Monday, 31 May 2010
Sunday, 30 May 2010
Thursday, 27 May 2010
Sunday, 23 May 2010
I then did a little in hand work with Wolfie in the school with the umbrella. Wolfie hates umbrellas. I've been doing a little with it over the past week. We're now at the stage where he will go over and touch it, when it's up in the school, but if you move it or try and pick it up, he will back off snorting. A little more work and I'm sure he will be fine.
I then decided to ride Wolfie bare back. I've been thinking of doing it all week, what's the worst that could happen, I fall off, I haven't came off Wolfie yet, but it will happen one day. I decided today was a good day as it was very warm and he was feeling the heat and looked quite lethargic. I got on at the mounting block and rode him into the school. He seemed a little hesitant at first, probably felt strange and a difference in weight distribution but he settled into his stride quickly. He was very good. We just worked in walk mostly and did some flexing and straightening exercises and then some leg yield and the beginnings of introducing shoulder in (we have also been working on this from the ground over the past week). We did a little trot work, he has an amazing big bouncy stride and apart from a few whizzy moments, he worked nicely and was focused on what he was doing. I haven't done much sitting trot with him under saddle, so need to build this up. He also hasn't been in the school for ages. It was fun. I'd forgotten how much more aware you are of your body, position, movements etc when you don't have stirrups or a saddle. Wolfie responds to your seat and weight aids beautifully. I spent years riding without stirrups and bare back, and it's all still there, I spent half an hour concentrating on the work we were doing, feeling his movement, the lovely swing through his back and for the first time in ages for that short time, I was the old me, where nothing would distract me from schooling a horse and for that short time, my huge weight was gone. I felt light and my horse felt very light. I then rode him around the yard and he was very good. I'm planning on doing some more bare back riding this week. I don't know about hacking him out, but maybe I'll take him a walk along the tracks. I wanted to get a photo today, but there was no-one at the yard when I was riding, maybe get one during the week, as proof.
Friday, 21 May 2010
Monday, 17 May 2010
Sunday, 16 May 2010
The mule performing dressage movements at Liberty is brilliant. Three time canter, lateral movements and moments of self carriage. That mule could perform a nice dressage test. They are being rewarded for carrying out desired actions but look as though they are enjoying the work and the interaction. The girl working with them treats them with real kindness. Their ears are hilarious. What can I say, I want a mule.
Apparently mules are much less tolerant to dogs than horses and are capable of striking out with any of their hooves in any direction, even sideways if needed. Mules exhibit a higher cognitive intelligence than their parent species. They also aquire greater height and endurance than either parent. Mules are highly intelligent and the stereotype of the mule being stubborn appears to be somewhat unfair.
Wolfie still seems to be intent on establishing his position within the herd. When I turn him out, he looks for C. (the horse who kicks him), gallops over to him, bites him on the hindquarters. C then moves out the way and Wolfie eats the patch of grass where C was standing. I've also seen him galloping flat out after C. It appears however that C. most of the time now tries to get out of Wolfie's way and does not appear to be entering into any full on confrontation with him. Wolfie is instigating all of this, but even when he bites or lifts a back leg, there is no real intent to do any damage. I rarely see him kick and most of the time he just makes threatening faces (which to be fair are not very threatening). C. has never came in with any wounds apart from a grazed nose (Wolfie lost a tooth and almost an eye so it balances out). It would appear that Wolfie is getting his way and has moved up the line. J and M are top of the herd and they seem to have a mutual agreement in leadership. Wolfie sees himself just behind those two. I dread to think what will happen if he ever gets any ideas about taking those two on.
Tuesday, 11 May 2010
I attempted to long rein Wolfie again tonight. I have been having him brought in during the day to get him off the grass and been giving him soaked hay to eat. This was my proposed idea to try and restrict his grass intake until the grazing gets restricted. However, whilst I wanted to concentrate on long reining, Wolfie's 5 year old mind and body had been stuck in a stable all day. All he wanted was out in the field with his friends. Half way up one of the fields, he started bucking which escalated into complete handstands giving me a birds eye view of his back feet. He was going every way but forward. He was performing some lovely passage and half pass. Eventually I managed to turn him and we crossed another field, still performing some lovely lateral work (not intentionally) and we returned home with Wolfie bouncing the whole way. That was one argument I wasn't going to enter into with a 5 year old who has been cooped up in a stable all day. It was a combination of freshness, boredom and frustration on his part and I fully understand why he did it. It wasn't badness, just how he was feeling. If the grazing was restricted he could stay out most of the day. The issue with fat horses is so widely publisised these days, and everyone that has any responsibility for any horse has a duty of care to ensure that measures are taken to control their weight but it is still so hard to try and get people to take it seriously. I'm thinking of buying my own fencing and putting it up during the night, see if anyone notices.
