Monday, 16 November 2009

Shaken up

I'm feeling a little shaken up this evening.  I rode Dee this morning – this is becoming a regular Monday morning ride.  This morning we had a lesson rather than going out for a hack.  The lesson was great.  I learned a lot and Sarian of Briwnant is a great teacher.  I understood things that I think they had tried to teach me at Pontcanna but never clearly enough – or perhaps I was just being dense.  Dee responded so well to the slightest aid it was a pleasure to experience what might be possible if I knew more about what I was doing.  I had given up on lessons because of the frustrations of trying to progress when different teachers would contradict one another, but I might have a few at Briwnant.

Unfortunately Dee clicked into riding school mode and became a mare I haven't seen for a few years.  When her ears went back, I got scared and let Dee get away with being aggressive.  I sat the bucks as she kicked out at another horse – but only just, and it left me feeling quite shaken.  The other riders kept well away from her after that and I don't blame them, but I feel sad and embarrassed that they had to.  I think I feel shaken from two perspectives – the first is that I felt unsafe, and the second is that Dee hasn't behaved like that for such a long time and I find it upsetting that it happened.  I thought we had moved past that.  Sure she is a dominant mare in the field with the herd, but I have had no trouble with her with other horses on rides for years.  It feels a bit like a failure.

It's made me think that I need to get a different saddle.  Now that Dee is getting fitter and I am riding several times a week regularly, I need a saddle that has a bit more substance to it.  I guess as Dee gets fitter her strong personality comes through more, and I need to know I am in control.  I need to know that if Dee spooks or plays up that I have the best chance possible to sit it and be in charge.  My treeless saddle is too close to riding in a bareback pad.

The rhythm beads have arrived and the new hoof boots.  It was too wet and wild today to try the hoof boots, but I wore the rhythm beads around my neck while I groomed Dee so that she could get used to the sound they make.

I've posted a picture of the Briwnant duck pond today.  Dee seems to be fascinated by the ducks, and always asks to stop and watch them for a while when I lead her past the duck pond.  She steps up onto the bank so she can get a good view.  She's such a sweet mare in so many ways.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Long and short rides

I don't seem to find much time to blog at the moment.  Fortunately I am finding time to continue riding Dee three times a week mostly and she is getting a lot fitter.  Last Monday I hacked out with a couple of Briwnant friends riding Bella and Duke.  I didn't think to ask how long a ride it would be.  When we took the trail down across the stream from the Wenallt I knew we were going as far as the Ganol.  When we carried on down through the Ganol, I guessed we were going to Fforest Fawr.  This meant a two hour ride – longer than Dee and I had been for a while, but fine.

However when we got to the end of Fforest Fawr—where I expected us to head back to the Ganol—Gail took us along a trail that I did not know.  Fforest Fawr is clearly well named (Fawr means big in Welsh) because we rode for another hour.  It was a lovely ride and I did enjoy it, but I kept thinking that I was sure we were still in Fforest Fawr and it was an hour's ride back from there.  All in all it was a three hour ride and getting gloomy by the time we arrived back at the Wenallt trail.  To my amazement Gail wanted to turn left as we came up the hill from the stream and complete the rest of the Wenallt trail.  This would mean a couple of very steep hills on the trail and finish with a long steep bit of road.  Dee was tired and so was I, so I asked if we could go home along the first part of the Wenallt trail which is flatter and has less road work.  They agreed and this was what we did.

I was pleased with Dee's level of fitness.  It had not been a fast or hard ride—mostly walking with a good few trots and a couple of short canters—but still it was more than she had done for about 18 months.  She was hot and sweaty, but not excessively tired.  It was really dark by the time I decided she had cooled down enough to feed her. 

It was after this ride that I decided I had to have her clipped because I was concerned about her catching a chill, and this was done this morning.  I bathed her after my ride yesterday and kept her in Red's stable overnight, so that she would be clean, dry and ready for us this morning.  She was an absolute angel and looks lovely.  I feel a bit sorry that she now needs to be rugged to live out, but am happy that she will be more comfortable when we ride.

Yesterday we tried hacking out alone again.  This time I decided to try the ride in the more challenging direction – beginning with the track.  She was very slow going along the track, taking short, tense steps.  A couple of times she stopped and I wondered if that was it, but then she carried on.  Eventually we arrived at the little gate and went up into the fields through the bracken, where Dee adopting a more relaxed gait.  She would not go up through the top field so I compromised and let her cut across it.  We then went down and along a new track that Paul has recently cut through the bracken.  She took this completely new path without hesitation.  It is not finished yet, so we had to turn at the end.  We then returned to the gate and back down the track – a complete hack alone again.  Woohoo!!!  I think I'm going to do this little hack once a week as I believe it will slowly build up her confidence about going out on her own.  I think there are a couple of other little hacks on Briwnant land that we can try as well.

The first set of hoof boots I ordered for Dee were not satisfactory and I have sent for a different type.  I'll report on those when they arrive.  I've also ordered some 'rhythm beads'.  These may be a weird new age fad or they may be an amazing native american idea – we shall see.  It looks like a horse necklace and jingles.  The theory is that a. the constant gentle sound stops a spooky horse being so sensitive to the noises they hear when they are out hacking, and b. that the sound of the beads being in rhythm with the natural movement of the horse has a soothing and claming effect.  Interesting.  I'll let you know how that turns out as well – something to try in the arena first I think!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Hoof care

I'm feeling exhausted.  Last week we had a retreat at our home, which was delightful but retreats are always tiring.  It finished on Saturday and I have been out on a hack three times since then.  I rode Dee and Red on Sunday. So it is not surprising that I am feeling so tired. 

We are now into week four of the get-Dee-fit campaign, and there are signs of progress.  She is not puffing so much up the hills and not sweating up so much.  Also she has been a dream to catch the last couple of weeks, so she must be enjoying it.  She is still struggling with the stony parts of the Wenallt trail, so today I have ordered her some hoof boots.  I had to wait until today in order to get a hoof measurement straight after her having her feet trimmed by the farrier. 

Dee had a lot of hoof attention today.  After being shod at the front and trimmed at the back, I cleaned the cracks with hibi scrub, applied hoof hardener, and then filled the parts that needed filling with hoof putty once her feet were dry.  Her hooves are gradually improving and the farrier is happy with them.  He says that her hooves are good and strong and this should only be a temporary problem.  His estimate of the timeframe to which her hoof problems relate, based on an average growth rate, does correlate with her move back from Cornwall.  So I think all this was due to that unsettling time and will indeed be a temporary glitch.  Her feet have always been healthy previously.

Tonight Dee is tucked up in Red's stable because it is worming time.  I'm sure she will not mind this for a night or two – especially as it is pouring with rain at the moment.

Dee has now been sound for five or six weeks.  I've been checking her back regularly as she is doing more work than she had done for quite a long time, and everything is fine.  No swelling, no pain.  I will never know for sure whether it was the Equissage massage equipment that brought on her lameness – it may have simply been coincidental.  I returned the equipment anyway and did receive a full refund.  So that is the end of that little saga.

On Monday I rode with Charlotte, one of the helpers at Briwnant.  She tells me that the horse I pictured in my last post Bareback Riding, 9th October, is not Molly, but Deanna.  Apologies to both mares!  Also my Beloved mentioned that I have not credited him for photographs recently... Practically every photograph used on my blog was taken by my husband, 'ö-Dzin Tridral.  He is becoming quite a skilled photographer and you can see a gallery of his work at Red Bubble and at ZazzleLluniau Naturiol means 'Natural Pictures' which refers to the fact that he does not edit his photographs in any way – they either work or they don't.

