Nervous Nellies All Together

Nimbus65

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Aug 15, 2005
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For those who are interested, this will chronicle my journey with my very own first horse - Kali, a 16.2hh Polish warmblood - who I share with my (almost) 14-year-old daughter, Emily.

Kal has just turned 8. He's probably not what I planned to buy when I started looking (wanted something more ISH-y with more bone) but I fell totally in love with his temperament.

2nd December 2009 - First Meeting

Em and I packed up the car with snacks, I put on my brand new full-seat jods (more on those later) and we headed out on the three-hour drive to Kal's yard in Hereford. All we knew about him was that he was a 7-year-old, dapple-grey, Polish gelding who had done some eventing, hunting and hacking and that he loved to jump. I had seen him advertised in Horse and Hound back in October, had fallen in love with his picture (very partial to greys and there was something about him) and inquired about him but was told he was sold subject to vetting. Six weeks later, having tried (and not fallen in love with) at least 7 other horses, I saw him re-advertised and took a punt. As we pulled into the yard, there he was in his big purple rug with Lou his owner and I fell immediately in love. He had a very pony head - almost all white with big dark eyes and a scrap of grey forelock - and it was hard to see how big he was until Lou pulled his rug off . . . and there he was! Lou was friendly and open and I liked her instantly. She chatted to us while we said our hellos . . . Em fed Kal some polos and straight away he was following her around the corral, snuffling her pockets and trying to eat her hair. What struck me immediately was his temperament - sweet, even but far from dull. Lou tacked him up, I changed into my long boots and we headed off to the school. Lou rode him first, walk/trot/canter on both reins and then popped him over a couple of jumps. He was good as gold, but a little stiff in his right shoulder to start with. I rode him next . . . hilarious moment as my flashy, full-seat jods wouldn't allow me to bend my knee far enough to get my foot in the stirrup - Em had to help me (oh the shame!!!). Kal was a little fidgety and demonstrated his reinback beautifully and without being asked several times but once in the school popped nicely into a contact and felt relatively easy to ride. He was a little more challenging in trot and canter (not his best pace) but nothing to put me off. Em was next . . . while Lou and I chatted Em put him through his paces. At one point I looked up to see them galloping down the long side and wondered "did she ask for that?" but only had to see her grin to know the answer :) First time that girl has ever galloped and she does it on a 16.2hh horse! Lou persuaded her to put him over a couple of fences, which he cleared with ease, and then we took him out for a hack. He didn't put a hoof wrong. Em trotted and cantered him away from and towards us and, aside from poking his head over the hedges to be nosy, he was good as gold . . . never rushed, never napped and never once spooked. Back at the yard, Em untacked him and rugged him up and I fed him and we fell in love a little bit more!

I left Lou telling her that I would chat to my instructor and get back to her on next steps - she, in turn, agreed that she would let us know if anyone else came to see him/circumstances changed.

18 December - Kal's Vetting

The first big snow of the winter. I woke up to impassable roads and, despite really wanting to be there for Kal's vetting, had to call Lou and let her know that we wouldn't be able to make it. Lou, bless her, took the day off and spent at least two hours putting down rock salt on the yard and making sure there were rideable surfaces for the vetting. I sat biting my nails on tenterhooks and got a text at 1.30'ish to say "all done - he passed." I spoke in detail to the vet and, satisfied with the result of the vetting, made Lou an offer, which she accepted. We were on our way to horse ownership!

