Well, it has been a good while since this blog has been updated. I’m sure any regulars have given up looking for it by now but many things have been happening. After a VERY wet winter we have not made it through to spring and we have full on daffodils, birds, and sunshine everywhere.
Sadly, we lost Lexi to a leg injury recently. She will be missed for a long time, as she had developed such a wonderful personality as well as being very talented. RIP Lexi.
Her stable has been filled with a new boy, Dazz, who seems a very gentle soul and has lovely movement too. His favourite hobby is rolling. At the moment he is concentrating on putting on weight, so is very glad that the new grass is through and that the paddocks have dried up enough to get out and eat.
The new arena was taken out by a ‘river’ caused by a flooded culvert on the roadside. I went out in the morning to find the horses watching the water (along with the arena surface) pouring past the front of the stables. The insurance company was excellent and we were able to arrange for it to be fixed with not too much of a delay. Many thanks to NFU insurance and West Wales Equi-Arenas, both of which we would highly recommend to anyone else. We are just waiting for rain now so the arena settles in, but that won’t take long to come in Wales.
In the meantime we have been trucking Diva and Dazz out to use other arenas, which has been educational for the horses but gets to be a bit of a bind compared to an arena at home. Lady however has been pleased as she has had the time off, although I think she is getting quite bored and won’t mind going back into work again soon.
Diva has excelled herself by doing well in her first competitions for nearly 2 years. In two dressage shows she scored 69-72% in her three prelim tests and 63% in a novice test. The 72% was under a list-4 judge so very exciting. Looking forward to doing some more competing on her soon, although it might have just been a fluke.
There is lots to do outside with the stinging nettles already starting to sprout, the arena fence to be painted, and all the general maintenance things that crop up regularly. This year we will be able to keep the vegetation in check before it gets out of control. We have also turned the area next to the river into a small paddock for summer grazing, so that will keep that tidy. It is hard to believe that this time last year it was part covered in tree branches (where very large trees had fallen across the river from the other bank) and the rest was waist deep in nettles, brambles, long grass, and other associated weeds! It links to the old sheep shed, which now has sand on the base, so the horses will be able to seek shelter from the flies and sun too when they get bad.
I’m sure that everyone horsey out there will be very busy too, so hope you have a great time at the early shows and through the season. Remember it is all supposed to be fun.
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Yes, the regular readers have noticed that I have missed a bit of blogging but, with the first snow on the ground, it’s time for a catch-up!
There has been lots going on with renovating a bungalow, which has meant me spending all the time I can doing things like ripping out the old kitchen, lots of painting, clearing inside and out etc. Because I still suffer from effects of a head injury, this could all only be done part time and limited what else I have been able to do. If you have ever painted spar-dash first coat from scratch you will know what the hardest job was!
This has meant that Carol has had to do all the work with the horses, so they haven’t been out much. However, Lexi did do her best ever advanced medium test – didn’t get her best ever mark though, as there were errors in the flying changes (usually her favourite bit) which brought the score right down but we were very pleased with her. It was a good reminder that scores are not the most important thing and that they are just a snapshot of a few minutes – they don’t always reflect how the horse is going in general.
Unfortunately there aren’t many/any events for her until next year so she will just be working at home, but hopefully Diva will now have some events to go to. It isn’t as convenient as in East Sussex, with several venues within a short distance, but still some great places not too far away. Lady has also had a bit of down time, but has been working on holding her feet up for longer and longer periods (amongst other general things for young horses to learn). She had an old hoof injury when she came and obviously a bad memory somewhere in her brain – a combination of touching her quarters with your body and lifting her hoof out and back (as a farrier would when trimming) led to a conditioned response of losing her balance and almost falling over. She would bring her hoof forward without any problem, so there was an issue from the past there somewhere. However, with a bit of patience she has now realised that she can keep her balance and not fall over and the farrier was most impressed with how much she has improved.
