View Full Version : An Irish Huzzy came into my life
3rd February 2010, 08:36 PM
A Hustling Huzzy
A young female has come into my life. I am not exactly sure as yet what I have got, except that ominously, DD’s Mum’s name was Molly, I know now pretty much for sure that she is an Irish huzzy through and through but additionally, she has spent most of her formative years in South Wales, itself an area for breeding formidable females. Being a mere London boy, I am aware of the battles for supremacy likely to come in matters of him versus her. Somehow there has to be an acceptance of the respective roles in life - ie he up on the saddle asks her down in the engine room to go where he wants to go. But it doesn’t always work out quite like that.
For a start, her in the engine room can claim reluctance on the grounds that the way is neither proven nor safe. In equine terms that means that there could be a mini strop otherwise known as a shy. The considerate rider of course has to be aware and cogniscent of such a fear in his equine companion which may indeed be well grounded but it may also be a way by which the engineer tells the navigator who actually wields the power and pulls the strings. In fact this little girl shows her independence long before the confines of the stable yard are left behind. Oh, she’ll allow herself to be groomed and tacked up, after all what is there to object about a little preening, lots of stroking and the application of smelly things.
Where the problem develops is that the Old Man thinks that the smelly things should be fly spray, tail disentangler and mud fever lotion whereas this new girl on the block seems to prefer L’Oreal. She is worth it, after all. Since she was blessed by Mother Nature with a long silky multi tinted tail then it should be swishable at all times.
Once the beautifying process has been completed there is the question of the tack. Now, she has a broad back, this girlie, and there is absolutely no reason why she should not wear Joe’s fancy Pathfinder saddle which is admirably suited for horses with broad backs. However this Celtic wench has demanded that, if she is to wear Joe’s cast offs, that at least she can be given a nice new smart but thin saddle cloth. The bridle set came along with her and for the first week she wore it, bit included, without complaint. But for the last couple of rides she has been throwing her head about knowing full well that I must look for a cause. So I had to rummage in the tack room for something less cumbersome. By her way of thinking if I am to be her notional master, then it is appropriate that I pay the full price for the concept of ownership of her. Second hand goods may well be acceptable but only if the design is classical and the quality irreproachable. No cheap foreign tacky rubbish will be will be worn willingly by this lady. As luck would have it, there was packed away a thirty year old rolled leather bridle set which she would have worn readily but it was too large for her pretty little head and she knew it. However in the meantime, as a temporary measure, I can utilise the one bridle set that did fit her but only on the understanding that one day, in the not too distant future, I will order for her a rolled leather set, just like the one my previously owned geldings had worn. Of course it will have to be hand made.
So imagine the scene: we’ve reached the stage where we are ready to go out for a hack. That’s exactly when she’s got me at her mercy. Even though she is only 15 hands2 high, I need to employ a mounting block to stand on, prior to putting my leg over her back. She knows full well that the dodgy moment for me is just after I put my foot in the stirrup iron, prior to raising my other leg off the step; she knows that if she moves her ample rump away, just a foot will do, then I will be poised in limbo land, splitting my difference. And a quick side step is exactly what she does. Then when I drop down inelegantly onto her broad back so she has the right to jib at my clumsiness. She has not yet pointed out that if I were just that little bit more agile then there would be no problem but no doubt she will at some opportune moment in the future. I point out that if she had not moved away at the critical moment then there would be no discussion. All I get in answer is a smile. But I am beginning to rumble what the fundamental issue is. She is her own self. If, when we are out on the hack, a call of nature occurs, I have to ask her for permission not only to dismount but also to remount I realize that if we can’t get this issue sorted then she will have wrested control. Worse, when we go to the pub for a glass of red, if she decides to be difficult because I have taken too long or because my breath smells or something, then she will have the power to make me walk home. And what’s the point of using the horse to go to the pub if she won’t bring you home?
Well, after just ten days, that is the stage where we have reached. Everyone says what a pretty little docile thing she is, and there she is, with me already wrapped around her pretty little toes. Onlookers, especially the female riders, will say it will be my fault if things don’t go right between us. DD will just stand and smile - knowingly. It is a battle of the sexes all over again. This is not exactly the docile, quiet, meek, obedient, attentive, competent, willing, gentle, calm equine I had thought I had acquired. She is the other sort of mare.
Am I prepared for this contest?
3rd February 2010, 08:48 PM
I'm going to love reading your posts. Please post a photo of DD. I can't wait to see her
3rd February 2010, 08:55 PM
DIDI is on my profile - how I get that on a post remains a mystery but I'll persist.
4th February 2010, 07:57 AM
Oh wow your posts are going to be a pleasure to read. What a fantstic way to start the day, reading this with a good cuppa at work. :D
You are very clever and Didi is gorgeous.:kiss:
To post proper pictures you need a photobucket account and to copy and paste the IMG tags into your thread.
Really looking forward to hearing more from you.
4th February 2010, 09:51 AM
I have written many stories about the Girl - she is a constant source of inspiration.
She is not the easiest horse to ride. Her temperament leads one to believe she is
calm and quiet but that is a deliberate deception on her part.
She is also powerful - Irish draughts were used on the farm but DIDI has Connemara
blood in her too so she can be impetuous when she feels like it.
You'll see. Watch this thread
4th February 2010, 09:58 AM
Great post! Look forward to reading more about D.D!
4th February 2010, 10:21 AM
Can't wait to see the photos Barry I have an Irish Huzzy too she is supposed to be 14.2 but I think she is 15hh now. Bought her as a six year old and now is 12. She is also a liver chestnut as well which adds to the personality. Not sure what she is but maybe you might have some ideas she is in my signature.
4th February 2010, 11:18 AM
DiDi A new girlie on the yard.
Its been two weeks since DiDi turned up at the yard in the trailer. She has already settled in pretty well. I am content that she is happy enough with her stable, with her pasture and with her equine companions. I am watching her waistline and for this reason she is living out at night and living in during the day. That way hopefully she won’t eat too much. I also make sure she gets some apples and carrots for both breakfast when she comes in and for tea before she goes for the night. She is a clean little girl both in and out of her stable. I give her a grooming every day but so far she has neither badly messed her stable nor has she wallowed in mud or dirt out in the field. When grooming her, I have to be careful to use a soft brush otherwise she becomes agitated. She’s not keen on any form of spray be it anti fly or to create a glossy coat. Nevertheless she needs some protection against flies whatever she thinks - she is usually plastered with Deet or some other concoction which flies can’t tolerate.
Tacking her up is easy enough although the Pathfinder needed some modifications to suit BG. The saddle has now been exchanged for an Ideal “Grandee“. The first hassle comes when one tries to mount her. She moves her butt out so that it is difficult to reach across to her. Each mounting becomes a training exercise and so far, BG has managed to mount her unaided only twice in two weeks. Of course the Old Man is very careful not to dig her in the ribs with a boot when he is getting aboard. Various methods are being tried to get her to cooperate but it is now essential that she comes on message. Her role in life is to be mounted and ridden. Waiting to be mounted is the acceptance of being mounted. She will now stand still to be mounted. Whilst she is adjusting to the rider’s weight she fidgets. BG is significantly heavier than her previous owner and this must be taken into account. BG also sits forward on the fork in Vladimir Littauer style, not Classical; nor Germanic dressage style nor Doma Vaquera nor Western style. Maybe she is finding this strange but she has to get used to it. BG also wraps his legs around the barrel of the horse rather than holding his legs off. The Old Man then takes up contact with the bit. Initially this presents no problem but DiDi finds it difficult to maintain contact perhaps this is to do with under developed back muscles. The bit has been changed to a French Link snaffle with the central links made from special mouthing metal. The flash band to keep the bit in the corner of the mouth has been removed. DiDi doesn’t ‘t chew on this new bit. The reins are of very thin interlaced leather strips - which give a light feel to the fingers. The bridle has also been changed to a lighter set. BG would like to find a very light bridle set of thin leather strips perhaps even of rolled leather. The less weight around this Girlie’s head the better.
DiDi walks out of the yard and there is no hesitation when in company. The dropping of the hind quarter is evident from time to time but it does appear to be a rider’s weight issue. If BG sits well forward over the ribs then his weight is well off her spine. DiDi is forward going and that is one of the nicest things about her. One puts her into walk or trot and she walks and trots actively; so long as she is not anxious. It is important to keep the legs still as she will readily jog if allowed to. She is getting better in recognising the fact that BG has not asked her to jog and that he won’t permit it. However stopping her from jogging also impinges on her willingness to go forwards. On the bit she does feel heavy. There must be a knack in reducing that pressure on the rider’s hands and her mouth. She is not pulling, nor leaning but the weight is still more than was necessary for Joe when he was behaving and he was not nearly as active as this little girl.
Her walk is comfortable. She will now turn off the leg but I suspect she will always be a girl who responds to the reins more than the leg but it early days yet. In the trot the rider can feel the power coming up from the hind quarters. There is just one trot as yet but it is fast, rhythmic and constant. She might be naturally slightly bent to the left - BG finds himself holding her head straight with a slight pressure on the right side of the mouth. She doesn’t like to walk tucked into the kerb - if she had her way she’d walk down the middle of the road.
The rider has to be ready for a startle. This is not a significant “shy” but mini startlets are quite common. In two weeks of riding there have only been a hand full of proper shies when she has moved away significantly. But the startles are very fast and to the rider there is absolutely no warning. DiDi is either nervous or super sensitive but hopefully this will fade with experience. The rider cannot begin to ride this mare without sensitivity. She has not been put into canter yet. She doesn’t stumble or trip but there is not a suitable stretch of grassy path nearby and BG will have to look out for the ideal spot to give her a try. It will be up in the woods somewhere but I am very reluctant to try her out on any of the typically stony paths, strewn with tree roots.
We’ve passed by two quiet donkeys, and two goats. Barking dogs don’t seem to phase her. Cars are OK but she leaves her butt out in the roadway. Mechanical overhead noise is also no real problem. However flapping plastic can cause her to startle and anything out of place makes her hesitate at best, a startle at worst. She is constantly seeking confidence from the rider.
The real issue is the reaching down. This starts once she is warmed up. She make a sudden snatch through the bit for the reins. The first attempt will come as a surprise. The rider can resist but it makes no difference. A few moments later she try again. She almost tries to get her nose onto the ground even if its tarmac. It is such an uncomfortable movement that the rider cannot ignore it. The head does not move left or right nor does it rotate in any way. There is no spray of spittle. Maybe DiDi is reaching down to force a looser rein. Her head drops. However you can’t leave her with a loose dangling rein otherwise she won’t walk straight and she’ll keep looking right and left. Potentially she’ll also do a startle - so the question is what to do? The only way to cope is to let her have the extra length of rein when she lunges and to take the slack up immediately she brings her head up. BG has tried holding the reins Western style - either high in one hand or out to the side in two hands. The experimentation has to continue.
DiDi’s teeth have yet to be checked. The saddle fits although it might be an idea to try her without the numbnah. It might need to be changed, The girth is not too tight. There tie downs have been removed. The bridle is not constricting the ears. It was suggested that it might be a muscle issue - with DiDi needing to develop to adjust to carrying BG’s weight. Either way there is something which is bugging her. The solution must be sought out and found. So can the cause be the teeth, muscle fatigue or the neck position after collection for too long?
What is very noticeable is that over an hour or so of hack, even when there has been a fair amount of hill climbing - DiDi walks back into the yard at the same speed she walked out. She is a very willing horse and long may that be the case. She had been walked several times in hand into the village on her own. The next major step will be to take her out on her own. The difference on the first attempt was significant. DiDi walked out and back on tip toe. But we got there and we got back. However we are going to have to do it until she’ll go there and back without hesitation. To DiDi “walking on tiptoe” is just another pace.
Next destination will be a trip up into the woods. How will she cope with mud, slopes and uneven ground and waving bushes? But one thing is for sure - BG doesn’t get the backache from riding DiDi which he suffered from after riding Joe and that alone is well worth the exchange of horse. The chiropractor checked the Girlie’s back and as might be expected there was nothing seriously wrong although she is weaker on the left side and that will have to be worked on. There was also a slight bend in the bone structure of the neck which means that she has an excuse for DiDi moving forward with a slight bend of the head to the left but that too can be worked on. However one must remember to exercise both sides of the neck.
We went out again in company. DiDi certainly feels at ease in company whereas on her own she is a little nervous. DiDi startles at most things that happen suddenly eg: birds fluttering out of a hedge. The reaction is very sharp but lasts only for a second. Providing the rider is relaxed then it is possible to take up the slack. She is very forward at the walk and at the trot she is perhaps even too forward. Holding her back takes more strength than I had thought it might. Hopefully she will slow down. The rear hind still slips though - I wonder why? DiDi went back into the village after her walk today. She was hesitant but she went well enough although she came back faster than she went out. However today, overall, she didn’t grab at the reins and reach down. Was it the manipulation or the adjustments to the saddle?
The next important step in the basic assessment of DiDi is the teeth,
After that, she is what we’ve got. She seems to accept the French Link if the mouthing foam is anything to go by. The teeth needed attention and they were rasped but it made no difference to the reaching.
