Friday, 26 December 2014

Merry Christmas, the rocky start...

Merry Christmas everyone!

We made it out for our Christmas day ride yesterday, after a rocky start at the yard. Rio has been a beautiful field ornament for a week and a half so a good blast was in order to blow away those cobwebs. However, when I went to lead him around the barn to go onto the trailer, and he spooked and fell over, that wasn't the first thought on my mind. Luckily he had his cooler on, so whilst he did scuff a chunk of hair off his left knee, the main damage was to his cooler rug... He now has armpit ventilation! 

He was a bit of a sod to load, having freaked himself out, but after walking a few circuits of the car park, he chilled out and off we went. True to form and living up to expectations, he was super fresh, and we had a bouncy, joggy walk down the track. We had walking and trying to sneak trot strides in, trotting and dropping in canter strides, and cantering with gallop thrown in for good measure! We hopped puddles and dips in the track, yelled ahead for Sarah and Franks to hang on a sec (little did I realise that we were in fact going so fast, we'd already made it to the end of the track, and they were then pulling up anyway!) 

Franks was being such a good boy that we even got to take lead file for a bit, so that Rio could practice his bravery. We went up the super steep hill, where much to my amusement, we launched up and over the crest, and had a lovely canter after that, and then we went out for a trot back towards the trailer on the stubble field. Inevitably, that turned into a canter, which was not so bad until Rio tried to drop his head! Little bugger. I brought him back, and we had a great trot along the grass track, and walked down the hill. Rio was still up for it, so we decided to turn them around and have one last blast! 

Rio went nuts for it, and I had my first "ohmigosh" canter moment. We went hard up the hill, and as we levelled out, Rio's bottom tucked in, his back came up, and we had the perfect canter and I felt on top of the world. (I didn't realise this until afterwards when I explained the sensation to Sarah). He was still up for it, he's obviously feeling much better for having his clip and not being a sweaty blob! When we went to go back down the hill again, he decided that walking was not an option, and much to my horror we trotted pretty much the whole way down. EEK. We survived though! I would like to say that I did stay rather calm (surprisingly).

We even found the Christmas Star on our travels! All in all, I was super pleased that I bit the bullet and took him out despite my concerns. If I can do that after a week and a half of him doing nothing, and come out of it smiling - darn it, I can do anything! Rio enjoyed a special Christmas dinner after working hard. Two parsnips, two carrots and an apple with his usual feed. Yum yum. 

So this afternoon, we did. I tacked him up and we went out around the village on our own. It was rather bumpy. I'm not sure if Rio was trying out Piaffe, but aside from some nice walking down one of the roads, it was certainly not the smoothest ride we've had. We made it though! I was a bit naughty, and forgot to put his sports boots on, which I regretted when I realised after we did the scopiest trot I've had from him on the way back (on the road...) I was hoping it would settle him a bit. We covered the ground faster than I've ever known him to. 

I'm not sure if I'd mentioned the lumpy bump and its prognosis from the second (better) vet when Rio had his jabs. It is a splint, so now it's just a case of looking after it (wearing boots. Please!) and monitoring it. On the downside - it's close to his knee, so I just hope that it's not going to interfere in his later years. Also - a footnote on his clip - it's really not so great now it's growing out a bit again. There are lines everywhere, so that's definitely something I'm going to have to work on for next time... I did get show trimmers for Christmas though, so we will be clipping away at those! 

I'm hoping to get chance to ride tomorrow afternoon, but it all depends on this horrible rainy weather - it sounds awful out there at the moment. Me and hubster are away for a few days after tomorrow night to have a break, so Rio will be mooching around until new year's day when hopefully the fun recommences. Bless his little patchwork rug. He's got a couple of friends at the yard looking out for him whilst I'm away, I'm just hoping the weather isn't too horrible so his rug doesn't end up soaked through! 