9 January - Gotcha Day!

Worried about the snow and ice I had called both Lou and the YO of our new yard the day before to inquire about the roads - assured that they were "passable" we set off at 7 a.m. to be in Hereford by 10.00 a.m. Because we don't have a horsebox or trailer of our own, we had used AAA Transport and agreed to meet them at a service station on the M4 at a pre-arranged time. DH would drive us there, drop us off and then meet us at the yard once Kal had been delivered and we were ready to come home home. Unfortunately, the heater in DH's car has broken so, armed with a roll of kitchen paper and some de-icing spray, we set out. The roads were appalling - unplowed, icy, slippery and very treacherous. Every ten minutes or so, I had to de-ice the inside of the windscreen so DH could see - and we had to drive with the windows cracked because of the fumes from the de-icing spray! Eventually we made it and there was Chris from AAA waiting for us. We transferred the travel gear to the horsebox, Em and I climbed and off we went! Chris was lovely - kept us entertained with stories of his (very eclectic) life (including meeting Monty Roberts, Martin Clunes and Sheikh bin Mohammed). We had some very sticky moments with some icy hills but we made it to Kal's yard and there he was, head over the door, excited to see the horsebox! We filled haynets and water buckets, transferred all of his tack/rugs to the horsebox and then Lou kindly invited us back to the house for a warming cup of tea (and use of the facilities). We chatted for a bit, exchanged paperwork and then headed back out to the yard to load Kal. I put his headcollar on, but handed the leadrope to Lou for her to lead him up the ramp - it just felt right that she should be the one to do that. He walked straight up the ramp - called a little and then settled down to eat his haynet. We put the ramp up, Lou and I hugged (and we both cried a little) and then Em and I climbed back into the cab and we were off. Chris kindly turned on the box-cam so we could keep an eye on Kal during the journey - no need to worry he was already eating his hay - and we headed home to Kal's new yard. I had called ahead to let them know what time to expect us and we arrived pretty much on time. As we pulled into the yard, Kal began looking around, sniffing and calling. Chris lowered the ramp, untied him and led him down and Kal walked off calm as you please, into the barn (past alot of very curious horsey faces) and into his box like he owned the place. Tucked straight into his hay/haylage mix like he'd been there all his life. Em and I unloaded all the rugs, tack, etc. and stowed them in the tack room and his locker and said our goodbyes (and heartfelt thanks) to Chris. We spent a little time grooming him, fussing him and tucking him into his new jammies. Kal made friends over the wall with Finn - a connemara cross next door - also a grey. Dear friends came by with a flask of tea and some homemade flapjacks and then (very reluctantly) we headed home.

10th January - Day 1

As the horses were still being kept in due to the ice and snow, we opted to go up to the yard, give Kal a good groom and then turn him out into the smaller of the two outdoor schools for a roll/bit of a hooley. He said hello to Mac and Wesley whose boxes face the smaller school, trotted, snorted, rolled and generally made himself at home. I also took him for a walk in hand around the yard - letting him sniff, explore, look and generally take in his new home. Kal calls and frets if Finn goes out into the school and stands waiting to catch a glance of his new friend. Very cute.

N
 

Nimbus65

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Aug 15, 2005
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18th January - First Day Out

Kal went out today on his own next to Sisqo. He bucked, farted and galloped off up the field with delight and then settled down and spent his day with his head down, alongside the fence next to Sisqo (a beautiful, five-year-old cob).

20th January - Out with Sisqo

Kal and Sisqo sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. They're in love and inseparable. They spend ages playing and are clearly very fond of each other. Sometimes Sisqo oversteps the mark, but Kal would rather die than kick out at him. He just turns his bum and slopes off . . . Sisqo following snapping at the bottom edge of his rug to try and persuade him to play some more.

21st January - Ouch!

Decided today was the day to get on board. Em and I went up to the yard intent on riding Kal for the first time since we had brought him home. We brought him in, groomed him, tacked him up and then I lunged him for 10 minutes to take the edge off. He seemed calm enough so we took him in the large outdoor arena and I got up on top. He seemed fine. Walked and trotted but found he was throwing his head around alot. Legged Em up on him. He seemed fine. She walked and trotted him on both reins and then, being a very brave girly, asked for canter - right rein first. He was fine . . . didn't rush . . . and she wanted to leave it there but I insisted she canter him both ways to work him evenly. Biiiiig mistake. She asked for canter and rather than keeping him on a circle down by the gate, she took him large - he got up a head of steam, got strong, she panicked (squeaked "Mummy!"), he panicked and went into a full-on panic gallop. As they came past the gate, I told her to point him at the rail and if he didn't stop turn him across the school - she didn't hear me and they went large again - both now thoroughly panicked - he jinked left as he turned the top corner and she came out the side door. Kali, in a blind panic, galloped back to me standing at the gate - stirrups and reins all in a flap. Bless them both. Em had landed on her right side with her arm underneath her and was winded, sore and understandably upset. But to her credit, she didn't blame Kal. We simply asked too much too soon, but it has knocked her confidence. We took him back to his bed, untacked him, gave him a brush and put him to bed.