BG had his own problems with DiDi’s startlets but the issues raise are being addressed. It remains to be seen if with time DiDi will settle. An honest description of her would read: “ a, pretty, kind, gentle, powerful , intelligent, sensitive, forward going but skittish mare. Not a novice ride“.
You get what you choose to buy. I did not read all the small print.
4th February 2010, 12:25 PM
She really does sound lovely.
I too experiance the rein snatching with my girl, its is very annoying and I just know that this will be the most likely way I'm going to part company with her. I have lost count the amont of times I have been laid down her neck after her 'yucking' the reins out of my hands or the times when she will stop dead for a quick mouthful. She has, though, mastered the art of being able to canter and being able to grab a mouthful of anything head hieght.
4th February 2010, 12:34 PM
Have you had her back checked might be worth a go to see if she is straight or is compensating for lack of muscle by pushing herself with her shoulder. Might also be why she reaching as well.
4th February 2010, 01:14 PM
The reaching has never quite gone away - but a stage 1 Myler bit has helped and
I have refitted the flash.
Muscles, yes she is definitely more flexible to the left.
She was schooled to ride 'on the bit' - but I wasn't. So we had an incompatibility from
the start. It was recently discovered that she'll do shoulder in & half passes.
She likes to be told what to do - I'd like her to look after me especially over rough terrain.
Nowadays a young friend of ours rides her out on the buckle - the idea being that she doesn't get worried about what is going on over the hedge. But I like to have contact with her mouth, even if it is only a very light 'following'
But this is the first female horse I have had a relationship with - somehow geldings are different - regardless of the seasons.
6th February 2010, 10:07 AM
A Day of Four Firsts
Some readers might be wondering about how DiDi is getting on. After all I‘ve swapped Joe a turbo charged 5 litre diesel gelding, for a 2 litre petrol super charged mare. DiDi has to be driven in a completely different style; she does not have much cart horse blood in her veins. She is also Irish as against Geordie, so there is also a change of temperament to consider. Well today turned out to be a day of “firsts“.
It was planned for us to have a lesson with a local guru. So as to calm her down in readiness, we went out for a hack during which I managed to fall off for the “first” time when DiDi was startled by a dog lurking behind a gate. It is only 4 feet down from the saddle but one still hits the hard ground hard. I was lucky in that my shoulder took the brunt and the damage was to pride rather than frame. I'd known that she was likely to do something because the dog behind the gate was well experienced in frightening horses passing by his front gate. What I had not expected was the power of the whirl and more importantly the lack of warning. But strangely even when I was on the ground she stood by passively whilst the dog continued to bark. She'd come off all four feet at the same instant and in the process moved over 3 feet at least. Once she had done the startlet, she had calmed. To be honest whilst I expected one day to fall off her, this was something I should have sat.
Then came the second “first“: that is re-mounting in the lane from the ground rather than in the yard off a mounting block but it was accomplished successfully. At least now I know I can attend to a call of nature up when up in the woods.
By the time in the evening that the teaching guru turned up for the third “first” - a lesson. My muscles were beginning to stiffen up as a result of the tumble, but as it turned out all went well. Under the close inspection of the trainer, we did our circles and tight turns. We did the trotting and whilst performing, DiDi did not snatch on the reins as she is won’t to do. Later we stood patiently and quietly whilst listening to the teacher man (yes, you can find one if you look hard enough). No, he didn’t nag about the Old Man’s toes pointing up instead of down and finally he said what a good girl DiDi was. Me, well I received a little praise with : “ Well, you are no mug in the saddle”. That’s about as much of a compliment about my riding ability as I can expect these days. The truth was he did not really know what to say as I wasn’t his normal type of client. I’d been riding for longer than him and he knew it. His suggestions as to how to proceed with DiDi’s schooling were mostly in line with what the Old Man had in mind anyway In addition we secured a few good tips from him as to how to cope with some of DiDi’s little peccadilloes. She is still very unsure of herself but the only way she is going to learn is by going out on the job. At the end of the hour long lesson, The Old Man felt that the Duo has got off to a good start - bearing in mind that DiDi is not yet seven and the Old Man is very very old. It is maybe a matter of beauty and the beast - her being the good looking half.
But there was to be a fourth “first” that day. During the lesson - we for the “first” time actually cantered around what is a small training arena. If you point at a wall, a powerful horse whilst moving at a fast trot and you give her a squeeze then she should take off into canter. However you’ve got to be confident that she’ll turn when she reaches the end of the straight in what is a rectangular circuit. At the time of decision, it seemed to me that we were doing OK together - so I gave her a squeeze at the appropriate moment and up the track and round the bend we steamed like a train on wheels - no problem. But I felt the power. DiDi has a big butt and now I know that she uses the power in it. She is not built as Joe was for power, this Girlie is built for sport. It looks as though as a Duo we might make it. I’ve been a touch worried that DiDi is a young huzzy with an Old Bloke aboard but maybe my fears are groundless.
6th February 2010, 10:25 AM
8th February 2010, 02:01 PM
DiDi A Hack to the Rock
Well for some onlookers, riding a horse is all about mounting up and heading off towards the pub. In actual fact hacking out is not as simple as that. Joe an ex trekking horse was easy enough to ride so long as he was behaving. Once you’d got him out of the yard and on his way, all you had to do was sit there and urge him on until you got to the pub car park. Then providing Joe would agree to wait, you had a glass of red, went back into the car park, unhitched the Boy and rode home. Joe came home like a steam train. Easy peasy. All for the cost of a packet of salt and vinegars. But DiDi is a different kettle of fish - for a start she is a mare.
DiDi is not a 12 year old, well used, experienced, go anywhere gelding. DiDi is a young and pretty Irish "maiden" mare. She’s sensitive, she’s agile and she hasn’t seen much of life - yet. So when you decide to take DiDi down to the pub it is a whole different ball game. For a start, on DiDi, you might not get there. Certainly you’ve got to pick the right day. There must be no wind otherwise every time a bush waves in the breeze, DiDi thinks it is going to eat her. Similarly it mustn’t be a humid day - otherwise the midges will get her and she will quickly start to shake her head violently. Nor can you do it at the wrong time of the day such as when the villagers are coming home from work or school, for then Girlie has to keep ducking into the lay-bys and she hasn’t learnt as yet how to tuck her bum in and out of the way of the cars. She thinks if her head and neck is out of harm's way, she can leave her big round curved butt out in the lane.
The rider has to keep the her going forward and straight at all times and that calls for just the right length of rein from hand to bit and quite a bit of leg pressure. However if the midges are about then DiDi will regularly reach down and snatch the reins out of the rider’s hands with the result that the rider has to get his/her balance back and re-establish the optimum length of rein. Neither can DiDi be allowed to ride with her nose in the air as she is won’t to do. If she is in the mood, she'll drop her nose and do the "On the Bit" thingie but only if she feels like it.
Then for DiDi there are the bogies: all those things that go: “snap, crackle and pop“.
Or it could be something lying where it does not normally lie. "What's that doing there?".
Of course that gives justification for evasive action. Our Girlie, when doing a startlet will take a step sideways : it’s fast, it’s powerful and it comes without warning. All four feet come off the ground at the same instant. As for the rider, well, he or she’s got to open the legs and drop down deep into the saddle, thereby relying on full body weight to offset the forces of motion generated by the horse’s violent sideways movement. The problem is that DiDi can startle so often, that it feels you are sitting on a long legged spider, tip toeing along a blade of grass. The penalty to the rider for getting it wrong can be severe, including a sudden, undignified contact with the road surface. She looks down and snootily asks: "What are you doing down there- you are supposed to be up here!"
DiDi is not an aggressive horse, in fact she is kind, gentle and as soft as butter in some ways. But she has had previously in her 7 plus years of life just one female rider and her for only two years of riding together. At an age of rising eight, a horse is still learning its role in life. DiDi is not yet fully comfortable in this XX1st century mechanical world, which is too noisy and very frightening. DiDi is still relying on her inherited behaviour patterns to cope with living alongside humans but that means whenever she meets something she feels she can’t cope with, then she will instinctively want to run away. That’s the exact moment she needs to feel the reassuring legs, hands and weight of her rider, who must in turn be ready to impart confidence back to his trusting steed. The fact that he is getting irritable, does not help.
Any motor cyclist will be keen to point out that he has for his two wheeled high powered vehicle: brakes to stop with; handle bars to steer with and a throttle lever so as to speed up or to slow down. A horse rider may by using the aids, persuade a powerful horse to move faster or slower but there is no accurate speed control for equines. The rider can point the horse’s head, but the horse can, if it wants to, run off to the right even if the head is pointing to the left. Oh and some naughty horses learn to rear and buck, which is a chapter of its own to discuss. Actually one of the hardest things for the rider to achieve on demand is to get a young horse to stand still when asked to do so. Luckily DiDi will most likely stand at the appropriate moments - the trouble is that one is not quite sure if she is thinking of going home.
Of course no experienced rider takes a young horse out into the lanes until he or she feels that the horse is safe enough to try but in order to make a horse traffic proof, one has to expose the horse to the vicissitudes of civilisation especially cars, tractors, aircraft, birds and barking dogs. And mothers getting their kids to school. DiDi needs such exposure: she’s got to understand her rider and she’s got to take him out and bring him back home safely In order to learn to be a confident hack, then she has got to hack out, initially in the company of a mature horse. Although don't expect her to hang back - that is simply not her way. She will be up front striding out at a speed called "forward going". It is as though she is saying to the other horse: "Follow me|"
So nowadays a trip down to the Rock is not just a saunter for a glass of red. With DiDi it has become an adrenaline soaked expedition. Whilst she will eat those expensive horse biscuits she turns her nose up at salt and vinegar crisps. And as for being tied up - Oh no, that's not for dapple grey mares, especially when the Old Man is indoors in the warm. With time she might get the idea but it will take months before she is as good at the game as Joe was. Luckily for the Old Man, he’s got a few bottles of red tucked away in the cupboard at home.
Ps What I can't work out is why an Irish Huzzy born and bred out in rural Ireland has against a pub. Is it because I won't drink Guinness?
13th February 2010, 02:23 PM
DiDi and a token of affection
A recent article in the Sunday Times debates whether horses and dogs develop an emotional relationship with their human owners. As a lifetime owner of dogs, I have absolutely no compunction in saying that dogs do hold their owners with something between affection and contempt. However horses don’t spend the larger part of their day in the company of their human handlers whereas a dog will willingly spend its day alongside a human, if it is allowed to. My horse, DiDi, exhibits a very kind temperament, almost exceptionally so in some circumstances but I am sure she does not see me in an affectionate light. However I do get the occasional little lick and a muzzle nuzzle from her but if I am honest with myself, she is asking for a treat biscuit. However the other day I had cause to rethink.
It had been one of those awful, damp, windy and cold days. DiDi had been out with her equine mates for most of the day. In more pleasant weather she is usually to be found half way down the field grazing the sweet grass. Invariably, at the end of the day when I go out to bring her in, she will look up and stare across to the track to ascertain who is coming. The distance between us can be a hundred yards or more but annoyingly on most occasions, even though she knows I am coming to collect her, she will stay where she is and keep her head down to make sure that she doesn’t miss that last juicy blade of grass. On this unpleasant day, things were different. DiDi was already up at the top of the field. Very obviously she wanted to get to the warmth of her stable and to her bucket of feed.
Sam, her companion in the field, is no small horse and he can be a handful to control when he wants to be awkward. On this occasion Sam, when he had caught sight of me, had immediately made a move towards the gate. Instantly DiDi snapped out of her nonchalant grazing. She dropped her head down, pulled her ears right back, bared her teeth and then charged towards me and Sam, who by now was close by. There was no mistaking DiDi’s meaning, even though she had not made a sound The message to Sam was crystal clear : “That human is mine, get off” And with her rump strategically placed to give Sam a pair of hooves should he come too close, she meekly, almost insistently, allowed me to slip the head collar over her ears and to lead her back to the stable.
I had to smile. Here indeed was a token of affection. I was her minion and no other horse was allowed to come near me. That must be some form of emotion mustn’t it?
13th February 2010, 02:39 PM
I would like to think it was affection but to me, unfortunately, it means bring me in and feed me! I'm not quite sure horses show affection in the human sense.
I do love you writing stlyle.
13th February 2010, 05:31 PM
Maybe they don't, but maybe they get to like their own humans more than some other horse's humans. It doesn't really matter does it - as long as from time to time, she sticks out her snout and gives me a lick. Then I can kid myself can't I !
13th February 2010, 06:15 PM
I think my horse likes me as I feed him and I'm kind to him - He likes my YO more as she feeds him every morning but doesn't make him do work!
17th February 2010, 07:05 PM
DiDi meets our Postie.
DiDi and I are getting to know each other better so I’ve been riding her into the village with the idea of helping her come to terms with this XXIst century world. There are so many things to frighten her such as: new signs, dustbins, discarded plastic bags and of course dogs of all shapes and sizes, some of which bark and some of which don’t. A short ride for a couple of miles, essential for stopping DiDi from becoming nappy, can prove to be an eventful outing.