Ride / play safe x

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas Clip

Winter is a bit poo at the moment. We've really done not much at all these last couple of weeks. Rio is going to be super fizzy by the time I get to ride on Christmas morning, so that could be interesting... 

We went out for a ride with Sarah and Franks last Saturday, and he came back super soggy with sweaty armpits and all. He had his first proper plait in his tail by me! Anywho, his sweatiness meant that my decision to have a bash at clipping came around sooner than planned. On Sunday afternoon, against the fading daylight, I took arms with my friend's clippers for the first time. 

You can clearly tell the difference between the first and second side I did, but I'm mainly pleased. Rio did have sedation in the form of paste, but given the fading light, I only gave it 20 minutes at most before I went in for the clip. He didn't seem to take much effect from it, so next time we'll be trying to go it alone! He was a super good boy, until the last 10-15 minutes when he was obviously bored, and did walk through Sarah a couple of times to prove his point. 

I had to finish clipping his face and tidied up a few missed bits when we had the vet visit on Tuesday, as it was dusky when we finished and he'd behaved well. Still can't believe how dark he is under all that hair!

So he had his yearly injection, his 6 monthly dental check and rasp, and also had his microchip when the vet visited. He was such a little gem, fidgeting a little with the rasping, but was otherwise completely compliant. This weekend, he's been out of work as I haven't been about - Saturday was a day of resting after a night out on the town, and today we have been at the zoo with the family!

Ride / play safe x

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Box training

This week we have kick started box training with a vengeance! After a stressy visit in his own stable on the one day we did last week, I've done three evenings working on getting Rio more comfortable in his surroundings. 

Control scenario:
Hesitant to walk into barn, coaxed in
Eats two mouthfuls of food, with stable door closed, then stresses
Encourage rest of food be eaten
Two sloppy stress poos
A lot of fidgeting, barges and won't stand still for any length of time
Stands at door, backs up and starts sizing up to jump the door twice
When leading out, anxious but does stand when asked at exit of stable & barn

Hesitant to walk into barn, but walks himself in after a moment
Investigates a few of the stables along the way
Eats food more happily, still looking around - stable door left open
No poos
Fidgeting, barges, but stands still for a few seconds with encouragement
When leading out, stands nicely when asked at the exit of stable & barn
Three attempts - mostly successful

Stubborn walking into barn
Another horse is present tonight in the stable diagonally opposite
Eats food, with a few glances around - stable door left open
Fidgeting, barging to get out of stable to see other horse several times
Backs up when asked, on one occasion backing up three horse lengths
Snatches one mouthful of hay from haynet at back of stable
One regular poo
When leading out, stands nicely when asked at exit of stable & barn
Two attempts - partly successful. Much more barging through stable exit

Walked into barn after sniffing the entrance for approx 20 seconds
Walks himself into stable behind me without hesitation
Eats food, with a few glances around - stable door left open
Fidgets, barging out of stable, less frequently than yesterday
Stands for 20-30 seconds after being very testing and barging out of stable to barn exit
In this instance, raising my voice to establish control worked well
No poos
When leading out, for most part, stands nicely at exit of stable & barn
Four attempts - one awful (the runner!), the others mostly successful

It sounds crazy to reference poos, but Rio does poo a lot when stressed, so for me, this is a perfect indicator of his insecurities. I decided to keep the stable door open so that he can see that he's not there as a punishment, and that it doesn't have to be a scary place to be. With the door open, I'm hoping that soon he will realise it's easier to simply stay inside his stable, where he can enjoy dinner and hay, and then we can start moving on to closing it! The only thing I wish is that I had somewhere to put my two storage trunks - there's still plenty of room with them both in there, but he did manage to belt the one closest to the door into the second one last night with a hind leg when he swung around. No damage to him or the box, but it would be one less thing to worry about.

