Monday, 25 January 2016

Working backwards

Most unflattering, blurry pic. Unfortunately David Bailey wasn't available.

On Saturday I took my saddle to Zed so they could be introduced. As with every other piece of kit I've shown him and tried on him, he just didn't give a stuffed sock. The crapola pic I've used to illustrate our marvellous progress makes him look worried and neurotic but this is actually the look he gives me when he wants the rustling in my pocket to be a carrot and not a poo bag. Worse luck, it's always just a poo bag. I am mean human. 

He's now met all the important members of his wardrobe - bridle, lunge line and whip, roller, saddle, mounting block, tail bandage round the hocks etc so we're at the point where he could really start a bit of long lining, since lunging has already been deemed fine by Zed, King of the land of I'm Not Really Arsed.

I haven't done much long lining (maybe a total of 40 minutes in the last 33 years) and I really don't want to break him or upset him. But the last few days I've been giving it a bit of thought and trying to think of ways around the main obstacles. 

Which are - jabbing him in the mouth with a heavy hand and making him think that hanging out with me is no fun any more. And, me dropping the lines and Zed tearing off (ha ha!) around the field and ever after having a phobia of lunge lines/snakes.

Problem 1 I'm working around by being hyper aware of not pulling him and by clipping the line to his bit ring and a well fitted head collar to minimise dragging. 

Problem 2 I'm working around by getting him used to ropes trailing along on the floor so if it does happen it doesn't frighten him too much. 

This morning was our maiden voyage and I picked the dry corner of the field to work in and we re-established nice leading from both sides and voice commands. Then I had him on one long line with me at his stifle to give a rough imitation of the position I'll be in when we're long lining. Then we practised walking around with me having a spare line in my outside hand just trailing along the ground where he could see it. Lastly, I did some leading with a rope around his bot.

We only played about for ten minutes but he took it all really well. If I feel like I'm getting out of my depth I'll just stop, give him a pat and get professional intervention but for now I'm quite happy just messing about (in a thoughtful way) and trying to figure out ways to build the skills without freaking out the fluff ball.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Vet visits and longing for spring

At the start of the week Zed was a bit reluctant to cross the field for his breakfast and he seemed to be snapping his hind legs up slightly. The weather has turned cold and we're getting a lot of frosts now but I was still a touch concerned.

He had no scabs, lumps, swelling, chips in his hoof etc but I thought I could feel a stronger digital pulse in his right hind. 

He seemed nice and bright but I decided to keep an eye on him Tuesday and Wednesday and have the vet out on Thursday (my day off). He seemed fine through the week but do you ever get that feeling that if you cancel the vet appointment you'll go down the next day and they'll look horrendous?

This morning dawned and when I went down to hay them he was jumping about all over and looked absolutely fine. But I still wanted to put my mind at rest and rule out injury and illness.

Fortunately I work for a vet, so I know my vet, and they know me and they're patient and explain everything. Zed was really good for his examination. He'd already stood nicely while I cleaned him up and tied up his tail and then we trotted him up and down the road, did some flexion tests, and checked him with the hoof testers. 

My vet thought he looked a tiny bit off on his left hind and that flexion tests showed some sensitivity in his stifles but that this was more likely due to his growth stage and conformation (he's quite straight through his stifles) and should improve as he begins his working life.

There's no swelling on either stifle and she showed me how to check the tendon and either side in the future. The conclusion is that he's fine and just struggling slightly with the ground at the moment which alternates between frozen solid and boggy. 

I was very proud of Zed today - it reminded me how nice he is to do and I'm now looking forward to the spring and having him backed and ridden away. And I'm reassured that his legs aren't going to drop off in the next few weeks which is always a nice feeling! 

Saturday, 16 January 2016

The Dread

A horse that can carry you safely around the British countryside - priceless 

Sometimes, even on horses that I know and trust, I get nervous about hacking out on my own. While most drivers are great, some are not -  and it makes me feel very shuddery and vulnerable when they zip past. 

On Friday I headed off to the yard after seeing to Zed and friends and the arena was frozen so hacking was the only option. And it was a beautiful, sunny, crisp day so half of me wanted to and half of me was wishing I'd been five minutes early so I could have gone out in company. 

My horse for the morning was Bramble, a lovely little bay mare who's very good in traffic. I think she's worth her weight in gold and we've hacked out many times together on our tod without mishap. Once a giant timber truck flew past us with millimetres to spare. If she'd been breathing out it would have hit us - and she never turned a hair. 

Even so, I had a good dose of The Dread. That feeling when you just don't want to get on. 

But from past experience I now have have useful tactics.

- I put my stirrups up one hole.
- I make sure my hands are a pair.
- I have a little sing song.
- I concentrate on creating a corridor of aids and riding the horse straight through them. 
- I take a second to notice the view.

We had such a lovely time. She was enjoying herself, I was enjoying myself, her stride was long and smooth - it was Toblerone for the soul. 

I'm not sorry I'm a cautious rider. I think it's stood me in good stead over the years, but it would be a shame if I let that snidey safety voice stop me doing what I love. For me one of my main challenges as an adult rider is overriding The Dread. This winter is the closest I've come to listening to it but I can feel that I'm quite close to putting it at a safe distance. It only happens when I ride alone thankfully.

