From understanding comes strength


Week 4 Wednesday 30th November


Week 2 November 16th 2016

Week 2 at Horseback began again with carrying out stable chores. It is great to see the pupils working together to accomplish these tasks. Hay nets require a great deal of filling and is definitely a two person job! It was cold today so we all had to work hard to keep warm.

Each pupil learned about grooming today from Emma. After collecting ponies from the fields we were taught the names of the tools in the grooming kit and how to safely groom. We were told that ponies enjoy being groomed and the ones who wear winter rugs especially enjoy this as it gives them a good itch! Everyone spent time bonding with their horse whilst doing this. We learned that grooming is about more than just making them look nice. It is a chance to look for any injuries that may have happened and the grooming process brings oil to the surface of the coat which helps keep the ponies warm. They don’t lose much hair in winter as they need it all to get them through the cold months.

The group worked with three small ponies in the outdoor arena today. They ponies were let loose and a group of three pupils had to get them going round the arena and over small jumps just using their bodies and a carrot stick. The stick is like a long whip but it is never used to hit or hurt the horse. It is used as an extension of the arm and makes us bigger when we want to send ponies in one direction or another. The team of three pupils worked together. One started the ponies going round, the middle person made sure they did not cut across the arena and the third person sent them round and over the small jump. It was fantastic to see the ponies and how they reacted to the mistakes or correct responses we made. Again we thought about the character of the ponies by observing them together. We discussed the idea of herds and how they work.

We had a super afternoon of team games and problem solving activities. Communication was the focus today and this was especially important in our blindfold/instructor activity. Using clear commands pupils worked to send their blindfolded team mate down an obstacle course, collecting a ball at the end and returning safely. A great way to emphasise to importance of communicating clearly!

We were warmed up today by Mrs Bett’s lovely soup and crusty bread followed by apple pie and custard. Highlight of the day for many!

Week 3 November 23rd 2016

The focus word at Horseback UK today was ‘kindness’. We talked about how we need to lead our horses and care for them with confidence and kindness. Leadership requires the ability to develop a relationship with the horse so that they want to follow you rather than being forced to with aggression. We also learned that kindness does not mean over feeding them or not exercising them. It requires a kind leader.

All of us were busy doing chores first thing as part of our daily routine. There were 3 stables to muck out, hay nets to fill, water buckets to fill and the yard to be swept. Everyone is now becoming more familiar with the jobs that need to be done so are working more independently.

Our next task was to learn how to put on a pressure halter. This requires making sure the correct part of the halter is round the nose then over the head and making a simple ‘b’ shape knot at the end. Everyone made a good attempt. This new skill was then put into practise as all pupils collected the pony that they were going to work with from the field.

Pupils groomed their pony using the correct items from the grooming kit. As this has been done before there was increased confidence by most.

After a hot drink and a biscuit all ponies were taken into the indoor school and pupils began working with them on the ground.  They were taught how to make their pony stop, move forward, walk and trot on command. They began to think about how their body energy affects the pony. The more energy they have the more the pony will move forward in an active way. From the way the ponies responded the pupils had to guess what kind of character they thought their pony might have – lazy, fast, naughty, or gentle! Does the way we act tell us and others something about our personality and character?

All ponies were then organised for going back into the fields. For some ponies this meant putting back on the rugs that keep them warm outside.

Lunch today was meatballs and spaghetti pasta with cheese followed by sponge and custard.

The afternoon’s activities again developed the theme of team work, problem solving and getting good communication going. We discussed being able to delegate to others, encouraging others in our team, listening to the suggestions of others and having the confidence to put forward ideas. Our day was rounded up with a summary of the days work and a reminder of our focus words so far – patience, kindness and confidence.

Archive 2015-16

Pupils are becoming much more confident in carrying out the regular chores and routines you find at a working stable yard. This was especially evident in the grooming today as some were able to groom with very little support. They were able to select the correct brushes and tools and even pick out the horses feet which can be a difficult task. They are also becoming skilled at putting on and taking off rugs. We have been learning about the different colours of horses and today everyone remembered the colour of their horse.

