Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sunday Musings - what works?

Hi there from sunny Montreal! I've been enjoying the opportunity to have a good play with the camera, what do you reckon? I do love a pretty little macro shot. 

So, something caught my eye on my facebook feed this morning whilst I was having a quick catch up. I dabble in a bit of Parelli natural horsemanship stuff with Rio, because I want to improve our relationship on the ground. I don't take it too seriously - I just use the bits that make sense to me, and ignore the bits I don't like (I will never whack a metal clip into his head... That's just not how we roll, OK?) and someone had posted this article. Obviously I had a little read.

Now, Rio usually works in a regular halter or his leather one. He will have a rope halter on the Play Days, and that is about it. This isn't so much an issue for us. At home, we work on his manners without utilising pressure and release with these more "pressure pointed" aids. Slobber straps - we don't use them. I ride with regular rubber reins, and we have been working for some time now on understanding each other and developing his contact in a much quieter way. We are past fighting over it, and for the most part, he offers a contact and supples quite nicely (when I ask properly...)

The carrot stick I have found to be of some use. On the ground it has proved invaluable on a couple of occasions, and despite being unwieldy and really quite heavy to carry regularly, I would always now keep one handy. In the saddle has proved a little less successful - perhaps we haven't played enough of the friendly game with it in that respect, but I am happy to use a schooling whip or regular crop to achieve the same end, with far less angst or resistance. 

As for treats, these don't get offered regularly. At the first couple of Play Days I ensured I got a big tub of treats ready for training and rewarding, because this was how I was being taught. What I actually ended up with was a horse that wanted to be in my space all of the time because that was where he got the treats. I don't want a horse that mugs me for nibbles. Since ditching the treats and opting for scratches/cuddles/grass munching time as a reward, I have had a much more responsive horse to work with. I'm lucky in this sense that Rio is such a people person, because he's usually more than happy for you to give him a good rub on his neck as a reward. 

The idea of "just get off" is a tempting one. I have however learned that unless you follow something through, it's likely you will find a brick wall develops. Once this happens, not only have you got to knock that wall down to achieve what you're after, but you've also got to build the bridge! Surely we all understand this one - aren't we always told when we're learning to ride, if you fall off the horse, you get straight back on? Why should it be any different if your horse is finding something a little difficult? Three strides of controlled canter and asking him back to trot is a better start than avoiding canter altogether (for example). That is something to build on. If you don't take the plunge, how do you build the foundation?

It's interesting to get a full picture of what goes on when we are training our equine friends, as we always seem to get so focused on what we want to achieve, that sometimes we overlook the side effects of what we are trying to do (and probably not quite getting right!) It's so important to take a step back every once in a while to appreciate the small things and the impact they can have. You can create something wonderful if you just take the time and make the effort.

That said, I do think that anybody going into horse ownership thinking they will automatically have a best friend for life should really reconsider if owning said horse is right for them at that time. I love Rio to bits, but I'm under no illusion that 10 months is an infinitely small time in the grand scheme of things. We have a lot of experiences to have together, many scary things to work through, and lots to develop in our relationship. I just hope that in 10 years time we can be in as strong a place as Sarah and Franks are together. Fingers crossed, we will have experienced half of what they have too - I'll be a very happy lady if we do!

Sweetie Pie - my dad's girlfriend's cat in Montreal!
Enough rambling from me, please feel free to share your views on training your horse (natural horsemanship or otherwise!) Are there any things you feel work particularly well for you and your horse, or indeed anything that you avoid like the plague?

Ride / play safe

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Experiencing Canadian Fall!

Sorry it's gone a bit quiet on my side guys, I'm now settled in beautiful sunny Canada visiting my dad for a few days! I flew in on Thursday with my sister and we have already been over to explore Quebec, and the waterfall, which was great as we appear to have picked the best week/weekend for the weather. It was in mid/high twenties today whilst we were venturing up 480 steps to see the waterfall from every possible spot. Beautiful. 

This was the view from the top - you can just about see Quebec city behind the tree line. Not a cloud in the sky.

