Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A small restart!

Gosh - I haven't blogged since the end of September! Shan't bore any of you with excuses but I'm in a really good place with my riding at the mo!

Having great fun with Zeffy! He's going to be one very special little horse! Now hacking on the road (first time last Sunday), confident and sane, fast but stoppable cross-country and getting better and better in the school.

Bruce is back in work. I've been hacking him but took him in the school for the first time this morning and he was amazing. He's a big horse - Patrice calls him a "supertanker" - but when he's working correctly he is so light it's amazing.

Will post in more detail, including hopefully some video of both horses. But for now I want to pay tribute to my very special and unique teacher, Patrice Edwards. Amazingly shes turned this wannabe classical rider into someone who can actually influence my horses to the good. I finally feel like I'm a trainer of horses!! Yeeha!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Lacking in Motivation!

Me that is! Again due to family business not the horses!! Thank goodness I have them to keep my sanity!!

So, Bruce first. He's still very slightly lame and on field rest although Mike's taking him for the odd walk around the yard sticking to concrete. Thankfully, as it's been so dry there's very little grass and so he's not putting weight on.

After his lesson with Patrice, I wanted to give Captain's body time to adjust and ensure that I wasn't overdoing it with him so for the last week just some in-hand walks, stretches and acupressure. He looks good so I'm going to take him in the school tonight for a "I think I can, I think I can" session. Just realised I haven't posted about the lesson. Really interesting - will do so in the next couple of days!

Zeffy. Patrice was pleased with our progress since camp and pronounced that now I had control of his shoulders it was time for his hind legs to come to the party! So our current work is mainly about encouraging him to stretch forward from the withers to engage his back and quarters. This is achieved by me helping him to move forwards in balance and then letting him reach forward. Bad description. Will try to refine it but my heads all over the place at the mo! I'm also concentrating on "straightness" using the whole of the arena and particularly the long sides. Any "miscommunication" or incorrect aiding from me sends him scurrying sideways - he even gave me half pass in my lesson! Unasked for of course!! This is brilliant training for me!!

Yesterday, Hannah came to treat Zeffy. She checked him last time she came to Captain and noticed a couple of tight spots. Nothing serious but we want to nip them in the bud. One area related to the saddle - my fault I actually took a wither trace and had it widened too much so it was lifting at the back. Not sore but a little tight. Barry came and adjusted the saddle last week - Hannah correctly wanted the saddle sorting first. Other than than, he's a little tight in both hamstrings. We guess purely from adjusting to carrying a rider. Hannah's given me some stretches which will require clicker training and I'm also to massage him after work which he'll adore. He just loves being touched!

That's it. I'm sorry for my very poor description of our current work. I'll try to elucidate when my heads a bit clearer!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Stop the bus I want to get off!

2 days of Patrice (Friday and Saturday) - still watching my lesson videos and "processing" and then I'll report, but 2 wonderful days and I feel we're really progressing! And even better so does Patrice!!

This post is an update on Bruce. Just to recap, around 6 weeks ago Bruce was very slightly lame on his front right foot. Within a couple of days he was around 4/10 lame, the vet came and thought it most likely an abcess. So we poulticed for over a week and nothing - but he improved to around 1/10 lame. Thinking it was probably just a minor sprain we rested him for another couple of weeks and then when it didn't further improve I called the vet again. Last week he went for foot xrays which were completely clear and today he was booked in to the vet hospital for soft tissue diagnostics starting with navicular bursar and coffin joint blocks with talk of exploratory surgery and/or MRI scans if nothing showed.

Hmmmmm. All this for 1/10 lameness? And what would the likely treatment be? Rest?

Mike and I, Gareth our trimmer and close horsey friends discussed likely scenarious and Mike and I decided that the risks involved in injecting into joints for the nerve blocks were not justified by such a minor lameness. Just one biggy to rule out which can present quite lame initially and then look much less so - collateral ligament.

So yesterday I spoke to the vet. Talked through our ponderings and said that instead of the nerve blocks we wanted her to scan Bruce's foot to rule out collateral ligament damage and that if the scan didn't reveal anything sinister we'd just give him some more time off.

This morning, vet R and a colleague of hers came to the yard and spent the best part of an hour taking scans and this is her report:

1/10 lame RF straight line trot, no worsening on flexion. On lunge 1-2/10 lame RF on left rein, 1-2/10 lame on right rein. A bit improved to last week.
Scanned collateral ligament, coffin joint, palmer pastern. No visible changes and all ligaments symmetrical in size.
Confirm paddock rest for 4 weeks. Give Navilox 4 1/2 scoops twice daily for 4 weeks.
Re-examine in 4 weeks if no deterioration.

So good news! Alongside the paddock rest we're going to start straight line walking around the yard (on the concrete) and perhaps also on the road - avoiding any rough or deep surfaces. I can't wait to be able to start riding Bruce again! Watching him on the lunge this morning reminded me what a super horse he is!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The search continues ....

For the cause of Bruce's lameness. Just to recap he's still slightly lame in his right fore foot. And yesterday Mike and I took him to our vet's clinic for xrays. First the vet watched him trot up on a straight line and circle and pronounced him 1 to 2/10 lame - only mild but now over a month and we need to know the cause. Bruce has never been shod. Our equine vet practice is fairly conservative and pro-farriery. So I was dreading the thought that in the event of any problems being revealed by xrays, the likely recommendation would be remedial shoeing. I needn't have worried - the vet was surprised that a 12 year old horse had such clean bone structure. Absolutely no sign of bony changes or injury and wonderful feet! Here are a couple of the xrays:

So the cause of Bruce's lameness must be a problem with the soft tissue. And because there are so many tendons and ligaments in the foot a scan will not help in the initial diagnosis. The next stage is more nerve blocks: Navicular burser and coffin joint were the two mentioned. Once the problem area is identified then hopefully a scan will reveal the cause. If not the further investigation by MRI or keyhole surgery may be indicated. But we'll take it step by step. So Bruce is booked into the lameness clinic next Tuesday.

We also had our six monthly visit from our Equine Dental Technician yesterday. Bruce and Zeffy just needed routine floats although one of Bruce's front teeth had a broken edge which needed smoothing (probably from playing rough with Zeffy!) Captain didn't need anything doing this visit. And the baby molar that Cora found lastweek and gave to me to add to my collection of Zeffy's baby teeth was, according to Shane, in fact from Ellie, the 3 year old mini-shetland - so I passed it on to Karin, Ellie's owner.

Zeffy's saddle was being altered yesterday so just a lungeing session last night. I collected his saddle today and will ride him tonight. Last practise before Patrice comes to us tommorow!

Bits or Bitless

I'm adding this as it's a subject I've been pondering on for years and I've been prompted by a friend's blog to put my thoughts on here.

For me this goes beyond to use a bit or not. For years my aim (like many I think!) has been to ride in total harmony and lightness. For the boundary between my horse and me to be invisible. For my horse to feel as much joy from the interaction of our bodies as I do. This has not changed and will always be my quest. But my path has changed. I thought that I could achieve this by sitting beautifully and doing nothing. Now I am learning that this is not possible but at last I have a teacher who can teach me what I must do to move towards this Nirvana. I am becoming a much more effective horsewoman.

Around 7 years ago (when I just had Captain) I started riding him in a rope halter. Hacking, showjumping, cross country, even dressage competitions (hors concours). He much preferred bitless. And he'll never have a bit in his mouth if I do ride him again. A bit is not necessary for a walk round the farm. So why did Captain prefer bitless? Simple! My hands were not good enough. My "do nothing" riding resulted in a loose unstable contact which must have felt to Captain like I was absent most of the time apart from the occasional jerk on his mouth.

Enter Bruce, my need to up my riding skills and little by little I've improved and understand how my body (including my hands) should interact with my horses. I won't go into detail but these words of Paul Belasik's crystallised it for me:

Without some kind of bit there is no dressage. The horse and rider use the bit as a reference point for propriocentric balancing, in the same way as a person walking through a dark room may need only to touch a chair back or handrail to help keep their balance. The muscle systems of the body, sensing a static reference point balance the body over the feet. This is much the same as the way a person would hold on to a train strap for balance - they don't actually hang onto the strap and pull themselves off the floor and swing like a gibbon. These static points are used as solid references, enabling the body to redistribute weight over feet in different ways.

I would add that I am only now becoming "brave" enough to use rein aids via a bit because I am confident that my hands (and the rest of my body!) are now good enough as P has helped me to improve bit by bit (no pun intended) and because she is one of the few who truly understand and can teach the meaning of a light, elastic contact which is used to communicate effectively but which never ever pulls on the horse's mouth or causes tension through inappropriate rein aids.

