Henry is such a good boy!

Well, two days with Manu McLean has flown by, and now me and the boys are TIRED. Physically and mentally drained. Could nap right now. It was an awesome 2 days though, we have so much homework but we also had some massive improvements too.

I'm going to break this post into 2, one for Henry and one for Coolie rather than one per day. Hopefully I can remember all the details. Manu is all about the details and tiny tweaks.

Henry was up first for both days, the first day to give him plenty of time to take in a new environment and to minimise the disturbance he would have from a horse leaving from the lesson before him.

I made sure we got there early, allowing myself plenty of time to put Coolie in a yard, groom and tack up Henry and lunge and ride him prior to our lesson.

He was super to lunge, very responsive to my cues. He settle quickly and was only over reactive once when I flicked the whip at him. I spent about 20 minuets lunging, then faffed about a bit getting ready to ride before heading to the arena about 20 minutes before my lesson started. I hand't really wanted to be on that early but figured it would be fine.

Head too low
As we walked down to the arena there were some cows right by the fence. I didn't see them but Henry did, they gave him a fright. I lost my calm horse at that point, the cows were clearly going to murder him. They had horns, and they moved. Not like the cows at home which are his mates...

I hopped on and walked him around. He was full of nervous energy. I checked my breaks and turn and popped him into trot, focusing on forward and getting him to relax. He was a good boy and tried hard, he was just nervous. Manu's plane was slightly delayed so she was about 20 minutes late. We got right to work when she got there.

She watched us for for a few minutes, then popped us into trot. Right away she had me slow the trot to stop Henry running forwards and to lighten my feet in the stirrups by engaging my thigh at the back of my knee. I had to control my rising to help Henry with his rhythm and I had to leave my hands well alone. My seat is the key because he is so sensitive. Once I started to use my legs and really control the rising, plus use my legs to keep him going, he started to settle and relax.

Manu had us riding squares, rather than circles, and I had to make the turns using indirect turn, and by turning my hips. Again, the hands had to be softer than my seat. Henry likes to fall in on the left, so I had to think of shoulder fore to keep him straight. Henry also had to keep his head up, If he dropped it so his poll was too low, I had to lift my hand and send him forward.

We did a bit of leg yield too I just had to think mover to get him to yield. By this time, 2 other horses had come into the arena and Henry so wanted to be distracted. I just kept focusing on my rising and kept asking him to move forward. He stayed with me and kept working well. This is a huge achievement for a baby horse who used to try and piss off and do a bit of broncing (as much as he can!).

We had a quick canter at the end, and he was awesome. Manu was very pleased with his canter, and had us do some baby counter canter loops and shoulder in to keep him straight.

Tuesday we were at our coaches place, a much more familiar environment. He was a bit anxious again, we were the second lesson of the day and I didn't lunge him first. he was awesome when the other horse left the arena and didn't panic at all. We went straight to trot, and Manu had us go left first because it's easier for him.

Tuesday we had a neck rope on to help with my hands and to teach Hen to lift his shoulders. Manu isn't into gadgets but finds this one very versatile.

I had to lift my right hand through the turns on both reins to keep his shoulders us, and to help push my tailbone under me. again I had to focus on my body to slow him and use my legs to push him forward. I had to use outside leg to push him into my inside rein, and allow him to bend with my outside rein. I have a habit of death gripping and it makes him more tense. Once I relaxed my reins, he relaxed and his trot started to get a nice swing and rhythm to it. If Henry puts his head up, it means his back legs have slowed, so I have to squeeze him softly forward with my legs.

In the turns, I have to lift my inside had on the 4th stride to keep his shoulders up.

If I find that I am struggling to rise to the trot, then he has changed it, and I need to keep my rising regular at my pace, not his. We did walk trot transitions (halt we did not have!) and I had to focus on lifting his shoulders before the transition. Henry likes to get heavy and pull me forward. It was amazing the difference when his shoulders were up!

We did the same for our canter transitions and again he had a super cute canter. He is so much happier at this pace. As we started cantering the horse in the lesson after us cam into the arena, and Henry noticed it, but stayed focused!

The biggest take away and our home work is to lift Henry's shoulders before a transition, lift his shoulders before a turn, use the outside rein to turn, regulate the pace using my seat and keep my hands soft. Manu wants me to always trot left first, and to keep him moving forward. He has to go forward before he can settle and be able to stand, and do transitions quietly.

It's amazing how 45 minutes fly's by! Manu was impressed by Henry, she thinks he is cute, and a very nice little horse.


  1. ha i wonder if Henry and Charlie actually have a fair amount in common! getting charlie's shoulders lifted is such a huge part of the equation.

    1. We were having this discussion the other day and it's a common problem with OTTBs, because their gallop is downhill (downhill=faster gallop!). They are used to going that way so lifting doesn't come naturally to them. Also they all tend to fall in/out to the same side and stiff on the same side because they only race one direction on the track.


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