Welcome to my blog about horsey life in the North East - the good bits, bad bits, endless coffees and plenty of mud!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Pics + lame horses + let's do dressage for a good cause

The news in brief...

Rodney is being very good to catch and seems happy with life. I need to start a bit of rehab work with him and now seems to be a good time because...

Cady is lame :( She went galloping around last night after the mares changed fields and by the time I bought her in for a lesson she was Mrs Hoppy Hoppington, poor bugger.

That's horses, I just hope she's better soon.

We had a lesson last week from Tamara Hudleston which was brilliant fun. Tamara is a top notch dressage rider and is giving lessons in return for donations to her charity mission. Read more about it here - basically she's taking part in a race across Mongolia on semi-wild ponies to raise money for the RDA Pegasus Centre in Morpeth.

Her lessons are excellent and get straight to the heart of the matter and the money raised is for a truly good cause. So if you're in the Durham area - get in touch with Tamara and get her to teach you!

Here is a bit more about Tamara in her own words:

I have been selected as one of 30 riders worldwide to race the Mongol derby in August this year. It's the longest horse race on the planet. 1000km in 8 days across Mongolia on wild Mongolian ponies. And yes they really are wild! It's no guided trek, you are given the start, the finish and its up to you how you get there. No showers, no stabling, no beds, only scorching heat in the day and minus zero at night. You carry your own kit and supplies (max 5kg) and you change horse every 40km. This is massive for me as I have never even done a 20km pleasure ride before. I am training very hard and fundraising for charity. As part of this I am teaching/schooling horses for free, well in exchange for donations to charity. Hate the session with me , donate £1, love it then donate as much as you can afford! Normally I would charge £35. I have my BHSAI (minus the 500hrs of teaching I have done and never logged!) I grew up eventing/hunting etc, in 2000 I switched to dressage and trained with a Dutch international Grand Prix rider for 2 years, training my own horse up to Prix St George and competing at BD regional and National championships At medium/advanced medium. I have also been on 3/4 of the last BD northern region teams including the Home International last sept. Everyone can do dressage I promise! Don't be scared, have a lesson or let me school your horse and donate to one of my charities. 

And now for some pics::

Let's all try very hard not to notice the fact my left foot is five inches lower than the right - SADDLE FITTER IS BOOKED LOL!

Enjoying the June weather

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Lovely summer's evening

I am still smiling after my night at the yard yesterday. The weather was perfect for starters.

I took Rodney in the arena just in his headcollar and set him free but he decided to stay close and we had a little walk round together. When he stopped to have a sniff at things I waited for him and then we'd set off again. We even trotted (me running) around together. It sounds like nothing but it was heaven. The pics show him walking over after he'd watched a couple of horses walk past and followed them for a bit. I've also bought some little fleecy bits for his headcollar which you can see below.

I rode Cady again and I was very pleased with her. She was high as a kite but did everything she was asked to do and went where I asked. It was particularly helpful that another horse came in so we had a ten minute breather just watching from the centre which helped calm her. Once she'd cooled off I gave her a long relaxing neck scratch so hopefully she will begin to associate the arena with good times. The pic is her having a little snack after our ride.

I can't tell you how it feels to see him walking over instead of disappearing in a cloud of dust!

It's hard to tell from the blog view but I love his eyes in this one :)

He came to say hello when I walked past to catch Cady. I'm pleased with his weight.

Nom, nom, nom!

Fleecy bits - £3.50 for two at Thinford Saddlery

Monday, 17 June 2013

Pics (words below)

Letting her blow off some steam

You can see how tense her neck is here - I have serious work to do relaxing my arms and shoulders

See that tail whisking? Tense, unhappy, unbalanced

A little steadier

Better, still stiff in my wrists

No inside bend but more relaxed

A little hollow in her back but she felt much calmer here and had a stretch

Lots of praise to finish - ignore the tarty bra strap lol!

Stretching out

Slowing down or speeding up?

(Pics from this session are in the next post for anyone who can't be bothered with my rambling. The relaxed walk ones are my favourite and are stills from a video taken near the end of the ride.)

Cady is nuts at the moment. It could be one of many reasons.

Is it:

a) she's on rich pasture and has gained weight?
b) her hormones are wreaking havoc?
c) she spends 23 hours a day being boss of a small herd of youngsters?
d) because all the field fences have been electrified and she is very frightened by electric fence? She hates the clicking noise and it's been slightly tricky even getting her out of the field lately.

