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

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Why do we love our horses?

I am now entering my third week of gravel foot hell.

Harvey has two abscesses, one in each foot, hovering around his coronet band and I am practically demented trying to coax them out. But stubborn they remain. As I keep reapplying poultices my mind keeps asking Why? Why am I doing this? Why do I have horses when they are so much hassle, money and pain-in-the-arse-ness?
And it's a good question. Why do we love horses when sometimes it's a very difficult thing to do?

 I did a quick poll of my horsey friends and here are some of the answers:
"I love all of it, looking after her and riding her, just going to see her grazing makes me happy and if she has a whinny for me I am over the moon."
"I love the adrenaline rush of getting around a cross country course and having a lovely picture to show for it.  I enjoy the glass of wine (or bottle) and chat with all my supporters at the end and the day."
"They're such a huge magnificent animal that can say NO at any time but instead they let us crouch over their shoulder as they gallop us into the wind."
"I know I've cried more tears over my horse than anything else, but all he has to do is look at me with those big brown eyes and I melt completely. 
"I know I'd remortgage the house if he needed treatment that I couldn't afford.
"Just spending time stroking him and telling him all my problems is a big stress reliever, even though he (and the others) cause me more stress than anything else!"
One of my favourite answers was this poem that my friend sent me. I'm sure most of you have read it but I think it sums it up very well!  
 Why do I like horses? I think I must be mad. My mother wasn’t horsey - and neither was my dad.
·         But the madness hit me early - and hit me like a curse. And I’ve never got much better. In fact, I’ve just got worse.
·         My stables are immaculate. My house is like a hovel. Last year for my birthday, I got a brand new shovel.
·         I hardly read a paper, but I know who's sold their horse.  I wouldn't watch the news, unless Mr Ed was on of course. 
·         One eye is always on the heavens but the washing waves in vain, as I rush to get the horses in - in case it's going to rain. 
·         And although they're wearing 15 rugs, the best that you can get, I bring them in to keep them dry, whilst I get soaking wet. 
·         I spent every penny I've got on horsey stuff for sure, I buy saddles, bridles and fancy rugs, and then I buy some more. 
·         I should have had a haircut, or bought that nice blue shirt.  At least it wouldn't look ripped and covered all in dirt. 
·         I can't make the books balance, so I don't even try.  But I can back up a car and trailer in the twinkling of an eye. 
·         It's jeans and joddy boots that I live in night and day, and that smell of sweaty horses doesn't wash away. 
·         Once every now and then I dress up for a ball, with make up and posh hairdo, high heels and all. 
·         I ache from long forgotten falls, my knees have got no skin.  My toes have gone a funny shape from being squashed again. 
·         But late at night, when all is still and I've gone to give them hay, I touch their velvet softness and my troubles float away. 
·         They give a gentle nicker and nuzzle through my hair, and I know where my heart is, more here than anywhere.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The horse I regretted became the one that taught me everything*

ONE of the most stupid things I've ever done was to buy a four-year-old horse. Feeling weary after clambering out of a crap relationship I was having a quiet day at home when I went to check the post.

Amongst the junk mail was a compensation cheque for a car accident I'd had two years earlier.
I thought about my ex, I thought about the cheque and I decided to use it to buy something that would break the cycle and stop me from going back. An hour later and I had the yellow paper in my lap while I carefully scanned the ads. 

There were two that caught my eye. Both bay mares, both 15.1hh, both near Hartlepool. One was seven, the other ad didn't specify an age.

Two weeks later and I was arranging a box to collect Cady. Her name had been Candy, which I couldn't stand so the 'n' got ditched. I decided I'd rather have a horse named after a golf cart than an American cheerleader.

From day one there were problems. I simply didn't know anything about horses, how they thought or the immense differences between them. She wasn't my first horse but she was my first youngster and I made mistake, after mistake, after mistake. But something stopped me from selling her. She got under my skin.

It took a lot of professional help to turn things around. A lot. What I've spent on lessons could have bought me the schoolmaster to end all schoolmasters. But I have knowledge in the bank now, and a horse that I love. 

Our progress has been painfully slow at times and often we go backwards. At the moment we're having a good run but in a week or two we'll hit a new problem and I'll be in despair again. Which is probably why I'm writing this - it's nice to have a reminder, when things are bad, that they can also be really good.

I took her for a little hack last night in the sunshine. She's still nervous and sharp and 90 per cent of that is my fault, but we know how to cope now. It was great fun and it made me smile, a vast difference from the times when I felt sick just thinking about riding her.

The horse I regretted became the one that taught me everything.* Regret can change into satisfaction and with horses, that tipping point is where the magic lives.  

*Just to make it clear. I don't mean everything. She's pants at algebra and my talent as a rider is still on the petite side!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Swings and roundabouts

The rain subsided just long enough last night for Cady and me to have a swim. To be fair the arena is great so that's an exaggeration but we are all looking distinctly more webbed since the clouds opened for business. She was really good and I thoroughly enjoyed it - I rode for a whole 30 minutes - voluntarily! No one made me stay on or anything - a miracle. Usually we trot a circle and I decide I can't be fadged any more.