26th January - 1st Lesson

Finally got my instructor out to see him and sit on him. Her assessment is that he's got nice paces (although stiff in his right shoulder), lovely hind-leg action, can have a bit of a stroppy attitude, but needs condition. We also both feel that his bit isn't right for him - it's too fat in his mouth and the single joint seems to be giving him discomfort causing him to throw his head around (which will be why Lou resorted to riding him in a martingale). We also feel he could benefit from his flash. He is also a bugger to mount . . . fidgets like crazy at the block, but Jen feels he is testing me and that I need to get tougher with him. We decide that I will try him in a French Link and put the flash back on his bridle - off I go to the tack shop!

27th January - 2nd Lesson

Having changed his bit, Jen gets back up on him and declares him a different horse - much more willing. He is very unbalanced and needs to learn to carry himself (but that will be because he got used to leaning on the martingale) and he needs to build up muscle. I ride him too and find his head much more still and his attitude very different. We agree that he could do with some conditioning cubes or balancer. Em also has a lesson with her instructor, KJ, who also sits on him and declares that she "loves him" . . . which is lovely to hear. Oh, and Jen pulls his mane and trims his tail so that although he is largely brown from the neck up and the knees down, he does look a little tidier. She leaves me with homework - lots of slooooow work, using my seat rather than my hands to slow him to get him to think about how to carry himself and me . . . and we must stay off the track so that he doesn't use the rail to balance himself.

11th February - Ouch!

In the intervening weeks, Em and I have continued to have lessons on him while schooling/lungeing him in between. He is now out with a full herd - four gelding in all - and seems to have settled in well. I have walked him out in hand - on my own, with Em on top and I have ridden him out too now. Each time he has behaved impeccably - stopping to look and snort at large refuse bins, intrigued by horses galloping up to the fence to greet him, ignoring bicycles and motorcycles and generally reinforcing the fact that he's great to hack.

On 11th Feb I have arranged to hack out with a fellow livery. I plan to school him for 30 minutes and then Clare and Zara and I will hack out for another 30 minutes. Clare is there when I arrive and we walk up to bring our horses in together (Zara is out in the next-door paddock). Pogo is herding Kal away from the gate and it takes me a while to catch him (most unlike Kal) - in the end I have to swing the headcolllar at both of them so that I can peel Kal off and catch him. As I do up his headcollar, I look up and see blood pouring down his face . . . !!!!!

I get him to his box, call his groom and together we take a look. He has sustained several nasty kicks to the underside of his jaw and cheekbones - one of them is very deep but, thankfully, they are all relatively fresh. We clean them up with hibiscrub and spray them with purple spray. I decide I can't put a bridle on Kal so our hack is off. Having cleaned him up, I turn him back out and call the yard owner to ask her to move him to a different herd.

That evening I go up and loose school him - he needs the work. The conditioning cubes (Bailey's No 4 Topline) are working but he needs to build muscle. He tweaks his shoulder :(

12th February - Footy

I go up to school Kal. He is out on his own in a paddock next to his new herd - the boss of which is Finn - his stablemate. His jaw is swollen from the kicks so I leave his noseband rather loose, but this means I have reduced brakes. Notwithstanding, he gives me some nice work in walk - is learning to balance himself, is much more still in the hand and accepting of the bit - but when I ask for trot he throws a strop and seems lame. I put it down to some shoulder stiffness from either the freeschooling or having to run away from the bully boys in his previous herd.

13th Feb - Lame?