It is always worth remembering that horses usually try to do as they are asked, so long as they understand what is wanted and have not had bad experiences in the past, so if there is a problem then you should always try to work out why and how to resolve it without upsetting the horse further. I get REALLY annoyed with people who label their horses ‘stubborn’ or ‘spiteful’ when it is really their inability to understand and/or train the horse that is the problem.
Rant over for now – Lol. Have fun riding, even if it is windy, raining, or snowing.
Not sure where the months are going, but here we are in August already (in case you didn’t know that!). The new arena is proving invaluable as a very dry spring has been replaced with many showery days. However, although these aren’t constant, Carol seems to be a rain-magnet and a shower pops up every time she either rides or walks the dogs. The dogs are NOT impressed, with even Bodie wondering why she has to go outside just when it is about to rain. For anyone in a drought-stricken country – we are thinking of hiring Carol out.
The horses like the new arena too and are going very well, despite both us riders needing to focus more on the actual pattern of the movements rather than drifting around (and one day I WILL remember to look up too).
Lexi has regained a lot of her fitness and has been working nicely up in front, though she isn’t always sure that all the hard work is necessary at her age. However, the fitter she is the more she gets to do her beloved flying changes and half-pass so she is satisfied with that.
Lady is just having some in-hand work at the moment as the girl that has been riding her has been prevented by buses not turning up as scheduled! She is very upset about it (the girl, not Lady) as she was developing quite a rapport with Lady (who IS missing the extra cuddles and attention).
Meanwhile, Carol has taken over the ride on Diva (as well as most of the mucking out) as I am redecorating a bungalow. Lots of cleaning, sanding, and painting; but I am hoping that all the getting up and down off ladders etc. is improving my core strength (it certainly makes some of the right muscles ache – along with others I’d forgotten I had!). I saw Carol and Diva doing a gorgeous soft trot the other day so we may be fighting over her in the future, although with three lovely horses on the yard we are spoiled for choice.
That’s all the news for this month, and even the nasty biting flies seem to have almost disappeared, so enjoy your riding (between showers).
We are already into the second half of the year, which is hard to believe, and the battle against weeds has now been joined by the battle against the flies. If anyone knows a really good repellent for horse flies then please get in touch asap!
The young mare reminds us all how much a horse needs to learn to cope with human needs. Things she has had to learn (or are still learning) so far include balancing better when her hind legs are picked up and held; getting used to ropes and rug straps around her legs and under her tail; the feel/noise of branches brushing across her back and saddle when she has a rider on; that hay appearing suddenly over the door doesn’t mean something dangerous is happening; and many many more. She has also been brilliant with accepting the JCB and dumper that have been building the arena just behind the stables.
By the time she is an ‘experienced’ older horse this list will have grown enormously, but it is so easy to forget that a lot of what we do with horses is not natural to them. The more they experience when they are young then the more accepting they are when they are older, providing that those experiences don’t leave lasting memories of pain or fear.
Diva has been out to a jumping course with other horses and impressed with her accepting attitude. She has always been brave but is happy to go to strange venues and accept whatever is there. As well as that, she was very settled working amongst a group of other horses and waiting her turn for the jumps. She did find them a tad easy though, and was very quick to become overconfident as soon as she had jumped them a couple of times, but this is a good sign for a horse that will be jumping higher.
Not to be left out, Lexi has also been a very good girl and this week she and Carol were doing beautiful half-passes in the new arena – these are the best ones I have seen her do so she obviously approves of the arena! Diva’s not entirely sure about the rubber flicking against the sides, but Lexi has sighed with relief at having a level surface again and not having to work in the field. They have such different personalities that it is very funny to watch them sometimes.
With three mares in the stable, all nice natured and talented in their own ways, I get really annoyed with people who put down mares compared to geldings, particularly if they own a mare themselves. Every horse is an individual, but it does seem that mares and stallions can be less tolerant of poor riding and treatment than geldings. This means that it is highly possible that a ‘bad’ mare actually results from having bad riding/handling (either currently or in the past at some stage). Of course, geldings can react the same, and some mares do have hormonal issues, but on the whole any horse that is handled and trained well will be a good horse, regardless of sex.