The trick, for me, is just to keep going. The more I ride, the more I want to, and the smaller that voice becomes.

Have you ever had The Dread? How did you smite it? I'd love to hear your thoughts on my Facebook page

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Top 5 memes when you're face down

My favourites - what are yours? I'd love to read some new ones. If you'd like to share, post them on my new Facebook page

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Bloody-minded stubbornness

I reached a tipping point this morning. After 3 months of relentless rain and howling winds I suddenly ran out of fucks to give.

I'd hayed the horses and said hello to the goats and I could hear everyone just sort of munching and mooching around me. A wave of happiness washed over me as I watched them. They're surviving. They haven't washed away or crumbled to dust even though the weather is unhinged. 

I still wish it was sunny and that my friends weren't dealing with flooded stables and fields but I'm at peace with the reality, namely, it's winter - it's poo pants - get over it. 

Finding a rug in the sale has also cheered me right up. Zed has 2 - one inherited from Cady and one from Rodney. The latter rains in and the former is brilliant except Zed has put holes in the boob area by scraping himself along the fence.

Now he has his first rug that's not passed down and his hand-me-downs will shortly be winging their way to repair land.

I had a good look at him on Saturday and he's starting to level out. He's still slightly bum-high and well endowed in the head region but when he stands up he's a smart little horse.

In light of which, our friend has donated a very smart black and gold Thermatex numnah to his future riding career. Look how handsome! It makes me excited to get him started.

My trudging, painful running career continued this afternoon and in a shocking turn of events I really enjoyed it, clocking up my furthest run (5.1 miles) and longest running time (59 minutes). 

As I was bumbling along it struck me that running has a unique charm. You don't need skill, you don't need technique, you don't need special kit. The only requirement is bloody- minded stubbornness. That's a quality I greatly admire, and one I'm keen to cultivate. Perhaps today was the first sign of some little green shoots of determination sprouting. I'm a bit tired of bowing out gracefully, perhaps 2016 marks a new kind of tactic.

Less politeness, more grudging persistence. 

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

The end is nigh?

Pic by Brigid Press - couple of miles from where I live

If the biblical style weather keeps up this may well be my last post before I die of leptospirosis or drowning so try to enjoy it. And if you don't enjoy it, practice forgiveness, it's hard to write light-hearted blog posts when you're getting beaten up by spiteful rain.

This morning was farrier day which involved 3 hours of rain, mud, catching horses, putting them back and drinking tea. All horses sorted and no wellies lost. I'll take it.

I returned to the nest, ate a pound of Christmas cake (standing up in the kitchen so doesn't count) and then, for want of anything better to do, I went back to bed.

You know your life is going down the shitter when you're 33 and have time for an afternoon nap. But overwhelming guilt and an absence of purpose don't affect my ability to fall sleep...I just tend to wake with a start 20 minutes later and force myself to leap into some form of action to prove that I'm a worthwhile human being.

With the rain still teaming I thought a 4 mile run might be a good idea. The cloud coverage was so bad that my running app couldn't find the satellite until 3 miles in so my speed average is now 1.3 miles every 50 minutes. In between cursing said stupid app I thoroughly enjoyed the agonising tedium of the whole experience. 

Having been at it fairly consistently for a month or so my legs have hardened up. I still sound like a coffee maker but since the weather had driven everyone inside there was no one present to witness my whistling heaves. 

And I did my 4 miles, possibly more, might try to work it out with an old fashioned map thingy later. Anyway, I'm happy with that, better than lying in bed watching Zoella vlogs for the rest of my days.

Photo I'm prepared to share on Instagram versus post-run selfie. Jesus Christ.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Christmas, New Year, 2016 and so forth

I'm so late posting about Christmas et al that I can almost count this as a very early post on Christmas 2016. Still, I'm confident that the 3 people who read this blog will forgive me. 

Normally I am a cock-eyed optimist about the festive season but this one's been weird. Not without charm, but weird. I've been broke and grumpy for a lot of it which I'm told is a common occurence, but I will def be putting some extra planning in this year to avoid a repeat. Nothing kills your mood faster than buying things you can't really afford.

Speaking of which, my Zed pony continues to thrive. Unfortunately, just in one area - his head. It's getting larger and larger and making his legs look shorter and shorter and his body smaller and smaller. He is a pony from Easter island.

Not that I'm fussed about looks, it's more balance that worries me. We might have to get him a head sling or something. Despite his bulbous head he is happy, though very much in my bad books for booting my friend's horse. Bloody horses.

Nancy and Phil are well. We spent some lovely time together over the hols and enjoyed some great walks up at Hamsterley. We've pulled out of buying the house we liked and are struggling to find an equivalent so that project needs to go on the back burner for a while.

It's naturally the time of year to think about the future, so here are some of my aspirations for 2016.

1. Worry less, ride more
2. Get Zedny backed and ridden away 
3. Enjoy many happy times with husband and furry dog face
4. Sort out my finances so I can do summer camp again and so I don't have to constantly count my pennies 
5. Be organised, fabulous and perfect. Natch.

Achievable? We shall see. 

Wishing all 3 of you a truly lovely 2016. I hope all your dreams and wishes come true and that when you win the lottery you'll think of me ha ha !