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Trust!

3 Aug

When I meet someone new, it takes a while for me to get to know them and be able to trust them. The same can be said for me and horses. I love horses (and humans sometimes!) to bits but it doesn’t necessarily mean I can instantly trust every one I meet.

Since purchasing Skip back in October much of the journey has been about developing trust in one another. Of course over time you get to know more about each other, develop a routine and your confidence grows. But there are a few occasions when you just have to take a leap of faith and trust that they won’t let you down and the past few months have shown me how true this really is.

As we enter the final few weeks of Skip’s rest after his tendon injury there have been a few occasions where I have had little choice but to put faith in Skip to do the right thing…and putting my trust in him has been hugely rewarding.

After weeks of rest, I had to trust in Skip to behave sensibly as we moved towards the next stage of recovery with daily in hand walking. Now leaving a 16.2hh 5yr old in a ten metre paddock for 6 weeks could result in a few explosions, and I do think that the extreme heat had something to do with keeping him calm, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that he behaved impeccably throughout this walking period.

A month on I had to return him to hacking walk work without any lunging or turnout to let off steam. In the end I just went for it and got straight on, and again he was absolutely fine and seemed happy to be back in work. We are now back out hacking, and I’ll admit there have been a few “keen” moments and spooky times (due to pigs chasing us along the field!!) but we are doing it and our bond seems better than ever. I have never really realised the value of in hand work in building trust and confidence in one another. As hot and slow and sometimes boring as it was, it has been really beneficial.

Of course I am under no illusion that all this hasn’t been without its hairy moments – a few handstands in the tiny paddock and a couple of flying bucks to be exact, but overall I am happy with how things have gone and of course happy to see these signs that Skip’s realised his legs are working well again. We have another 3 weeks of rest before turnout can hopefully be resumed and we can get back to normal in every sense.

So to anyone who is struggling to bond with their horse, or wants to develop their partnership with their equine friend I would truly recommend concentrating on groundwork. A lot of activities were out of reach for me due to Skip’s injury, but there are many great books to help develop activities and keep it less boring than the constant miles I had to walk. A good instructor will also value the significance of groundwork, so make sure you find someone supportive who may be able to introduce you to some fun confidence building tasks.

I would love to hear your stories of when you have had to just go for it and put trust in your horse, or any top ideas for groundwork exercises. So today I wish you not only happy riding but happy bonding with your equine, however it may be! Xx

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Weather Worries- Are there any positives?!

26 Mar

Like every horse owner (and possibly every other person in the UK!) I am now rather fed up with the weather.  With the ice and snow comes many a worry about our four legged friends.  Although we are constantly moaning (or is that just me!) the horses seem comparatively unbothered by all the snow and ice.  My boy seems quite happy with his lack of exercise, high volumes of hay and a stretch of the legs every day…an easy life for them, but not so much for us!

This got me thinking about whether or not there were any plus points to all this freezing weather.  Well it’s a lot of mucking out in the cold which means I can shiver off a few extra calories.  But the lack of riding means I am losing out on building up those core muscles which are really needed for re-schooling my youngster.  However as a bit of a surprise my other half bought me one of these horse riding exercise machines.  Now I can strengthen my core whilst inside in the warm, watching Corrie (much to his amusement).  Now they are not a cheap exercise option but they are a damn site cheaper than keeping a real horse at the moment.

exercise machine

My horse if shod so riding in the ice and snow isn’t an option, or a risk I am willing to take.  I have tried lining the souls of his hooves with no end of Vaseline or hoof oil but the ice still packs in and I’d rather he had a few days off and felt a bit fresh on soft ground, than run the risk of injury on slippery surfaces- this could leave me with a much worse problem.  However he happily goes out in the field every day and appears to only move from the hay pile to the water, with perhaps a roll in the snow for good measure.  The lack of riding has given me time to do other jobs, my tack has never looked so clean and in fact neither has my house!  Just because you can’t ride it doesn’t mean that you can’t spend time bonding with your horse, grooming him in the warmth of the stable and doing all those jobs such as pulling manes and neatening up feathers.  Then he will be looking lovely once you can get back on board.    Just make sure you have a hot drink to keep you warm, or warm you hand under your horses rug every few minutes as this always feels like a lovely hot water bottle to me.

I don’t know about you but when the sun is out I can spend all day and evening at my yard so this period of cold weather has given me a chance to spend time with the other important people (and animals) in my life.  As you can see from the photo below, my lovely dog Lexi loves nothing more than a walk in the snow, swiftly followed by a sleep on hot water bottle I might add.  It’s nice to still get out in the fresh air and if you wrap up with layers and keep walking then you do stay warm- just don’t forget your gloves!

lexi snow    lexi snow 2

The weather has also given me a chance to read a few horsey books that I have had about the house for a while.  This includes two books from the Kelly Marks series- Perfect Confidence and Perfect Partners, as well as Ride with your Mind by Mary Wanless.  I would highly recommend these books to help build strong foundations for your riding and relationship with your horse.

Despite all this of course I am longing for the sunshine… I think we would all feel a little happier if we were a little warmer and we were actually able to turn the heating off in our houses, put the washing out the dry and actually sponge down our horses after riding them!  So I am keeping my fingers crossed that it won’t be too long before we are spending no end of money on fly spray, sweating during boiling hot during schooling sessions and gasping for a drink after a long hot hack.

Keep thinking warm thoughts and soon it will be summer!

