Monday, 30 January 2017

Review: Shear Ease

Beautifully packaged and the blades returned in their own clear box- I like that kind of detail
After my clippers were sent packing by Zed's arse hair, it was time to find some good folk to sharpen the blades.

A friend recommended Shear Ease. The deal is you print out their idiot-proof postage and info form and send them off and lo, they return git sharp in 48 hours.

Packing them up was simple. Remembering to post them was harder, but I got there in the end. They sat in a post box on Sunday night and returned home on the Tuesday.

Zed's last clip of the year confirmed what I suspected: They are sharp, and a delight to use once more. 

I'd accidentally overpaid so they included a voucher for the difference which lasts for the next year.

Had I paid the correct price then and there it would have been 7.80 which included all postage, the job itself and my postage for next time.

They do discounts for larger orders and if I had to sum up the customer experience in one word I'd say: SLICK.


Sunday, 29 January 2017

How much do you do with your Junior Nutkins?

Sleepy, happy face

We had a snappy wee Sunday-teatime ride to round off the weekend. 

Starting with our usual two minutes of lunging lunacy until he remembered he's really a gentle soul. After that he didn't put a hoof wrong, nice and forward, turns loads better and I felt like I sat up more and had my hands as a pair more frequently.

I'm in a bit of a conundrum at the moment in terms of his workload. With reduced turnout and a lot of field politics he's fairly wired at the moment and while I don't want to grind him down I do feel like movement and exercise is going to help keep him happy.

I did give him a week off but he just seemed a bit bonkers, whereas at the moment a twenty minute ride and he's yawning and relaxed again.

He's rising five and in rude health so my question is - how much is too much? Bearing in mind I'd like to stack the deck and keep his working life as long as possible since he's staying with me and there's no rush.

At present we hack when we can, I school two/three times a week and maybe lunge once in a roller and side reins. When he's leaping about pre-ride I tend to lunge him for a minute or two so he can buck and fart and remember to breathe. I never try to exhaust him or tire him out on the lunge and when schooling I try to just find a small improvement and leave it at that. He goes on the walker to cool down and when I'm mucking out on no-turnout days. 

He doesn't jump yet and our canter work is there, but minimal.

What do you do with your junior nutkins? More? Less? Feel free to comment below or on our Facebook page

Nancy news

They say a picture paints a thousand you think she feels better?

Yes, me too! 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

My pride is gone

Saint Saffy 
As I wake up to the horror that having long legs is no longer enough to get the job done (apparently you have to use them?) and I writhe through lunge lessons feeling like a manic depressive YAY! It's working...EUGGH! I'm bouncing...YAY! I'm not bouncing...UGHHH... etc etc etc ) - a beacon of comfort has appeared out of the dark, painful fog of self-improvement.

Behold! Saint Saffy. 
Marvel at her rhythmic trot, hail her patient ways. 
My God I'm grateful for her, so is my ineffectual arse, which she is slowly, slowly whipping into shape one 20m circle at a time.

(There is also Saint Basil, but I haven't got a photo of him. Assume that all compliments are to be shared equally between these two pillars of the equine community)

Five lunge lessons in the last three weeks has changed me. My pride is gone away entirely. I'm skulking off to the osteopath on Thursday to see if she can remodel my hips and pelvis into something more Dujardin-esque.

It IS working though. My instructor, who does not do false flattery, says my hands are loads less mad than they were.

Between lessons I've been putting the work in too. Namely by riding an invisible horse while I'm out with Nancy, using her lead as reins and trying to stay tall, pull my collar bones together and keep my hands as a pair. This is not a tactic for those who embarrass easily.

Many a local dog walker has seemed perplexed as I trot/canter past them shouting:


Anyway, looking cray is worth it for every miniscule improvement and I'm much too far down the rabbit hole to give a shit anymore.

And even though my little poppet is still bonkers with energy, we managed to have a ride with some improvement yesterday. I was glad I chose to twirl him around on the lunge first because he had a fairly stroppy, squeaky, bronc-athon. 

I was a touch trepidatious to climb aboard but he was okay, a little more energetic than I wanted but no wild leaping and I think my hands were marginally better. I still defaulted to gripping with my knees but at least I noticed I was doing it. Our turns felt better and less like a car skidding around a hairpin bend.

Every tiny victory is hard won at this point, but when I think about any of the horses I ride... they deserve a rider that doesn't wobble and bounce. They deserve to have a sympathetic hand. And if I have to bleed out of eyeballs to achieve be it. 


Monday, 23 January 2017

Why, yes...

...I am adorable. 

Little legs Vs Long legs #firstworldtroubles

I heart these photos Phil took yesterday, but I also feel uncomfortable that I'm so much taller than Zed. He looks like a Shetland. I've got that awkward Nicole Kidman-when-she-was-married-to-Cruise feeling.

At least I know Zed isn't interested in Scientology.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

One day

Sunday morning. Still and cold with a pink sunrise just edging up out of the valley. 