Em's turn for a lesson with her instructor. I leg her up and am chatting to her instructor while she works him in when we both notice that he seems a little short in his left hind. When Em pushes him up into trot, he looks very pottery on his right front . . . we call a halt to the lesson and KJ has a good look at him. He's tender around his right shoulder but there are no leg/foot issues. We put him back to bed. Hmmmmmm. Very worried.

Sunday we got to see a friend's new horse so we are late getting to Kal's yard. He is on his own (all three members of his neighbouring herd are in) and he is up by the gate calling and fretting. When I get up to him, I see blood on his right front leg - down his fetlock to the coronet band - oh joy! We also notice that he's lost his left front shoe - seems the tack in the shoe nicked him as it came off. Sigh. Hose his leg off, on with the hibiscrub and the purple spray. Em went out to the field and found the shoe, which is now in pride of place in her bedroom :) He doesn't seem lame when we bring him in, but it's hard to hear/tell what with him only having one shoe!

15th February - Long-Reining

I brought Kal in and my instructor met us in his box. Walked and trotted him up for her to assess his lameness (or lack of) and determined he was sound - just a little footsore due to losing his shoe. Decided we would long-rein him - I had stopped and bought another lunge line for that very purpose. Well . . . he was amazing! He has clearly done it before - first we lunged him off the two reins and got him to drop right down onto the contact and step out in front in walk and trot and then I had a go at long-reining him - same thing - it was fantastic fun! The plan is to alternate riding him with long-reining or lungeing with both lines. Lunging him off one line doesn't work well because he tends to fall out/look to the outside and is terrified of the lunge whip - this gives me so much more control and will enable me to get him to use his back properly. Result! Em has a lesson on him tomorrow but I really MUST get his feet sorted ASAP. Also, it won't be long until he goes out with his new herd . . . fingers crossed that works out well.

N
 

Mimi + Me

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Mar 1, 2006
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Battersea/Dorking
Gosh, you've had lots of ups and downs in these early days of horse ownership. He sounds like a lovely horse and you sound like you are doing all the right things for him. I look forward to hearing of your future progress together.

One complaint though .......... you seem to have forgotten to post any photos of Kal ;):D
 

Nimbus65

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Aug 15, 2005
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All change

Well, the lungeing, feed supplements and work in the school is definitely paying off . . . he's rounder and there is definitely muscle definition. He's also much more balanced in walk and trot - more willing, less stressed and just generally calmer and softer.

His farrier sorted his feet out (shoes only on the front for now), he stands like a champ for Tom (the farrier) who pronounces him an affectionate, sweet boy. Tom also confirms something I suspected . . . Kal's right front is a very slight club foot . . . which could be contributing to this on/off shoulder issue . . . time will tell.

With much trepidation I hacked him out alone for the first time about two weeks ago . . . I had taken the precaution of walking him in-hand a couple of times along the intended route and he was good as gold . . . I also made sure I lunged him first. I didn't give myself a chance to think too much about what we were doing . . . like a very naughty girl I didn't take my mobile phone . . . I just hopped on (before I had a chance to chicken out) and off we went. Kal, bless him, was as good as I could expect given the nervous numpty on his back. He had a good look at most things . . . was a little snorty . . . but singing to him seemed to help. The really exciting moment came when we passed a local primary school, complete with kids in the playground. He could smell and hear them before we got there and his little ears pinged straight forward. C'mon Kal, walk on . . . and he did . . . snorting and getting very short and prancy. As soon as the little girls in the playground clocked him they come running to the fence to see the pretty white horsey. Cue much piaffing, leg yield and general prancing from Kal. The more he pranced, the more the girls shrieked and the more kids came running to the fence. I was trying sooo hard not to need a change of underwear . . . leg on, breathe, soft hands . . . leg on, breathe, soft hands . . . :) As soon as we had safely passed the school and he was convinced the kids weren't trying to eat him, he heaved a big sigh and gave several long, deep snorts. Phew Mum! That was close! Cue much singing, stroking and patting from me. Honestly, he was a really good boy, and I was very proud of both of us. He dealt with big scary lorries (with horse-eating airbrakes), horses galloping alongside, pheasants flying up under his feet, signs, bins, flappy bin-bags . . . and the worst thing he ever did was either startle or stop. What a good'un.

