It’s amazing to think that there only two days left of theBlogtober Challenge. When I started this I didn’t keep it up, but although I’ve been a little bit late with one or two posts, 29 days in I have n’t missed one yet. Today’s prompt is to talk about discipline that you would quite like to try. Hmm, that’s interesting. There are two things I have never done, that I’ve always really fancied having a go at. One is side saddle, and the other is western riding. Yeh, I know, hardly similar.. I actually know somebody who rides side saddle, not only does she show, but she also occasionally hunts side saddle! I think the western riding thing comes from my childhood, watching Cowboy and Indian films, as well as champion the wonder horse. It always looks so effortless to me, i’d love to be able to ride like that.
Nobody knows where my love of horses comes from. My Dad sometimes jokes that my first word was horse. It must be somewhere in my DNA though; I have a cousin who is equally horse obsessed. My cousin had a pony, and became an AI. She is a lot older than me, and grew up in Staffordshire, a long way from me in Devon. However, hand-me-down toys and books used to feed my enthusiasm. My cousins mum, and my mum, were the youngest daughters of a man called Harry Wakley. I hardly knew my grandad,as he died when I was very young, but I have been led to believe, that when he was a young man, he used to ride point to point. I have also heard a family rumour that he was in some way related to Richard Wakley, the jockey and racing pundit. I will never know if these things are true, but if they are, perhaps my DNA theory isn’t as daft as it sounds.
As a child, if toys, books and games didn’t involve horses, or possibly dogs, quite frankly I wasn’t interested. I read every book that the Pullien-Thompson sisters wrote, I practically new black beauty word for word, Learned about Australia through the eyes of the Silver Brumby, rode the range with My Friend Flicka, and read every pony care book I could lay my hands on, even before my parents gave up and let me start having riding lessons. I watched champion the wonder horse, Folly Foot, White Horses, Horses Galore, Horse In the House, and the adventures of Black Beauty. I would watch any western, be glued to the racing, and when I was 10 I wrote a letter of “complaintment” to the BBC because they kept putting showjumping on after I had to go to bed. Every Birthday, and every Christmas, I would ask for a pony. I never got one though. I did always get the black beauty Annual, The Follifoot Annual, and the Princess Tina pony book (I have absolutely no idea who princess Tina was)..
Growing up in the hinterland between the city of Plymouth and Dartmoor there were a lot of horses around. There were always moorland ponies, no designated the Dartmoor hill pony, and I used to dream about taming one to be my own personal playmate. However a boy in my class at primary school got kicked by one, and broke his leg, so I decided to give them a slightly wider birth from then on. Lots of people in our area had horses and ponies, and I would go running enthusiastically to stand on the back fence to watch them go by every time I heard the clip clop of hooves, dreaming that one day it would be me riding past on my own horse.
Of course there were people who I was very very impressed bye. Caroline Bradley, John Whitaker. Virginia Holgate (later Leng), Mark Todd; but it was the horses I was more influenced bye. Tigre with his unusual high tail carriage, Ryan’s Son, Priceless, Charisma. Later I became influenced more by people who advocated different ways of handling horses, such as Monty Roberts, pat Pirelli, and Mark Rashid.
Today I draw my inspirationfrom people who I admire on a personal level. My friend Amy who handles horses so quietly and confidently, and who never seems to get in a flap. Are riding instructor Melissa, Who can find the positive in every situation. Young Ben whose enthusiasm and can do attitude, remind me what it was like to be 11. Hal, Who always seems to manage stay calm when the chips are down, and who is not afraid to put me in my place when he thinks I am being unfair to the horses. Florence, Who, every time I sit on her back, makes me feel like I could take on the world.
Today’sBlogtober Challenge prompt is to say a little bit about ourselves. It will come as a surprise to some, but I’m not actually very good at blowing my own trumpet. I’m actually quite shy, and despite some of the things I’ve done in recent years, i’m quite uncomfortable when it comes to being in the spotlight. Although I am a lot more confident now, right through from childhood until my 30s I was never comfortable if I felt that people were looking at me, or judging me. No I’ve hit my 50s, and have since been through quite a lot in life, if people want to look, Who am I to stop them?
Because I have a tendency to go off rambling I have decided to do this as if I was interviewing myself. So here goes.
Where were you born? I was born in Plymouth, Devon, UK.
Are you from a horsey background? No. My dad was in the Navy, and my mum worked in a newsagents in tobacconist before having my brother. We are not from a wealthy background.
