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

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Dogs and horses are a gift

We had a lovely time with Nancy last night. She is biddable and loving, with a minxy streak* of course, and is fitting into the family with alarming speed. We took her for a short walk to the shops since the excitement of her arrival means we have cupboards full of puppy food, but nothing for the humans, and she walked well on her new harness.

She was rescued by a friend of a friend of ours from someone who didn't want her and was considering drowning her or dumping her at the side of the road. I find it hard to get my head around that fact, especially when she bounces over to play, or takes herself off for a sleep on my old polypad. But there you have it, and I think it's best not to dwell but just to think of the years of fun ahead of us.

This morning Phil was up early and took her out for a short walk (she is doing very well with toilet training) and then the humans had a cup of tea sitting on the bed while Nancy Noodle had a snooze on the patch of the duvet that went on the floor. It felt like Christmas, that homey feeling that breathes over everything and makes you drag your feet when leaving for work.

Once again, I feel very lucky to have a life full of horses, and now a dog to put the cherry on the cake.

Said horses, by the way, are thriving. Cady is more or less sound except for her normal wonky hock, and Rodney looks like a chestnut bull. The mizzley weather has had absolutely no affect on their rounded tummies and bulging bottoms. I think they could go to the Arctic and put weight on. 

Happy horsing everyone x

*So far she has eaten three daddy long legs and one earwig and this morning she hid under the bed and tried to scoff some indigestion tablets.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Normal service will resume shortly...

This is Nancy -

She is our new lurcher puppy and also the main reason I haven't done much with the blog lately.
From tonight she'll live with us permanently and we are too excited. Even just writing the word 'Nancy' on this blog is making me feel more excited. I'm too excited to write anything sensible at any rate.

But just for anyone who worries..the horses are tip top and loving the last burst of summer sunshine.

Other than that, normal service will resume shortly!

Happy horsing everyone x

Friday, 13 September 2013

Any day you sit on a horse...is a good day

It's Friday night, there's a cake in the oven and I'm having a small beer to inspire a bit of blog juice creativity.

I woke up this morning feeling like a complete zombie - even after a coffee it took me five minutes to work out which way to turn the oven dial to make it the right temperature. A walk into town to get some meat and veg helped, but by the time I got to the yard my brain was doing the 'Shall I ride? Naaa-don't ride, manyana, manyana'.

I've done this brain indecision dance many times and now when it happens I generally ride. To paraphrase Mark Rashid - any day when you get to ride a horse is by definition a good day.

And I was glad I did. Rodney was game for a bit of schooling (or seemed to be) so we set to it. I warmed up with slightly longer stirrup leathers and then took them away altogether to try and work on my own self carriage.

I'm quite tall and Rodney is about 15hh so sometimes I ride too short and lose my balance. I could feel the difference between my right hip and left today - right is our better rein, but there were some good moments. 

I'm trying to find that happy spot where I'm just setting him up well and letting him take it from there without being too absent and letting things drop to bits. We had some better canter strides but when it's too fast I still bounce so I have to work, work, work at keeping a supporting contact otherwise he bools off and it's messy. 

It was a very absorbing ride and the exercise did me good I think. Cady was keen to say hello and I bought her in for a mouthful of feed, not that she needs it. We had some serious neck scratching bonding on Thursday after a couple of weeks of being a bit cool with each other.

I don't like to personify the horses but I definitely feel that me and her have a love/hate thing going on...Anyway, it's all love at the moment and that makes me very happy.

Before I sign off to go and check the cake, here's a couple of pics of The Beautifuls.

Happy horsing everyone! x 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

How to work with horses without destroying yourself

In my early twenties I worked as a groom for a couple of years. I rode lots of horses, shovelled lots of shit and cleaned more tack than I care to remember.

If I returned to that job now, there are things I would do differently to take care of myself.