Since then, we've gone out regularly . . . and MOST of the time he is a true Christian. Once, though, when the kids weren't there, he stopped and did a gigantic poo right by the school gate . . . make of that what you will.

I had a physio out to him who gave him a good going over, proclaimed him a nice, well-put together horse, but said that his club foot is definitely responsible for his shoulder shortness . . . and when you watch him from behind you can clearly see that the heel on his right hoof (his club foot) is higher than his left and doesn't flex as much as his left . . . I'll be pointing that out to Tom, the farrier next week, and we'll chat about how to alleviate the unlevelness (is that a word?). Otherwise, he loved him and proclaimed him a "proper athlete" with good conformation (notwithstanding his foot) and a nice sort. I was walking on air . . . always lovely to hear someone say nice things about your hoss :)

He settled in beautifully with his new herd (Finnegan and Harvey) . . . Harvey did belt him one for playing a little too enthusiastically, but after that the three of them settled right down. Em and I have been working on trotting with confidence (he has a huuuuuuuuuuge trot which neither of us are used to).

Until.

Tuesday, 16th March 2010

Arrive at yard first thing to find that they are moving the horses on the left (Kali's) side of the barn around the corner so that they can pressure/wash and paint. Their new, temporary stables face a wooden fence (as opposed to other horses) and the walls between the boxes are too high for the horses to see each other. Hmmmmm. I walk Kal over so he can have a sniff around/see his new digs. He is NOT impressed, but we hope he'll be better once his bedding is in and the other horses are also moved. I school and hack him and he's his usual calm, together self . . . now that he's tired out, I take him back round to see his temporary box again - he's still not having any of it so I tie him up out front to untack and groom him and then turn him out (naked - third time this week!).

Later that afternoon, Em and I arrive back at the yard for her lesson . . . all the horses are now in, but Kal is far from settled in his box . . . he's snorting, box-walking, agitated and working up a sweat. I tie him up outside his box with a haynet where he can see Finn and Dom (his two neighbours) to tack him up and then Em attempts to walk him round to the school . . . you have to go through the barn and they are pressure washing the walls(!!!!!!). Kal freaks. Dances, shakes and generally lets Em know he isn't happy. I don't think the cables and hoses snaking everywhere helped much either. I take the reins from Em and walk him into the school but it's clear he's still very rattled by all the commotion in the barn. Even walking him around doesn't calm him so Em and her instructor take him out for a hack instead (and he is an angel). Putting him back in his box and untacking him, rugging him up is another adventure . . . he won't stay still and is worse if he is tied, despite the presence of a haybar full of haylage AND his tea. I ask the groom to keep me informed overnight and (stupidly) give instructions that he should stay in in the morning so that I can ride him first thing.

Wednesday, 17th March 2010

Arrive at the yard to find Dot (Kal's groom) walking him around the yard - Kal snorting and dripping with sweat. Apparently when the others went out (30 minutes before) he freaked. Kept rushing his door, calling, pacing. Dot tried tying him up outside his box while he mucked out, but Kal wouldn't settle, so he resorted to walking him until I arrived. Sigh. Again, I'm an idiot. I decided to hack him . . . thinking it might settle him . . . but I was forced to take him on a new route because they were resurfacing the lane out of our yard. Not only did good old Kal have to walk past several very large fire-breathing lorries, but he was heading into the unknown . . . with a twitchy owner on his back. It's safe to say that didn't really walk so much as prance or do a very slow, racehorse jog the whole way round. It was really a test of my trust in him . . . and he delivered . . . in spades . . . it's just a shame that I didn't repay the favour. Although he felt like a coiled spring underneath me, I have to give him his due and say that he stopped EVERY time I asked him to and walked on EVERY time I asked him to (even when we encountered two very scary gardeners behind a willow screen). He must have been tired of hearing me sing: "Kali is a good boy, a good boy, a good boy . . . Kali is a good boy, a good boy Kali is" rather tunelessly, but it certainly helped me! I've not seen a horse so very happy to go back out with his herd though . . . bless his cottons. Naked again.

