Country Park Herbs



We have all been there... It is the start of a new year and we decide that now is the time to get back into shape. You buy a new pair of runners and aim for an easy 5km jog.  For the first two minutes, you’re thinking: “Why didn’t I do this earlier, this is easy!” Gradually, the easy-go-lucky feeling is replaced by tightness in the chest, stiffness in the legs and a ‘pain is gain’ mentality. Then, before you know, it you find yourself lying on the couch with an ice pack and the new pair of runners in the corner collecting dust.


At the recent International Equitation Science Conference held in Saumur, France, new statistics were released showing competition riders are more likely to over-tighten nosebands than adjust them correctly. The traditional standard recommending nosebands are adjusted loose enough to allow two fingers to slide between the nose and the strap is being followed by just 7% of riders.


When I finally found her, choosing the trainer to take my young horse, Dante, the next step was easy. Sam is a fabulous horseperson - patient and skilled, kind but firm, and easy to get along with. Still, when I dropped Dante off, I was nervously excited. The initial plan was that he’d spend three weeks with Sam to get some basics under saddle. 


As I loaded my mare, Floss, and my young boy, Dante, into the float, I realised they had never travelled together before. Generally, I’ve chosen to float Dante with our little Welsh pony Timmy, who is a floating star. Floss has never been great in the float, although she has slowly improved over recent years, with a lot of work. Even so, I’ve always thought it better for Dante to travel in company with a better float coach, so have generally worked it so he goes with someone other than Floss.


Dante has grown up around dogs – he’s always lived on properties with dogs and has never had any issues with them. My Labrador stands under his feet licking the trimmings off the ground as I rasp his feet. But, a little while back, as we were going down a road - me on my old girl, Floss, and Dante ponying along beside us - three dogs ran down a driveway and barked ferociously at us. They were behind a gate and no real danger, but Dante jumped out of his skin.


Young Dante was in the back paddock, alert and focused. He knew something was going on in the front paddock, something that involved his big brother, but there’s no line of sight from the back to the font; the house, sheds and trees block it. Dante ran along the fence, stopped, looked, head high, ears pricked. The other horses weren’t bothered. Dante gave up worrying and went back to standing nearer the rest of the herd, but maintained some attention towards the noises - and no doubt smells - coming from the front.


Winter is over and, with Spring in the air, we all want to get back in the saddle and start riding our horses again. Many horse owners cannot ride or exercise their horses as much as they would like during the Winter because they don’t have access to indoor facilities and the weather where they live is not conducive to outdoor riding or training. 


On our cover this month, we are proud to showcase Victorian teenager Sammi McMaster and her Off the Track mare DP Destiny otherwise known as ‘Totti’ or ‘The Queen’ at home. Sammi, along with her sister Sarah and mother Lisa, is a Racing Victoria Acknowledged Retrainer.


Dante has a bit of a habit of wanting to jump into my arms when he gets a fright. This would be okay if he was a cat or a tiny dog, but he’s an increasingly large young horse, just tipping 15hh now. While I’ve spent a lot of time ensuring he likes being with me and wants to follow me, he needs to know that being with me doesn’t mean being on top of me.


I recently took an opportunity to participate in a liberty training session with my young horse, Dante. We’ve done a bit of liberty work and some things we’re doing well together; he walks with me, stops and starts when I do, turns, yields and follows. But, this training session took things to a new level.


Subscribe to Training