What a couple of weeks…

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My last update was about having a little jump on my dear Bill but sadly we never made it. We had a ride and a small go round the school but a friend of mine pointed out that he was not quite sound.

In doing some slightly tighter circles she noticed that he was a little short on his left hind. PANIC!!! I have had Bill for about 3 months now, I have started to get that bond and although people say it takes two years to really know a horse I feel like we have been making a great team. So i contacted his owner, he has been lame for no known reason in the past and we all had that terrifying thought that perhaps the problem was progressive.

Of course I have had the lectures of “You can’t have an unsound horse at your level” “You don’t need the hassle” “He’s not fit to be out on loan”. So I have spent the last few weeks wrapping him in cotton wool totally worried that I may have to give him back. And…begin that horrible horse search again.

There was one person who was the voice of reason amongst all the panic, she told me that he wasn’t unsound but simply lazy. I was kicking him on enough and he had simply gone into auto pilot. I have been clingy to this for the last few weeks. I have not ben brave enough ride, I have just been trotting him up and down the stretch of flat concrete filming, looking, staring…desperately trying to see the problem. But he has been more than happy, he trots beautifully. All four legs/feet have been cold and there has been no swelling, stiffness or leg resting anywhere. But as a novice…do i really know what I am looking for?

Finally his owner was able to pop out and have a look at him for me. She checked each leg, trotted him up and…

HE’S FINE!! Thank goodness!!

I cannot explain how relieved I was, I had been so worried. Why is it when you finally find that horse everything is so scary!? Bill is the horse that is going to get my confidence back and i am so worried about something happening.

Tomorrow we are going out for a fun hack. I may even get a little canter in for him to blow off a bit of steam.

Just a quick goal

Haven’t been able to get out much this week due to the awful weather and too many work commitments. So I thought I would set myself a goal.

We plan to go out on Sunday, rain or no rain as I would quite like to find out how our dear Bill is in the rain. I’m sure he will be fine but my friends mate has a tendency to try and turn home, until she works out that you are over half way then of course she speeds up!

So I plan to hack over to my friends yard and use her little school. It’s not much, but it is sand and it is contained: all we need.

My goal is to do a little jump. I have not jumped in nearly a year as my last horse got too over excited and had a tendency not to stop! So I plan to do a little cantering; also quite a big step after the bolt and then a jump! My friend is a BHS instructor so she will be my cheering section.

I think this could be a huge step for Bill and I, he is already well on his way to being my perfect partner but this may well cement it!

Watch this space! Eek!

Boots boots boots!

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Has anybody else found that yard boots only seem to last about 6 months? Well in the uk that is the general “recommended lifespan” of country boots.

We discovered this lately when we tried to return my friends pair of boots for either refund or exchange. I, being the one with 10 years retail experience am currently trying to get more than the £20 gift voucher they have offered.

So the boots, they cost £150 pounds and were bought in April, most of you horsey folk will now be thinking “they haven’t even reached winter yet” it got to the end of July and the boots were literally falling apart. The sole had worn through and the leather upper was coming away from the footbed. In case you hadn’t notice, my ten years retail experience has been spent selling footwear.

We approached the retailer with these boots to be told that it was “reasonable wear and tear” and generally they would not expect any of their country boots to last more than six months. Did you also know that even certain Dubarry boots are no longer covered by the warranty if worn for equestrian use? These boots were not Dubarrys, but they did still cost £150. They have lasted four months and if you do the maths…even if they had been worn everyday this would be they have approximately 120 days use in them, so to make your boots last one year you must only wear them ten times a month, or 2.5 days a week. Brilliant.

These boots in particular have been advertised for use “horse riding, beating, shooting, dog walking and yard duties” they are also specifically said to offer “all day comfort”. Now how many times to you go to the yard in a day? How often are your dogs walked? And how often do you ride? More than twice a week I am sure!! Now I do all those activities and so if I had bought these boots say this month, I doubt they would even see me through to the new year.

