Tag Archives: Nuno Oliveira

Reactivatiing old skills

That sinking feeling when you  take out the golf clubs. all covered in dust, take a practice swing and it just feels all wrong, or the first wobbly moments on the bike you just hired, not having ridden since a child.

For me it has been my riding. I have been surrounded by horses for years, working with the mares and youngsters but a combination of work commitments and farm/stud commitments meant that the time spent in the saddle was the thing that had to give. Sure I would climb up every now and again and go for a stroll or pretend I was doing a bit of schooling work but it was few and far between and with not a “critical” eye in sight. I decided that 2012 was going to be the year things changed and I started out the year with a bang going to a three day clinic with Harry Whitney but work and other excuses soon trickled back in so it wasn’t till August I managed another formal “intervention”. This time with Ross Jacobs for another great horsemanship clinic, but we concentrated mainly on a couple of youngsters rather doing a lot of riding.

Finally , in October, I get back to a lesson all in the saddle. Not bad really, only took me 9 months to keep good on my promise to myself to seek more outside help. Worth waiting for though.

I had two dressage lessons. That’s two more than the previous 12 years! Though you could argue they were not dressage lessons, they were barely able to ride lessons.

The instructor was Nadine Francois, originally from Belgium but now for a very long time, from Portugal, where she went to train with Nuno himself. I can only image what thoughts were going through her head as the two fat ladies waddled their way across to where she was waiting in the arena. She hid it well though and there was not a hint of despair or blame in her first question to me, no random inflection to change the meaning of the sentence. “So. What are you doing with her”. Wellll err um she has been in work for almost three weeks and this is my first lesson in 12 years. Rather than run screaming from the arena she sent us out at the walk so she could watch.

And then it was on. Two days of position, position, position. Fix your position and the horse will take care of the rest. Stop leaning forward, advance your left shoulder, keep your body on the circle, don’t give her the rein when she pulls you forward, keep your legs back, even pressure in both stirrups, play with your fingers, soften your fingers, don’t give the reins away, slow her with your rising, not the reins, stop her by stopping your body not with your hands, collect the walk then into trot, don’t duck when the plane goes over (well she didn’t actually say that). Slow her, not so much movement with your lower back, don’t push with your seat don’t block with your hands.

No wonder she has hardly any voice left, I don’t think I was paying for the lesson by the minute but by the word. No yelling or pushing, just constant consistent correction. And miraculously my poor little mare responded to my fumbling by every now and then giving me some really nice steps amongst the rest of the horror story.

My question to you is why do we do this to ourselves? Deny ourselves the things that make our hearts sing?. There is no doubt that my life is enriched by every moment I spend with my horses but I have let part of it slip by not taking the time to indulge in my original passion for riding. What could you do today to take back a bit of time from the stuff that has to be done to do the stuff you want to do. If you wait for someday to come when you will have time, you will be waiting for ever because the time bandits may change their appearance but they are always there.

The Art of Letting Go

One of the dangers of a theory is our selective blindness to things that tend to disprove it and our zeroing in on things that tend to support it. So forgive me for my awareness of the parallels of being a leader amongst people and a good leader for my horse. After all it is not my fault that the horse has been our companion in war and work from almost the start of our history. Our work language is peppered with terms taken from work with horses (Anyone handed over the reins recently ?)

So where am I going with this? Just some snippets from an article I was just reading by Sarah Warne on Eurodressage with some quotes from the great master Nuno Oliveira. Judge for yourself if you can see the parallels.

“There is a huge difference between a firm and effective rider and a firm and forceful rider. The difference lies in the art of letting go: knowing when to release the pressure, soften the reins, relax the legs. The art of knowing when to say “thank you” and these thank yous must be obvious.” Sarah Warne

“Make it a habit to praise when the horse yields” N. Oliveira

“It is always better to risk losing contact a little than to not yield at all” N Oliveira

“Don’t play the master all the time. The difficulty is to feel to what extent one has to intervene” N Oliveira

“The hand should be a filter, not a plug or an open faucet” N Oliveira

“A horse will never tire of a rider who possesses both tact and sensitivity because he will never be pushed beyond his possibilities.” N Oliveira

“Training a horse is above all feeling and trying, according to what you feel, to help the horse and not to force him” N Oliveira

“The secret in riding is to do few things right. The more one does, the less one succeeds. The less one does, the more one succeeds.” N Oliveira