Rant over for the month.
Take care to monitor whether your horse is affected by flies or heat in the summer weather, and have fun riding on the lovely days we are having.
After writing about such a dry April, the very start of June is threatening to catch up on the water front.
Unfortunately this has delayed the start of the dressage arena so we have some ginormous machines alongside the hedge waiting to start work and just a few marks on the ground and pegs to show where it is going to end up. Not that the rain would stop the machines themselves, but apparently the laser (for sorting out the levelness) doesn’t work so well in the rain. Although Diva has become quite competent at working on a slope, it might be hard to practice tests if bits of the arena end up on different levels!
Diva has been to her first dressage day and did an impressive series of sequence flying changes and medium canter. Unfortunately none of these were required in a Prelim test and she wasn’t given bonus marks for effort. However, except for getting a bit excited in the canter during the tests, she behaved very well and settled quickly. A very sensible cob kept us company in the warm-up arena, which was handy when Diva heard donkeys for the first time. She pricked her ears and stared in that direction but didn’t get upset, so either she has heard donkeys before or the influence of her new ‘best friend’ was a good influence. It’s hard to tell which with Diva as she is very brave and barely batted an eye at a strange indoor school, just having one hesitation when she was cantering directly toward another horse (herself in the mirror at the end of the long side).
I think Lady will also turn out to be very brave as she was keen to investigate the JCB in the field, although was frustrated by the electric fence we put round to stop them getting into mischief and chewing the wiring/rubber. She is still a bit suspicious of being handled round the rear end though and although she now likes having her tail brushed she is not sure that people should be allowed to actually hold onto her dock! However she is very sweet and just tucks it tightly and looks at us rather than threatening to kick. It is so important at this stage that she gradually learns to accept everything so that she doesn’t have issues in the future.
As I am writing this it is sad that the shadow of terrorism has touched the country. One can’t but help feeling that if these people developed a love for horses, cats, dogs etc. when they were young then they would not have gone on to want to hurt people when they are older. I find it a lot easier to understand the motivations of animals than humans, and if an animal behaved abnormally and became dangerous then it would be put to sleep. Perhaps in the future there will be a medical cure for terrorism, just as there are for other illnesses.
On a lighter note, everyone seems to be enjoying their horses with days out and hopefully a safe and pleasurable summer.
Wales has just had the driest April in ten years! A lovely welcome for us in our first spring at the new house. Also very useful as we haven’t had the arena built yet (big planning backlog apparently) so we can use the field every day.
Diva is making progress with her canter. I don’t think she has ever been on a hill before (originally she came from the Netherlands) and although the field only has a slight slope she did struggle to find her balance to start with. She has however loved the big space to canter around when they are turned out, so she has been practicing on her own!
I think we sometimes forget that horses can now live in such a controlled environment that they need to be taught things that we assume they can do naturally. Young horses raised in groups on large hilly paddocks have far more skills than those raised in small squares where they cannot get up speed once they are bigger than a foal. These skills are of course crucial to a sport like eventing, but they are also essential for the development of all horses, giving their bones, muscles, and ligaments a chance to develop and stay strong enough throughout their working life.
Enough about one of my ‘hot-under-the-collar’ topics. On the home front we have been having an entertaining time at auctions lately, both furniture and horse. Yes, I said horse! I am sure you don’t want to hear about the furniture, but I am now pleased to say that the third stable has a new occupant. “Lady” is a newly broken Welsh Section D 4yo who has a wonderful nature. As I write this she has only been here a week so Carol is just starting her off slowly, building up a partnership with walks round the orchard and river area.
Sadly the other girls are being a bit clique-y in the field so Lady has to graze slightly off to one side, but otherwise they are beginning to get along fine. I think Diva is pleased to have someone to boss because Lexi is usually the one that is in charge. I was watching Lexi eat from the hedge the other day and Diva started eating a little bit further along. Lexi immediately went and threatened her away and stole her spot! She does this quite often when they are grazing too, on the principle that “the grass is always greener where the other horse is eating”.