What is your first horsey memory? Hmm, this is a difficult one. I do know that one of my cousins had a pony, but she lived in Staffordshire so I can have only ever seen it once. Growing up on the outskirts of Plymouth it was only a few miles to the edges of Dartmoor, and the wild maul and ponies seem to have always featured in my consciousness. The first time I remember sitting on a pony for any length of time was on the beach at Burnham on C when we were on holiday there.
When did you start learning to ride? When I was nine years old I started having weekly lessons at a local riding school
when did you get your first horse? When I was 21. I got my first job in the May, and bought my first horse in the December. He was a totally unsuitable horse for a nervous, visually impaired, novice, but I had to have him. He was a three-year-old skewbald heavyweight cob called jigsaw. I only had him for four months, and sold him to the riding school I kept him on livery . He stayed in the local area for the rest of his life, turning out to be an excellent pony club and hunting horse, he lived well into his 30s.
Do you own horses now? Yes. I have owned many horses over the years, and we currently have two cobs, Florence Who is a 15.2 heavyweight piebald traditional gypsy cob, and Breeze Who actually belongs to my husband, and is a 14.2 black traditional cob mare.
What do you do with your horses? Mostly I hack, but I enjoy having lessons, and do very occasionally take part in showing, very alone level unaffiliated dressage, and horse agility. Are used to enjoy taking part in pleasure rides, but as my eyesight has deteriorated this is no longer a straightforward as it used to be. This year I intended to take part in some online dressage competitions, but unfortunately a lot has happened away from the horses this year to prevent me from so doing.
Do you work in the equine industry? I wish! When I was a child and in my teens I wanted to be a riding instructor, but unfortunately this career path was not open to little girls who were going to go blind. Over the years I have been a civil servant and a police civilian, both careers which pay extremely well, but are mind numbingly boring. About 10 years ago I left full-time employment and went back into education, retraining as a masseuse and complementary therapist. I gained a degree in complementary health studies, as well as several qualifications in a variety of therapies. I now run a small therapies practice from home.
What do you enjoy doing other than riding horses? I am a prolific reader, I enjoy being out in the countryside, walking and I ride Stoker on the tandem. I’m interested in history, myth and legend. I like learning new things, and did start studying psychology with the open University. However, I stopped working towards my psychology degree when I put myself forward to be a research participant for a clinical trial of an electronic subretinal implant. Three years ago I took part in research project, and as a result I’ve been filmed for television and interviewed for radio and newspapers. I also do fundraising and campaigning work for Guide Dogs -.. i’m a bit of a rock chick love listening to music, although I can’t remember the last time I went to a gig.
If you could have one luxury what would it be? A cleaner. I’d much rather be outside enjoying life than stuck indoors doing housework
Worst habit? I swear too much. Wow this is really difficult!
Today’s blogtober challenge topic is about what advice you would give to new owner. I’m always worried that I get a little bit preachy when I do things like this, but here goes.
Even before you become an owner, and if you only take notice of one thing I ever write, please let it be this. nEVER Buy a horse with out having it vetted first. If you want to know why not, I invite you to read back through my blog posts over the last 2 to years, and hear Leonie’s story. She is the only horse that I have bought without a prepurchase vet check.
. Our hearts will never be completely mended.
Next. Be mindful of the fact that being bought and sold is extremely traumatic for a horse. They do not have human understanding of what is happening to them, and will go into survival mode on arriving at A new home. This means that, whilst a horse maygenuinely be advertised as being one thing, it may well appear to be a very different creature on arrival as it’s new home. It takes time for a horse to settle into a new home, routine, and environment. As a result he can take a long time for relationship between a new course and its new owner to develop.
Finally remember it’s supposed to be fun. Don’t be bullied into doing things that you are not comfortable doing. This is your horse, your money is being spent, and it is your dream that is hopefully being fulfilled. As long as you are looking after your horse properly, and treating him fairly, it’s nobody else’s business how often you ride, how high youjump, what make of jodhpurs you wear.
Below is the post I wrote on 25th October last year. What a contrast! We had just lost my little Section D , Sapphire, who had been with us for 13 years. Sadly we lost Leonie, who was only 8, this March.
Things have been pretty quiet around here since Sapphire left us. At first Leomie, Florence, and Breeze were very subdued, and stayed unnaturally close to each other. One horse, three heads! Kowever, things are pretty much back to normal now. There is a little bit of a power struggle going on between Leo and Breeze over who takes over the lead of the herd. It’s all academic though. The job belongs to Breeze.
