Welcome to my blog about horsey life in the North East - the good bits, bad bits, endless coffees and plenty of mud!

Wednesday, 29 February 2012


Yesterday evening I remembered just how powerful it is to be around horses. My head had been full of stress all week and driving to the yard I felt almost tearful and overwhelmed trying to get myself organised.

My instructor has wisely recommended I abandon attempts to ride Cady when I feel like this so instead my friend Mark and I decided to take them for a walk to the little wood nearby.

Harvey led the way with Mark and I followed behind with Cady snorting her head off. It was a beautiful mild and sunny evening and I could feel myself mellowing. 

In the past Cady has been tricky to lead as she tends to plant or spook a lot but she was really good and took her turn as lead horse on the way back.

Then we gave Harvey a good brush and took him down to the round pen to try a bit of join-up. He was a superstar and for the first time I asked him to canter and he just popped into a lovely rolling gait that made me think seriously about how much I'm longing to ride him.

As the sun set it was Cady's turn and I did some canter work with her too. She was really brave as the last time we went in the round pen she flat-out refused to go around one side of it. This time though she used the full track and tried really hard. 

We tucked them in for bed and by that time my fractious mood had evaporated. How lucky I am to have the two best horses in the world - well they certainly are to me, though I bet most horse owners feel like that! 

* I put one rubber mat at the front of Cady's box the other day, just to cushion her feet while she looks over her door. She wouldn't go near it, even though I left her tea on it. The next day it was untouched and she was not looking very happy! So the mat is now in Harvey's box - he's not afraid of a bit of luxury...Has anyone else experienced an extreme reaction to rubber matting or is it just quirky Cadster? 

I'm really enjoying the Horsey Hoodies blog sections this week 

Monday, 27 February 2012

Weekend snaps

For the first time this year I turned the horses out with no rugs so they could have a proper scratch.
They loved it - Cady rolled six times off the belt just in the few seconds it took to put Harvey out. I had another lesson with Jo Forster on Saturday. The minute I started warming up Bedlam broke out as one of the other horses in the field started kicking off along the fence line, a horse box pulled up and started unloading and loads of cars and JCBs started whizzing about.

To me this was disaster but after I stopped swearing Jo reminded me it was a really good opportunity to train Cady to get over this kind of thing. Anyway, I found the lesson tough but satisfying: here's my list of things I need to work on.
1) Making sure I go for a wee before I get on (I tend to ignore my bursting bladder which I'm sure just adds to my tenseness!)
2) Easing up on my inside rein which I've been using as a security blanket. Jo pointed out that Cady's eyes are bulging out of her head fighting against it
3) Using my legs effectively - no more waggling.

On Sunday I rode first thing. When we'd finished I didn't feel like it had gone too well but then I realised my standards have gone up and I can't get everything right overnight. Also, there were a couple of moments when I was actively correcting her rather than being a dreamy passenger.
In the afternoon I took her in the round pen and cantered her on my long line as she finds this pace hard being such a natural 'trotter'. She did great and I was really pleased with her. 

The photo above is of a cheeky chap on the next farm who snuck up to the fence line this morning to talk with Harvey and pals. 

Thursday, 23 February 2012


From now on I'll also be blogging for Durham-based company Horsey Hoodies.

Here's my very first piece for them :) 


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Weird but funny

If you don't follow @WeirdHorse on Twitter then I highly recommend you start...

Sparkle celebrates in style

Love this story which appeared in the Sunderland Echo and Shields Gazette yesterday, possibly love the pic even more! 

Sparkle the horse was the “mane” attraction at his 30th birthday party.
The Palomino Welsh cob marked the milestone – equivalent to 85 human years – with owner Jan Collins and other riders.

Jan, 45, from East Boldon, said: “Sparkle has reached the age of 30 against all odds and everyone who knows him wanted to mark the occasion, so we decided to celebrate his birthday while also raising money for horse charities.”

