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!!