Wednesday, 27 February 2013

More baby training

So anyway, back to the horses. Have been out and about with all three despite last weekend's Arctic conditions. On Saturday we went out with G and Kinna and met the owners of two rather gorgeous Appaloosas we've been quietly admiring for weeks. They were curious about Kinna, as people usually are. We talked for a while (until we got too cold to stay still) and the whole time Kinns was good as gold, stood still even when one of the spotty boys got a bit excited and started hooleying round the field.....
Sunday I long lined Sky alongside Ali on Kinna. Think I kept warmer on foot! Sky was pretty good, we practised one going ahead of the other and that didn't pose to many problems.....

Today I was messing about with using a neckstrap on Sky, she was a bit confused at first but she got the reinback straight away. It works so much better this way that hauling on the horse's mouth; I have ridden more than one horse who has learned to brace against the reins and hollow their back instead of going back. So something to work on there......

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Why do that to your horse?

Just read this great article on the Epona TV website. Some very valid points made, such as "the problem with horse problems – the real ones that actually affect horses – is that their solutions often require us to make sacrifices that we don't really want to make. So we ignore them until they become our own problems and when they do, many of us seek to fix them with a minimum of effort and expense."
It's all about people doing things to/with their horses to stop the horse exhibiting "undesirable" behaviour or to get quick fix training results.  My personal bete noire is the bloody de Gogue (or Market Harborough, I think they are the same thing). Every riding school my kids have ever been to over here (apart from the English run one, interestingly) has at some time or other resorted to a good old Gogue. You can even stick them on your horse for some Club level dressage competitions. So much easier than actually educating the horse 'cos that takes a lot of time to do properly. I actually saw a horse at a competition last year being pulled so tightly in one of the wretched things that it felt it had no option but to rear, and of course that got it a beating.

I don't like a lot of other things people do to horses (you might have noticed). Draw reins, over-heavy contact, nosebands for strapping the horse's mouth shut, people dressing up their horses like a dolly ("but he looks soooo cute in his matching purple rug and booties"),  putting sparkly hoof varnish on them - WTF?, keeping them alone without other equines,  keeping them shut in stables for hours at a time, overrugging them, riding like a sack of shit, bouncing around all over their back and using the reins for balance then wondering why the horse tries to escape the arena ("he was sooooo naughty!"), wearing spurs with no clue how to use them properly, hitting a horse for refusing a jump when they had unbalanced it too much, and - dare I say it? - nailing bits of metal to their feet.

They always have a good reason (to them) for their actions - I'm cold so he must be cold, I don't want him to get dirty, he tanks off with me, he has to be in so the field doesn't get cut up in winter, he's being naughty on purpose (it's amazing how many people think their horse is out to give them a hard time!) - the list is endless.

People should think more about the effect their actions have on the horse, really think about it. Instead of just doing stuff 'cos the others on their yard do, or because it looks pretty, because they want to show off (just go to your average Western demo to see a bunch of blokes strutting their stuff and pretending to be John Wayne with zero regard for their horses' comfort) or because it makes life easier for them. But actually thinking about all this stuff is quite hard to do, even for those who actually possess a brain (and I've met a few who don't appear to have one), because nobody likes to think they might have to change their ways, especially if it'll be more like hard work for them......

Oops, this appears to have turned into another rant....better leave it there - for now ;-)

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A bit of a rant.......

I don't often do ranting (well not online anyway) but I'm in a bit of a ranty mood today (blame the binmen for deciding to come and empty the recycling crate at 5.30 this morning and waking me up). This one has been building for a while. About three years, probably.  So here goes:
What is it about horse people? And horse people on the internet in particular?
I have joined a variety of online horse forums over the years, and I think I’ve identified the main categories of member. There’s the self-proclaimed “expert” who always answers every query in minute detail and tells us lesser mortals what we should be doing. They're usually the inflexible type who cannot entertain for one second the thought that there might be another way to do things.
There’s the “talk the talk” ones who know all the theory down to the last detail of vibrating the inside rein to ask your horse to relax his neck – but when requested to show some video of themselves riding, never quite get round to it (oops, left my camera at home!). When it comes to criticising other videos online, however, they have a field day…….
Then there’s the total re-inventer who tells a lot of stories (lies?) about how they’ve jumped, ridden, competed on their wonderful horses when the reality is they’re languishing in a field eating their heads off because said person is to too scared to actually get on and ride them anywhere.

There’s usually a drama queen who is so very precious about everything but when eventually persuaded to post a video it turns out they ride like a sack of shit and if anyone dares to disagree with the general consensus that they’re wonderful, they rant on about how hurtful any such comments are and that the moderators really ought to do something about it.

