My grandmother was a huge influence in my upbringing. As my mother was touring the country with horses, I would spend a lot of time at their home. She is the smartest, most kind and beautiful person I have ever met, and her life lessons have helped me grow into the person that is here today. One thing she would tell me regularly was communication is the most important factor in any relationship. Growing up, I watched Dr. Doolittle and prayed one day I could talk to animals like the Doctor did. It took a while the realize that, in fact, the life I was living was full of talking with animals, except not the blatantly obvious Mr. Ed.
Photo of Lauren Lambert and Honour Mission by Palmer Photo
Thanks to the Watkins, this winter a few of my ponies are enjoying paradise at Longwood Farm in Ocala, including my U25 Eventing mount, Honour Mission. Honour and I hacked over early one Sunday morning to the farm next door, Meredyth South, to join an incredible group of 25 & unders to begin the 2013 Training Camp with Coach O'Connor. The mornings began with lectures from David, with lots of busy pens jotting down notes. Then morning sessions of riding, where those of us not riding would quietly watch our peers. We had two drill riding sessions, where the biggest lesson was working as a unit and helping each other, not getting stuck in our own world. We had group jump schools on alternating days. Lunch was filled with more great education from guests on topics of horse care and management, then afternoon lessons.
Communication, David relayed, is the most important thing, and consistency of technique in all three phases is how produce consistency in our horses. The last two days we did test riding, and the final day we got out of the sand boxes and over some cross country. We took it back to the basic concepts of balance, direction, speed and timing, with lots of great exercises to get us thinking, relaxing, and reacting. The amount of time David put into our six day camp was convincing that change is in order. It was a very special week for all of us, and it was particularly cool to begin to feel like a team. The experiences we shared a camp certainly created a bond between us which will hopefully carry on to bigger things in the future. Everyone worked well together, and certainly supported each other completely. I know I will be routing for these guys in all of the their endeavors in the future, and I hope they feel the same.
Honour and I had the chance to continue to experiment with David's lessons at the Ocala Horse Properties event the following weekend. Last year in a flat lesson, I told David it was as if this horse spoke a different language from the others, which has made building a solid partnership a long road. The event was run as a one day, so in the other two phases I focused on building him up to a smooth cross country round by being sure i stayed subtle and consistent in my communication. In the cross county warm, i went to gauge our line of communication, and with the slightest movement of my hips, one of his little radar ears flipped back in my direction... I asked something in a whisper and he said, 'what's up?'. I had an open line with the horse that speaks a different language, and we were communicating and working together like clockwork. We went out and had a beautiful, smooth round, one of those when you are galloping between fences thinking, 'now THIS is what its all about!'.
It can be the slightest flip of an ear that most would miss, but its the smallest things we must pay attention to to understand what our horses are saying. To develop a partnership with these animals takes a great deal of patience and understanding how they think. Some take longer than others to get through to, and some seem like they have done this in a pervious life, but regardless, it is our job to build up a confident, happy horse which likes his job because he understands. The message needs to be clear, and communication is key.