Tommy 24 May 2014

Tommy 24 May 2014

Sam Cotton about Tommy, TB

24 May 2014

Below is an update on Tommy- wasn't sure if you wanted to add it to your success stories.

Update on Tommy My TB, Tommy travels beautifully now. He is not the same horse to the one who would just panic being loaded.Following his traumatic trailer accident and the injuries he sustained, I never believed he would travel again.

When you came out to work with Tommy, I was amazed how intense the training was. The homework you gave me was invaluable. I knew it wouldn't be a quick fix and it would take months of intensive work from you. By the end of it I now have a horse that will load instantly and calmly. He even loads with the engine running.

The big test came when I broke down on the A12 in the lorry with Tommy on board. We were surrounded by policecars and huge lorries trundling past. We spent nearly an hour on the roadside trying to avoid the need to shut the road down. Tommy didn't bat an eyelid. I on the other hand was having a heart attack!

My husband came out to the rescue and between all of us we managed to tow the 6 tonne lorry off the A12 with Tommy still on board! John took control of the lorry and I towed him to Stratford Hills.

I met some lovely ladies there who helped me find him a spare stable while we mended the lorry.When the lorry was mended Tommy calmly reloaded and travelled all the way back home.

Without your expertise Tommy would never have got this far. Your knowledge is astounding and I know of no other trainer who would have been able to have rehabilitated Tommy as successfully as you did. In fact, I believe many would have walked away stating he was a lost cause. He was no easy cookie to rehab.

Thank you

Sam Cotton, Abbots Wick Farm

Sunnys Journey 12 December 2011

Sunnys Journey 12 December 2011

Just typing this brings a tear of joy to my eyes and without the magical help of Lewis it could have been a tear of sadness.

5 years ago I was searching for a new potential riding pony stallion to use in the future, imagine the joy when I found a colt foal with superb breeding! I duly phoned and he was purchased. He went to live with a friend of mine until he was 2 and I had regular updates and all was seemingly perfect.

When I went to collect him I was asked to back the lorry into the school and hide as he was unsure of people he didnt know, he was then herded up the ramp and that was that. He hadn’t had any basic handling, been taught to lead etc etc. He to be fair was a nightmare! Going into the stable with him resulted in him going into a complete panic, getting him to the field and back in again was like herding cows, the poor boy was terrified.

Lewis started working with him and slowly but surely he began to gain trust in humans. After Lewis had worked with him, I would go in and repeat the exercises. The following weeks, months and years of patient understanding, frustration at times (on my part) and letting Sunny find his feet have certainly paid off. Without Lewis I know I wouldn’t have the dope on a rope that Sunny has now become.

Sunny still has some foibles, but they are no longer issues. I had to phone Lewis the other day and tell him that I had just put an outdoor rug on Sunny in the middle of a field whilst he stood with his head on my shoulder in gale force winds! It was such a monumental occasion. He didnt even have a head collar on.

The next phase for Sunny is to start his ridden work, he lunges beautifully now, longreins round the bridleways and has been rollered. All this was taken in his stride.

So many people told me that he would never be able to do anything as he was so screwed up and that I should have him PTS to save the hassle. But having seen Lewis work with so many horses/ponies/stallions, I knew that he would be fine, but that this was a long haul operation and not just a quick fix job.

Sunny is truly my best pony/stallion friend and is a sheer joy. Thank you so much Lewis as without you none of this would have been possible.

Zoe Arrowsmith
Warleigh Stud

October 2011 Lane, 6 year old, American Quarter Horse Paint Gelding

Lane, 6 year old, American Quarter Horse Paint (late cut) Gelding

My 6 year old American Paint cross Quarter Horse and I are attempting roll backs, side passing over poles, backing between gates and cones and incorporating barrels and squares. We can actually canter round the arena without bucking or veering off in another direction! I can redirect his energy when he is feeling playful and wanting to do his own thing without having a major battle!

Last week August 21st for the first time I took him across the stubble and had an extended canter that was a pure delight and what's more in total control!!! .

Two years ago, I only dreamed about these things and never thought they would be achieved to the degree they have.

