Slow Down for Horses

Road safety is something that is pressed on riders from a young age, and rightly so. From Hi-Vis to head cams, as riders (MOST of us) we do everything possible to prevent accidents. One of the most unfortunate things about being a British Equestrian is the lack of bridle paths. Most us have to go on at least some roads to get to any kind of off road hacking, which is becoming more dangerous as the years go by.

Riding on the roads isn’t ideal, but is a necessity in the equestrian world. Sadly, a lot of drivers nowadays don’t respect the space needed to pass horses safely, resulting in a lot more accidents and near misses than there should be in a modern world. Our farm is on a ‘country lane’ and the speed limit is national (60mph) which frankly, is ridiculous. Our arena is right on the bend and alongside the road – with no option to move it, not that we should have to – and the amount of boy racers we’ve had virtually flying round is scary. We’ve had cars on their roof in the middle of the arena, men on bikes flipping over the fence, a tractor with a 30ft trailer stacked with hay tip and fall in as well as others. All because, people go far too fast, can’t slow down for the bends and lose control. Imagine what would happen if someone came round the blind bend at that speed and one of the multiple riders on our road was out hacking? It doesn’t even bare thinking about.

Speaking from personal experience, I have had several incidents far too close for comfort simply because drivers are in such a hurry to get past, or are speeding on country lanes. One involved hacking Fred out on his own (which I wouldn’t do unless he was 110% safe on roads.) We were walking over the motorway-bridge that we have to cross to get off our lane, on our way home. A large van came out of nowhere, flying up behind us, slamming on at the last second. This caused Fred to spook, taking off over the bridge, unaided by the fact there was another van coming the other way that didn’t slow down. I was lucky he is more sensible & didn’t bolt completely, and that the van actually did manage to mostly stop and didn’t skid – which would’ve meant us being hit. The situation was worse, as the motorway bridge passes over the M56, which is incredibly loud so neither of us could hear the van until the last second.

KILL YOUR SPEED, NOT MY HORSE

From 2010 to April this year, 222 horses and 38 riders have been killed on Britain’s roads.
According to the British Horse Society, 80% of these accidents were caused by drivers travelling too fast or not giving enough space. Last year, the BHS launched the ‘Dead Slow’ campaign, in hopes to raise awareness of how dangerous incidents on the roads involving horses can be. Not only for the horse and rider but for the driver and all passengers in the car as well. Since the launch of the campaign, the BHS told of a 29% increase in road incidents reported to them. Whilst this is a start, it is terrifying that horses and riders are still being killed on the roads today.
Prior to this, a memorable facebook page (with over 40,000 followers today) was set up by Lauren De Grunchy. This page involves riders stripping off for the camera with the caption “Will you slow down for me now?”. The message behind the page was to raise awareness again for horses and riders on the road, as drivers would definitely slow down for an almost nude rider!

Most car drivers are not horsey, and perhaps don’t realise how quickly a situation can change. Horses can go from a sedate walk to sideways at 30mph+ in a split second. They weigh half a ton, a lot of them more. The damage a horse can do to your car is catastrophic. For those that say horses shouldn’t be on the roads and that roads are made for cars, that is not an argument. If you’re going to be that petty, technically roads were designed for horses to go down as guess what? Before the car was the horse and cart.
Horses have every right to share the roads. No matter how you feel about horses, remember there are people on board them. People with lives, families, everything to live for. They are just enjoying their hobby, as you might be driving your car to enjoy yours.

 

Be Safe, Be Seen

To remain safer and to allow drivers to spot them earlier & quicker, a lot of riders wear Hi-Visibility clothing. There are SO many products out there now to ensure you are as visible as possible, there is really no reason not to wear it. Riders that don’t wear hi-vis and are spotted are usually scolded by the community, for giving us all a bad name and risking their lives for no reason! It doesn’t have to be expensive, there are plenty of cheaper brands out there and it all does the same job.

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Mia & Puzzle along with myself out on a hack. We always have to use roads to get to the bridle paths, here she is sporting her Hi-Vis!

There is no doubt about it, a lot of drivers drive irresponsibly. They aren’t all bad, but some perhaps don’t even realize how to overtake a horse. They aren’t bikes, they might not continue in a straight line at the same speed.
Dear Driver,
When you fly past us with inches to spare, you are risking your life.
My horse weighs over half a ton.
How do you think that would end, if he ended up lay on your windscreen?
That is why, when I ask you to slow down with a wave of my arm
I am not just doing it to hold you up, and get in your way.
I am trying to save our lives.

