several years ago Jenny wrote her first book,’ Ride From the Heart’ and also produced a DVD to demonstrate her concepts. The journey continued, as Jenny progressed, both learning with her stallions and teaching students and clients, who come from all over the world to work with her stallions and study her methods.

Jenny is dedicated to teaching how loose work can bring both rider and horse together and how ridden work is a connection built through subtle communication of breathing. She has inspired and empowered many riders to take a new path which brings a closer relationship with the horse and new dimension to riding.

Over years, Jenny has written articles for ‘British Dressage’ magazine, ‘ Horses For Life’ and ‘Dressage Today’ in USA. She has been featured in ‘YOUR HORSE’ and’ HORSE’ magazines and writes regularly for several publications.

Staying completely open minded I went wanting to understand Jenny's training and how this might help me with my horses. As a dressage competitor I always like to look at all aspects of training and what positives it can bring. Working with Jenny and the horse's loose in the school was so interesting. It was clear from the off my horse Boomerang who I have owned for nearly 2 years has a closer bond with me than my other horse Fahrenheit who I have owned for about 10 weeks. Boomerang I felt tuned into me more and his join up with me was much quicker.

What was so pleasing to see was Fahrenheit taking himself off up the school doing a flying change over X going over a row of poles on the floor and coming back down and doing it again. When he arrived with me he did not particularly like going over poles and would shoot off if he touched one. We worked over poles daily for a few weeks to gain his confidence ensuring him it was safe.

Fahrenheit was much more responsive to breath energy on the ground where Boomerang was much more responsive ridden.

Jenny also really gets you to tune into your body before you get on. Checking for tightness anywhere in your body, breathing right into your stomach and then emptying your lungs completely. Its really amazing how much tension we can hold in our body and how that affects how the horse moves. To understand what Jenny does fully you need to read her books or have a look at her website http://naturallyclassical.com

Whilst in attendance at Jenny's I was lucky enough to ride one of her Iberian Stallions. This amazing horse has been completely trained by Jenny and I can honestly say gave me the lightest most beautiful connection. I felt the Spanish Walk for the first time and Passage that had cadence, power and softness which if you have ever ridden a good Passage you would know can be very hard to achieve.

Jenny has not only trained this horse with Breath Energy but has also tutored a young rider called Sam who is just 14. Sam is such a dedicated boy with a beautiful ability to ride. He was an absolute pleasure to watch, with a soft hand, a soft back and complete focus from the minute he put his feet in his stirrups. Bullied at school for wearing "tight trousers" - Breeches to us he is really inspiring. He has been bullied so much they have broken his bones - but he continues to ride with a dedication I have not seen before. On the Sunday morning before we went home, Sam was not aware I was in the school. He arrived with his mum Charlotte who works with Jenny, before his mum had even switched off the car engine he was out of the car into the Stallion's stable who he rides with his arms flung round the horse's neck hugging him. It was so lovely to see.

There is always something to learn with horses whether its saddle fitting, schooling, loose work, judging or just sitting in there stable with them. To keep learning is to keep growing!