Hal has been keeping himself extremely busy repairing and reinforcing the stables. Sadly, two years after having them built, it is evident that our so called Stable Stables are actually anything but. Yes, my lovely little Welsh girl was quite destructive, but really! Last Tuesday I scrubbed out with disinfectant, and then Hal jet washed, the three actual stables, and then bedded them down for winter. Leomie has now moved out of the tack room and into Sapphire’s box, and with bedding and hay In the barn, and rugs washed and proofed, we are winter ready.
Just as well really, because the weather has been appalling. Last year I brought them In overnight on 15th November, or thereabouts, and considered that early. They are already in this year!
My dislike, well, total terror, of strong wind is no secret. So you can imagine how I felt when I heard Hurricane Ophelia was heading straight for us. HURRICANE!!! Everybody talks about the Great Storm of 1987. Weather Man Micheal Fish’s fated words, “No madam, there is not going to be a hurricane”, thousands of fallen trees, structural damage, lives lost. However, I don’t remember it being that bad in Plymouth. What I remover, and what I think is significantly responsible for my wind phobia, is what happened in January 1990. It happened to be the day that I advertised my then, second, and totally unsuitable horse, Oliver Twist, for sale. Bad timing. Believe me, nobody in Devon and Cornwall was reading horse ads that day. My memory starts with standing with a group of colleagues, in a 1st floor room of a four story office building, with my eyes out on stalks and my heart racing as the metal framed windows bowed inwards, and my companions described the roof tiles flying off the houses opposite and the street lights being bent like rubber. We had just been told not to leave the building because the cars were being blown round the car park, the cladding was falling off the building, and the flat roof was peeling back like the lid off a tin. I have never been so scared! That wasn’t the end of it though. When, the next day, I managed to get to the little Riding school where I kept Oliver on full livery, it was to discover that one of the stable blocks, a 5 box wooden unit, not unlike our stables here at Albert’s Bungalow, had been lifted clean off it’s concrete base and deposited 20 foot back behind where it had been. It was pure luck that there were no horses in any of the stables at the time. They had been turned away for a weeks winter break. My blood still runs cold when I think about what might have happened otherwise. I think some people think that I am weird, cruel, or stupid, when I keep my horses turned out during extremely windy weather. I think they would have a different opinion they had seen that stable block as I did on that day. None of the usual resident horses would have survived if they had been shut in.
As it happened, Ophelia, down graded to an X hurricane, changed her course slightly, and did most of her damage over Ireland. Yes it was windy, but we have definitely had worse. What was incredibly strange though was how Hot it became on Monday, and how strongly everything smelt of smoke. The Internet and social media Full of colour of the Sun & sky. Of course I couldn’t see this, and when I asked Hal, Who had been working on the stables all day, about it, he said he hadn’t noticed.
Feeling very relieved that we had got a way with Ophelia so lightly, imagine how I felt when I learnt that storm Brian was coming straight at us! Not even a week in between! As Brian was forecast to be bringing a lot of rain with him, Hal persuaded me to bring the girls in. Mow, it just so happens that that over the summer we have been trying to teach the horses to bring themselves in. Breeze Has obviously done this before, and Florence is getting that idea, but Sapphire and Leomie never really got idea, and would go off in all directions. On Friday afternoon, with Brian already beginning to make his presence known, and the way out of the paddock but the horses were in almost impassable, Hal suggested he let the horses out to bring their own way up to the stables. All I heard was the thundering hooves, and thought to myself that they were coming up rather sharpish. What was actually happening though, was that while Breeze and Flo were slowly working their way up to the yard, stopping every now and then to craft a mouthful of grass, Leo, God love her, had The wind well and truly under her tail, and was galloping around in excited circles, bulking and kicking like an idiot. On one of these circuits, she managed to side swipe Hal, and catch him with her back feet as she bucked. He ended up sitting in one of the water troughs, on the other side of the fence. Luckily, although he is extremely sore, and has some lovely bruises, he has not been seriously hurt. This could have been so much more serious. We won’t be doing that again in a hurry.
As it happens, Brian seemed to be much worse than Ophelia. The wind was much stronger, and oh boy did it rain! The horses seem to be quite content in the stables. Both oh philia and Brian, came from the south, so we were relatively sheltered in both cases. I read on the Internet yesterday, that we are expected to have another 11 storms that are strong enough to be named over autumn and winter here in the UK. Another 11! We’ve already had two and it’s not even the end of October yet.
It’s going to be a long winter
It’s been one of those days. Nothing has gone exactly as it should. Well, to be honest, it’s been two of those days. Yesterday wasn’t much better. . My Dad is staying with us for a few days. So yesterday we all piled into the car to take the dogsfor a run on the beach, and… nothing! The car battery was completely dead.