Lane hadn't been cut until the age of three and had only just been backed at the age of four when I bought him. What a character and such a handful! He was very dominating and would bite and throw his front feet out in defiance. When leading him to his paddock he would explode for no reason or drag me to eat grass. However not being put off by this, I still rode him and hacked him out. He was and still is excellent on the roads and not much fazes him, however on the school was a different matter and a total nightmare!! So I started seeking some help and after having a disaster with one trainer came across Lewis. I had heard how good he was with the horses and how he took their feelings into consideration. The idea that FIRM albeit Benevolent Leadership and Understanding was a way forward with any horse is proof with Lane. Lewis on that first day arrived wearing his Stetson and chaps, cowboy boots and jeans. A living cliché and had, as always, a smile and a positive attitude. He teaches horsemanship so whether you ride English or Western it dent matter because at the end of the day it's about communication, understanding and leadership, and adapting to the needs of your horse. As we know each horse is different but then so is every rider. Bringing both together and achieving results is no mean feat!

Lewis would take Lane onto the school and play with him as one stallion to another! And the times he was bitten was anybody's guess, but not once did Lewis lash out at Lane or reprimand him. In Lane's eyes, it was a natural thing to do at playtime so why should he be told off, something a lot of us would have difficulty in refraining from! Lane of course was carrying baggage from other people and Lewis felt that his explosive behaviour was due to someone being too hard on him on a school somewhere and he assumed he was going to get hurt again. We started again with Lane from the beginning even to the point of changing my riding style- not easy when it's been automatic for years. Lane loved it when I got it wrong as it gave him the opportunity to mess around and do as he pleased! He tested my nerve every lesson showing who really was the boss!! Often he would see Lewis and charge at him to play totally ignoring any aid that I was giving him! This didn't do my confidence any good which hit rock bottom several times but I was determined to understand my horse so persevered.

Through months of tumultuous teaching, Lewis stood firm and had the patience of a saint. Gradually over the course of a year, he turned things round, giving me and Lane confidence in each other.

We now have no biting or front feet being thrust out in defiance. I can lead him to and from the paddock with no trouble and I am in control of the grass eating!! Lane and I are a team and we have a great bond, because Lewis has taught me how to be safe and have control when I most need it. There is still much to learn and much to perfect and now I look forward to the challenge knowing anything is possible!

This year has seen such a change in a horse that a lot of people thought would always be naughty, uncontrollable and unpredictable. Well they have had to eat their words for I now have a fabulous little horse in the making and one that I am proud to be the owner of!

So for all of you out there that have been told to get rid of your horses, or can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, or just don't have the confidence, give Lewis Blackburn a ring because Lewis has made what Lane and I are today. Living proof that there is always a way and I can't thank him enough.

Nadia Cooper and Lane October 2011

November 2009

November 2009

I would like to add to Lewis’s testimonials from a different perspective – that of observer. Lewis has been working with my daughter Jennifer and her gelding Finn for more than 2.5 years now (see her testimonial below – recently updated). I have closely watched him work with a variety of horses (and owners) and have never failed to be impressed – he really does what he says on his website.

Lewis was the first, and remains the only horse trainer I have met that never contradicts himself in either word or action. In addition, his instincts are so finely honed that he has dealt with/staved off problems before the rest of us have had time to think about them. He clearly conveys how to achieve this yourself, and never tires of the repetition that may be required because the client is set in their ways.

Although he suggests on his website that he doesn’t deal well with people, nothing could be further from the truth! He is a firm, benevolent and understanding person, who tunes each session to the mood and needs of his equine and human clients. What’s even better is that he manages this with unfailing good humour.

I have observed that many trainers insist upon riding the horse – indeed they seem to see it as a right (when the client is paying for this privilege!). Lewis will only ride your horse if he feels it’s essential to demonstrate a point or if you ask him to do so.

So – maybe, having read all the testimonials, you’re convinced that he’s the ‘real deal’, but you’re worried about his fees. Don’t’ be! The last professional that my daughter used prior to finding Lewis charged £45 per 30 mins plus mileage. Lewis’s costs are per session (plus mileage). Jennifer and Finn’s first session was over 4 hours! As Finn was a young, fit horse, Lewis worked with him and then Jennifer for 3 hours – the rest was made up of conversation and finding out who Jennifer and Finn were and what they needed. Each session varies in length depending upon what factors present on the day.

Lewis will open your eyes to a whole new world. Don’t have doubts – he will transform the life of both you and your horse.

