Sunday, 28 September 2008

Weekend rides

What Flower
Are You?

Over at Nuzzling Muzzles there is a link to this fun quiz. Turns out I’m a canna.

We’ve had a great weekend with the horses, hacking out yesterday and today. Red was no trouble to get ready, although he did mess about a bit for mounting. Yesterday he was a bit naughty for the first half hour or so – kept trying to head for home – but eventually settled down. Today he was much better behaved.

We rode straight up Wenallt Road to the entrance to the Wenallt horse trail this morning – a steep climb up the road for the first part and then a few steep downhill parts at the beginning of the trail. Dee coped with the climb pretty well and didn’t need to stop. Hopefully this means she is getting a little fitter now that we are managing to ride more often. Red was slipping badly on the dusty, stony, downhill tracks – much more so that he ever has before when barefoot or wearing the Boa boots.

Yesterday was cool and cloudy first thing, and the sun didn’t break through until about midday. Today was much brighter earlier and has become quite warm. We are having a marvelous September here in Wales. The sunshine has such a gentle, kindly feel about it at this time of the year, in contrast to the harsh extremity of summer sun – not that we saw any of that this year! Arriving at the stables at about 9 a.m. both mornings, the pastures were glistening with dew. In a few weeks time this silver sparkle will be a crunchy, crystalline frost icing the grass, and there will be a bite in the air, so I’m glad we are able to enjoy and take advantage of this the late warm weather.

I hope you like the picture of Dee’s magnificent tail.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Red is shod

It’s been a busy week and I’ve been feeling pretty tired, so I have not done as much with the horses this week as I had hoped. I lunged Red on Tuesday. He was pretty good, except for when one of the stable hands went past the arena leading a horse for turnout. Then he completely forgot I was there. I had to walk him in circles until he stopped neighing and settled down again. He’s dangerous when I lose his attention that totally – he doesn’t notice where I am and I could easily get barged while he is so agitated.

He was also good in the stable letting me pick his feet easily, but the next day he wouldn’t let me near his feet at all. I’d taken Dee down to her field first – well it was her turn – and so he was all roused up to be turned out. He is such an impatient horse. When I take him out first, Dee just waits quietly until it is her turn. But Red paces around the stable, kicks the door and neighs continually.

This morning I rode Dee and practised the ‘work at the happy end of the arena, rest at the spooky end’ routine, which again worked like a charm. She’ also getting very good at neck reining. I hardly have to give her any cues to turn, and to halt, although she still takes a bit of coaxing to back up for me.

I feel a bit of traitor to the barefoot cause today because I’ve had Red shod on his front feet. I would have loved to have succeeded with the Boa boots, but Red isn’t the right temperament for putting something like that on his feet without intensive, committed perseverance, and unfortunately I’m not in a position to be able to give it that. The boots are great – it’s Red that’s the problem. Though to be fair to him, his feet are unusually wide, which means the boots do not slip on as easily as they would on a more usual hoof that is longer than it is wide. At least now getting Red ready can return to being a calm and easy task.

I’d like to end this post with a plug for two blogs and a website. Our sons have each started a blog. Daniel’s is about starting university and can be found at Richard’s is about all manner of things and can be found at

The website I would like to mention is that of the Peace Mala organisation. This charity was founded by a Welsh woman, Pam Evans, to promote tolerance, respect and understanding among people of all races and religions. I was invited to attend their youth awards ceremony last week as a representative of my Buddhist Lineage. It was a delightful event and I think Pam is a remarkable woman. I particularly enjoyed the Nepalese children’s dance.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Barefoot and boot issues

We’ve had an interesting and eventful day. We went to the stables quite early to ride. Everything went well until we came to put on Red’s Boa boots. He refused to co-operate and it took us ages to get them on his feet. Once they were on he was absolutely fine and we were able to set out. Surprisingly Dee took the lead and strode out at a good pace. She continued in this confident manner at the lead, right down the track, up the road, and into Wenallt Wood. Extraordinary!

Both horses were quite lively – and then we found out why as we heard the sound of a hunting horn. The killing of foxes by hunting with dogs is now illegal in the UK, but several local hunts still ride out with dogs following a scent trail. Dee and Red must have been aware of the hunt a long time before we heard the first sound of the hunting horn. To add to their liveliness, we encountered a dog that thought it amusing to snap at Red’s heels. Red bucked a little kicking out at the dog, but fortunately it then ran off, back to the owner who was not keeping it under control. It was a good job it didn’t snap at Dee as I’m sure she would have really kicked it.