Today, despite having nothing In my appointment Callemder, I was absolutely convinced that I had a client, at 10:30. I also have the vet coming to the horses between one and two this afternoon. So having dispatched Dad and Hal to sort the car out, and set my treatment room up, I sat and waited – and waited… no client! For this particular person, not showing up without telling me beforehand is out of the question. She is very reliable. Worried in case something bad happened, I rang her. Turns out she wasn’t booked in with me at all – sigh.
By 5 to 2 this afternoon, when the vet hasn’t yet turned up, I was really beginning to doubt myself. When she drove in at exactly 2 o’clock I could have kissed her! I will post later about her reason for coming, but rest of shored it’s nothing serious..
Over a late lunch, I checked through social media. Noticing that hat some comments on yesterday’s post. I went to approve one of them, but accidentally hit the wrong button. It disappeared off the face of the Earth. Sorry Ruby Pepper Butchers.
So then we went off to the beach again. Guess what? The tide was in – no beach!
You know that saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Wise council indeed. but I’d like to propose an equally true mantra.
If it doesn’t feel right, it probably ain’t.
Listen to your inner voice, not the paranoid chimp that tries to bring you down at the slightest excuse, but that quieter voice which is more aligned with your gut. .
If all is not good with you, or your horse is not them self, if you just have that feeling something isn’t quite right, trust your gut, it’s usually right. Likewise, if you’ve have planned to do something specific with your horse, but your gut is telling you not to, do something else. If it doesn’t feel right g don’t force it. It’s supposed to be fun after all.
Today’s Blogtober Challenge prompt is motivation. What motivates me? Hmm , that’s a tricky one. I have absolutely no idea what originally motivated my Love of horses. I am not from a horsey background, and whilst my dad did used to handle farm horses, back during the war when he was in his teens, my mum was always absolutely terrified of them. It must be somewhere in my DNA though, as there is something in the equine soul that reaches into the very deepest depths of mine.
It’s all about the Horse for me. Yes I enjoy riding, and I do enjoy Learning and having lessons. I do occasionally take part in very low level competition, showing and dressage mostly. To be perfectly honest though, I find it all a little bit stressful.
What really motivates me is to build a great relationship with my horses, and to give them the best life possible. Without wishing to sound big headed, I get a massibve buzz when a professional visiting my yardd for what ever reason, comment favourably about my horses behaviour, attitude, condition, or management. My biggest motivation though, is when they wicker or call to me , just because I’ve walked through the top gate, and proactively come to greet me as I approach the paddock. I must be doing something right.
Hacking out is one of my favourite things, and I am always shocked when I meet people who say they do not enjoy it. Haven’t they missed the point of what horse riding is all about? How many times do you hear the expression “Happy Hacker” used to describe either horse or rider, as a derisive term? Oh, she’s just a happy hacker, she won’t know. He’s only good enough for hacking. This horse is too good to be wasted as a hack.
I very much beg your pardon!
You see I think that, in order for horse or rider to be a safe, confident, competent hack, they need to have a vast array of attributes and skills, many of which can be directly transferred into the competition or hunting fields. it’s not about sitting there like a sack of spuds, holding onto the buckle end of the rains, whilst your horse plods round like an automaton.oK, your horse doesn’t have to be on the bit all the time, but she does have to be responsive to hand, leg and voice; and whilst you don’t have to have the skills to do an Olympic standard dressage test, you do have to be able to control and manoeuver your horse in all sorts of circumstances.. 2 legged or 4 legged, a truly happy hacker needs to be resourceful, adaptable, quick thinking, independent and brave, with plenty of Old fashioned horse sense.
I was very lucky as a child, I grew up where Plymouth met Dartmoor. You didn’t have to travel too far in One Direction to be by the sea, and it was really only a short trip up the lane from our house and you were on open moorland. When I first started having riding lessons, at the age of nine, I very rarely rode in a school. My lessons took place on the Moor. At first on the lead rain, and always with a fully qualified instructor, but usually on the Moor, occasionally around the lanes, but hardly ever in the school. On my first ever riding lesson, we were indeed take into the school, and taught some basic skills, how to hold the reins, how to adjust the girth from the saddle, how to adjust our stirrups from the saddle, and how to fall off. I didn’t have another formal lesson in the school until I was about 14. Admittedly I’ve never been the most stylish of riders, but these early lessons taught me more than how to make a pony walk ,trot ,canter ,turn ,and stop. From the earliest I learnt that ponies are unpredictable, they will react to different situations in different ways, and are affected by their surroundings as much as we are. Without realising it I learnt to judge ground conditions, to be aware of my surroundings and what was going on around me, and toThink ahead and anticipate how my pony might react to something, and take evasive action if necessary. I learnt safe practice, and how to behave around , and how to be respectful of and considerate towards others whilst riding. Opening and shutting gates from horseback became second nature to me, and I learnt the basics of Road safety where horses are concerned. I also learned how to stay on, after all, it can be a long walk home after a fall, especially when your pony has legged it back to the yard without you.
