New for 2013 - 2 more projects!

selside

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Jul 1, 2010
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Quick intro with more to follow. My lovely RS has given me another little ridden project. Really sweet and really, really small. They are getting littler! I am on another diet. Sandy is a 12 yo Dartmoor, 13hh-ish.

To balance that out there's another boyo that needs a bit of help. He's a livery. Bobby is a 14.2 Welsh D. Bold brassy bay who looks the bees knees and is actually the world's greater sleeper.

Excited, and slightly nervous. Have tried them both and lived to tell the tale.

More soon -when I've got over the shock. Pics of the dinky little Sandy.
 

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selside

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Jul 1, 2010
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First - the bad bits....

This goes on forever - don't expect you to read it. BUT

I need this diary. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads it or not, but I find I run through things in my mind to write as an update – and then don’t. It was meant to be a record of progress in 2013, but we are already rushing towards April and I meant to write remains unwritten. So I’m going to backtrack and start at the beginning, with some good and some bad. Doing and thinking horsey connected things in my head is NOT the same as actually doing them, and things I thought happened a couple of weeks ago were much longer ago than that. So the 2013 diary/blog needs to become an actual diary…

Start with the less good. Once again a ‘new year, new attitude’ state of mind found me over facing myself. Lovely 12 yo gelding 14.2 Welsh D Bobby (think flashy, powerful ex-show pony turned happy hacker) offered to me for a week in September for riding and as much daily care as I wanted when his kindly owner was on holiday. Great potential experience for me, as someone who is an RS rider only and not an owner. Having arrived as a fit and forward going lad he then adjusted to becoming a gentle happy hacker, and proceeded to stuff his face in the gelding field all summer.

A fortnight or so before the holiday he took off with his owner across the moor. Not too far, and she managed to pull him up, but he scared her witless as he had never put a foot wrong previously. He then wouldn’t let her back on. Cue session with the back lady and yes, he has some discomfort and areas of soreness. Likeliest causes are playing too rough in the field combined with a change of body shape due to his lower workload. Saddle fitter confirms his change of shape and gives advice for when he’s ready to work again. So, no riding for me this time. Never mind, it was an interesting and rewarding week. It was a pleasure to go up, muck out, groom and take him for potters in hand.

Another chance arose, however, when his owner and her partner decided to have another unexpected break. She is still struggling to get her confidence back riding him, and I was hopeful I could help by doing some pottering on him too, so she didn’t feel all the pressure was on her. If someone else was getting out and about on him, and keeping safe it should reassure her that her worries were unfounded. Once again I am offered the chance to be Bobby’s foster mum for another week.

The week started well, with another morning of horse care. Although he wasn’t fully fit exercise wise he was being ridden again. Bobby is a steady and reliable hacker out on the roads, but his ex-showing background meant that being in the school meant serious work to him, and he tended to be very forward going, keen and energetic in the arena. I hadn’t ridden him in the school before, just hacked him out, so I decided to start with a lesson with RI. Very interesting – he was not as forward going as I expected, although compliant. We did 15 minutes or so steady work in walk and trot, and then RI decided that some canter work might help loosen him up. (Looking back on it I should have seen what now seems obvious – that Bobby was having difficulty with truly active movement, and that he was keeping his paces reduced and conservative.) He was showing reluctance to move forward – which I did remark on to RI several times. I do have a cooling effect on horses, and in all honesty we both just thought he was being a bit lazy after his time off.

The canter idea was a mistake. He wouldn’t go into canter on the first 3 corners, and then finally struck off on the straight side, a bit too fast. As I asked him to steady coming into the first short side it all went a bit pair shaped. He came off the track and began to power round, running through in an ugly unbalanced way. It took 3-4 circuits to actually stop him, every time he felt like he was steadying when he got to the corner he would plough on wildly, faster and faster. I stayed calm, and stuck on, but only just. Eventually I managed to stop him by resorting to the ‘Pony Club’ halt i.e. weight back, heels jammed down and throw the anchors on full power. I hate doing that, and haven’t done it for a decade or more, but he just wouldn’t stop otherwise, and nothing else I tried had worked. We decided he wasn’t working right, and after a very brief walk round I hopped off. He was really blowing…