OR e) because I'm cocked up somewhere and she's lost all trust in me? Or because she's in pain? She has been lame recently and her saddle fit has been compromised by weight gain. She doesn't seem lame and I've adjusted her prolite pads to try and combat slipping. But I am aware/concerned about both these possibilities and will monitor closely.


On Friday we had a memorable ride. I tacked her up and led her into the arena and around the outside a few times. It was a bit windy and she was high as a kite - spooky, eyes on stalks, every muscle tense.

So I did the sensible thing and untacked her and put her back in the field. Only kidding!

I got on and it felt like sitting on a rocket ready to go off. So I let her. I gave her some rein and let her canter around the arena and let some steam out.

I've had Cady for four years and I've always tried to work gently around issues but at times I think I've actually just avoided them and reinforced her stake in decision making.

But that day I didn't feel afraid at all. Sensible or not, I thought "do your worst, and let's at least get something going". I kept my leg on and kept her forward, regardless of her plunging about - she had to go forward.

Phil was watching and said it looked like something out of a cowboy film. Once she'd had her say I had mine. We worked for more than an hour going up and down the transitions. Whenever I felt that nuclear energy building I let her canter on a circle until I felt it die down again.

When she tried to veer off the track or avoid part of the arena I was much firmer than normal. I don't mean I battered her or anything, I just made sure I was using enough leg and blocked her with the outside rein when she tried to nick off.

It was physically and mentally hard work for both of us. I find it particularly difficult to take charge and make demands because I feel like I'm forcing things and I don't know if that's good or bad long term.

By the end we walked three times around the outside of the arena at a walk on both reins, on a longer rein. She had a few small shivery spooks at the sheep rustling in the hedge next door but stayed on track and relaxed a little.

On Saturday I let her rest off any sore muscles (I know I felt a bit battered) and on Sunday morning I rode again. She was higher than ever when i was getting her ready but I felt she was much more forward and much less sticky and she went where she was asked to go.

So, am I speeding up Cady's progress, or slowing it down by taking this approach?

Right now I don't know, I'm just experimenting really. If I feel she's just getting progressively more nervous then I'll do a sharp u-turn. If there's an improvement I'll perservere but try to tone it down a lot.

Happy horsing everyone x

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Is this the same horse?

"I'm a little bit of everything, all rolled into one."

Meredith Brooks

"Sweet, gentle, loving - that's me!"

Grumpy, cross, raaaa! That's me too"
And they say horses mirror their owners - no comment!

Happy horsing everyone x

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Last night I took Cady for a hack for the first time in a couple of weeks after her spot of mild lameness.

We had company, another livery on a slightly younger but level-headed mare.
At first it was a bit dramatic. We set off and with Rodney galloping along the fence line next to us and Cady getting pretty overwhelmed as she was lead horse.

I am less delicate about these matters after hard-learned experience. She gets lots of encouragement but she has to go forward as when she plants it's dangerous. When she goes forward there's lots and lots of praise. I did lead her for one small part of the ride early on as there's a gateway she finds very spooky but after that we just kept going and did several large laps of the farm in a fashion. There was some ginger tip-toeing, a bit of mad leaping and one of her trademark spooks where she abruptly jolts and shivers from top to toe.

I hope as we progress it will all look and feel a lot more elegant but at the moment it's a question of prioritising. She's a naturally very leery (heard this expression recently, love it - means eyes-on-stalks)  horse with a high sense of self-preservation. If she were in the wild NONE of her herd would get eaten by predators! She has all the qualities that have helped horses survive over millions of years.

In addition, I am quite a high energy person so together we can be like a Catherine-wheel...

This makes hacking pretty interesting! In four years she's never been eaten by a lion but she's still ready for the eventuality that one might pop out of the hawthorn hedge. So I was really pleased with her last night. She settled right down, led the vast majority of the way and after a bumpy start, obliged in my reguests for forward.

I felt much more confident and clear in what I was asking for and able to reward the right behaviour which I think shows a little bit of progress on my part. I also tried my damdest to keep breathing, stay centred and offer her a gently but consistent contact.

Rodney actually stomped over to see me last night instead of me having to sidle up to him. I just brought him in for a brush and a few carrot stretches. He seems quite happy which makes me happy :)

Happy horsing everyone x

Monday, 10 June 2013

Sunshine! You make everything better!

It's been a great weekend and I've enjoyed every minute of the heat.

On Friday Emily came out to see Rodney. She was due to treat him way back but the spring grass came through and he disappeared for a bit on a mission to evade capture and develop his grass curves.

