Thursday, 28 April 2016

You're only ever 1 ride away from a great day

Artistic interpretation of today's happiness levels - courtesy of Pixabay
It feels like YEARS since I bit the dirt on Monday. The worst thing about falling off is thinking, wondering, chewing over what might happen the next time you get on. Will it happen again? Will you be able to do anything different?

I was at work Tuesday and Wednesday which gave me ample time to stew over it and this morning was taken over by a non-optional appointment so this afternoon was the first opportunity to take the bull by the horns so to speak.

Zed has been nuts for the past week. Very alert, very sharp and spooky which is not usual for him. I arrived at the yard to find my fall had set a trend for the week with two fellow liveries meeting a similar fate and other horses feeling a bit strung out so a safe assumption is that the grass is changing and becoming full of nutrients (or naughtients? I'm hilarious, I know...).

I caught him in and he was still shivering and spooking at things so I chucked some probiotic in his feed and half a gastric paste tube which has things like magnesium in it. I was hoping it might have some slight calming affect but I wasn't prepared for Zed to fall asleep! Obviously it did the trick as he seemed way less wired. 

I gave him a groom and a massage then long-lined him in one end of the school while another horse was lunged at the other end. He was alert but fine and only got a little ruffled when his friend left but I think that is to be expected.

Then we lunged for 5 minutes in case he fancied a bronc and then I realised if I was ever planning to get on, now was the time. My instructor kindly legged me on and led him around for a few minutes and then we went solo. 

Sidenote- I had my back protector on this time and kept my reins shorter to stop him getting his head down - gotta stack the odds in your favour. I also had my heels way, way down. I like to think this was sensible rather than paranoid. Maybe it was both.

We only did a few minutes but he was good. Forward, and no nonsense. I was very pleased and gave him a massive fuss afterwards. Relieved is not the word - I love this pony and I don't want to fail him or turn him into a nightmare. 

Overall I feel much happier and plan to ride again tomorrow and keep up the gastric paste as it made a noticeable difference. Also, most of his shaggy coat is gone now and I think he's going to look glorious. Come on Spring! Get your ass here so we can do photoshoots!

Would love to know your post-fall strategies - come join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Here endeth the honeymoon

When you are just about to hit the ground with a damp thud, while your horse's feet skim merrily past your cheek bone - that is a good moment to wonder what exactly you're doing.

The answer, if you stick to pure facts, is falling off.

But the esoteric answer runs a little deeper: you are suffering the consequence of rejecting delightful hobbies like pottery, meditation and blackjack.

Instead you choose to spend your spare time clambering onto wild-eyed and temperamental prey animals who may or may not buy into your idea of them as a fluffy wuffycuteywuteyouldn'thurtaflypopsie.

Which is all a very elaborate way of stating that I got bucked off today. 

How it felt
A more accurate representation

In fairness I did have a feeling it was coming, but I'm so frequently swamped with premonitions of dread that if I took notice of all of them I'd never leave the house.

The weather was foul and though he lunged without mishap, he did seem a bit preoccupied and jumpy. Nevertheless, I try to continue on in some of these situations because I am naturally wussy which needs to be challenged on a regular basis, and because if I waited for nice weather to ride, I'd wait months.

Me, waiting for summer

Just as we passed the arena gate he set to bucking. I stayed with him as long as I could but alas, my rodeo skills are rusty to non-existent and he got me off fair and square. 

We settled him down and I got back on and there was no further incident. I'm hoping our brief tiff was a small blot on his otherwise perfect record and not a sign of things to come. But that's the beauty of horses - there's always something to keep you rattling your teeth at 4am in the morning. 

On the bright side, I landed well and it was kind of exciting...

Saturday, 23 April 2016

For the love of long lining

My first attempt at backing a baby pony from scratch has three distinct themes.

1. A gut-wrenching feeling of impending disaster

2. A learning curve so steep it feels like climbing up a greased drainpipe.

3. Rare but encouraging moments of getting the hang of things 

It's quite draining trying to get it right but when I look back on the last 7 weeks (and the 6 months before that too) it's really satisfying to think that I have the start of a new skill set. 

Long lining in particular is my favourite and it's been great to do it consistently - like all the lunging practice I did for the Stage 2 exam, the more you do it the better (and more subtle) it gets.

I think it has so many benefits for both human and horse. 

He learns how the rein pressure works, what voice commands mean, and how to travel forward without someone leading.

I learn how to keep concentrating, and how much pressure it takes to turn, or keep straight.