Throughout my journey I've been searching for evidence that it is possible to train a horse to true collection and lightness without a bit and I've yet to find it. Yes I've seen pictures of Nuno Oliveira riding advanced movements bitless - but this is after training with a bit. And yes I'm sure you can ride and train a horse without a bit to a basic level. In fact I'm currently designing a bitless bridle because I've never yet found one that my horses liked and I think there's a gap for one!

This is such an interesting and thought provoking topic! And I'm sure my thoughts on it will continue to evolve!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Home on the Range!

.... where the rabbits and the foxes play .... (English, version - we do have deer but no antelopes in the UK as far as I'm aware!)

Well, I didn't make it to the Charles clinic. Ruth was too poorly to make the trip and although I could've gone by myself I'd've had to find accommodation and it all became too complicated and expensive!

On Saturday, Hannah came to give Captain his monthly treatment. She thought he was pretty good. A little tightness on his back on the left but quickly removed. He always seems to get this and as I'm not riding him it's most likely through the way he moves to compensate for his poor athritic hocks. Hannah thought it was less than usual and that the "work" (in-hand hacks and 5 minute in-hand schooling sessions and stretches) was helping him. I've been thinking of riding him again - just walking round the farm. Hannah suggested stepping up the in-hand work for the next month to prove or disprove her thoughts that he's better with work when she next treats him. Then, all being well, I'll introduce some ridden work and if he seems OK, Hannah will be able to see if it's helping or not. We both noticed that Captain's developed a bog spavin on his nearside hock. I hadn't spotted it before. I'm going to keep a close eye on it and him and unless he seems less comfortable than usual I'll leave well alone. No point in subjecting him to examinations, injections, etc unless he's clearly suffering.

Zeffy had a busy Saturday. First I took him to our local vets for his flu booster. Gunner came to babysit. When Cora and I arrived, the vet was out on an emergency call and we had to hang around for 30 minutes but both boys were good. When we got back to the yard Hannah had arrived, Zeffy was due for his first treatment (now he's being ridden) but when Hannah examined him she found a little tightness on both sides of his back towards where the back of the saddle sits. We looked at his saddle and it's not right. Great fit at the front - definately not too tight but toward the back the panels are slightly off his back. Saddles have got to be one of the worst nightmares!!! As he wasn't really sore, Hannah thought it would be better to treat him after I've sorted the saddle. So Barry's coming out tonight. In the meantime I've been using a suberpad between the numnah and saddle and Z's been quite happy. Patrice is with us on Friday and Saturday so I've been "practising" whether in the school or hacking and am pleased with our progress. The proof of the pudding will be what P thinks!

Bruce looks a little better but still not 100% So Mike's been practising lorry loading in preparation for Wednesday's trip to the vet. Bruce has been perfectly angelic almost self-loading.

Finally, today's title is in honour of Captain. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I'd bought a Barefoot Nevada saddle on impulse - hoping that a treeless saddle might be a short term answer for Zeffy while he was changing so quickly - but it was miles too long for him. Well, Captain looks just stunning in the saddle and Barefoot bridle in my eyes. Since I first saw him I've pictured him in Western tack. So for that reason I've not sold the saddle although this is clearly crazy as Captain's not being ridden!! Anyway yesterday we had a Captain Fantastic photo shoot!

Handsome boy!

One can only pose for so long, you know!

Better than a donkey! (2 year old Beatrix had just returned from the seaside!!)

Friday, 11 September 2009

Going to see the great man himself!

First Bruce. I finally spoke to my vet early this morning (a bit p**d off that she didn't come back to me yesterday!) Bruce is booked in to the equine clinic next Wednesday afternoon and we'll start by x-raying his foot. When Rentska (Dutch) came to see him he came sound as soon as she nerve blocked his foot so she's agreed that the next step is diagnostics. I'm hoping that it's nothing more than a strain that's taking a little time to resolve but we must find out rather than leaving something that should be treated. In the meantime Bruce is fine. Not in any real discomfort .... but getting fat from lack of exercise!

Talking of fat .... Zeffy. Actually he's not too bad at the moment - the grass isn't really growing now. I've given up with the grazing muzzle as he become so adept at removing it within 5 minutes of me putting it on. So I'm trying him on a new herbal & mineral supplement called Slim and Sound. It's very effective because Zeffy hates it and so refuses to eat his dinner! I'm contemplating getting a lorry load and spreading it over the field!! In the meantime I've been adding a handful of mint to his meals and that's made it palatable enough for him to eat. Info on Slim and Sound: http://www.metabolichorse.co.uk/slim%20&%20sound%20equine%20metabolic%20syndrome.htm

Back on track today, I lunged Zeffy this morning and will ride him later.

Finally, I'm going to see Charles de Kunffy at the TTT (Training the Teachers of Tomorrow Trust) in Surrey on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. http://www.ttttrust.com/index.asp
Charles is one of the regular International Trainers at TTT. Auditors are welcome but riders are by invitation only from among the instructor members of the TTT and it is quite an honour! My friend Ruth (who schooled Zeffy for a few weeks) is riding with Charles on Tuesday so I'm particularly looking forward to watching her lesson.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

In Limbo Land

I'm finding it difficult to do or concentrate on much today. Bruce is still very slightly lame on his off-fore and I'm really anxious about it! He seemed to have been steadily improving and so we thought it was a minor strain which was resolving with rest but one month on we need a firm diagnosis. He looks sound in walk but is lame in trot. Last night Hannah physio/chiro came out and could find nothing to explain his lameness. So today I left a message for the vet who came to see Bruce to ring me - Mike and I now want a diagnosis before we agree to any other treatment. If necessary we'll ask for Bruce to be referred to Newmarket.

So Zeffy and Captain were neglected this morning. Just breakfast and out. I may ride Zeffy later. Captain has been looking so good recently that I've been thinking about riding him again - just walking round the farm - we'd both enjoy that!

For HorseofCourse, The Self-Correcting Circle exercise in Charles de Kunffy's words:

In working towards ambidexterity, it will also be necessary to work the horse on circle to the right. (Note from me - this assumes left-handed crookedness)Now the horse will always want to fall in or cut to the right but by doing so he will self correct himself. Once the horse has spiralled in to the smallest possible circle that his conformation allows, the right hind leg wants to cross under as in a leg yield, will have to step forward eventually and support the body, shoulder and rib-cage weight. Don't allow the horse to make you as crooked as he is. Wigh a good, deap seat, make him as ambidextrous as you are.

1. As you circle, maintain your leg aids: right leg contact near the girth, outside leg back, as always. Take the right rein contact and toally yield the left forward to give the horse no support. Let the horse spiral or fall onto his own self correcting devices. As the right circle gets smaller and smaller, his right hind leg will support his weight by stepping toward the right foreleg instead of crossing over.

2. Next he will voluntarily inflate his circle and move on an ever larger spiral outward. The rider can assist by riding a leg yield out and encouraging the horse to arrive from the small circle to the large circle, and then he will no longer be cutting in or leaning on the right shoulder.

This is our main exercise at the moment and when Zeffy engages his right hind leg I can feel a shift under my seat to the right. I'm not following it to the letter. At the moment I'm keeping my legs off him as much as possible so as not to aid the natural lateral evasion of the Iberian - he scoots sideways at the slightest tension in my legs. I'm also not giving the left rein completely forward but keeping a forward contact with my left shoulder also slightly forward.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Just so lucky!

This lovely sunny morning, I got the boys in for breakfast. Tacked Zeffy up and hopped on in the barn. As we rode across the yard the "bin men" came to empty the rubbish skip. Noisy, scary lorry with lights flashing. We stood at the edge of the yard facing it while the men positioned the skip bin to be lifted and emptied into the monster. Zeffy was a bit alarmed and when I asked him to remain and stand he hopped up and down a little but stayed watching and was rewarded with a "Good Boy" and a treat as soon as the lorry was far enough away for him to stand calmly. The next new scary obstable was the tractor with a massive trailer laden with giant straw bales parked on our route to the school. A little hesitation then walked by. Excellent!

Spent 15 minutes in the school working on his left-handed crookedness by riding The Self-Correcting Circle exercise in walk and trot on the right. We worked well together and had more good moments than bad. We also worked on controlling the outside shoulder on the left rein - keeping the outside rein in contact with Z's neck parelleling his cervical spine and leading the inside rein away from his neck when necessary.

Then out of the school, through the wood, down the grass track (Millie now accompanying us) and onto the stubble. I concentrated on keeping Z on the aids - the best way to stay safe and avoid excited bucks! When we got to the far wood we turned right and eased into trot. A little fast but forwards good at his stage of training. Calmly back into walk to test the brakes. Then into trot again and a nice long reasonably calm canter. Back to walk towards the yard. Rewarded Zeffy with an apple and turned the boys back out in the sunshine.

