Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Hosing legs

I'm trying to get Red used to having his legs hosed down on the occasions that I bring him in from the field. This doesn't happen too often because I tend to go up and see him in the morning. When we have needed to hose down his legs, it is like having a large prancing pony on the end of the leadrope.

Red has mud fever – not too seriously fortunately, and it is getting better quickly. There is no heat in his legs or swelling, just scabs. To treat the mudfever I have to clean off the mud, treat his legs with a liquid solution, and then dry them. He likes me to hold his leg to rub it down with the towel.

Red has tended to not like having his legs fiddled with in any way, but he has gradually improved over the 18 months we have owned him. It is a pleasure to pick out his feet nowadays, and he is being good about having his legs looked after. Fortunately he has never been too bad to shoe. His unhappiness with having his feet messed with does not provoke any malicious response, he just becomes extremely restless – which can be rather unnerving when in a fairly small stable with such a big animal. When he is restless he doesn't seem to have any awareness of where I am in relation to him, so it can feel slightly dangerous.

I think Red has always had quite an easy life, with good owners who have treated him well – or even over-indulged him because he is such a pleasant chap. I believe this is why he took so long to settle with us – it was a big change and he wasn't used to life changing. Moving him to a different yard after six months did not help, or trying him barefoot and with hoofboots. Now however, he is content and generally a ‘perfect gentleman’, as he was described in the advertisement placed by his previous owners. I think he is settled enough to try and get him over this aversion to having his legs hosed.

On Wednesday he gave me a bit of a shock. I was working on one of his front legs and he bit my head! It really hurt. I made it clear that this wasn't on, but on reflection, I think he was actually being a bit of a comedian and trying to take my wooly hat off. I think he misjudged how much force was needed. Nevertheless I feel it was important to make it clear that it had hurt and that this was not acceptable behaviour.


It is so wonderful to see our relationship with Red growing and deepening. On Saturday we went into Coed y Wenallt – me walking and 'ö-Dzin riding. Red definitely enjoys this arrangement.

On the way home Red walks rather fast. When we first had him he used to continually break into a trot, unbidden, on the way home. He no longer does this, and it was not difficult to break him of the habit, but instead he walks fast. Consequently when I am on foot, I find it difficult to keep up with him. There are a couple of places I can take a pedestrian shortcut on a footpath and catch up, but inevitably I still lose him towards the end of the trail. On Saturday however, without 'ö-Dzin having to ask, Red stopped two or three times and waited for me to catch up. I was so touched by this. As soon as I was ahead of him again he started off. He would walk beside me for a while again, and then it would be as if he just couldn't help himself – he had to walk faster, and would get ahead of me. I feel it shows great self restraint for him to wait for me – and hopefully the beginnings of a strong connection.

I rode Red out on my own this evening. He came to call in the field and was happy to come in with me. It was about an hour before sunset when we set off and the woodland was quite spooky in the gathering dusk. Red was a little edgy, but behaved well. He was responsive and we had a couple of short, but enjoyable canters. This time he walked home even faster than usual – so much so that it was quite a challenge to remain relaxed and deep in the saddle his body was moving so much, especially downhill. He was certainly keen to get home for his feed and a warm stable.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Sense and sensibility

It's poured with rain all day today—absolutely torrentially—so I am happy that I was able to go for a long ride yesterday. It was the longest ride I'd been on for a couple of months and it was delightful.

Red and I set out after a rain shower, but we did not experience any more rain – in fact the sun even shone occasionally. We rode through the bottom part of the Coed y Wenallt trail, and then across the stream onto the bridlepath that links the wood with a road called Rhiwbina Hill. At the top of this bridlepath Red noticed a few horses in a field and neighed to them. I realised in that moment that he doesn't neigh all the time when I am out riding him on my own any more. I think he is feeling so content at Wyndham and happy that we have now forged a relationship, that he feels secure when we hack out alone.

We then rode on up Rhiwbina (pronounced Rh-oo-by-na with the Rh aspirated) Hill to the end of the lane that leads to Ridgeway, where we used to keep the horses. To my surprise, Red was quite keen to go down the lane. I had to encourage him to ride past it. Yesterday was not the day to go down there, but I will take him down there one day. I was interested that he remembered it so well and wanted to go there. Just past the lane is the entrance into The Ganol – my favourite woodland. This is just a little too far away from Wyndham for an everyday ride, so it was nice to have time to go there.