Red is seeing the equine dentist on Friday.  It will be interesting to see how he feels about that.  No more riding now until Saturday, so my body has a couple of days to rest.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Bareback riding

I've had a few nice rides on Dee since my last posting, and 'ö-Dzin and I rode out together with Red and Dee on Sunday.  It is ages since we rode out just the two of us on our horses, and it was great to be doing it again.  Red wasn't too keen on taking the lead at the end of the lane and took a few minutes of persuasion, but after getting past that he was fine and we had a lovely ride.

'Napping' must be a British term I think.  It means when a horse stops and refuses to go forward.  When Dee naps she starts to back up if I try to urge her to walk on, and this can be quite dangerous.  Sometimes she will back right to the edge of a ditch or bank.  She used to rear but doesn't do that with me any more.

I showed up at Briwnant this morning expecting to ride out with Nicky, but unfortunately she couldn't make it today.  All this week I've been painting the lounge in our home and I realised that I was physically really tired.  So I took Dee into the arena to play games.  We did some following me around, and circles stepping through with the hind leg, back up, and such like groundwork exercises.  I then decided that it might be nice to jump on her back after all, but didn't really want to fuss with lots of tack.  I just put on her bridle and got on her easily from the mounting block.

We did 20 minutes or so of patterns in the arena at walk and trot.  At first I felt really insecure – it is the first time I have ridden bareback since June 2008.  I know that because I blogged about it!  I soon started to feel more relaxed and confident and began doing a little trotting.  I was trying to engage in meditative riding – feeling the direction I wanted to move in from my navel, keeping myself centred, and trying to communicate through to Dee.  She is more receptive to this on one rein than on the other.  It is inspiring to ride with very little tack and simply endeavour to focus a connection through energy, intention and balance.  One day I will attempt this with just a neck rope.

In 2008 I had discovered that dismounting was a problem for my damaged knee – it cannot cope with the impact of me jumping down. Usually I slide off the saddle so there is no real jump down.  However in the arena I was able to dismount at the block so that there was no great distance for my descent, so that solved that problem.

I think Dee enjoyed being in the arena for a change.  She is quite relaxed and happy in there.  At Wyndham she was always tense and spooky in the arena, but at Briwnant she is chilled about everything.

Today's ride may not have contributed a great deal to the get-Dee-fit campaign, but it it was a good confidence boost with regard to my balance, and a good bonding experience for our relationship.

I think the inquisitive mare in the photograph is called Molly – one of Dee's Briwnant chums.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Momentous day

Today has been quite a momentous day.  Firstly I completed and submitted my tax return this morning – always a daunting task.  It had taken pretty much all of yesterday and half of today to pull all the details together, but now it is done and off my mind.

My reward to myself was to go to Briwnant and ride Dee.  I am trying to ride her more often and get her fit.  Now that Red is ridden regularly as a Briwnant Trekking Centre working horse, I do not have to worry if we can only ride him occasionally because he stays fit through his work for the centre.  Consequently I am concentrating more on Dee.  I have had very little time to work with her since we brought her back from Cornwall and am determined to rectify this. 

As I walked down the first field to catch Dee I met Red walking up.  He wanted me to put the head collar I was carrying on him and seemed quite confused when I did not.  I think it is a real testament to how happy Red is with his life at Briwnant that he was walking up to the gate like this.  Paul had been down to catch a few horses ready for an afternoon lesson in the arena and also a few others for a trail ride.  Red was to be used for the trail ride.  Paul had just said to Red that he was wanted too and to come in, and Red had walked up to the yard completely on his own with no headcollar or anyone coercing him just from this.  What a good lad.

Dee was in the last field, as far away as possible from the yard!  I'm getting fit simply from walking out to get her!  It is uphill pretty much all the way back to the yard, so I sometimes find even this quite tiring even before grooming and riding.  Soon we were ready to go and today was the day I'd decided to take Dee out for a ride on her own.  Readers who have been following my blog for a while will know that Dee will not hack out on her own and naps badly.  However there is an idiosyncrasy to this behaviour of which I have become aware: that she will ride through fields but not along a track or road on her own.  When we were at Ridgeway, she would happily let me ride her around the fields on her own and even take the path across the field behind the stables, but she would not go down the lane.

One of the many advantages of Briwnant is that they have a lot of land, and there is a short ride I can take from the yard, up to the top fields and only finishing with a little bit of the track at the end.  I hoped that because most of it was across fields, and that she would know she was on her way home once we arrived at the track, that she would not nap.  It worked!  We did the whole ride with no napping – the first time we have sucessful hacked out alone on a complete ride since I have owned her.  I feel so proud of her and am absolutely thrilled.  It is only a short ride but includes a steep hill, so it does make her work.  I did not push my luck today and only asked her to walk the circuit, but I will add an extra field to it at the top as she gets used to it where we can have a trot or a canter.

Hopefully this is the beginning of a more satisfying riding experience for us both.  I do wonder whether the napping has something to do with the stoney tracks, and am considering shoeing her on her back feet as well to see if this makes her more relaxed and confident about the tracks.  On our Wenallt trail ride on Monday I was very aware of her hesitancy over the stoney parts of the track.  My only concern about shoeing her on the back feet is whether I would be equipping her with weapons!  Alternatively I could try hoof boots again – I don't think Dee would make the fuss Red made about having boots put on her feet.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Past and present

Yesterday Dee was looking splendid and seems sound at last.  We both rode her a little in the arena and she was fine and seemed to enjoy herself.  I practised a few clover leaf patterns and transitions and she was responsive and relaxed.  This is a great relief.  The hoof that cracked is looking as good as it can until the new hoof grows through, and the hoof putty is staying in quite well now that they are in a drier pasture and the weather is also drier.

I'm a little embarrassed about her mane – or lack of it.  I always feel that cobs should be left to let their manes grow as long as they grow, but Dee's had become so uneven I decided to trim it all to the same length.  She'd had a bite or something half way down the top of her neck and had rubbed at it, so that she'd lost a chunk of mane there.  It is growing back well but it looked a mess with a long bit, then a short bit and then another long bit.  Now it looks odd rather than a mess... but it will grow again.

The second picture is somewhat historic.  My mother produced a camera that she had not touched for years but still had a film in it, so we got it developed for her.  This was one of two pictures on the film of Dee, me and my mother from 1995.  We still had Dee at Pontcanna Riding Stables at this time, but were getting rather fed up of the limitations of riding there, so we decided to take her out for the day.  This seemed reasonable at the time, but looking back it was a rather crazy idea and could have been disastrous.

We started very early on a Sunday morning so that the main road from the stables would be quiet.  The first problem was that she wouldn't cross this road.  We'd get half way across and then she wouldn't budge.  The only alternative was an underpass.  Having eventually convinced her that the white van in the supermarket car park was not a scary horse-eating monster, she surprisingly walked through the underpass as if she did it every day.  In the picture we are visiting my mother in Gabalfa Avenue where I had ridden Dee down the wide grassy bank in the centre of the road.  There were a few other scary moments during the expedition, but we got her back to her stable safely later that day.

It was an adventurous outing and perhaps we were foolish to attempt it, but it did convince us to move Dee from Pontcanna and this has been the best thing possible for Dee and for us.  If she was still liveried at Pontcanna she would have continued to be isolated in a stable for most of the time and on her own in a field for a few hours a day, whereas she now runs free with a herd of mares and geldings in 93 acres of beautiful pasture.  She would still have been spending most of her ridden time going round in circles in an arena, being agressive to the other horses and bored out of her mind, whereas now she finds occasional arena work interesting and most of her ridden work is out on the trail.  It was worth a risky ride to arrive at this point.

We are hoping to ride the Wenallt trail with Dee and Red tomorrow if I feel okay.  I have been very off balance and wobbly again today, so I hope it will be better tomorrow.

