A large part of owning horses is spending time schooling them. You just can’t jump on a horse and ride off. Well, you can – but if you want to enjoy your ride and not be bucked off or find yourself controlled by a misbehaving horse, it’s best to spend a lot of time doing groundwork.

You need to be able to communicate with your horse and absolutely trust your equine friend. You want a horse that responds to the lightest of pressure and a horse that won’t spook at the slightest surprise, such as a tree branch smacking it on the rump whilst out riding. So I work with Miss Rosie regularly in our arena.

I rattle tarpaulins at her and ask her to walk over one and then reverse over it. I place her sheepskin bareback pad over her face. I take her for walks around the district and ask her to confront anything she is a bit spooked about (such as a cat that recently jumped out from under a hedge).

The other day, I let all the horses into the arena and ran them as a herd. Round and round they went with Saffy, the foal, leading them all. Then we settled into horse school. I was going to ask Miss Rosie to play with a large piece of tarpaulin. It was a bit windy so it was going to be extra scary because the tarpaulin was waving around and making a noise.

Saffy and her mum, Karma, wanted to stay in the arena and Saffy showed great curiosity. She sniffed Miss Rosie’s saddle and kept getting in the way. So I took the opportunity to start Saffy’s schooling. She’s only 11 months old, so I won’t be starting her under saddle until around 2 years old. But this doesn’t mean I can’t teach her some basics.

Saffy seemed to be fascinated by what Miss Rosie was doing and followed us all around the arena. So when I asked Miss Rosie to stop, Saffy stopped too. When I asked Miss Rosie to inspect her saddle, so did Saffy. I then put my focus on Saffy and asked her to play Touch It. Touch It is a component of the seven Parelli horse training games you can play with your horse. You ask your horse to touch (with their nose or hoof) unfamiliar objects. In this case, Saffy had not seen the orange and white cone I have in the arena. I put it in the arena when I play games with Miss Rosie.

Saffy was a bit scared of it, so I encouraged her to confront it. She was at liberty (that is, no halter or lead rope). By using an encouraging tone of voice and gentle hand movements, Saffy came forward and confidently sniffed the top of the cone. I then dropped the cone to the ground and she sniffed if all over.

Actually, nothing fazed Saffy. She is one bold foal. I can touch her all over, including under her belly, which is a super-sensitive area of a horse. And she decided to confront the tarpaulin and I was so pleased. The tarpaulin was rattling around in the light wind. Saffy approached it cautiously but she’d been watching Miss Rosie play with it beforehand, so I guess she thought it was okay to sniff it.

It was actually quite a circus because Zeph and Zsa Zsa were in the arena too. Saffy likes to play with the dogs – well, Saffy runs after them and the dogs run a short distance, turn around and bark, then run off again. It’s great that all the horses and the dogs are good friends.

Saffy gets in the way. Miss Rosie was about to be saddled up but Saffy wanted to sniff her saddle.

Zeph helps Miss Rosie inspect her saddle.

Miss Rosie finally gets to sniff her saddle without help from Saffy or Zeph.

I asked Miss Rosie to place her head into the underside of her sheepskin bareback pad.This requires a lot of trust on her side.

Saffy can’t help herself – she has to find out what’s underneath the sheepskin.

Zeph gets bored hanging around and wonders when the horse action will begin.

This is Karma, Saffy’s mother. She has the most gorgeous face.

Saffy, Zeph and Zsa Zsa get on very well and can often be found together.

Saffy plays Touch It with the tip of the cone.

Miss Rosie inspects the noisy, rattling tarpaulin. Saffy watches and learns.

Miss Rosie plays with the tarpaulin.

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