Jo Wyles

September 2009  16hh Warmblood, Sorrel, Gelding

30 September 2009  16hh Warmblood, Sorrel, Gelding

Which in my case meant having a horse I couldn’t, or more to the point didn’t know how to handle, then to be shown the right direction in which to move forward with him and be given the correct tools to start that journey.  For that I am indeed indebted to Lewis.

If you understand what I mean by that; then perhaps you’ve already had help from Lewis but for those of you who haven’t then this article, the start of my journey will hopefully be of interest and might even set you on a new path of your own, if that’s what you’re searching for.

This acknowledgement is long overdue as Lewis has been helping me and my horse Star on a regular basis over the last four years and I think he deserves more recognition for his natural horsemanship skills, along with his great depth of knowledge and understanding which he uses to great effect when working with people and their charges, bringing about real changes in their lives.
I can say that with conviction, having been lucky enough to watch Lewis in action on many occasions with different horses and seen the results of his training methods, definitely not a job for the faint hearted though, when you see some of the problem ones he has to deal with. He normally gets a large audience when visiting yards, as often it’s the worst horses that are brought out, for him to deal with so they want to see the action, but most of his subjects soon respond to his quiet, non aggressive manner and by the end of the session have made real progress.

Not only that but with his guidance and using his techniques I have been able to achieve goals I never thought possible with my own horse and has allowed me to develop a bond with him, that comes from starting to understand your horse, rather than just expecting to ride it. So I presume the people who still bully and beat on their horses to get them to do what they want, don’t really understand them and probably haven’t seen true exponents of natural horsemanship like Lewis in action, otherwise why would they do it, (perhaps its blindness caused by ignorance). 

It has been quite an eventful journey so far with my horse Star, a stocky warmblood, now 16h and just turned 8, who when he first arrived was very slow and easy to handle. I don’t think it was long, a couple of weeks perhaps until he found his feet, quite literately, as he was often up on his back legs, with the front ones flailing in my direction plus the teeth, a constant and painful reminder of how quick he was.   

The battle had begun, him not wanting anybody close, trying to get away, using all the weapons in his armoury, while I struggled on a daily basis just to take him between stable and field, trying to avoid all the kicks and bites, or being dragged and pushed about. Some days were worse than others, but in general not a very pleasant experience, to say the least.

Not sure what had happened to him in the past, but he had obviously had a rough time with previous owners and Lewis thought this had caused him to shut down, exploding when handled to get away from everything he couldn’t cope with. The only thing that seemed to motivate him was food, so once in the field he was fine, happy with the other horses and normally easy to catch, the problem then being having to hang on to him for the return leg to the stable. Once there he would relax a bit, although you still had to look out for his teeth and legs, especially when picking his feet out or going into the stable with him. So he was using all his techniques to survive whatever was trying to kill him and I was developing mine to avoid the blows, but I was still to slow as hardly a day went by without me picking up a fresh injury of some sort.   

So what do you do, when you have a horse you can hardly handle and things aren’t getting any better? Luckily someone had heard of Lewis Blackburn, from his articles in the Essex Rider and suggested he might be able to help, so after a chat with him over the phone about what the problem was, we arranged a date for him to come out and do some work with Star. This was going to be (not that I knew it at the time) a turning point in Star’s development, (and mine for that matter) all I had to do now, was wait for the “cowboy” to turn up!

The morning of Lewis’s visit arrived and I took Star out to the field as usual, having our normal arguments en-route, trying to keep his lead rope short so he couldn’t bite me, but then I was in range of his front legs which he was quite useful with, or he might try to bolt off or dive into a patch of grass to eat, refusing to move or lift his head. I didn’t know anything about Lewis or the techniques he might use, but he   assured me he would be able to help. This intrigued me, wondering what he thought he could do and how he would handle Star, when no one else wanted to be anywhere near him, it should be interesting though I thought.
Lewis arrived on time in a tired looking car, stuffed full with horse paraphernalia, and   I am sure it rose six inches when he alighted from the vehicle (not that implying he’s a big chap) , with a ”howdy all” in his Texas drawl.  
First impression was that he had presence, dressed up in tasselled chaps, a lived in leather coat covered in patches to repair the holes left by equine bites, plus leather boots and gloves, topped off a large western hat, every inch the American cowboy. (only minus the six shooters) 

Whether Star was perplexed by the sight of Lewis or the Texas twang confused him, for he didn’t bite half as much as he did with me, even keeping all four feet on the ground for most of the session! But that was Lewis, he just seemed to have a way with the horse, making it look so easy in the way he handled Star, where I struggled with him most of the time. As I watched on Lewis would explain what he was doing and why he was doing it in relation to the horses understanding, all the time trying to think like a horse and be one step ahead.