Leading was the focus of today’s work. Pupils thought about the way the give their horse commands, how they can change their body energy and use their voice to communicate to their horse what is expected. We had to lead our horse around a series of obstacles, stop and move forward on command. The most difficult challenge was to get our horse to step over a pole but have the two front legs in front of the pole and the two hind legs behind it! After quite a few tries everyone was successful. It was a great way to think about how we use body language and tone of voice to get a desired result. It is lovely to see the bonds developing with pupil and horse.

We watched Jock work with a new horse who has recently come to Horseback UK. He demonstrated how they begin training their horses and how they focus on patience, kindness and leadership.

We enjoyed some more fun team games that made us think carefully about communicating with each other.

Week 5 Wednesday 7th December

Today’s focus word was ‘consistency’. Pupils thought about what this word means and how it is important when working with horses. As with all things we do at Horseback UK we also think about how this relates to us. Consistency helps us to form good relationships because people (and horses) know we will act in the same way so others are comfortable around us. A consistent approach also helps train the horses because they know what they are expected to do. Trust and responsibility all linked to our discussions today.

Pupils began the day with a warm up exercise and some more exciting team challenges. We are developing a good understanding of the importance of communication, leadership and effective team work. We have seen a great improvement in how pupils are working together. Effective communication skills were evident today. Each group encouraged and supported each other.

Pupils carried out the daily chores to contribute to the running of the stable yard.

As with every week the pupils catch and groom their horses. This ensures any injuries are not missed and helps us spot any signs of illness. They also get a clean which they really enjoy!

The pupils worked with their horses to develop their skills of leading and being in control. Again a previous focus word ‘kindness’ was developed through this exercise. If the horse does not do what we want it to do it is because our commands are not clear. We have to think about what we can do rather than being annoyed with the horse. Pupils learned to use the carrot stick to develop a trusting relationship as well as getting the horse to move forward and back using our body energy and communication skills.

Our afternoon was all about maps and an introduction to geocaching. This is a skill that will be developed over a number of weeks so pupils can read and follow a simple map during our Glentannar expedition. Team work, communication and consistency needed to be used and everyone managed the exercise and received a bar of chocolate at the end as a reward!

Our focus word for today was ‘belief’. We discussed how this relates to our lives and also to the way we work with horses. Believing in ourselves is an important way to challenge what we do and it affects our relationships with people.

We had an inspirational day. Pupils worked with their horses doing what staff at Horseback call ‘The Join Up’. The join up is a 1:1 experience with the horse and mimics the natural herd/pack behaviours of horses in the wild. Emma demonstrated for us and explained that herds have a dominant stallion and a lead mare. The lead mare is responsible for ensuring all the horses in the herd are watered and safe. She also reprimands bad behaviour of individuals in the herd and does this by ‘sending’ the horse out of the safety of the herd until she feels that horse is ready to be welcomed back. This is simply mimicked in the ‘join up’. Each pupil, supported by Emma, enters the round pen with their horse. The horse is let loose. The pupil ‘sends’ their horse out to the edges of the pen and uses the carrot stick to show them which direction they should go in. The horse trots around the arena as directed by the pupil changing direction and speed. The pupils worked on altering their body energy and used the ‘pressure, release, reward’ method of communicating with their horse.  The horse begins to show signs that they want to be accepted back into the pack with the pupil rather than being on the outside. This can be seen by a slight dropping or nodding of the head and the ear closest to the pupil will be turned in towards the pupil. When the signs are seen the pupil brings their body energy right down. Looks downwards, rounds shoulders and waits. The horse turns in and walks to the pupil. After being greeted and accepted back into the safety of the herd with a pat and a stroke the pupil can then begin to walk anywhere within the arena…….and the horse will follow! They are the leader and the horse has ‘joined up’ with them. As one of our pupils said today, ‘It’s a heart-warming experience never to be forgotten.