We're very wobbly and distracted at times, but yesterday we had a good ten minutes when we were in the zone.

If you get a chance to try it, I highly recommend it. But definitely get an expert to show you how - as always it's the difference between triumph and catastrophe ; ) 

Friday, 22 April 2016

Baby photos & a whole lotta history

Look at the tiny, baby Zed!

I absolutely Love Love LOVE the fact that I can see Zed's baby photos. I got him from a friend who tags me in memory hops (yay!) and I'm also FB friends with the lady she got him from, which makes it feel like he has fairy godmothers out there who care about him. 

So my question for today you know your horse's history? Are you in touch with former owners or is it all a big question mark?

Do you like to know a horse's history? Or is it unimportant to you?

Tell me...
Two years ago

Baby big butt

First time..ever I saw your cutie face!
Foal face

Last autumn
Growing up

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Second ride + advice please!

Friday was my second ride on Zed and he was equally impressive. He's obviously very wobbly still, but he stayed calm throughout and coped really well. We even had a little wander about without lead rein support and gradually I could feel him getting a little more confident. What a lovely horse, I am head over heels.

I do need to do something about his coat as he looks horrendous. As soon as the weather picks up it'll be bath time as the poor little soul looks very neglected :( He's a beautiful little horse really, I think he's just become overwhelmed with mire and grot. 

So help me - how do you improve your horse's coat? Zed is on good turnout and good haylage but what else can I do except be patient (not an option) ? Have you any wonder products for scruffy ponies? Do I need to take him through a car wash? Hayelp! 

Braes Point 2 Point 2016

Ladies' Open (I think)

Many, many, many moons ago my friend was talking about stewarding fences at the Point to Point and it sounded like so much fun I started doing some pouty sulking in a "I wanna go!!!" fashion.

So she kindly got me a spot and I've been quietly looking forward to it ever since.

The day came (yesterday) and I woke up at 6.30am to a mild but uncomfortable hangover and snow showers.

Not promising. Still, I dragged myself out of our pit and set off into the blizzard to lunge my little Zebedee. Who actually ran towards me in the field shouting "Feeeeeeeed Meeeeee!!!" 

He earned his breakfast by doing a more sensible version of lunging in the outdoor. Though still a little bothered by horses being caught in, there was much less boinging about so I kept it short and sweet and left him munching haylage while I had coffee and sausage rolls at a brilliant coffee morning run by a fellow livery to raise money for a local lass heading over to America for medical treatment.

Zed was then dispatched back to his field and I ran home to hastily tidy up the flat and myself and assemble a picnic.

Is there anything nicer than being organised?

The race day is held on the edge of Braes country, near Corbridge, with a beautiful view across the valley. We watched the last pony race then assembled for a team safety talk to run through which flags you wave in case of an emergency. At which point my crew all turned and looked at me and decided it would be much better if my job was to tamp the fence (the job you give to keep a simpleton out of trouble but still feeling like they're helpful!)

Say no more

Then we retired to the 4x4 for sandwiches and cuppa soup before the first race. If you've never stood near a P2P fence and watched them fly past...well they don't hang about. Our fence was downhill too so most of them were going like the clappers which was pretty spectacular to watch. 

If this photo was a proper photo you'd see how gorgeously spotless this grey horse is - at the end of the day too

We had a great day for many reasons, but particularly because the weather stayed good, despite lashing rain storms just a couple of miles away, and because all our riders and horses got over safely. A few wobbled off on other fences but no one was hurt which is really great for seven races. The ground was good and actually dried out through the day which helped the horses and all of the jockeys rode well, no one had a death wish. I'm not sure I'd ever be that brave...



All too soon and we were watching the last one and it was time to head off to the hospitality tent and hoover up some strawberries and cream and watch some of the lads jumping the first fence to much cheering. Then we wended our way home through Corbridge with the sun shining. What a perfectly horsey day. Well done to all organisers and competitors. 

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Your horse is your mirror

Walked down to Zed's field yesterday to fetch him in. To set the scene, this is not a small field. It's bloody massive and includes a stream for everyone to play in, shelter and a great deal of grass. Not short on horse entertainment is the theme. 

As I peered down the field looking for him, I heard a whinny behind me.

"Gosh that looks like Zed in the mare's field," I thought, as I turned to have a look.

Cue more panicked whinnying.

It was not Zed in the mare's field, it was Zed trapped in the minuscule gap between the old hawthorn hedge and the fence of the mare's field.


Despite a million acres to play in, he'd found the one death trap situation to pursue.

He'd forced his way in and didn't want to reverse due to the leg-breaking rabbit hole behind him.