Anyway, after last night's rather more stressful learning curve, when I turned him out, Rio and I had a little play at liberty in the field. It's something I've not really done for a while, and I really don't know why. I stood quietly at the barn for a couple of minutes before walking him down last night, in order to let me re-collect, and not let my frustrations get the better of me. Playing at liberty, I totally forgot those frustrations and really enjoyed my boy. He's just such a sweetheart. We walked, trotted, and I even goaded him into some lovely bouncy canter in the darkness, and we had lots of cuddles. We actually did a few steps backwards, with just a light tap on his chest as a cue!

This evening, he had the night off from box training, and had his dinner in the safety of his paddock. Once again, we played at liberty for a while; the highlight being me jumping sideways to the left and right whilst he faced me, and him mirroring me. I love his Welshy ways! This has just made me more determined that Winter will not ruin my time with him. He never ceases to amaze me, and he lifts the darkest of moods in minutes. 

Ride / play safe x

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Fizz and fun

Well it was all go this week, all horses have now been moved over to the winter grazing, we had lots of rain and the river broke the banks that night! At least we beat it this time, not like back in June. Other than that, Rio has pretty much spent the week being a field ornament. Boy, did he have something to say about that yesterday. 

I had planned on schooling (braving the scary outdoor grass arena) before going with Millie to try hacking out her new potential horse. As it turns out, Sarah pulled up as I was tacking up so she went and got Franks and we went for a ride out around the village. Neither of them were settled, they both wanted to be in front, or jogging, and on the way back onto the field, Rio decided to try a little bronc/buck thing, so we made them walk back the long way around! Cheeky little thing. Franks decided it looked like fun and tried it on too - cue visions of hurtling across the field - but we both sat firm and told them off and they managed to walk back to the yard with no further argument. Boy was I glad I didn't try schooling - I think he'd have been a total nightmare. 

 So Millie's hack got cancelled, which meant my day was free. Luckily Sarah was heading over to help finish her friend's menage, and I decided to go and help out. 3.6 tonnes of fibre topping, and almost 6 hours later, the five of us had successfully broken up and spread the surface ready for soaking, rolling and riding today! 

At around 300kg per bale of this stuff, it was heavy going getting each one into the arena ready to be opened and spread. I can certainly feel it today, I have Hulk shoulder on the right side! I wasn't about to let that stop me riding it today though.
I kept Sarah company this morning when she went to pick up Millie's new boy, a lovely boy the same age as Rio, a Connie x TB. Once we were back at the yard, we awaited confirmation that the school would be ready to ride on today, and dashed off to get the boys in, and loaded up in the trailer when we received it. After clearing the wooden track that was in place by the entrance, we got to tack up and set foot in the arena for the first time! 

After the fun ride yesterday, neither me nor Sarah expected much productivity from today. I was so pleased with the work we managed. We played follow the leader for a bit, and after some walking and a bit of trotting, I slowly pulled Rio up and we went it alone for a few laps. We took up following again and tried a canter, which was mildly successful - following Franks and Sarah - other than Rio's sharp cornering in order to keep up around the circle. After that, we went our seperate ways and I was pleasantly surprised with how he got on. He wasn't so keen on the far end of the school (as usual) but did better than expected considering I hadn't taken in a schooling whip to touch on his shoulder. Most excitingly, we cantered solo, and managed almost a whole circle on the left rein, and even better - two whole circles AND up the long side on the right rein, before I brought him back to trot! A momentary flash in my mind of future canter exercises in schooling made it all worthwhile. Unfortunately, he was pretty sweaty after not much time at all, so lucky for me, he needs clipping again already. I think I may be giving it a go myself this time though, with a borrowed set of clippers, as no way can I afford that at the moment! 

25 sleeps to Christmas! 

Ride/play safe x

Saturday, 22 November 2014


Any tips on keeping your blog active? I think I need to pre-plan some posts! I am more frustrated for future me as I will be reading this blog back in years to come, and there will be so many blanks and gaps! 

Guinea piggies are settling in well, and MJ seems to think they are her pets. She sits for hours watching them both outside and inside. 

