Friday, 24 February 2017

All.The.Horses

Original, inaccurate plan in blue, actual plan in black, bottom right corner

After my teeny tiny brain melt over Zed's hock, things got a lot better, very quickly.

I put a post on Facebook ...


And got a lot of really nice offers. The most exciting/closest one was an old friend (we were on the same livery yard about twelve years ago) who has her two horses stabled five minutes from my home.


I went up that evening to have a catch up and meet Hetty: a nine-year-old, 16.2hh bay mare. We had a good chit-chat and arranged the acid test - ass in the saddle time.





Which happened tonight. Hetty is a bit gorgeous (a lot gorgeous). She is extremely comfortable, very mannerly and we had a charming ride out with her owner, L, on her other horse, Blue. So fingers crossed we have a potential happy loan sitch cooking away there and you will be seeing more of Hetty on this blog.




Meanwhile, the day after brain melt I showed Alex (our vet) the plan I'd written out after he left (see above). He was a bit nonplussed, and thought I'd very much focused on the absolute worst case scenario and he really didn't think we'd be looking at three months box rest.


I was obviously a bit sad to discover I'd lost touch with reality, but not that sad, since actual reality was much nicer than my version.


So we did a new plan where we box rest Zed for three weeks and then scan the hock if there's any concern in the trot up. Alex thought it might even be fully resolved by then. 

So, Yipppppeeeee! 


My prisoner. He is NOT thrilled, and will remain plugged into a haynet for the foreseeable future.
Since then, I think the little patch of heat in that hock has reduced A LOT, so I'm going to hope for the best. 

And more importantly, Nutkin is getting a bit more settled on box rest. I do put his bridle on to take him to and fro from the walker but he's managing pretty well apart from a bit of moonwalking and head flicking. 


To top it all off, my friend at work has offered me her horse, who is Fanceeeee, to ride in the upcoming John Smart clinic! 


So overall I feel like the summer is looking promising.


I've got Zed to bring on (pray, everybody pray), Hetty to bring me on and fun with Max on the calendar.


And I rode Crystal today (super duper mare I rode at camp a couple of years ago) in a flatwork lesson.

Crystal poised ready to teach me all kinds of bobbins


More horses, always more horses

ALL THE HORSES!!!!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Blurgh



Pony is not fine. Pony is broken. 


Our locum vet came to see him today for a re-examination and thinks he's done something to the collateral ligament.

Zed was a dick pretty much all through his trot up and assessment so when Alex used the words I hate most (box rest) all my internal organs started crying tears of angry molten lava.

Possibly my Dramatic Princess Syndrome is not as resolved as hoped.

We are on week one of box rest. Three months of the fucker is going to cause mass destruction. One of us isn't going to survive.

I was then that awful person: "Hey, vet! With all your years of medical training and experience. What you are telling me I need to do - I cannot do it! I bet you're pleased to be wasting your breath on me!" 

My other option is to turn him away for a year. Honestly, I'm tempted, even though it's riskier and more expensive. I feel genuinely sorry for him while he's stuck inside as he's clearly very frustrated and with being young he's just full of beans and dying to socialise. 

I'm going to give it some careful thought though I suspect when I get trampled this week my decision will be made.

The sensible thing to do now is to find a horse to loan or borrow for the summer, put my Stage 3 plans on ice and keep having lessons.

But what I'd really like to do is get into bed and eat jam sandwiches until I can't feel my feelings anymore.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Whisky (and friends) makes me happy

That is one good-looking bugger 

While I wait for Zedny McNutkin to get the all-clear, I've found a great way to cope.

Whisky!

And not the kind that means you need a new liver from Amazon. 

Nope, this totally alcohol-free version - 17.2hh (I think?) of magnificent gingerness.

I've had two lessons on him and on Friday I was allowed to ride him in the PTT. He is beautifully schooled, and because he's so much bigger than any of the horses I normally ride my leg actually goes in the right place. We worked on transitions and aids and he was just super. 

The whole hour made me feel really happy. Thank you, Whisky.

On Thursday I had a jumping lesson on Miley. When I first rode him I wasn't super keen. I struggled to keep him forward and straight as he's slightly green and tends to drift out from the shoulder. I rode him again in the PTT a couple of weeks ago and it was better, but we still demolished a lot of jumps and I felt like I had a fairly patchy influence.

But on Thursday I think we clicked and I found myself very smiley on Miley. Our mission was to keep a rhythm while jumping a small course - a spread to some fillers then a straight bar. 

He tried so hard, and felt so much more enthusiastic and it was contagious. I made tons of daft mistakes but it was a great lesson. 