Our afternoon focused on developing our map reading and orienteering skills. Pupils worked in teams and thought about how to involve everyone in their team. All the skills we have learned so far came together today. Staff and Horseback are impressed with the determination and enthusiasm of the group. Pupils have come a long way in this short 6 week block at Horseback UK. They will return again at the end of February.

Wednesday 14th December

Wednesday 22nd February 2017

Our first week back at Horseback UK after a short break was spent revisiting all the horsemanship skills we had been learning. They thought about the main overarching qualities and focus words taught to us by Jock. These principles are very important when working with horses and takes into account their needs and our leadership skills.

We got straight to work with the stable chores and everyone worked hard to get these done. Pupils are more forward thinking and are able to look for things that need to be done rather than waiting for instructions.

It was our first week getting on the horses and actually riding. This was done gradually and started with sitting on Woody the wooden horse so all the commands could be practised. Everyone then used these new riding skills to get on their horses. With the support of someone leading or walking alongside their horse pupils tried out the different commands to make their horse walk, stop and change direction around the school. We had some very nervous pupils but it was amazing to see the determination in them to not give up. By the end of the riding session everyone felt extremely proud of themselves.

Our horses were then rugged up and returned to the field before pupils worked with Jay and Will on a problem solving obstacle course which required careful consideration of the verbal commands they gave to each other. We talked about directional and positional language and how this can help when directing a blindfolded partner. Visualising a clock face and using o’ clock times to direct others proved a popular and easy method.

Wednesday 1st March

The pupils worked hard today mucking out the barn and field where the little ponies live. They had to work as a team as there was a lot to do. Due to the determined characters of ponies they all managed to escape their field and have a little gallop around the farm before being caught and returned to their nice clean field!

The horsemanship skills of the pupils continued to develop again as they had to catch, groom and learn to tack up their horses. The western style saddles are very heavy and for the larger horses it required two pupils to get the saddles onto their backs!

Pupils had their second time of riding today and all the initial worries and fears about riding are beginning to dwindle. We had many smiley faces and some even managed their first trot. This will be built upon over the coming weeks.

Our afternoon was about developing memory skills and conveying messages accurately. Jay had a variety of games which made us all think about our brain as a muscle and the more it is used the stronger it will become. He talked to us about ‘The Pareto Principle’ or the 80/20 rule as it is sometimes known. This principle states that eighty percent of success in life is turning up. This gave us a lot of avenues for discussion about resilience and fostering a positive, have a go attitude. The pupils have responded very well to the team games and are developing many skills through problem solving and working together.

Wednesday 8th March

We had a day full of rain and sunshine today which made working on the horses quite a challenge. Our horsemanship skills are being developed in preparation for our 3 day expedition and ride out in Glen Tanar. Pupils spent more time in the saddle today. They are riding the same horses each week and are developing closer bonds with them so they can understand their personalities.

Pupils took turns to be either a rider or a leader and think about the commands they need to use for steering and control of their horse. Pupils had to navigate an obstacle course with their horse to give them more practise giving directional commands. Everyone was trotting again today and we are seeing real progress with many. We have some natural riders amongst the group.

Our afternoon was spent developing our memory skills by building on the memory techniques we learned last week. Passing messages accurately from one person to another was great fun and showed how easily messages can get distorted! Using an obstacle course pupils had to memorise an item at each obstacle and in their mind attach a story to it as they went around. We then wrote down how many we could remember. As this was practised our ability to remember items improved significantly.

Our day finished with Jock giving us a demonstration of horseback archery! It was very impressive and some of the pupils would like to try this next week.

Wednesday 15th March

Wednesday 22nd March

Week 1 November 9th 2016

Today we traveled to horseback UK for our first of 15 visits. We were met by the Horseback team and introduced to the course by Jock who dresses like Woody from Toy Story!