Monday, 21 September 2009

End of summer sunshine

Well I still haven't ridden either of our horses since the fun ride, but I am feeling a lot better. We've just had a week's holiday in Dinbych-y-Pysgod (Tenby) in South Wales, and I really think I must have needed the holiday.  My dizziness and lack of balance gradually subsided over the course of the holiday and now is simply a mild occasional inconvenience.

We had a lovely relaxing week in an especially nice apartment with a sea view and a little patio garden to sit out in and enjoy the sunshine – yes we did have sunshine, a whole week of it.  An unexpected treat of staying in this apartment was that the route of the Tenby horse carriage rides passed right by our little garden.  So I got to stroke the soft nose of a shire horse every day and offer him an apple, to compensate for not seeing Dee and Red for a week.

Red is fine as always and now a firm favourite with the herd leader, Falcon.  Dee started to object to being in the convalescent field as soon as she started to feel better and began trying to kick through the fence, so they decided she was better off back with the main herd.  She is no longer lame, but still quite stiff in her hind quarters.  I think it is time to start exercising her a little now to try and loosen her up.  The farrier has had a look at the hoof which had cracked so badly and has tidied it up.  He is satisfied that it is coming along well.  I'm cleaning it out whenever I visit and patching it up with hoof putty.  This does not stay in from one visit to the next, but at least it gives the hoof a bit of support for a while and keeps it clean.  It has been quite dry here for a while now, so there is not a lot of mud around to get it really wet and dirty.

Having had a couple of incidents with Dee messing me around while leading her in from the field, I have been using the training halter and a lunge line when I catch her.  Simply using these is sufficient to ensure Dee's cooperation and we walk up together calmly and happily without me having to do anything else.  She's a sensible mare and knows when to give up on mischief.

Postscript: if Cilla of Frontshoesonly still reads my blog, will you please send me an invitation to your blog because I can no longer access it.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Briwnant fun ride

Today was the Briwnant fun ride.  We arrived in good time to find Red in and groomed with Dee still out in the 12 acre field.  I went over to catch her, but found her reluctant to be caught.  I gently and quietly stayed with her until she permitted me to put on her headcollar.  She was still slow to come in with me however, and clearly not entirely sound.  Dee would not be going on the fun ride.

We decided in this case that I should go on the ride with Red.  Once we were assembled at the yard, ready to go, Red and Dee began to call to one another.  Although he was obviously excited, he seemed okay at first and walked out quietly enough through the first field.  The first part of the ride was a sort of cross country through the Briwnant fields with a few small jumps along the route.  The second part was to be around the Wenallt trail.

And so I discovered two things:
1. Red can jump... really jump...
2. when he is really excited he is too much horse for me.

We jumped the first three jumps—a single log, another single log and then a stack of three logs— without incident but I was already starting to realise that I was not really managing Red in this excited state. By the time we reached the next field I found myself riding a new Red that I had never experienced before.  He pranced and bucked and was pretty wild.  Apparently he looked quite magnificent performing a perfectly athletic, collected canter sideways as I tried to check him.  I hoped he would settle down as we carried on and took the route that avoided jumps for the next couple of fields and stayed with the slower riders. 

Then we came to the last jumps.  Here the choice was: to the right and a very small jump; through the centre and no jump; or to the left and a slightly higher jump.  It was still only 18ins – 2ft high.  Nicky on the herd leader Falcon, was taking the left hand jump and I had no choice but to allow Red to follow because there was no way I was going to succeed in taking him either of the other ways.  He took the jump too fast, too close to Falcon, and at an angle which meant he did a huge leap over this small jump.  He jumped it like a show jumper and I didn't stand a chance.  My treeless saddle isn't much more than a bareback pad which is great usually and how I like to ride, but I am not a good enough rider to take such a big jump and stay on, so Red and I parted company as he landed.  Fortunately the ground is quite soft there and I fell quite well, so I have not hurt myself.  I will probably find a few bruises tomorrow and I feel a bit stiff in my left shoulder.  They tell me that Red was quite upset that I had come off. 

I did not feel up to the rest of the ride as Red was so excited and I knew he was too much for me.  I'm so glad that it was me on him and not 'ö-Dzin.  I am not the fearless rider I used to be when I was younger, but I have ridden some pretty feisty horses in my time.  'ö-Dzin has no experience of such riding and may not have been able to hold Red even for as long as I had managed. 

We walked Red in circles whilst the rest of the ride carried on to help calm him, and then led him back to the arena.  I got back on at the arena and we walked him round a couple of times.  Everyone was very kind to me.  Red continued to call and be wound up until the rest of the ride returned and then he gradually settled down.

So there we are... not quite the 'fun' ride I had been looking forward to, but I think everyone else had a good ride.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Richard bareback riding

Richard and I went up to Briwnant to ride this afternoon.  I always tend to forget that the riding centre is closed on a Tuesday.  Of course this does not prevent me from riding my horses, but it can mean the tack room is locked.  The only piece of my tack that lives at Briwnant that I would need to use is Red's saddle, so we had settled ourselves to simply ride in the arena, with Richard riding Red bareback.

Dee was near the gate and happy to come straight in.  Red was quite a long way down the field so I gave Richard a leg-up and he rode Red to the yard.  I was proud of Richard because he had to really ride as Red was not being wholly cooperative.

Fortunately someone from Briwnant turned up with a tackroom key, so we were able to ride out fully equipped.  We went the short ride up to the top field and back that I took Red last week.  I felt it was far enough and challenging enough for Dee.  She was certainly up for it however and when we started to trot up the last incline at the top field, she immediately went into a canter.  It is great to see her sound and enjoying being out on a ride.

I'm hoping eventually to be able to do this ride on Dee on her own.  She has always been happy to ride on her own across fields.  It is the track from the yard that starts the napping.  Perhaps I'll try the ride in the opposite direction so that we start in a field.  I could mount Dee from the gate.  It is exciting to think that there might be a little ride we can enjoy together.  I'm hoping to take Dee out for another short ride this week before the fun ride on Saturday afternoon.  I'm starting to feel confident that she will be fine for a two hour ride and even a few small jumps.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

So sweet

Following on from my intention to work with Dee a little more often, we visited Briwnant this afternoon and headed across the fields to catch her.  We called her and she met us part of the way – closely followed by Red.  Dee and Red are no longer always together in the field these days.  Dee has established her own circle of friends in the herd, but nevertheless I think Red is usually aware of where Dee is.

I only had Dee's halter with me.  She was happy to be caught – I think she trusts me again now and is confident that we are settled at Briwnant.  We ambled back to the yard, taking our time, with Red following on behind.  I then brought Dee in and fetched Red's headcollar for 'ö-Dzin to bring Red in.

After grooming them both we did a little groundwork in the arena with both of them—as Red did not want to be left out—just leading them at the walk.  We performed serpentines, circling around cones, circles on the spot, halting and standing, and backing.  The idea is to get her bending and stretching and using her body more than she will just grazing in the field.  Red has not practised so much groundwork with me as Dee and he sometimes seemed a little confused by what we were doing, but Dee remembered it all very well.  I watched her closely while circling on the spot and crossing one hind leg in front of the other as she stepped round, and it did not seem to be causing her any problem.

I hope to have a chance to work with Dee a couple more times this week so that hopefully she will be ready to take part in Briwnant's fun ride next Saturday.  I'm really looking forward to this.  However I don't want to push her too much.  She is certainly no longer lame, but I cannot decide whether her hind leg is still rather stiff or whether I am imagining it.  I shall ride her a little later in the week and see how we get on.  There will be a few small jumps on the fun ride which Dee will love to jump – if she is fit enough.