Like most of us, life has its difficulties. But overall I'm very very lucky and I often count my many blessings. Others are not so fortunate and I am very sad that a dear friend, a lovely person who truly deserves the best, is having to sell her beloved horse for financial reasons. Knowing her and her horse it must be like having her heart ripped out and I am very sad for her. I don't often wish for wealth but if I had the money they would not be parted.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Ode to Joy!

This morning I got the horses in. Tacked Zeffy up, rode him for 10 minutes in the school in walk and trot - nice and calm. And then repeated yesterday's hack but this time accompanied by Mike (hubby) and friend Esther (both on foot) and of course Millie the lab. Zeffy was perfect! We walked most of the way and had a couple of trots. I just love my little horse!

And on the way home, this came on the radio. So appropriate! (And I'm afraid I sat on the drive blubbing with Joy!!) If you can't listen to all 8.18 minutes then start at 7.20!


Bruce report (mainly for my records. My memory is so awful!!) He seemed OK on Wednesday, so turned him out with no poultice or painkillers and he was hopping lame on Thursday morning. Well padded poultice and started painkillers again. Still lame yesterday evening but he'd got his poultice off. Redid poultice and Mike spent some time massaging and grooming him. Turned him out just as it was getting dark. Went back for Zeffy and Captain and when we got to the field Bruce was cantering round! He had a good play with Zeffy so seemed much better! This morning his poultice was off and from the look of it it hadn't stayed on for long. But he was virtually sound. So decided to leave poultice off but he had a Danillon in his breakfast. Will see what he's like later.

This afternoon I'm taking Captain for an in-hand hack with Merrick and Esther and going to have a loading session with Zeffy 'cos tomorrow I'm taking him to Bakewell (Ruth's yard) for a lesson with Patrice. First time she'll have seen me ride him! She'll want to watch us first and I am toying with idea of playing Ode to Joy while she watches!!

And note for Trudi (if you read this!) I've just bought Horsemanship by Seunig!

Friday, 21 August 2009


A young woman on another forum I visit is giving up horses, selling everything off and I couldn't resist buying Richard Hinrichs's latest DVD "Motivating Dressage Horses" from her. It arrived and I watched it yesterday afternoon. Exemplary work from RH and his team as usual and stunning horses. But I was a little disappointed by a longish sequence of RH riding in which his position was less than perfect and he was dressed a little scruffily. I watched it again. And this time I understood the message. "Think about things from your horse's perspective. Think how you can structure training so that your horse enjoys it and wants to be with you." My words but this is what I took from it. And there were some simply breathtaking examples. A girl riding GP movements on a big black stallion with no bridle. Horse in perfect collection and self carriage .... and joy! And the common thread in all the examples was enthusiastic horses who looked soft and relaxed. Oooo I want to piaffe, passage and pirouette on Zeffy without a bridle one day! The DVD was another timely kick up the bum for me!

So I was pretty late to the yard yesterday evening. I got the boys in. Started with Captain - another lunge session. Mainly in walk, getting him to stretch forward and down and keep his head and neck over his inside shoulder (he wants to fall out in both directions!) And we did a little trot work and again he wasn't too bad at all! Finished with some stretches. Hmmm he now anticipates the sideways stretch because I use treats to help him stretch. This makes it very difficult to get him to stand still for the other stretches. I need to work on this by re-establishing "ground-tying". But generally pleased with the way Captain's going. And I've also halved his Danillon - now half a sachet a day.

By this time it was 830pm. I very nearly just chucked them all back out but instead tacked Zeffy up. A short session in the school. Getting dark and windy. We just worked in walk and got some nice relaxed and balanced work. And finished with a little leg yield and turn on the forehand. Short and sweet. And Z ignored the tractors and trailers laden with grain that were passing the school as the wheat crop is being harvested. (And if Zeffy could talk he would say he got some nice relaxation from me!!!)

This morning I decided that as Bruce was out of action, I would hack Zeffy round the farm with Millie (dog). Now I realised that this was quite ambitious as we'd only gone for a very short solo hack once after schooling. So I took the precaution of attaching a 2nd rein to the rings of his drop noseband in case I needed to get off. I mounted in the barn - perfect boy stood like a rock. I asked him to walk on. When I turned towards the fields instead of the school I felt the excitement grow in Zeffy. He walked down the track to the water meadow - around 500 yards. By now he was getting a little bouncy. I turned left along the hedge. The bounces got a little higher! So I asked him to calm down and stand still and when he listened to me and complied, a pat "Good Boy" and I hopped off. We continued round the farm in-hand and had a great session. Some lovely shoulder in. Long periods of just walking alongside Zeffy with one hand on the "cavesson" rein, allowing him to relax and simply walk and take in the surroungings. There were a couple of points where he got a little excited and bouncy again and I simply sent him sideways round me - one way and then the other, asked for a nice calm halt and rewarded him with a treat. When we got back to the yard, we went up to the combine harvester (not yet in action) and had a good sniff at it. They are HUGE machines! Oh and when we "met" a couple of plastic sacks on the ride, Zeffy snorted and then went and gave them a sniff. I just love his attitude. So curious!

After a brief break in the stable with some hay, I took Zeffy for lorry loading practise. On and off 3 times and today he more or less marched straight up the ramp! And then back out in the field with Bruce and Captain.

Through all this I tried very hard to make our endeavours interesting and fun. And to reward Zeffy for his tries. His eyes are getting softer and softer. And he often whinnies when he sees me. My hard little Portuguese nut is starting to soften!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Bad start to the day!

Simba (the kitten) was nowhere to be seen when I was at the yard yesterday evening. This morning I found out why from a very tearful Jane (yard owner). Simba used to play around and under the cars. Jane went to take the men in the fields some tea and checked carefully under the pickup before she set off. On her way back she found Simba lying dead in the road. Obviously she'd climbed right into the underneath of the pickup and Jane had driven off with her there. Poor little kitten. She was so sweet. Jane is just mortified .... not helped by her teenage daughter calling her "Cat Killer". She bought Simba's poor mangled little body back and buried her on the farm.

I had to take my Mum to her solicitor this morning and she stayed with us last night. So a quick visit to check the boys, give them their breakfast and poo pick the field. When I went to get them Bruce was hopping lame on his foot again. (Thinking he was OK I took the poultice off last night and turned him out without anything on his foot.) So I got them all in, cleaned Bruce's foot up, repoulticed and padded it and chucked them back out. He was more comfortable but still avoiding putting weight on the foot. I don't want to start painkillers again though because I want to see what's happening and will have to decide whether to have vet out again.

So not a very good start to the day!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Hmmm. Upbeat or honest?

Following my last post should I write about how I rode Zeffy last night with my emotions outside the arena and a lot more brain cells engaged? ..... or should I admit that at one stage when Cora asked "What are you going to do about it?" I replied "Sell my horse and buy a motorbike!!" What a shocking attitude!

Still there were some better moments last night. That is, Cora (bless her!), helped me. Observing, feeding back what she saw and helping me to correct my twisted torso and horrible hands (at one time I thought "If I saw this woman riding my youngster I'd rush across and drag her out of the saddle!!")

She also took some video so I could see for myself what I was feeling. Torso twisted to the right and what the **k are those hands doing!!! Still she gave me some very constructive criticism and we had some better moments so I feel like I'm moving in the right direction. Vid of the first awful few minutes!! (How do I "insert" YouTube vid into my blog?)


After our school session we went for our very first solo hack. just 15 minutes, down the track to the river, a large circle on the water meadow and back up the track. But Zeffy was great! Resolved to do more hacking or "campaign riding" as Udo Burger calls it. Also resolved to make school sessions more effective and therefore shorter.

Oh and I had a sit on Gunner later and he confirmed that Zeffy's crookedness is largely a reflection of mine! Despite this, Saint Cora is giving me her saddle and horse for 3 days to practise. How generous is that!!

Still no sign of pus in Bruce's poutices but he seems sound now. So I'm stopping the Danillon, leaving of the poultice and will see what he's like over the next couple of days. I guess it was either a painful stone bruise which hasn't abcessed or a minor sprain.

This morning the boys came in for breakfast and then I took Captain in the school for a short lunge/in-hand session. We concentrated on soft neck in correct bend. Then the Shetlands took their owners for a walk along the road and Captain's TB side kicked in! Snort! Giraffe neck .... and an adrenalin filled trot which I hadn't intended. Still ..... I took advantage of his desire to trot and helped him to relax his neck again and he looked virtually sound! Yeah! I'm going to keep up the work over the next couple of days, see how he is and then if OK, halve his Danillon.

Finally, we have a new Trainee Vermin Controller at the yard. She's called Simba.

Mind games!