Sparkle has spent most of his life competing and over the years has won many dressage, showjumping, cross-country and veteran competitions


Monday, 20 February 2012

Three things that always make me feel better...

I think one of the best things about being a horse owner is that you learn to handle the fact that life doesn't always go the way you want. When you're confronted with a lame horse, or a horse that's tricky to ride, or a giant bill, you learn to dust yourself off and get on with it. And that's a good skill to have.

But there are certain things that always make me feel better when it comes to my horses. They're not huge things but they make a big difference. 

1. Watching them settle in for the night.
Nothing makes me feel so contented as seeing them stuffing their furry little faces with hay when they're knee deep in straw and wearing warm rugs. Once I've locked up I always go and give them one last good night stroke and when they ignore me I know they're happy and relaxed.

2. Scratching their scratchy bits.
Cady has many of these and pulls some cracking faces when you find them. I love seeing her go all gooey and yawny when I've scratched her neck for ages and she's all full of endorphins. Harvey is less particular but still likes his neck stroked while he wuffles around in my pockets.

3. Praising them for a job well done.
Sometimes I'm guilty of focusing on the parts that aren't going perfectly but the truth is both Cady and Harvey are diamonds in the rough so I 'm trying to replace my occasional frustrations with gratitude and realise I can learn a lot from them. There's a brilliant climber called Andy KirkPatrick and in the front of his book, Psychovertical, he thanks his wife for their children, saying they are 'presents that will take a lifetime to unwrap'. I think that's one of the best things I've ever read and sums up exactly how I feel about Cady Monster and Harvey Bobbins.

Tackling the shadow monsters

What a cracking weekend! 
On Friday my instructor Joanne Forster came out to give me and Cady a lesson on how to handle the shadows in the arena...Cady finds them terrifying and I'd failed to convince her they weren't poisonous  snakes.
We'd had an awful fall-out at the start of the week which ended in me forcing myself to give up and get off before she hurt both of us. 

By the time the lesson rolled around I worked out at least three huge mistakes I'd made which had led to the problems. I'd been in a rush, my head was full of work still and instead of being on Cady's side I let my frustration get the better of me so she was contending with a scary situation AND she'd lost her normal supportive partner and found herself between a rock and a hard place. 

Bearing this in mind, I got down to work applying Jo's practical advice which was based around giving Cady the benefit of the doubt, staying calm and making sure she gets answers to her questions. 

Cady is quite insecure and when she stops to look at things that's when trouble happens and she'll spin, rear or plant. But Jo taught me to spot her asking me 'is this ok?' and how to respond quickly by opening my hips, using lots of leg and positive attitude and sending her forward. 

Then I have to remember to reward Cady more when she does relax so she learns to take the 'handbrake' off. By the end of the lesson I felt we'd made some really good headway which was proven the next day with a good schooling session. I gave her ten minutes to look around and relax and then got down to business, which seemed to work well.

Joanne and her daughter Ayla demonstrate balance techniques

On Sunday I attended Jo's unmounted Reflective Riding workshop which was excellent. I've been to one before and they're really good fun but you also come away with so much sound information. We did all kinds of balancing exercises and learned how to get our seat bones even - I found I'd lost my left one completely until we did some work to find it! We also did some Feldenkrais exercises (a method of becoming aware of your body and how it works and freeing up your neurological paths to create more harmony in your body) which I'm now researching as I liked the flavour of it. 

Feeling very chilled out I then went and rode and had another good session with Cady. It was beautiful weather and the sun made lots of shadows in the arena but she handled them really well (she even felt slightly lazy she was so settled) and we finished with big pats and a mint from my friend Leanne who came to say hello. I'm now planning a really positive week leading up to my next lesson on Saturday. Bring it on :)  


Friday, 17 February 2012

Memory lane...

Found this photo tucked into my photo album the other day. It's me, aged 14 (eek!) and Rocky, a fantastic grey horse I used to ride at Low Fold Farm when it was a riding school. Unbelievably, lumberjack shirts were in fashion, or at least I thought they were...

