The Montana Diaries – Part 3 by Lisa Gregory

Montana makes delightful progress with her training

Montana's training

Early stages of Montana’s training

I have been delighted so far with the progress made by our lovely Montana, the latest of the young horses here at the Trekking Centre to be trained and made ready for clients to ride.

As you no doubt all know Montana is one of my home breds – I always dreamed of having my own stud farm – and at four years old is at the perfect age to begin her working life.

She is a beautiful girl, tri-coloured and standing at about 15.2 hands. Her daddy is, of course, my warm blood stallion Zidane and her mum is our pretty bay Welsh Section D mare Larosa – known to us all as Lola.

Lola is a hugely popular member of my team and I can foresee Montana being just the same, especially as she has inherited her mother’s pretty face.

Montana’s training journey

I have decided to take all of you with us on Montana’s training journey because I thought you would find it interesting to follow the whole process from the start.

In Part One I described how I gently introduced her to her bridle and saddle and was delighted that she remained calm and sensible throughout. She reminds me very much of Lola, who was no trouble at all as a young horse.

Then in Part Two we ventured into the indoor school for the first time. She was quite noisy – calling for support from her herd friends! But she settled nicely as I attached the long reins and gently began introducing her to walking and trotting in both directions.

Again my opinion of her is confirmed – she is smart and easily trainable.

Now I am excited to take the next step – and if all goes well perhaps I might get as far as leaning over her so she experiences some weight on her back for the first time.

I have a member of my staff, Bethan Jane, with me to help. All my staff have a group of horses to be responsible for and each group includes one of the youngsters. Montana is actually in the group cared for by Leah Dodds, who loves her dearly and is extremely frustrated to be missing out on the excitement due to a day off!

Montana takes being tacked up in her stable very calmly and walks sensibly into the arena where Bethan helps as we hold her stirrups in place with a strap under her belly and then attach the long reins.

I repeat the exercises we went through in our last session and I am thrilled at how well this little girl is responding. I think she is going to be very special!

Montana – responsible and sensible

I decide that Montana is so responsive and sensible that we will go a step further. I am confident that her calm attitude will allow me to push on a little.

We take her into the centre of the arena and Bethan holds her, talking to her and giving her lots of stroking and praise, while I pick up the mounting block and show it to her. I allow her to look at it and sniff it and she is not in the least bit worried by my strange behaviour!

Now I climb on to the block and begin stroking and fussing her from above. She has not experienced this before – as an untrained horse she has only been petted from ground level. It is important she understands that this is not frightening as of course, this is where her riders will be!

Then I get down off the block, walk away and climb back on. I repeat this a couple of times before I take the block back to the front of her and round to her sides so she gets used to the sight of it from different angles. What a good little girl she is – she remains calm, quiet and interested in what I am doing.

I walk all around her a few times and then I climb on the block and lean over her, and repeat this exercise from the other side, leaning completely over her on my belly. Montana is completely unfazed.

She is so good that I decide I can safely back her. Normally I would have a leg up into the saddle from a member of staff, but Montana is so calm that I put my foot in the stirrup and go straight up. I sit sideways at first, rather than throw my leg over her, but again she remains cool and calm.

Her reaction is so sensible that I mount again and sit quietly astride, gently putting my feet into the stirrups.

Montana being ridden

Lisa backs Montana

Montana has lots of patting and praise as I slide off her. She is backed! On her second session in the arena!

I am so delighted with her – and I can’t wait for our next time when I will take her another stage further.