It started with a text from Frances at Hoplands EC...
The UKCC were holding day 1 of 5 (1 per month) coaching days for trainers and were in need of some volunteer guinea pigs, well I put my hand up and Eric raised his hoof to have a go!
The trainer was Caroline Moore FBHS and BE Trainer and there were 6 candidates all taking part to achieve their UKCC. All candidates were all qualified instructors.
We were asked to fill the flatwork space in the afternoon session, it was a half hour session with one of the candidates "coaching" us under the watchful eye of Caroline.
On arrival there was a jumping session taking place in the arena, so Eric was immediately "up for it", and took some persuading to lowere his head to allow me to put his bridle on as the jumping was sooooo exciting!
Following my aerobic tacking up session, Frances came out and gave us a "thank you " box of maltesers and Eric got polos, (all gone now!!), I asked where we were going to be riding and I was asked to meet at the Outdoor Dressage arena, wow, that arena is fantastic, it has the most amazing surface, is soft, level and huuuuuge!
Due to Eric's navicular, he does take much longer to walk and warm up than most normal horses so I walked him around the indoor arena for a good 5 minutes before walking out onto the olympic size dressage arena.
We wandered around for a few minutes whilest Caroline and co walked up to us, another horse was also joining us so that would be a challenge, Eric seems to assume that all other horses working whithin 100 yards of him means he has an excuse to jog, huf and puff and generally act the fool!
The other horse arrived just after Caroline and co, I was feeling fairly nervous, this was a lady of huge stature in the Eventing world and she was in the arena- with me!
Caroline was very nice, she introduced herself and the candidates, explaining that I was under no pressure, the pressure was only on the candidates! I felt suddenly relieved.
Sarah was the candidate who would be "coaching" us, she aske d a few questions about Eric and I, if there were any problems she should know about etc.. Then asked me to go out and warm up as I would at home. Ok I thought so far so good!
After watching me warm up, she had a chat with Caroline then came back to us, asking what we wanted to work on.
I said our transitions and lengthened steps. Well, Eric was working well so we went to start with direct transitions, canter walk canter etc, I had to spiral in, in walk then leg yield out on reaching the track I had to canter, well this is the same exercise that my usual trainer (Sorrel Warwick), has me doing, so again it was so far so good, Eric was working well for me, considering we had another horse in the arena and it was very warm. Sarah told me to ride Eric more forward in the canter to engage him more, no problem, we can do forward, well I though so anyway! Eric was giving about 95% of the effort required and I think I was giving him the extra 5%!, I was hot and tired but hey, it's not everyday that you get to be a guinea pig for something like this!!!
Following our work with the transitions we worked low and deep to relax the neck and back, then rested, oh boy that was so good.
Sarah gave me some feed back, although I did expect to get more than "just ride him forward" as I know I need to keep him forward, I also didn't get the chance to ask questions, something I feel is vital for clients as they should be allowed to question what they feel is necessary.
Caroline thanked me for being a guinea pig and that was that.
I walked Eric back to the box feeling very pleased with ourselves, yes he is stiff, yes he isn't going to the olympics, yes he is getting old (don't tell him that though), but hey, he loves his work, I love working him, we are a team together and we love each other, what more do you want from a 20yr old???
p.s. he also behaved impecably with the other horse in the arena!!!
Thank you Frances, Caroline and Eric.