Here are some photos of Cindy and me working away.

There have been some interesting moments. Cindy did not take kindly to be asked to move on ahead of me on the lunge. She did a great deal of posturing, pinning her ears repeatedly, swirling her head and generally try to tell me where to get off. She’ s a gas ticket and i can now see why her two young male owners had a bit of bother with her, this mare has attitude and she will test your patience and your persistence. But its nice attitude, enough to be interesting, as we say she has a bit about her!

Cindy working on the lunge, low and low, her throughness is not yet consistent but coming. The low and low posture pictured in the photos is necessary to stretch her shortened topline, and free up her shoulders allowing her to come through from behind.

Cindy lunging to the right , note the soft lateral bend in her body, her relaxed posture and her inside hind well engaded well under her body.

Cindy braces

Cindy lunging to the left which is harder for her.

work in hand

Next week ,Cindy working in hand, the objective here is to help Cindy to stop bracing into the bridle and going above the bit when she feels pressure of bit or pressure from my inside leg, either way her response is to invert and go above the bit, however once this is contained she then sucks back from the bit going behind and chomping like mad.

Horses evade pressure generally in three ways, they either go above the contact , bear down on the contact (lean), or they go behind.

Going behind of the three is probably the most challenging to fix especially with a sensitive horse like Cindy, she has to learn to trust the hand again and i have to be good enough to supply that hand.

This is my horse Winner


 Winner Six year old Trakehner gelding. Bred and started in Poland in dressage yard. You can see Winner ridden in a competition on youtube, type in “Winner trakehner 2004” 

 Winner is only just four years old in this video. You will observe that Winner is ridden quite high, is behind the vertical for much of the video and that he grinds his teeth at the end when he is brought to a halt. This level of elevation of the head and neck is not appropriate for a horse in the early stages of his training. Winner has a rather low set neck so this makes it more difficuot for him to elevate . 

Winner was then imported to Ireland by his owner a polish girl. She had owned Winner since he was one year old and had always found him to be a cheeky and mischevious colt. She was alarmed at the demeanor of her horse after a year alone in Poland. The horse she got back after his training appeared to be lazy, sullen and introverted. This girl tried to do her best by the horse but he appeared to hate being ridden. He would not go forward and grinded his teeth continuously when being ridden. She felt everything between them was a fight even although she tried not to. In the end he was ridden with spurs and these had to be applied just to do transitions from walk to trot. Sadly she decided to part with him. I saw him advertised and something drew me to him. 

winner as seen in his "for sale" add




  I went to see Winner but left without making a decision, i felt there was a lot more to the horse than i had seen that day, he  appeared introverted, disinterested in the proceedings, although not  badly behaved. His owner runs a busy stables and stud is a very competant handler and rider and would not stand for any nonsense from horses. i left undecided and in the proceeding days wondered about the horse but did nothing. i went to see lots of other horses and didnt buy any of them either. In retrospect there were horses i probably should have chosen but for whatever reason i didnt . i always think the teacher will come when the student is ready and clearly there was something i was supposed to learn and the horse to teach me it had not quite yet appeared or i was not quite ready to learn. either way the weeks went by and i remained without a horse.  

 Many weeks later i was looking again and found the  fine trakehner’s add and wondered if he had been sold. I decided if he was still unsold i would ask to take him on trial, he had remained unsold.   I brought him down to dublin, i remember when he arrived i attempted to reverse him out of the box (as i expect all horses to do) The horse refused to budge, i took me quite some time to realise that the horse had not one clue how to back up, out of a box or otherwise!! We had to open the front door to get him out.  

The trial 

I have a new horse. she is a five year old Irsh Draft / tb mare called Cinderella

Follow Cindys progress here over the coming weeks, months and hopefully years

Cindys story

Cindy has a lovely temperament. She’s sweet, sensitive but has a “bit about her” as we’d say, her own lady. As a learner Cindy is sensitive, can worry easily, partly her background perhaps

I got Cindy because she had been misbehaving for her owners. She had been showjumped and evented.

Cindys past

Most of Cindy’s problems stemmed from her not being ridden “through” her back. (hereafter termed “through”) She was ridden in a “headset” . This is a situation where we see the neck curved and the head pulled in but the back is still hollow or “inverted” and the horse is not “through” its back.

In this inverted position Cindys head, when ridden, in reality would have been have been high. In Cindys case instead of solving the route of the problem ( ie the inversion), her head was just pulled in on tight restrictive reins. This caused Cindy a lot of pressure in her mouth and she became anxious of the bit. As a result she would go behind the contact tucking her head in towards her chest. When the flash noseband was removed it became apparent just how anxious she was. She chomped the bit manically every time contact of any description was taken and would practically roll her eyes. It was quite distressing to watch and horrible to listen too.

As a consequence of being ridden in this manner Cindy could never be relaxed or “through” Her spine remained inverted and adrenalin flowed through her nervous system. Adrenalin is the hormone of anxiety and flight in animals and humans. Inverted horses are unable to stretch laterally through their bodies but it is this lateral stretching that facilitates the hind legs and the forelegs to become aligned on one track (like a train on a track.). Without this alignment there can be no throughness and therefore no real balance and therefore no relaxation.

When horses are not in balance and are ridden inverted they can react in different ways, some rush like crazy, while others can appear to be sluggish and dont go forward at all well. All are symptoms of lack of balance due to lack of aligment and the resulting lack of throughness.

How did this affect Cindy physically?

As well as chomping the bit Cindy developed very strong muscles underneath her neck, she had no muscle on the top side of her neck or back. She also had a flattish section to her neck just behind the poll that should be arched (in correct work) also stemming from the head being pulled in. She had a hard mass of muscle between her jaw bone and her neck from bracing against the rein. Her throat latch area was tightly held in a v shape rather than in an open u shape.

Wont go forward.

When i first rode Cindy i couldnt believe how much leg she was used to. I want my horse to be reading my energy, to go when i suggest go. Using my energy and intent had no effect, engaging my seat had no effect, closing my leg had a slight effect, clap of the leg produced forward movement for a few yards only for her to stop after a few yards.It was like riding a horse with the brakes on

When i took up a contact even on the ground she would initially try to brace and go above the bit and when this wasn’t possible she would suck back behind the contact tuck her little chin into her chest and chomp the bit like she was going mad. It really was very sad to behold. If you look at the picture of Cindy below you can see the very over developed muscle underneath her neck. Her head was held in this high inverted position almost all the time. This is a sign of a horse who is not relaxed .

Beginning work.

Normally i start with in hand work in the bridle, working the horse in circles and into halts and then into back up to create lateral bend, create relaxation and cure the inversion Cindys relationship with the bit however made this made problematic. I decided to tackle her inversion by using the lunge instead. i would teach her first to move her individual body parts, her neck and head , her shoulders and her hindquarters. Once i was able to influence cindys body parts i would be able to align her in a way that would allow her to come “through” her back. This would give her the relaxation she so badly needed.

next week photos- cindy aligned and through on the lunge

and work begins with her re education to the bridle