When we turned them both back out to the field, Dee hung around at the gate a long time, not seeming to want to leave us.  Red stayed there as well.  He would not head back to the rest of the herd until Dee decided to.  I get the strong feeling that Red has a great loyalty towards Dee and feels protective of her, even though he knows she can be grouchy and give him a hard time.  Dee I feel takes Red's loyalty for granted, and yet relies on him and is more content with him there.  He gives her confidence.  They were so sweet today.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

A short ride

I spent an enjoyable afternoon with the horses today and achieved what I had hoped to achieve.  Dee came in from the field with me nicely, enjoyed being groomed, and then we worked a little in the arena.  I wanted to move her around a little but not ride her, to check how sound she is.  She is no longer lame, but is a little stiff.  I think I need to bring her in more often and work with her more to keep her supple. 

It is hard for any of us to stay supple in the damp weather we are having.  The weather is quite fickle at the moment – one day blazing sunshine and the next heavy rain.  No one could say that the weather in Wales is boring!

They had got Red in for me, but I did not realise so at first, until someone told me that it was him noisily kicking the stable door.  I don't know whether he had heard my voice and/or was aware that I had brought Dee up, because he does not usually make a fuss in the stable these days.  He spends so little time in a stable now that he does not usually mind.  I decided to turn Dee back out before I brought him down from the stable.  She was an angel today.

I quickly tacked Red up and took him out for a short ride.  I think it is good to take him out on his own occasionally.  I did not have a lot of time, so I just rode along the lane, up through the bracken to the top field and then back along through the high fields.  Although this is quite a short ride—only about 20 minutes—it is quite a good ride to help with fitness.  It is a steep climb up to the top field and a gentle slope to trot up to the top; then there is a steep downward incline, followed by a gently downhill track back to the yard.  I think he enjoyed doing something a little different to the usual ride to the Wenallt trail.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Retraction and embarrassment

Having raved about the Equissage massage equipment, I have to confess that my feelings about it have changed since my last post.  A lot of doubts and worries have crept in to the point that I have decided I wish to return the equipment and claim a refund.  I'm hoping this will be straightforward.

My worries about the massage equipment began to steal upon me as I thought about the setup of the sale and since using the equipment on my own.  I had been offered a free massage session – but this turned out to be a sales demonstration, and a pretty intensive one at that as she was with me for nearly four hours.  This in itself leaves a bad taste with me and also makes me feel a little embarrassed – for being foolish enough to believe it was truly a free session.  Unfortunately I did not take notice of the sales patter and the way I was being drawn in because I believed it to be a genuine, one-off free session.  I was compromised to begin with because I was committed to being happy and grateful for my kindly offered free massage.

The second aspect that set alarm bells ringing is that the demonstrator suggested to me that I could recoup some of the cost of the equipment by massaging other people's horses.  This seemed like a good idea at the time, but on reflection I think it is actually a rather crazy and even irresponsible thing to suggest.  Who would want an unqualified person massaging their horse?  Do I in fact want me—an unqualified person—massaging my own horses?  Dee has gone lame and I just pray this is a coincidence and not the result of the massage I gave her.  Even if it is a coincidence—which is likely—this has still frightened me and I will not risk it again.  It is a very different experience doing a massage on one's own to doing it with a person beside you who you believe to be an expert.  I now doubt that the massage device can never do harm and only be of benefit.  If I were to massage someone else's horse and they developed a problem I would be liable.

Red does seem to be looser after the two massage sessions he has received and he does seem to enjoy it, but I still would not risk using the device on him again either because of Dee's lameness, unless I believed myself to have more knowledge and understanding of horse massage.  I also felt some benefit but it is physically impossible for me to give myself the massage that the demonstrator gave me, so the device is useless to me for that.  I would have to find someone who knows how to do the massage for me.  In the hands of someone who knows what they are doing I'm sure the device can be of some benefit, but I do not think it so useful to me to be worth the money.  I feel I would need to invest in training in horse massage to be sure I was doing good and certain I was doing no harm.

I'm hoping to spend time with the horses tomorrow, to check how Dee is, and possibly to ride Red.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Massage benefits

One of the first things I do in the morning is a set of stretching exercises.  I find this helps keep my back strong and my joints supple.  I am usually a bit stiff in my joints first thing in the morning, so it is useful to try and ease this out straight away. 

This morning I had a surprise.  I went into the leg stretch posture – one leg extended and straight, the other bent tightly with the sole of my foot into my thigh, leaning over to reach for my toes.  Usually on the right side I can grab my big toe fairly easily, while on the left side it is a bit more of a struggle but I usually make it in the end.  This morning I stretched across in this posture and found that I could put both my hands right around my foot easily on each side.  Moving to the neck stretches, I discovered that I could turn my neck round much farther than I could previously – or have been able to for quite a while.  This improvement manifested throughout all my stretches.

I can only assume that this benefit is because of the Equissage massage I had yesterday as part of the demo.  I am amazed.  If Red has been feeling this much benefit today from his massage—which was much longer and deeper than mine—I should think he's been skipping round the field like a colt!

At the risk of sounding like an advertisement... if this continues with regular use of the Equissage massager, I will be most satisfied and feel that it was well worth the money.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


I never had my ride last Friday because I started to feel ill on Wednesday evening.  Sigh...  It has been a strange illness – never really developing but staying in my head so I feel a bit top-heavy and off balance.  I think it is probably something like a sinus infection rather than a cold.  I rested up for a few days, but it didn't really seem to help, so I'm just getting on with things as usual now and putting up with feeling a bit odd.

Today Red was booked for a massage.  I was offered this free massage demonstration after entering—but not winning—a competition to win the massage equipment.  It was difficult to decide which horse to give the free session, but decided on Red in the end.  He tends to be rather stiff in his hind quarters and he works more than Dee.

The Equissage massage was quite impressive, and the 'before' and 'after' rides were noticeably different.  Red was reluctant to stay out on the left rein during the 'before' ride and could not give me any flexion.  On the 'after' ride he was staying out without being asked and giving me a good bend.  In fact I felt quite disorientated having him staying out so well on the left rein because both he and Dee are usually hard work to achieve this.  He really enjoyed the massage and was so snuggly and affectionate during it.

The demonstrator did one side of Red's body and I gave him the treatment the other side.  Fortunately having trained as a reflexologist I understood the principles of the treatment and quickly picked up the technique.  I particularly liked that the device has a rubber attachment for working on bony areas so that it was comfortable for him on his legs.  To find out how it felt, I was also given a massage over my back and shoulders, and shown how the unit could be used on my knees.  I think the version of the equipment that is put on like a saddle and left to run automatically would be the most convenient way to regularly massage a horse, but that was nearly twice the cost of the hand-held unit.

So... did you guess... yes I bought one of their hand-held massage devices – for a frightening amount of money.  I haven't told 'ö-Dzin how much it cost!  To try and offset the cost a little I am hoping to offer my services to massage other people's horses with it once I have a little more experience, so if you are a local reader and want an Equissage massage for your horse do get in touch.

I didn't manage to take any photographs today, so I thought you might like to see these caligraphies crafted by my teacher, Ngak'chang Rinpoche.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Attractive chaos

For once chaos is manifesting in an attractive form rather than a form to which I am averse or indifferent.  I rode Red this morning; my Mum has been moved to the Sroke Rehabilitation Unit; my elder son has moved into the house and work is nearly complete; and 42 copies of the book I have been helping prepare for publication arrived.

The book looks perfect – and is more than a month ahead of its deadline.  It is called Moving Being and has been written by my Lama, Khandro Déchen.  It is a manual of sKu-mNyé – a form of Tibetan yoga.  To have a look at it go to the Aro Books worldwide marketplace.