What really impressed me about Lewis, was the calm and seemingly relaxed way he worked with Star, not reacting to the flying legs and nipping teeth, while keeping up a running commentary on the proceedings, years of handling horses had obviously sharpened his reflexes, helping him develop a sixth sense, for he managed to avoid most of the incoming rounds. His approach was to start with a very light pressure to initiate a response, be it through the rope halter, lead rope or direct to the body, using pressure/release pulses, always giving the horse time to assimilate his request and if need be to slowly increase the intensity of the pulses until he received said response, releasing any pressure the moment the horse tried, even if only a small try or not the one he was after.
There was no shouting at or hitting the horse (which I’m sure lots of people had done to him in the past) as Lewis worked patiently, trying to get through some of the mental blocks and emotional baggage he was carrying, redirecting Star’s energy as apposed to fighting against him, trying to keep him out of his right brain (flight)   mode.

It seemed a short session to me, but probably a long one for Lewis, needing such a high level of concentration and for Star with all the adrenalin used.
Afterwards in the debrief Lewis said Star had spent most of the time in his right brain, not wanting him anywhere near and obviously very dangerous to handle as would bottle everything up, likely to explode at any moment, not caring if injuring himself or others in his bid to get away.  But Lewis added, there were brief moments when he got through to him and so was not a lost cause, but it would be a long slow process to try and undo some of the damage from his past as he was carrying a lot of baggage. There were no guarantees and we might have to live with some of his imbedded  character traits but with patience, understanding and firm, yet benevolent leadership, there was hope to unlock the true horse within, although that one might turn out to be equally as challenging, ( boy was he not wrong there.)

It certainly would have been a safer and easier option to quit then, but Lewis was an inspiration, his demonstration had shown me there was hope and that progress could be made, even if only in small increments. So Lewis was booked for another session in a few weeks, giving me time to practice some of the techniques I had seen him use and I started in earnest that evening, but like any master of his trade, Lewis had made it look to easy as I struggled to get the results with Star he had achieved, obviously I needed more practice!   

That first session with Lewis seems a long time ago now, well I suppose nearly four years, is a long time previous and he has been out many times since, always generous with his time in helping Star to gradually overcome his fears and me to improve my natural horsemanship abilities.

It has felt like an uphill slog at times, (well most of the time in the beginning) with lots of lows and few highs, but we have made progress, slowly building the foundation blocks in Star’s development, helped on the way by other keen horse-people willing to use their skills and pass on their knowledge.  
I never really had an agenda when it came to working with Star as he was so unpredictable, would just take it one day at a time, trying to use the methods Lewis had shown me, patiently waiting until his next visit so I could ask more questions and watch while he handled the horse to see if he thought any progress had been made. Results were slow in coming as he seemed to resist whatever I was trying to do with him at the time, but being patient and persistent things began to click into place, going from weeks of not doing something every day, to out of the blue giving me that little bit, meaning he had either a slow learning curve, or took great delight in being obstinate! (Left brained extrovert , Parelli horsenality) we’ve had lots of magical moments, like managing to sit on him for the first time, bareback!, (although he didn’t allow me that privilege for long) first trot, again bareback, in the field although we were only meant to be walking and I’m sure I didn’t ask him to! Or getting him to join up for the first time, even though he had been running, kicking and jumping about in the school previously, not lasting for long but still a special moment all the same.