I would say we need to start fighting out against boot companies who are making poor quality boots just because they have “equine” in the description. Yard boots have the incorrect ratio of carbon and rubber in the soles to ensure they do not last you very long. How else will the boot companies make their money? If you were to compare walking boots to yard boots which are under considerably more stress, not as regularly I agree but I would say they still cover the same amount of steps, how long do your walking boots last? Why is these boots which can quite often be cheaper and contain goretex last longer than yard boots?

I should add the boots in the picture are NOT the boots being discussed, it’s just a picture I found on Google.

Can I ride your horse?

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I have only been a horse owner for 18 months now, and the very first day my horse arrived I heard from many people I had not seen for years.

“I rode once in Spain” “I had lessons as a kid” “I’d love to learn to ride”.

Luckily I soon learnt that my first horse was certainly not a beginners horse, and the stories of adrenaline and terrifying situations managed to scared most people off. Then he went back to his owner and the new boy turned up.

Everyone is very aware that I have had a tremendous confidence knock. So it is fairly obvious that the new horse is to be a perfect gentleman. So what am I to tell these wannabe riders? I feel like many people simply see a way to ride a horse for free. But the fact is, If I have the time to babysit someone on my horse then I would rather use that time to ride him myself!

I have now started to tell people that my loan agreement states I am the only person who can ride him. So what then am I to say when I find out a friend of mine went to the yard without my knowledge and rode him into the yard bareback, with only a lead rope and head collar; completely alone.

I know Bill is a lovely boy and would never deliberately hurt a fly but at the end of the day he is still a horse. Anything could spook him and then what? Am I responsible? Sometimes I feel like people are so self absorbed they don’t think of the horse, or even the stress to the owner. I was quite upset to find out what she had done, not only did I feel like she had done it behind my back, I was worried In case something had happened or even if she was to go up there and do it again?

I know she can ride, and yes she has much more experience than I do but I have only had Bill for a month or so and I feel like I would like to establish a bond with him first. I do not think that is unreasonable. On top of this I do not like her style of riding, it tends to be a million miles an hour all over the place and it’s not the attitude I want bill to have.

Well rant over I suppose.

Not such a successful hack….

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So i had a minor melt down. On horse back in the middle of the road.

To know a bit more I’ll just give you a bit of background information. About three months ago i had my first major fall. My horse bolted, in the process he trod on his reigns, snapped them and left me clinging on with one stirrup at a full gallop; my first gallop i must add. Not knowing what else to do I took my remaining foot out the stirrup thought “don’t get dragged” and threw myself to the floor. A night in hospital, and a fairly major concussion later i found my confidence absolutely wrecked.

But back to the disastrous hack. I have been nervous about going out with the new horse and his field mate; a 17HH racehorse. My friend and i do everything together and i finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and just do it.

17HH vs 15.2HH obviously there is quite a difference in speed, even at a walk. So we came down the hill, the racehorse being the racehorse was messing about not wanting to go out, so Bill and I lead the way. Bill was getting more and more annoyed as Clive danced around in the track, i must add at this point that it is just this track the Clive hates; we still haven’t worked out why. So we got to the bottom, made it to the road and Clive decides everything is fine now we can go at our normal pace. So he takes off at his super fast racehorse walk, and Bill and i are left struggling to catch up. We make it about three minutes down the road, Clive is nearly fifty yards in front and I am fighting with Bill to stop him jogging of his own accord.

I have asked several people about this and once again I have ended up with a few different theories: The question: Should i let him trot to catch up if I have not told him to?

Answer one: No, you are in control, only trot if you want to trot. Hold him back and win no matter what you have to do.

Answer two: Yes, he is only trying to catch up, if you hold him back he may get stroppy.

Answer three: Sort of…Hold him back for a few seconds and then give the aid to trot. That way he knows you are still in control.

So we ended up fighting down the road and all of a sudden it becomes very flash backey, I felt completely out of control and ended up getting down. Not only to stop and breath, but to get him out of the way of the four cars that were queued behind us, but to also make it clear to my friend that i was not happy with what was happening. She should have held her horse back right?! Friends were running down the pavement yelling at her to stop and her response was “I can’t stop Clive won’t move off again”.