Mum is off the general medicine ward and in a special unit for people recovering from strokes.  She will receive a lot of physio- and occupational therapy in preparation for her going home.  Her speech is much improved, but she is still having some problems with swallowing and her vision is not quite right.  This move is good news however and it will be less boring and more stimulating for her.

Daniel is settling in well in the upstairs half of the house we have been renovating.  The kitchen is now equipped and he is getting along fine with it.  He is still rather surrounded by boxes, but I'm sure he will soon sort himself out.

I rode with a couple of Briwnant friends and Red was happy to be out with his mates, Thomas and Falcon.  I would have to say that he was perfect today.  He rode at the back, in the middle and at the front for parts of the ride and was happy wherever he was.  He was forward going and responded well to leg aids.  He only tried to stop and eat a couple of times and walked on promptly when asked.  It was a gentle ride with a little trotting and just a few short canters, which suited me as I have not been able to ride for a couple of weeks.  Red is such a good boy.  He's looking the roundest I have seen him look since I first bought him—when he was a bit too round—and is like a comfortable armchair to ride.  I believe horses need to have a bit of roundness about them by the end of the summer if they are going to live out at pasture through the winter, but I shall have to make sure he doesn't get any bigger.  He was puffing a bit up some of the steep hills on the Wenallt trail – but then so would I be if I had to climb them.

On Friday I am going to join a hack where a riding school client will be riding Red, so this will be a nice opportunity to take Dee out – and to see how Red behaves while being worked.

It's now nearly time to go and visit Mum.  I must enjoy the relaxation of life running a little smoothly and more easily at the moment, without trying to grasp at it, secure it and make it a reference point.  It's important to embrace and enjoy aversion and indifference as well.  There is always something to appreciate.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Pasture or stabling...?

We spent a lovely morning with the horses today.  We did not ride because the weather is so unsettled: one minute the sun is shining and the next there is torrential rain.  Instead we just groomed them and hung out with them for a while.  Dee is looking rather round – not so surprising with this perfect warm and wet grass-growing weather.  Red was sleepy and relaxed – closing his eyes and letting his bottom lip droop as 'ö-Dzin brushed his tail and I stroked his face.  Then Dee would indicate that it was her turn for a bit more TLC and I'd have to return to her stable to fuss her some more.

I still find it surprising how little mud they have on them even though they are out at pasture in all weather.  At Wyndham they would get ridiculously muddy – it could take an hour to get it out of their coat, and Red would usually have thick clods of mud up to his knees.  I think it was because of the routine at Wyndham that they were stabled for part of every day.  They all knew would be fed when they were brought in, so they all used to congregate around that time, which meant that the area by the gates became like a quagmire and they would all hang around there for quite a while.  At Briwnant they also get a feed if they are brought in, but this does not happen at the same time everyday or even everyday, so they do not hang around the gates in the same way, churning up the mud.

Different yards have different approaches and each have their benefits and drawbacks.  Personally for my lifestyle, and for the irregularity of the work I ask of my horses, it is better that they can be at pasture.  Dee has been living at pasture now for seven months—including her sojourn in Cornwall—and is noticeably fitter than she was when she lived at Wyndham.  I believe this is because she can move all day as she grazes and have a gallop around two or more large fields a couple of times a day with the other horses, rather than being static for half the day or more in a stable.  I simply have too complicated a life to be able to guarantee riding each of my horses several times a week, which is essential to keep them fit when they are stabled a lot, so the style of livery at Briwnant suits us all very well.

PS I have started a new blog about our adventures in Bertie, our new motorhome (well old actually).  It is called Transport of Delight.  I still occasionally muse that we should have bought a horse truck instead...

Friday, 17 July 2009

It never rains but it pours

I had been expected life to be back to something more resembling normality this week as most of the work on the house is finished.  However it never rains but it pours and my life has been thrown into more chaos again because sadly my mother has suffered a stroke.

She is doing well and fortunately it was only a mild stoke, but even so she will be in hospital for a while.  I've been all at sixes and sevens this week and feeling so exhausted, but I am starting to sort myself out and am getting organised around the daily visits to the hospital.

It is such a relief that the horses are where they are and I know they are out in the pasture and well looked after.  We are hoping to spend some time with them on Sunday – and maybe even ride!

Tomorrow we are moving our elder son into the house.  I hope he will be very happy there – and I can start to sort my house out!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Trying to keep cool

It is unusually hot here in Wales, and also very humid. Humidity was 65% today. This means that even the slightest exertion makes one sweat.

The horses are now down in the bottom pastures to allow the other fields to rest. We were not aware of this the first time we visited after their move and walked all the way across to the far field where we were used to them grazing – but no horses!

Eventually we found them all standing under the hawthorn trees. Our two are not in this first group because they are among the group on the other side of the shrubs. They seem to like the hawthorn – even though they can get some nasty scratches from it. It may be just that it is shady there, though we were wondering if the flies did not like this plant and so did not bother them so much when they stood there.

I went up to ride on Wednesday with my younger son, Richard. But by the time we had groomed them we were too sweaty and exhausted to ride. The horses were also already quite sweaty, just standing being groomed. It would have seemed unkind to put saddle pads and saddles on them and make them walk out in this humid heat. So we left them to it. We shall have to ride earlier or later in the day while this heat wave lasts – though it 11.30 pm as I write this and it is still too hot!

Monday, 22 June 2009

100th post!

This is my 100th post. Ceffylau has been running since April 2008. Looking back, a lot has happened in our lives with the horses in that time. We have moved Red twice and Dee three times. Red has been on loan and is now on working livery. We have experimented with DIY livery, part livery, grass livery and various combinations of all types of livery in an attempt to keep and continue to have the pleasure of our horses. We are relieved that at last we seem to have found a place where we can afford to keep both Dee and Red, where they are happy and we are happy too. I have also recovered from a bad knee injury and seem to be pretty fit. I now walk across the uneven ground in the fields with confidence.

I apologise for the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks. Life is rather full at the moment and I am not succeeding in keeping up with everything. We inherited half a house a while ago, and in February we bought the other half from my brother-in-law. The house had been rather neglected over recent years and requires quite a lot of work to be done to it before anyone can move in. Having been working on the house a couple of days every week, I have decided that I wanted to move things along a little more quickly and so am now working up there four days a week until it is nearer finished. Our elder son, Daniel is going to live in the upstairs of the house, with a friend living downstairs. We are not making a complete split into two flats so that the house can easily be returned to a family home in the future, but we are ensuring that they have independent accommodation. Consequently we are turning the smallest bedroom upstairs into a little kitchen for Daniel, and are turning the scullery downstairs into a bathroom for our friend.

As well as all this time-consuming house renovation, I am involved in several publishing projects, so I am feeling a little thinly spread. I miss reading all my blog friends' posts and keeping in touch with you all. All these commitments also mean there is little time for riding, and I haven't in fact ridden either Dee or Red for two weeks. They are both well and fit however and I'm sure they don't mind me not riding, though they do seem pleased to see me when I go up to see them, which is most days. I have arranged to ride with some Briwnant friends on Wednesday, so I am looking forward to that.

I will try to post more often while the work on the house continues – even if it is just to put up some photographs.


Thursday, 4 June 2009


It is interesting that there is less to say when life is running a little more smoothly. Difficult times are newsworthy, whereas contentment does not make the news. Difficult times make us focus on their form and try to manipulate it; contentment has more space, more emptiness, so we cannot manipulate it so much. Dee and Red are content – so I find I do not have much to write in my blog. In this photograph they are grazing in the far field which is yellow with buttercups. It is an idyllic scene. They are so content that Dee is behaving like an angel – immediately accepting a head collar and following me on a loose lead rein from the field. Red is also a delight.