(P.S. for those who are interested, we are getting some fantastic furniture bargains at the local auction e.g. a double bed worth nearly £1000 for only £15, and a leather-topped wooden filing cabinet for only £12. I highly recommend auctions for bargains, although you do have to keep going until what you want turns up).
Horse auctions are however a bit sad. Lady went through with caring people who were with her at the pen, rode her around calmly to see everything, and talked people out of buying her if they thought they weren’t capable of taking on a green horse. They also kindly delivered her so that Lady could travel in a familiar vehicle with people she knew. However, some foals and young-stock were unbroken or newly halter broke and were wide-eyed and nervous, wondering what the heck was going on. For those arriving with friends that they had probably grown up with, it was going to be a really big day for them as they were going to a strange place with strange people and without their friends.
Of course, many people buying at the Welsh sales are well-meaning people offering caring homes (sometimes forever homes) and the purebred horses sold well (with one Shire colt going for £2000), but it was still going to be the biggest day of their life so far. It was amazing how well they all cope with the strange things that humans do to them.
That’s all for this month. Hope everyone is enjoying the spring weather and getting lots of riding done. But if you are in New Zealand/Australia then watch out for the cyclones.
Easter has come and gone and while it doesn’t mean anything specific to horses, it has brought a whole week of drier weather for riding in. The paddock here is amazingly free-draining for a non-sandy soil.
Diva is currently working on balance while going in straight lines along and across the paddock. It is ideal for this as there is a slight slope across it, so the horses have to lose their muscles and brains to maintain an even rhythm. Diva says it is hard work though, particularly at the canter! However, she likes not having to constantly turn as we would in the arena, and as the hedges are big and wide I don’t have to worry about her jumping out at the end of each canter so we can lollop round the outside of the field.
A third horse is on hold at the moment. In the end there were several horses to choose from, all with different advantages which made it hard to choose so the easiest option was to wait for the time being. The third stable is painted and ready to go though, and Diva enjoys using its nice deep bed as a rolling box!
We should remember though that horses do not get the option of choosing their next home. I have even known owners who had sold horses to friends or colleagues, thinking that the horse was getting a great new home, only to find that in reality that wasn’t the case. Others like to sell horses to a different area of the country, as then they don’t have to watch if the horse ends up in a sad situation and they are not in a position to do anything about it. Of course, the ideal would be to have perfect ‘for-ever’ homes, but this is impractical for many reasons. Forever homes aren’t always the best thing for a horse anyway. Horses and ponies get bored and a pony that has been outgrown or a horse that no longer suits is rider can have a miserable time mentally even if all of its physical needs are met.
On another note, my main activity this month is going to be spraying. Nature has recovered from winter and has taken off with a vengeance. This is fine for the grass and hedges, but not welcome when it comes to the weeds. Of course a weed is only a plant that is unwanted in its current location, so it is a case of cutting the hedge bits and spraying the grass where it is invading the garden (which has been a bit neglected for years) and spraying the non-grass plants in the paddock.
Unfortunately for stinging nettles and brambles they are discriminated against in both field and garden at the moment (though the latter are allowed in the hedge). Ironically, when I am spraying it makes me think of human racism and religious wars, neither of which I agree with, but this still doesn’t mean I’m keeping the nettles!
May your days be sunny and your canters exhilarating.
[Apoligies to regular readers – this post didn’t hold properly on site in April so has been re-posted in May – still fighting weeds though]
Modern technology is wonderful, until you don’t know how to deal with its problems. Yes, March’s post is late. This is due to a technical hitch with running the website, not because we have had any major disasters.
The new property is flooded with daffodils, and should really be called the Daffodil House rather than Oakfield, but of course it probably didn’t have all the daffodils when it was first started as a farm. The animals have settled in fine, although we very sadly had to say a final goodbye to Goldie, the stable cat who took over the house. Old age caught up with her but she did have some lovely weeks enjoying all the warm areas in the new house.