Monday, 10 May 2010
I long reined Wolfie tonight. At first he was a bit confused, but he remembered. He was very good and I had forgotten how much I used to enjoy long reining him around the fields. Although when I stood behind him tonight, I was like whoa, I actually felt slightly intimidated at first by the sheer size and power of him. It's over a year since I last long reined him, he is now a very big boy. I seem to have been oblivious to the changes Wolfie has gone through over winter. We long reined up and down a couple of hills. Wolfie seemed to really enjoy it and only had a couple of silly moments one of which was trying to bounce after a couple of lambs, but for the majority of the time he listened and was very responsive. I want to continue and long rein him up the hills to try and keep him active whilst he can't be ridden. Only problem is, I can't actually keep up with him. When he's walking forward I can barely keep up on the flat, but going uphill is worse especially if he powers up it. So here's to building up my fitness at the same time.
Friday, 7 May 2010
Yesterday was not a good day for me. I woke up feeling very, very sad. I spent the whole day trying to remember what my mum's voice sounded like and I couldn't. My head was thumping all day, I did everything at a snail's pace, but couldn't speed up no matter how much I tried. The saddler arrived and came down to see Wolfie. I opened the stable door to lead Wolfie out and his words were ' wow, look at the shoulders on him'. Wolfie exploded out of the stable (I have no idea why) and the saddler had a good look all over him. He was very complimentary about his big sloping shoulder and length of stride, saying it was text book angle for stride and elevation and any serious dressage rider would be envious of that shoulder. (Hmph that would be all well and good if he was a 16.2hh Warmblood). However, coupled with Wolfie's flat back and no real defined wither, it makes it a very difficult fit for a saddle. The saddler listened to all my thoughts and fears on the whole saddle / fitting issue and we discussed various options. Ultimately, I have known that every saddle I have tried on Wolfie recently does not nearly fit. I no longer have any confidence in myself or my judgement that I can even put a saddle on him and know that it is even placed correctly. If I am to ask any more of Wolfie in terms of his schooling and level of collection I need to have confidence in my tack. I need to be sure that any resistance shown is not down to a badly fitting saddle causing him discomfort. Wolfie is still pretty much a blank canvas to me, the foundations are there and so far he's a happy, confident horse who enjoys his work, I don't want to ruin everything we have achieved so far by making him sore and sour. As I've said before, Wolfie wears his heart on his sleeve. He lets you know how he is feeling every inch of the way. Like most youngsters, everything has to be in black or white, and with him you cannot skip a step, but I feel he would be a horse that could easily become very angry and bitter if things weren't done correctly or he was forced into something which caused him pain.
So the upshot is, Wolfie is having a custom made saddle. This is not something I wanted to be doing right now. This was a 'one day' dream several years down the line, but I have to do what is best for Wolfie right now. The saddler is coming out on Saturday to measure him up, take tracings and photographs. The saddle will be black, and he has said I can have any choice of leather at no extra cost. The tree will be made to try and allow as much room for alteration as possible as Wolfie continues to change shape. It will be a close contact balance saddle. It will take 3 to 4 weeks for the saddle to be made and the saddler will come out fit the saddle and watch me ride in it. He will then make any final alterations. He said he will then come back out after we have been using the saddle for a few weeks as a follow up call to check it. The saddle comes with a 2 year guarantee (the majority of saddlers only offer 1 year guarantees) and the tree has a lifetime guarantee. After much discussion with the saddler I have decided on the Wallace GPD which has a medium deep seat and straight cut flaps. The panel has been designed to give maximum comfort for the horse, allowing an excellent fit while allowing freedom of movement around the shoulder area. It is a general purpose saddle but straighter cut like a working hunter type to free up his shoulder but also means we can still jump in it. I love tack and leather. Normally, I would be so excited by the thought of our very own custom made leather saddle, it's a dream come true, but right now it just feels like another set back even though I know it's the only way forward. The saddler then went off to fit J's new saddle and I was left with Wolfie, who was looking particularly pleased and happy with himself as my world once again came crashing down around my ears.
Fortunately, J's new saddle was a good fit on him and only needs reflocked. H came down to see me after the saddler had left, with her jaw on the ground, she said the saddler had commented that Wolfie's shoulders are bigger than J's. I'm trying very hard at the moment to think of the positives of Wolfie's shoulders. With his huge stride, he covers alot of ground, so we can hack in half the time it takes every one else to do the same route. I mentioned to the saddler that I had to have Wolfie's bridle customised as even his head doesn't fit a standard size. He laughed and said that it's the complicated ones that often make the very best ones.