The weather this week has been extraordinarily hot and sunny. We are not used to it and I find it a little exhausting. Unfortunately—despite the fine weather—we are not finding much time for riding at the moment, but we did manage a couple of hours on Sunday. We took them to the Ganol as they have not been there for quite a while and we thought it would make a change for Red. Most of his rides with Briwnant are around the Wenallt trail. I don't want him to get bored and sour. I've noticed that Dee is fitter than she was before we moved her to Cornwall in December – she copes with hills much better. I surmise that living at pasture without work, even during the hard winter months, is preferable for keeping Dee fit than being cosseted but stabled half the day.

Red is an easy-going chap so he never gets into trouble. Dee is more assertive and so gets into some argy-bargy in this large herd that they are now a part of. She has become well integrated nevertheless, so perhaps it is still early days and will improve. I brought her in today for a bit of TLC because she has been kicked. It is nothing serious and probably due to her being pushy with another mare. Paul tells me that she has settled out at about fourth mare in the pecking order. Dee so loves being groomed and became very soft and sleepy while I brushed her.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Bank holiday ride

It has been a bank holiday weekend here in Britain and we took a little trip up to Yorkshire to go down into a cave. The descent into Gaping Gill in a bosun's chair was an extraordinary experience and I am glad to have had the opportunity.

We came home on Sunday so that we would be able to ride on the bank holiday Monday. Dee seemed almost keen to be caught and came straight up to me and put her head out for the head collar. We have been looking forward to this ride because it is the first time we have been out to the Wenallt horse trail together since Dee came home. C. from Briwnant joined us on Thomas as well, so the three horse friends were together. Surprisingly Dee decided she was going to lead the expedition. Those who have been reading Ceffylau for a while will know that Dee naps and will not usually take the lead. Yesterday however she led all the way down Briwnant's track, down the road, and halfway along the first part of the Wenallt trail before the first hill. Then she just stopped – and that was it; she would go no farther. Red took over as lead horse and Dee happily carried on behind him. I was very pleased with her for leading this far, and I think it is an indication of how happy and relaxed she is at Briwnant.

We had a pleasant ride through Coed y Wenallt and then C. showed us how to get into Briwnant land at the top of the hill to avoid the long walk down Wenallt Road. This road is steep and narrow and not all car drivers are sensible or considerate when they meet horses. In places there is insufficient room for a car and a horse, so it is good to be able to get off the road. I often ride all the way back through the wood in order to avoid the road. The only disadvantage of entering Briwnant land at the top of the hill is that there are two gates to deal with. They are not suitable to open while mounted so this meant that one of us had to dismount and remount twice. It seemed logical for me to do this – Dee is the smallest of the three horses and she stands still better than Red. I haven't mounted a horse without a mounting block for a long time so this was quite a challenge for me. I struggled a little to get a few rungs up on each gate and then get a foot in the stirrup – but I succeeded and feel proud of myself for it.

There is a magnificent view from the top field across the Severn Estuary to England. The grass up there is long and lush and Dee sneaked a few mouthfuls while I was sorting out the gates. Rabbits scurried into the bracken as we approached the steep path down onto the track to the stables. It had been a delightful ride. It is so good to be able to ride together again.

After washing the horses down where they were sweaty and giving them a 'thank you feed', I led Dee first to the field. She was most reluctant to go back in the field ... until Red arrived ... and then she went straight through the gate. They do like to be together. They are fully integrated into the herd and often in the midst of things, but they still stay near each other. I feel that at last I have found a place where Dee and Red are happy, they are able to live at pasture, and where we can settle and keep the horses long term. Hurray!!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Life is good

My heart has been feeling very full with regard to the horses this week. They are both now out with the main herd. It is magnificent to see a herd of 20 or more horses out together, none of them rugged, in varying colours and markings, just being horses. I am so grateful to have found this lovely place for them to live and to see Dee and Red looking so well and happy.

On Wednesday I rode with a couple of friends from Briwnant. I am having to get used to catching the horses again as this is something I rarely had to do while they were at Wyndham. I went into the field and called to Red. He came at a fast canter into the field I was in with the rest of the herd following him! It was quite an amazing sight. Once the herd had settled down, as always he let me halter him without fuss and plodded up the field with me. Unfortunately I could not ride for as long as my friends yesterday, so at the far end of the Wenallt I turned him and we came back on our own. He was unhappy about leaving the others, but he did not misbehave – he is such a good lad.

It felt so peaceful walking back through the woodland together. It was raining a little – a fine misty rain that barely penetrated the leaf cover, and I could feel the woodland's enjoyment of it. The bluebells are still out and the woodland smelt of wild garlic. I felt so privileged to be able to ride such a large and powerful animal and relax in the peaceful atmosphere of Coed y Wenallt. Every now and then Red would remember that he was on his own and neigh and become a little agitated, but after having his mane rubbed and a few quiet words he would settle down again. At one point we spotted two walkers with dogs ahead of us. Red slowed his pace and relaxed, happy to walk behind them. They did not hear us until we were quite close because they had their coat hoods up against the rain. I think Red would have preferred just to follow them to the end of the trail, but they stopped and stood aside to let us pass.

He always gets the most agitated when on his own for the short stretch of road between the end of Wenallt wood and the beginning of Briwnant track. He neighs and keeps breaking into a trot, but once we are on Briwnant's track he settles down again.

This morning I had Dee shod so that we shall be able to take her out on the trails which tend to be rather stony. At first she did not want to be caught. She was happy to have me near her but was not ready to have a halter put on. I just kept gently moving her on and talking to her, and in the end she stood and put her head out for the halter. She then walked through the field with me contentedly. She is looking particularly beautiful at the moment with dapples to her coat as she changes from her winter to her summer coat. She has a couple of marks on her from confrontations with other horses, and a patch of weatherbeat on her rump, but otherwise looks great.

After shoeing I gave her a little feed and returned her to the field. Red had clearly being looking out for her. He neighed to her and trotted over. They greeted each other, rubbing noses, and then wandered off to graze staying close together. They are always close by each other in the field – and Thomas, Red's friend, is usually nearby as well. Thomas stays near Dee when I take Red out even though she is not particularly friendly towards him. It is so lovely that Dee and Red can be together now and that they obviously like to be together – that they share a connection beyond the mere fact that they are owned by the same people.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Riding alone

Dee and Red have been in for a couple of days while being wormed. Each yard seems to approach worming in a different way. Dee and Red are in stables opposite to each other, so they are quite happy. Dee whinnied when she saw me arriving yesterday. They were using Red in a lesson. He seemed a little perplexed as to why I was there, helping with his tack, but someone else was on his back. He seems to be fine about being ridden in lessons though.

Today I rode Red around the Wenallt horse trail. He was not keen on being out on his own and being parted from Dee. He neighed a lot and was quite agitated. On meeting another horse and rider near the beginning of the trail he put in a buck when I would not let him turn round to follow this horse. This is the first time he has ever done anything like this on a ride, which demonstrates that he was quite wound up today. When we eventually made our way down to the more level part of the trail he enthusiastically went into canter when asked – rather too fast a canter for the terrain and I had to steady him. I was glad to be wearing a helmet as there were a lot of low branches. We managed a second canter further along the trail, and again he put on quite a burst of speed. I’d love to take him somewhere one day where I could really just let him go as fast as he’d like to.

Towards the end of the trail we met a friend from Wyndham leading her daughter on their mare. It was nice to see them. I walked Red thereafter, whereas I might have suggested another canter, but didn’t want to risk exciting my friend’s mare while she was leading her by racing off ahead of them on the trail. Turning for home back up Wenallt Road, Red became extremely vocal and agitated again. I kept rubbing him along the top of his mane and telling him everything was okay, and remembering to keep my breathing deep and slow. He would settle for a bit and then start to get worked up again. He is a sensible chap though and—in my experience—can be relied upon to do what is asked of him, so this gives me the confidence to usually remain quite calm and relaxed even when he is wound up. If I need him to slow down, he will do so; he may make a fuss and neigh continually, but will not do anything silly.