I turned Zed out for an hour with his friends and stripped out his stable while they snorted and squealed in the frosty field. 

Filled his haynets, scrubbed his water buckets and remade his bed with clean straw. In between I chatted a little with the other liveries as they tended to their horses, and laughed at a text from Phil.  

"Nancy is hale and hearty again. She had a massive poo and sprinted about for more than a mile before attacking me from hillside vantage points." 

Then I went to catch Zed and he tootled over to me with his bright, curious face. I brushed the mud out of his ears, solo-combed his mane and tacked him up carefully with the saddle and bridle I cleaned last night. 

He boinged a bit when I got on and then quickly settled into a lively walk, feeling fresh from less turnout and good haylage. We worked together for about 20 minutes, me trying to remember all my pointers from lunge lessons and him trying to concentrate. It was a good ride. Nothing too difficult, just a little refresher since he had a couple of weeks well-deserved light duties. 

A cool down on the walker and I put him back in his palace and replaced his stable rug. He looked content after a bit of exercise and interest and I stayed for a moment to watch him eating happily in his big, clean stable while little flutters of maybe-snow started to swirl outside.

One day I'll be too old or sick to ride, or perhaps too poor and frail to have a horse. One day Zed will be old, or lame, or long departed to heaven. 

But not today. 

And until then I'll be grateful for every single ordinary Sunday morning where I get to do the things I enjoy with, and for, the horse I love. 

Rodney's shoe on the top shelf, Zed's below. Two wonderful horses.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Explained important world politics to Zed this morning r.e. Trump and future implications. I think he understood; he was definitely in a hurry to get back to his stable where he hid his face in his haylage. Save me a spot, pony. 

Friday, 20 January 2017

Lock up all the feelings

Left, happy Nancy: Right, misery levels no-one can cope with

Yesterday started...badly.

I crawled out of bed post-alarm and went hunting in the gloom for my phone charger.

And in doing so, stepped neatly into a cold mound of dog vomit. 

By half nine we were at the vets, because when it comes to Nancy I take no chances. It feels like we live there, but hey, I don't smoke, drink or do crack so the money has to go somewhere right?

This: all my money goes on keeping this nitwit alive and well
Vet agreed that since the vom was mainly undigested food we should do a couple of xrays and scope her throat to make sure there was no obstruction.

Which was my line of thinking because while we don't throw sticks for her, she does tend to pick them up and give them a good chew before we wrestle them off her so I had visions of a soft palette full of manky, splintered bark.

Nancy hates being at the vets, even though they make a big fuss off her, so it was very hard to watch her be led away with her looking at me with those big eyes saying "Whhhhyyyyyyyy?????" 

Tell me you could harden your heart to those eyes
I am one of those weird people who can cry while still being able to talk so I had a very surreal conversation with the receptionist about insurance and claim forms etc while we both tried to pretend my wet face wasn't happening. Awkward. 

Then I went home and did what all animal lovers do in these situations. I locked all my feelings of panic into my stomach and plunged into A LOT of housework. 

One little bright spot was riding Zed pony. We did a tiny bit of schooling outside for 15 minutes and he was really settled and good so I got off and fussed him and left it at that. He's been a bit more 'up' lately and I think it's because his turnout has changed (they stay in two days a week) but mostly because when he does go out all the sexy girls are in the same field and I think it's melting his mind. 


When I rode on Monday one of the mares was in the arena and he was staring at her like Norman Bates to the point where I had to pretend we were doing shoulder-in because he couldn't walk in a straight line. Nobody was fooled. 

Anyhow the time passed somehow and when I called for an update they'd found no foreign object (Yeeeeesssss!!!) but Nance had tonsillitis and her xray showed a slightly enlarged liver so they think she has a mild infection.

When we brought her home she was completely stoned and didn't seem to have a clue where she was or who we were so we wrapped her up in her favourite fleece and let her sleep.

Phil had gone to the gym so at this point I felt I had two options.

1) To be a grownup and unlock all the feelings and have a relieved cry


2) Spunk a load of money in the Premier Equine sale.

Guess what I did! 

So the conclusion to this tale is that; Zed has an amazing new rug and two sets of polo wraps in the post.

Much more importantly, Nancy is looking a lot brighter, and is happily enjoying an unprecedented level of fuss and palava while she recuperates. 

Plus I have successfully avoided all my fears about the mortality of my animals.


So this is happening 

And so is this, in black and navy. Premier Equine gives me a boner

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Your vet/riding instructor/farrier is human too OR how to be a good client - Update!

I read a pretty gruesome post on a blog I love the other day. I'd post the link but it's been taken down* as it obviously caused a poo tornado but the gist was: freelance riding instructor is forced to fire worst client ever. 

*Here is the story that prompted this article, not sure why I couldn't find it. Obviously it's an very extreme car crash example.

As in, extremely frustrating and antagonistic behaviour that carries on and on until the riding instructor just runs into a dead end and finishes the working relationship.

It's a story I've heard more than once from equestrian professionals and it got me thinking, how can we make sure our horsey professionals (instructor, vet, farrier etc) like us rather than loathe us?