I don't know if I have any Canadian readers? I would love to know if there are any riding facilities near Montreal if I do though! The lack of horses over here in plain sight is shockingly alien to me. There were cart horses in Quebec, but I must admit, I just wanted to take them all home and give them a few hearty meals and lots of love and cuddles. The poor things work for hours on end up and down the hills, and I can't help but feel for them. 

It's safe to say that whilst I'm having a lovely time out here, being away from my two boys is difficult. I'm looking forward to Skyping with my dear hubby on Monday (my birthday!) and I'm hoping this little man is behaving himself for Sarah. When I get home he's getting a hunter clip ready for the weather to turn - we will use those rugs this year! Plus it will be lovely not having to wait an hour before I can rug him up after a ride this Winter. No more Mr Sweaty Neck! 

Ride / play safe x

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Whirlwind week!

Blimey a lot has gone on! No time, but in brief, we've had a great last week/10 days. Lots of hacking, great weekend with wonderful ladies and equally wonderful ponies. BBQ's, learning, treats for the boy, and the big countdown to seeing my pops in Canada!

Dusky hacking, including a little canter with B and Millie (first canter out without Franks since the river field!) Admittedly Rio was pretty tired after working very hard over the weekend.

Rio joined in the team talk on the Sunday morning. Voted the cutest - obviously!

Raised trot poles on Saturday, he was an absolute superstar, and melted the girls hearts to boot! 

Such a handsome young man. He has come on so far in 10 months. 

Sarah on day 2 (I was just spectating) - Rio playing with raised canter poles. He looked stunning. I was so proud of him, but boy did Sarah have to work for it. It was just great to see him working in canter. He got very very tired and very sweaty by the end. Working for 2.5 hours Saturday and another hour of canter schooling on Sunday is new territory for him though, so I was very pleased. 

It's a raised canter pole Rio, not a jump! Although ironically, this is what we "jump" at home... I'll hide myself in the corner now... 

Most pleasing of the weekend was utilising a riding crop to put pressure on his shoulder and stop him rushing out and pushing through with his shoulders. We mainly had success at the scary end of the school, employing shoulder pressure from the crop to stop him running away. We also learned about turning and direct, indirect & ... another... rein, and using them appropriately to keep him supple, and to relax him in unsettling environments. 

There was so much information to take in, but it was such a wonderful weekend. 

Ride / play safe x

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Burgh-ill-ey-ant weekend

I ACHE! Burghley is amazing. Long, and hilly, and amazing. I got some pretty cool shots of the riders, but just had such a wonderful day, thanks to my mum who got us tickets to go. 

Didn't catch Jock at a jump but had to get a shot as they galloped past!

The crossing looked absolutely terrifying.

The picnic table. Gina Ruck and Rehy Too came down just after I took this photo, and unfortunately fell. I was so glad we had moved on, as if I'd been stood here when it happened I'd have probably vowed never to ride XC ever! As it was, we were walking up winners row towards the Rolex combination, and just saw the perfect take-off. She was OK, despite being knocked out on landing; the tanoy announcement came shortly after to say she was sitting up in the medical tent. 

It turned out to be a lovely day after a very foggy start!

This morning in Felixstowe wasn't much clearer for my niece's birthday breakfast at the beach hut. I was a little gutted my camera battery was dead from yesterday, as it made for nice photos. 

My beautiful boy after a wander around the village this afternoon. We were going to go out on our own again (go us!) however Millie and Miss B came out for a walk in hand with us. Rio was very good, and we had a little trot. Aside from a spook on the way back onto the field where a man was walking out of the scary covered corner. I managed to sit it as I clocked him way before Rio - I almost thought he was going to walk through just fine but it wasn't to be! A couple of strides of canter, I let him trot a few strides then brought him back, and he walked nicely the rest of the way.

Rio has been plaited up again and looks very cute. Even after being plaited up for just a day last week his mane has been sitting over correctly, so fingers crossed this won't take long!

Ride/ play safe x

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Autumn is on it's way

I can't believe it's starting to get dark before 8pm already. We saddled up for a short hack out up the track this evening at 7pm and it was already drawing in. We went out for a wander with Rach and the boys were very brave. We got to the top of the track to find that the bee keepers were harvesting honey from the hives. Not only did they have to make it past a strange car parked on the edge of the field, and a strange smell of the equipment, but the bee keepers were in full uniform, masks and all. There was much persuasion involved, and I was glad I hadn't braved it alone today, but we made it past and didn't end up in the ditch! 