The rest of the animals are also enjoying the new place. The horses think they have semi-retired, as they are just hacked around the field while we wait for the arena. Fortunately the property has excellent drainage (despite a lot of rain this spring) so they are also getting turn out each day, with lots of long grass to keep them happy. As Lexi arrived in Wales a little lean (for her) it is just what she needs! Yes I know that there are hundreds of supplements that help put on weight, with before and after photos to ‘prove’ it, but i have always had just the same effect from lots of good grass on top of normal feed.
Patch has discovered her ‘inner terrier’ and has taken up digging in the garden, but fortunately not digging her way out through the (hopefully) new terrier-proof fence. The previous owners seem to have put plastic under large areas of the gardens for weed control, using things like old fertiliser bags instead of weedmat, and Patch has decided that it is her mission in life to dig it all up. She is not impressed with having to have her paws washed before coming back inside though!
Just to prove that everything comes in threes: 1. who knew that one of the large concrete paving stones scattered round the property covered a VERY big drain – falling in as i tilted the slab left me with bruises and a sprained hand. It could have been a lot worse though, as the concrete block fell away from me not on top of me. Will be more careful in future but I had already moved some without any surprises underneath.
2. I can no longer tease Carol about getting run over by Lexi, as it also happened to me! You don’t want to be in the way of an old mare determined to get from point A to point B. She sort of just pushed through me and knocked me over, giving me more bruises and an even sorer hand. It could have been a lot worse though as i know she landed on my leg at one point but without doing serious damage.
And 3. Diva got spooked from behind and jumped forward, giving me MORE bruises, this time on my foot. Thankfully not the blood and torn nail of last time though.
Hoping that is the three things all done with.
And speaking of threes, I’m currently re-painting the third stable in anticipation of another new resident. The son of a mare that Carol used to own last time she was in Wales (Poppet) may be coming, but more on him if it comes to pass. In the meantime, it should make going to Llanybydder horse sales next week fairly safe as there will be no spare stable. But then again, there are numerous spare barns available…
That’s all for now, as although we have been very busy it hasn’t been with anything excitingly horsey this month, just clearing rubbish, getting metal recycled (who could guess how much old metal hides under the blackberry!), and moving things from one place to another.
Happy Spring Riding
“Bore da”, which is Welsh for good morning and about all I know so far. Starting Welsh lessons tomorrow evening, although Carol will have a head start as she began learning it last time she was in Wales.
Our move to Wales was ultimately successful, but the waters did not run smooth. Having been worried about a suspect slow puncture, the truck was taken to a tyre place the Friday before the move and had 4 (yes four) new tyres put on. Carol set off early so that she could be in Wales in time to collect the keys to the new place, but only got half way when a tyre burst. This resulted in closure of some of the lanes on the M4 (yes, it happened on the motorway) and a two-hour wait for Carol in the cold at the side of the motorway. Thank God nothing worse happened, and that she had no horses on board (although the cat and two dogs were somewhat p**ssed off by the wait).
Desperate for a coffee (and other essentials), after getting the spare tyre put on she pulled into the next services (Membury) just in time to hear a really loud bang. Yes, a second tyre had burst! The mind boggles at how dangerous this could have been if she was still on the M4 again. Fortunately a very kind AA man came and helped source a new tyre, but with 150 miles still to go it meant a 12 hour trip for Carol in total.
In fact, although I didn’t leave until 1.30pm (after the removal men had finished and house cleaning), I caught Carol up on the way (many thanks to Kirsty for a desperately needed cup of tea, even though she didn’t know I was stealing it at the time).
Nine o’clock at night is not the best time to be arriving at a new place without furniture when you have had a very long day (surprising how the airbed instructions took on a new level on complexity) but the kind estate agent had left the keys hidden for us and the lovely ex-owner had left the central heating on.