On this occasion there was another little problem that was developing by the minute. A call of nature was being felt by the rider. No, it was nothing about a bird sitting on a hedge twittering; it was the other sort which I am sure all of the readers will have experienced at one time or another. Gradually for me, an older man, things were beginning to feel desperate. Well, the first problem is that the village does not have a Clochemerle facility but luckily the rider’s secluded front garden was not that far away. So smartly off we trotted, past the builder’s vans and the scaffolding sheltering the roof being rebuilt in the road - which, with all that flappie plastic is enough to send DiDi into a panic. Finally, we reached home at the end of the cul-de-sac.
Then yet another problem presented itself. Dismounting from a horse is easy enough; the rider simply slides off to the ground. However the question immediately arises as what to do with the reins which guide DiDi. But who should be there: only the little red van and Ian - our faithful local Postie! He was quickly pressed into service, for which he willingly volunteered. Whilst Ian held the reins to DiDi, the Old Man whipped around to the secluded corner behind the magnolia tree. Essential business took just a moment or two but getting back onto DiDi was not a done deal. Someone had to hold the offside stirrup iron, otherwise when the Old Man’s ample weight was plonked into the nearside stirrup, round would spin the saddle. Undeniably, the law of physics states that what goes up must be balanced by what comes down. But my neighbour miraculously appeared to hold that stirrup. The Old Man approached with trepidation. This was to be a first, especially after the recent riding lesson, during which the stirrups had been shortened to provoke; “toes up, heels down“. Somehow the Old Man had to get his toe up into that stirrup iron which was attached high up at the No14 slot in the stirrup leather. It seemed a long way up. Next would come the need for a sprightly spring off the ground, the cocking of the leg over the horse‘s back, the gentle sitting down and finally the taking up of the reins - a process during which DiDi must stand perfectly still. Which, bless her cotton socks, she did. And so, off we sped back to the stables without further incident. Mission accomplished.
However please note Mr Post Master General, that without our faithful rural village Postie, all this would have been impossible. Yet another good reason for not closing down our local Post Office.
17th February 2010, 08:35 PM
Well done DiDi - she is becoming such a good girl by the sounds of it.
17th February 2010, 11:08 PM
Well done Didi! You must have been proud of her BG, and relieved, excuse the pun :cheekywink
25th February 2010, 05:45 PM
The Matter of a saddle for DiDi
For some time now, it has been apparent that DiDi might need a new saddle. Her behaviour has suggested that just maybe there is undue pressure on her spine. Joe’s Pathfinder saddle may not be right for her, despite the saddler from the tack shop having said five months ago that it was OK, The Pathfinder presents another problem in that it is a flat dressage saddle which gives very little security to the rider, so maybe the purchasing of a new saddle will reduce the possibility not only off damage to DiDi’s back but also the possibility of BG coming off during one of DiDi’s little shylets.
Having made the decision to buy a saddle, no doubt at ‘ginormous’ cost, the next question was: “ from which supplier?”. The local saddler is well known to be the most thorough fitter in Wales but the snag is that he won’t visit the stables so the horse has to be taken out to his place which is located out in the moors. This represents a trailer journey of at least 2 hours each way. There are other fitters but none who projects the confidence that he conveys. He certainly does a thorough job when fitting a saddle. So it was decided to make the effort and luckily the yard owner agreed to take us in her horse trailer. We made an appointment for 10.30am which meant leaving the yard at 8.30 am and no later. This called for an early start. The procedure is first to inspect the horse and then to make out a check sheet as to its condition. The existing tack is also inspected and usually the saddler will comment by making a “tut”. Rarely is he impressed but there again if the saddle were indeed suitable then there would be no need to visit the tack shop. However during the inspection he did find two bruised areas by the shoulder of the horse in the area where the points of the saddle tree rest. This was proof that the Pathfinder did not fit properly. The buyer is then given the chance to state his/her preference for a saddle. BG explained that he needed a saddle which primarily fitted DiDi but which hopefully would give the rider a better feeling of security. The saddler disappeared and came back with seven or more saddles from his stock, some of which he immediately rejected merely after laying them on the horse’s back. BG eventually was to try four saddles, all of which seemingly fitted the horse but each of which would give a different feel to the rider. This was the advantage of buying from here because he keeps ample stocks of all makes, shapes and sizes of saddles.
The action then moved out into the outdoor arena. The horse is tacked up with the new saddle and mounted by the rider. One has to be aware that the open air arena is situated in a very picturesque valley however on all sides there is a lot going on for a curious horse to look at. In DiDi’s case, there is an abundance to be nervous of. Once mounted she took off round the arena like an express train. This was not going to be a sit and relax outing. DiDi was just raring to go; spurred on no doubt by the neighbouring farmer roaring around on his quad bike whilst at the same time calling out to his collie to round up a rather large flock of sheep. DiDi thought the Hunt was out. However this was no time for posturing, this was a time for keeping the horse under control. Of course, it all makes a good test for the rider, who is well aware that strangers are judging the rider’s competence as much as the horse’s movement under saddle. It was in fact amazing that each of the four saddles, all of which fitted the horse, gave a different feel to the rider. One saddle especially seemed to fit the bill - a 17'5 inch Grandee saddle and it was in fact the saddle we took home.
The English style of saddle actually comes in quite a wide variety of shapes and sizes. The straight cut dressage saddle looks very different from its general purpose cut cousin but essentially both are of the same fundamental design. The English rider - as against his/her Western counterpart - seeks a relatively small “perch” on which to sit and feel the horse held firmly between the thighs whereas the Western rider has a far bigger armchair of a seat to sit on but which allows less feel to the rider. The two systems of riding a horse are very different techniques and both the Western horse and the English horse have been trained to respond to completely different sets of aids.
DiDi presents a few problems to the less well schooled rider: she is a very sensitive, agile horse who will respond to subtle changes in the distribution of the rider’s weight. Just a little pressure here, a subtle squeeze there, will cause her to change pace or direction. The rider must be able to sit still in the recognised upright posture. So if the saddle doesn’t fit properly then the messages from rider to horse are distorted and maybe misunderstood. A saddle which fits, is of extreme importance to both horse and rider and it is no good using one which suits the rider but not the horse and vica versa. After trying three saddles once and one saddle twice, the decision was made. DiDi had a new saddle at "Ginormous cost"
The following day BG tried out the new tack back home at the stable yard. Undoubtedly BG felt more secure and when DiDi did a couple of her startlets, no angst was felt by him. As for DiDi - well she couldn’t say she was happy with her new saddle except when she got home, she did charge off across the fields to tell her equine mates that she was back. I think she had been more worried that she was being shipped off to a new home. She can be a nervous little thing.
Only time will tell, if the saddle will help DiDi & BG to wander the woods together but undoubtedly both rider and horse will be more comfortable.
1st March 2010, 06:26 PM
Protecting a Horse from the Cold.
The recent spell of bad weather in the UK has made me think again about the husbandry of my horse DiDi I think it is fairly well accepted that for a human the fastest way to a horse’s ‘heart’ is through its stomach and I believe that the owner who is not actually feeding his horse on a daily basis loses an essential point of contact with the creature. However the horse in inclement weather is also very concerned about gaining shelter be it from wet or cold. I have no doubt that my horse looks to me to keep her comfortable even though in theory she is of hardy breeding. She expects to be fed routinely and no doubt she expects her other needs in life to be catered for as well.
If the horse lives permanently out on good grass then the need by the horse for additional food is somewhat less. So much depends upon the nature of the grass in the paddock and the breed of the horse. We have some very hardy ponies who seem to thrive so long as they have access to something green or to hay. Throughout the year, ponies live out completely untended on the moors and other harsh environments. For example Welsh Section Cs, are wild hardy breeds which can make good riding ponies even if the training of such independent creatures calls for significant expertise on the part of the handler.
When the breed society says that Irish horses such as my DiDi are hardy creatures, fit to be left out all the year without being molly coddled then one must accept that the breeders believe what they are saying. However it is not the breeder who is going to find a sporting use for the horse rather it is the owner. The privately owned horse will hopefully be exercised all the year round - weather permitting. In the warm months of the year this policy presents no problem. Whilst Irish horses do grow a thick coat for the winter, they moult in the Spring. Over the warm months the active horse may well get hot and it might sweat but with a quick wipe down to remove the foam and the salt the horse can be left to dry off. Maybe the caring owner might slip on a sweat rug to prevent a “chill” but probably all that is necessary is to keep the horse out of any wind. The winter however presents a very different scenario.
The winter coat of my Irish horse can be very thick with an outer and under layer of fur. The horse exudes naturally an oil which helps to ‘water proof’ the woolly coat and the hairs seem to stand proud in the cold weather. Simply grooming this furry beast to get it clean can be quite a chore. However after minimal exercise the horse will readily sweat up at the trot or even during an active walk up a steep hill. A woolly coated horse is simply unsuitable for active exercise. So the way around this problem has been to clip the horse’s winter coat, sometimes with a full clip - on other occasions with a partial trace clip under the neck and belly. However a horse which has been clipped needs the protection of a rug when the temperature drops below plus 5 degC or when it is raining hard. Once the horse has been clipped then the caring owner cannot with good conscience leave the animal out in cold weather - especially when there is wind chill. What Nature provided as a defence against the cold, we humans took away to suit our own purposes. The horse undoubtedly feels the cold and the human can readily tell if a horse is actually cold by feeling the horse’s ears and between its hind quarters. A cold horse will shiver. Often a superficial check is all that is necessary since a horse wanting to come back into the warmth of its stable will stand by the gate of the field waiting for its owner to appear. Likewise any horse sodden by rain has less resistance to a cold wind than a dry horse. So if one lives on a wet windy island then the chances are that any horse in one’s care is going to appreciate a rug at some time of the year. A common dilemma for the owner is to select the weight of the rug to match the level of cold.
Then is an expression : “roughed off” which means to deliberately let the horse run free in a carefully selected area for the winter with or without the provision of additional fodder. My old horse Joe, a hardy cob, was regularly left out over the winter months and to cope with the elements he grew a thick woolly coat which was never interfered with by me especially by grooming him thoroughly. However to consider riding him in such an unkempt state at any pace above a very slow walk was unthinkable.
Some breeds of horse, particularly the warm bloods, do not by nature grow a thick coat. Such horses will quickly lose condition in cold weather unless protected. A horse needs nutrition to keep warm in the cold or the wet and if it doesn’t acquire suitable food then it will draw down on its body fat and quickly lose weight. If you want a fit horse, then don’t let it starve. You also don’t want it to get colic.
If one observes horses left out in very cold weather, then one will see them huddled together up in a corner of the field. They will have found a tree or a hedge or a bank under which to shelter from the wind. What they will also seek is some grazing and they will keep their eye on a patch of grass which they know to be a possible source of nourishment. They will nibble at mosses and ferns. They will eat the plants and weeds to be found in the hedges. They will even seek out any young growth on trees and bushes. On pastures kept for horses regularly, pickings might be sparse and it might be necessary for the owner to provide additional fodder - say hay, alfalfa or even some types of straw. In such instances what the horse really seeks is the kindly attention of its owner and with DiDi that is very obvious. If she is not already up by the gate, then she comes galloping up as soon as she sees me.
The owner should recognise that some habitats either through climate or the nature of the soil can’t support horses all the year round. As for myself, I live on an island which is very benign to horses. However arid land and other regions prone to very cold seasons when the temperature will fall below freezing are unsuitable for the natural husbandry of horses all the year round. Horses might be imported into that region but it would not be a natural habitat for them. Those horses will need human help to survive through the full year.
Reverting back to DiDi, well she is of a suitable breeding for living in the local environment and she meets my needs in most respects. Left alone in cold weather then she would grow a fairly thick coat to keep herself warm but she is regularly put through her paces by me so I must cater for her getting sweaty. It is necessary for her to be trace clipped in the late Autumn. She has a stable which gives her protection from the wind and rain but it is not heated. She lives in at night and goes out for most of the daylight hours so long as the ground is not too slippery, Through necessity she possesses several coats each with different properties. A couple of rugs are for keeping her warm at night in the stable; a couple keep her from getting wet out in the paddock, a couple keep her both dry and warm. Two rugs merely soak up sweat after exercise. One bright yellow rug warns motorists of her presence out on the lanes. What is noticeable is that she never resists being “dressed”.
Whatever questions there are about a horse’s level of intelligence, it is well known that it will seek out food and security. My firm belief is that the horse also looks for shelter from the elements. If the owner/handler regularly supplies food, and, dare I say: ‘treats’ to the horse then the horse will look for food or treats. Without doubt a horse constantly seeks security and relief from fear from its rider. If the horse under stress seeks shelter, and the owner provides it, then surely it is reasonable to believe that the horse will always seek shelter from the intervention of its owner.
If one does live in a warm climate, then perhaps rugs are not necessary. Otherwise I firmly believe they are necessary to keep the horse warm, dry and clean. In addition, the use of them might well bring the horse closer to its rider.
Certainly my DiDi would not appreciate my giving hers away.
6th March 2010, 02:39 PM
DiDi A Touch of Frost.
It was a Tuesday - market day. I had put DiDi out early into the pasture on what I had thought was a nice autumnal day. However, by lunchtime the wind direction had changed and some dark black clouds were collecting over the village. Without much warning it started to rain, then it poured and finally down came the hail stones. The temperature had plummeted down almost to freezing point. And there was my poor little girl out on the hillside. She had been clipped just a few days before. Today she was wearing only a thin raincoat with no liner. I thought she must be cold, so I hurried up to the stable to bring her in.