Up in the saddle, I can see and hear things you cannot.
I can see a car coming on the other side of the road, on the blind bend you insist on overtaking me on. Hear a tractor engine grumbling behind us, feel the tension in my horses back, as your speed frightens him.

Anything from a dog barking to a plastic bag flapping could create a small spook, which would result in my horse being in the middle of the road in a heartbeat. Do you forget, horses can go from a sedate walk to 30mph+ in seconds?

It isn’t just the horses life you’re at risk of ending. It is mine, as well as your own. Best case scenario, you injure my horse. Worst case, you kill us all.
Your car could be a lethal weapon. A simple knock could be a broken leg, or a fright enough to bolt. No matter how you feel about horses, remember that they did not ask to be in front of your car that day. Think of the life of the rider in the saddle, it is potentially in your hands.
Next time to try to squeeze past a horse and rider, or don’t slow down, just remember the person sat in the saddle. They have everything to live for, who are you to risk ending their life to be 30 seconds quicker?
If we didn’t have to share roads with cars, we wouldn’t.  Our bridle paths are going extinct, we have no choice.

Please, pass wide and slow. Slow down to 15mph and give a cars width.
Don’t overtake on a bend, or come flying past revving your engine.

Respect horses. Respect riders. Save Lives.

Bitting, Truth & Myth

Bitting is one of the most discussed topics in the equestrian world. Bits can be broken down into categories, snaffles, gags and pelhams. Which bit to get your horse can be a difficult decision to make and there are a lot of things to consider before settling on one.

What bit suits my horse? What bit should I use? Should I change my bit? Do I need a bit?
Questions that despite being asked so often, get the wrong answer. Owners are often given ill-advice and when you consider you’re putting more (or less) metal in your horses mouth, it can have disastrous consequences. All too often nowadays (in my humble opinion) there are far too many riders ‘bitting-up’ to try to fix problems quickly. You see, often in show-jumping, horses flying round with inches of bit protruding down their face, heads up in the air and mouths gaping. Now again before anyone jumps down my throat, I know that show jumpers (certainly at a higher level) are high energy, difficult horses a lot of the time. I’m not saying don’t use strong bits, or that they should all be hopping round in rubber snaffles and that’s that. What I AM saying is that often, horses are over bitted and it in fact makes them ten times worse. A horse that is gaping it’s mouth is uncomfortable, fact. The problem is, rather than addressing the problem (why is the horse uncomfortable?) and fixing it, we invented the flash noseband. Then the grackle and drop, and now we have countless others. All designed to quite literally clamp the horses mouth shut. Again, not saying don’t use strong nosebands! On incredibly strong horses that cross their jaw, or ones that get their tongue over the bit, things like a flash or grackle can be very useful when used correctly.

One thing I would say to any horse owner, research your bit. If you’re having a problem with your horse, go to that first. Researching your bit can often lead to the realisation it is designed to do the opposite of what you need or want.

I ride a very strong horse. Freddie isn’t very big, only 15.2, but he is quite a chunk and when he goes he’s very hard to stop, and would often tuck his head down and evade the bit completely. He came in a hanging cheek snaffle and drop noseband, but I would rather see a horse go round in a stronger bit being used gently than ragged round in a snaffle, so we switched him to a cavesson and Dutch-Gag (also known as a 3 ring gag or continental snaffle.) A few people have previously said that a dutch gag is a type of snaffle. It isn’t, even on the ‘snaffle ring’ it is not a snaffle and never will be! The purpose of a dutch gag is to give a little more ‘brake power’ and lift the horses head. The 3 rings give varying amounts of leverage depending how low or high the reins are attached. It was designed to be used with two reins, one on the snaffle rein and one on either of the two lower rings. This is so you can use the leverage ‘brake’ effect as and when you need it, rather than constantly. After working with him (we’ve had him nearly 3 years) I can ride him in a snaffle, though he is still strong at times and I have yet to let loose in an open space!

 

So, things you need to know?