On Thursday, it was mine and Rio's Horsiversary. I can't believe how much has happened in just 12 months, and I can't wait to see what the next 12 months hold in store. 

Then and now. He does need his legs clipping out again. I have decided he will probably remain clipped year round (if I can afford to do so...) I love the picture I got of him on Thursday sticking his tongue out - such a cheeky chappy. 

Rio is having turnout in the back part of his field as of today, as we will probably be moving over to the Winter grazing very soon. I went down to move him back into the front of his field this evening, and after a few minutes of coaxing him from a distance, he made his way back through the open gate. Sadly he decided he wanted to make a dash for it when I went to close the gate, so I had to retrieve him a second time with his headcollar. He came through with no issues though, and he was a sweetheart standing with me for some cuddles before I left him for the night. 

We spent a little while one evening this week exploring the barn - his stable is in the depths of the barn, so we've been using the end stable by the door to practice walking in and not freaking out. He managed to walk into the stable twice, without pooing (he usually stress-poos) and didn't just rush straight out again. Today, after our hack out around the village, I hopped off, and as usual took his saddle off and left him to it for a minute. He actually took himself into the barn; what's more, he didn't turn around at the spot he froze at during the week, and happily let me lead him out through the other end of the barn. 

OH! Rio had his first session of physio on Thursday too. He is in good shape, had a couple of locked ribs which have been put back, and is ever so slightly tight through his left shoulder. However, Claire said that he was doing very well, and was lovely and loose through his back, hips and pelvis, and is doing well for his age. I was super chuffed with how well he behaved as well, as it can be a bit confusing what he's being asked! This all took place after I found a lump on his leg on Monday evening. He's got what the vet suspects is tissue growth following a knock in the field. I was worried at first that he'd popped a splint, but there's no swelling or heat, and he's not lame at all. As it goes, it does seem to be going down already, so it's just a case of monitoring it. 

Ride / play safe x

Friday, 7 November 2014

Winter Blues and some news

Oops time is flying by far too fast at the moment, can't believe I've not blogged in almost 3 weeks! There's not much exciting to report as we've not been doing any riding during the week. Rio is a field ornament in the week, and coming out for rides on the weekend. We had a great trip out in the box on Saturday last week, to a new spot I'd not been to before. There were BRIDLEWAYS! We never see bridleways where we are, so this is such a novelty you wouldn't even understand. 

Rio is enjoying working his way through the long grass in his field, he gets a bit opened up every other day. I want him to be in tip top condition for the colder weather, and also to make the most of the grass before we move over into the Winter paddocks. I don't want him to get bloated though... Balancing it is hard. 

He's looking pretty good. I'm not convinced he's enjoying being rugged up to the max, but we've been getting away with 100g for now, except one night this week which got down to 0, and I was super pleased I'd put his 220g on. It's been pretty soggy so his field is now getting mushy, his head and top of his neck and mane are muddy and it's all dried in, and poo picking is a bit like skating around some mornings. Hey ho, bring it on. 

In the meantime, I've been helping out a couple of times with my cousin's horses. I schooled Baby the week before last with my cousin schooling Oakey and today we went solo as my cousin wasn't able to get down. It's good to have a ride in the week whilst I'm not able to do as much with Rio, but it's also good for me to be able to ride a different horse. It keeps me on my toes, makes me concentrate, and gets me thinking about my position. Riding a 17.1 warmblood is markedly different to riding a 15.1 welsh D cross! He worried me this evening as he was bobbing and dropping his shoulder as if he was lame on his right fore/left hind when we first went up into trot. However, it seems he was just trying me on as once I asked him on and he picked up a more forward trot, he went absolutely lovely!

In other news - meet Coheed & Cambria, our new little piggies:

Ride / play safe x

Monday, 20 October 2014

Goodbye Summer

Morning over the barn

I'm pleased I asserted authority with Rio yesterday, coming out of the field. Today he walked straight up to the gate and walked out with no hesitation and didn't bat an eyelid when I closed it behind us. What a clever young man.