I was absolutely horrified the other day, when I learnt that many riding schools, do not allow children to hack out off the lead rain until they are 14. Words fail me! Apparently this is due to constraints on their insurance policies. How is anybody supposed to learn? Real horsemanship isn’t only about being in the manège, It’s also about horse and rider in partnership enjoying the freedom of the countryside. It seems to me that, children like I was, Who did not come from a horsey family, are being excluded from The very real positive benefits of horseriding. It could even be said that they are being discriminated against, on the grounds of insurance and health and safety. That’s not only bad for children, but it’s bad for the future of horse riding. Total stupidity!
I think one of the real reasons why so many people dislike hacking out, is the increasing necessity to deal with traffic. Roads are becoming busier, drivers are becoming more impatient, horses are seen as a nuisance, but off road riding and decent bridleways, seem to be coming less and less accessible. The area where I currently live is a prime example. This is a small , isolated , rural community, we are basically 10 miles from anywhere. The village is surrounded by farmland, and the nearest A road is 5 miles away. There are a great many horses in this area, but there is absolutely no off-road riding! Well to be honest, there is one bridlepath. It’s about a mile and a half from here to its nearest end, it’s quite long, and goes from a to be. So if you want to use it, you either have to do A there and back route, which for me would in tail 3 miles roadwork, or a very long, several hours, Circular route, with at least 5 miles of road work in it. Now admittedly, compared to some, these are not busy roads, but they are narrow and frequented with large agricultural machinery, and huge lorries. Now to be perfectly honest, possibly because I always hack out with somebody walking on foot, I find the majority of these drivers to be patient and courteous at all times. I rarely have a problem with traffic. That isn’t everyone’s experience though sadly. Riding on the road when it’s busy is hardly relaxing. I love living in the village, and having my own land and yard is a blessing I thought would never happen, but I really miss being on the Moor, and the availability of so much accessible off road riding. Personally I think some of the landowners around here are missing a trick. I would gladly pay to be able to ride on their land. In the meantime though, whilst I’m lucky enough to have my own school, I will still be hacking out around the lanes on a regular basis. Not because my horse and I are less capable, but because both my horse and I enjoy it.
Gone 2, Oh My Word! What is wrong with Breeze today? She’s behaving like some idiot Thoroughbred, not a sweet little elderly Cob. Florence is a bit wound up too. Granted, Breeze is quite an anxious soul, but things have hit a whole new level today.
Things seemed perfectly normal when I went down to check them first thing. Yes, they were both all over me like a rash, but this is not necessarily unusual behaviour. It was another one of those lovely silent mornings, just me the horses and a solitary owl in the whole wide world. It was a bit cool and clammy, foggy in fact, which is something that doesn’t really exist in my world, but there didn’t seem to be anything unusual going on. So what had changed by 11 o’clock this morning when we came to catch them in?
There was nothing untoward going on whilst sorting the stables out. So perhaps it was my fault for asking Hal and Ben to catch them in by themselves, while I went back to the house to use the loo. Whatever it was, by the time I got back down to the yard all hell had broken loose. Florence was dripping with sweat, and Breeze was behaving like a complete tit. Apparently Breeze had gone into one while Ben was leading her up. Then Florence decides to play silly buggers when Hal tried to get her in quick so he could take over from Ben. I had planned to hack out with Helen, Benz mum, this afternoon, and the idea was that Ben and I would get the horses clean and ready to tack up, while Hal worked with Steve, Who was coming to do more tree pruning. Yeah right. We couldn’t groom either of the horses, Florence was absolutely dripping, and Breeze was barging and stamping all over the place. Every time somebody opened her stable door she would try to barge out through them. I tied her up outside with a hey net, as she much prefers this, but no, that wasn’t good enough either. We gave up and put the kettle on at this point as I didn’t want Ben getting squashed
Steve didn’t get to us until, which cramped our style somewhat. So while he and Hal tackled the Blackthorn, I tackled the grooming. Florence was a bit shamefaced at her earlier behaviour. However, although not being so silly and rude, Breeze was still very much on high alert. So, as time was marching on Helen took Madam into the school, and they did some really nice work.
It’s on days like this that I wish I could speak fluent horse.