We had nearly got to the point where we intended to turn round, when it became clear that the hunt was getting nearer. We did not particularly want to get caught up with a bunch of unknown and excited horses so we decided to head back. We usually trot a few times on the way back, but at the first trot Red – now in front – decided that a canter would be more enjoyable. ’ö-Dzin is still not very confident about cantering in the Wenallt because the trail is rather twisting and there are quite a number of low overhanding branches. I followed calling out to him reminders for how to bring Red back to a slower pace, but realised that my speed was spuring Red on rather than helping, so I slowed Dee to a walk. ’ö-Dzin then quickly brought Red under control and he settled back to a walk. We had a couple of other impromptu canters on the way home when the hunting horn sounded again, but had no trouble slowing them both. This is invaluable experience for ’ö-Dzin and has increased his confidence considerably. It was rather enjoyable to be riding such lively mounts, but we would not wish it for every ride.

Back at the yard, we had almost as much trouble getting the Boa boots off Red’s feet as we had done getting them on him, and sadly we have decided we’ll have to give up on having Red barefoot. With limited time it is no good spending a third of our riding time getting the boots on and off. If we had our own land, a round pen, and the unlimited opportunity to work with Red as much as possible, I would persevere with teaching him to accept having the boots put on. But at livery it is difficult to work with a horse intensely and exactly how one would want to. He is not a horse that is naturally co-operative. I would have lunged him today and alternated working him with trying to put the boots on, over and over, until having the boots on seemed like the preferable option, but the arena was not available as someone was having a lesson. I suppose we could have taken him out without the boots, but this would have felt unkind as he had definitely become a little footsore on our stony tracks while he was on loan. We could have given in and not ridden this morning, but that would not have left a very useful imprint on Red. Not being land owners there are always compromises that we have to make in the routine of our horses’ care. Wyndham Livery offers the best we can expect of a livery yard. I think it will be better for us and for Red that we can get ready quickly, quietly and calmly when going for a ride, rather than having a big battle. So although ideally I would like to keep him barefoot, pragmatically it is better for us all if he is shod on his front feet. He is due to see the farrier on Thursday.

The rest of the day has been spent in preparations for our sons moving into their Halls of Residence tomorrow. Life is going to be very different for us all after tomorrow.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Good progress

I started this post on Tuesday but then my computer crashed. Turns out it is only a problem with the power lead, so I can use my computer as long as I don’t move it until the new power lead arrives. Thank heavens blogspot autosaves.

Wyndham Livery has just changed over to their winter routine. This means that the horses are in during the night and out during the day. I have decided to change over with them, so I am now going up to the stables in the morning rather than in the afternoon. This seems to be working very well. Although it is a bit of a struggle for me getting out of the house so early, I find that once I get there I have more energy that I used to have going up in the afternoons. Consequently since we returned from our holiday, we have ridden out together (Sunday morning), I’ve lunged Red twice (Monday and today), and ridden Dee in the arena (Tuesday). The new arrangement means ’ö-Dzin will only see the horses at the weekend and I have to do everything for the horses on my own weekdays, but it was going to become increasingly difficult dealing with the horses in the evening as the nights draw in. Also there will be few evenings left now when it is still light enough to ride out in the evening at the time ’ö-Dzin could get there from work.

Red was really hard work to lunge on Monday. He wouldn’t listen to me and stopped everytime he found himself near the gate. I had to really get on his case, cracking the lunge whip behind him and and placing my body in a position to push him on. Afterwards I did some walking and stopping, and backing. Back at his stable, I picked out his feet and took him out to the field after his feed. As he is on full livery I am not obliged to pick out his feet, feed him or turn him out, but I like to have as much contact with him as possible whilst still having enough energy left to give to Dee. I've tended to avoid turning him out and have left it to the livery staff to do, but felt this was not helping our relationship improve.

Lunging Red this morning was quite different – loads better. He was listening to me more and I was keeping his attention. I had to be a lot less firm with him and was able to give a lot more praise. Leading, stopping and backing after the lunging was all easy. I was so proud of him. Back at the stable he was less pushy and didn’t try to bite me, and I felt relaxed and confident taking him out to his field. I so hope this is the turning point for us and we can start to get along well without him pushing me around and intimidating me, so I don’t have to be so tough with him.