I'm sure this is all common sense, but every time I hear another horror story, I do wonder.

So here goes, a far from exhaustive list of a few ideas to keep everyone happy, for the ultimate benefit of our horses. Because yes, they are the centre of our universe, and we're not planning to change that fact anytime soon.

1) Value their time

Once they've done their job, let them go. They're busy, and they have another client waiting. Don't make them walk backwards to their car while you desperately start up another anecdote. It's not that they don't want to socialise, it's that they only have so many hours in the day if they want to see their own family and friends.

Equally, be ready. Whoever you're waiting for, have your horse suitably prepared. Tacked up and clean for lessons, tied up with clean feet and legs for the farrier, caught and ready for their jabs when the vet is booked. It's not adorable to be pulling up at the same time as they are shouting "Won't be a sec!" before trudging half a mile away to catch your pony.

2) Pay them

They're not visiting for the good of their health. They worked bloody hard to get their qualifications and their mortgage payments happen every month, just like yours do. So if you find a great horsey professional, keep them in business. Pay them straight up, no forgetting, no flakiness. Ring in your vet bill promptly, have cash for your farrier. No messing. They cannot stay in business any other way.

3) Listen to them

Don't come at them with the same problem every single time having ignored all the advice they thoughtfully gave you last time. No good professional will mind answering your questions, but have the courtesy to take the answer on board and take action accordingly. If you know you find it hard to remember what people have said, take a pad and make some notes. Try not to use them as a human google either. They're not responsible for telling you the answer to every and any horse management question when so often the information is freely available and you just can't be bothered to look it up or consult the books on your shelf.

4) Cut them some slack

Bad things happen to everyone. But when you're self-employed the world keeps turning. If your vet seems tired, bear in mind they probably spent the night trying to save a mare and foal while you were cosy in bed and getting your seven hours. If your farrier is a little grumpy maybe her back hurts because the twat she was shoeing yesterday jumped about like a salmon on speed. Maybe your instructor fell of yesterday, or she's got the flu and is rattling with paracetamol. Don't take it personally if they seem a little quiet. 

5) Offer them a cup of tea

Just do it. It makes the world go round.

6) Don't bad-mouth them online

So you're not happy, fair enough. Send them a well-thought-through letter that two people you trust and respect have read first. Make your point, don't go for the jugular, leave their mum out of it. Then take your business elsewhere and move on. Jumping onto Facebook to rip them apart is neither stable nor helpful, and often contravenes defamation laws i.e. you can get yourself into hot legal water. If you find yourself frequently unhappy with equine professionals the problem may lie closer to home. Maybe they're telling you something important and you don't want to hear it. 

And finally, think about how you like to be treated. We're all human and kindness goes such a long way. When others make the effort to smile and be helpful, it eases the load a bit. Pay it forward! After all, we all need a pit crew to get the job done, so make sure you look after yours.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Snow fun

He-ey! Guess what? We got an icing sugar waft of snow today and we've all lost our minds.

Me included.

I immediately started rootling around for glamorous snowy weather head gear.

Like this
Without pausing to wonder if this met all practical considerations.

It did not, of course. Because our snow present came wrapped in gale force winds and a plummet in temps. Durr.

I do struggle a bit with the cold because as soon as it gives me face pain I wish to run inside, crawl under a thick blanket and stay there till June.

But today this was not an option because Nancy loves snow so much and only a person with no soul could deny her the eighty million walks/play sessions she demands when it happens. 

And because I am a psycho I've booked myself in for a raft of lunge lessons and my first was this morning. While not an exciting prospect for many people, for me I am strangely on board with a brutal 30 minute strip down of my faults into glaring technicolour.

Although painful, it's given me an immediate list of things that need addressing:

Hands not a pair
Tight hips, thigh, knee
Leading to unstable lower leg
Overturning my upper body on the left rein
And underturning my upper body on the right rein.
Moving my head when I mean to move my shoulder
Letting my shoulders round and collapse.

I've got 99 problems but perfection aint one.

I actually really enjoyed it and my next one is Monday so I feel smug as a smug thing. I also, finally, got to wear my gorgeous new riding gloves and they are every bit as dreamy as anticipated.

Zed has had a holiday this week, for the first time in a long time. He's felt a bit of a busy-brain lately so time to let him digest. Also, he needs his teeth done and I like him to have physio every six months so once those two jobs are ticked off we'll resume proper work.

All of the horses are spending more time inside now to rest the fields and he's coping ok-ish but it's quite clear that he's a different horse from this time last year when all he wanted to do is eat. Now he looks fit and well and vital so I have been taking him into the indoor to let off steam and he now can do proper mental acrobatics which impress and terrify me in equal amounts.

It took a good 10 minutes of twisty broncing and spurting gallops to let all the unicorn juice yesterday but then he settled really well and I groomed the crap out of him and he started yawning like a sweet little kitten again. 

So yes, when I next ride I'll be lunging first...