Friday, 21 July 2017

Nancy and Zed keep me out of the nut hut

Obviously, moving house is ridiculous and stressful, so that is what we have chosen to do.

Where some people would drink their way through the nightmare, Zed and Nancy are keeping me propped up. 

It is such a mentally tiring time trying to get it all sorted but when I see their gorgeous little faces all the nonsense evaporates. Disappearing off to the stables or for a walk is where it all makes sense again and I can just take a breath and forget about it for a while. 

Zed is doing really well. We had our first road hack since he came back into work and he was terribly grown up and absolutely un-phased by traffic, stepladders, scaffolding and noisy builders. I think by the end of the summer we'll be happily solo. 

Yesterday we were in the indoor and the yard was exceptionally busy. There were three horses loading up for cross-country schooling, lessons starting and ending and about 200 sheep being shifted about and feeling very vocal about it. Zed was spot on and I even put up a tiny little straight bar for him to try. He stepped through it the first time but after that he jumped it about three times on each rein and did a genuine little pop. It was so much fun and I felt really happy. 

You can see his Welsh heritage in this photos I think 
Spot the Nancy 
None of these little milestones squat to anyone else but to me they mean the world. I'm finally back to enjoying my little sprout and all his majestic-ness.

See you once I've cleared all these cardboard boxes! 

Friday, 14 July 2017

Lucky number 13

We are up to our thirteenth ride since Zed got the all-clear from his minky leg. 

And no headshaking. Dun, dun, daaaaa! Apart from once near the end of a ride but I'm pretty sure he just had a bladder the size of a beach ball because he did a 25 minute two-part epic urine evacuation and then looked mightily relieved.

We're riding in the fields because we're both sick of arenas and I feel it's better for his balance and fitness as they're on a gentle slope which should help build muscle and strength and reduce his Thelwell gut to an acceptable level. Plus Denny Emerson says you should walk, walk, walk your horse to build fitness and confidence and if he says that then I'm in. 

In addition, it's an opportunity for Zed to learn about life and the fact that little rabbits sometimes live in the cattle grids that you have to walk by and sometimes those little rabbits will be hiding right under your hooves and will dart for safety and take you by surprise. At which point you should probably NOT leap into the air, farting and grunting and test your rider's balance.

So it's an education all round. Though not always a relaxing one.


Angry face after we rode in the rain and then I wanted to take photos instead of untack.
My biggest aim is that all of this leads to hacking out on the roads on our own. He's good in company and I prefer it too but feasibly there isn't always someone to go out with and I'd really like to ride him out as much as possible.

I'm so tempted just to give it a go one early Sunday morning before the traffic is bad but at the moment my sensible head is saying he needs to lead a couple of hacks in company first before we take that step. 

It's nice to have goals like this, but it's also nice to remember that things were not looking great for the first half of the year and so everything's a bonus from this point. 

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Ideas to move your horsemanship forward

Handsomely fixated by a goat climbing through the hedge
I'm riding Zed again, and this very fact makes we wish to launch fireworks from the roof of my house while performing the can-can. Maybe dressed as Wonder Woman. Or a bumble bee.

He is doing really well, and barely headshaking. He's also back in a full bridle complete with noseband and browband. To be on the safe side he had an endoscope to make sure nothing was stuck up his nose or lurking in his guttural pouches and everything looked as it should. No slime. No pebbles etc. 

I think now that the headshaking happened because he's allergic to something that's no longer in bloom (maybe rapeseed or summit?) or was just some kind of frustration spawned during evil box rest. 

Either way, he's rideable, and for the past week that's just what we've done. Mainly in and around the big field where the cross country jumps live because I'm starting to feel arena-phobia. 

But man-oh-man it has been weird going from schoolmasters back to a youngster. Suddenly all my nasty little habits have sprung up again. Lower leg rammed forward? Check! Hunched shoulders? Check!


So where else to turn but to my Facebook friends, searching for words of wisdom relating to progress and hopefully turning me into an Olympic-style dressage rider in seven days or less.

This was my question. 

Horsey friends, can I pick at your mighty brains? What's the best action you took, or habit you developed, that really moved your horsemanship forward? All ideas welcome! Thank you.

And I was not disappointed. In fact I was really surprised at how different many of the answers are, and how many are actually just really good life advice. Some are super practical, some more philosophical. Number 8 made me laugh, number 4 blew me away because it's simple but so true.

Here they are, in no particular order.

1. I think learning signs of pain was important - so I could differentiate between 'naughty' and red flags for painful. The other major thing for me was to not bring my problems with me when I went out to my horses - if I was having a bad day at work I needed to learn to take a few deep breaths, go catch my horse and turn off to all other things that were outside 'just me and my horse'. I found this to be a conscious thing I had to do.

2. Pretended a fence was just a BIG canter stride! Especially cross-country and hunting. Didn't try and set him up, just got the best approach, with a forward going / thinking canter stride....kept the leg on and looked above and beyond the fence. 

3. Gave total control to my horse.

4. You have to learn to feel, not think.

5. Teach and train the horse don't force.

6. You have to learn to control your own emotions so your horse can control his.

7. Control the horse's feet, don't let them control yours.

8. Best action - ditching the horses and moving to dogs. I'm not even joking. I have no advice. Maybe shut your eyes and kick if you are scared?

9. Patience! Nothing comes easy you have to work for it.

10. Stopped caring about what other people thought and told me to do with my horses and just did what I felt was 'right' myself. Moved off livery yards and got my own place! 

11. Think outside of the box, realise there is never one right answer when it comes to horses and be confident in your decision. If it's wrong you learn from it and move on.

12. Both my horses have taught me great patience, to think outside the box (not something I'm that good at) and that sometimes it's best to take a step back, breath, do something else then revisit and usually we take a step forward no matter how small. One habit I've learned is to take a positive or learning point out of every situation and try not to dwell on the negatives too much - not always easy.

13. The fear of losing my horse made me lose my horse goals and gave me so much peace.

14. Horses will throw anything and everything at you. It never goes according to plan. But there's no substitute for hard work, always stick with it cos when it all eventually comes together it's the best feeling ever.

15. If you can improve just half a per cent each day - in 200 days, you'll be 100 per cent better.

16. Do what you enjoy with your ponies and be brave and do what they love too, the bond you gain is priceless.

As I said before, number 4 really stood out for me and this morning I crept out of the house early to ride in the quiet sunshine. I tried my damnedest to just clear my head and feel what was going on and it instantly made me feel more sympathetic and less reactive. Zed seemed to appreciate it too and was much more relaxed. I'm pretty excited to see where all these ideas take us. 

What about you? What made the crucial difference? Or are you still searching for answers? 

I am concerned Zed will never be slim again. Six months off was not kind to his lard levels