Much to my surprise she ignored my walking across the field to fit her head collar. When I reached over to her she was even a little jittery. She then walked up to the stable yard in a sprauncy fashion. When she approached the stable she whinnied. All very unusual. I tethered her and gave her some special chaff called “Happy Hoof” into which had been dropped some apple peelings. I took off her coat and replaced it with a thick warm dry stable rug. I asked her whether she now felt better after being out on that windy hilltop but all she did in response to my question was to whinny yet again.
Suddenly I realised what was happening. The local hunt had been up on the hill. DiDi had heard the horn. She had probably also heard the hounds and the horses. She knew what was going on and what‘s more she wanted to be up there with them. She thought her equine mates were up there. Her posture was taught. He ears were pricked up. She was sniffing the air. She was calling out.
Now I know that there is a lot of controversy about fox hunting but this is not the format to discuss the matter. However the effect that a huntsman’s horn has upon horses is undeniable. At the meet they suddenly will come alive, and they will twitch with excitement. Even when unfit they will put in a supreme effort to keep up with the pack . A disgruntled, bored, old plod of a horse will seemingly cast off years of neglect and again for just a few hours will become a young colt or filly. The rider has to make sure he has control and it will have been prudent to have fitted a slightly harsher bit in the bridle. The rider will have to be fit and capable to sit the horse. But the horses, well, they become unrecognisable.
It was the hunting fever which DiDi had caught on this wintery day, even though she was not to take part in the hunt herself. Earlier I had felt human sympathy because I had believed she was cold and wet . I had gone out into the hailstones specifically to bring her in. Realistically there was no way on this day by which we could take a quiet hack around the lanes. DiDi had other ideas. My Girlie was ready to go hunting. She had an irrepressible urge to do what she had been bred to do.
The subject of fox hunting is a touchy issue. Most of the field, the followers on horseback, rarely see the fox during a day‘s hunting, they are too busy trying to keep control of their horses who are having the time of their lives. But if a horse rider gets to go hunting, and not all riders are competent enough to follow, it will be a memory which will stay with him or her for months if not years. The horse never forgets.
7th March 2010, 04:20 PM
ooooh! sounds very interesting!
14th March 2010, 10:32 AM
The horse trainer Michael Peace suggests that we should establish the mentality of the horse which we own before we set out to school it. DiDi is probably best classified as “Anxious” in other words: ‘she is a gentle horse which mostly tries, perhaps at times a little too hard, to please her rider‘. ‘However on those occasions which she has to make a choice by herself, the decision making process confuses her. So often the outcome of this confusion is that she leaps the wrong way - literally. She doesn’t really want to do wrong; she doesn’t mean to create an incident but whenever she has to make an important choice quickly, sometimes she simply doesn’t have the experience to make the right choice‘.
Obviously it is beholden upon the rider to show DiDi that most of the apparitions which might suddenly appear along the path such as bags, dustbins and waving flags do not represent a threat to her. Regularly back in the arena obstacle courses are set up with this aim in mind. Maybe it is just a question of time before she gets the message that if her rider presents a scenario to her, then she is safe to proceed. Presently DiDi seems to be frightened of anything that is unexpected. In her mind there is a correct place for everything. Oh, if it is unexpected and moving then obviously it must be alive. DiDi doesn’t realize that she is one of the world’s fastest animals at a distance of over half a mile although she instinctively knows she can run away. One wonders just how long it will take for her to absorb confidence from her rider. Traditionally some horses have been pushed on through any baulking resistance by the rider perhaps with the aid of the crop or spurs however DiDi is ridden without a crop. She is not a horse to be ridden by force which anyway probably would be counter productive. The only aids available for her rider to push DiDi on are: leg, reins and voice.
In all truth I am not sure how DiDi feels towards me. I don’t hear any sniggers when I approach her whilst in the stable and as yet she still won’t walk up to the gate from the bottom of the field. If it is a nice sunny day and she hasn’t been out for too long then she’ll definitely be a bit hesitant to allow for her head collar to be fitted but only once in six months has she actually turned away from me. Mostly once she has gone through the field gate and left the pasture, she’ll walk briskly back to her stable. I could even let her walk freely off the lead as, for sure, she knows where she is going. There is never any attempt to gain access to the central yard and thence the drive through which she could escape down onto the lane to the village.
In truth she really ought to be happy in her stable. It is about 14ft square and very airy. She is well sheltered from any wind, regardless from which direction it blows. DiDi has always had a neighbour on the left side. Anyway she gets more food than either of those horses. I am allowed to walk around her pad. She’ll move back and make way for me to enter. I can walk around her rump without fear of being kicked. She is not a dirty mare and mucking out the stable which is strewn with absorbent clay as against straw or shavings is a relatively easy chore.
Virtually every day she is groomed. She was not keen at the beginning, feigning that the brush was too coarse for her delicate coat. Nowadays I use a softer brush but of course then I have to press harder. Coat conditioner and anti fly spray were her bete noirs but even these are now tolerated providing I switch the nozzle to ‘fine spray‘. I apply anti tangle hair spray to both mane and tail. The tail shows signs of rubbing at the top by her croup but it fans out beautifully in a kaleidoscope of hues down at the ends. She’ll pick her feet up but sometimes she’ll snatch a foot back, especially the right fore. But at no time have I been stomped upon. I can touch her head, her neck indeed anywhere it is appropriate to touch her. However getting a little lick in return is a rare event. DiDi doesn’t really do licking - except when she believes you have a biscuit in your pocket. She does love horse biscuit treats. She is beginning to nudge me first thing in the morning and the question arises as to whether this is a token of affection or a nag for her breakfast.
Tacking her up with bridle and saddle presents no problem. The girth has to be tightened in stages, with the last tugs being made after the rider has sat down on her back. The straps on the bridle must also be done up securely. She needs a grackle, otherwise she will chew on the bit but since she slobbers foam when mouthing the bit, the strap has to be cleaned and oiled frequently.
After putting up in the early days a resistance to being mounted off the mounting block she has now given way. Alison chose to mount her from the ground which perhaps is a good idea because one never knows when out on a hack it might be necessary to do so. Generally she’ll allow herself to be led up to the block where she will stand still whilst the rider puts his/her foot into the stirrup and then eases down onto the saddle. If not held at the head then DiDi might move forward a pace or two but she won’t make off. When setting out for a hack then our girl will set off willingly at a good steady pace.
If there is to be a lesson then the Girlie is ready for it. A few circuits on a loose rein at the walk will warm her up. One can steadily shorten the reins. Eventually her head will come up and her nose will drop down. Full ‘ramener’ doesn’t always come until she has done a few tight turns but if one persists then the nose will come down and her fore head will be perpendicular. I usually start at a walk on a longish rein, then shorten the reins, then change direction, before eventually moving into trot. She will often try to rush the trot but one can eventually get a slower rhythm so that her stride can lengthen. In the arena the slightest untoward change in the rider’s posture will raise a question in DiDi’s mind as to whether or not she should respond. She is indeed very light, very responsive and very agile. Comparing her with Joe is like comparing a powerful open top petrol tourer with a 4WD turbo diesel pick up truck. Once DiDi is in trot then she’ll stay there until asked to change her pace. Her pole work is acceptable but she doesn’t always know where her hind feet are. Around obstacles she is a peach and she’ll turn left or right on a sixpence. One can steer her by leg or hand or even by body. Essentially school work in the arena is for the rider’s benefit rather than hers. She is a little stiff on the right side but there again most horses are stiff on one side or the other.
Since she is undoubtedly a little skittish, it is relevant to set up obstacle courses in the arena so that she can get used to walking close by strange objects. I am always trying to think up various combinations with a view to phasing her. Initially, when she has espied something strange, there will be a hesitation and a slight deviation from the straight line but with a little encouragement she’ll invariably move forwards. I use treats bits of carrot or biscuit as positive encouragement and reward. However every now and again, especially when out on a hack, there happens a major ‘startlet’ when she will jump up a few inches off all four feet at once without giving any warning whatsoever. Subsequently she will not necessarily back away or refuse outright to pass by. This little startlet is made almost as a protest - a sort of “Oi - what’s that?” If one is out on a hack then the only relevant policy is to keep her busy at all times. This seemingly is the secret to keeping her calm - keep her between ‘hand and leg‘. She is waiting to be told what to do. It is not necessary to have her on the bit all the time, otherwise she’ll tug at the reins and reach down but it is necessary to keep contact with her mouth even if the reins are a little long. This policy does mean that meandering along on a loose rein looking at the scenery is not an appropriate way to ride this girl. The big question is going to be whether she will, with time and more experience, calm down and accept things
more rationally. Will age make a difference to her behaviour? Will she ever lose her skittishness?
Joe undoubtedly was a more confident horse but he could also be lethargic and of course he would also be difficult whenever he wanted to be. The rider invariably reached home at the stables with back ache - something never passed on from riding DiDi. Joe had to be pushed on constantly until he had turned for home. DiDi steps out willingly and she does not insist on going home just because she has reached a junction in the road where one of the lanes leads back to the stable. As for doing a full “whirl and bolt” - DiDi doesn’t ever think that way.
Undoubtedly DiDi’s temperament is unusually kind. She presents absolutely no hazard to humans - except perhaps when she has been startled and then moves suddenly. However as already has been mentioned she is not an affectionate mare. Noticeably when out in the pasture she is not completely subservient to the other horses sharing the field with her. If one of the more dominant mares comes up when DiDi is being led away to the stables, then her ears will go back and she will adopt an aggressive posture. She is a big girl and can defend herself with teeth and feet. She mostly discourages any overt attention from the geldings. However she seems to accept that all humans are dominant. Deliberately it was decided to let a couple of experienced riders take her out on a hack and DiDi carried them without incident. She did tip one young woman off in the arena when DiDi was presented badly to a jump and as a result she refused but the fall was seen to be a result of the rider’s ineptitude.
So one wonders how much of DiDi’s skittishness is a product of her genes and how much to do with her conditioning to date. For a young horse of only seven years, she has passed through a lot of owners - mostly dealers. Nevertheless the two years with Alison were well spent and it was with her that she learned her trade. Without question she is anxious to please and when being taught something new she learns quickly. She is a very sensitive ride. When hacking her along a lane one has to be careful to sit still otherwise DiDi will think to change her pace. She’ll jog or ’hurry’ at the slightest adjustment of posture on the part of the rider.
Her attitude towards humans could be because she has never had reason to be fearful of them. But how did she come to lose her self confidence or was it that she never had full confidence in herself? Why does making a decision come so hard for her? Whilst telling a show jumper where to put its feet can be a good idea, telling a horse maintained for trail riding how to negotiate an obstacle is not good practice. Somehow, this young female has to get her confidence back.
The constant problem in managing her is that she is a good doer. Undoubtedly she has put on weight over the winter months. Her diet is restricted with nothing too high in calories. To keep her over long in the stable without anything to nibble presents a risk of bad behaviour or even colic. It will be interesting to see how much weight she will lose with more exercise. A related issue is sweat. Her natural coat would suit a polar bear so it must be clipped but even with the clippers set at fine, she is left with a soft silky under coat. No wonder the book says: “don’t rug up Connemaras”. An hour long ride or lesson leaves her well sweated up and afterwards she must be covered up with a sweat rug.
Where are we going with this horse?
Well her schooling continues. We must continue to de-sensitize her.
BG must lose his tension so her ridden work must continue in the school and local lanes
BG must slowly extend his forays around the lanes.
From time to time, when we can get hold of her, the trainer must continue to call.
The winter months bring the problem of bad weather realistically we are looking forwards to the Spring for more long distance work.
14th March 2010, 11:03 AM
Was it drag hunting? Soooooooooooo much fun. My horse loves it. And not a fox in sight.
14th March 2010, 11:19 AM
As some of you may have guessed I write for pleasure - there is certainly no money in it.
The response to this thread which tells stories about DiDi puzzles me. So far there have been 604 viewers - whereas for a very similar thread which I started at the same time on the subject of Joe there have been 677. That's over 10% difference.
Why do you prefer Joe to DIDI (is it because he was a cob?)
Is my writing better on the subject of macho Joe rather than on DiDI ( she is prettier)
You have also stopped making posted comments - getting bored?
Should I change the subject?
Speak (or rather 'write')
Even we amateur writers like to receive your comments - and for sure you can criticise
otherwise how do I learn?
14th March 2010, 11:44 AM
I like both posts DiDi and Joe.
Maybe you write more passionate about Joe which is why you get more views.
I like reading the posts on DiDi but I do smile more at Joe's posts.
Keep them coming.
I read them all but don't always comment which is probably true for other members too.
Don't stop posting though.
I want to hear all of Joe's adventures. I'm not looking forward to the last post you write about him. I feel it will be a sad one.
14th March 2010, 03:40 PM
Thank you for your comments - very perceptive of you.
20th March 2010, 09:09 PM
A GENTLEMAN’S RIDING HORSE.
Nowadays this term is actually rarely used and even when it is, it is much misunderstood. The single term “hacking” definitely does not convey “ that the horse should :
go anywhere its rider asks:,
at any pace over any terrain alone or in company,
The phrase, Gentleman’s Riding Horse” actually means much, much more.