Friday's session began very well just from the point of view that I could catch him! I love Emily's visits. She is so kind and knowledgable. I feel like I'm learning so much more about my horses through her treatments and at the same time the horse is getting relief and we're chatting away about the horse world and new findings in treatments etc. It's just one giant win all round.

Rodney loved her and let her do lots of work without any fuss. There was a lot of licking and chewing and yawning going on.

Rodney's like "Whaaaaaaaaat?"

In terms of findings, he's very tight in his muscles, particularly his hamstrings, and he's carrying all this overall body tension in his poll which will give him headaches. He's also rocking his pelvis from left to right rather than pushing through from behind. Emily gave him a thorough treatment and we've got lots of exercises to work away at until her next visit in September.

I won't ride for a while. Instead his rehab consists of carrot stretches, walking around the farm with his tail bandage contraption on (see pic) and lots of loose schooling, sometimes over small jumps to help him stretch out. And also because he loves jumping and it's fun for him and we want him to have fun and be happy.

Emily's also adjusted the pads in his prolite so his saddle is much more balanced for when we do ride again.

As a side note, I've also been going to an osteopath lately and it's done me the world of good. Hopefully the next few years will yield a stronger, straigher me and the same for my eight-legged team.

Cady's leg is improving but she's still about 2/10 lame on a right-rein circle so a bit more rest for her. That said she was a wonderful model yesterday. I wanted to test how I was going to make the tail bandage contraption on her first and she was very patient.

Phil and I sat and watched her herd for a bit in the sunshine. She's become a much calmer dictator in the last year. A flick of her tail and discipline is restored. It was really cool watching them as there are two youngsters who are very sweet and bicker like siblings and the whole herd is very knitted together like a gang of first years at comprehensive school.

So, not much riding, but lots going on and it's all very interesting.

Happy horsing everyone x

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Tune in

Lovely quote below that is a particularly good reminder for me. I've read the books, had many excellent instructors and delight in reading horsey blogs BUT sometimes I forget to just step back and see what my horses have to say for themselves. Which is plenty, when I tune in.

"What I know about the horse I learned from the horse." 

Tom Dorrance

Look into my eyes!

This is the post where you're perfectly entitled to switch to another channel while muttering "Bloody voodoo hippy nut"

I don't mind if you do.

Cady was in the small paddock yesterday because I was keeping an eye on her fat leg (It's gone down, phew, and today she's back with the girlies)

She had initially settled well but by the time I got there last night she had decided only the bottom corner was safe to stay in. She was effectively patrolling a 12ft by 12ft invisible enclosure. We had put hay and water out but she hadn't touched it because it was on the side where she didn't want to go.

When I went in to poo pick she got a bit braver. If I was near the hay she would run up and snatch a bit and take it back to her safe corner. I often feel Cady doesn't trust me much but this made me think perhaps she does a little bit.

I put her headcollar on and led her to the trough, knowing she must be thirsty. She did a lot of snorting and was looking everywhere all at once if you know what I mean.

"She never really looks at me or makes any eye contact" I thought, and a little voice in my head said, "Why don't you try just gently looking at her?"

At that moment I realised I very rarely make any eye contact with her. I've sort of bluntly adopted the view that all eye contact is behaving like a predator and I tend to look everywhere and anywhere but directly at her.

This is fairly normal, her looking past me - but have I trained her to do this?

For a few seconds I just looked at her quite softly as if she was someone I was having a chat with. A moment later and she looked back at me for a few seconds and seemed to relax a bit and then had a drink out of the trough.

I'm going to have to investigate this more but I think she has actually been mirroring my behaviour. She never looks at me because I don't look at her and then I get confused because I feel she never focuses on me. Probably another example of having to look at yourself (pun intended) first, before criticising or judging the behaviour of the horse.

Has Cady been feeling like a ghost for the past four years? As if there's some mad woman fussing around her but kind of ignoring her at the same time?

I hope this makes sense.

It was a bit of something and a bit of nothing but it felt weirdly momentus.

Happy horsing everyone x

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Cady and friends, Buck B and bugs

Another photo blog today of Cady and her pals snoozing in the Friday sunshine.

She had a big fat hind leg last night so she's under observation in the small paddock. It had gone down this morning but she's still lame on a circle.

Over the weekend we went to visit family in Norfolk and on the way back I was struck down by a lousy cold/flu-ey bug that left me in bed for most of Monday - so not much news riding wise!

Hopefully the winds of change will blow soon enough.

Oh, I did enjoy the Buck Brannaman film on tv last night. Did you see it? I liked his foster mum's motto "Blessed are the flexible, they shall not get bent out of shape." Brilliant

Happy horsing everyone x