Aagh! I rode Zeffy last night in the school. Cora was there on Gunner and to help me canter him for the first time. Of course Zeffy is green and unbalanced but trying to trot a circle, or even turn the corners of the school, on the left rein was just dreadful. Zeffy falling in so that we were going in ever decreasing circles to keep him off his inside shoulder. And Cora confirmed that I was sitting in position right so no wonder!! I just felt so so frustrated!!! "I'm going to give up riding!" Then I gave myself a good talking to. "Stop acting like a spoilt brat, take the emotion out it and help your poor horse!!" So I engaged a few more brain cells, listened to Cora and managed some much better work in walk and trot on the left rein. I felt so inept that I nearly didn't canter. But what the hell! Just on the right rein which is much easier for Zeffy. Yahoo, a little buck and off we went. Didn't manage a full circle before Zeffy broke canter but repeated (including the buck!!) and called it a day.

Finished by a short hack down to the river with Cora and Gunner. And we had a couple of trots in the big field. Very calm good boy!!

At home this morning I remember Mark Rashid's words "Keep a leg on each side and your mind in the middle!" Tonight, Mark's words will be in my mind and emotion will be left where it belongs, on the muckheap!!

Got the yard around 7am and got the boys in for breakfast. Then parked the lorry and got Zeffy for loading practise. Loaded him twice relatively easy concentrating on helping him to "think forward". Not marching straight on but much better - around 5 minutes the first time, then 2 minutes. Stand calmly on the lorry, turn round, stand calmly again and then slowly and calmly down the ramp. The third time I put him on and then closed the partition. A little resistance - so worked on relaxing his neck and standing calmly and then slowly off again. On once more without partition. Tomorrow we'll do the same but with his travel boots on.

Then a lunge and in-hand session to work on his balance, especially on the left rein, without me on his back. When he started to fall in on the left rein I smartly sent his shoulder out and he reacted by cantering with a few big bucks and flying changes. Fine, canter by all means, but canter in balance without falling in! Didn't take long to get some reasonable work on both reins and a long side of SI on each rein.

Last night I was in self-doubt mode. "I'm just not good enough! I'm going to wreck Zeffy!" Stupid woman!! Stop whinging! I may not be perfect but I'm not that bad. I just need to believe in myself! We have a lesson with Patrice this Sunday at Ruth's so I guess I'm feeling a bit pressurised!!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Zeffy went to a party!

Today I took Zeffy to a local riding club show with the intention of doing an in-hand class so he could experience the excitement of a show without me on his back! The two Shetland's Daffyd and Ellie came with us and entered several in-hand classes (they're regulars!)

The first class for the Shetlands was 9am so we planned to load at 745am. The Shetlands walked straight on. After 30minutes we gave up trying to load Zeffy!! He just didn't want to go on the lorry - just couldn't see the point! And rather than up the pressure and risk upsetting him I chucked him back in the field and took Daffyd and Ellie. They just made it in time for their first class thank goodness! Then I took the horsebox back to the yard and with Cora's help we loaded Zeffy. Unfortunately we were too late to take him in the In-hand horse (conformation and movement) but we just made the In-hand Best Condition. The County Judge asked if Zeffy was Iberian. When I said he was a Lusitano he told me that he'd know Lord Loch, Sylvia Loch's late husband who was the first person to import Lusitanos to the UK. Zeffy was a little excited (we literally dragged him out of the field, onto the lorry and straight off and into the ring!) but generally well behaved and we came 4th so a nice green rosette.


After his class, I tacked him up and hopped aboard - first time he's been ridden at a show. And he was brilliant! We walked round and had a little trot. Lots going on. And he also stood politely while I caught up with an old friend. Very good boy! Just need to work on the loading. But I think he enjoyed his outing.

A short vid taken by Cora on her phone. Awful quality but proof of just how good Z was!

When we got back I changed the poultice on Bruce's foot. No sign of pus. But he's more comfortable with his foot padded and he's also on Danilon (and homeopathic Arnica and Silica). Just hope it resolves soon! I noticed a knot of tight muscle on the left side of his neck - I guess caused by him putting more weight on his left fore to relieve his poorly right foot. I massaged it and so did Mike this evening.

The boys came in for a couple of hours this evening and I took Captain for a hack with his friend Merrick to the next village. Apart from mugging me because he smelled the treats in my pocket he was very good. Yesterday he had his monthly treatment from the wonderful Hannah. She thought he was in good shape although he has a band of slightly sore muscle in front of his left shoulder which she asked me to keep any eye on and massage.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Brucey has an abcess!

I mentioned that Bruce was a little lame on Tuesday evening, worse on Wednesday (although still slight). Much worse yesterday so this morning the vet came out. When I booked them I said "Don't send anyone who's going to dig great holes in his feet!!!" Not obvious to vet what was causing lameness, so nerve-blocked foot and he was instantly much more comfortable. So she thinks it's an abcess although no heat or digital pulse. She took a small amount of sole away around the white line hoping to release some puss - me watching like a hawk ready to swoop if she took too much!! Nothing. So I've put a poultice on with a nappy on top, vet wrap and a layer of duct tape while Bruce had a 2nd breakfast with some Danilon and he's now back in the field. Fingers crossed that it is an abcess and will resolve quickly. (Bruce was an absolute star by the way! Vet commented on how well-behaved he was. Gold Star Brucey!)

Zeffy kept his muzzle on yesterday without further mishap. Hurray!! I rode him last night in the school and then a little solo hack round the wood. Again very good. Tonight I'm going to canter!

Kept all the boys in last night 'cos didn't want Bruce to do any more damage until I'd had the vet but they can stay out now we suspect an abcess.

With nursing Bruce and riding Zeffy, Captain had to make do with a quick brush and his stretches. Stretches mean treats so he loves his mini-gym sessions!! He gets a little too enthusiastic though!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

How to make me feel guilty!

Yesterday morning I arrived to find that Zeffy had somehow got his grazing muzzle half off but with the front of the bucket in his mouth so he couldn't graze. He stood at the gate looking pitifully at me and mouthing at the muzzle in his mouth. I wondered how long he'd been stuck like that. All night? (He does get it either completely off or off his head so he's wearing it like a necklace occasionally._ Got all three in for breakfast and poo picked their field. It was raining so no riding. Adjusted Zeffy's muzzle and put them back out. Hoping that Zeffy had learnt his lesson and would just accept the muzzle. ...... 5 minutes later the bucket was in his mouth and he was looking at me for help. Gah!!! I just took it off!

The evening before, Mike had ridden Bruce in the school and complained that he couldn't get him moving. Yesterday evening we discovered why. Slightly lame! Front right - very slight. Watched him walk and looked like his foot. Nothing visible, no heat and no digital pulse. But a little heat on the inside of the pastern. Nothing anywhere else on his leg. So arnica and rest will hopefully resolve it. Decided to keep them in last night partly to rest Bruce's leg and partly to rest Zeffy's stomach from gorging grass all day!

I rode Zeffy last night with Cora and Gunner. We started in the school with some walk and trot work. And I was pleased that Zeffy remained calm when Cora and Gunner trotted - the first time he's had another horse trotting in the school with him. Then we went for a hack. This time a little further. Across the yard, down a long grassy track and then round the edge of a big grass field. Very good boy. Nice and relaxed.

This morning, fed the boys, turned Bruce and Captain out and then some lunge work with Zeffy in the school. Walk, trot, canter, shoulder-in and giravolta. Put his muzzle back on taking care to check the fit, turned him out and when I looked a few minutes later - there he was with it stuck in his mouth again, standing at the gate looking for me! This time I put it back on, readjusted the headpiece and when I left the yard he was grazing so fingers crossed! I think I hate the grazing muzzle more than he does!!!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Feeling virtuous!

Because it's only lunchtime and already I've worked all three horses!

First Captain - short lungeing and stretching session in the school. Just in walk. But pleased at how nice and relaxed he was and how the work helped him.

Then Bruce. A hack for dog walking purposes. But schooling as we went. Ooo and I started with some flexions before I mounted. Just gently raising the bit to get nice soft chewing and then releasing his head out and down (helped my some treats!) This really helped when I hopped on - nice soft mouth and neck. Must remember to do this when I ride B. Pleased with our ride. Forward without rushing. Lovely trot and canter work. When the topline's right it's so easy to sit on! And I rode with Mark's words of wisdom in my head which seemed to help.

Finally Zeffy. The main thing with him is to ensure that his neck is soft, forward and down to stretch his topline. His neck is the first place he blocks. And this applies to everything I do with him: leading, grooming, tacking up and of course riding. So a little side to side motion of his head as required to release any tension in his neck. I'm having to do this less and less and am pleased that he's learning that this nice relaxed posture is the right answer. Tacked him up, hopped on in the barn, rode him across the yard and into the school. Pleased with the school session. It felt more relaxed (and therefore trot much easier to sit to!) Of course Zeffy still needs help and guidance to balance but it's getting better. A couple of horses rode by on the road and Zeffy was interested but I explained to him that I needed his attention on me and he complied. Good boy! Very nearly had a canter (I haven't yet although Ruth has) but decided to be patient for another day or so. Finished with a mini-hack - out of the school and into a small wood, weaving in and out of the trees - then back to the barn.