Nutkin is due a check-up tomorrow.  The swelling is mostly gone and he looks sound to me. Plus he HATES box rest and is either going to kill me or him at some point.


Observe all the charming bite scars running up his neck - bloody hooligan
I keep poking his leg as if it's an overcooked steak and slapping on the Ekyflogl but it's all pretty subtle. Fingers crossed he's good to go. I have no wish to do any more water-skiing with my charming little cannon ball. He needs to get back on the good citizen programme asap. 

Friday, 17 February 2017

How to 'unstick' when you're stuck


1. Start small 

I read this once and it's popped into my head fairly often ever since:

"How we do anything, is how we do everything." 

Basically, if you kick the cat every morning and road rage is your bag, chances are you might be a tiny bit tetchy with your horse.

Mark Rashid writes about this a lot and I totally agree: you can't crash through life like a rabid elephant and then slip into some kind of charming alter ego every time you open the stable door.

If you're frequently annoyed, or anxious, or messy, or busy, then it's going to show in your life with horses.

The flip side is that every part of your life can be practice for the part you spend in the saddle. Try to cultivate some small habits of discipline, balance and courage in your daily life that can filter into your time with horses. If you're stuck on a starting point, keep reading on to 2, 5 and 6.  

2. Smarten up

Shiny clean boots make you ride better, FACT. (and I'm only half joking).  

Get your riding boots out tonight, put on some good music and give them a wipe and a polish. Do it after every ride.

I've pinched this a little bit from FlyLady, who recommends shining your sink every day, and I think this is the equestrian equivalent. It's a small habit that can make a surprising difference by encouraging us to raise our standards. 


3. Pick a problem and commit to a solution

Katie's jumping seat, Emma's hands, Christopher's leg position. You see them, you want them. The envy stings your sad little ego. 

Instead of retreating from the burning pain, use it as a red flag that you need to work on this for yourself.

Like me, you may be devoid of bravery and talent but do not fear, there is a church even for our kind.

Behold! The Chapel of Hard Work and the Patron Saint of Persistence. 

Pick something that irritates the crap out of you and make it a little project for the next few weeks. Just see if you can't chisel out a bit of progress. Try to pick something do-able. 

4. Get your head out of the sand

Brand New Information Alert - Horses cost money! 

Okay, yawn, old news, but it's worth having your finances in order if you want to enjoy the world's most expensive hobby. 

Try not to bury your head in the sand, and make sure your incomings are enough to cover the essentials - livery, shoes, vet, feed. 

Sparkly browbands and numnahs need to go on hold if money is tight. 

And if you're not managing, encourage yourself to be honest and figure out what needs to happen - maybe an extra shift at work, or a sharer who contributes, can ease the strain before you get balls deep into your overdraft.


5. Give your daily life a margin

A life with horses can be golden, frantic, peaceful and bananas, usually all four and more in the space of a minute. So it helps to have something to level you out a bit and help manage all the emotions and fret that can take over.

Meditation is NOT a religious thing, as many people fear. You don't have to wear a robe or live on a mountain top to do it. It doesn't make you a creep, or a hippy. 


But it can give you a margin in your life, a few minutes to just sit and watch how your mind bubbles and to tap into a more gentle part of your brain. 

There are lots of top notch FREE apps out there if you need help getting started, I use, and adore, Insight Timer.

Leo over at Zen Habits also explains it well for the curious, see what he has to say here


6. Help Future You - have her back

When we slack on our horsey chores we're only ever delaying the inevitable, which is actually kind of a shitty habit. 

I have never once regretted spending ten extra minutes leaving things ready to go for the morning.

Plus it's so much easier to keep going when you're on a roll. If you're already at the yard in the evening, what's another few minutes doing your feeds for the coming week? It's going to delay you slumping in front of the telly for, tops, three minutes. 

So from now on, treat 'Future You' (the same you that will have to deal with anything you don't do today, tomorrow) like a good friend who really deserves a favour.

Dig out the banks, give the water buckets a proper clean, tidy up her grooming kit and leave her loads of full haynets. You know she'll be grateful - she's you! 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!

From us and ours; to you and yours! Hope you get a chance to fuss your loved ones today x







Monday, 13 February 2017

Zen and the art of cold hosing

Budding Genghis
On Saturday I found Nutkin had a little swelling over his left hock. Quite possibly from ongoing antics

Instead of throwing my apron over my head and bursting into tears I started cold-hosing while texting my boss/vet who Fixes All The Horses.

She agreed not a dire emergency and advised box resting him and keeping a close eye on it till she could Florence Nightingale his sorry self come Monday morning.

I chucked a deep bed in, checked him three times a day and kept cold hosing and it did improve but I wanted her to take a look anyway to be on the safe side.