So Lewis was right when he said Star wouldn’t be a quick fix and that once over some of his fears might get harder to handle but without his help and guidance we wouldn’t have achieved what we have or be where we are today. Which means now, I can take him to and from the field with little or no input on the rope halter and backs up with me real easy when I do, or give a little wiggle on the rope if I want him to move away from me, maintaining that herd leader position. He will do a lovely side-pass if I ask, by using a fly like touch with my finger tips, whilst sometimes just being focused is enough (telepathy?) and although still very food orientated, will normally ask for permission to graze when I’m leading him. Most horses should be capable of such manoeuvres I’m sure, but I didn’t think Star would turn out so well behaved considering his antics at the start, which just goes to show what can be achieved when you learn how to become a good leader, not that you should forget what has gone on in the past, good or bad, as it is all a learning curve. I remember when Lewis first put his western saddle on Star and then strapped his floppy “Dude” in the seat, me watching as he turned into a bucking- bronco, thinking, “would I ever get to ride this horse or did I even want to try!”. Yet now he will stand quietly while I tack him up, happy for me to ride him, (most of the time, still has his moments) whether in the saddle or bareback normally just using his rope halter when we go in the school or for a quiet plod by ourselves around the perimeter of the paddocks, trying to keep everything slow as we practice lots of turns, stops, starts, side passes and back ups, trying to forge a solid partnership, using as light  cues as possible but being firm when needed. We do have a bit of a problem when trying to negotiate around cones, poles or other such objects though, as he will take great delight in picking them up and carrying them about, much to the mirth of anyone watching, but we don’t get all serious, better to let him have some fun, which means I can relax more and enjoy his company, not like before when I was often tense and on edge waiting for the next explosion, so I don’t care if we are not up to speed yet, to me that’s progress. In those early days I was often told that I was mad to carry on with Star, yet if they could see him now I’m sure they would think he was a different horse or might wonder how the transformation came about. It was simply by using “love, language, leadership”, to be open minded enough and willing to learn, whilst being prepared to listen to your horse. It wont happen overnight, as iv discovered, the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know, and how much there is still to find out, but if you can find a good teacher then it will certainly speed that process along and open up a whole new world for you and your horse. There is still lots to achieve with Star and no doubt many bridges to cross, (obstacles to play with) but I didn’t think we would get this far,(despite Lewis’s optimism) and who knows what the future holds for us both?

Perhaps it has taken a long while to help Star get over some of his emotional and mental problems and perhaps you or your horse have bigger issues going on, but if you are looking for help in dealing with them, like I was, then I really believe that Lewis is the person, who could truly make a difference.
I probably haven’t done Lewis justice in describing what he does with horses,(and their owners) as its hard to put into words so you really need to experience it first hand to see how he understands them. But I can honestly say that for me, meeting Lewis has been a life changing experience and been such a privilege to have been tutored by him, without which I wouldn’t have the horse I do today (in fact, probably wouldn’t have a horse full stop) and I am sure you will feel the same way, if ever you or your horse gets a chance to meet him.

With thanks from us both Lewis.
 (Star and Fredrick)


Chadwell Farm Stud

Chadwell Farm Stud

I have always been a big believer in natural horsemanship, but had never really had the bravery to attempt it on the horses at my stud. I attended demos etc, but they always made it look so easy and once I was faced with one of my own horses in the round pen I was clueless!

My first meeting with Lewis was after a lengthy conversation with him regarding a TB yearling filly I had here called Twiggy. She was foaled and brought up here, and despite regular handling, she had started to become aggressive. Everyday simple jobs would turn out to be a fight, having her feet done was just dangerous and my vet used the old adage ‘ chestnut mare syndrome’ once to often. She was very difficult to catch in her box and had to have her head collar and a lead rope on permanently. A lady I know had been having sessions with Lewis, so I figured it was really the only thing I could do to help Twiggy have a future.

Lewis’ first session with Twiggy was fascinating. At first she didn’t trust him, but after some time and awful lot of patience and horsemanship on Lewis’s part, her whole persona started to visibly change. Lewis explained to me that Twiggy wasn’t nasty, she was autistic and had great difficulty remembering things. He assured me that we could work with her but it would have to be repeated everyday in small section.

From that first session myself and my staff were hooked. Lewis visited my stud every 2 weeks to work with Twiggy and left us excersises to do everyday with her to help her learn. By the end of the 2nd session he had taken her headcollar off, bitted her and was in the round pen. It was truly amazing. Over the next few months Twiggy really changed, we could catch her in the field, remove her headcollar without incidents.

She improved so much that shes now in training at a small yard who uses similar methods to Lewis and shes thriving.