Next day RI checked him over thoroughly again, gave him a good massage all over, and lunged him. He seemed OK. On the following day I tacked him up after his usual stable and personal care seeing to, and had a quiet hack up the road for 30 minutes or so. He seemed chirpier, and moved better, but I really began to feel something was going on. He hesitated at the top of inclines, and picked his ground carefully. He trotted happily enough, but had lost his usual suspension – the elastic ‘double bounce’ of a big free mover. I don’t think anyone else would have noticed anything much, but I was sensitive to every little thing. We pottered back. Next day I went out with another rider and suspicions were confirmed. He was clearly not right, and I turned him round and took him back before we even got to the end of the drive.

No one could quite put a finger on what was going on. He wasn’t lame, his saddle wasn’t hurting him, but he was increasingly reluctant to go forward and withdrawing into himself. His owner came back, the vet came out three times over 2 weeks and couldn’t find anything. He was eating, peeing, pooing and his temperature was within the normal range. Turns out he was brewing a really nasty virus/infection, which attacked his boy bits and the whole area blew up like a balloon. No wonder the poor lad was getting more and more reluctant to move, trot, jiggle downhill and canter round. He was so uncomfortable.

It was 2-3 months before he began to return to his old self. By that time his owner had lost even more confidence and was struggling to make herself ride him. She was keen for me to ride him whenever I wanted, and I was eager to help. But it turned out Bobby had changed (not surprisingly) during his winter of discontent. He had lost confidence himself, and become tenser. I hacked him out briefly, and he was steady, but he was looking at things he never used to, and I could feel him getting wired the longer we were out. Next time I was up his owner was there, not quite able to gain confidence to go out, so we agreed to do a half and half hack, where I rode him out and she rode him back. Each would act as foot soldier for the other. We set off with one of the other liveries to accompany us, but she turned back when she saw a string a sheep traipsing up the road in the direction we were going. Her lad can be spooky.

We carried on, riding as far as the gate and back. And he was really, really tense, getting very looky at a quad that was coming down the field to feed the sheep. I made light of it – he didn’t actually do anything of course, he was trying so hard to behave because he’s so genuine. L got on board and we made our way back, with me close by, just in case. He was fine, but not the same. I am never a confident hacker, although I manage to bluff it out. I could feel days of feeling utterly safe on him beginning to slip away.

L was not able to get up to the yard that weekend, so I went up and had another go at riding him in the school. It almost went OK. He had a small spook, no problem – we worked on. He began to work as he was renowned to – big and fluid and mobile – starting to breathe with his work and snort lightly with every trot stride. Then came an enormous spook, taking him half way across the school sideways. I was losing confidence. A few more circuits and he felt like a UXB. He skidded to a halt by the yard gate, distracted and rooted to the spot – something had his full attention. It wasn’t me. I’d never felt anything quite like it. He felt totally ‘electric’, from the tips of his alerted ears to the bottom of his hooves. I managed to steel myself and get him to walk a couple of 20m circles at that end of the arena, but to be honest I was scared and felt anything could have happened.

I did have some excuses. Something had upset all the horses the day before (either overnight or sometime during the day – no one knows what). My lesson had to be abandoned when neither of the mounts I was offered would do anything sensible. One of the school cobs had dislodged her very capable rider twice with her ‘spin & flee’ star turn. I was so disgusted at my sudden lack of confidence in that lesson that I had made myself come up and ride Bobby the next day. I shouldn’t have done. There’s a lot of power there, and didn’t know him well enough to have risked riding him on a bad day when I’m not used to riding him on a good day. Lesson learnt.

So that’s where we are now. I tried to get involved and found myself not up to the job of buddying a nervous owner when my own confidence level is not high enough. I am still riding him – more of this later in the diary, but have taken a step back from getting into a share arrangement. I believe I am capable of it, but need to demonstrate that more fully first.

On reflection I think it will all come right in a short while when they get turn out. Now they are stabled all the time apart from a short ‘run & roll’ session in the school during mucking out each day, or when being ridden. They are all getting a bit stir crazy. The chance to socialise, play, wander at will and get some of the green grass inside them will make all the difference.

I just wish I wasn’t such a wuss.
 

selside

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Jul 1, 2010
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And then the good bits...