  1. Hanging cheek snaffles. A couple of my friends will know the story behind why this is such a personal bugbear for me, but that’s another story.
    Hanging cheek snaffles do not apply poll pressure, or leverage. To apply leverage, the rein needs to be lower than the horses mouth (like on a tom thumb, for example.) The cheek pieces come away from the horses face when pressure is applied, so poll pressure is impossible. If anything, it relieves poll pressure. Horses that don’t like much tongue pressure may like this bit as it lifts in the mouth when pressure is applied. It is also good for youngsters learning how to turn as the half cheek gently presses into the side of the face when the opposite rein is pulled, almost pushing them round the bend. The ring is also fixed, offering more stability than a loose ring, but some may lean on it.

 

  1. Leverage = power
    Bits with leverage can be effective in the right hands, but can be disastrous in the wrong ones. Leverage means the rein isn’t attached to the horses mouth. They are often attached to another part of the bit below the horses mouth. Bits with leverage allow the rider to apply much more force to the horses mouth than they are actually applying. Dutch gags apply leverage, as do pelhams, tom thumbs and most curb bits. Hackamores – despite being bitless – have a lot of leverage as generally have very long shanks. Shanks are the strips of metal that come down away from the horses mouth. Google ‘german hackamore’ and you will see what I mean. A “Stephens Heavy Duty Long Shank German Hackamore” I found for sale (£170 new!!) has 20 cm shanks. This is almost 8 inches, which apparently means if 20lbs of ‘pull’ pressure is applied to the reins, 160lbs of force is exerted on the horses nose. See why they need gentle hands?

 

  1. Sizing Matters
    As a general rule, you should have ‘a finger’ space between the bit ring and your horses mouth. For loose ring bits, you should go half an inch bigger than the usual size your horse takes. If your horse has a small mouth or large tongue, a thick mouthpiece may not suit. For a large tongue, a port may help. It gives a little more room, but may apply different pressure on the tongue that the horse must get used to. If a bit is too small, it may pinch the horses mouth and cheeks as well as become uncomfortable. If it is too big, it will slide out of the horses mouth and be ineffective.

 

  1. Only snaffles are dressage legal at lower levels. At higher levels, double bridles are compulsory. This never makes sense to me, surely a horse that can do a Prix St George test in a snaffle and get the same mark as a horse in a double is just as good? I understand the rules aim for ‘more accurate’ aids but not this one. Heyho, I’ve never been much of a dressage diva.

 

  1. Curb Chains
    Attached underneath the horses chin, curb chains are most often used with Pelhams. It’s important you don’t fit a curb chain too tightly, as they tighten considerably when the curb rein is applied. Curb chains sometimes have leather straps in the middle rather than being made entirely of chain. This distributes the pressure more evenly and isn’t as ‘harsh’ as a full chain. 
  2. Bitless bridles aren’t always ‘softer’ and kinder than bits. Bitless bridles use pressure on different parts of the horses face for control, rather than the pressure in the mouth from a bit. A lot of bridles tighten when pressure is applied, which some horses will not tolerate due to the amount of incredibly sensitive nerves in the horses face. Hackamores apply a lot of pressure directly on the nose, whereas a crossunder bridle (like Dr Cooks bitless) cross under the jaw and tighten slightly when  pressure is applied, though the main aim is to pull the horses head round (though not as rough as it sounds) rather than tighten, it works on their cheeks.

Which bit you choose and stay with is again, a big decision as ultimately your horse is trusting you to put a chunk of metal on one of the softest, most delicate parts of it’s body. You should consider what you want from the bit (to help alter way of going, head carriage, give you some extra brakes, bending etc) and why you are changing from the one you have. Bare in mind a lot of issues you have with your horse take time and proper schooling to correct. Quick fixes (i.e getting a very strong bit to slow the horse down, or one with masses of poll pressure to lower the head) don’t usually work for long and don’t actually fix the problem, they just mask it. It CAN actually make the problem ten times worse, as some horses will fight even harder.

Let’s remember that in a lot of cases, a bit is only as harsh as the hands on the reins (this statement includes all bitless bridles too!) and damage can be caused even by rubber snaffles in harsh hands.