The full description might read:
The horse should readily respond to all of the rider’s instructions.
and to actively pass: over highway, along a road a lane a path or a track
at: ground level or along the top of a ridge, through woodland or open countryside
at any pace: Walk: active or extended; rhythmic or fast
Trot: medium or extended
Canter: collected or extended
Gallop : fast or flat out
on any surface ie : tarmac, grass, stoney path, cobble stones or rock,
through puddle, flood water or wadeable stream
alone or in company of: other riders of every ability from novice to expert;
at the front of the line, in the middle of the line or at the end of the line
amongst pedestrians, cars, motor cycles, push bikes, lorries, tractors
under birds, kites, balloons, aircraft or helicopters
in wind and rain or thunderstorm
despite plastic bags, umbrellas, road signs, footballs
in the presence of barking & aggressive dogs, goats, pigs, donkeys & mule
The horse must stand on the kerb, awaiting instruction to cross a busy and fast arterial road.
It must pass over a narrow bridge across a motorway
It must pass through a tunnel laid underneath a motorway
It should hold its line of march down a high street or a country lane with passing places
It must wait upon command at traffic lights or other stops signs.
It must stand attentively whilst its rider converses with passers by
It should move forward and move backwards to permit the opening of field gates
It should never ever, whirl or bolt in fright, in fear or as an evasion.
It should hop over ditches, streams and fallen trees.
It must submit to being tied to a hitching point without pulling back whilst patiently
awaiting the return of its master.
It must stand to be mounted.
It must ride on or off the bit.
If the rider loses his/her balance, it must pick it up and compensate.
The riders job is to set the route, the horse’s job is to carry safely both itself and the rider over the terrain, whatsoever that may prove to be.
If asked to trot, then the horse should trot, uphill or downhill until asked to change the pace.
If asked to halt, the horse should come to a halt and then stand awaiting it’s master’s pleasure
Never should it evade the bit nor jerk the reins from the rider’s hands.
If the reins are dropped onto the horse’s neck and no further instruction is given, then the horse should make its way at the walk back to the stable by the shortest.
Under no circumstance must the horse, balk, rear, buck or swerve for any reason - except in circumstances when the horse might realize that the way ahead is unsafe for example in land prone to bogs. Neither should the horse snatch succulent plants from the hedgerow however tempting.
So as you can see, whilst DD comes with much promise, she is in no way fully trained as a “Gentleman’s Riding Horse“, indeed there are aspects of her behaviour which would at this time prevent her passing muster - but no doubt with time and patience she will deserve the accolade.
Sadly in the XX1st century , horses truly warranting the title “A Gentleman’s Riding Horse” are very hard to find. Invariably they have to be made.
9th May 2010, 11:07 PM
DiDi and the Muzzle Nudge
I firmly believe that horses attempt to communicate with their human handlers but because the form of communication is not always obvious the meanings of any messages do not sometimes get across DiDi has one distinct expression of communication: she puts her snout against my chest and gives a nudge. If I am not careful or unguarded sometimes the force exerted by her will put me on the back foot. On other occasions the nudge is much more gentle. I have been told by numerous equine cogniscenti that such a gesture is to be rebuffed forcibly. However I am loathe to correct her because in all truth I am not sure what she is trying to communicate. It is also virtually the only act of communication which she makes to me so if I deny it or inhibit it, how else is she try to make contact with me?
The traditional viewpoint is that this nudge is a mark of supreme disrespect but I am not so sure. I cannot believe that I, virtually her only day to day handler, am viewed by her with disrespect. I certainly don’t feel that she regards me as an enemy. I don’t feel either that she is testing my strength, as was suggested by one horse trainer. Anyway, when handling her I have the advantage with the training halter or the bit. She can’t match her full strength against me without hurting herself and by now she must have learned this fact. Incidentally any tension I exert through the bit or the halter on her nose or poll will be instantly released when the force generated by her is reduced. Noticeably on other occasions she complies readily when she’ll move away from me when reacting to the minimum of finger pressure against her chest.
So what can the nudge mean?
It could be: “Don’t do that!”
or equally : “Do, do that!”
At teatime it might be: “Where’s my bucket!”
Or equally : “Where’s my bucket?” (if you read the difference between ! & ?)
Of course the nudge could mean lots of things because as I have explained, she’s not exactly well equipped to communicate with a human. In similar style, as a human, I use the word “Oi” in a variety of ways.
Is the nudge an act of aggression? Is it a request or a demand? Is it “please” or “no thank you”? Or, is a nudge all of these things?
Incidentally, I can never ever recollect an instance where she has put her ears back and come at me in anger. Her temperament is absolutely benevolent.
I can touch this horse wherever I feel it appropriate to touch her.
I can brush mud off her face even when the dirt lies close to her eye.
I can wash her mouth when she is sticky from horse lick made from treacle.
I can reach down between her legs to do up the buckles of her rug.
I can stand immediately in front of her and even lean against her rump.
I can comb out and pull her hair.
I can use scissors to trim her fringe
DiDi does have one other obvious communicative move and that is to hold back when we are moving forwards. For example when I go to collect her from the field and after I have fitted her leading halter, she might suddenly stand firm and resist the slight pressure from me to move on. She might even throw in a nudge, Now I have a rule: first I ask her to move with 4ozs of pressure, then I insist she moves with 4lbs of pressure, then I demand she moves with over 4lbs of pressure - most of the pressure comes down onto the poll or the nose. I assume that what she has been saying by resistance is : “ I don’t want to go in”. I suppose as a response, I could leave her out in the field. Then she will miss her tea but it is doubtful if she would link missing her tea with her disobedience. However I don’t want her ever to feel nervous about missing her meal, that would create other problems. Incidentally once we are out of the field and onto the track, she’ll usually walk at my shoulder. The exceptions are when the wind is blowing or the hunt is about or after a bout of high jinx in the pasture with the other horses But on those occasions any young horse is not in full control of its emotions.
I have noticed that from time to time as I step forwards to affix the halter, she’ll turn her head and move away. All I have to do is follow her and call “Wait!” and then she will stand, However recently I have wondered whether she has recognised me by sight only perhaps because I may not actually have spoken to her. In future I am always going to say “hello” when I come alongside her. I cannot be confident that she recognises me by sight after all that she will have seen is my face. Now it is important for the reader to understand that in nearly all other respects this is an obedient horse which will obey instantly, so long as the meaning of the aid or command is understood. Even if through fright she has pulled away from me, she won’t go far maybe just a few feet away at most. Even when she shies, it is rare that she’ll take more than a step away as part of the evasion.
There is one other small but regular act of disobedience. When I am picking out her feet, she will readily lift three of them but the fourth, the right fore, she’ll often snatch back before I have finished getting rid of the dirt. I have associated this with some sensitivity in the sole of the foot. She will push me away by striking out with her foot and not her snout.
So we are back to the nudge. Is this an act of disobedience, bossiness or something else? I think I am going to have to record the incidence of nudges. I need to know what they mean.
16th April 2011, 03:11 PM
On the 22nd Feb I went up to collect DiDi from the field so as to ride her out. As usual she saw us coming looked up and carried on grazing. I went into the field and slowly walked towards her with the head collar in hand. Long before I got close, DiDi raised her head and trotted away at a fast pace which quickly went into canter. She cantered down the field with me following her at the walk towards the corner. She twisted and turned and then fast cantered back up the field to where the other horses were grazing. There were two geldings, Sam and Dannie plus DiDi’s little friend the Shetland: Teddie. The four horses picked up the mood and as a small herd they then went into canter and circled the rectangular field which is about four acres in size. I stood and waited to see how things would settle.
Sam and Teddie soon lost interest but Dannie suddenly started to show more interest in DiDi and he chased off after her. The pace went from canter to gallop. DiDi tried to move into the corners of the field so that she could fend Dannie off with her two back feet as discouragement, which she did on several occasions. But it made no difference, Dannie was suddenly a very excited gelding who was out for a chase. The game had become a frightening sequence of charges at the gallop.
Eventually DiDi was galloping around the edge of the field with Dannie in close pursuit but he, with his longer legs, could run the faster. Suddenly DiDi turned and attempted to take the wire fence separating the home field from the adjoining field in which had been grazing a pair of horses: a mare and a gelding. Earlier on they too had been running around their field with all the excitement. However DiDi did not make it over the fence.
She came down with a bang, with both hind feet caught in the wire and a mouth full of mud. Even when I got over to her there was no way by which he could free the right hind foot which was still trapped in the wire. Surprisingly the wire was so called “horse grade” wire but surprisingly the squares at the top allow a horse’s foot to go through yet there is not enough space for the foot/leg to withdraw easily. DiDi had managed to free the left hind foot herself but the other was firmly snared. She was down on the ground on her side, fretfully kicking out. The fall alone must have shocked the horse but the restraint of the wire induced panic and DiDi was striking out frantically to free herself By this time, luckily other tenants on the livery yard had responded to the call for help and the shouting to bring wire cutters.
Whilst laying down DiDi was obviously in severe distress and she was heaving and puffing. Within a few minutes we had the wire cutters, the wire was cut and the right foot was freed up but as we much later discovered the flesh had been cut into right in the crack above the hoof. The vet had already been called and thankfully The Irish vet arrived within 20 minutes.
By the time the vet was on the scene, DiDi was still laying on the ground, free from the wire but unwilling to stand up. In the presence of the vet, DiDi did then make the effort to stand and she got her self up onto three legs. The vet felt her over, listened to her pounding heart and gave her a shot of painkiller and an anti inflammatory. I then walked a very lame horse quietly back to her stable. There were no obviously serious cuts but the wire might have dug into the tendons just above the hoof. DiDi would have been in pain. She was also shocked and very breathless. A day or so later the three grazes on the left hind started to become apparent. But seemingly only the skin had been damaged. The thin wire cut on the right hind foot, obscured deep within the foot feathers, did not show up for six weeks.
Once in the stable we got her calm but obviously she was in distress. But at least she could walk even though she had to hobble on the fourth foot fall when the injured leg had to take the weight. The vet looked her over again and it was agreed that she would come back the following day. We wrapped DiDi up in her sweat rug, gave her a biscuit, her hay net and a bucket of water. There was little else we could do.
After an hour or so we went back to wrap her leg with some ice to help with the swelling. DiDi was still stumbling about in her stable. She could stand on three legs but the injured leg had swollen up and she was obviously reluctant to put her weight on it. The good thing was that she was actually standing and she wanted something to eat. Then I took a brush to remove the mud on her back, legs and neck. In doing so I found the lumps on her back and flanks - 6 of them where Dannie had managed to bite her. I covered these with Dermalene cream We had now found the reason for DiDi’s flight in panic. In some places she had lost lumps of hair about the size of 50p pieces. During this process DiDi stood and allowed herself to be petted. I gave her tea of roughly half as much as she usually gets mainly Happy Hoof, a handful of pasture mix and some apples and carrots. It was time for her to go to bed. It had been a eventful day. The following day would give the clues as to how things would develop. 1822
To be continued /-
17th April 2011, 09:56 AM
Tbc 2 The Next Day
The vet would arrive between 1.00 - 1.30pm but the big question in the morning was how did she pass the night. When I arrived here she was, waiting for her breakfast. Her ears were pricked, she had her head over the door. She was ready for the new day. Yes the lower leg was swollen and the bites on her back looked awful. But she was not morose, she was looking for her breakfast and above all she was putting her weight down on the obviously damaged foot. When the vet arrived, after a few cursory checks, she confirmed that she was pleased with what she saw. The damage could have been a lot worse. At first consideration it looked as though she would be OK. But only time would tell for sure.
The farrier calls
Another new day dawned and it happened that the farrier would be attending the yard. He was distressed to see DiDi with such a swollen fetlock and a really large bite mark on her back. His opinion was that three of her legs were OK but the fourth, the swollen leg, which DiDi had freed by her own efforts would take time. Even when she no longer showed signs of lameness, she probably would be experiencing discomfort. He refitted the thrown shoe without much resistance from DiDi - a good sign. The bite marks might take the longest amount of time to calm down - perhaps as much as eight weeks.
The vet’s advice had been, in view of the risk of laminitis on fresh green grass to keep her in and take her out for walks daily.
My own opinion was that this advice would probably be a good idea - it would save a lot of problems.
Interestingly, DiDi seemed to be walking well enough but we made no attempt to trot her to see if she was still lame. The problem which might be more difficult to overcome was her obvious nervousness. Regardless of any lameness problems, it looked as though it might take up to two months to get her back strong enough to take the saddle and the weight of the rider. Noticeably everyone on the yard was sad to see that such a nice mare had suffered so much
By the fourth day DiDi was putting weight down on both hind legs including the left hind which had swollen up after she had struggled to free herself from the chicken wire. She was put out into the training arena and I watched her trot over to the corner without any head nodding. She appeared to be rhythmic both in her walk and trot paces but she was still on Bute. Today she was given the last sachet of the pain killer and hopefully the lameness would not re-appear as the final dose wears off.
The question of diet had come up. The vet had sent in a fairly harsh dietary schedule but I was reluctant to enforce it at the same time as DiDi was recovering from the pain of her feet and the very sore back. She had nothing else in her day other than the walk around lunchtime when I took her in hand along the lane. Thereby she had some exercise and an opportunity to nibble at the hedgerows. This walking in hand gave the horse exercise and an interest - it was also good training for what has always been a skittish horse.
