From vertical rears to double clears

Hi there! My name is Natasha Swales, and I am very excited to be able to say that I am Neue Schule’s new showjumping sponsored rider. I feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity, and I cannot wait for the year to come.

So, about me. I am 28 years old and currently live in Oxfordshire, but being married to an Army Major means that I rarely stay in the same place for long. My horse is called Queen of Clouds, or Mary at home. She is a 9 year old Hanoverian who I’ve owned for nearly two years, and what a two years it’s been! She came to me by chance, and only through injury of my previous horse were we able to take her on. She was a total project horse, and had a long history of rearing. She had managed competed relatively successfully in dressage, but still not without her favourite dramatics. When I tried her, I said to my husband that she was the most talented horse that I had ever sat on, and that we had to do everything that we could to have her.

When we got her home, she showed her true colours, and could rear vertically ten times on the spot with apparent ease. I very quickly learnt to adopt the ‘monkey cuddle’ position, and spent the next year or so clinging on for dear life. We had all of the veterinary checks done, just to put our minds at ease that she wasn’t in any pain or discomfort. The vets could find absolutely nothing physically wary with Mary, so we kept pushing on with the training. We tried a traditional ‘natural horsemanship’ approach, with a very well known trainer. It made a lot of difference to her from the floor, but sadly it made not the slightest bit of difference to the ridden work.

One day, I stumbled across a video of a man riding a coloured cob type horse, that reared and leapt and bucked, and this man stuck to the horse like glue. He wasn’t hitting the horse or being rough with it, and he simply just tried to ride through it. I made contact with this man to see if he might be able to help us, and that is where Mary changed.

Jay Johnson came out to visit us, and he was kind and calm to Mary, and after a brief assessment from the floor, he started riding her. The next four days were just incredible, and Jay broke Mary’s rearing habit through patience and perseverance, and without using any force at all. Jay taught me how to ride Mary through her tantrums, and he left me with a totally different horse. From there, Mary has improved everyday. We’ve still had our share of ‘incidents’ and cannot thank Jay enough for his ongoing support, but in general each day has been better than the previous day.

We are now successfully jumping Foxhunters, with a view to moving up to 1.30ms relatively soon. Mary is absolutely my dream horse, and I really have to pinch myself everyday that firstly, she is mine, secondly, how much she has changed, and thirdly, that we are now sponsored by a company as incredible as Neue Schule! I cannot wait to see what this year will bring us, and I just hope that I can continue to do her justice and help her to reach her full potential in conjunction with Neue Schule.

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