Thursday, 18th March 2010

Sigh. Not our best day.

Got up there pretty early and fetched him in to find that he was out alone (albeit next to his regular herd) while they introduce a new herd member. Sophie, another groom told me that he'd spent the hour between being turned out and me arriving charging up and down the fence line calling to Finn and Harvey. Also, a new horse arrived overnight and is turned out in the field on the other side of Kal. When I pull Kal out of his field, he is reluctant to come in, pulls me to the gate to Finn's field and calls the whole way back to the barn (so not like him). He won't settle tied up out front, even with a full haynet and some carrots and apples. I've never seen him so fidgety. Won't stand to be groomed - constantly trying to look over the hill to see Finn and the other horses in his herd - won't let me pick up his feet - won't stand to be tacked up - even threatens to kick (utterly unheard of). Generally behaves like a pillock. I double-lunge him and it takes him a solid 10 minutes to settle and actually begin to listen to me . . . once he settles he gives me some lovely work, even beginning to carry himself in the canter. Despite head-butting me a couple of times (by accident) when I'm grooming him after his workout, he is more settled, and he practically drags me back to his field.

So alot of change for him in a short space of time. I can honestly say that he is more unsettled now than when he first arrived at the yard. We have another week of this as they do the other side of the barn and introduce the new boy (whose name is Sexy!) to Kal's herd. I can't wait for things to settle.

He has a day off today (Friday, 19th March). Em ran into the YO in Waitrose this afternoon who said he was more settled today b/c he was back with his herd. I will go and see and work him tomorrow and hope he's more settled. I hate to think of my baby boy being unhappy . . . if I could have him in my bedroom (where I could keep an eye on him at night) I would . . . God love him.
 

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Nimbus65

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Aug 15, 2005
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And all change again . . .

I gave Kal the day off yesterday . . . just let him chill out in his field with his best buddy Finnegan.

I put off going up to the yard today until quite late so that I could work him and then put him in his box when everyone else was in for the night . . . nice surprise, though, his box has been painted and he can move back in! Yipeeeeeee. He was sooooo much more chilled . . . plus I was able to groom and tack him up in the dry (always a bonus). He munched on his haylage while I groomed him . . . no fidgeting, no calling, just my chilled out boy :D I tacked him up and we headed to the large outdoor school. We had a sticky moment when he refused to stand still b/c Dot was power washing the fence right by the mounting block (understandable!) . . . I got Dot to stop while I got on and off we went. He settled quicker than I expected and gave me some lovely work . . . nice and soft in both walk and trot. I got brave and asked for canter, but I tipped forward in the transition and loaded his shoulder so what I got was a brisk trot. We'll work on that. As he had worked sooooooooooo well (including not batting an eye when the resident black pheasant visited the school) we went for a celebratory hack. He did plant his feet as we were leaving the yard but a) the last time we hacked they were resurfacing the road and there were all sorts of very scary machines and odd smells around; and b) seven of his friends were in the field next to the lane. A good pony-club kick and a firm "walk ON Kal" and we were on our way. We trotted up the hill (great for building up the bum muscles) . . . a brisk walk the rest of the way round and most of the time on a loose rein held in one hand. Very, very chuffed with him (and me).

Tomorrow, I plan to work on the canter and then perhaps loose jump him. So very pleased with him today . . . and very, very happy to have him back to his lovely self. Also lovely to see how settled he is in his current herd. When I went to bring him in today he and Finn were standing together by the gate all calm, peaceful and companionable. It's clear to me how much he really likes Finnegan - the first friend he made when he arrived at the yard and his next-door neighbour. Finn is herd boss but gentle with it and Kal seems to be really blossoming in Finn's company.

One negative . . . there is now white paint all over my new Joules jacket, Kal's lightweight poly and the vest our RI loaned us. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

N
 
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