I took out of use the thick padded day rugs. DiDi still was fitted with a thin overnight rug, even though there was no lining but at least it kept her wind proof and stopped her back from getting dusty should she decide to lie down. Hopefully next week the starvation paddock would come free and then she could be put out in the field for a few hours.
The bite marks on the back were seemingly at this time the big issue. The farrier said that from his experience they might take 6 to 8 weeks to heal. In the interim we could not call the chiro in because the back muscles would have to be able to take pressure from her manipulations. The saddle was to be refitted this week but the appointment had to be cancelled. Whilst being handled DiDi was relaxed. Out on the daily walks in hand she was a bit spooky. Only time would tell how edgy she might have become.
Back to the pasture
It was a nice day on the following Sunday. Dannie was to be ridden - so I arranged that DiDi could go out into her old field with just Sam and Teddie. Everything seemed to go well and as a result she was left from 9.00am through to 4.00pm during which time she appeared to do nothing else other than to munch grass. The fresh spring grass was coming through but the growth was not yet rampant. She was left as the last horse to come in and as a result by the time I reached the field gate she had been standing by the entrance to the field for at least half an hour. She wanted her tea. However she was now on a diet, so her food rations had been cut back. She had one hay net which hac been doubled up and it was noticeable the night before that she had eaten every scrap of food even the remnants lying on the floor of the stable.
Undoubtedly it will be the bruising of the back which will to take time. She was still very sensitive and would not readily allow her back to be touched even to apply Dermalene soothing cream. When I spoke with the Chiro, she advised that riding DiDi too soon could bring about a reaction if DiDi’s back was still sore. It would be advisable to bring her back into work slowly so as to avoid causing severe discomfort which might in future provoke her into resisting the act of the rider mounting up. 1839
To be continued/-
18th April 2011, 09:41 PM
Tbc 3 4th March.
DiDi had been out for most of the day in her paddock from which thankfully Dannie had been removed. She seemed to get on satisfactorily with Sam and Teddie. DiDi was trotting about and gently cantering enough to suggest that her ligaments and tendons were OK but this could not be verified until eventually she was ridden. She came in about 3.30pm. Today the chiro visited the yard and very briefly looked at the visible bite wounds. Her comment was: “nasty”. Closer inspection was to be left for another week. The best treatment over the short term would be to do work in hand so as to stop her from becoming ‘feral‘. It would be better for her to be left wearing a coat when she was out so as to stop the wound being contaminated by dirt or faeces. The immediate recommended treatment for her wounded back was none other than ‘time‘. The scabs had to form and fall off; the hairs had to regrow and the unavoidable bruising of soft tissue and muscle had to subside.
After being released at the gate she immediately cantered off down the field. When she dropped down into trot there was no sign of lameness. However she was still very sensitive on the left side of her back and, when being combed to remove the coat hair which was now moulting, she reacted sharply. The bites must still be causing discomfort. Obviously this was the area for concern because she must not be allowed to develop a habit of being nervous when being groomed. A tenant at the stable suggested that when the time came for mounting that first the neighbour’s lightly built daughter be allowed to ride her bareback. Fitting the saddle would call for girthing up, an act which might in itself be painful for the horse whereas riding bareback obviously eliminated the need for tightening a girth.
The suggestion was a good idea.
Exactly two weeks after DiDi being bitten by Dannie she was today out in the same field steadily grazing with the company of Teddie and Sam. She was not wearing a coat and all of the bite marks had formed crusty scabs. There appeared to be a minimal amount of heat in the pastern of the left hind which remained very slightly swollen. In herself DiDi was bright and occasionally frisky. When she walked there is no sign of lameness but there again she was not carrying any weight. She allowed her back to be touched even in the region of the bites. All in all she was making good progress. The local farrier who kept a horse on the yard said she was doing well. DiDi’s own farrier, would be coming soon and it would be interesting to hear his comments. We should follow his advice. The McTimoney practitioner was due back to see one of the other horses and she would cast an eye over DiDi’s back at the same time. The walking out in hand was to continue. The next step would be for her to be worked in the arena with a saddle fitted loosely on her back. Then we would ask young Tara to ride her bareback. However none of this would start until we have the go ahead from the various professionals. Then bill from the vets came in yesterday - £177, so we would not ask the vet to call again unless there was good reason.
The starvation paddock.
DiDi stayed with Sam & Teddie in the big field and we waited for the starvation paddock to become free. Eventually the occupier of the starvation paddock moved down to West Wales by which time arrangements had been made to strengthen the fencing of what had been the starvation paddock. DiDi would in future live here on her own. The field was about an acre which was not enough to feed her but was enough to give her some exercise during the day. She had the opportunity to nibble but because the surface was so poached it would be sometime before the spring sward presented a hazard of laminitis.
It was a nice sunny day and Tara had agreed to help us decide whether or not it was time to ride DiDi under saddle. It has been a month since the incident and in the interim DiDi has done nothing but graze. I had walked her almost daily into the village in hand. It had got to be quite a routine. The overall opinion was that DiDi had largely recovered. The final test would be to try her out under saddle in the arena. So, we gently tacked her up with a very thick numbnah under the saddle area. . Tara mounted and around the arena she walked, then trotted then even cantered. There were no obvious signs of stress. The scars on her legs remained but she was not seemingly lame. She was a little stiff in her movements and from time to time she flicked her right hind. The scabs on her back remain and the hair had not as yet re-grown but one could push one’s fingers into what was previously a sensitive area without any obvious signs of distress from DiDi. All in all the test had been a success. We should now have to get back into a regular exercise routine.
All went pear shaped today. I took DiDi out for her walk but at the bottom of the drive turned left towards the reservoir instead of right towards the village as is usual. We went past the neighbouring driveway and gently tip toed by the small herd of cows who were standing up in the field on the bank. DiDi flounced a little but she passed them by. She was allowed a little grazing up by the entrance to the water works and then we turned back. Something happened - probably it was the cows in the field above DiDi’s line of sight, Suddenly I found himself being pulled along by the lead rope which I could not release. In the end I fell but DiDi was still rearing. It was a nasty scene until the lead rope gave way. Once free DiDi ran off down the lane. Eventually I picked myself up off the ground. Finally DiDi was found twenty yards down the lane calmly eating grass. Seemingly it was only me who had suffered and certainly I would not be leading DiDi by my mangled left hand for some time.
To be continued/-
21st April 2011, 09:24 AM
For a few days there was not much that I could do and anyway the weather was unsettled. DiDi spent her days in the small paddock. The big question was whether the incident in the lane had done any permanent damage.
Today I lunged the Girlie in the arena.. It was quickly obvious that DiDi was stiff and slightly lame. I called the Bowen back specialist.
The Bowen Technique lady who came today and gave DiDi a once over. According to her there is nothing wrong with her back and although there was still some swelling around the bite marks, she should be capable of bearing the weight of the rider. In her view DiDi could be ridden. It was said that the Bowen method left the horse aching for a few days but we had been given the go ahead to walk her out under saddle.
We tacked the Girl up and took her out for a short walk round the 20 minute block. DiDi was undoubtedly stiff somewhere in her hind quarters. My wife could feel it. I could see that her left hind - the leg with all of the scars did not work correctly. What to do now?
To cap matters, she also has a dry cough which is now becoming obvious. However there is no gunge coming down her nose. Dan, her stable neighbour and the foe that had done all the damage, had a similar cough.
I went up to let DiDi out and watched her run off down the field. There was something wrong. The barn owner who was nearby noticed the same movements and said : “she’s lame!”. Later in the day the diagnosis was confirmed. The problem appears to be in the upper rear legs on the left hand side - but who knew? She was running about. She did not nod her head at the trot and the movement of her left hind was not correct. As usual we were given a shower of comments from onlookers, one of which might or might not be correct. DiDi was on the herb based medicine “No Bute”. She was not doing any work. Did we call the vet?
We are back on the old routine. She was going out in the field and then in the afternoon before she was put to bed we go out for her to nibble at some long grass which for sure was not available in her own almost barren starvation field. On the walks she munched away with gusto. She was lame. On that day it was her right hind which was so stiff. She could walk but her action was faulty.
If one ran the hand over the fetlock then it felt warm. But as you let her go into the field she trotted off merrily to show off in front of her new mate in the adjoining field - a pretty gelding. There was no nod from the neck and head. We must soon try her again under saddle.
Whilst grooming DiDi, I ran my hand deep down thru the hairs of the right hind leg and felt a line of scabs. The wound ran across the back of the foot deep down in the feathers along the bend which enables the foot to flex - just where the wire, which DiDi was cut free from all those weeks ago, would have run. The cut had not been found previously by either me, the vet or the farrier but obviously it had been there since the very beginning. Instantly the “flicking” of the right hind had a cause. The scab was now hard and about 1/8th inch in width. The cut was healing and there was no sign of infection but one could still see the line of the cut by the line of red flesh. The wound lay deep in the bend of the foot and ran across it. The treatment was obvious - continue with the No -Bute, keep the wound clean with Hibisoft and apply the green antiseptic wound gel. Time should heal the wound - if it didn’t then maybe the vet would have a better idea. Luckily it had not been raining and the ground in the field was as hard as rock. The girl trotted around with no immediately obvious lameness but working the foot could split the wound open again. It should be allowed to heal otherwise sooner or later it would become infected. Neither the vet nor the farrier had found this wound, perhaps because of the thickness of the hair. But now the reason behind DiDi’s continuing lameness has been found - hopefully.
A vet came visiting to the yard and I asked her to confirm DiDi’s condition. The wound around the pastern was healing as a result of time + washing + healing gel.
“DiDi was lucky to get away so lightly” said the young female vet. “This type of wound takes a long time to heal. Keep washing the wound + keep her quiet + wait for two more weeks before putting any stress on pastern”
There was some discussion about keeping DiDi on box rest but to BG that would be shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted. If she was alone in her field, then she should not get too excited.
To be continued/-
22nd April 2011, 09:57 AM
Tbc 5 15th April
A twice daily routine of bathing the fetlock wound with Hibiscrub disinfectant and the application of the green healing gel seemed to have worked. The scar tissue had largely come off and although there was a slight redness in the middle of the cut, the wound appeared to have closed up. Certainly when she was trotting freely there was now no “flicking” of the right hind. She was in at night and out in the acre sized paddock on her own for the day. The bites over the spine had healed as had two of the scars on her left hind. It would soon be time to ride her again.
All this of course means that DiDi had been out of work for eight weeks. During that time her behaviour when riding out may have regressed. Once we could walk her again it would only be for light exercise until her fitness level built up. Also we might be back to square one with her little misdemeanours.
At least we would have our horse back. But there was no hurry. Let Nature take its course.
And slowly it did just that.
The claim form from the insurance company from the NFU insurance arrived. DiDi had now fully recovered from her injury with no signs of lameness. All of the bruises and bite marks on her back had disappeared, The only mark left from the incident was down on her left hind - where the line of the cut caused by the wire fencing was still evident. It might eliminate her from entering showing competitions but that was not our game anyway.
DiDi was walking, trotting and cantering without any signs of distress. Her back could bear the weight of the saddle and rider.
DiDi’s own paddock
She had been moved from the big field which she had shared with the other horses. She now lived alone in what was the starvation paddock adjoining the training arena. The field was small - barely an acre. The post and rail fencing had been refurbished. An electric fence had also been laid on top of the post and rail. The sward was not lush with grass but the nettles and docks had mostly been removed.
When looking back months later and with the benefit of hindsight, there were no long term effects evident from the incident, except for a white scar in the hair, which will be forever there to remind us of the incident. Yes, over the three months she had lost a little fitness and she sweated up after hard exercise but there was no reason why that should not be rectified with more work. Other horses caught in wire aren’t so lucky,
Barely a few months later, a beautiful and delightful Shire mare was caught on the other side of the farm in a very similar incident involving fence wire. The wire had cut deep into the fleshy area by the fetlock and had damaged tendons. This mare had probably stood still for twenty four hours caught up in the wire before eventually being released. The story of the incident, the treatment and the outcome was worthy of another article but I did not write it up at the time. Elements of poor husbandry, slow response by the vet and later an unwillingness to accept that the horse was not going to get better made up, all together, a sorry tale. As a result weeks later the mare, suffering from the equine version of gangrene ,had to be put down quite simply because she could not take the weight of her own body on her feet. A second vet did his best to save the horse and he even reduced his fees but it was all to no avail. A key mistake had been not to shave off the Shire’s long feathers so a to make sure that there were no hidden cuts.
Then the dreaded infection took over. The puss, the smell, the worry all add together to create despair.
Throughout I watched and listened with growing horror to the chain of events which led to the euthanasia of a lovely horse. She was truly a gentle giant who took her pain with remarkable stoicism but we might just as well have taken the vet’s advice weeks earlier and put her down then. Somehow the death of gentle draught horses is so much more difficult to accept but for them the phrase no feet, no horse is even more appropriate The thought was constantly in my mind that DiDi had been so lucky to escape with just a scar.
I am very nervous these days of leaving any horse in any field fenced with a single strand wire - at any height.
It can kill.