She kindly made us first call and we enjoyed a very exciting trot-up, which was like trying to exercise a train on the end of a piece of floss. In essence, he was madly excited about having visitors and showed off like a sweet-riddled toddler at a family gathering.

Conclusion: negative to flexion test, thickened tendons and mild swelling and 1/10 lame on that left hind. It's likely bruising, and worse-case-scenario he's cracked a splint bone which sounds horrible but just means loads of box rest. Alternatively it may be a tendon/ligament issue (trickier) hence we'll monitor the swelling and scan/xray next week if there's any doubt.

Plan: treat with topical anti-inflammatories to bring the swelling down and re-assess in a week.

All in all, it's been entirely untraumatic. I think this meditation lark has cured me of DPS - Dramatic Princess Syndrome. I haven't lost any sleep, I'm not fretting and I feel entirely optimistic.

Result. 

Pictures of left hock below for the curious (final pic is right hock for comparison).




And lateral of right hock for anyone who hasn't lost the will to live. 


Friday, 10 February 2017

My horse, The Warlord and Other Stories

Sweet and pristine, sometimes
Zed is living a double life.

The postcode of his stable is where he is a sweet and biddable member of society, usually eating his haylage quietly and doing a sudoku.

The field is clearly a whole different territory.

In his precious few hours of freedom every other day he is behaving like Charles Bronson and returning from the battleground covered in bites and inches of crusty mud with an increasingly wild Fight Club expression in his eyes.


I am not impressed. One bit. Especially since he has destroyed his brand new Premier Equine hood. Sob




His punishment is to be my bandaging guinea pig, which actually isn't much of a punishment. He tends to fall asleep while I mummify him, probably dreaming of Bruce Lee and The Art of War.

Speaking of violence, Nancy has now been upgraded to being a proper lurcher after she killed a rabbit at the weekend.

It was bloody horrendous. We were walking with a friend and her dog and they flushed the poor thing out of the undergrowth whereupon Nancy shook it in a most unfriendly way and finished it off before standing over it growling. Since then she's had a very bloodthirsty way about her. Today she forged an effing river to try and chase down a pheasant.

What the crap has got into them? I'm considering packing them off to an anger management workshop while I go for a spa day to calm my nerves.


Look at her eyes: not a drop of sanity in there
In fact, the only thing I have any faith in at the moment is my trusty bike, which has been dusted off for the coming season. Phil and I went out at the weekend and had a great time whizzing about and then I wheeled it out again on Monday and took Nancy for a marathon ride out in a bid to suppress her killer instincts.

Running is on hold at the moment as my back and hips have gone bonkers, but biking I can manage. Plus the bike doesn't seem to have any murderous rage. 




Monday, 6 February 2017

Conformation: Zed's (sort of) impartial assessment

So this feels a bit traitorous.

I'm a firm believer that conformation is important, but not everything.

And if you like a horse, you like him, and you work with what you've got.

After all, humans come in all shapes and sizes and a lot of what we're able to do comes down to attitude, training and fitness.  

Nevertheless, part of my exam is to assess a horse's conformation, so I'm practising on my own little nutkin from a lateral view, pretending I've never seen him before in my life.



The black writing is what I would say to an examiner, and the blue are additional notes that I know from owning him. 

He is croup high, which could be related to his age. It is, though I suspect he will remain so, possibly to a lesser extent. 

His pastern angle and his shoulder slope match fairly well, which is good news. Both are a little upright which could indicate a choppy trot. Hell yes, it does indicate that, but usually only when he's in thunderdrome mode. When he works nicely it's a lovely trot. 

His pastern-axis is broken forward, which means he will take more concussion in his feet. Amazing what you find when you clip off all those feathers!

His neck is nicely set on and he should be able to work on the bit without too much difficulty.

He is a little cow hocked, and his hocks are also rather straight. 

He has good feet with good horn, and is mildly pigeon-toed on his left fore. His feet have improved with time. They had some ridges in them which have grown out now and don't seem to be reoccurring. His right heel is higher than his left. His hind feet are a fairly good pair.

He is short coupled, which may mean his back is strong, but potentially a less comfortable ride. Not the case, when he goes well he has a very nice walk and his canter is not bad either. He's very comfortable to hack about on.

And although the conformation section of the exam is about bone structure, I would probably also comment that his coat is good, his body score ditto and he has the start of some nice muscle. He's also bright, alert and responsive. And if you give him a banana he'll wiggle his ears and look happy. 

In summary: He's bloody gorgeous! And he doesn't mind that I have the conformation of a step ladder so we're good to go. 