I still have not really decided what to do about it, i want to get comfortable knowing Bill will stop when i tell him to! I think i like option three the best. i have no objection to him trotting to catch up i just want to make sure i am the one in control!

Rear up or let go?

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Last night we had a minor disaster. As we were leading our horses into the yard someone next door – and i mean twenty feet away – starting letting fireworks off.

The horses of course panicked; i panicked! Me and my horse were basically blocking the way out, in a very narrow space after some inconsiderate parking by someone else. I therefore, when my horse started to get upset threw the lead rope over his ears and let him run. I knew all the gates out were shut, we have a very contained yard and the only gate open was the one to his field. My friend told me off for this, I have always been told it is safer for a horse to be able to run away, it lowers their adrenaline levels quicker, and at the end of the day; it is their natural reaction.

My friend clung on to hers, he of course reared up several times. Now in my mind she put herself in danger, yes she knew where her horse was but he was worked up for much longer than my own. Surely if the horse cannot get away the next instinct to kick in is to fight, and essentially fight what is holding him in place: you. So by holding him back, you get him more upset, which then means more rearing up, a high chance of him going over backwards, hurting his neck, head and back, and of course you hanging on to the end of the lead rope gets him more freaked out!

My horse ran to the safety of his field where he then relaxed and allowed me to catch him quickly and easily. My friends horse was bundled into a small stable where he paced round in circles skidding on the rubber matting and ramming the door.

During the few seconds it took for all of this to happen, i was also very aware that my horse and i were actually blocking the horses way out. He is 17HH: i’m not going to argue. If i had not let my horse go, and obviously followed him to make sure i knew where he was going i am pretty sure we would have got trampled if my friend let go of the lead rope. So obviously I am pretty glad she held on! But i did kind of think it would have been safer and easier to let him follow his field mate (once i was out of the way).

I am still unsure whether it is better to have horses in or out during fireworks. But i am fairly certain that having them in while fireworks explode over their stable when you could have them half a mile away in a 3 acre field is not clever.

Positive versus Negative

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I have an eleven month German Shorthaired Pointer: because the horse wasn’t enough work.

For her entire life i have always been pushed in the way of “positive reinforcement” and it is something i carried on with horses. I would like to know other people’s opinions on this one.

I have found, and i believe others have found it as well. That it has created a needed and difficult dog with severe separation anxiety. We had always had labradors up till now, and i am aware that much of it is a result of the breed. But our labradors were all trained gun dogs and we focused very much on discipline and setting boundaries. Our labs turned out to be balanced, independent dogs who did as they were told. Lovely. Why did i ever think to change this?

With my pointer I was told to reinforce good behaviour and ignore the bad, 11 months on and we are changing our techniques. I appreciate that she has hit adolescence with a big old bang, but nothing seems to be sinking in. She does the standard; sit, come, lie down, drop and paw. But there are many behavioural traits that have never gone away. She still jumps up, she nudges, nips and whines to get attention; and i mean all the time. We tried crate training her, and she still sleeps in there; but only if it is in our bedroom. This was my bad i know; i should never have let her in there in the first place. Now however if the crate is even an inch out that door she howls the place down; all night. And yes, we have tried it for weeks at a time. I mean all night. I even tried keeping her up all day after a night of howling and she still didn’t sleep! There is only so much a person can take.

She is a very happy dog, and i love to see her running, jumping and just generally loving life; but i think the time has come to get a lot firmer with her. I am not intending on beating her or shouting at her constantly but i think there are some inherent flaws in the positive reinforcement attitude. I hope to combine the negative and positive and perhaps fall somewhere around the “respect” mark. I have done a lot of research and one theory was that separation anxiety does from the dog not respecting you as leader of the pack. Essentially she does not think i can look after myself. I think this is a valid point, as she begins to get worked up the minute i go out of sight. I do not mean pining or howling, it is a full one: I am going to trash stuff until i can get to you. Could it also be spite?

We have now gone through two seat belts in the car. The first one was my own fault; I left her unattended in the car and yes she had never done it before but i should have seen it coming. I had at this point been clinging to the hope that should would get used to being on her own; or even with another dog, just away from me. She didn’t. One seatbelt down; time to put some dog bars up.