This evening I'm planning some lorry loading practise with B and Z and possible an in-hand sessions with Z.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Keep a leg on each side and your mind in the middle!

I happened to pick up Mark Rashid's "Horsemanship Through Life" at the weekend. Haven't read it for ages. But I just love the chapter on "Staying Centred". It is just so so true! (Recorded on my blog, lest I forget ..... again!)

At the end of the chapter, Mark summarises:

As time goes by and we begin to understand how working with horses and riding them truly affects our lives, only then can we start to appreciate the simplicity of it all. What it really boils down to is one simple idea ... keep a leg on each side and your mind in the middle.

Update and apology!

A quick update. But first an apology! I love following friends blogs! Inspirational and educational! But I've just been so short of time lately! I will catch up again ... I want to!!

I'm really enjoying having Zeffy back. I've been "hacking" him the short distance too and from the school. But yesterday we went for our first "proper" hack along the farm tracks and round a field. Captain was babysitter (led by Mike). We just walked and Zeffy was great. A little excited but he managed to stay calm. Cora got back from holiday yesterday so I'm planning to build up with her and Gunner as chaperones.

Our nearest little horse show (half a mile away!) is early September and it would be perfect for Zeffy's first ridden show as it's so close and so small. I just need to prepare him over the next few weeks so he's calm about being in a ring with other horses trotting and cantering. Apart from "practising" in the school with yardmates, I'm taking him in an in-hand class at a local riding club this Sunday and may even ride him there if he's calm enough.

I got all three boys in for their breakfast this morning and had planned to ride Bruce and Zeffy. But despite last night's weather forecast promising sunshine until Friday, it's raining!!! So hope to ride later.

Finally, my (88 year old!) Mum's been staying with us and on Saturday we drove to visit my nieces and their babies in the South East. Mum was fascinated by the sat nav. I've explained how it works before and I think she understands about the satellite positioning. But she was truly amazed that the gadget had verbal instructions for the entire 3 hour journey and asked me how it was possible that it could have sets of directions for each possible route! "It must have literally billions!" she reasoned.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

I'm back with a head full of thoughts!

It's just been so hectic lately!! But life's settling down so back to my blog!

First, Zeffy came home last Friday. I'm absolutely thrilled with the work Ruth (and her partner Debbie) have done with him. Could not have been better. So, apart from being slimmer (courtesy of his grazing muzzle!), he's now established in basic school work (walk, trot and canter, T-O-F, leg-yield, SI and back and of course halt!) He hacked out a couple of times while he was at Ruth's. The last time on a busy trail in the Derbyshire Peaks - lots of hikers and bikers and according to Debbie who rode him "He was really cool!"

There were a couple of hitches while he was away - both saddle related. The first time I went to watch Ruth ride him she was concerned that his left shoulder felt a little tight. It was so miniscule that I couldn't see it! I asked Ruth to get her bodyworker to look at Zeffy next time she came. That was around 3 weeks ago and Ruth rang me to say that they both thought it was saddle related. Now I am the Queen of Good Correctly Fitting Saddles!! I bought a Swain Semiflex for him at a huge cost! He's never worn any other saddle. I hightailed it over to see the problem for myself, wondering if Ruth had it too far forward and thinking it can't be the saddle! As soon as I looked it was very obviously miles too narrow as he'd put on so much muscle. I took a wither trace and it was literally bigger than the outside of the saddle!! Next day I got the saddle altered, took it back and great!! Ruth and I couldn't believe how much Zeffy had broadened. Anyway Monday last week Ruth rang again to say she thought Zeffy wasn't happy in the saddle. I went to see for myself on Tuesday and unbelievably he'd broadened yet again and it was slightly too narrow. So Ruth just worked him in hand for the remainder of last week and I took the saddle to Barry and had it widened last Monday. I guess it's all testament to correct work and a great saddle that allows muscle to build under it together with a horse who's never had a bad saddle on his back so lets you know if it's even a little too tight!

Since Monday I've ridden Zeffy twice at home and he's been great. Yesterday he was so good that I rode him over to the school gate, turned on the forehand to open the gate and rode him back along the drive and into the barn. Looking forward to riding him later today. So all in all I'm feeling pretty pleased with my investment in his training!

Re saddles! When I discovered that Zeffy was too wide for his saddle yet again I had a bit of a moment and bought a Barefoot Nevada (western!) saddle on Ebay. I drove 5 hours to pick it up from Blackpool last Saturday. I thought that while he was developing so fast, a treeless saddle might be the answer to save weekly trips to Walsall to have his saddle refitted. And I must admit that I got totally carried away with the image of Zeffy and me in Western tack "loping" around the countryside!! The saddle looks lovely. Really does look like a Western saddle rather than "treeless" and the Nevada is made for wide horses with little withers (Zeffy!!) So we tried it on Bruce. It looked wonderful! Mike, who's always telling me off for spending money, was really excited by it! Then Zeffy. Much too long!! And much too narrow!!! I could take the front arch out to use it but I decided to just refit his Semiflex as necessary. It also looks fabulous on Captain and I'll definately use it for him if I ever ride him again. I always thought he looked like a Quarter Horse and Western Tack really suits him!

This morning I decided to hack Bruce in the Nevada. I tacked him up and hopped on. Just walking across the yard I decided that I hated riding in the Nevada! It just felt so wide!! Aah well - perhaps I'd sell it. I carried on and it wasn't long before I realised that Bruce loved it! He was much more relaxed throughout our hack and there's one hill - slippy grass after all the rain - that I usually have to really concentrate on and keep half-halting to prevent him trotting off on his forehand. Well I don't even remember the hill!! It was only when we were on the flat again that I suddenly realised that Bruce hadn't altered his nice relaxed walk at all! Tonight I'll be taking a wither trace and checking but I guess his Semiflex also needs widening slightly. I do a visual check each time I put it on but I haven't done a wither trace for a while. Of course Bruce had rubbish saddles before we had him so like most poor horses he's much more tolerant of saddles which are too tight!! Big lesson for me though! I'm not such an expert after all!!! From now on if I feel any tension when I'm riding I'll check the saddle (not always the cause but high on the suspect list!!)

Anyway, we had a lovely hack (only marred by Millie rolling in fox **it!!) Lovely sunny day. Not too hot. Swallows, including this year's young, swooping above us. And as we rode by a small wood, three buzzards flew out. I watched them - clearly a parent and two almost fully grown chicks. The chicks flew together to the right. The Mum (or Dad?) flew to the left and called to them. They answered, but carried on their course for a little while before turning in a wide arc toward their parent. Flying School!!

That's it for today! Except to say I'm so excited about Zeffy and have a zillion plans for him in my head!!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

So excited!

Today I went to visit Zeffy and I rode him for the first time since he's been at Ruth's! He felt just fantastic. And Ruth was brilliant - really helpful and encouraging. Just walked and trotted but he felt so light. Of course he's still a baby and needs clear guidance but I'm so thrilled with his progress! So he'll stay at Ruth's for another two weeks, with both Ruth and I riding him and then I'll fetch him at the end of July.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

A match made in heaven!

A little while since I posted! But two main bits of "news"!

First, Zeffy is still away with Ruth. She is doing an absolutely brilliant job with him and so I decided to make sure that this all important early work is well established before he comes home. I've been visiting him regularly and am thinking about fetching him at the end of July 'cos I'm taking him to August "camp", 4 day clinic with P in the New Forest at the end of August.

Second, it turns out that Ellie the mini Shetland was not in foal after all and so today we fetched her new companion Dafydd. The video was taken just after they'd met for the first time.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Swallow Tales

.... yes tales and not tails! Our feedroom was a stable until last year. So when the swallows returned this year they got a shock to see all the feedroom bins, tack and paraphenalia! I guess they probably thought that a "council estate" had been built on their lovely home!

Anyway, despite all that, the male managed to persuade a female to take up residence in our feedroom and yesterday I arrived to see one swallow fledgling standing on the edge of the nest. This brood have been very quiet and I actually thought perhaps there was only one chick. But yesterday evening, Cora called to me to come and look and this is what we saw!

4 swallow chicks perched on Zeffy's best leather headcollar! This morning they were on a feedbucket at the other side of the room. I talked to them as I got the boys breakfast "It's alright babies. I know I look like a big scary monster but I mean you no harm and I'll be out of your house as soon as possible!" They just sat quietly and stared at me!