Do your research, don’t be tempted by a quick fix and if you want to try before you buy, i recommend ‘The Bit Bank’. They will give you lots of advice and even let you borrow bits before you buy them to make sure they’re right for your horse!

https://www.horsebitbank.com/

Image Credit: https://equinemanagement.wordpress.com/tag/equestrian-bits/

Delamere Forest Adventure

Morning all. There is a reason why I am walking like at 80 year old cowboy this morning. Yesterday I went on my first fun ride with Mia. (I can’t believe I’ve been riding for 13 years and never been on one!) I took Storm, thinking it was walk and trot with possibly a couple of canters. I was wrong on that one, it was a lot more intense than I anticipated, it could have been because I was on a pony trying to keep up, but none of the several long canters felt like canters, more like good gallops! It was a baptism of fire for him, but credit where it’s due he was fantastic the whole time. He had one spook in three hours – at a tree stump of all things – and despite there being a fair few of us (I’d guess about 20-30?) going rather fast all together, he stayed where I put him and bobbed along quite nicely, seeming to enjoy himself quite a bit.

We met at the Forest View Inn, where we were offered port before we set off (which the morning after Mia’s 18th birthday party probably wasn’t a good idea but who was I to ignore tradition?) We set off down the road to a track into the forest. That first part down the hill was quite exciting for Storm, being his first time out with such a big group of horses (either ever, or at least over a year) and he was quite bouncy, but settled. We went off into the woods. If you’ve never been to Delamere Forest make sure you go, it’s a really lovely ride. Very scenic, dozens of different paths to go down and explore. I have no clue where abouts in the woods we actually went, I could very easily get lost (which we actually did…)

 

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In the middle of describing the taste of ‘port’ before we left…


The paths went from wide and fairly hard to narrow and sandy, surrounded with ferns. It was good practice for Storm, moving over different terrain. Near the beginning and at the end we went up / down some steps (like the ones they have at somerford), there were a few good hills to go up and down, two little styles (we jumped one and kind of hopped over the other) and some long straight stretches for a canter. There was one particular stretch that was like a sand and grit path, which we cantered down. You know in nature documentaries when the animals stampede and there are huge dust clouds that billow up? It was like that. Aside from whoever was right at the front, we all were riding through these huge clouds, couldn’t see a thing but it probably looked very dramatic.

 

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Storm having a good look at the photographer out on the ride.

The ride was ran/held by North West Bloodhounds, during the summer when the hunting season is over the hold regular run rides & trips, for everyone – not just members only. They’re very family friendly, and are welcoming to new riders and those who’ve never hunted before, so if you fancy giving it a go I’d recommend it. Just be prepared for a fast, fun and exhilarating ride!

In other news, I got back on Fred! He didn’t really bother, just kind of resigned himself to the fact he isn’t in fact retired. I got on to test the water the other day, then rode a little circle in the arena a day or so later. Slow and steady & we’ll get there. The past week has been a good pony related week indeed.

 

 

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First sit on the majestic beast.

Hard Work = Reward!

One More Step!

The last time I sat on Freddie was the 4th April, when I had to ride him for the 8 vets at Leahurst in the hope he’d show his symptoms. He didn’t, typically contrary, and stayed in for a bone scan. We weren’t 100% what would show up – if anything – but the questions being asked by our home vet in the first place were leaning towards kissing spine. That being said we thought he couldn’t have it, as he didn’t have any symptoms aside from trying to canter in the corners.

To cut a long story (that I’ve already covered) short, he did have kissing spine, as well as PSD and arthritis. All this being found was honestly shocking, especially when the talks of surgery to rectify it came about, otherwise he’d never really be right again. He had two surgeries, on both hind legs and his back. We didn’t know if he’d ever come sound, though they went well and the prognosis was very good for his recovery. He was the perfect patient. He went from the little horse that went stir crazy with half a day of no turnout due to the weather, to a saint on box rest for over 6 weeks.

He went back out onto turnout and is back in the field with the others now, putting on a good show on his first day out. Seeing him move so freely filled me with so much pride, it’s been so long since he moved without stiffness. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t perfect but we’re getting there, especially after yesterdays physio visit. Our physio said he’s looking and feeling very good, moving really well and his posture is loads better. For the first time ever since seeing him, she also said his hamstrings are finally better (not perfect, but better) AND his reflexes are a million % better. If you’ve never done it, stand behind (if it’s safe!) your horse and run your fingers from the top of their rump downwards, their back should lift quickly, almost like their body is hunching up. This is a reflex action and the first time our physio saw Freddie, she tried the reflex and couldn’t get a reaction. In the end, using keys and really pressing, he twitched a bit. Yesterday, barely touching him with fingertips he lifted straight up.
All this hasn’t come overnight with no work involved! He’s been building up on the long reins for a few weeks, we’ve got some stretches in hand to get everything nice and mobile and he’s also fed completely off the floor and now he’s allowed back out, gets as much turnout as possible.