Since then I have kept up the sessions with Lewis and have learnt so much. He has helped one of my staff learn to ride on an ex racehorse, another one to ride her horse whom she had given up on due to its behaviour. Over the past 12 months Lewis has worked with 27 of the horses I have here and it’s been amazing. Just learning and bringing out and understanding their quirks and natural characters is wonderful. I love using Lewis’ way of lunging even if I was sceptical at first! I now have confidence in myself to do the groundwork with the horses here, and if I ever get lost I can always phone Lewis for help and advice. Im looking forward to continuing learning from Lewis for the foreseeable future.

Zoe Arrowsmith

Chadwell Farm Stud
July 2007

Finn (16.1, Arab-Morgan-QHse, choc/bay)

Finn (16.1, Arab-Morgan-QHse, choc/bay)

I found Lewis by googling natural horsemanship trainers and finding a link to his site at a place I had already looked around. I noticed he was based in Essex and decided God was liking me that day! Since my first lesson with him I haven't looked back.

My horse Finn is a 9yr old whose breeding is anyone's guess! I think of him as an Arab x TB, however he has warm blood traits and looks a bit quarter horse ish, aside from being too tall at 16.1hh. He also has a habit of standing just like a Morgan. He also displays rig like behavior and muscles up more like a stallion than a gelding. He's fairly dominant! He came from Ireland as a 6yr old and I bought him the week he arrived in the country. He was very mal nourished and somewhat withdrawn, but had a beautiful face and kind eyes. I laid him off after riding for a month as he needed at least two months rest to put weight on. He had been difficult to bridle and fidgety to groom from the start, but ok to ride. Well I missed a lot of obvious signs that he wasn't happy with me! To cut a long story short, I took a very bad fall and was lucky to escape serious injury. Finn was very stressed by my sudden fear of him and he decided he had to look after himself, and three different yards and their staff couldn't convince him otherwise. He was never dangerous, just very difficult. I tried Monty Roberts ways which I could see put far too much pressure on my sensitive guy, and although it helped to 'handle' him on the ground I couldn't ride him often, and when I did he was about as uninterested as you can get! By this point I'd ditched ordinary saddles and gone for treeless which helped a lot, and ditched the bit and gone for a Dr Cook, which he also seemed to be pleased about. Still he didn't trust me if something scared him, which happened a lot!

Enter Lewis......The first session he stayed for 4 hours and charged me about the same as I'd been paying for two 45min lessons with other trainers. Finn immediately responded to the leadership & join up work Lewis did with him in the round pen, after getting to know him in his stable. At last someone was being the leader Finn was looking for and he loved it! He was cheeky and happy and engaging with Lewis, and basically playing. Lewis explained everything he did and why and what result it was having which is so very refreshing! After an hour of ground work, and a quick bite of grass for Finn and drinks for us all, I was on board! Something I never expected as Finn hadn't been ridden for almost a whole year! Lewis was complementary about all my tack, and he showed me the magic cure all bit! A straight bar Mullen mouth loose ring happy mouth snaffle with a chin strap (not a curb strap)! Great for horses to chew when stressed and my horse can't get enough of it! The secure seat with a lowered center of gravity and the yielding and disengaging to a halt Lewis showed me in case of trouble sent my confidence soaring, especially since he was attached to us by rope! I smiled for an entire week, every lesson since has been better than the one before. We're coming on in leaps and bounds. After another yard change(and hopefully the last for a while) Lewis picked up that Finn seemed to shut down on his left side and ignore everything on that side. He spent a whole lesson carefully examining the strength of this blocking with different stimulus every 5mins or so, and whilst working. He discovered that a floater in his eye a vet had told me was no problem, caused reduced peripheral vision, and made things blurry on that side in general. When the right eye caught something the left eye had blocked out, Finn would explode! This explained about 90% of everything Finn had ever done!

Lewis has showed me how to be firm and polite about my riding and handling, to always ask something of a horse using release of pressure as reward, not demand it. Finn now looks to me for reassurance all of the time. I even noticed when his sight on the left is not so good, he actually nudges me over to that side (when doing ground work) and uses me as a surrogate eye, which makes me very proud! I'm still riding on a loose line at this stage but I'm confident about it, which in anyone else's hands I previously wouldn't have been. Lewis has had a few goes on Finn to show me what he's been having me do and it's fun to watch how sensitive Finn is to his slightest command. Last lesson Lewis tried the start of a real cowboy spin on him and he took it in his stride!

