Friday, 22 February 2008

Thinking about riding my baby!

It's a long time since I last backed a youngster ..... over 30 years ago! :-X And then they were someone else's youngsters and I was assisting. Over a few weeks we would get the horse used to saddle and bridle and I can remember doing a lot of long reining. When we thought the time was right leaning over the horse and eventually quietly putting leg over. Then quietly allowing the youngster to go forward without too much interference. My recollection is that this was all reasonably stress free from the horses point of view. I can't remember any major upsets. I was lucky to be doing all this under the wing of an exceptionally knowledgeable horsewoman of "the old school".

So now I'm thinking of backing Zefiro my young Lusitano. He'll be 4 on April 13th. I'm in no hurry. I plan to get on him when the time is right. But I am more conscious of the need to prepare him well both mentally and physically. It's highly unlikely that I'll ever do this again so I want to get it right!

Zeffy arrived from Portugal last April. I had him gelded a month before he travelled to me. I've spent the last months on the very basics - handling (leading politely, tying up, feet, grooming, etc.), lungeing, free schooling (think Lusitano turned Collie!) and since December long-reining. I also take hime for hacks in-hand and he's pretty unphased by most things. I've recently introduced a saddle (only a couple of times) and this week a bit - twice just in the stable for a few minutes and last night I lunged him off the cavesson but with his bridle underneath.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

My first Blog entry! My first Blog! This is a record of my continuing journey with my horses. So I'll start by introducing all of us.

I have been riding most of my life. Quite seriously as a kid; Pony Club, Showing, Hunting, etc. A long break from horses when I got married (few newly-weds can afford horses!) The spark never died and was reignited around 14 years ago. I found a wonderful place to ride again. Just hacking but not a typical riding school. Always half a dozen lovely horses for me to take my pick of. Once I had been "vetted" I was allowed to help myself and I felt I had the best of both worlds -nice horses to ride, I could even groom, muck-out, clean tack if I wanted to .... and then I could walk away without having the cost or commitment of horse ownership. Perfect!

Then Captain came along. It was love at first sight! A ginger Irish horse with a long snip and four white socks, 15.3hh. A lovely forward ride and the silkiest coat imagineable! He came to my friend's RS early in 2000 on permanent loan for light hacking. He was an ex-showjumper, retired due to spavin. We hacked all over the place together. Sometimes he didn't feel "quite right" - no problem, we just walked. In October 2000 his owner decided to sell him and I bought him. I naively thought I could "fix" him. But he had been made to continue jumping big tracks despite having spavin with the result that his whole body became totally affected by the pain: his shoulders knotted and tight from pulling his body along to avoid putting weight on his painful hocks, his back sore from a poorly fitting saddle and bad riding. To be honest he was a total wreck! If I'd know then what I know now it wouldn't have made any difference. Captain is a special soul and my greatest teacher. I have learned most from him on my journey thus far. I am so lucky that fate threw us together! Because of Captain I have learnt a lot about the physical aspects of horses. But even more importantly, I have learnt a lot about the phsychological aspects of horses. As is so often the case, once Captain realised that he was safe in my care, his guard dropped, his stoicism vanished and he became the horse his life's experience had made him: anxious, tense, spooky and lame!

My journey with Captain has taught me to recognise when a horse is not "right"; led me to learn about conventional and complementary therapies and treatments; to study horse behaviour and perhaps most of all to learn more about myself. Yes Captain is undoubtedly my greatest teacher. We have been through so much together. Today we are very close. We are soulmates. We read each others thoughts. Captain looks after me as much, if not more, as I look after him.

I was never able to "cure" Captain's physical problems. The spavin was operated on eventually but I now believe that the long-term damage to his body is irreversible. Four years ago he got kicked in the field and suffered a broken leg - nearly fatal. Captain survived but to avoid him spending the rest of his life in solitary confinement I wanted to buy him a "safe" companion. My darling husband Mike, who had sat on a horse a couple of times in his life, decided that if I was intent on getting a companion for Captain then it might as well be one that he could ride and so we found Bruce!

Bruce was born in North West Wales in May 1998. Sire an American TB racehorse, dam a Shire. Debbie bought him as a 2 year old because she thought he was going to be sold to the meat man! Bruce's next 5 years were spent doing not a lot on a Welsh mountain sheep farm. He was backed at 7 years old and sent for schooling and sale to a local equestrian centre. I made the long journey to see him and very much liked what I saw. He had lovely paces, was a real softy, had never been shod (less likely to damage Captain!) and seemed reasonably calm although green.

Zefiro, my first Lusitano! My dream come true! My main reason for recording my journey with horses! So I'll start with him. Zefiro do Zambujal, purebred Lusitano, born on 13th April 2004. Bred at the PSV Stud (Pedro Jose Da Cunha Sousa Viera) in Portugal. Sire Jocoso (72%), owned by Dr Pedro Ferraz Da Costa. Dam Titarada (78%), owned by Pedro Sousa Viera.

Zefiro has been bred from Veiga lines. Zefiro is very proud of his ancestry. (I know you think this sounds daft!! But he is!! Honestly!) Zefiro is a little Portuguese Prince!