So, drumroll please.

Yesterday I got the go-ahead that he can again be ridden! Trying him again on the long reins and making sure everything is still okay, but over the next few months he can be brought slowly back into ridden work. To start with, it will literally be just sitting on him, then a walk about the arena getting him to stretch for 5 minutes, building up to 15 and then beginning hacking out, while continuing the work on the long reins to build him up. He can’t trot on the roads or anything, but by October should be hacking for up to an hour and cantering in straight lines. A couple of months ago I thought he might have to be retired to the field, at just 9 years old. To say I’m over the moon is an understatement, but we’re taking it slowly, it’ll be a long process but we’re off to a good start.

Let’s see what happens!

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Houdini, The Jumper and Max. 

It would seem our little heatwave is over. Back to muddy ponies & slippery yards. I seem to have inherited the ability to fall, slip or trip over most things within a 30 foot radius so when Mother Nature brings the rain, I start to fall. My new (ish?) boots seem to not be very grippy, so I have to be more concious going downhill and round corners as I’ve resembled a deer on ice more than once. 

Freddie seems to be happier since going back out in the main field, he doesn’t really care about company but he’s got 5 acres to roam and eat. He gave a lovely display of movement in the field that I know full well he will never ever do under saddle. 

Exhibit A


The only problem we were having was keeping my stupid horses IN the field. Max was stood like an elephant on a box leaning over the fence pulling it all down, Storm jumps out and low and behold, the other day we go down to find Freddie has somehow got out overnight too.  Why is it only mine? Are they punishing me? Do they plot who’s going to break what and escape when????? 

I have no idea how he did it, unless he jumped it which seemed unlikely, as there was (for once) no max-related dips in the fencing. We swapped the batteries again and they haven’t been out since. Mwahahaha. 

Fred did seem a bit stiff the other day, but that couldve been due to upping our long-reining game a bit. I introduced a couple of poles to step over and did a few short bursts of trot. I must have looked like, well god knows what! Running round a sand arena after the pony, tripping over the poles more than he did. My knees were bloody killing me after that! 

I also thought it might be cool to try Max and Storm at liberty together. Go ahead, laugh. Storm, bless his cotton socks, was a saint. Max however I’m sure is the spawn of satan. The little brown hooligan careered round, completely ignoring my attempts to slow him down, biting Storm (who was stood in the corner utterly bewildered at what was happening) every time he went past. On his own, Satansbestfriend is usually very good at liberty, one of the best I’ve worked with. I think he was showing off personally. I’d ignore him and get Storm trotting in a circle nicely and he’d come barrelling in, gallop off with a buck and a fart and take Storm with him. 

Exhibit B. Max hijacking Storm 😡


I got probably 5 worthwhile minutes, so let Storm out to try and work out Max’s issues. He proceeded to cart me round on the lunge line like he’d never done it before. I didn’t end on a bad note, but it took a bloody long time to get something positive out of it. Cheers Max 👌🏻


Look at me getting tricky with videos. If it works, this was attempting to get Max to ‘go round’ on his own and come back.  It kind of worked, at least he offered something. Won’t be attempting to get the little bugger to try and work with another horse again just yet. 
Storm excelled himself on his first hacks as well, we tried him round the woods first and the following day out on a small loop round Hale. The only thing he so much as looked twice at was the first time over the motorway bridge. He didn’t hesitate, just was a bit upset by it. Saying that he led the whole way over, and it’s so loud! Very pleased with him, so far so good! 

I also have some better news, I have been given a slot writing for a new online magazine ‘Everything Horse Cheshire’. Hopefully it’s the first step on the ladder! You never know 🤞🏻

That’s all for now, on our way to pick up Mia who passed her driving test yesterday. Well done beam! 

Hello’s and Goodbyes.

This post is bittersweet, this past week I have said Hello to a new friend, but Goodbye to and old one.