Not a lot more today. Some family crap devouring me at the mo! But the horses are well and Zeffy is looking great. Watched Ruth riding him on Sunday and I'm thrilled with his progress!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Dancing between the pillars.....

It just keeps getting better and better! Thanks to P, I'm truly starting to understand and, more importantly, apply equitation! Unlocking a lifetime of bad habits is slow but bit by bit my equitation has improved and I'm now at the point where I can influence the horse in a good way. Don't get me wrong, still very much a work in progress, but now I know what I have to do and I constantly check my body (and the horses) from top to bottom making corrections. I now have the key to unlocking the horses body and making it dance!! Yahoo!!!!

So, more soundbites from my lesson on Bruce last Saturday. My elbows - or rather lack of them! have been a huge hole in my equitation. My entrenched habit is to give my elbows foreward ..... and of course put the horse straight onto its forehand. So now I'm able to "keep" my elbows more consistently the rewards are amazing!! P from our lesson: ".... he dances and trots and passages and levades and does all sorts of wonderful things between the pillars of your elbows. ....because he's a horse. And every horse can do those wonderful things if the rider could please have two elbows!" (I'd obviously lost them again!!)

"Bad riders do this with their hands. Good riders do this with the elbows and back because that changes the seat."

I watched some of the video from this lesson yesterday. There were times when Bruce and I truly were dancing together! I added some music! Wonderful!! This morning, with the picture of us dancing together, I rode Bruce in the school. Started by slowing his shoulders, concentrating on equalising the rythym of back and front legs. (Now I also understand exactly what "counted walk" is! It's all about slowing the front legs and allowing the back legs to catch up.) Then I played with activating the back legs, without allowing the front to rush, to extend the walk. I found that circles, loops and serpentines helped my aiding. Then some SI, counter SI, haunches in. Wow! It just felt effortless! Then the same in trot! Again effortless! My 750kg horse moving round the arena like a ballerina! His footfall so light I could barely hear it!

Now of course there were some sticky moments too. But mainly due to me and I could understand what transition I needed to make to improve. Both Bruce and I were tired after around 15 minutes so we went for a relaxed walk round the ride with Millie. Big smiles on our faces.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Postcard from Zeffy!

Feeling pretty relaxed ..... and not missing any of you - human or horse!

Went to visit yesterday afternoon. Ruth was away for a couple of days so I'd arranged to go and have a little play at "relaxing the neck". When we arrived Debbie showed me the "lying down" pic she'd taken! Just like at home, if Z's lying down you can pretty much do anything round him and he won't move!

Zeffy was very chilled and (I hate to admit this!!) his manners have improved. When you go to enter the stable he immediately steps back away from the door (I always had to ask for this!) Had a grooming session - insisting on a relaxed neck throughout - and then a little session in the school on the lunge. Same exercise - stay soft and relaxed through your neck while we work. And then time to go out for the night, wearing his new grazing muzzle. Not very keen on this, understandably, but he marched straight to the water trough for a drink and then started eating so he's managing fine with the muzzle on. (In fact I think it's probably more stressful for me than him!) A couple of pics of him in it:

Slowing the shoulders

Trudi asked "How are you slowing the forehand?" And prompted me to rewatch the video of my lesson on Moss. Just to recap, Moss is a Hunt Master's horse. He's 16 years old and his job has been to go forward, fast, jumping and leading the chase. And to take responsibility for his rider. To be on sentinel duty. Because of his age he is being kept "ticking over" during the off-season instead of letting him down. My lesson on him was the first time probably in his life that he'd been asked to do gymnastic work ..... so he had no idea what it was all about. When I got on him, he was rushing. Front legs faster than hind. Hind legs trailing. Not picking me up. This was his "normal" bodystate. And consquently his mind was on constant alert to the outside world. Not listening to me. And his whole back end was swaying from side to side like a camel. I admit to being fairly clueless about what to do but the key was to slow the shoulders to allow the hind legs to catch up. And it was like magic! His mind came "back inside his body" and his whole way of going changed - no more fishtailing!

Here's a potted version of what P had us do (probably far too much detail for you Trudi! But a useful exercise for me!)

First: Slowing his shoulders until I felt they were in the same rythym as his hind legs. (The best way to do this will depend on the horse.) With this horse, who had no idea what I was after, I started by riding a square and using my seat to slow one shoulder at a time. P warned me: "Remember, he's no idea about this work at all. So as you slow his shoulders, he's going to go to the opposite evasion and say "Well I can't possibly go at all!" So as well as slowing the shoulders I had to keep his hind legs active.

Counting - first the front legs, then the back - really helped me to slow the front. More from P: "Interrupt him! Slower .... until his little mind comes back inside his body. Everytime you get his front and back legs in the same rythym you can kinda feel his mind comes back into his body. As soon as the hind legs catch up, so will his brain."

Another exercise which helped explain to Moss initially - halt, walk (one stride), halt, walk (one stride), etc. This really helped him to understand that he was no longer required to rush. Interrupting him.

The transformation in Moss was amazing! P warned me to keep my antannae up for "when he leaves the building. And when he does, a quick aid that says 'Hello! Wait - and stay with me.'"

"It can be an aid of bend, it can be alternating rein aids, it can be seat to the front of the saddle. It can be any of the tools in your kit which slow the shoulders. There's no absolute about which thing to use. You have to use your repertoire until you find a balance that's the most efficient."

(I found it most effective to use my seat, one side at a time, to slow his shoulders, mostly seat but backed up by rein aids. But I also had to keep his hind leg active so I guess really lots of "half halts". P again "Alternate the shoulder aids to say 'How about your hind legs catch up.'" "Not holding - just interrupting."

And another thought which helped me was the importance of energy "So that if you simply lightened your seat and kicked you'd be in gallop in 2 strides."

P explained "Simple, simple principles. Always the same work. No horse any different."

We did quite a bit of the same work in trot. And finished, in trot: "Give both hands forward and he'll stay with you." And he did!!!

(Sorry Trudi far more words than you need but useful for me to put this down!!)

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Saturday's lesson

Last Saturday, we took Bruce and Gunner to P's clinic just the other side of Newark (around 2 hours in the lorry). Both Mike and I had a lesson on Bruce, Cora on Gunner.

My lesson was first (of our group!) P asked me to recap my lesson from the night before for the audience. It was useful to think again of the lessons learned and how I could use them to benefit Bruce and me. I started by slowing down his front legs to allow the back ones to catch up. We moved around the school, small circles, loops, serpentines. When my equitation was correct Bruce transformed and we were dancing together. But the thing I need to work on most is my torso/upper arm. In particular my unconscious habit is to let my elbows foreward! Soundbites from P to help me! "Think of your upper arms like the pillars of the SRS." "Good riders use their elbows, not hands" (i.e. never slow/stop the horse by pulling back!) "Connect your pointy elbows to his hind leg". Sorry guys - not very helpful in isolation but mean something to me! I really feel that I'm much more consistent nowadays. In fact P said that my equitation from the waistband down is good! (Only half my body to sort then!!!!) After my lesson I was so confident that P will not have to keep reminding me about my upper arm/elbows that I've pledged £1 for every "elbow transgression" at our next lesson! ..... the layers of the onion are peeling much more easily these days! And Bruce was so up and balanced that I even mistook counter for true canter!!

Lunch and lecture after my lesson. Lecture write up later!

But before I finish. Other things I need to work on: my "sense of urgency" - is there a trot, a canter, a gallop available? And my work ethic - I need to practice!! Bruce had Sunday off, hacked yesterday but "training" as we hacked. And today I rode him for 20 minutes in the school and then a short hack. I felt that we'd really got "it". He felt great. And the biggest proof was a final canter up a bank, through the wood and over a small jump! No big deal, but Bruce usually protests about walking or trotting over poles!! So it was a major breakthrough for him to confidently pop a jump without hesitating!

Making the most of being "Zeffyless"

Before I write about Saturday's lessons .... I've been enjoying spending "quality time" with Captain without the pressure of "doing stuff" with Zeffy too. It was a lovely sunny day here on Sunday so Captain had a nose to tail shampoo (a rare occurrence for any of my horses!) which he seemed to enjoy. And then we went for an in-hand hack to the nearest village with Esther and her horse Merrick.

Normally I would put a rope halter on Captain but it's gone with Zeffy so I put a cavesson on his head instead. Big mistake!!! When he wanted to use me as a rubbing post to get rid of the tiresome flies it hurt!!! (I'll get the rope halter back next time I go to visit Zeffy 'cos I'm sure Ruth won't need it anyway.)

No pics, but on our hack we passed a lovely brick wall with a faded, arched wooden gate in it, complete with rose tumbling over the top! Perfect picture - I must remember to visit with my camera!

Bruce and Captain often stick their noses in Zeffy's empty stable to see if he's reappeared. I'm sure they're missing him more than he's missing them!