Back at the yard I groomed Dee. She is looking beautifully dappled as her summer coat comes through. Her nice round shape and level of fitness is a credit to the care she received over the coldest months of the year at Gorgeous Grazing. Tomorrow Dee and Red’s period of stabling will be over and they are going to be introduced to the main herd. They laughed at me when I pulled a worried face about this, but I am always a little nervous of Dee meeting new horses because of her history. She has only had one altercation of note however in the two years or more since she was reintroduced to being part of a herd – so I really should stop worrying. I’ll let you know how it goes...

We shall ride them together again at the weekend. Dee still does not have front shoes so we are limited in how much we can do at the moment. I think it was my fault that she got a little freaked out last Sunday when I was catching her. I am going to endeavour to do better this weekend.

Monday, 4 May 2009


Dee is being quite challenging now that she is home. I think I have to re-establish my relationship with her to some degree – after all I did load her onto a lorry and abandon her for four months. I know she is happy to be back with me and Red, but it seems that we have to start over to some extent. It reminds me of when I first had her and the challenges we had to work through at that time.

I was interested in Victoria's post Dodging a Bullet. She says about Siete: "My lack of trust in her and in myself is like a high fence between us." I feel this too. Although I know that Dee and I have a close connection and deep affection for one another, I am nervous of her when she is loose in the field and can get anxious when catching her. At Briwnant it will be necessary to catch her every time I want to groom her or ride her, so I am going to have to build up my confidence again about doing this. She seems to be full of energy and she and Red are often racing around the field together when I go to check them. Sometimes when I'm in the field she'll decide to shoo off another horse and I worry that I will get in the way and get trampled. When catching her in the past she has sometimes not wanted to be haltered and pulled away from me; or she has let me halter her and then decided to take off, ripping the rope out of my hands. On Sunday she let me halter her and then, as we walking up the field, she suddenly became agitated, reared up and took off. She caught me on the shoulder with a front hoof – nothing serious fortunately, but it adds to my fearfulness. 'ö-Dzin brought her in after that and she was perfectly fine with him, so I do not know what it was all about. She continued to be fine while I groomed her and tacked her and behaved well on our short ride.

This was the first time she had been ridden in four months, and she is still barefoot, so we did not go far and avoided the track and the road. We rode where the ground was soft earth—even muddy and wet in some places—and not for too long. She was certainly up for it and rather lively. She seems to be fitter than she was when she left Wyndham which I think demonstrates well that horses keep their condition at grass rather better than when they are being stabled for a large part of the day. The trail we rode on Briwnant land included a steep hill and they were both keen to lope up it.

The bluebells are in bloom at the moment and the hillsides here about are a beautiful haze of blue blossom, which I hope you can see in the background of the photograph of Dee and Red chasing around after two ponies. It was wonderful riding through these blue haze hills, and the green of the new undergrowth is almost fluorescent it is so vivid.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Joining up

Red and Dee have stayed close to each other ever since Dee was turned out into the field yesterday. I wanted to bring Dee in today to check on her foot and to do a little work with her. She had other ideas however – such as that carrying on grazing was preferable. She was happy to let me stroke her, but not get anywhere near putting on a head collar. In the end I led Red down to the gate and we tempted Dee over with a few pieces of carrot, and then she consented to having her headcollar put on. Red became quite upset when I led Dee out of the field and stayed at the gate calling to her.

I groomed Dee and checked her foot. It is fine now – healing quickly. I then put her new saddle on her back, to check its fit and to get her used to the idea of tack again. In the arena I drove her away until she was ready to join up with me, which was pretty fast. Red stood above us looking over the fence rail, making sure all was well. I felt this was enough for Dee for today, so I gave her a small ‘thank you feed’ and turned her back out with Red. They wandered off together keeping close to each other. I feel touched that they demonstrate being so glad to be together again. I—of course—am ecstatic to have them both at Briwnant.

Thursday, 30 April 2009


Dee is safely home. The truck—the most monstrous horse truck I have ever seen—could not get up Wenallt Road, so I had to walk her about half a mile to the yard, including up a very steep hill. Those of you who regularly read this blog will know that Dee naps badly and can do this even when being led, so I was rather anxious about having to lead her such a long way to a new yard. As it turns out she behaved splendidly and we had no problems.

She had suffered a nasty cut on one foot. Judging by the amount of caked blood I would imagine it happened on loading. Also I was amazed that she had no boots or bandages on or even a tail bandage for such a long journey. Sorry Luck Transport, but I'm not too impressed. The driver was a nice chap and treated Dee gently and calmly however, and went to a lot of trouble to turn the truck around and reverse it up the steep lane so that Dee was stepping out onto a ramp going uphill rather than downhill. So that was good.

I kept Dee in Red's stable last night (they've put his picture on the door). This morning the cut on her foot was dried up and scabbed over and she is not lame, so we decided to turn her out. She was turned out into Red's field where there are a few other non-confrontative horses. Red immediately cantered over to her and got kicked at for his trouble. Thomas also got kicked at, but it was mostly for show and only lasted a few minutes. Red and Thomas have become good friends and are always together in the field. This morning however, Red wanted to be by Dee and so Thomas tried to be by her as well but kept being shooed away. I felt a bit sorry for Thomas. When I left, Dee and Red were grazing beside each other—looking like twins again—and Thomas was a little way away from them grazing with the other ponies (sorry it's a rather distant photo). All was peaceful. Hopefully as Dee gets used to Thomas he can be included in the gang as well.

Last night I gave Dee a thorough groom and got the lugs out of her mane. She looks beautiful. N. treated her foot and Dee stood calmly and let it happen. Then Dee and I just enjoyed being together for quite a long time – me stroking and talking to her and she resting her head contentedly on my shoulder. Life is good.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Coming home

The weather was frightful when we visited Dee on our way home from Cornwall. A gale-force wind was blowing in from the sea lashing stinging, icy rain into our faces. So much for Cornwall being warmer than Cardiff. All the horses were at the bottom of the first field where the hedgerow afforded them some shelter. We called Dee, but realised it would be impossible for her to hear us over the wind. We trudged across the field, leaning into the wind and holding our coats tightly around us. As soon as we were within earshot, Dee looked up and trotted over.

She no longer has one shoe on and her feet look as though they have been trimmed – which was confirmed by K. of Gorgeous Grazing when we saw her later. We gave Dee a dozen carrots and told her again that she would be coming home to Cardiff soon. In the warm of K's cottage we informed her of our intention to move Dee back home, and of our good fortune in finding a place where we could have both horses. We discussed how to move her and K. suggested a horse transporting company that she uses regularly, and gave us her number. We feel this will be the best plan as we are inexperienced in transporting horses and it is a long journey for us to take on in a hired vehicle. It would also possibly cost more in the long run as well, by the time we have paid for diesel, vehicle hire and an overnight stay.

We meandered home along the north Devon coast road rather than heading across to the motorway. It made the journey take all day but was most enjoyable with beautiful countryside and spectacular sea views. The cats were very pleased to see us.

So often in our dealings with Dee extraordinary luck arises. We had thought it would take quite a while to organise transport for Dee, but the transporter K. recommended happens to be coming to Cardiff on Wednesday. Amazing! So Dee will be back home on Wednesday. I have warned them at Briwnant Riding Centre that she is a dominant mare and will be aggressive at first. She has lived with other horses now for over two years and has been fine, so I am confident that she will settle down again after her initial assertive display. At least she knows Red, and Red is fond of her despite her moodiness. I'm sure he will be glad to see her. I've bought her a saddle on ebay—if you remember we had one of our saddles stolen—and think I have the makings of a bridle with a hackamore among my things. She will be fine in this until I decide to afford another cross-under bridle.

