The Mobil Horse Park Stage
A couple of weeks ago, I heard that Alexandrine had arranged for the Mobil Horse Park to visit, with a stage (training clinic) being run by its operator/owner, Christian Perlerin. I think my horse friends were a bit surprised when I was the first person to sign up for it. I’ve been riding very little, three days a week at most, and I’ve been doing maybe one day of groundwork a fortnight with Aero and even less with Flurry. But I knew about the Horse Park which was set up in the Auvergne a couple of years ago, with a trail of varied and interesting obstacles. I’d love to go there, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever manage it now. I knew that there was a smaller version of it which roams around France, it’s even been in our area a couple of times, once in Bedoin and once in Caseneuve, I think. Both of those happened at times which just didn’t suit me, so I was determined to go and enjoy myself when I realised it would be on our home turf.
My plan was to take Aero and just enjoy ourselves. After Flurry’s shenanigans at the Pauline Beulze clinic a couple of years ago, I didn’t want to have to spend a day trying to calm down a wired yellow cob.
I arrived on Thursday morning, met the owner of the Horse Park, Christian, and went up to see the set up. Cool! Lots of interesting bridge type things, a good curtain fluttering in the breeze… this was gonna be fun!
Two other participants were talking to Christian, so I went over and said hello. Gosh, they were nervous… well, maybe I’d have been nervous if I was planning to do it with Flurry!
To start the day off, we all stood around in a circle and Christian discussed getting your horse into the right frame of mind to work with him. Attentive, not distracted. Not bargy or pushy or in your face. Yup, Aero ticked those boxes.
Then we went off and worked on our connection.
The connection I had with Aero at liberty was not as good as it can be. With nine other horses in the arena, he was inclined to drift away from me with the intention of sneaking off, sniffing poop and making new friends. Our lack of regular work was obvious. But he was calm and focussed most of the time even if I did have to catch the lead rope or disengage his hindquarters every so often to remind him to stay with me.
We ended up going over all the obstacles bar two at liberty with no issue – in fact, when I first tied the rope around his neck, we were near the curtain and he made a beeline for it. CURTAIN! YAAAAY! sort of thing. The only one he didn’t like was a very narrow heap of logs – maybe 50cm wide – where he was supposed to life his legs a little higher and step over it. He didn’t see the point, as it was so easy to step around, but he did it perfectly well if I held the lead rope.
The other one that I didn’t force the issue with was the single barrel which was to be jumped. Aero will sometimes say NO when I ask him to jump. I assume there something arthritic going on somewhere, and he’s telling me that he’s just not feeling it on those days. This day, he popped the barrel sweetly a couple of times on the lunge. I told him he was brilliant and left it at that.
That afternoon, we did everything mounted. Aero was, if anything, bored. I was thinking that two full days of this clinic was not going to be much fun for him after all and that maybe I’d take Flurry along the following day. But Nini’s horse Bonheur had a complete meltdown, quite out of character for him. The sort of thing where you say, no this horse is in pain, probably somewhere in his back. She wouldn’t be able to ride him the next day, so I offered her Flurry for the ridden part the following day. Hopefully she’d have some fun with him.
I was slightly concerned about Flurry having one of his ‘moments’ with Nini, so I brought him up for the initial in-hand session and showed him all the obstacles. I can read him pretty well after eight years. Within minutes, I was confident that safe sensible Flurry was present, not his alter-ego Flurry the nutter. He clomped happily over all the wooden bridge thingies, stood quietly while I shot arrows and waved the bullwhip around, ho-hummed his way through the curtain and the mishmash of logs.
I mounted. We were to work towards riding en cordelette – with a cordero – that day. It’s a while since Flurry was worked in a halter, so we did some bending and releasing, worked on halts and backing up, using the reins as little as possible. Then Christian reduced us to a single rope rein – something I’ve done once before, with Aero, and hated. The feel is so weird. But Flurry, bless him, was tuned into me and was soon circling, turning, stopping easy as pie. Even his neck reining improved.
Nini finished working Bonheur on the ground, went and got Aero and we swapped. I told her to have fun.
They even jumped the barrel a few times.
Meanwhile… back on Aero…
I worked with the cordelette for a while, but I’m really a bit stupid with it. I start treating it like reins, rather than remembering to use my body and legs to direct the horse. So I ended up taking off the cordelette, tying a knot in my reins and just working hands free, with the reins to save us if the steering went wrong. At this stage, my back was being to say “Ahem. Perhaps you’re overdoing it?” so I stopped. A two hour lunch break and a pain-killer should sort things out…
Long story short, in the afternoon I did all of the obstacles hands-free except the jump (I don’t jump any more!) and the two green barrels with the gate/bar thing on top.
In hindsight, I think I could have done that hands free too, I’m sorry I didn’t try.
I waved the bullwhip around (but I’m dangerous with that sort of thing and tipped poor Aero with it aaarghh),shot arrows…
jangled loud bells, went sideways, forwards and backwards over all sorts of things and ended up trotting around with the flag.
All with no hands. I considered cantering with it, but decided I’d probably done enough to my back for one day. It was probably the right decision, I’m a bit sore as I type, one day later.
Kinda sorry I didn’t, though.
PS Fortunately, the LSH came up and took some photos for half an hour. Otherwise, this would be a very empty post. Thanks, LSH.