After a steep descent from the road, we were on the top track of The Ganol. This is a long, wide, straight track know by some riders as 'The Gallop'. The first part slopes gently down so we walked that. As we walked I said to Red that it would be good to have a canter for the rest of the track. As soon as we reached the dip I squeezed with my legs a little and he went straight into a canter. We kept going all along the rest of the straight part of the track, and even maintained the canter around the bend at the top and along the short stretch to the road. It was great. Red was like that throughout the ride – he seemed to understand what I wanted and responded. He was very relaxed, often walking with his head low, and I was able to ride him on a loose rein nearly the whole time.

We then made our way back at a fast walk (well we were going home...). On our return to Wyndham he was most reluctant to go out in the field. He is not like Dee, who would pull her head out of the halter in order to walk away from you immediately. He likes to hang around with me for a few minutes at the gate. Yesterday, however, he really didn't want to leave me. I think on reflection, that he was probably tired and would have preferred to have stayed in his stable munching haylage rather than having to slog up a muddy hill to get to a field with very little grass left to graze. It was only an hour or so until the horses would be brought in anyway. I wish I hadn't insisted he went out and had been more sensitive to his needs and wishes, as he had been so kindly sensitive to mine on the ride.

Sorry Red – I'll do better next time.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Winter ride

I realised that I had not posted any pictures of the horses for quite a while, and so have decided to rectify this today. This photograph was taken on December 30th during one of our excursions into Coed y Wenallt. We have had a few nice outings with 'ö-Dzin and I taking it in turns to walk and ride. Red seems to enjoy having one of us walking with him and has been quite good at standing still for us to change riders. He is also happy to be taken ahead on his own for a canter.

Thanks to a ride out with J and her horse Sandy during the Christmas period, we have discovered a part of the wood that is ideal for a canter. We had not traveled that part of the trail in this direction before, having usually turned for home a little before there.

I have not been up to see Red today, but Sally tells me he seems to be better. The swelling has reduced, and has moved down the leg towards his knee. She has suggested we exercise him lightly tomorrow to see how he is, so we shall be going up there in the morning.

Thursday, 15 January 2009


I've been away on retreat for five days and returned home on Tuesday. This ancient oak grows in the grounds in front of the house we hire for our retreats. The photograph does not really capture the size and majesty of this tree. It was a wonderful retreat and I feel refreshed and inspired. As the weather has been so cold, we were not able to engage in Tibetan yoga on the lawn in the afternoons. I enjoy these yogic practices but do find them quite exhausting, and so am happy to be feeling less tired than usual on returning from a retreat.

Hence I was looking forward to riding yesterday when I went up to see Red and complete my chores. However it was rather foggy from about half way up Wenallt Hill, so I decided not to ride in the morning, but just groomed Red and turned him out. I arrived at Wyndham mid afternoon and was pleased to see that the fog had lifted out of the woodland so that I would be able to ride before it got too gloomy. To my surprise, as I drove down the track to the yard, I noticed Red and another horse in one of the fields that adjoin the track. This was not the field I'd put him into earlier on. Red and his chum had decided that the grass was greener in this field and forced their way through the fence. The centre of the field had tracks across it where both horses had galloped pell-mell in their excitement.

G had just gone out to catch the other gelding, so Red was ready to come in. Unfortunately, as he came to me I could see that he was moving awkwardly, and when we got onto the track he was clearly lame. We checked him over as best we could in the gathering gloom, but could not see anything seriously amiss. It is Red's only vice, pushing down fences to get to a field that looks more attractive. To be fair to him, there is more grass in the field next to theirs, because the geldings' field has been grazed bare. I acknowledge that this behaviour must be irritating and inconvenient for Sally—although she has not complained—but a horse is a grazing animal. If there is nothing to graze and the fence is not horse proof, it is actually fairly intelligent of him to try to get to a field where there is still some grass.

This time he has hurt himself however. The top of his left foreleg is swollen, although we have only been able to find a tiny cut. We have given him basic first aid treatment and will see how he is tomorrow. He was so cute when we were checking him over – he held his leg up like a puppy with a sore paw, and he had such a sorry-for-himself look on his face. I think he is a bit of a wuss.

Apart from having a bad leg, Red is looking rather splendid. I had him clipped last week, and I am finding time to groom him more regularly now that he has my full attention. His coat has a wonderful shine, especially where he has been clipped. Hopefully we shall be able to take some photographs of him looking smart on our next visit.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

I've been tagged

Before Christmas I was tagged by White Horse Pilgrim for a blog game – but then the busy Yuletide season began and I did not complete it, so here it is now. Thank you to White Horse Pilgrim for thinking of me.