22nd April 2011, 09:25 PM
As I have explained on another thread, there are two stories involving DiDi running on the Forum at the same time. This thread tells the stories of what happened over the first two and a half years of my ownership of this Irish bombshell.
The stories on the other thread tell about about what is happening to her now that she has entered the world of dressage. To me there is a different time frame and a different concept behind the two threads.
Maybe the sequence of the stories might come across as confusing - apologies. If I had started at the beginning of the tales and posted a story a week, then by now we would not have reached the dressage stage - so I started another thread.
But thank you for reading.
22nd April 2011, 10:04 PM
Thank-YOU for taking the time and the trouble to making our visits here so memorable .
26th April 2011, 12:01 PM
The respect issue between a human and an intelligent horse can be a very subtle one. My clever 11yo Irish mare knows that I alone cannot catch her in the paddock against her will. She must accept being caught. She knows that to fit her head collar I must approach her from the left hand side and she must lower her head. She can therefore at any time raise her head and spin around to the right and escape from me. I must then counter the evasion by following her at a constant pace on her rear left side wherever she goes in the field. She would not be allowed to rest or stand still. Eventually she’ll give in, but in her mind she’s made her point to me. She will agree to be caught but I must not take her willing compliance for granted. The whole process of catching her is a game and is one of the highlights of her day. There are rules to abide by; there is a protocol to follow. I should not take short cuts. A key component is that I offer her a biscuit as I first say ‘ Hello’ and whilst she is eating that biscuit she will lower her head.
Once I have caught her and fitted the head collar, I must ask her to walk on by a slight pressure on the lead rope and with a verbal: ‘Walk on Girlie’. But unless she agrees to move I cannot force her. Yes, I can exert pressure on the head collar and thereby on the poll but she can resist the pressure by me to a surprising extent by merely lifting her head and bracing herself. We often reach a stage where she only has to bring her legs into play and I’d be pulled over. So I break the spell by releasing the pressure completely and throwing her off balance. She knows that I possess an American training halter which works on the poll. She is also aware that a regular head collar is sufficient for the purpose for collecting her, so long as she does not argue.. So I don’t automatically use the training halter and she doesn’t automatically resist being caught.
A routine has now evolved that I approach her down the track and walk straight towards her. It is very important that I ignore all the other horses. I can talk to them from a distance but I must walk straight to her. She will wait in her paddock watching me out of the corner of her eye. She’ll recognise me from a distance by the way I walk. As I enter the field .she will keep grazing. I must walk over towards her and then when I am ten feet from her, she’ll lift her head and if she’s in a good mood she’ll walk towards me I offer to her a biscuit which she will take as her due. I say :‘hello‘. She’ll drop her head whilst eating the biscuit and I will slip the collar over her head and do it up. Once she’s finished chewing, we will walk calmly back to the gate and up the track towards the yard. She will watch out for tufts of grass in the track and if her paddock is bare, as it is now through lack of rain, then she’ll make a move to snatch from the tufts. I will instantly restrain her but when the next tuft is in range, I’ll let her take two or three mouthfuls. I will give and she can take what is offered but then she must walk on.
At some point along the track she will stop to look back to see which horses are still in their paddocks. She wants to have some clue as to what is going to happen next. If she is alone, she’ll think she is going into the arena for dressage training. If one of the other horses has already been collected she’ll think she is going out for a hack. She wants to know what is in store for her. I shall let her look back and around but then she must instantly walk on. She knows I can’t afford to use too much leverage on the head collar because sooner or later she will be in a position to be difficult. If I am harsh with her, then she’ll be awkward with me. There is a give and take scenario through out and it is always better for me to offer to give than for her to take.
For the majority of the walk to the stable she must drop her head and walk at my shoulder on a loose lead rope which I hold in two hands. My right hand merely guides the rope and helps to form a loose loop. There should be no pressure on her nose or poll.
Whatever I do, I must not ever get angry or impatient, I must never be over zealous in tugging on the lead rope. I must not inflict pain beyond a minimal level and then only for an instant as a stern cue.
From time to time - say every couple of months or so - on occasions when we have experienced a series of negative reactions, I must be prepared to walk away and leave her alone in the paddock. On such occasions it is imperative to make her jealous. I must give what she sees as her biscuits and even her food to one of the other mares. I must ignore her and walk away. When the other horses come in - she must be left out on her own - hopefully in the rain and preferably in the dark. She may already have gone to the gate to surrender but I must ignore her at the gate until she thinks her privileges are being given to another horse. Then I must collect her. She will have paid penance.
If she is in a real strop, then I forget any sensitive arena work and when she is really bad, then I must forget work of any sort. I must wait until she calms down. If she is not communicating with me for some undefined reason, then there is no point in trying to work her. She will not be in the mood to cooperate.
My mare stands at only 15h . She has a deep chest and a big butt. I can’t win over her in a straight force against power contest. I can only use leverage against her but only if the bit or training halter has been fitted. I dare not ever use a whip. It is easy for me to inflict pain but it is desperately hard to obtain her forgiveness for having inflicted pain. She is ridden in the mildest of snaffle bits which is kept in position by a flash band. The Countess wears spurs, I don’t
DiDi’s weaknesses are that:
I control her living environment.
I can change her routine
I can exploit her jealousy of other mares
I can bring her food
I can give her treats as a reward or as simple payment for good behaviour.
Her favourite treat might be a pear which she knows that only she will get to eat.
My weakness is that I cannot force her to do anything and as soon as I am on her back, I am at her mercy, should she decide to be difficult. She can have me off her back by a sudden violent spook and she can make it difficult for me to dismount. Her power is her neurotic spook which she can invoke at the sight of a small bird in the hedge.
Her memory of any slight inflicted by me lasts for longer than the few seconds which the technical books would have us believe. She will wait for the best opportunity to put me in my place and that will be when I am vulnerable.
Interestingly her favourite scenario is when the three of us who handle her, stand together with her also in a circle to discuss something about her future. She’ll stand meekly perfectly still, her head at our head level, listening to the discussion. It is as though she can understand much of what we are saying. Maybe she does.
This article is a description of my relationship with a self confident mare. No scenario between another horse and handler could be exactly the same. But I believe that there is one constant principle in that you can’t force a strong minded horse to do anything repeatedly - somehow you have to come to an agreement to cooperate.
Neither a male or female handler when dealing with a tall strong dominant gelding can win on strength alone. Handlers of either sex will have to resort to guile. Mares can be very devious.
The alternative technique used by some handlers is to deliberately inflict pain to enforce obedience. Such a method will in the long run merely result in an unpleasant horse with which noone can work harmoniously. I am firmly of the opinion that to use pain or restriction on DiDi, would probably turn her into a dangerous horse. Harsh insensitive treatment on the part of the human would eventually break her spirit and at that moment, she would be broken
I am beginning to ask myself whether my complex interaction with DiDi came about because of me or her. I can sense a lot of what she is thinking and certainly she can assess my mood for the day. She certainly knows how to rile me up and soothe me down. Is this all part of the regular horse to human interface or would I be better with a straight forward horse who doesn’t think he or she is half human?.
26th April 2011, 12:11 PM
This is very moving, Barry.
Your mare sounds a real character! I always think mares are a lot more cunning than geldings, and they certainly know how to wind us up.
26th April 2011, 03:23 PM
It is no good, I ‘ll have to change the desktop photo on the laptop. The current photo is of me and Joe playing together in the training arena. His coat is shining and he’s got a happy look on his face. I am wearing my Churchillian overalls and my favourite soft cap. Of course my toes in the stirrups are pointed downwards. I vaguely remember the incident which was back when I was teaching Joe all about tight turns and flexing his spine. Happy Days.
I’d opened the laptop to finish off an article about DiDi. The piece describes the protocol I have to go through to catch her out in the paddock If I don’t follow the complete performance through then she’ll be difficult to catch so as to punish me. In effect she nags as well as any of the women in my life. I’ve been fairly resistant to womanly wiles ever since I was a kid during wartime and Mother sent me off to live with Grandma. I could manipulate my way between them by working through the emotions of both females who, with hindsight, probably did not like each other very much. Wars do funny things to people. Father was away, Mother was in London, I was sent down to Kent which was the closest spot to where the Germans were. But Mother had a guilty conscience so I could get away with murder as and when I did travel up to London for holiday trips.
DiDi, being a modern female horse, is well aware that as a mere male human, I am to be kept in order and manipulated. I am fair game. Hence the defiance and the occasional strops just to keep me in my place. She knows only too well that she can deck me anytime she feels like it.
I have been thinking about all this as I was working in the front garden on what was proving to be a lovely day. The sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze and Her Indoors had driven off to the local town to do that abysmally frustrating thing called: ’shopping’. I did not have to go. There would be enough money in the account. I would not have to stand, dither and choose anything. Whenever I have to do some grocery shopping I know exactly what I want and where in the shop I can find it. I don’t have to look at it. I merely have to put it in the basket as I push the trolley past where the item lies on the shelf. Women are so pernickety about silly things.
Anyway, why am I working at all on a day like this? I should be off on my trusty steed up into the woods and making a roundabout journey to the pub where I can have two large glasses of red wine and maybe a cheddar cheese sandwich with Branston pickle and a packet of potato crisps on the side. Of course, with my boy Joe I could do exactly that, as long as I saved him some crisps. Whereas DiDi would threaten a revolt if I ever were to think about such an idea. She’d never ever in a million years allow herself to be tied to anything but an official tacking up area. As for being left whilst I wandered off into a building which smelt of beer and cigarette smoke, well you must be joking. Certainly I could not ride her along the lanes ‘loose on the buckle’ because she will want to ’go on the bit’. Anyway she is presently getting ready for some new dressage tests at the next level up in competition, so The Countess won’t want me to take her out hacking anyway. I would spoil DiDi’s style. As for sitting on her in a relaxed manner, Oh No - slouching along is no longer allowed. DiDi is now doing shoulder-ins and piaffes, which only well trained dressage horses do. Whenever DiDi is under saddle she is to work and to keep her hind legs underneath her - or something like that.
Of course, this scenario is all very amusing to my long suffering wife who now sees me being nagged by two female allies - a mare and her rider. What is more, if I can’t ride off down to the pub, then the front garden will be tarted up or whatever is the polite word for mowing and weeding. Gardening makes me ache without giving pleasure and no sooner has one trimmed back a hedge or plucked out a weed then another unwanted plant will be growing as replacement. Gardening is a year long marathon whereas if you are riding a horse, then you can dismount.
So, as a gesture of revolt, I am writing this article on the laptop with a glass of wine in one hand. I am inside from the wretched garden, sitting in the cool lounge for the duration of the heat of the day. It is all nice and quiet. I am not being asked to do something by Her Indoors - she is still out. I might have a snooze like Rocky my dog who is already snoring.
And I have decided that I am not going to change the desktop background. I am going to leave that photo to remind me that I must resist. I must be stalward The grass is green, what more should she worry about. No doubt Joe, my sturdy equine ghostly memory, is up there, looking down on me and saying: ‘I told you so. You should not have sent me away and replaced me with that grey Irish huzzy.’
2nd May 2011, 10:21 AM
Back in the 1950s, the predominant use for a horse was to pull a cart in the town or a plough on the farm. As a young boy living in London I well remember both milk and coal being delivered by horse and cart. Steptoe & Son was a TV programme about a rag and bone man who plied his wares along the streets of London on a horse and cart. Located around the London docks there were several commercial stables still operating. Deliveries were made locally by horse and cart and at night fresh draught beer went out to the pubs on a dray. In those days the big barrels were made of wood not aluminium and draught bitter had a short shelf life. Out in the countryside, horses were still pulling ploughs and hay wagons. The farmer rode to market; the gentleman rode to hounds. The punter went to the races by coach. The favoured few and the wealthy had learned to ride as youngsters with the Pony Club. Just over fifty years later, within my life time, it has all changed. Sadly I never managed to mount a horse until I was 38, which was perhaps a bit late in life. Maybe somewhere in my bloodstream lay the genes of my horse dealing great grandfather. Nowadays I sometimes wonder what the all seeing congestion cameras would say about me and my trusty steed making our way through the streets of Central London. At least we would not have to pay the toll charge to Boris.
I am quite concerned that within a decade or so it might be forbidden to ride a horse even along the lanes of rural villages but I suppose for as long as the well connected few can ride in Hyde Park then horse riding in public places may not be banned for reasons of health & safety. Mixing horses with traffic has always been and will always be a dangerous activity. These days to ride a horse out into the community is quite an achievement especially if it is just the duo of horse and rider. This article is an attempt to describe a little of what it means to get a horse down to the car park of a country pub and later back to the barn without incident.
My horse DiDi who has already proved that she is destined for the competition arena was in fact bought by me with the idea of making her into a Gentleman’s Riding Horse. It was not to be. Some horses may be born with jumping ability but they aren’t necessarily born with the temperament to cope with the mechanical world of the twenty first century. In the old days, horses outnumbered combustion engined vehicles in the cities whereas nowadays it is extremely rare to meet with a horse even in a small town. DiDi is a 15h Irish DraughtXConnemara dapple grey mare. She’s got a broad back, strong legs with lots of bone, a powerful rump and a fair width between her two front legs. Whilst short by modern standards, she is up to any weight of rider. She’s also forward going - in other words if the rider puts her into a trot then she’ll trot until she is asked to walk. At all paces she will strut her stuff. She is very alert, very agile and very sensitive. She is the mould of horse which would once have been used to pull a light but fancy cart. Her dad would have been used to pull a milk float in the town or a plough in the countryside. Her mum would have been a good quality mare kept especially for breeding. For sure from time to time, DiDi and her dad, a Glounbrack stallion, would have been smartened up by the farmer to go hunting in County Cork. Perhaps chasing foxes is still her forte.