Jock put on a wonderful display of horsemanship with his ex race horse showing us how we will be able to build up confidence, patience, trust, respect  and leadership in the weeks to come with our horses.  Jay also an ex -marine put us through a warm up in the indoor arena and Emma showed us around the farm and introduced us to Jackie.

Jackie showed us how to do all the chores and we all volunteered to fill the hay nets, muck out the stables, sweep the courtyard and scoop the poop! Some of us rinsed and refilled the drinking troughs and then we had our fly cup.

Now it was time to meet our horses. We collected four small horses from the muddy field and the others were already in the arena ready for grooming.

We had a quick lunch then Emma showed us how to groom our horses, where to stand, what brushes to use and how to build up a relationship with our horse. We spent some time grooming our horses coats and combing their mane and tails.

Emma explained each horses colour which we are going to try to remember for next week. Lucy’s horse  Pinkie is grey, Hannah’s Patrick is black, Andrew’s horse Piper is a skewbald, Holly’s Ki Ki  is iron grey, Esmee’s Nugget is a palameno, Tom’s Ellie May is a blue roan, Keiran horse Blue is a dapple grey, Liam’s Apollo is a chestnut roan, Emily’s Red is a chestnut, Demi’s horse Archie is brown and Stacy’s Jack is black.

We finish our day meeting  with Jock, Jay and Emma and Lynn going over all the things we had done throughout the day. We all had a fantastic time.

Over the last few weeks the pupils have been learning to control their horses in the indoor and outdoor schools on the farm. Their confidence has grown and they have developed a bond with the horse they ride.

Today pupils moved one step further and had their first ride out from Horseback UK, along the Deeside Way and past the gliding club. It was supported by a group of veterans who have just completed their mentoring course with Horseback. They are now qualified volunteers and were able to work 1:1 with the pupils today. Half the group rode out first and we then swopped over so the rest could ride back. This riding experience was quite different from being in the security of the fenced arenas. There were cows in fields, traffic noise and sloped ground to manoeuvre! Knowing the veterans were walking alongside them soon lifted any worries and there were lots of smiles all round. It was a great way of building up to their ride out at Glentannar during the upcoming 3 day expedition.

Back at the farm pupils carried out their normal stable duties and groomed and fed their horses. They were treated to music from the bagpipes by one of the talented veterans! Another happy and successful day.

19th, 20th, 21st April – Horseback Expedition

We ended our time at Horseback UK with our 3 day expedition. Day 1 was based at the farm and pupils had an intensive day of working with the horses, riding and preparing the tack to ensure everything was ready for the ride out. Jay spoke about the route we would ride and gave us some information about safety aspects.

Day 2 began with getting the horses groomed and tacked up ready for the ride out. Our ride started at the Horseback farm and ended at Cambus O’may which is a 2 hour ride. The group was split in half with one group riding out and the other group riding back. The pupils who were riding back got the Horseback vehicle loaded up with water and food and drove to the Cambus O’May picnic area and prepared the lunch and water for the horses. After a short rest the second group began the 2 hour ride home. We had a beautiful day for the ride out and every pupil was able to ride independently through the gorgeous Deeside countryside. We walked and had an occasional trot throughout the 2 hour ride. We met walkers and cyclists’ en-route and had to convey messages back and forward along the group to let others know of possible dangers up ahead. It really was a fantastic achievement for everyone.

We washed and cooled down the horses on their return and put them back into their fields. We then drove to Glen Tanar estate to stay that night at ‘Hogwarts’. It was a lovely evening so we decided to go on a walk up into the estate where we were lucky enough to see some deer and bats. After a hearty evening meal we all slept well!

Our final day saw us cleaning tack and making sure the tack room area was clean and tidy. All pupils then gave a short presentation in small groups to the Horseback staff to sum up their time there. We were very proud of their efforts and some tears were shed by the Horseback team!