The rules are:

Link to the person who tagged you.
Post the rules on your blog.
Write six random things about yourself.
Tag six people at the end of your post.
Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Let the tagger know your entry is published.

1. I am a rather round person and have always been so. Twice in my life I have seriously attempted to get slim and each time I became ill – the second time ending up in hospital for five days. I have to really starve myself to be slim – in extremis. I am physically active, supple and mostly pretty healthy, so I have now accepted that it is better for me to be round. I did like how I looked for the brief period I weighed less than 9 stone (126lbs, 57kg) the last time, but on balance I think it's better to be healthy and fat, than ill and thin.

2. When I was 18 my parents sponsored my brother and I on a trip to the USA. We had a three month adventure exploring the country. We hitch-hiked up the east coast from Washington DC, across the northern states, down the west coast as far as LA, and then back through the central states. We met many kind and wonderful people and experienced some spectacularly varied landscapes.

3. 'ö-Dzin and I have just had our first guitar lesson. I had lessons in classical guitar for about 6 months 30 years ago, but have let it slip since then and never really learned any other style. We are now learning how to play chords and strum, with the idea that we shall be able to play and sing together.

4. It is interesting—having been tagged by him—how often my interests and those of White Horse Pilgrim are similar despite us disagreeing quite strongly in other areas. I also am not interested in equestrian competition and have only ever wanted to trail ride, and I also love fantasy writing, such as Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy, Tolkein, Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, CS Lewis, and other similar genres such as Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. I used to love The Borrowers by Mary Norton as a child. Currently I am reading The Belgariad books by David Eddings. I also love films of this genre.

5. My primary work for my Buddhist Lineage is maintaining one of our websites, Aro Encyclopædia. I have no formal training in computing, but have picked up HTML and basic web design quite quickly and easily and really enjoy this work. It does help of course having a husband who is an expert in this field and has worked in the IT industry for over thirty years.

6. I love disaster movies. I know they are corny and the storylines are predictable, but usually such films feature people being kind to each other and prevailing despite the odds and I enjoy that. I even enjoy spotting those whose relationship is going to be saved by sharing the ordeal, and the one who is going to sacrifice themself for the greater good, etc. I like films to have a happy ending or at least a satisfying conclusion. One of my favourites is The Day After Tomorrow, and also Dante's Peak.

So here are 6 tags – I thought I would choose my family for 3 of them for fun:

My Beloved at Dolenni Diddorol,

Daniel at Hyper Star – perhaps it will encourage him to start using his blog more,

Richard at Kiml42,

Kira an artistic friend

A blog I enjoy – The Horseshoeing Housewife

& 7MSN whose photographs are so delightful

Frosty New Year

It is very cold here in Cardiff. I know it is not cold like the weather in North America, but it is colder than we are used to. In recent years our winters have been quite mild, with only the occasional frosty morning, but this year frozen ponds and buckets of water stay frozen throughout the day.

The photographs were taken on New Year's Day. Unfortunately our camera does not have the capacity to capture the startling beauty of that morning. Just above the level of Wyndham's fields the whole of Wenallt hill and woodland was frosty white, and sparkling in the sunshine. Much as I often do not relish leaving my warm fire to see to Red, my efforts have been rewarded with the sharp directness of my experience of the elements in this winter season. The warmth of camaraderie at the yard over the Christmas and New Year season compensated for our coldness. I know I am alive having to be out in this weather and appreciate our woodstove even more when I return home chilled. I'm sure I am a more cheerful and appreciative person than I would be if I could just stay cosily at home, insulated from the reality of winter weather.

Reports of Dee tell me she is fine. I miss her quiet presence in the stable, where it always seemed she could sense when I needed her to step aside. I miss her sense of humour and her little habits. I definitely miss her common sense at gates – Red is not at all easy at gates and today managed to graze my knee as we entered the arena. Dee was already adept at managing gates when I first owned her, so I am not clear as to how to educate Red in this (any suggestions gratefully received). He knows that something needs to happen, but always seems to rush at it rather than standing, so that we end up in the wrong position.

Red has changed quite a bit over the last few weeks – or is it me that has changed now that he has my full attention? He is generally becoming more co-operative and relaxed in the stable, so that I can easily move him over when I need to. Picking his feet out is no longer something I dread and has become a pleasure. Yesterday I had him clipped and he was a perfect gentleman. I think we are finally developing a relationship.