Maybe using him as my guinea pig was a bad idea. I feel like I lost my objectivity for a moment there...

Saturday, 4 February 2017

BHS Stage 3 or Rein (sic) of terror

Nancy "Don't revise, fuss me instead."
I did my Stage 2 in 2015 and I loved it.* I rode ALL the horses and I worked bloody hard and I could feel it coming together like when you mix cake batter and suddenly all the flour bits fold in and you're gazing down with soft eyes while your wooden spoon glides around like velvet...

Ahem. Sorry, drifted off into cake fantasy for a moment there.

Back to reality. Overall it was daunting but meaty and thrilling at the same time. And it made me so much better - fitter, more knowledgeable, more confident.

And now I'm back at it again with Stage 3, which is a big jump up from 2. Syllabus can be dowloaded here for the curious. 

In summary, you have to:

Be able to flat basically most horses in a sympathetic outline in W/T/C with and without stirrups and showing simple lateral work: and then assess where the horse is in their schooling, work on some improvements and feed back to the examiner on how they measure up on the training scale etc.

And you have to look good doing it. No crazy hands, no flappy legs, no ugly slouching. You have to be pretty like Beyonce but effective like Chuck Norris. 

Met this dude, Mick, on the run up to Stage 2.  
Then you have to jump two horses - showjumping a course of up to 1m and then cross country up to 90cm. You have to work each horse in correctly and assess throughout.

For stable management it's basically everything plus fitting double bridles, putting on exercise bandages, competition tack and lunging a fit horse confidently and correctly. 

I'm happy with the idea of most of this (probably not double bridles since I've only ever ridden mine in snaffles but how hard can it be?) but it's going to take some serious miles on the clock. 

I adore jumping and I don't have any confidence issues but I'l need to practice being happy with higher heights and keeping my position strong. 



My plan is to do the stable management this year and the riding in 2018, which gives me a whole summer to really ride as much as possible and do camp etc. 

And I know it's a good goal because every time I think about the exam I want to cry and vomit at the same time.

Which means it's time to swap feelings for action and pick one of the following:

1) Ride
2) Run
3) Dig out the polo wraps

Right, I'm off to find my trainers...

*In the way that we love things when the terror has subsided and you've done well. Click the link for a more realistic diary of the rollercoaster of feelings involved. 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Rude or helpful?





Advice and horse ownership go hand in hand.

Opinions being like ar$£@!*s - everyone has one, and some are keener than others to share them ;)

I include myself in this, of course. Many times (cringe) I've given my view, and immediately wished I hadn't. After all, even when we ask for advice, we've often already decided what we're going to do. 

And what we consider great advice, often just makes the unfortunate recipient feel more worried. The perfect example would be the time a friend confided that she was concerned about her horse's weight. I suggested she ask her vet to run a blood test. Because I deal with that kind of thing at work all the time it's not scary to me, but for her it made her feel frightened. Friendship fail! 

How we react to advice depends, a lot, on who's giving it out. And how tactful they are. There are people on this planet who open their mouths and I respect them so much that I'm just: "Yes. You speak the truth. The end."

Then there are people who care about you, and mean well, but you find their knowledge questionable so it's more: "Thanks, but no thanks. Politely." 

And unsolicited advice is where it gets really murky. Even when meant well, it can come over badly. Years ago someone I didn't know too well approached me to make a statement about my horse and something they felt I should be doing differently. 

I was mildly stunned (they'd never shown much interest in me or my horse until that moment) but managed to stammer out that their suggestion was something I was already doing. 

Obviously they had summoned a bit of courage to make their original statement so they then just repeated it as if I hadn't spoken, leaving me nonplussed. Total awkwardness. I can see now that it was well-intentioned but it came across badly. 

These days I try to put it in perspective. 

Trying to justify your decisions is just too exhausting. It's easier just to let people feel they've put you on the right track as by the time they've decided to advise you, there's often not much you can say or do that will alter the situation, unless you snap back, which helps no one. 

Me and my friends (and 99 per cent of the horse community) put in a great deal of time, effort, thought and money into the care of our horses - so when someone offers unsolicited advice, it can come over as unhelpful criticism.

For a while now I've tried to retire from giving advice. I'm better than I was but sometimes it's surprisingly hard! 

What do you think? Do you like to give advice? Like to receive it? How do you deal with the unwanted (or unsolicited) variety? 

** Note, I found this in my drafts and it's a couple of years old now but I quite liked it when I re-read it.
However, I have definitely (to my shame) fallen back into bad habits and lately I've been dishing out advice left, right and centre.
So this is now a timely reminder to listen more than I speak and to STOP BLOODY WELL TELLING PEOPLE WHAT TO DO!! (lol)