Jean and Blue: A cob with attitude
I bought Blue when he was five. The girl who had trained him had done a good job; he’d learnt the basics, and was a reasonable ride, but thanks partly to his character, and partly to being treated as a pet for the formative part of his life, he had discovered that he was far stronger than any human he was likely to meet. Consequently he frequently took advantage, both on the ground and when ridden.
I coped for a couple of years, but it was a struggle, as he was capable of surprising me at any time. Once, startled by something on the road, he took off, not in a full blown bolt, but at a canter. Even at that speed I found I was helpless to stop him. As we were about to descend a steep hill, where the surface was slippery, I had to bring him to a halt somehow – I turned him across the verge, where the hedge was higher than my head. I felt him think about trying to jump it – he isn’t the most sensible animal at times – but changed his mind. I got off and led him home, my nerve almost gone. At that point I thought I was going to have to give up riding.
A friend, hearing my tale of woe, recommended Val Alemanno, so I called her, arranged a lesson, and our education began. Val introduced me to a whole new methodology. Blue and I learnt together, a process that took time, but was more far-reaching than any instruction I’d been given in over forty years of riding. Blue began to treat me with a bit of respect, and I began to understand why he did the things that caused me a problem.
We entered a couple of dressage competitions, and came about half way up the class – not bad for a cob ridden by a bundle of nerves! Even better, with three friends we tackled the Mary Townley loop, and Blue behaved perfectly. After that I took him to other parts of the country and hacked through some lovely areas, the highlight being over two months spent in the Lake District when I retired from work. Blue got totally fit, was willing but controllable, whether out alone or in company. That holiday was one of the highlights of my life, and I shall never forget it.
Blue is seventeen now, and he still has attitude – he wouldn’t be Blue without it. I am still nervous occasionally when riding, though that says more about my character than Blue’s behaviour. We are no longer at odds, and I can honestly say that for the last few years, thanks to Val, we have been best buddies. We hack out in a French link. I am in control and I have excellent brakes. Once he’s fit after having the winter months off, Blue gives a nice imitation of a little Spanish stallion, well rounded and working from the back, his paces pretty level and straight. In a way it’s a shame I have no ambitions to do more with him, as he’s capable of a lot more than hacking, but I have a horse who is a pleasure to ride, not like the misunderstood bully he was before Val sorted us both out. Many many thanks, Val, without you I would have given up years ago!
Yvonne and Paddy: A horse with issues
Paddy was an 8 yr old horse with big issues caused by previous work and owners. His agoraphobia led him to not wanting to leave the yard, rearing constantly, bolt and do anything to get him away from his fear of everything. His mental state was as bad as his physical state. Physically his muscle structure was discomforting him to the point of not wanting to work.
Through her work with him Val enabled him to compete successfully in all disciplines, his mind and body were both relaxed, and he became a happier horse from one who was near to a breakdown.
Katie and Amy Hinch and Rosie: A mare with a bit problem
Val has trained both girls since they were very young and is very proud of their commitment and compassion to their horses. When they were ready to transfer from ponies to horses, they went searching for something safe that would become an 'all rounder'.
After looking at a few, they called Val to look at a bay mare: Rosie. She was just the build and mentality that they were looking for but was very distant expressing no personality. Amy rode her on this particular day and the mare had a real aversion to the bit, throwing her head high and trotting out in a rushed manner showing previously bad riding techniques in her history.
Val took her headcollar and put it over the bridle attaching the reins to it. Amy then rode her again and the mare calmed quickly. So with no real topline muscle and a mouth problem the girls took her on, and with Val’s support and training turned a very distant, uncomfortable mare into one of the most loving horses she has had the pleasure in having dealings with competing her in both dressage and showjumping.
The girls are still both in the horse world competing and still showing the compassion that Val has passed down to the next generation.
Kate Barker: Horses are like people, we are all different
I have known Val for many years. In that time she has helped me with many of my horses
It seems that I have always been drawn to ‘quirky’ horses; or maybe it’s just that we all have horses where we need help from time to time!
About 18 years ago I had a beautiful Irish Cob/Heavy Hunter type mare called Molly-Anna. She was absolutely lovely and together we took part in dressage, show jumping, cross country and hunted locally. She was a strong willed horse but loved to please, so was a real character.
One day after hunting she decided that going into her trailer just wasn’t her 'thing' anymore and just refused to go in. I had to ride her home. I had a show the next week and there was just no way she was going in. I couldn’t understand why so I called Val and she came to my yard. Within 30 minutes Molly was walking in and out of her trailer. I never had any problems with loading again.
I had an amazing young thoroughbred called Pulsings Roberto. We 'broke him in' together. Val’s experience helped me no end, her understanding and knowledge were invaluable. The art of patients learned from Val in this process has always stayed with me and was a lesson well learned.
I have had an array of other horses with which Val has been my trainer.
I now have an ex-racehorse called Special Perk and a Seller Francais called Kador de Jeandith. Whenever I need a helping hand or am in need of discussion or training I call on Val.
Kador does have ‘issues’ and Spesh is a real mare! I always feel confident in Val’s understanding of me; and my horses, to go forward with training in a way that is amazing for horse, rider and trainer.
People forget that we as riders often have aches and pains, well so do horses. Val has an eye for spotting such problems and knows just what to do.
I compete with both Spesh and Kador. Val will be training me this year again and we are both excited about what we may achieve in the year to come.
Horses are like people, we are all different. We need trainers like Val who care about the horses and about the way they are ridden. Life is not ‘by the book’ and neither is Val’s training and understanding, it comes from within!
Helga Lockyer: Getting the most out of your relationship with your horse
If you want someone to help you get the most out of your relationship with your horse then Val is the one for you. No matter what challenges and issues I have had over the years with my horse Val has always put things right. She has a real connection with horses and they love her. My horse and I have spent 23 years together and they have been wonderful thanks to the Val's assistance. Even if you don't think you need help call Val for a lesson you will have a great time.