We’ve had a few cold and frosty mornings….

frosty

A chilling day with snow and high winds at the weekend…    snow horses

The sand school has become a snow school!

snow school

The Pressure of the Perfect Partner

23 Mar

As a child, and an adult, the impression of horse ownership has never failed to paint a perfect picture.  I have read many an article about the perfect pony or finding your perfect partner. The combination of facebook status’, twitter comments, beautiful equine photos and quotes, magazine and blog articles that are full of idealistic happy horse tales can’t help but fill you with guilt when you are your equine friend are having an “off” day.  During a difficult day with my horse I was once told there was never a “bad” day of horse ownership which made me question whether I really, truly had ever experienced my“perfect partner” or was I really a terrible horse owner, now overwhelmed by guilt.

But let us rethink this for a mini moment (why not pick up a kitkat and ponder on it!)…  Are you really telling me that you’ve never had a bad day with your horse or pony? Have you never experienced chasing a little terror round the field that won’t be caught in the pouring rain when you are in a rush? Am I alone when I have had the odd day coming back from a hack with steam coming out of my ears due to the bouncing, spooky beast that my horse has developed into overnight?  Or perhaps it’s only me who’s horse occasionally feels so fresh on the lunge you developed skis, suddenly jumps on your toe when you put the clippers near him, rips a brand new rug within 24hours or even looses the ability to halt in a dressage test (sideways, backwards, up and down we can manage- but stand still, just forget it!)!  Now maybe, just maybe, it is me and me alone who experiences a “bad” horsey day, but if this is the case, then I am filling up an awful lot of online horsey forum posts with my difficult experiences…

Let’s start at the beginning with the added pressure of horse hunting. Never before has the phrase of “buyer beware” been more appropriate.  You have so been longing to get your own horse and find your equine soul mate, when soon into the process you realise that the equine market isn’t quite as it seems. The combination of inaccurate descriptions, peculiar horse owners, travelling the country and failed vettings leave you feeling rather deflated and the pressure to get this hell over and finally find the one is mounting.  Finally, when you thought you couldn’t bear to drive another mile to find that perfect partner, there he is.  A beautiful happy equine, gleaming clean, he knows his owner and location inside out, oozes confidence and has the face of an angel. No sooner have you fallen in love, he’s coming home with you and you can start your perfect partnership together.

But is it really perfect?  And should it be?  Can you really expect to take a horse from everything and everyone he knows and expect everything to fall into place, run like clockwork and for you to instantly know the answers to everything he needs.  Much equine literature would lead you to believe this is an idealistic process but I would ask you to consider other significant relationships in your life. Have you never had a battle with your significant other over something silly?  Did you instantly know what your better (or worse!) half was thinking when you first got together?  I think, and hope, the majority of people would answer no of course not, and neither would we expect to.  So is it really fair to expect this from our horses and perhaps we should not be so frustrated with ourselves, or our horses if we have the occasional off day.

I am not writing this to convince you that the perfect equine partner for you doesn’t exist and everything beautiful you have ever read about horse ownership isn’t true.  Of course he does and of course it is. I don’t love my other half any less for his annoying habits and I don’t love my horse any less for dashing across the school when a leaf turned over yesterday.  But maybe it’s time to consider your ideal horsey match with a little less pressure attached to them.  For as long as you want to go back after the bad days and make the next day a good one for the both of you, then there you have it- your perfect pony partner!

Enjoy your horses, and learn from it all, the good days and the challenging ones!

Horsepower

1 Sep

Last night I tuned in to Martin Clunes: Horsepower documentary. I had missed it on Sunday evening due to a night out with the girls but as soon as I sat down Monday I tuned it to my recording to see what I had missed. I was not disappointed; what a great programme. Plus I was thrilled to find out it was a two part documentary…if only it was an ongoing series! It seemed that approximately 4.5million people tuned in and it got me thinking that surely all those people are not equestrian folk?

Today I’ve been reading through the relevant thread on the Horse and Hound forum and like me, many other horse lovers out there absolutely loved Horsepower Part 1 and cannot wait for the next documentary! If you’re part of the Horse and Hound Forum, log in and leave your comments…and if you’re not already a member I’d really recommend you joined the forum- it really is a useful source of knowledge.

So from what I have read, the programme was well received in the equestrian community but what about the rest of the population? Having mooched around the internet for reviews it seems that the programme was fairly well received across the board. This article from the Independent said the programme was “bearable for even the horse indifferent”, suitable for a “general audience” and highlighted my favourite moment featuring Chester (what a gorgeous horse) and Monty Roberts.

Let’s hope next Sunday’s documentary is just as good and these positive reviews encourage broadcasters to increase their equine themed programmes in the future. In the meantime f you’d like some further reading I came across this great Martin Clunes Interview on during my internet travels- enjoy!

The Horse Diva Family

21 Jul

Hello all,

I just wanted to let you know about the new addition to The Horse Diva family who is rather cute and totally adorable! In the photo below you will see our new family friend, Dave.  Dave is an 8 week old Giant French Lop who has been with us for 10 days now. He has settled in really well and has grown no end since he first arrived with us. He seems to currently love being a house rabbit- although the sitting room has had to become rather rabbit friendly to prevent him from chewing absolutely everything (as I sit here now there are cushions preventing him getting to the tv cables and the curtains are tucked up to stop him eating them!). Dave is so friendly and loves watching the tv with us. He is also highly entertaining with his mad bunny jumping and excited sprints around the room!
However Dave is yet to meet my partners dog Charlie…although he’s so laid back I don’t think Dave is going to be too bothered! Here’s Charlie “enjoying” his first ever bath

out in the garden a couple of weeks back. Not sure he liked it too much but he certainly smelt a lot better afterwards. We used the fab Dirty Beastie Shampoo on him to give his coat a really good wash with a lovely fresh smell. However it’s a shame the sunshine has seemed to dissapear since then. I hope you are all enjoying some time with your animals- may they be horses, dogs, rabbits or otherwise 🙂