I made my way down to the field quick sharp after work to make the most of what could be my last evening hack of the year. The clocks go back on Sunday, and with the storm rolling in who knows where the weather is going to be over the next few days. My friend's sharer was also there and it's her last day before she finishes sharing B tomorrow. Sarah and I yelled our orders for her to get changed and tack up as we stomped off to retrieve the handsome manicured beasts from their paddocks.

Rio spooked and had a silly minute when the generator was on in the office inside the barn. I untied him and walked him over so he could look through the barn and see that the big scary monster wasn't about to pounce. I tacked him up, and was so against the pressure of the sunset that I forgot to put his overreach booties on his hind feet so he was brushing them a bit. What followed was a fantastic fast paced hack, a race against the sun! Win for me, previously him spooking about like that would have really put me off tacking up and getting on. 

The outward trip was made up predominantly of trotting and cantering, and it was fantastic. Rio was keen and responsive. B didn't know what had hit him, bless his heart, but he kept up well. Franks was up front, and we even managed to keep up a more collected canter behind him whilst he was trotting (less impressive than it sounds - he trots fast!) but he didn't drop out of it until I asked him back into trot. Super exciting.

We had a lovely relaxing stroll back down the hill, including the boys walking three abreast, and doing a little bit of drill formation! They stayed in line beautifully once Rio had shimmied his way into the middle, the cheeky little git. 

I was relieved to get back and find minimal sweat after a ride with a more exertion than usual. Rio barely seemed phased by the run, which was great too. His fitness has sure come a long way in the last 11 months. I've just got to keep an eye on the saddle position as it looks like it may have slipped back a little this evening with his posh new clip. Here's hoping we can get him in the trailer over these winter months to do some schooling work. I'm really psyched and would love to be able to get him out doing some dressage tests at the local shows next year. He's such a charmer. 

Here he is, being a cheeky charmer and telling my friend that her hay net had been loitering around the yard for too many days:

So funny. I wanted to get a picture of him holding the net, but before the camera opened on my phone, he'd figured out that if he picked it up at the bottom of the net he could tip it out. No flies on my boy! 

Ride / play safe x

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Transformations all round

Rio and I have finally joined the lone hacker's club! This was our third trip out on our own in the last month, and I'm so happy. I was even more chuffed that I felt comfortable enough to get my phone out to snap this shot on the buckle! Please excuse my scruffy gloves. I've not yet replaced them since Rio dumped me twice in the river field! 

We've been very lucky with the weather this week and managed to get a few rides in before the clocks go back next Sunday. Then Winter is here. Dark nights and dark mornings, hunting out the piles of poo in the field with the super attractive head torch, guessing at which rug is best to leave on during the day/overnight... Yep, the fun starts here! I may have accidentally just ordered a 100g no neck turnout rug, in addition to his 100g combi he has... for those slightly warmer but not quite toasty days... I could do with getting an under rug, but for now we do have some options.

We took the boys out in the trailer yesterday morning for a hack at our favourite haunt. The wind was insane out in the open but the boys were very good after a rocky start. They decided they wanted to get their feet moving, so we asked them into trot and fought them out of canter! After that, I managed to get Rio to come back to me a little more and to be more responsive. We had a couple of great canters, and Rio was very full of himself, it admittedly took a few metres of asking for him to come back to trot when we cantered up the hill in the forest! By the last canter, I thought he was pooped, but he pulled the stopper out and absolutely went for it again. He was ready to go for it and pull up past Franks, but this time he was more attentive and collected his canter when I asked him to steady. What an amazing feeling. 

This was my sweaty boy after all that excitement! He's so funny with loading, he's not afraid of the box, but if there's nobody behind him to encourage him up, he will be super stubborn and just stand with his two feet on the ramp. I really should ask Sarah to leave her trailer out one day so I can practice loading him with the carrot stick and driving him on instead of leading. 