I think in my heart, I knew that this is where we were going to end up, although part of me had hoped that the saddler would miraculously fit a saddle and we'd be able to join in the centered riding lessons next week, I really want to try that. But no riding Wolfie for the next month. I had considered getting on him bare back in the school, but I've never sat on him bare back and I really don't fancy ending up face down in the surface at the moment and could do without any injuries. So I will get the long lines back out and we will do some ground work for the next few weeks.
I have started clicker training with Buttons over the last 2 days. It took me a little while to get my head around it and timing is crucial. I used a schooling stick as the 'target'. At the moment it is teaching him to understand the clicker. Every time he touches the target, he gets clicked and rewarded with a tit bit. Buttons is a pony that has always been fed from the hand. He mugs anyone near him and is at perfect pocket height. When I tried for the first time on Wednesday, after a couple of goes, I could actually see him processing the whole thing in his mind. He was working it out. Normally he always snuffles around your jacket, but he was standing back, and then he would hesitantly 'touch' the target, he was then clicked and rewarded. You could almost see him thinking, 'what's the catch, this is too easy'. Yesterday I took him into the school for 10 minutes to do some clicker work. When there's food involved, you have Buttons undivided attention. To say he is food motivated is an understatement. He touched the target as I moved it around. He was desperate to do anything else to be 'rewarded'. I think Buttons would stand on his head if he could if he thought there might be a 'reward' in it. It's good fun, I'm still getting the hang of it with timing and co-ordination. I've been giving Buttons a good brush every day, trying to get that winter coat out. He's brilliant, he loves being groomed and would stand all day being fussed over and cuddled.
Wednesday, 5 May 2010
Some of the girls at the yard had a lesson last night on centered riding. I hung around to watch H and J's lesson. I've read some articles on centered riding, but have never really given it to much thought. It is a method of teaching which takes the focus back to the rider, providing exercises on and off the horse which enhance body awareness and help riders recognise areas of tension and imbalance. It looked brilliant. The instructor just had H doing exercises in walk, but the effect it had on J's way of going was amazing. He was striding forward without the usual cries of 'leg on' and 'flexion' that you hear in lessons. H was beaming when she got off, having thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a great feeling to come out of a lesson and have achieved something. It's definitely something I would like to try. Maybe once the dreaded saddle issue is sorted out.
Sunday, 2 May 2010
We have been out hacking with H and J several times this week. I am still lacking self motivation to ride. H has been quietly encouraging me to go out with her and J. I don't mind riding on my own and usually enjoy just concentrating on Wolfie, but right now it just gives me too much time to think. H had a half day on Wednesday, so we went for a longer hack. We rode up around Lennox Castle and around Celtic Football Club's Training ground. Their football pitches are immaculate. We were wondering what we would be charged with if we broke in and galloped across their pitches. I think we settled on criminal damage and riding with undue care and attention. There is a housing development in process up there at the moment. Normally when H hacks this route, it's at the weekend and the building site is closed. It wasn't on Wednesday. There were huge lorries, road sweepers, cement mixers, pneumatic drills, dumper trucks and diggers everywhere. Wolfie led the way. Eyes and ears on everything. He didn't balk or stop, just seemed more interested than anything. He had J behind him for support. J is brilliant, he just does anything. The workmen were great and stopped the machinery as soon as they saw us, but you could have forgiven any horse for getting upset. Think extreme police horse training and it wouldn't even be close. We then went off road and took some tracks that any Le trec enthusiast would be envious off. Different terrain, steep hills, low branches, wooden bridges. J took the lead down a few of the hills to show Wolfie the way to go. On hacking home a man started sanding his garden gate with a piece of sand paper. Both horses had a massive spook which seemed ridiculous after what they had just encountered. I was completely astounded at Wolfie. I knew he had a huge huge heart, but he is proving that he has real guts. So far he is answering every question that is being asked of him. He must have been mentally and physically tired after that hack, but walked home with energy and his ears pricked. J is hilarious. He pulls the grumpiest of faces at Wolfie and you can almost hear him muttering under his breath about 'the state of youth today'. Wolfie absolutely adores J and I think deep down J has a little soft spot for Wolfie too. Wolfie is a one off, he's a quirky little horse and I can honestly say that I have never met any horse before quite like him and I know that I certainly wouldn't ever be able to replace him.