Monday, 15 June 2009

Lesson report

Another wonderful weekend with P. I had a lesson at Ruth's on Friday and then one on Saturday at the clinic near Newark.

Friday I went mainly to visit Zeffy, but asked Ruth if I could have a lesson on one of her horses as P was teaching there late afternoon/evening. The new yard is connected to the Hunt and so I had a lesson on Moss, the hunt master's horse. Of course Moss is used to going fast, jumping and looking after his rider. Not sure of his breeding but I would guess TBxID or something heavier. So Moss really had even less idea than me about dressage!! My first job was to engage his mind. Being a hunt horse he was on high alert sentinel duty and I had to persuade him that he could hand responsibility for his body over to me. I spent a few minutes asking for longitudinal relaxation via aiding and school figures. Easy to get but quickly reverting back to "sentinel" so took a little while to get consistently.

P asked for my feedback on Moss's "bodystate". My first thoughts were that it was like riding a camel! Wish I'd taken a travel sickness pill!! Back legs "fishtailing" from side to side. I just thought it was "the way he moves" but P asked me to count - first the speed of his front legs then back. His front legs were going much faster than the back so of course he was pulling his back end along and was on the forehand. P told me to slow his forehand to allow the back legs to catch up. Magic!!! The camel transformed into a dressage horse!! Both Moss and I were amazed!! (And P said that it was very similar with Bruce!)

Moss and P - both brilliant teachers! Major soundbites "Always address the horse's bodystate first to access both is body and mind." "Whatever the horse, the work is always the same" (of course the exercises will vary appropriately.)

Ruth had a lesson on Calisto which was really interesting (advanced stuff!!)

And then P helped Ruth with Zeffy. Concentrating on a soft topline (in fact insisting on a soft topline before, during and after mounting. I certainly hadn't been aware of the importance of this and so Z, although compliant, was blocking through his neck (really hard muscles!). P said that whatever we were doing with Z, grooming, leading, in-hand or riding - getting his neck relaxed and down was essential and would carry on to his ridden work and make it all much easier.

Cora came with me and it was 9pm when we left so a quick divert to Bakewell for Fish and Chips and then home! (Will write up Saturday later!)

Sunday, 14 June 2009

A learning weekend!

Did Zeffy miss me? Late Friday afternoon, Cora and I drove to see Zeffy for the first time since I dropped him off the previous weekend. We arrived around 4.30, wonderful greeting from Ruth & Debbie's three dogs and two cats! Walked past the first section of stables where Ruth's own horses are to the livery section to see Zeffy curious as to whether he'd be pleased to see me. No Zeffy! I'd raced ahead of Cora in my eagerness to see my boy so I walked back thinking he must be in the field ..... and then I spotted him! In "Ruth's" barn next to his new friend Calisto. Looking very very chilled and completely indifferent to my arrival!! I was actually very pleased that Zeffy is far more attached to feeling safe and well looked after than individual humans like me! Far more healthy for him. Here's a couple of pics - first of him in his stable and, just before we left, out for the night with Cal.

Our trainer P arrived shortly after us and so I have lesson reports from Friday and yesterday. But later!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Captain greedyguts, Ellie aka Topsy and Zeffy Goodboy!

First off Captain! It's nice to be able to give him a little extra attention (actually not really extra attention, I just get home earlier without Zeffy as well!!) On Monday, Lizzie came to the yard and he looked good enough for her to have a walk on. So we set off round the ride; Cora on Gunner, Lizzie on Captain and, as Mike was schooling Bruce, me on shanksies pony (is that how it's spelt?) Captain had a lovely time and you can see from the following pic of his exploits how he came to pull me off Bruce last week! Cora took the pic with her mobile and nearly fell off laughing at his antics!!

Millie accompanied us was met with shrieks of disgust (at the smell!!) when she arrived back at the yard! (Fox s**t) Cold hose, no mercy!!

The boys are back out 24/7 as it's been dry so last night Captain came in for a couple of fly free hours, a groom and an acupressure session. He stood eating his hay while I treated him but at least he didn't move away.

Now for the latest on Zeffy. Yesterday I sent Ruth a link to the video of Zeffy having a little canter and buck. And she replied with an update:

"Hi Jane,

Video is cool, bless him he didn't want to get left behind!

I've ridden him today, ( just lunged him yesterday so he could check school out!) He was a very good boy, and did some trotting and lots of circles and changes of direction. You have done a really good job with him! There is a hint though I think of what you felt and he is questioning a little, but thats normal! He is soo similar to Cal in his mind! Really interesting!

Hope you are coping without him!!


Calisto is Ruth's first Iberian (Andalucian) - he was literally a gift horse. She's used to Warmbloods and Sports Horses. Personally I think Cal and Zeffy are like chalk and cheese (and I've ridden Cal a few times). Can't wait to chat to Ruth about this when I go to visit on Friday.

Finally, haven't been to the yard yet today so Ellie may have foaled - she's certainly not far off now! Last night I took these pics of her in her stable with newly made to measure mini-shetland door and forelock in a bobble to keep the hair out of her eyes. Rather cute!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Zzzzzzzzeffy update!

Just had a text from Ruth:

Hi! He's fine this morning, was laid down in stable yesterday when we got back having a sleep! He's out with his Uncle Cal so not on his own. Been a good boy.

Calisto is an Andalucian so I guess they're talking a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish!!

My (other) boys are in at night at the moment due to the heavy rain storms. When I got them in last night they didn't even look for Zeffy. But Gunner is in their barn and I did ask him to explain to B & C where Z was and that he'd be back!

Hacked Bruce this morning, he was a little hyper and I think I know why! My usual feed store was closed when I went to stock up on Saturday. The boys just have a bit of chaff to mix their supplements with and I've been using Molliechaff Calmer. I mistakenly bought Molliechop instead of Molliechaff. Yuk - full of mollasses!!! So I guess Bruce was suffering from a sugar rush! Hoping they'll exchange the unopened sacks but won't be feeding anymore of it.

The only other news is that Ellie (the deadly miniature shetland) is looking like she'll foal at any minute so my camera is ready in my car! She's in at night until the foal's born so that Jane (yard owner) can keep an eye on her so Rob (Jane's OH) has changed her door so she can see over it.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Zeffy's Adventures in the Derbyshire Dales

Well Zeffy's installed in his new temporary home. And in typical Zeffy style took it all in his stride. Ate some hay and went to sleep. Woke up and said hello to his new neighbour with a friendly nip!

I'm very happy about my decision. I trust Ruth and Debbie implicitly and know he couldn't be in better hands. I do feel a little guilty that I delivered an overweight horse and brand new grazing muzzle!! So I'm hoping to have both a well schooled and slim Lusitano when he returns. I'm going to visit this Friday and will take some pics. Beautiful place in the Derbyshire Dales very close to Chatsworth. Idyllic scenery and a perfect yard. Huge stables with bars so the horses can talk to one another. They're in during the day, when Ruth and Debbie work them, then turned out all night so plenty of freedom.

And a big thank you to my friend Cora and her horse Gunner aka His Royal Orangeness, Cora for babysitting me and HRO for babysittling Zeffy on our journey.

When I got back to the yard Bruce Almighty voiced his most pathetic 12.2. pony whinny for Zeffy! Aah well!

Captain Fantastic

(The pic was taken last Summer when my niece and husband came to visit and Adam had a sit on Captain.)

Now for some wonderful news on my "Numero Uno", Captain! As I mentioned, I've put him on a Danillon a day as he seemed "stiffer" than usual. The vet came out last Monday to check him and after watching him walk and trot up (including flexion test to prove it was what I said - Spavin) pronounced him 3/10 lame. And I'm really pleased with that!! It really is an improvement! And he also agreed 100% with my decision to manage any pain with Danillon. I asked about any new and less harmful painkillers but he said Danillon was the best in his opinion.

And, on Tuesday evening I took him in the school for a little suppling session on the lunge. Mainly in walk but he looked so good that I asked - and he willing obliged with a trot on each rein. And he looked better in trot that I can remember for years!! Normally if I think he looks good enough to try, he trots for a stride or so and looks so awful that I stop him. But he looked virtually sound and stretched down long and low and looked very comfortable. So I'll proceed cautiously but certainly the Danillon has helped him.

On Wednesday, Lizzie came to see him early morning. I was about to hack Bruce. We looked at Captain walk up and decided Lizze would just lead him round with Bruce and me after his lunge session but hopefully this week she'll be able to ride him (in walk). Captain repaid her thoughtfullness by being really greedy and hauling her all over the place to reach the delicious grass and cow parsley! Naughty Captain!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Zeffy's Off to School!