I got on well riding Dee in the arena on Tuesday and am looking forward to riding her tomorrow. I tried a suggestion from Carolyn Resnick’s blog. This was to work her quite hard in the part of the arena in which she feels confident, and use the scary, spooky part for relaxing time. So after a little warming up time where as usual she refused to go down to the spooky end of the arena, I made her trot and trot in the upper end. After three rounds of trot at the upper end, I asked for walk as we approached the scary end and loosened the rein. She lowered her head and walked around the bottom of the arena. I did this four times, twice on each rein, and sure enough she happily went right into the bottom end of the arena without any hesitation because she knew that this meant relaxing time. Amazing and so simple! I’ll do this again with her tomorrow and hopefully this will be an end of silliness about the far end of the arena. If she does start spooking and refusing to go there again, I now have a technique to work with it. Thank you Carolyn.

Dee was also really good on our ride on Sunday. I wondered whether a bit more roadwork occasionally, when we are with bombproof Red, would build up her confidence about walking up the road, with the aim of increasing the possibility of taking her out on her own. So we rode a circular route, through the Wenallt, across the stream and out onto the road by Rhiwbina Farm, and then down the road home. This route involved going over two motorway bridges and a fairly busy road for a short distance. Dee is not bothered by traffic – it is all the odd things in people’s gardens, drain grids, roadwork cones and things like that which frighten her. She took it all in her stride with Red with her. Occasionally something made her snort and swing out a little, but that was all.

I am so delighted with my horses this week – and with myself! I hope things continue to go so well and that the wonderful September sunshine continues till the end of the month.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

On holiday

Thank you to my blogsphere friends for your concern about the floods. Fortunately the weather has changed again and is actually quite dry and sunny at the moment, so the floods have receded.

It may have been unnecessarily paranoid of me, but I decided not to mention on my blog that I would be away for a week. We've all spent a delightful week in Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro), staying in a cottage in the heart of Tenby (Dinbych y Pysgod).

It may be our last family holiday together as both our sons start university in two weeks time. Daniel, our elder son, will be studying ‘Creative and Professional Writing’ at Glamorgan, and Richard is doing his foundation year for a degree in ‘Electrical and Electronic Engineering’ at Cardiff. Although they have both chosen local universities, they will be living in Halls of Residence for their first year of study, so my life is going to be quite different very soon.

It is time to go and see how the horses are after their week of full livery. Hopefully we shall ride tomorrow. I hope you enjoy the holiday photos. Dinbych y Pysgod – Little Fort of the Fishes – is such a pretty name. It is a shame it has been anglicised to ‘Tenby’. We stayed in the little blue cottage. The picture of the stormy sea was taken from the headland above St Govan’s chapel – an extraordinary and ancient chapel set into the cliff-face.

Friday, 5 September 2008


The weather is getting serious here in Cardiff. I'm starting to feel as though I'm living on Ferenginar! The River Taff has burst its banks. The first picture shows the cycle path – now part of the river. 'ö-Dzin cycles home from work along this path most days. For parts of it today he was wading in two feet of water.

The second picture shows a view across the river and into the park. The area beyond the line of trees is the park, with rugby and football pitches. A way beyond these is Pontcanna riding stables – where Dee came from. I hope the horses are okay.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Stormy weather

This is just a quick blog as I have not been able to write anything for a few days. Last week we were away again on retreat – this time with our students. It was a delightful retreat, in Cornwall, South West England, though not very good planning to have two week long retreats in the same month.

It is good now to be back into the routine of caring for the horses again. We had a nice ride on Sunday with our friend – who can be seen riding Red in the photograph. This was his second outing in his Boa boots (he doesn’t need them on in the arena) and he was much more confident than on the first ride. We tried trotting this time and he was absolutely fine and the boots were completely secure on his feet. Next time I’m hoping we’ll manage a longer ride, and perhaps try splashing through the stream, and a canter, to see how the boots cope with that.

The weather here in Wales is quite extraordinary at the moment. It is as if we have all the seasons in one day – or even in the course of a single hour. One moment it will be bright, hot sunshine, and then torrential rain the next. One moment it is warm and calm, and then cold and windy the next. At times it feels like we are well into Autumn already, but then the sun comes out and it is as if summer is not quite spent after all. I cannot remember the weather ever before being quite so extreme in its changeability. Yes the weather in Wales can often be quite changeable over the day, but these changes are so sudden and so extreme. Despite there being so much rain so often, it is quite stimulating and I am quite enjoying this weather – although it can be difficult to know what to wear!