She now goes in the boot. Problem solved i thought, there are bars in the way so she cannot get to anything chewable…

This morning i discovered she had managed to squeeze her boney little head through the bars in order to chew the rear seatbelt. Time for an attitude change and a cage for the car.

So from now i intended to say “NO” when she squeaks or nips, i will ignore her barking at me and i will endeavour to ensure that she gets increasing amounts of alone time to get her used to it. Jumping up will be met with a forceful; but not aggressive push down and walk away. So we’ll how this works, i would say she already knows there has been a shift in attitude as she has already stopped squeaking at me this morning. She is still following me as far as she can to see where i go…but no destruction. Yet.

Today’s hack

Had a fantastic hack today. Bill was a little reluctant to leave his yard buddy but once we got out of sight, and once I got a little firmer with him he was fine.

I got down to check a shoe that was sounding a little loose, I took him to the village shop to mount of a bench and he ended up knocking all their flower pots off!! I will have to go in tomorrow and apologize!

This was only our third time out and it was blowing half a hurricane. We went passed flappy plastic bales and there was even someone shooting in the distance… He was absolutely perfect! Didn’t even flinch.

We even had a little trot behind my friend’s horse. Now I have not had chance to get to my big fall just yet, but I will say that for someone who had a bolt followed by a fall this was quite a nerve racking moment. But again, he knew his job and he was the perfect gentleman.

Came back buzzing I was so proud of the pair of us. We really are making a great partnership.

In the beginning

So I guess the beginning always is a very good place to start.

For some reason: still unknown to me, I decided to have a horse riding lesson. I had been on a horse once many many years ago and that had been a fleeting and terrifying experience. So who knows why the urge struck when it did.

I googled horse riding schools, found one nearby and phoned eagerly to book my first lesson. I was disappointed to find out that I would have to wait 2 weeks before I could start but I booked it all the same.

So two weeks later off I popped in my fake Jack Wills jodhpurs and my Hunter wellies, feeling as if I totally looked the part. They fitted me with a riding hat and found me a 16.3hh horse. Thinking back now that was a tad big, but I didn’t know any better back then so I blindly jumped on.

My riding instructor taught me the basics; walk, trot, canter, jump. And most importantly: stop. Any of you who have had riding lessons will know that at this level the horse listens more to the instructor than to the rider and preempts your every move. It’s a huge confidence boost. I soon got fed up with riding in circles and was disappointed to find out that they did not offer hacking. Feeling like I knew it all I decided I could handle anything. Back then I was completely oblivious to the dangers of horse riding and would have happily got on anything.

This was when the fateful internet struck again…”how much does it cost to keep a horse?” Yes, I did my research which is more than many people I know. I did the maths, and did the maths and then did it all again and I worked out that I could afford to keep one…but you never know just how much they will cost you. But more on that at a later date.

So I found a horse, on loan…a 16.3 thoroughbred.
Oh how naive I was!

His name was Percy, he had done nothing but hunt his whole life and the owner was more than happy to deliver. I rode home twice before I decided on him. Knowing what I know now; I never would have got on him! I blindly hopped on without even asking the owner to ride him first. My friend was provided with another horse and off we went on a hack, in the middle of the country where we knew no one. I felt comfortable on him but I suppose i did not really know what I was looking for…

The Novice Rider

Hi!
I started horse riding with a few lessons back in February 2013. Almost two years on, a lot has changed and I have completely changed my style of riding.

Being a total novice, and coming into things considerably later than many riders out there I have been able to sit back and take a look at the many different schools of thought out there. This blog is about my journey from first getting on a horse, to getting my first horse on loan, to then falling off-quite spectacularly I must add, to giving that horse back and then to being presented with a new loan horse which I have now had for about three weeks.

In my attempt to improve my riding style I have done loads of research, to always find a selection of attitudes to one single problem. In this blog I hope to experiment with these different schools of thought to perhaps create a compromise.

We will of course being having plenty of horsey shenanigans along the way and all names and places have been changed to protect the innocent!

I hope you enjoy reading as much as we enjoy writing!