The furniture truck arrived the next morning and it is amazing how strong those guys were. With all the outside stuff to shift as well it was some time before they could head on the road home, but we happily collapsed amid the boxes (LOTS of boxes). Patch of course settled in on minute 1 of arrival, and just wanted to explore and be in the centre of everything. Bodie decided it was best if she kept out of everyone’s way and stayed in one place, and the cat thoroughly approved of the new house by sleeping on the windowsill until the bed was made up, then moving along the bed with the sunshine for the next few days (yes, we have had LOTS of sunshine).
But what about the horses you ask? Duke has settled in very quickly in his new home, smooching up to everyone and winning them over. He is off to a competition next weekend so the best of luck for the start of what I am sure will be a fun partnership. Diva and Lexi are at Penny Sangster’s until we are sorted here, and although Diva is being clingy about Lexi it sounds like they are otherwise settled in. We went to see a livery yard today as somewhere to keep them until the arena is done here, but it was a big disappointment. Yes it is expensive to fix fences and driveways etc. when they start getting old, but it costs nothing to pick up fencing tape that is lying across the paddock (yes there were horses in the field) and clear feed bags that have obviously blown around. Anyway, we decided that the girls would be better staying in Sussex for now, but I have water-blasted their ‘new’ stables so hoping to get them repainted before arrival.
Hope everyone is having some super rides between the showers (and on the nice days too of course) and may your arenas be unfrozen and your paddocks dry for the rest of the month.
Happy New Year to humans, horses, and other creatures.
For those of you awaiting news about the Great Move; buying and selling houses in the UK seems to be comparable to a journey on Southern Rail – you can make all the arrangements and expect things to go smoothly, but in the end it is in someone else’s hands when you actually get to your destination! Fortunately, Carol’s solicitor has been excellent, but we are now waiting on the buyer’s solicitor (who seems to have been somewhat less than excellent) so we still do not have an actual date. Considering how much some professionals charge it seems strange that they cannot create and follow a simple checklist of tasks to follow for situations that must be regularly handled such as property conveyancing. Still, we all live and learn.
Enough of the grumbles: On the horse front we wish Duke all the best in his new home. He is looking forward to building a relationship with his new mum Diana, who is very excited about his arrival and making lots of plans for their time together. Duke just loves strutting his stuff, with pointed toes and pricked ears, so they will be doing a lot of showing. Some of this will be side-saddle, and we may even get to see photos of him attending a hunt meet side-saddle next winter!
Diva and Lexi have been pleased that the weather has been mild this winter, as they have been able to have turn-out just about every day. It does so much for their psychological welfare if they can have a roll and do their own thing in a paddock for a few hours or longer when possible. Mind you, when it comes to scraping the mud off afterwards us humans are not so keen!
People often forget that horses (unlike pets such as dogs) didn’t evolve to spend large amounts of time trapped in small caves, and that their natural instinct is to move for many miles each day. Movement not only helps their mental health but also their physiological health, as both their digestive systems and their circulation benefit. Horses have evolved to be ‘trickle feeders’, i.e. their intestines are designed to have food passing through constantly (in contrast to humans and dogs which eat ‘meals’), and their circulation benefits from regular movement of their limbs and muscles.
In the wild, horses spend up to 16 hours a day walking and grazing slowly (i.e. a lot of constant movement) as well as another 4 hours on things like play and social contact. They only need about 4 hours sleep, which is why they get so bored standing in stables or pens all day. So, if your horse isn’t getting out into the field then it is important to provide both exercise and social contact to help replace this. The more varied the work then the more interesting and beneficial it is for the horse e.g. an hour on a horse walker is incredibly boring compared to an hour walking through the woods!
And now a warm fuzzy tale to finish with.
A very warm welcome to Phoebe, the Springer Spaniel who has moved in (been adopted) next door. Poor Phoebe was put into Raystede for rehoming at the age of 9 – it is very sad when something like this happens as many people will not take on a dog of that age, but fortunately Sue has given her a home. You only have to see Phoebe’s ecstatic expression when she is playing ball out in the paddock to know how delighted she is with getting a new human for Xmas!
Best wishes for 2017