She is not a novice ride, the rider must be intuitive and competent. An inexperienced rider with an unbalanced seat and heavy hands would find themselves on the ground in short order. Despite her sensitivity she is ridden in a very mild linked snaffle held in place with a flash band Her mouth is very soft; the rider should not tug on it, a little squeeze or a slight resistance to the bit through either rein is all that is necessary. A martingale is an aid to stop the horse’s nose rising up which DiDi doesn’t usually need but when hacking out, it is advisable to fit one as the neck strap might come in handy. However the lack of leather strapping tells an experienced rider that this horse must be asked to behave as there is little that the rider can do were she to deliberately misbehave. The rider must be careful to sit still and be subtle with the use of leg and the butt. DiDi is an intelligent horse and rarely needs to be told twice. But being devious comes with intelligence.
The hack always starts with collecting the horse and giving her a brush down. It is unusual for any part of her to be dirty except perhaps her neck and legs but still she is brushed down practically every day and certainly when she is to be ridden. She is easy to handle but if she doesn’t want to do something then she’ll tell you by holding back. She is a master of evasion and possesses a long, very long, memory. The groom will check the feet to make sure that there are no stones wedged in the frog. DiDi will stand still during the tacking up procedure including the fitting of the saddle. A treat works well as a bribe for cooperation.
The procedure can all be done in the stable without her being tied up. A pet hate is that she doesn’t like her feet washed with a hose gushing ice cold water but sometimes that is a necessary. During the summer months she’ll be sprayed with fly repellent an action which she hates but it is for her own comfort. The Ideal Grandee saddle must fit perfectly so as to transfer evenly the rider’s weight down onto the back of what is a short coupled, broad backed mare. As to be found in most long term horse owners houses, there is a cupboard filled with saddles which will fit another horse but not the horse in current use. The girth must be tight, and the stirrups set for the length of the rider’s leg. The straps on the bridle must be tightened to the correct length. Meanwhile it will come the time for the rider to check his own habit: the hat, the back belt, the gloves and the boots. Then the horse is told to stand still whilst the rider mounts up. Finally the girth must be checked for tightness just in case the artful DiDi was breathing out when the buckles were tightened up. Finally it comes time to leave the yard.
The rider will sense the horse’s mood as the duo approach the gate leading onto the lane. DiDi will be looking around tentatively as she turns onto the road. Some days she is merely sprightly, on other days she is on red alert with ears twitching right and left. The rider then may have to turn around to close the gate which is rather foolishly weighted to open into the yard rather than onto the lane. The pair usually turn right and up the lane and if DiDi is directed to the left she will invariably tell the rider that they are going the wrong way. DiDi is a creature of habit. The scene is set and we are off for a jaunt together. 2092
To be continued/-
23rd May 2011, 10:49 AM
Over the past six years I have owned two very different horses namely Joe and DiDi.
Joe was an eleven year old canny cob used to working for a living. DiDi is a pretty Irish draught cross who was bred for a different market ie that of the private owner rider. As a man who has throughout his riding life looked for a horse to negotiate woodland trails, in many ways Joe suited me better. Except that Joe was used to living within a herd of horses and I would be planning to house him at a livery yard where he would rest at night in a stable. Hardy Joe had been bred to live out on a hillside in all weathers. As a rider, I have never had any urge to compete in any horse speciality. My pleasure has always been merely to ride. The tuning of a horse to win for my personal greater glory has never appealed to me, especially in the jumping sphere when the shock of landing subjects the horse’s front legs to significant stress.
Both of my close coupled horses were about 15h1 with broad flat backs and powerful butts. Each was a good looking well proportioned animal. Both could have been taught to drive, indeed in years gone by either might have been used of draw a light farm implement or pull a cart.
I was seriously disappointed when I eventually realised that DiDi did not have the temperament to ride out into the community. Her little startlets, generated for effect rather than out of fear, irritated me to the extreme. And her instantaneous and unannounced skittish jumps off all four feet disturbed my equilibrium to such an extent that I would be tempted to respond by chastising her. To me it seemed that my sturdy mare was behaving like a spoilt brat of a young child saying’ Oh!’ Temperamentally we clashed and the more time I spent on her back, the wider the gulf came between us. Then one day I was told by a semi professional that DiDi had a latent ability for dressage. Later on, when watching her being trained for competition I realised just how wide had been the gulf between Joe the cob gelding and DiDi the Irish Draught cross mare. How could I ever think that DiDi would make a replacement for Joe?
My utter ignorance of the impact of the hormonal displays of a mare in season did not help matters.
Joe’s world was the maze of tracks running up and down the hillsides of the Brecon Beacons. He was a sure footed created who could carry a load up a steep unmade path and what’s more he could slide down the same slippery slopes that he had previously climbed up. The required technique by the rider was no more than to lean back, to brace the feet in the stirrup irons and to trust to Joe. It would be unthinkable to leave DiDi to perform such a manoevre. It would be better to dismount and let her make her own way to the bottom of the slope. If the terrain is not a flat soft sandy surface then she might trip up on her dainty little feet. It would make no sense to even think of taking her up a windy mountainside.
Joe’s broad, hairy steel shod feet could cope with any stoney uneven bridle path, strewn with tree roots whereas DiDi ‘s hairless dainty feet sought to work on a soft, carefully levelled, dressage arena. She would wait for instruction as to where to put each of her four feet, whereas Joe would see the safe carriage of both horse and rider to be his responsibility and for that reason he would prefer to chose where to put his own feet.
A tractor coming noisily along a leafy lane towards Joe represented nothing more than an obstacle to be circumvented whereas to DiDi such a abomination wold be seen as the work of the Devil better to back away from rather than to go forward and pass by.
The only living creatures to phase Joe were surprisingly donkeys - it must have been something to do with the long ears. DiDi on the other hand would react with horror if a tiny bird fluttered up from a hedge.
And then there was the matter of the riding position. Racehorse jockeys perch on a horse. Dressage riders sit in lightness and aplomb with legs on or off the flanks as the case maybe. The trail rider blends in with the creature, shifting one’s position according to the terrain and the pace. On a trail ride there are times for sitting still and light in the saddle and there are times to lift up and off the seat of the saddle so as to lean forwards to transfer the rider’s weight up and over the horse’s centre of gravity. When horse and rider are racing down a twisting bendy path it is time for the rider to lock on, to crouch down and to duck one’s head to avoid the branches. In village centres or the car parks of posh pubs it might be occasionally appropriate to sit up straight and put the horse in a rounded outline so as to preen but such a posture will not keep a rider in the saddle in times of stress and moment of exhilaration.
I made two fundamental mistakes during my time with Joe and DiDi. I thought to introduce Joe to the gentile world of dressage and I bought DiDi to partake of the rough and tumble of cross country riding.
The objectives of the two disciplines are utterly at odds.
To work Joe in the dressage arena it would be necessary to tell him where to put his feet He would be asked to drop his nose and bend his spine. He'd be carrying his head high on short reins. The rider's legs
For dressage he would need muscles on his crest and not the underside of his neck.
Likewise to teach DiDi to cope with brightly coloured, noisy objects, it would be necessary to expose her to hazards in a safe quiet arena so that through familiarity she could learn to tolerate them. A dressage trainer would take care not to make the horse fearful of the arena whereas the trail rider asks where else can you safely introduce a horse to stress - other than a carefully fenced schooling arena. Indeed for some aspects of training a trail horse might be worked in the arena whilst running loose.
If I had my time over again I would never make the mistake that even with outside help that I had the capability to convert Joe to the classical world of dressage. Likewise it was foolish to think that my dainty but temperamental DiDi would take to the rough and tumble of trail riding.
Making similar mistakes with Joe ultimately cost me and him our relationship. With Joe long gone to pastures in the sky I should have learned my lesson.
It remains for DiDi to show me what she wants to do with her life, as if I did not already know. However suffice it to say that I do not possess a top hat nor a pair of white riding breeches, neither do I intend to buy such apparel.
3rd June 2011, 09:39 PM
DiDi's progress up the ladder of dressage continues. I did not witness her last outing which she entered HC - but her marks were the third highest at 67.5% and since the two horses above her also entered HC - she could have been placed top.
But it is all way beyond me. So I am keeping out of controversy and staying stumm.
I suspect however we are eventually heading for her being passed on to a new owner who wants a horse for competition.
I wonder how she would feel about that - if only she knew what I was thinking. She does know I have not ridden her for ages and that is my loss - not hers.
31st July 2011, 02:04 PM
Whilst DiDi gets the occasional outing around the local lanes, most of her time under saddle is spent in the arena practicising for the next test - now at Novice or even the occasional lofty level of an Intermediate test.
She's not got the sprauncy image of a shiny warmblood but she is when tacked up and ready to go a startling mare to look at. Luckily, a range of judges seem to like her and mark high her scoresheet. The summer festival competitions are next on the calendar and we have to decide whether she goes at Novice, for which she has qualified or Intermedaite level for which she needs one more good scoresheet.
In the meantime she gets ridden out from time to time by my wife - herself an experienced rider. But that is games time for DiDi. Sometimes she'll do the circuit and never bat an eyelid. whereas on other occasions she will skip and hop her way round as though she is dancing at the Palais. Not that she is frightened, she is just being fractious. The biggest influence on her is usually the horse which is her companion of the day.
What are missing are the relatively quiet high hedged country lanes around where we used to keep her. In those days she could meander around the forest tracks up on the ridge in the wood which has been farmed for timber since Norman times. OK up would pop the occasional deer and overhead would fly a 'sqwarking' buzzard but for most of the hack it would be a tranquil peramble. There are no wooden huts with ladies with clip boards up there amidst the trees. But she would have to watch where she put her feet lest she tripped over a protruding tree root. OK on the way home, there were noisy dogs waiting to pounce behind garden gates but the horse had learned to be wary when passing by certain entrances.
The scope for hacking out over here is very much limited by comparison. Apparently open country can be boxed over to but riding out from the yard is problematical. There is much more traffic locally, some of it heavy lorries. The area appears to be a mecca for cyclists who are practicing for the Olympics, coming round blind corners at breakneck speed. Then there is always the risk of pedestrians walking their dogs off the lead.
I wonder what DiDi would do if we took her up into the Black Mountains where all she would have to cope with are steep hillsides; sandy, stoney rutted tracks, the wind, the intermittent rain and the occasional bog.
29th May 2012, 12:38 PM
DiDi qualified for the Petplan Novice Nationals in April 2012. On the day she was due to perform she was diagnosed with Level 4 ulcers and a pernicious and incurable lung disease.
After much prevarication she was put down at the end of May 2012.
We never did get together to ride again
29th May 2012, 02:20 PM
Oh Barry I'm so sorry :( No matter how 'set apart' she seemed to be, it's obvious that you and DiDi had something special. I will miss hearing your stories about her.
29th May 2012, 02:28 PM
I am really sorry for you. :(
29th May 2012, 04:25 PM
It was important to me to tell the readers of this thread that DiDi had passed on. At the same time I took the opportunity to read some of my early postings about this very special horse.
All horses are different from each other but some horses have a special character. DiDi was one such horse. I could never find another such as she. I cannot say that the riding with her became the memory of her which I shall carry to my own grave, rather it was the living with her on a day to day basis. This hobby of ours is not just the riding, it is the companionship. She needed me to acquire for her the necessities for her life. I, as her owner, had to be able to guarantee her comfort and well being. She in turn had to carry and protect me, that was her part of the deal.
Over four years I came to know her very well. I did not manage to tease out of her all of the secrets which had been formed in her early years when as a youngster she had been passed from pillar to post . Somewhere along her 12 years of life she had acquired a virus which lay dormant ready to erupt on some as yet unrecognised trigger maybe a type of steroid. Who knows? The vets aren't sure.
On the last day, I stood by the door of the stable where she was to spend the final few hours of her life. I moved close up and whispered quietly to her. My head was next to hers, her eye was just an inch or so away from mine. I said: 'good bye' and: "thank you for being my friend and companion'. She gently backed off, took a sip of water from the bucket and went over to the hay net in the corner of the stable. It was time for us to part.
We all come into this world on our own, and most of us leave it on our own. DiDi was calm and ready to go on to what ever comes next. There was no fear, no discomfort, no apprehension. What more could I have done other than to relieve her of a persistent, unrelenting, shortage of breath?
She taught me more about horses than many of the other horses in my life who merely became riding companions.
Meeny Miny Mo
30th May 2012, 09:39 AM
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your threads about this wonderful horse, I almost feel like I know her!
I am so so sorry for your loss, I am actually lost for words RIP beautiful girl xxx
30th May 2012, 07:11 PM
so sorry for you i liked to read about you n didi xx rip girl
31st May 2012, 09:21 PM
im so sorry :(
11th June 2012, 09:25 PM
I'm so sorry :( Gallop free beautiful girl.
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