Here they are:

1. I would look after my hands.
I suffer from eczema anyway and now I never clean tack or bath the horses unless I have rubber gloves on. The chemicals are murder on skin conditions and even if you have tough skin, gloves will stop it from drying out and protect you from blisters.

2. I would learn how to take care of waterproof clothing
Waterproof jackets and trousers are valuable pieces of kit but they need a bit of caring for. You can't wash them in normal detergent. They need to be done with tech-wash or something similar and then reproofed every three or so washes. Tech-wash and re-proofer are just liquids you add to your washing machine in the same slot where the Daz normally goes and cost a few quid from outdoor shops. If you care for your stuff it will last. Equally, invest in good footwear and follow the care instructions to keep that watertight too. Working with horses is tough anyway - ten times more so if you're soaking wet and freezing cold.

Why am I not wearing hat and gloves? Why??

3. I would have a good osteopath on speed dial.
You will say you can't afford it until the day you can't get out of bed. A bad back needs to be attended to and a good osteopath will keep you going. It's also beneficial to your riding as it will help you stay more balanced.

4. I would go to yoga once a week.
I do now, Iyengar yoga at the local sportshall, and that £4.50 is the best money I spend all week. Yoga, or pilates, will keep you supple and strong and reduce the cost of number 3. (see above)

5. I would learn how to cook. The better your diet the easier you will be able to absorb hard physical work without becoming exhausted. I can personally vouch that this bread takes ten minutes to make, an hour to prove and 25 mins to cook. Click here for the recipe. It will make good heavy sandwiches that will fill you up and keep you warm. If possible, have a hot meal for lunch and avoid chocolate and crisps. They have little nutritional value and won't satisfy real hunger. Proper food will stop you from crashing and burning. Think spag bol, curry and thick soups.

6. I would not leave the house without an extra jumper, extra gloves, spare socks and a woolly hat. Even in August. Seriously, the weather in this country can be murder. Have the gear to face a snow storm and arctic winds at all times. 

Happy horsing everyone x 

A good horse will take you far

Mine took me for a lovely ride this morning, pottering around country roads. I felt a bit nervous since we hadn't hacked out alone for a while, but Rodney was as safe and sensible as always. We saw traffic, other horses, a petrol lawn mower and numerous bins, rocks and troughs that Cady would have had a dicky fit at. 

More and more I am appreciating what a super, honest horse Rodney is. He has really improved my confidence and given me so many nice rides over the past year. I am looking forward to our fun day at Cote Hill Riding School next week and have fingers crossed for fine weather. That said - 24 hours of rain has done a superb job of cleaning up his socks, mane and tail! Saves me a job anyway. When I first bought him he was very well turned out but I have not maintained such standards - he is definitely a scruff now.

Once upon a time someone used to groom me...(Rodney before I got him and allowed
him to become a grottbags)

They say good horses make good jockeys and I believe that's true. They certainly make for happy jockeys. I used to really relish the idea of a project horse but now the prospect leaves me cold. I think they are best left to the professionals, though I don't mind the odd quirk.

Riding, for me, should be safe and fun.

Happy horsing everyone x

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Five minute read

Interesting post called 'In Search of the Mythical Best'. The blog isn't horsey but is a great read.

Click here for the said post and change the word 'doctor' for 'riding instructor'. May give you some food for thought.

Happy horsing everyone! x

Nostalgia/book hoarding

While searching for something in the depths of the wardrobe the other day I found a battered old copy of Pony magazine. It transported me back to being 12-years-old and using my paper round money to buy a subscription - it was a big deal when it arrived every month. I read that magazine from cover to cover, even the icky features on worming.

Curious, I had a flick through the copy I found and I was happy to realise it had stood the test of time. Some of the articles (in fact, pretty much all of them) were really good and practical. 
Like this one - about how to be a decent yard volunteer...

I'd love to know what it's like now - perhaps I need to buy a copy and find out? I definitely remember the magazine discouraging bratty behaviour around ponies and taking the piss out of spoiled children and I hope it hasn't stopped doing that.

