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

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Updates ...

Tuesday and Wednesday were work days so I got to the yard early to do a bit of field sitting. It was much harder knowing I was off to work as I felt much less able to relax and read my book. Also, I sort of broke the premise on Wednesday by taking him a carrot which made him pester me for a bit and then leave as soon as he knew the pockets were empty of treasure.

On Monday we did some raised trotting poles, no bother there, and today I took him for a hack and then tried some neck reining in the arena but using a neck strap. It was quite windy on the hack so her felt slightly tremulous but he was forward going and brave as always, though slightly concerned when we found two ladies blackberrying in the woods. I could feel him thinking, "We never find people here!" but a little canter made him forgot about the disruption.

 The neck reining thing was cool. He picked it up straight away and we only lost direction when I forgot what I was doing with my legs or lost concentration.

This was the clip I watched beforehand that encouraged me to try it...I think it's a good video :) Click here if you fancy a look...

Happy horsing everyone x 

Monday, 22 September 2014

How do you eat an elephant?*

Yesterday I had the treat of sharing my afternoon ride with my husband, who brought Nsncy along too. We did the little woodland ride again because it's pretty and not too far. It's so nice to ride with good company and Phil is really good at spotting different plants in the hedge, including the revelation that some cool soul has planted loads of broccoli and flowers along the path as a kind of wild garden. 

Secretly I'm slightly ashamed I never noticed! But hey ho, tasted a teeny bit of the broccoli and it was scrummy, really peppery. Nancy had a great time too as she found a dead bird stuffed with maggots to roll in. Oh, the delight! Phil made her have a bath when we got back to prevent us all contracting the plague and she is now a totally different colour. I thought she was grey, nope, she's a lovely fawn ;) We'll see how long it lasts...

Today I did some pole work with Rodney on the lunge line, just to get his hindlegs moving well. We have some plastic drainage pipes that are quite big and really good for getting them to move pelvis and hips etc. He was fabulous of course, and especially good to catch (possible due to hunger now the weather is colder but I like to think it's the soulful bond we share..) 

It's quite hard sometimes to just do these tiny bits each day with him when part of me just wants to ride for hours, but I'm seeing it as a long term investment in a) improving my patience b) keeping Rodney sound and healthy long term and c) keeping things fresh for both of us. Twenty minutes of nice work has to be better than an hour of boring-ness? 

Happy horsing everyone x

*Answer: bit by bit. (This metaphor is my new/old philosophy on life with Rodders.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Walk the walk

Went to check Rodney and his soon-to-be-new-friend were still on the correct/opposite sides of the electric fence this morning. Rodney stomped over moving super well after yesterday's monster massage. Then he stomped off again and I sat in my spot drinking coffee and pretending not to be a mentalist horse stalker (sidenote- I am officially not the weirdest person hanging around my horse. On Wednesday a man walked past playing his mouth organ)

I left feeling all was well and then got a text explaining new friend had breached the boundary and been thoroughly chased by Rodney who gets angry when people mess with his mares in the next field i.e. look at them, he is like a horrible pimp.

When I brought him in for a ride in the afternoon he had a cut on his left hind from the morning's shenanigans so I took him for a short walk to a nearby copse which turns into a nice loop ride. It was windy and he was cool, a bit looky at first but then forward and walking out well. My plan is to hack his bottom off over the winter, mainly at walk, with lots of hill work, so he becomes very fit but remains (cross fingers) injury free.

Hopefully the field situation will resolve. There has been so much change in his field all summer and I think it melts his brain a bit.

Happy horsing everyone x

Friday, 19 September 2014


I loved my horsey afternoon. I gave Rodney a really long groom before his physio and he seemed to relax and enjoy it. Probably my fault as I never normally spend much time brushing him and he seems indifferent - but today he was a happy monkey with all the fussing and polish.

While we waited for Joanne I pottered about and then read my book in the corner of his stable. Or tried to - he kept nudging me as if to say, "No, talk to me!" So I did, and we had a really nice few minutes where he let me scratch his face all over.

Joanne then arrived and spent two hours making Rodney the most chilled out horse ever. She did loads of work on him while we chatted and he had a very blissed out expression in between yawning and peering round at Joanne to see what she was up to.

I took note of the bits he particularly enjoyed and will try to recreate. So, a truly great afternoon. My week off from work and the extra time I'm spending with him is making a big difference.

Happy horsing everyone x

In praise of praise

Some of you might have seen this new video from Emma Massingale Click Here

And if you haven't  it's is well worth a watch. One of my favourite things in the video (and in Emma's other training videos) is how visibly and enthusiastically she praises her horses.
Those horses know they're amazing because she keeps telling them...

As I often do, I filmed a bit of Wednesday's spell in the school. It's good to work out how I'm doing with my position and if what I feel matches what's actually happening. The riding was ok but at the end I got off with a very stoney face and no pat, no neck stroke for Rodney - all caught on camera. Bad me :(

I feel like normally I do give lots of praise but maybe I often forget, so yesterday's ride was about having fun and rewarding efforts. I built a little obstacle course of oil drums, bending cones and canter poles and we walked round it a few times before I tried it without reins, just for a bit of fun.

More often than not Rodney (sensibly) decided it might be better to just stand at the gate hoping for rescue but with a bit of messing about we had some good moments and he got OD'd on neck rubs. 

He's got some physio booked for today so will be interesting to see how he's doing.

Happy horsing everyone x

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Day three - why rushing is no good for horses

Today Rodney showed no visible interest when I took up my perch. I wondered if he had grown bored of the novelty and thought he might just stay on the other side of the field.

