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. 'รถ-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.