This week I made a big decision (for me!) and in a couple of hours I'm taking Zeffy to a friend who starts young horses professionally, to continue his education. So why such a big change? A mix of things, but mainly my self doubt; I don't want to spoil my dream boy! I think I've done a pretty good job so far but I just don't feel confident that I have the experience for the next important stage. And Zeffy is very intelligent, quick and sometimes challenging. If I communicate well with him and make things clear things generally go well but if Z doesn't understand or if I'm hesitant he will often "fill the void" with unwanted behaviour (e.g.barging, bucking, charging off). My teacher, P, drums into us that we should act bored with our horses. By this she means that we must be non-judgemental and unemotional. I just can't be "bored enough" with Zeffy. And I recognise that with this little horse if I'm not clear, quick and supremely confident it could all go wrong very quickly!

I'm very happy about where he's going. R is a long term pupil of P, her partner is an Intelligent Horsemanship RA (Recommended Associate). I trust them implicitly to continue Zeffy's education in his best interest. What's best for him will be their focus. And without my procrastination he should progress much more quickly! And I'll be able to visit and spend time with him of course.

I know this is the right thing to do but I'm a bit anxious! Particulary about him leaving his little herd and home.

A lovely couple of days!

Just read my last entry and can't believe it's only a week ago! So much seems to have happened! My Mum came to stay with us last Sunday through to Tuesday. The weather was perfect for a change! Hot, sunny but with a pleasant breeze. We spent a lot of the day in our own lovely garden on Sunday, followed by a trip to the horses. Mum hasn't been for a while and couldn't believe how much Zeffy had grown! On Monday, Lizzie (my niece, currently on holiday from University) came over and we visited Calke Abbey. Mike and I often used to go to Calke to walk the stunning parkland. It's been owned by the National Trust for some years (like many stately homes, the family could no longer afford its upkeep). We've never been inside the house itself or the gardens which have only been restored during the last 10 years or so. Mum is a very keen gardener so we decided to first walk the dogs and then visit the gardens. Here's some pics.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Exciting Saturday!

First, just to add to Friday, the boys came in for their tea and a break from the midges and all that grass so I tried another accupressure session with Captain (the last couple of times he made it clear he didn't want it!) And he was much much more receptive. Kept munching away on his hay but he didn't tell me to ****er off this time! So I'll keep trying. He seems much better on a Danillon a day but I'm really not keen on him remaining on them long term so I'm hoping the vet might tell me about some newer NSAID with less potential for harm to the gut and kidneys.

Not quite what I intened to capture on video!!

Yesterday morning, I got all 3 boys in for breakfast. Mike was going to ride Bruce and I was planning another session on Zeffy. As it was Saturday, more people at the yard and I asked a friend if she'd video me having a trot on Zeffy. When I got to the school, Mike had put a load of poles out. Aaah well, Zeffy has to get used to these things when I'm riding him (we use poles and jumps in his groundwork). After checking him out on the lunge (very calm) I hopped on and although Bruce was also in the school Zeffy was very good. Going more or less where I wanted and we had another couple of calm trots.

Then my camera lady arrived, unfortunately with her mini Shetland, Ellie, whose paddock is at the end of the school. Friends husband and daughter came too. A little bit too much excitement for Zeffy so the video of him and me wasn't quite what I was aiming for!

Zeffy very quickly returned to "calm" so we just walked round and ended on a good note.

Also unintended!!

Late afternoon I got Bruce and Captain in and went for a hack round the farm with friend Cora and Gunner. Riding Bruce and leading Captain. Captain was enthusiastic about coming with us and he looked better than he has for some time. Great! ..... until my greedy boys planned a joint attack!! Bruce to the field of wheat on our left and Captain to the scrumptious grass and cow parsely on the right. I should've just let go of Captain but I tried to hang on and he pulled me off! I slid backwards down the saddle and landed on my bum!! Very embarrassing and stupid!!! Grrr!! Climbed back on Bruce and we carried on! (Can understand the merits of Western saddles with horns on!!)

Friday, 29 May 2009

My little Superstar!!

This morning I took Z in the school. Very short lunge and in-hand session as he was so calm. Got on and walked round and did some figures of eight and large serpentines and then ...... we had a trot! And he was perfect!! Very calm. Nice smooth transition up and down (sometimes he "leaps" into trot!) Our steering wasn't brilliant and he cut across the school a bit but I figure at this stage it's more important to let him get his balance than worry too much about going exactly where I intended. This is only the 2nd time he's trotted with anyone on his back. We had a couple of trots - just along one side - on each rein and then I hopped off and rewarded him with some carrots. So pleased with my little Luso!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Work stops play!

I'm back at work almost full time .... so I guess my posts will be less frequent.

Haven't done much this week. Was going to ride Zeffy early Tuesday morning. I tacked him up, took him in the school and we did some ground and in-hand work but I decided he was too fidgety (Ellie, the miniature shetland charging about!!) and I had no-one to help me. But last night, despite horrid midges in the school, I got on (just the two of us) after only a couple of minutes of lungeing. Zeffy was so calm. Just walked round the school, lots of changes of direction. And then Mike came in on Bruce and we walked round together. Only 15 minutes of walking. A little wobbly but very calm! Oh - and before he had Bruce to protect him - a large horsebox drove alongside the school and he just stood calmly and watched it go by! Gold Star Zeffy!

I also took Captain in the school for a few minutes of in-hand walking, including some polework (walking over and in and out). I started him on Dannillon on Tuesday and it does seem to have helped more than the "natural" pain relief (Boswellia). I'm not very keen on using it long term but I may have to to ensure Captain has quality of life. He was beginning to really struglle to pick his off back foot up. Anyway, the vets coming next Monday to take bloods to test for tapeworm and will check Captain at the same time. (Mainly to allow me to give him Dannillon - I'm not having him messed with anymore!!) He seemed to enjoy his little session in the school though - apart from the horrid flies!!

This morning, a long hack before work on Bruce accompanied by the 2 Millies! Black lab and grey pony ridden by friend Caroline! Little grey Millie is 23 years old and as frisky as a 2 year old! Such a fun little girl!!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Sunshine and sea!

Just got back from a lovely long weekend at Mike's Mum's in Northumberland. Nowhere more beautiful when the sun shines .....and this weekend it did! We went with our good friends Sue and Derek and of course Millie. Did lots of eating, drinking, talking and walking. The local countryside and walks are fantastic but as it was S&D's first visit we went for a walk along Hadrian's Wall on Saturday and to the coast from Seahouses to Bamburgh Castle yesterday. Millie's first trip to the seaside!

Last week I went back to work - hence the lack of blog! Hacked Bruce most mornings and after work tried to do something with Zeffy ... but the midges in the school were unbearable for both of us. In the end I managed to ride him on Thursday evening by myself for the 2nd time and he was great (still with reins attached to the cavesson). Cora and Gunner came into the school and we walked round with them for a few circuits. On Friday morning before we headed North, we had a great in-hand session. The last couple of times I've tried the bit a hole lower and Zeffy much prefers it. It won't be long before we're doing more under saddle and so I need to educate Z to the bridle. He was very relaxed about it all, moving round the school easily and some nice SI and counter SI. We also had a little trot and he was a bit wild, trying to nip me! Still 1st time in-hand so just a little overexcited!!

Going up to see the boys now. I've missed them!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Belated Happy Birthday Millie!

It was Millie's 7th birthday on the 13th May. And Mike and I totally forgot!!! So Happy Belated Birthday Millie! Pics are one of her and her friend Lily. (Sometimes they both come for a hack with me and I just call "illies" when I'm trying to control them!!) The other two were take this morning. Note the look of embarassement at having to pose for pics!!

We may have forgotten Millie's birthday .... but she got herself a present on our hack on Wednesday .... a baby rabbit!! She knows I don't allow bodies in my car so she hid it somewhere before I could dispose of it. When we returned to the yard that evening she looked but it had gone .... probably the farm retrievers.

Bruce Yesterday we had a lovely long hack. No wind for the first time this week, so he was nice and calm but forward. He even managed to keep his cool when 4 ducks took off from the river as we passed!

Zeffy and Captain Had already decided not to ride Zeffy 2 days in a row (while his body adjusts to carrying me.) Niece Lizzie came up in the evening. So we took Zeffy and Captain for an in-hand hack round the farm. We were joined by new kid on the block "Puzzle". Puzzle is a young skewbald mare, 12.2hh and exceptionally pretty (will take pics!) She's 6 but has done very little - friend's Dad bought her for peanuts at an auction when she was a foal as a companion. She's matured into a very nice pony indeed and so they're keeping her for baby (4months!!) Rohan when he's big enough to ride. She only arrived last Sunday and is rather wild. So I had several demonstrations of Zeffy's lovely passage!

Horses stayed in last night because of rain so just chucked them all out this morning and took Millie for a walk.