Here's photographic proof that Cady wore tack yesterday while I dusted the cobwebs off my head. It's an awful photo - I look like her creepy kidnapper.

In slightly more concerning news, Harvey has big fat back legs. I think he now has an abscess in his other hind so tonight I'm going to resurrect the stupid poultice. If there's no improvement by tomorrow I shall be calling the vet :( I still turned him (Harvey, not the vet) out in the field this morning, which felt like the right thing to do, but now I'm thinking it probably wasn't. Damned if you dee and damned if you divent eh? 

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Is it a coincidence that my hits have zoomed up since the post about Harvey papping on me? If it's not then I'm glad you share my sense of humour about these memorable moments :) 

But seriously, thanks for checking in, it's lovely x 
With both of my steeds out of action for a bit I had to find other ways to keep myself amused with...

A trip to Ride Away in Yorkshire

Saying hello to teeny horses 

Poulticing Harvey's foot in embarrassing colours to hasten his will to heal. 

Fortunately they are both Ok now and tonight I'm planning to ride for the first time in ages. Wish me luck :) 

Harvey gets better

Harvey celebrated the departure of his abscess yesterday by pulling some faces and smooching the blacksmith...If it makes him happy I'm not going to argue.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Harvey gets the trots at a crucial moment

If you're feeling a bit sad today then hopefully this will give you a laugh. I went to change Harvey's poultice this morning and because he's feeling a bit better he was slightly less cooperative and a bit more twitchy.

At the crucial moment my heart sank as I realised he was going to poo and I had no option but to hang onto his leg and pray it missed me. It didn't, and my freshly washed waterproof is now adorned with a big streak of horse diarrhoea.

Which proves that you really do have to have a sense of humour if you opt for a horsey life. You just haven't lived until you've been shit on by a horse before 7am. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Harvey hospital

The rain has bought Harvey horse a present - a gravel foot.
He's been out of sorts the last couple of days so I knew something was brewing and today he had a big fat leg, a hot hoof and a sad face.

Fortunately, a gravel foot is my Mastermind subject. My first horse got them like clockwork every time we had a rainy spell, which softens their feet and makes them more vulnerable to grit getting in and causing an abscess. 

Harvey was an angel while I tubbed his foot and stuck a poultice on - they know when you're trying to help.

I left him knee deep in straw with two big haynets to munch on and a hoof swathed in vetrap and a plastic bag to heat it up and get the puss moving in the right direction. Sexy stuff :) 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

How to enjoy your horse when you're broke

No one with two horses is poor. I'll state that from the start because the last thing I want is to be beaten to death for gross insensitivity.
Poor is not having any money for food or shelter, whereas I would class myself as something separate and specific - F.D.D.T.H - which stands for Financially Deficient Due To Horses.
Rough translation - the buggers eat me out of house and home and I'm lucky if I've got enough change for a Mars Bar at the end of the month.
I see them as my responsibility and they get everything they need - food, bedding, injections, vet visits, teeth, foot trims etc...
But there's nothing left for new riding boots, a wagon, show entry fees or regular lessons. I could moan about this but actually, it has its plus points. Here's my guide to why a lack of moulah can actually be a good things when it comes to the horsey life.
1. You have to make do
Before I could afford my own I loaned horses, a far more sensible option financially. I was lucky enough to have some great loan horses who taught me loads and with whom I enjoyed an awful lot of happy hacking.
2. You have to put the work in
In richer times I used to rely on my lessons and instructors to sort out riding problems. Now I have to put the effort and thought in myself. I have lessons when I can and I make notes after each one which I look over - it's surprising what you forget and you often find you already have a technique or answer to deal with a schooling issue. All of this increases my skill set and makes me more determined - there's no one else to get on Cady when she's being a toad so I have to find a way to handle it.
3. You get more time for the little things
I try to make the most of the day to day things that are free, and pretty great too. Once I've turned them out I spend five minutes just watching them. They never disappoint. Seeing that first roll of the day or canter up the field reminds me how much horses themselves find ways to be joyful that are free (they have no pockets for credit cards)
4. You toughen up
I'm sure a lot of horse owners can relate to that unique feeling you get from waking up at 5am, months on end, to shovel poo, then heading to work and fighting the temptation to fall asleep at your desk. Not to mention the scorn you get from people when you mention that bedtime is 9pm. But I have to believe that all this is somehow beneficial. I think it makes me physically better off and it also reminds me that there are things in life more important than my urge to ignore the alarm and roll over. Horses don't care if you're tired, and they're rubbish with wheelbarrows and pitchforks so it's down to you.
5. You get creative
I've made improvised Pessoa's out of tail bandages, learned how to clip, how to repair and reproof rugs and how to go into a tack shop and ONLY BUY FEED while ignoring shiny, sparkly, tempting treats.
6. You can set the pace
If it's raining, I don't have to ride. If they're lame I can give them ample time to recuperate. If I'm tired I can tuck them in and go home. Cady and Harvey are a long-term going concern for me. I've figured out we're not going to qualify for Burghley so I can just let it go and accept all three of us as we are and hopefully enjoy our friendship for many years to come.

Cuddles are still free