I climbed over the fence, put his head collar on and pushed him out backwards.

Why is my horse a silly billy? Ah yes, your horse is your mirror. 

My new bronc

It's not always easy to get going when it's early, and rainy, and you're all tired and sleepy. This was my view (above) as I arrived at the yard just before 7am yesterday...

But as we all know, horsey folk are naturally masochistic and while we like to grumble about the weather, it wouldn't occur to anyone to not go to the yard. 

On Tuesday night I lunged pony in the p£@*ing rain and he showed me some gymnastic stuff he's been working on.

Me: "That's great. Actually, that's really great. I particular like the way I can hear your tendons and ligaments snapping as you plunge around."

Zed: "Weeeeeeeeeeeee!!!"

It seems he's a little fitter and a little more balanced these days and he just wants to show the world all the mad shit he can do. 

So, yes. There's that.

Yesterday morning I thought we could do something a little more low key - so I took him for a walk around the block and then back to his stable for some haylage. I sat and watched him eating his breakfast in a Glenn Close/Fatal attraction stylee. 

I could hear the rain, and the curlews, and Zed munching. It was nice. 

Today is rainy also, so I'm using that as an excuse to go to the tack shop and bury my face in the bridles. If anything happens to fall into my basket, well, so be it.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Guess what we did?!

Remember Parker from Friends? Phoebe described him as "Santa Claus on Prozac...At Disneyland...Getting Laid."

Today I make Parker look like the most miserable b@stard on the planet.

I'm so ridiculously happy because...

Today was my very first ride with Zed. And he was pure unadulterated Amazeballs.

In the morning Zed had a pedicure and our kindly farrier John got rid of the mad flipper pony has been growing for the last week.

Much better

Then me and Nancy took a road trip up North to collect our reflocked saddle and a brand new shiny hunter bridle which Zed will model for the blog as soon as he stops looking like a taxidermy hen circa 1803. Damn you moulting season - be over already! 

Then, with mild trepidation, it was back to the yard for d-day. The wind had picked up and he was a bit jumpy when he first came in. Then I lunged him for 20 minutes and he had a good bronc. 

Weirdly, I still felt like he was going to be just fine for my first sit on - and he was. Our yard owner knows her stuff inside out and back to front and talked us through the whole thing. He was fine with me lying over, fine with me sitting over and fine with me sitting up so we just gradually progressed everything until we were walking around the indoor school in a wobbly but obedient fashion.

It was so exciting and so interesting and Zed was just fine with it all. I can't wait to do it again. And this time there will be pictures.

Did I mention I love this pony?

Sunday, 10 April 2016

If you can't offer it, you can't ask for it

 Back with his pals

Life Lesson number 1

If you can't offer it, you can't ask for it.

Saturday morning dawned and I crawled leapt out of bed like a foul smell breathe of fresh air and decided that Zed would benefit from an hour of my idiotic ways sublime wisdom. 

I was tired, groggy and unfocused...

Which set the tone beautifully. Zed felt distracted and buzzy and we couldn't find any common ground. We were long lining in the outdoor arena and there were lots of horses being caught in for lessons and one or two heading out for an early hack and neither of us could keep our concentration in the arena. 

Cool cow where Zed lives

It was pretty frustrating, so I lunged him for a couple of minutes to see if that would help and then returned to long lining. We had some slightly better moments but essentially it was a write-off. Zed looked sweaty and unhappy and was whinnying for his friends, and even napping a little which he's never done) and I figured it just wasn't our day so I washed him down and turned him out with a big pat.

One of the other liveries (who is so sweet to Zed <3) saved my mood with some kind words - horsey people are the best. They know the struggle is real!

Overnight I gave it some thought and decided I could do a lot to improve things on Sunday (today) namely: get some sleep, pick a slightly quieter time to go to the yard, start in the indoor where he's much more established and progress to the outdoor only if things were going well.

Nancy! YAY!

I also did a 5k run in the morning just to get myself back on track as for some reason I find running very good at settling the voices in my head. 

And that's just what we did. He was quite energetic at first so I just let him trot on the lunge until he slowed of his own accord. He settled really quickly and when we went to the outdoor he only livened up a bit for a minute or two. 

We finished with a small amount of long lining and he worked really well, even though there were several ponies right next to the fence and another rider getting ready on the yard. 

I was thrilled with him, and let him know it. I washed him off and left him in his stable to eat some yummy haylage while I tidied up. Then I trimmed a bit more of his leg fluff and gave him a massage.