More hot poulticing on the squidgy jaw, and there's not much more coming out. Rio was very brave this evening with that, we went in with much hotter water. He wasn't very impressed last night when I washed his mane and tail! The tail wasn't so much of an issue, but my gosh, do not wash his MANE! He was even less impressed when I plaited it up,.. Impressively they were still in place when I got to the yard this morning, but they didn't all quite make it to this evening. I couldn't quite muster the determination to plait it again this evening by the time we were done, so it will have to be done again tomorrow so it trains over. 

Sarah and Franks are away in the New Forest for 4 days now, so I'm either gonna have to find a different hacking buddy or brave it alone again over the weekend! I'm off to Burghley Horse Trials on Saturday with my mum as part of my birthday present in my new posh boots also from my mum for my birthday! On Sunday we have birthday celebrations for my niece, and then we will be working on the indoor school. It's been dug out today as it was super deep, so we are going to wash the walls down, paint it up, rake it out, and top it up where needed. It will be great to bring everyone together to do it, and also to know we have somewhere to ride over Winter when the evenings have drawn right in! 

Ride / play safe x

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Just a quick one!

Lovely hack round the village with Sarah and Millie this evening. B even took the lead and seemed to love it and Rio managed just about to stay behind too. Franks was most impressive staying at the back! What a good boy.

I forgot to update you on Rio's lump under his jaw, so it is hopefully good news. It erupted on Sunday and we got a bit of pus out, luckily a friend was there to do the squeezing as I'm not a huge fan of gunky stuff ... it is looking much better and the swelling has now gone right down so I hot poulticed and my friend squidged it again this evening and I will be keeping an eye on it over the next few days. He did seem a little less sore there today so fingers crossed it is healing and all the nasty stuff has made its way out!

Ride / play safe x

PS. Spot the difference! New boots finally arrived - my early birthday present from hubster! In two years they will likely be equally as well used and loved!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Walking on (rainy) sunshine

I do love google plus auto awesome gif images. Especially since I take so many photos to create a series like this haha. 

So I pulled up to the yard as Sarah and Franks were crossing the road in the drizzling rain to go out for a hack. This is it. Today's the day. Another friend had just pulled up, so I asked if she was planning to ride, and it was a maybe, depending on if it started to rain more heavily or stayed the same. I was riding, no matter what. Instead of poo picking first to let the drive go, I just went straight down to the field after a quick chat with a few of the yardies, and got him in.

After a quick brush, the drizzle had started up again, so with my friend still down at the fields, I grabbed the saddle, took a deep breath and tacked up. Sarah and Franks got back, so I let them head back off around the back before I put on his bridle and mounted. Millie was sat in her car and gave me a little thumbs up as we marched off up the drive, and we were off! 

The rain inevitably got worse as we got out onto the road, but darn it we were doing this. I avoided taking him out on the field on the way out as it's the first time I've ridden after his legs have been clipped. He's still adjusting to being able to feel things brushing across his legs where his feathers would have been before. Having said that, I walked him through the long stuff again on the way up and he was very good, only flinching twice.

We did the short loop around the village, and he had a good pace. I felt surprisingly relaxed, and was focussing on chatting away to Rio and keeping my heels down. I adjusted my left stirrup to be one hole longer and felt far more secure. He was busy having a good nose around, but I was happy with his responses to what I asked of him. He stopped when I asked, he moved on when I asked, and for the most part, stood nicely. The only exception being the slightly busier corner junction on the way back, where he just fidgeted around a few steps, but still didn't do anything stupid.

Here's the best bit. I bit the bullet and we rode back across the field. He jogged a little coming through the entry onto the field, but I sat quietly, waited for him to settle down and he did a little bit of a half passing walk across a third of the field, and then walked very nicely after that. Franks and Sarah were walking back down to the field as we rode up the last bit, so he made sure they knew we were coming home. He has the girliest whinny! He called out a couple of times around the village, such a sweetie. 

We survived!

Ride / play safe x