My fondness for old Pony magazines also stretches to pony novels and if I pass a second hand shop I can't resist a rummage. Here are some I've found over the past few years. When the dark nights roll in they are perfect for a quiet read in the bath.

When I was about seven our family moved to Durham and the house we rented had a bookcase full of the Jill books. I read every single one, again and again. Funnily enough, the Jill books never seem to appear second hand -perhaps they are collector's items now?

Anyway, the books and the magazines were a brilliant consolation when I didn't have my own horse, and remind me how grateful I am now that I do.

I'll round off with some pics of Cady from yesterday on a bright and windy day. Peanut stalked me throughout until I gave in and offered her a neck scratch. She's very persuasive and just looms until you cave in.

Cady and Peanut rollin'

Artistic bum shot

Notice me!

Shiny punk Cady

Grazing formation

Straight lines please

Monday, 2 September 2013

And before I forget..

Meant to include this before -

A really good post from Kate at A Year with Horses When to speak sharing some honest thoughts about being on a livery yard and deciding when to offer advice and when to stay

P.S - Just back from the yard and Rodney has now got one bent shoe and one missing. I 
think it's marvelous the way he keeps himself entertained!

Summer leaves slowly and quietly

I am writing this post in between trips to the kitchen to supervise batch two of blackberry jam.
It's been a batch of mixed fortunes, starting well but then going slightly off plan when I sterilized the jam jars to a supernatural temperature that made the jam angry.

Anyway, this is a horse blog, not a food blog, and I am a horse rider, not a cook - as the above anecdote demonstrates. But the fact that blackberry jam is happening is significant, because it marks a change in the seasons.

Summer seems to be slipping away. I took some pics of the horses at the weekend and when I looked back through them, something didn't look right.

"Oh my God," I thought, "They've both got Cushings!" After I'd calmed down I realised that my (eight and nine-year-old) horses do not have Cushings - they're getting their winter coats.

And even though autumn is my favourite season, it still makes me feel a bit sad. It's been - no question - a brilliant summer. Rodney has been fantastic and I will think about our hacks around the farm together when the dark nights draw in.

I'm interested to see where we'll end up together. He's a really interesting horse to own. I feel like he's as deep as the ocean sometimes, but for now I think we've found a good pace to go at that suits both of us. My ambitions for the horses and myself waver about but right now I just enjoy spending time with them and taking a very slow approach. 

As mentioned in other posts, I've been riding Rod in his headcollar as he's never been super happy to bridle and I wondered if it was the head shy issue that troubled him or if he doesn't like being ridden in a bit? No conclusive evidence really except I think it's helped me have more consistent hands. I carry them too high and I twiddle too much normally so for now I'm concentrating on keeping them low and soft.

Sadly, Cady is still not right, but she is very happy in the field and coming to no harm. I have my suspicions and hopes that it's just a stubborn abscess bothering her and the blacksmith is due this week to have another dig about. At any rate she is hail and hearty in all other respects and if she ends up as a field ornament - so be it.

Rodney has bent his shoe in a strange way so I haven't ridden over the weekend, but he looks well too and remains good to catch.

In a couple of weeks we are going to a fun day. I'm hoping he'll be good to load but if not then I may attempt to hack to it as it's not very far away.

I'll finish this post with a good rally of photos - some from the weekend, some from last winter and one of Cady's adorable field friend, called Peanut. She is fabulous.

Happy horsing everyone x

Looks wistfully into the distance...

Cady and Phil last year having a cuddle in the middle of a snow storm

The treat inspector sauntering over on Sunday morning

Peanut! Peanut! Peanut!

Human, why don't you leave that last carrot in my tummy for safekeeping?

Rodney last autumn - reminds me how long his mane is now!

Ill-advised: hacking in a blizzard

Me being all 'cool and country' Rodney looking embarrassed