Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Unfamiliar ground

Tuesday afternoon was strangely quiet and subdued. It was as if the world were holding its breath. Later it rained—gentle, fine rain—but remained windless and calm. I decided to ride Red the full circuit of the Coed y Wenallt horsetrail. Three quarters of this ride is through the woodland, with the last quarter being along a steep and narrow road. Red has traversed this full route only once before, with 'ö-Dzin riding him and with me on Dee, but in the direction of the road part first. On Tuesday we rode it finishing with the road part of the circuit.

We set out a little before 4 pm. The dullness of the day meant that it was already fairly gloomy in the wood, but we had a good hour of light left. Red was a little reluctant to begin with, and I had to gently encourage him, but he gradually became more interested in being out for a ride.

Red happily jumped over the log when we reached it. I did not ask him to canter up the hills this time as he still needs to get fitter and I wanted to canter the last part of the trail where it was not so steep. This all went well as this was familiar ground for Red. However he now expected to turn round and head for home through the woodland, as we had done many times. Red became unsettled when I asked him to carry on. He did as he was asked, but started neighing—which he hasn't done on a ride for a long time—and seemed a little tense.

I tried to reassure him by talking to him and stroking him. I also sang mantra to him which I often finds helps when things get tense, as it relaxes us both. We reached the road and started on the final part of the ride. One of the reasons for doing the ride in this direction was that the light was better on the road now that it was getting late in the afternoon.

It occurred to me that Red may have wondered whether I was taking him away from Wyndham, which I think he now thinks of very much as 'home'. It was late afternoon and a similar sort of day when we rode from Ridgeway livery to Wyndham. Might he have remembered this journey – and being on what seemed to him to be unfamiliar territory wondered whether this was what was happening.? We were also quite near Ridgeway at the end of the Wenallt – could he have sensed his previous yard or smelled the horses? I will never know, but feel that it is a sign of the trust that is growing between us that he continued without any arguement.

Going down the road, we had to turn around once and go back up the hill a little way to allow a car through, and duck into a track for a few moments later on for the same reason. Red behaved perfectly – I am so proud of him. At last we reached the part of the road that he recognised and soon we were home.

Well done Red.

Monday, 23 February 2009

February sunshine

I've had a couple of really great rides on Red this week. It is such a relief to be riding. I don't really like lunging – and neither does Red, so I'm happy to have tack again so that we can go out into the wood together.

Suddenly the weather here is quite spring-like. It was so warm on Saturday morning that I didn't bother to take my coat. I don't know whether the photograph quite shows how delightful the day was.

Now that we only have one horse to ride, we take it in turns. I rode first on Saturday so that I could take Red on ahead and have a few canters – to give him the chance to really stretch and exercise. 'ö-Dzin came off him the week before because Red came down one of the steep stretches of hill too fast. As Red trotted round the corner at the bottom of the incline, Red and 'ö-Dzin parted company, with 'ö-Dzin ending up in a heap on the ground. He was okay—if a little bruised—but I'm sure he came off mainly because he still isn't terribly well.

So on Saturday I took Red on ahead to the far end of Coed y Wenallt where there are a few good stretches for cantering. I asked Red to lope up the hills, and he was puffing a bit, so we must ride out together more often so that he can get a bit fitter. We also did something together for the first time – we jumped two logs! I was proud of myself. It was the first time I have had the courage to take the opportunity. I know J took him over a log now and then, but I had never had enough confidence. We are getting along so well now, he is so much more willing and always ready to canter, that I decided to give it a go. He sailed over each log and seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself. I'm not about to suddenly take up show jumping, but it's good to feel that Red and I are working so well together. I always knew Dee loved to jump and would take any log in the wood, but it has taken me a long time to feel ready to try it with Red.

We then headed back to find out how far 'ö-Dzin had walked and to swap riders. 'ö-Dzin just walked Red home. I got really warm in the February sunshine walking back—especially trying to keep up with Red's 'going home' pace—and even had to take my jumper off. This is amazing for February, and I hope it continues. As before, Red stopped and waited for me to catch up a few times – so sweet.

His mud fever is now nearly cleared up. He has been reasonably well behaved about having his legs seen to, but I will not be sorry to lose this chore. Let's hope the unseasonable sunshine is a portent of a good summer. Then perhaps the fields will have a chance to dry out for the first time in over a year, so that the horses no longer have so much mud to contend with.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Arena game

I've been working hard on websites and things over the last two weeks, and have not been finding time to blog. I'm pleased with the results of the work, however. I have a new Spacious Passion website that looks much more how I want it to look. The old site was powered by Joomla and I could never work out how to adjust the details of it, so I was never satisfied with it. The new site is powered by 'ö-Dzin's software to my design – it is great to have so much control.

Two weeks ago, Wyndham Livery was burgled and all the tack was stolen from the tack locker. This means I also haven't been able to ride, because I haven't had a full set of tack. Consequently I have been lunging Red rather than riding him. He's not been too impressed with this. It was a premeditated break in – they knew exactly what they needed to do to get at the tack, and sawed through metal gates and the door of the metal tack locker with an angle grinder. Needless to say, our insurance doesn't cover it.

We also played a game with him in the arena, based on an idea from Carolyn Resnick's blog. After lunging, we let him free. 'ö-Dzin stood at one side of the arena, and I stood the other side – both of us equipped with a bag of carrot treats. We called Red to us. When he came he got a piece of carrot – but only one piece. The other person then called him. If he wouldn't leave after his treat, we drove him away by waving a line. It took him a long time to get the idea, and even then didn't seem too sure. I don't think Red is very bright. We stopped on a success before he started to get either bored or frustrated.

We tried the game again the following day, however, and something had sunk in, because he got it right straight away. Unfortunately we were not able to carry on with him at liberty, because another horse was brought into the arena for lunging. This horse had been on box rest for a few days, so it went slightly beserk on the lunge line – galloping round and round with its tail up and snorting. Red got a little over excited, forgot to notice where I was, and almost trampled me. We decided to take him in.

Playing this arena game brought up a sharp yearning for Dee. She is such a quick and intelligent horse – she would have got the idea really quickly. I have been missing Dee a lot recently. I think when we first moved her to her retirement home in Cornwall, it was such a relief to be free of the anxiety and work of two horses that I did not feel the loss of her. Now that it is easier and less work, I've had time to let missing her arise. Hopefully, now the weather is warming up, we shall soon be able to reschedule our visit to see her. She will probably ignore me when we visit her, but at least I shall be able to see that she is well and happy.