So once more I will have my lovely mare in Cardiff, and once again we shall be able to ride out together at the weekend. I am so thankful and feel blessed. I'll post later in the week when she arrives to let my readers know how she is settling in.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Visiting Dee

Today we visited Dee. The journey took us about four hours, and for the last part of it I was trying to prepare myself for the possibility of her ignoring me.

We arrived at the gate and I spotted her straight away. I called to her, she looked up, and immediately came over to us. She seemed really pleased to see us. We gave her some treats and just hung around with her for a while. She kept shooing off the horses who also wanted to come and say hello to us – the same bossy mare as always. She stayed with us for quite a long time, and then eventually wandered off back to the rest of the herd to graze.

Dee looks really well – a bit tatty of course at this time of year, as she is losing her winter coat. I was surprised at how round she is – she looks really well fed. I can see why they have to restrict how much pasture they have in the summer. At the moment she is in two large fields with six other horses. Dee has one shoe on, which intrigued me. Surely this cannot still be one from when we moved her in December? We are hoping to meet up with K. from Gorgeous Grazing when we visit Dee again on our way home, so I shall be able to ask her about this.

I've told Dee we are going to be bringing her home. As you can see from the photograph, I was just so happy to see her again.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Happy horse

I had a lovely ride on Red this morning with a lady who has a horse on loan at Briwnant Riding Centre. We rode the circuit of the Wenallt Horse Trail.

We had a slight misunderstanding about setting out time, and Red was getting restless waiting, so I took him into the arena. There were cones set out in there so we did some weaving in and out of them. Red was very calm and relaxed and happy to be occupied in this way while we waited.

I can't explain why the atmosphere at Briwnant seems to be so much more relaxed, but Red is really content. Wyndham is an excellent livery yard—I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone—but there was always a certain degreee of stress about the place for me, and perhaps also for Red. I know this is my hang-up and nothing to do with the yard. Perhaps it is the close proximity of the motorway to Wyndham. Perhaps it is something to do with Briwnant being a riding school rather than just a livery yard. Perhaps it is that they have more land so that the horses can live out at pasture all the time, and really just be natural horses. Perhaps it is that mares and geldings are not segregated at Briwnant. I don't know, but Red felt different on our ride today – more confident and comfortable. This could also of course be because he has been hacking out alone such a lot and was just enjoying some company.

We had to pass the field where Red used to graze with his Wyndham mates to get to the Wenallt Horse Trail. I expected him to call to them as he can often be quite vocal and gets attached to his friends, but he hardly glanced in their direction. As we came back down the lane I sensed a certain urgency in him to turn onto the track to Briwnant. It would seem it is home for him – less than a week after his arrival.

On Saturday we drive to Cornwall and will visit Dee on the way there and on the way back. I shall also broach the subject of moving Dee back to Cardiff with the people at Gorgeous Grazing. I'm still not sure how this is going to happen, but I am exploring various possibilities.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Exploring Briwnant

This morning we took Red on an exploration of Briwnant Riding Centre's land. First we rode about half way along the track and then turned off it to head up the hill through the undergrowth to the top field that borders Wenallt Road. There is a gate to the road from the top field. This will be a really useful track to take when accessing the Wenallt trail, because it avoids a large section of the road. It is very beautiful up there with wild primroses in full bloom and many rabbits scurrying into the cover of the bracken. The bluebells are just beginning to blossom. The view is extraordinary: right across Cardiff, the Severn Estuary with both Severn Bridges, Penarth Head, Steep and Flat Holm in the estuary and beyond them the coast of England. It was a little hazy so it was not possible to make out the Devon and North Cornish coasts today, but still one could see for a distance of more than 30 miles.

Next we rode back down towards the stable yard and then turned left along a muddy track. We learned later that this used to be the access track to Briwnant and eventually comes out at Thornhill Road by a hotel. We rode to nearly as far as the hotel and turned back. Two of the Briwnant dogs accompanied us which I think helped Red feel more confident, but also made him a little lively – I think it reminded him of hunting. Apparently if we took the track to its end, there are other rides that can be accessed from there, so I look forward to exploring those one day.

Arriving back at the yard again we went through a gate into two of the fields that are being rested at the moment. Here I took Red down to the bottom of each field so that he could have a good fast canter back up the fields, which we enjoyed. I had not cantered him in the top field as he seemed quite nervous up there as it is so high and open.

This ride had taken us about an hour. It is great to be somewhere where we can ride for so long without touching a road. Red is relaxed and settled and obviously really likes it at Briwnant. And—I hardly dare put it in writing it seems so much too good to be true—we can bring Dee here. We can bring her back from Cornwall and put her here on grass livery. I'm not sure how we are going to organise this at the moment, but we are going to Cornwall to see Dee next week, so I can discuss it with the lady at Gorgeous Grazing then. I can't quite believe that things could work out quite this perfectly at the moment —I'm afraid of jinxing it—but how wonderful it would be to have both our horses to ride out on together again. Dee is still up for riding. We shall have to start gently as she hasn't been ridden for four months, but she always enjoyed hacking out.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Settled already!

I telephoned Briwnant just as it was beginning to get dark this evening. I wanted to check that Red had been okay at the time he would have been used to coming in for a feed and being stabled for the night. P. at Briwnant told me that Red had shown no sign of wanting to come in. He was happy to be approached, but was not interested in leaving the field – he just wanted to carry on enjoying grazing.

Wow! Wonderful! He seems settled in already!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Move to Briwnant Riding Centre

(Photo 1: 'This looks interesting ...')

This morning we moved Red to Briwnant Riding Centre. 'ö-Dzin rode him over and I drove there with a car-load of rugs, tack and horsey items. We put Red into a stable for half and hour and then turned him out into a field. He is out with a few young and quiet horses who will not challenge him to start with, in the pasture next to the main herd. He will be introduced to the main herd in about a week once he has had time to get to know them. They will not work him for his first week either.

Red wandered out into the field completely relaxed and content. He had not neighed at all and seemed perfectly happy – which is quite a contrast to when we moved him to Wyndham, where he was very vocal and unsettled even though he had Dee in the stable next to him. So this bodes well. After about five minutes one of the young horses in the field noticed the new arrival and trotted over to meet Red. They greeted each other in a friendly way (photo 2). This photograph also shows the magnificent views from Briwnant – right across the Severn Estuary to England. Soon the other horses came over to check Red out. One of the mares was a bit fiesty and kicked out at him, but she has no shoes on and Red just got out of her way. It is a large field with plenty of grass, so he just wanted to graze. By the time we left he seemed to have made friends with two horses and they were grazing near one another. I have a good feeling about this place.

Another happy occurrence is that we met a lady we knew from Ridgeway at Briwnant. She had been interested in buying Red at one time, or loaning him, but decided she was not ready. She rode Dee a couple of times. She now has her own horse, a lovely mare called Star. I was so happy to meet her again, and I think we may ride together. It seems there may be more opportunity to ride with people from Briwnant.

I am sad to leave Wyndham. We have been happy there and Sally has been very kind to us. However I feel confident that Briwnant will be a good move for us – certainly Red seems relaxed there already. I shall telephone later this evening—after the time he is used to coming in for a feed and to be stabled for the night—to see how he is. They will feed him in the evening until he is used to the Briwnant routine, and will bring him in and stable him if he is distressed – but I think this is unlikely. I think he will be quite content to stay out in such a large field with plenty of grass.