I think the biggest difference Lewis makes to a rider/horse partnership is instilling trust between the two. He's never negative with either student and encourages me to praise Finn when I ask for something the wrong way and Finn gives me what I was asking for instead of what I meant to ask for, as its rider error not horse! I constantly get praise from Lewis for the horse I've got, for his lightness and sensitivity, for the suppleness I taught him, for his willingness to try and work his socks off, and for my horse's big heart. He says Finn will take care of me once he knows I'm able to take care of him. This might not sound big but for someone whose been told their horse is a monster and dangerous by almost everyone else and been told to sell him by every trainer, it means the world!

I will be posting more praise in the future, when I trot, and canter, and ride free range and when mine and Finn's first hack goes swimmingly etc!!

(Addendum September 2008)

Well I tried riding Finn on my own, well without Lewis, for the first time on Sunday and really, there isn't enough praise in the world for my wonderful horse.  Not wishing to give Lewis a big head but it's all due to him and his gentle, engaging methods and insistence on telling me how good my horse is EVERY time he sees us which sends my confidence sky high!  So, here's what I wrote to Lewis the instant I had time to get to my computer on Monday..” I rode Finn for 45mins yesterday and he was a perfect angel!  We did lots of weaving in and out of the triangle of cones, lots of circles and zigzags between the letters at the top end of the school, riding through and backing into and out of the L as well as going over the poles in the L in pretty tight maneuvers.  Also we got great neck reining!  Finn gave me almost a complete side pass when I was just trying to neck rein him out on a circle as he'd drifted in towards my dad and he just effortlessly went sideways out to the fence! 

I was tickled pink!  So we did a lot of neck reining to the fence and then did a few back out towards the middle of the ring and then back out to the fence.  It probably wasn't stylish looking or completely correct as Finn's neck was a bit bent to the inside as was his bum!  But he definitely went sideways whilst going forward, was probably like the English leg yield but the fact that he was giving it with hardly any effort from me made me so proud I had tears well up whilst I was riding along!  Also once I was up there I didn't want to get off!  Finn was so focused on me and me on him that he didn't look around at anything and there were walkers and dogs out of sight but not out of earshot and we still went down that end of the ring without incident!  Hooray!  Next step is trying without my dad on the end of the rope! Finn was so perfect my dad hadn't really needed to be there on the end of the 22ft line.”   

As well as my wonderful Sunday, Lewis now has me trotting Finn in my lessons and it's just sooo much fun!  My horse is forward going but steady (which he never used to be either when asking for trot!) and I'm relaxed and comfortable.  I never realised Finn had such a loose, free flowing trot that it's not mandatory to bounce yourself half out of the saddle to keep in sync with!  So far it's only a few strides at a time in each direction but I'd almost given up hope of ever being brave enough to trot again!  Progress is now happening every time I see my precious boy so watch this space.....!  I really cannot over emphasise what finding Lewis has done for my relationship with my horse, who now comes from the other side of a large field to be caught every time he sees me instead of hiding in a hedge trying to look inconspicuous!

(Addendum 12 September 2009 )

I had another lesson with Lewis today, after a three month gap due to an out of commission arena.  Finn acted as if he'd been ridden everyday and as an old hand at all this riding stuff!  The most magical part, and something I honestly doubt I ever would've felt without Lewis' (aka Blackie)help, when out of the blue, and of his own accord, Finn started to round and collect himself through neck and back too, the whole nine yards!! His neck got shorter and his chin got closer to me and he felt light as a feather! It was as if there wasn't a horse on the end of the reins (and that's not usually how it feels!)  He even kept it when there was slack in the reins as I was too enchanted with it and I didn't dare shorten them or do anything else in case he stopped doing it!  He also clearly came up in his back and it felt like riding a cloud, I have never felt anything like it in any horse I've ridden and I was so thrilled to bits, I'm still smiling ear to ear six hours later!  I could feel the power in his movement, rather than just feeling him dragging himself along at a plod! I could also feel the swing of his hips rather than the choppy/discordant feel of his back feet coming under and probably being partially blocked by me and his own back. I know it was nothing to do with what I was doing, unless it was that I was so busy talking to Lewis that I wasn't thinking too hard about what I was doing (which is usually how I get into trouble - over thinking too much and not feeling) so I was relaxed and flowing in whatever I was doing!  Hooray!  That's one thing I never thought Finn would do, let alone give me on his own!  He's trying his socks off all the time now and it's a lovely feeling.