Over the next twenty minutes I realised he was gradually grazing his way over to my spot. To me it seemed to show that Rodney's life moves at a very different speed to mine. He can have a direction in mind but take his time getting there. 

Sitting at my perch for the past three days has made me realise that all the horses at the farm move in a much more glacial way than I have ever appreciated. For the 23 hours a day when we're not bothering them, they just take it pretty steady.

I bet they often feel quite rushed by us...

Happy horsing everyone x

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

"Horses are great equalizers. They don't care who we are, or what we know, or how much money we have, or which trainer we follow, or how new or fancy our tack or training tools are. They only care about how they feel when they are around us. It's one of the only places in horsemanship where we all begin, more or less, as equals."

Mark Rashid

Day two

I cycled to the yard today to give myself some nice fresh air and Nancy the chance of a good blast. 

When we arrived Nancy stayed outside Rod's stable for a rest on her towel and it was rinse repeat for me. I took Mark Rashid's book with me to read, Horses Never Lie, because I just love it and it's very much in the spirit of my experiment.

Rodney came very close to graze today, I could just about see his nose under my book, and then casually grazed his way in a semi-circle. He must like the company. I enjoyed it too and felt less of a weirdo today ;)

Happy horsing everyone x

Monday, 15 September 2014

Day one

Today was the first in my new experiment so once I'd been for a lovely, rainy walk with Nancy in the forest I popped to the yard armed with my waterproof coat, a mat to sit on and a book to read.

Rodney thought it was pretty shocking behaviour for me to set up camp in his field and did some snorty heavy breathing when I unfurled my mat and settled in. 

I was surprised how hard I found it not to just stare at him the whole time, which is where the book came in handy. After deciding that I was just mad rather than harmful, Rodney grazed no more than five feet away the whole time I was there. I think he misses his field friend and likes company.

I loved listening to him munch too, there's something really satisfying about that sound. After ten minutes or so I just quietly left, and he kept on grazing. 

After today's riding lesson (on Hudson -really starting to enjoy riding him and he was super dooper) the girls came to meet Rods for the first time. He was good to catch and stood for a long time while they gave him a really nice fuss. He seemed perfectly calm and happy. A couple of times he started to walk back, as if to say "ok, I'm done now, I'd like to leave," but the friend who had his leadrope was really good and just asked him to come forward again.

All good :)

Happy horsing everyone x

Sunday, 14 September 2014

An experiment in better connection

More than anything else I want in my list of horsey wants - is for Rodney to want to be with me. 

In fact, it's the thing I want that eclipses all other wants because without it, there's no other achievement that is truly worthwhile.

If he jumps a clear round because I make him, or I can ride him only by keeping him in his stable (iffy to catch for anyone new) or we can do flying changes but he runs away as soon as he can -then all those things are a fail to me.

In nearly two years there's a definite kinship between us. He lets me touch his ears and is fine with being bridled, he trusts me to hold him for the farrier, he lets me get on pretty much anywhere and anyhow - there are many practical, daily things where he looks a bit worried but shows trust and sees them through.

So I want to build on these good things and hopefully encourage an even better bond. So for the next month I'm going to spend a bit of time in his field at least three times a week. Not asking anything, not catching him, not staring at him. Just hanging around and expecting nothing.

I've chosen this task for two reasons. 1) It was suggested to me five years ago and I never did it yet keep remembering it so my brain is clearly curious and 2) Because I read a nice article on liberty work that suggested just this as a starting point.

It might change things between us, and it might not, but at the very least it will change me - hopefully into someone with slightly more patience, slightly fewer demands and possibly a clearer head with which to go about my day.

I'll let you know how it goes ...

Happy horsing everyone x 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Weekend rides

I've had a busy work week but was greatly boosted at the thought of playing ponies on Friday afternoon with my friend Emma. And against all probability the day rolled around fair and bright.

Rodney's field pal has been sent to boarding school so catching is fine and he even seemed quite pleased to come in and do something different to munching/flirting over the fence with the mares.

We stayed in the arena as Nancy was with us and just did a few transitions, a bit of walk, trot, canter etc. I wouldn't call it schooling, as there's nothing I can teach Rodney, but the sun shone and he was very obliging. We swapped ponies, Emma on to Rod and me on Tia and carried on. 

I really liked seeing someone else on Rodney, I forget how beautiful he is in that rhythmic trot and his rocking horse transitions into canter.

Near the end we did a walk/trot/lead race which was funny and then we cooled them off. Saturday morning was overcast and a little rainy and my engine light came on while I was driving to the farm. Fortunately a garage was open and took pity on me and even gave me a coffee before I went on my way. Before long we were trotting up the stubble fields with the tractor ploughing in the distance - a very English scene.

It was a great ride. The ponies were itching for a gallop and we were too - there's a brilliant hill we can use that's tremendous for that sort of thing - it goes on for ever and we always gallop there so the ponies know it and we know it and everyone's keen to let rip. In between canters we had a good laugh and made half-hearted attempts to stop the ponies dragging us along when they fancied going faster. 

On the way home we passed a bale on fire - they were pretty curious, maybe a bit worried, but no drama. They are two pretty sensible beans when you get down to it. I really enjoyed our hack and I hope Rodney did too. He got lots of praise and a treat or two when we got back and hopefully next weekend we can do a bit of the same.

I'm definitely not an ambitious rider at the moment - the only aim is to ride a little and enjoy it and that's fine with me. Hopefully Rodney agrees.

Happy horsing everyone x