My farmers tan is coming along swimmingly thanks to this random bit of sunshine we’re having. I sometimes consider wearing shorts to the farm but I really don’t want to be the cause of a mass human/equine blinding so I generally don’t…

Storm passed his vetting! He flew through a 5* with flying colours, and came to live with us the same day. I thought he was coming the following morning, but my sneaky Mum had arranged for him to be dropped off early as a surprise, which was lovely. So far, he seems to have settled really well. He’s very babyish and quite fussy with picking his legs up but it’ll come with time. Freddie seemed to tolerate him, they had a good squeal and got straight down to grooming, like long lost friends. Perhaps they met in Ireland, you never know!

He had his first day of doing a little something a couple of days after his arrival. I lunged him to begin with as we hadn’t got a saddle then, and he’s quite responsive to your voice which is nice, much easier than being towed around the arena by something that doesn’t know what ‘woah’ means (MAX.)
He was a good lad, even when I stuck some side reins on to start encouraging him to lower his head (his neck looks like it’s been put on upside down as he’s never had it long & low, just muscle being over developed where it shouldn’t be and underdeveloped where I’d like it – not a problem with him!) Our arena is right alongside a fairly busy road. The speed limit is either 50 or 60 (which in my opinion is ridiculous and is the reason we’ve had cars on their roof in the arena before) and every vehicle imaginable uses it. I wanted it to be quiet yesterday just to give Storm chance to get used to his surroundings without being bombarded with traffic – alas no. Every Tom, Dick and Harry  in the North West came down Mill Lane yesterday at 2pm. We had enormous lorries, vans, motorbikes, cycles, cars galore, vans pulling metal trailers with poles and god-knows-what-else bouncing and clattering around and even a tractor or two. Credit where it’s due, the pony never put a foot out of line. He never once spooked or even stepped off line. Which bodes well for me as our hacking is a lot on road to get to the nicest off road spots!

I thought I’d finish with some loose schooling as he had been so responsive and it’d give him chance to have a proper stretch and just loosen off a little. It started so well, and then out of nowhere he decided to pop off to say hello to the other horses and jumped out of the arena from a sluggish trot. I’m not exaggerating when I say that fence is at least 4 and a half feet of solid wooden rails. I must have looked like a right idiot, stood in the centre of the arena on my own with my chin on the floor. He clipped it with his hind legs – he’s fine – but trotted off quite happily. Here’s a picture so you can see how big the fence actually is (the ground does drops a few inches on the side he is stood on.)

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Stupid, stupid pony.

Couldn’t get over it, there wasn’t a mark on him. So we thought we’d test his abilities and actually put him over some jumps (that he was supposed to go over this time) and he flew! We only went upto 2ft9 (or about 85cm) but he seemed to find it totally easy, and did every one from a trot. I’m hoping I’ve accidentally bought a natural showjumper, from the looks of things that’s going to be the case, fingers crossed and we will see what the future brings. In the past few days since he’s started working he’s already improved, last night he went forward properly and seemed to start to get what I was asking of him. Trying to avoid the heat I did lose track of time and it was 9.30 before we left the farm which sounds fairly sad, but horsey people will understand how you can get a bit involved with what you’re doing.

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This is the beginning and end of last nights session, seeing him visibly more relaxed is reward enough!

Freddie has been a bit naffed off with me for buying another horse and keeps making me feel ridiculously guilty by watching my every move and following me round like a lost puppy. He also bit Storm, but I’m 80% sure they were playing. He’s absolutely ballooned in weight, the slightest bit of grass and he’s just enormous. He has the same hay and feed, it’s just because he’s back on grass again. I can’t understand where he gets the weight from as our grazing is quite poor, he’s currently in the orchard on solitary confinement and there has been no grass on it (well not literally no grass but you know what I mean) for two weeks and STILL the chubster won’t lose weight. He’s only allowed about ten minutes walk exercise at the moment so that’s barely making a difference I’d imagine.

 

Now we get to the bitter part of this bittersweet post.