Let’s move on to the other little chap, the 13hh Dartmoor. I am already very, very fond of him, He is an absolute cracker, and very well bred. He looks like a slightly chunkier version of one of Joosie’s ponies. I have so much enjoyed riding him as has an ideal build and way of going for an ageing less than flexible short and stout 50 something. Sandy is not a project really in that he doesn’t do anything wrong under saddle. He just needs to learn how to be a riding school pony – which as a 12 yo takes a bit of adjusting to.

I’ve been riding him solo, in lessons with RI and in a group of other mature riders, discovering more about him each time. He’s very forward going and needs NO leg at all (a pleasure for me as it saves my hips/legs), just think trot and off he goes. Usually he starts off a bit hollow and nosey poky. Once he has chilled out he demonstrates his background at a showing yard. He has obviously been taught to diddle round nicely with a little rider on his back looking pretty. Even with minimal contact, unasked, he lowers his head into a very over bent position and poddles on. This does require a decent amount of balance for an adult rider as there’s no pony really in front of you! He just offers this automatically as what he thinks you want.

After that it really, really gets good. His standard offering is really a bit of an evasion, as it means he’s not working that hard. Once you ask for bit more his head will come up and he powers on in a beautiful outline. We don’t do outlines at our RS, so I’m not used to it… He feels so much bigger than he actually is, and boy does he canter properly too – talk about using his back end. He can go a bit too fast when he’s in a lesson with others, and also get a bit tense, but he still listens. I feel very confident on him. He doesn’t seem to spook at anything much, and he jumps very steadily too. We had a few funny moments when he was totally taken aback by the white snow whale that had appeared on a bank just outside the arena. It was new and therefore had the potential to spring up and attack him. But he didn’t DO anything other than rush past rather speedily with his head in the air.

Having had a few rides in the school I knew I’d have to try taking him out on a hack at some point. The snow had been so bad that none of them had been out of the RS for a couple of months. Then he had been led out up the lane and back as a lead rein ride and been good. So I took the bull by the horns and suggested to RI that we hacked out instead of having a lesson. I am not the boldest hacker in the world, but suspected that Sandy would actually be fine. I had meant to have a potter around in the school first, but there was too much going on to be able to do that. Also, I knew that there would be times in the summer when he’d have to just go straight out without having the edge taken off, so I opted to take the bull by the horns and just go for it. We decided to see how things went and go as far as seemed sensible depending on how he went.

And he was a superstar. He set off out, with RI on her big 16.2 mare, and together little and large swent up the driveway. Ears pricked he strode boldly forward , overtook and walked briskly and alertly onwards. I did ask RI if she was happy with him taking the lead, but we decided that as he seemed to be enjoying himself and was going keenly forward without being joggy or pulling we’d leave him to it. He has such an active walk, I could feel his little legs striding under me. The good thing was he wasn’t rushing at all – it was just his natural pace. Such a pleasure.

At the start he wasn’t great a halting for gates. The further we went the more he chilled, and despite never having been up on the open moorland before he turned off the road and pottered round the block on the fell without even hesitating, leading all the way. He seemed to really be enjoying himself. RI said she’d never been round the triangle so fast, her big gal with dinner plate hooves was struggling to keep up with him on the rough stuff. On the way back he stopped politely at the two gates and waited nicely. Never bothered about any traffic, though there wasn’t much anyway. We were both mightily impressed.

So I have a real sweetie to ride, who steps up his game with a rider on, but will look after a tiddler who can’t quite get rising trot in Pony Club. He is easy to lead, perfect to groom, simple to tack up and gentle in every way. The only downside is a stable handling problem, which we are working on and hope will disappear altogether when they get proper turnout.

The wonderful Dave sent us a Christmas card. He’s having a lovely time with his new family. He was wearing a Santa hat in the card – such a character. Now I know he’s happy and loved I don’t feel too bad about getting a bit soft on this new little fella.
 

Trewsers

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Thoroughly enjoyed reading that - Sandy sounds lovely, and I think Bobby will be much better once he gets some turnout - if that's been lacking, its amazing what a different pony they can turn into once they get back out again. What stable handling issues are you having with Sandy then?
 