Thanks for everything Lewis! You're a fabulous find!

Jennifer and Finn

Two Halinger Geldings Rising Six


Nearly three years ago - when we were both old enough to know better – we decided to fulfil a dream of owning a horse.  What breed and what age we wondered and where would we find this special horse.  We were told to get an older sensible one, not a rescue and not a youngster.  Then fate took a hand.  We had always admired the Haflinger and discovered by chance that a local farmer bred them.  The breeder admitted he only had youngsters but we decided to look anyway.  The rest as they say is history.  We bought the first chap who was three and had been backed and lightly ridden.  What about company we thought?  By chance his half brother was also for sale so after our vet had done his exanimation we were the proud owners of two lively ponies without much of a clue as what to do next.

We had been to a couple of natural horsemanship clinics, read books and watched videos about natural horsemanship and had horsemanship help from a friend and a family member.  I had ridden as a child and we had both had lessons at a riding school (expensive and did not learn a thing) some lunge lessons from a local instructor (rather like a wall of death and didn’t learn much there either).  I had worked with horses as a teen, had two accidents which left me hospitalised and been runaway with.  We decided to leave riding them for a year, have them re backed when they were older and do ground works and get to know them.  We tried Parelli;  one got scared and confused with the pressure the other obstinate so that absolutely nothing would move him and he was still able to bully me.  We took them to a natural horse training clinic over two days; there were several horses and riders with mixed abilities and we were totally out of our depth.  We leant then that training can be expensive and you don’t always get what you think you have paid for.  About this time I was thinking I am way too old for this, don’t like the intimidation, I should have got an older sensible mount suitable for my years and was pretty depressed with other folks’ negative comments on my efforts which made me feel pretty foolish.  Then a chance remark by a friend brought Lewis into our lives.

I had already emailed Lewis having seen his website and he had tactfully not made any comment about them being sent away for rebacking.  I understand a bit more now why. We agreed a time for his visit and he duly came out to us.  I looked at this big guy from Texas wearing a Stetson and chaps, at our ponies and wondered, with some misgivings how this would all work out.  Having had orthodox tuition in the past, been yelled at and various other negative experiences, I was surprised that he did not get us to mount up to see what our riding was like.  But lo, he spent time with the ponies on the ground seeing what they understood and what we did, talking and explaining how we would work with them, that I would be safe and he would teach us how and that many riders he worked with got their confidence back.  I have to say I felt a bit cheated.  Where was the riding instruction, the control the formula to make it all right and what were we going to do to make them behave and get the magic results that I saw other folks get with their horses?

Perhaps the best way to describe Lewis’ way of teaching is organic.  He works with the horse as an individual and always has the utmost care and respect for them.  He takes the time to work with them and us so that they understand and so do we.  There has never been any loss of patience on his part, and he must have it tried to the limit sometimes with all the questions.  If something doesn’t work or the horse does not understand he will find another way, if that doesn’t work out he will think of something else.  The pony once described as like a land rover with your foot to the floor is changing into a responsive ride that is starting to collect and is quick to understand what he is asked.  We understand now that he has a huge ego and likes to be asked nicely.  He gets stubborn and difficult if he is not.  The other chap worries but if the cues are clear and consistent he is happy to oblige and tries hard to do what you ask. We have learnt to lunge in the correct way, they are able to move to the softest touch with their ground work and we know how to do leadership skills from the ground and in the saddle. It is a long journey we are making but we are off the lunge and when we are ready we will ride out and enjoy the partnership that we have. There is no rush and it doesn’t matter what other folks think about what we should or should not be doing by now.  It takes the time it takes unquote.  It is true that I am still nervous (sorry Lewis but I am mature and habits die hard) but I believe in time I will be able to do good turns, redirect the energy if I need brakes, maybe jump a little and hack out. There will be more challenges ahead I am sure – as teenagers the naps are many and varied but we will work through them as we have done before and not get frustrated as Lewis has said on many occasion. 

We have been working with Lewis for about a year and half now as he instructs both us and the boys.  In all that he has never failed us or the ponies;  he has helped in so many ways that it is hard to remember them all.  We are very fortunate to have a horseman like him to work with us.  He could help just about anyone at any level.  As my partner often tells me “Lewis is the real deal”.  He sure is right about that.

Christine and Julian,
Accolade and Arim

March 08

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