I remember we were going down the big steps on the cross country course and it was a fantastic lesson. Rocky's trademark was to flick his back legs out after a jump and he had a fab drumroll canter. Happy, happy days. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Words of wisdom

Cracking wise words from my vet Phillip Jones last night, dispensed while giving Cady and Harvey their jabs.

"There are horses you ride to empty your head and those you should only ride when you've got an empty head."

Gold star, love it! 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


How did I survive winter before these came along? 

Do you have any treats that get you through the cold months? 

Valentine's Day

Happy St Valentine's Day everyone! Top marks to my friend Emma for having a topical clip on  Tia's bum...look closely and you'll see the heart....

It seems ironic on this day of romance that Cady and I have fallen out. I had the worst ride on her in three years last night complete with spinning, shying, planting and bolting...

My instructor Jo has come to the rescue and is popping over Friday night to mediate. 

Hopefully we'll be back in love soon :( 

Monday, 13 February 2012

Captain of the ship

Had a great lesson on Saturday afternoon with centered riding instructor Jo Forster... who spotted in 0.3 seconds that I'd gone back to my old habit of letting Cady do pretty 20m circles in the middle of the arena while totally avoiding the outside track.
We avoid it because Cady pays me no attention and spooks constantly so Jo reminded me to stop being a passenger, get a plan and get her over it.

Cady: not looking thrilled at having to do as she's told...

What a difference...half an hour later and we had truly made friends with the whole arena and not just the 'safe' bit near the gate. I must remember to be the 'captain of the ship' as Jo puts it.
God knows how good these Olympic riders feel when they win medals...I was over the moon with our tiny improvement!
Still, you've got to start at the beginning and the great thing about Jo's lessons is her ability to get to the heart of issue and get some progress underway.
I've done several join-ups with Harvey over the past week and he is a dream. I do want to get him checked over physically though so I've put in my request with a physio who comes highly recommended. In the meantime I still want him to feel like he's got a job and figured a trot around the round-pen won't do him much harm.

Happy Harvey 

 While I'm at it I'll get Cady looked at too as it's good to stay on top of these things.
After my lesson on Saturday I treated myself to a swim and a sauna, though I spent a lot more time in the sauna than in the pool! I must make an effort to get really fit - 2012 is going to be a big year for all of us. Go to http://www.joanneforster.co.uk/ to book a lesson with Jo - I highly recommend it.

Proof we've met the outside track

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Quote time

This is fantastic and came via one of my favourite blogs http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/ by Gretchen Rubin.

“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.” 
--Robert Louis Stevenson

So now when I am bringing Cady in or turning her out and she's being a pillock, I pretend to be a clock, while she brings the storm. 

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Playlists for horses

This I have to share...

My friend mentioned the other day that she has a theme tune for her horse that she plays on her iPhone while she's schooling.

Leading Cady to the field the other day I started singing Belle and Sebastian's Lazy Line Painter Jane and started laughing because it suits her so much.

If you haven't heard it and you'd like to then click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=il7Ek0uBYEE

Which led to the following text from my friend Em

"My fave Tia song is The Editor's Papillon also like Kanye West Love Lockdown, Kasabian's Fire, Train Soul Sister and Drops of Jupiter, Peter Bjorn Young Folks, M Girl Eyes Wide open, Newton Faulkner's Teardrops...I put everything that goes with her funny drum roll legs on a playlist...ALISON get an IPHONE! We can do mix tapes for Cady and Harvey! I defo think Cady is a bit Alanis Morrisette (slightly angry n edgy but catchy and loveable too) I think Harvey is a Beatles man, his opening track should be All You Need is Love!"

So there you have it,  I'm off to buy an iPhone. I resisted all of Apple's marketing but cannot hold out against such a persuasive text. 

Does your horse have an anthem? I'd love to know if anyone else has playlists for schooling.