This is my first Blog as a Recommended Associate of Intelligent Horsemanship. I was aiming to become qualified by the time I hit the big 30, and I'm pleased to report that I offcially made it! It’s been a long old journey to get to this point (as my long-suffering husband will tell you). I always knew I wanted to work with horses, and at aged 17 began the first part of my formal equine education studying at Bicton College, in Devon.
I was there for three years, and as well as making some life-long friends, I developed a real passion for equine behaviour. I also realised my love for classical riding, having daily lessons from a very talented (if somewhat militant, and unsympathetic to incompetent young females) classical rider. At this point in time I knew nothing about correct riding, having spent my youth riding anything and everything that came my way, very much in an old traditional riding school style! Watching knowledgeable riders on well-schooled horses really opened a whole new world for me- and although I was quickly assigned to the bottom riding set, I was determined that one day I would be able to ‘ride like that’.
I will always remember a lesson with Clare Sansom towards the end of my time at Bicton, where I suddenly had that ‘light bulb’ moment. Clare exclaimed in her ‘jolly hockey sticks’ manner; ‘Jenny, I have never seen you ride like that!’ I was in total harmony with the horse. I realised what softness and lightness was, and how utterly different it felt when your horse was truly engaged and working ‘from behind’. To this day I find it difficult to find the words to describe that feeling. If only I could, perhaps my non-rider friends and family would understand the madness.
Bicton fuelled my thirst for knowledge, and from there I went onto Harper Adams University, Moreton Morrell Campus, Warwickshire to study a BSc (Hons) in Equine and Human Sports Science. My riding education continued, although the major learning there was theoretical. I was lucky enough to be involved in some science trials for Dobson and Horrell, where I looked at the time budgets of racehorses, recieving a varying forage to concentrate ratio. The results showed that high grain low forage rations caused stereotypical behaviour in all the horses, which ceased once the forage was increased. My lecturers used the study to look at the physiological results of such a regime and some very adverse physical effects were also evident.
After leaving university I worked for various sectors of the equine industry including a feed company, an international dressage rider, various riding schools and The Exmoor Pony Centre. Here I was lucky enough to meet Recommended Associate Sarah Weston, who was working with the Exmoor foals that had just come off the moor. Whilst watching Sarah work I breathed a sigh of relief – I had at last found a way of training horses that made complete sense to me; an ethos I could whole-heartedly believe in, an effective and logical method of working that was both practical and scientifically explainable.
Yet again, I was determined that 'One day I will be able to do that’. I decided then and there to start on the Intelligent Horsemanship courses, and never looked back. The tutors were friendly, experienced and knowledgable and the techniques and ethos just made perfect sense to me. After many courses, lots of homework, projects, revision, blood, sweat and tears, I undertook the MRPCH exam in summer 2011, and passed with distinction. From there I built up my case studies which were submitted in summer 2012, and am now a fully fledged IHRA looking forward to the next stage in my equine journey!