Joyscarer

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Reading about bobby took me right back to 6.5 years ago with my own flashy paced Welsh D ex riding school horse. I very nearly sold Joy. Turned out to be wrong saddle and bridle for her and back issues. After that, transitioning from an unhappy ex riding school horse not riding off site, and rarely out the school, to a very happy and competent happy hacker went well. If I hadn't fallen for who she was and known she was the one for me because of her personality, I'd never have invested my time and nerves into moulding her into being my perfect partner.
 

joosie

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Interesting read Selside. I'm sure you are not a "wuss" by the way! - dealing with horse problems / difficult behaviour is a real learning curve (especially if you have an RS background with straightforward horss) and confidence can be easily dented, but you are clearly a very thoughtful and observant rider so don't sell yourself short. I can assure you that you'd run into much worse problems if you were full of ego and thought you were incapable of getting things wrong!

Personally I think you are spot on with the last paragraph about Bobby - I would hedge a bet that the lack of turnout is the main cause of his out-of-character behaviour. Also, as a horse with a competitive background he would have been used to regular, consistent work and it may be that having a slightly "easier life" and having less to keep him occupied is contributing to it as well - maybe being a happy hacker isn't stimulating him enough as I assume he hasn't been working so much with the awful winter? Plus I wonder if what he's being fed is providing him with too much energy for the work he is doing, which is a common problem at the best of times but particularly in the winter.

Sandy sounds great fun and right up my street. I have a soft spot for those ponies who can adapt their behaviour to different levels of rider - you can't teach them that!
 

bitsnpieces

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Interesting read Selside. I'm sure you are not a "wuss" by the way! - dealing with horse problems / difficult behaviour is a real learning curve (especially if you have an RS background with straightforward horss) and confidence can be easily dented, but you are clearly a very thoughtful and observant rider so don't sell yourself short. I can assure you that you'd run into much worse problems if you were full of ego and thought you were incapable of getting things wrong!

This with big brass knobs on!!!!!

You sound like you're doing a great job and really listening to your ponies, can't wait to hear more about your adventures!
 

selside

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Jul 1, 2010
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Thanks for the kind comments, everyone.

Joyscarer - I am sure you are right about taking time with Bobby. I still feel he is my ideal kind of ride, and we will both improve when they all get outdoors. Not imminent sadly as we've still snow on the tops, not a blade of grass and it's blowing a hooly...

Things are on the up with his demeanour, way of going and ridden relationship with his owner. She's riding again and he very sweetly takes care of her and diddles along doing his best "I'm taking care of mum" trot. When YM or I get on him he'll offer his best welshie look at me trot. It's partly me getting used to this snorty, bouncing activeness. He only gets enthusiastic and speedy, not naughty or out of control. We all rode together in an oldies group lesson last week and she had a few steps of canter.

Riding out he can normally be trusted with anyone on board. On my first hack out on him (with RI luckily) we came through a gate onto the open moor only to find a gaggle of 4 loose mares gathered. He got up on his toes and was mighty interested. Nose to nose. One took exception, reared up and struck out at him (we were beyond range). And he never worried a jot. I had to persuade him away from them. They all took off and he never thought for an instant about going with them.

Joosie - yes he is still adjusting. He adores eating and sleeping though and is a chilled fellow by nature. Over last summer he was a happy chappy out with his mates and being a happy hacker. Being poorly over winter made him shrink into himself. I really don't think the change of lifestyle will bother him in the long run. He in his teens now and can tell the difference between his mum riding him as a leisure rider and someone asking for proper work. He responds accordingly.

You are right about little Sandy too. He is such a star adapting himself to suit. Last time I rode when I pulled the stirrups down before mounting they would have dangled at about my knee! He looks after his little riders, even the nervous ones enjoy popping over the cross poles on him. He has a very measured and steady hoppity pop.

When I'm on board he does fizz up a bit more, and gets keener. (I think he reckons I can look after myself!) In group sessions he works much better as leading file. Behind he gets more nosy pokey and will hollow. Plus he gets snorty and whizzy when we canter at the end. It's fun but I won't let it become a habit. He has to do a nice balanced trot before we go up a gear.

He is an little gem. He has only one fault - his stable manners I'll post an update on that on the other thread about stable behaviour.
 
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