On the 19th June, my beautiful 13 year old dog (Scamp) went rapidly downhill. After what we think was another – worse – mini stroke, he lost coordination in his back end and couldn’t walk properly. Other things happened that I won’t go into, but it quickly became clear he wasn’t going to recover this time. He has had an aggressive cancer for over a year, outliving the expectancy for him by several months and honestly staying happy and enjoying life until the very end. For him, it was probably better it all happened so quickly as he wasn’t suffering for long at all. We made the hardest decision I’ve ever been involved in and he went to sleep at home, with all of us by his side on his chair. It hasn’t sunk in yet, I keep going to shout him out into the garden and put leftovers of my dinner in his bowl.  I can’t explain how much I miss him, I don’t see myself ever really getting used to it.
This post is a tribute to man’s best friend, in this case Scamp. A beautiful, kind and loving dog that will be forever loved and missed.
Rest in Peace, thank you for being a real friend.

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Enjoying a walk in the sunshine.

‘Flighty Fellow’ – 22/09/2003 – 19/06/2017

Here’s to the future

Today’s cover image is a cracking photo taken of Freddie being a loon the other day by one of our liveries husbands’ who is a professional photographer. Richard Milnes Photography, look him up!

I have some really bad news for you all, the horseflies were out today for the first time this year.
I’m allergic to horseflies, and go up like a balloon if I get bitten. Mia thinks it’s hilarious and referred me to ‘clubo’ when I got bitten on my hand last year and so resembled a club rather than a hand. What are friends for eh?

Freddie seems to be on a good streak, I don’t want to jinx it but so far, so good. I was really pleasantly surprised as to how well the donkey has taken to long-reining. We go all over the yard, up and down the little hills and round the arena and he’s not phased at all. He’s started tracking up slightly better on the corners and is re-learning how to stretch down over his back.  He’s trotting up totally sound and seems (touch wood) to be moving easily in his paddock. His physio has said there’s now no reason why he can’t do a bit of in-hand showing so hopefully that’s what we’re going to do!

In other news, I have got another little project to work with. I’ll be detailing her progress on here, as well as on my recently opened facebook page ‘Just A Horse World’ (shameless self-promo I know…)
I’m going to be helping a friend with her lovely, if a little nervous, cob she has recently bought. She has been backed then had some time off so is being handled and restarted now, which is what I’m going to be doing hopefully! We did our first little session this morning, teaching her to stand still at a mounting block and for someone to get on. She is nervous, but once she’d relaxed she seemed quite happy so hopefully we will be able to do a bit more each session.  We only did about 25 minutes, give or take a little, but the difference in her in just that short time was so rewarding. I personally am not one who will jump on and do everything straight away, one bonus I have is endless patience so the fact that all we did today was get her used to someone getting on and off didn’t bother me in the slightest. We finished by walking a circle in the arena, and ended on a very positive note.

In the beginning, each time I stepped onto the lowest step of the mounting block she would visibly tense up, and shift away a little. Though she didn’t move dramatically, she was obviously uncomfortable, tense as a rock and her head came straight up in front of us. We spent most of it getting up and down off the block until it was boring for her (she relaxed and happy with me getting up and down next to her) and then started putting my foot in the stirrup and standing up alongside her – effectively how you would get an unbacked youngster used to it – and then sat on. Being entirely fair to her, she was very good. Despite being clearly very nervous she stood and let us show her that I wasn’t going to eat her. Though she is backed and the basics are clearly there I will still take it slowly just to reassure her and build her confidence as horses can be knocked back so easily. The first time I sat down she did rush forwards and do a little spin, but stopped and stood still.

From being visibly tense and anxious even with someone at her head to standing relaxed and happy to let me get on unaided at the block is so rewarding for me, it sounds insignificant but really isn’t, horsey folk will probably understand a little easier!

I personally love working in situations like this, with younger horses usually but when you do something & it actually works and you have a happier horse that’s accomplished something good I find it incredibly rewarding. Hopefully the future holds good things and I’m very excited to see where this lovely little mare can progress to!

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The lovely Silver, relaxed and happy!

In other news, Freddie’s nephew was really lovely. He’s also only young, freshly re-backed and green but importantly clean limbed and I actually think he’d make a lovely little workers pony in a couple of years hopefully. He’s being vetted tomorrow so (once again) fingers crossed he passes! Another potentially cracking horse for the future.
If he fails the vetting by any chance we’re going to put the horse hunting on hold for a bit, don’t think I have the energy for any more viewings!

As a little sidenote, last Saturday was mine and my lovely other half’s anniversary. Although he’s a city boy through and through, he does make the effort to come to the yard on occasion and even did the feeds once. I’ll turn him into a countryman yet!

🙂