How we roll

His eyes were open but when I went to lead him out of his stable to turn him out he was clearly fast asleep! Clearly he's feeling fine about life once again.

To conclude, it was unrealistic to expect a young pony to concentrate when I couldn't even concentrate myself...but with a bit of thought and care, things quickly got back on track. 

Leading to Life Lesson number 2:

Your worst moments can sow the seeds for your best. If you let them. 

Friday, 8 April 2016

Bravo pony

Best pony ever. Ever. With a weird LF. What is it doing? 

The theme of the week has been - Things Not Going to Plan But Turning Out Fine.
Starting with Operation F*ck Off Feather Mites.

Zed did not like big clippers. Or little clippers. And ended up losing his cool and being finished off with scissors in the stocks.

Oh well, blessed are the flexible and all that. 

The saddler arrived just as stock gate was coming to an end. Beautiful GFS got laughed at. Not even an option. But Rodney's old black saddle is a pretty good fit so it's gone on holiday to be re-flocked and I'm collecting it on Monday. 

So no pretty brown saddle, just scruffy, faded black. Though not for much longer if I get my be continued. 

After his prolonged trauma I let Zed stay out with his friends all night, drinking shots and gambling. 

By this morning he looked hungover but chilled and ready to give humans another go. I had a good hack at his feathers again and he showed no sign of Thursday's hoity toityness.

Then we went off to long line in the indoor school which was really successful and uneventful apart from two minutes in the middle when one of the goats climbed through the slats in the upper wall and hung there suspended, licking the wood and dangling its idiotic front legs like...there's no metaphor for this a goat hanging through the wall licking wood.

Pony cacked his pants and shot off. I stood slightly stupidly but remembered to turn and stop him at the last second. We both stood and looked at the goat thinking WTF? And then we just picked up where we'd left off.

And that right there is why I bot my pony. He has a great ability to recover from moments like that and just resume his happy little self.

Bravo pony, bravo. You rule. 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016


My saddle excitement was premature. The saddle Gods were busy elsewhere last night, and instead of focusing their attention on the beautiful GFS, they blew up the saddler's fan belt at 5.03pm.


Anyway, I've rescheduled a plan B with another saddler (who wondered why I quizzed him about the reliability of his vehicle) for Thursday but I'm not prepared to get all worked up about it like I did yesterday. 

Zed was suitably confused to be brought in early, groomed thoroughly and stuffed into a summer sheet. Hence this lovely photo of him squinting at me like I've got a raised hammer in my other hand...

I do like to be well-prepared for farriers, saddle fitters etc, which means clean horse and clean stable with bed neatly to one side. I've no idea how people can drag their horse out of the field two minutes prior and not self combust with shame. The downside to being anal though is you end up wasting a lot of effort when you book someone and they don't make it. 

The eagle-eyed amidst you will notice the livid gash above his right eye, a la Scarface. He has most of his haylage on the floor and yesterday something exciting happened outside and he whipped his head up and smashed it so hard off the door he staggered around like a stunned deer. Not good for my nerves and nor for his cerebral functioning. 

I'd like to think it's the kind of thing he won't repeat but actually he must have done it before as he had a weird head wound a few weeks go and I'm guessing it was the same situation.

Actually, he looks kind of badass. 

But he needs to hurry up and heal now because he's too beautiful to be covered in lumps and bumps. 

On another note, I had a few minutes to lunge him this morning and he was perfect. I can't believe how quickly he gets the hang of things.

Also, reassuring to know that he's not severely brain damaged. 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Pray to the saddle Gods

I hope Jesus isn't angry about my saddle request...

Please. If you can spare a tiny second this night, put your hands together and pray to the saddle Gods. Tomorrow the saddle fitter is coming to see Zed and I have in my possession the most lovely GFS saddle you can imagine.

It belongs to a friend who had it for her lovely horse for many years and when I asked my FB friends if anyone was selling a saddle she dropped me an inbox. 

It is so beautiful and I am so hopeful. We shall see...

Even if my saddle dreams get smashed to pieces I can't be too sad. Zed is so nice that it would be impossible to be too sad. 

A bear
He's beginning to shed his mad bear coat and I'm very excited to witness his full technicolour shiny majesty when it's all gone.

Look how beautiful. Like a shiny, copper penny.

My mission this week, along with more long lining, is to clip his feathers off. Don't hate me. He's had feather mites and the whole situation needs to be dealt with. I hate feather mites. It must be like having nits. But everywhere. Shudder. 

Bald legs need to happen. Goodbye Sasquatch.