Post bath, and I think this is the whitest I've ever had him. This was without doubt the easiest bath I've given him since getting him, so we are getting there. He had a hot wash with a splash of Dettol to lift out the last of the dirt he hadn't managed to sweat out on the ride, and then I scrubbed him down with lemon fairy liquid to get this perfect white! Perhaps he could be a show pony after all, hehe. 

The purpose of this last bath of the season? Lift out the grease ready for my handsome little man to be clipped today! I woke up to pouring rain and fearing the worst case scenario - clipping indoors in the stable. He was a cheeky git coming out of the gate, so he got in trouble and had to walk out and back in again half a dozen times for playing me up. When we got up to the yard, the rain had stopped, so I tied him up and set to him with a towel to dry his neck off a bit. He managed to loop his head under his lead rope and freak himself out a bit, then wouldn't step back to loosen it, silly boy. I managed to unclip him, and all was fine, but he just seemed a little on his toes. 

I decided to go for the safer option and to sedate him a little as I didn't want to see him stressing out. We had a play with the clippers yesterday to try and get him used to them, with mixed results, and this morning he wasn't keen on going near them. However, he settled very well and was a brave boy. The sedative eventually kicked in properly about half way through clipping! 

Just look at those dapples though. He was so much darker underneath. He looks even more awesome than I expected, and fingers crossed no more sweaty betty incidents after a longer/more active ride!

Ride/play safe x

Friday, 10 October 2014

Grabbing opportunities!

It's that time of year when the rugs come out, and we get to cosy our little furries up! Rio is rocking out in a no-fill rug to protect him from the showers for now, but he should be having a hunter clip soon. He will get use of his rugs this year for sure! Last year we only made it up to 180g, and the 240g and 350g have sat untouched and unneeded. He was also a sweaty betty last year, so hopefully I won't be standing around for an hour waiting for his waffle rug to dry him out before I can turn him back out again. 

I managed to ride once so far this week since coming home, on Tuesday evening. We went for a little hack around the village with Sarah and Franks and I was just so pleased to be back in the saddle again. Since then, the weather has been poo, so he had another couple of nights off. 

I am pleased to say I rode tonight. Out round the village, through the field. Just me and Rio.

We only went and did it! Our second hack out on our own, and a longer route than the last time. I hadn't planned on it, but I think that's what made it easier to bring him up and get on - I hadn't been overthinking it all day as I'd expected the weather to suck again! When I got to the yard at 5.40pm (against the sunset clock!) the sky was bright, there was no wind to speak of, and I knew that this was too good an opportunity to miss. 

I muttered away to myself/Rio if I started thinking too much, and did my best to stay relaxed, which I think went pretty well. Rio had a bit of the jitters and held up a good pace for much of the ride, but all in all was quite responsive. He stopped dead at one junction, but after having a moment of me being gentle in asking him on and getting nowhere, he got a bit of a growl and a kick on, and off he went. We had a good trot along the bottom road, before he got fidgety when I asked him to wait for a car to pass. I'm always glad to have my "young horse in training" hi viz so that people hopefully have that little more understanding when he's a bit cheeky. I ended up having to turn him full circle in the road and asking him to stand again to let them pass, but he was much more co-operative the second time. 

Most excitingly, we got back on to the field, and I was walking along with a long rein (almost on the buckle) so I decided to have a trot as he had settled a bit. Half way across the field, he was behaving so well, I felt comfortable and confident enough to sit in and ask him for a canter. It was glorious! A beautiful smooth transition up, no silly jumping around. We cantered almost the whole second half of the field and he came back down to trot just a few strides after I started to ask him. Little steps. Except this feels like a huge one, it's absolutely made my day!

If I can keep chipping away at my demons over the Winter, I can't wait for next Summer!

Ride / play safe x