And of course there’s always a troll or two who just want to have a good argument for whatever reason – because it’s fun to them? – and stirs everyone up on a regular basis.

I spent a fair few years going along with all of this and trying to be, um, circumspect. I didn’t feed the trolls, I didn’t disagree with the drama queens, I didn’t question the outright liars. But I often went to meet people I’d met online because I am a nosy sort.  Sometimes I was pleasantly surprised to meet a kindred spirit who was genuinely interested in putting their relationship with their horses first and did exactly what they said on the tin, erm I mean, forum. But I also met people who were frankly unfit to be horse owners…….

Me? I don't claim to be a dressage diva, or a horse whisperer. I merely strive to practise the noble art of keeping a horse between myself and the ground. I go out and try to have fun with my horses and I spend a lot of time making sure they are Solid Equine Citizens (thanks Dressage Curmudgeon for that expression). And the online armchair experts criticise me. For not wearing a hard hat sometimes, for allowing my daughter to stand on her pony's back, for hacking out on the roads with an unshod horse and most of all for being a fat bastard and daring to drag my lardy arse onto the back of a horse. Not to mention getting so sick of all the aforementioned intolerant, self-obsessed, delusional, opinionated, egotistical "experts" that I and a couple of like-minded individuals actually dared to be “disloyal” enough start our own forum…….
Why do they feel the need to criticise? Presumably because, as the saying goes, moral indignation is just jealousy with a halo.

Bollocks to the lot of 'em.
Moving on, here's a pic of a fat bastard on a four year old on her first ever solo hack that my friend took as I passed his house the other day.
Not sure what my lower leg is doing in that pic, I'm sure the dressage divas can tell me ;-)

Monday, 18 February 2013

Hacking solo and in company.....

Another first for the girl today, I asked her to leave the house on her own with me on her back not on the end of a leadrope. Took about 10 minutes to get her out of the gate, but she didn't try to go backwards, just needed time to think about stuff I reckon. We set off in search of Jane et al, rather slow progress as she kept stopping and looking at stuff, and trying to make a sidestep to the verge for a quick snack  but I just let her take her time and eventually she decided to get on with things......

After a couple of kms, we met the others, she got a little bit excited but was generally OK. I was talking to one of the other riders I hadn't met before and I just let Sky do her own thing which was basically try to keep up with the others, Ocarina was way out in front as usual, Maverick trotting and showing off the whole time, the two draught horses pulled faces at us and the little chestnut at the back was the only one prepared to let us walk alongside!

We rode with them for a km or two, then they turned off up the hill and I didn't want to overdo it on Sky so we headed home.

Had to get off to get her to leave the others but after a bit of calling she followed me willingly enough and I led her down the hill. Then I found a handy tree stump to get back on and rode home. She didn't even try to rush back, just made a few more attempts to stop for grass......

Very pleased with her :-)

Sunday, 17 February 2013

For the first time.....

.....I rode my baby horse yesterday. Wasn't planning to, Ali started out the hack on board, but Sky was being a total brat and it was all about the grass. So we swapped and I got my first ride. My friend Sarah was here and rode Kinna, who was a very good girl.

 We went up the steep grass track somewhat faster than we usually do as the girls seemed to be up for a bit of a race....... G very sensibly took it at a more sedate pace. Then at the top we let them graze and when it was time to move on, Sky really went for it, planting, going backwards, sideways, anything to stay on the grass, even when the others went out of sight. So I had to get off and lead her off. We had a few more grass related arguments along the rest of the ride, but she didn't spook or do anything else silly and didn't seem at all bothered to be carrying me around.

This morning I took her out again with Ali on Gandalf just to consolidate behaviour and we had far less arguing, the worst she did was stop dead a couple of times to see if she could get to the verge. We had a lot going on too, hunters out in force, herds of MAMILs on bicycles, loose dogs, builders with power tools, motorcyclists, a bit of sun and everyone comes out of hibernation!

Funny looking at a pair of spotty ears! She feels too small to me, but so do most horses as I'm used to G. Still not going to ride her regularly til she grows a bit more, but she is very light and responsive, hopefully I can keep her that way.....

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Horsey Valentines

Lots of interesting pictures on the internet today from the horse world. Chocolates and flowers? Nah....

And my favourite:

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

What's going on with the weather?

We've been here in south west France for ten years. Every year we have been able to do lots of great outdoors stuff in February becasue this is not the UK and we get good weather......right?

Not this year. This year is has been so wet we have been reduced to hacking on roads only so we don't end up skating on horseback :-/

We usually do a ride to a local lake in February, but it's far too wet to use the tracks in the woods. I had a quick look through my photos from the last ten years and here are some pics of previous February weather

So here we are, Feb 2003, our first full year in France, my two old dogs Paddy and Roisin in the sun:

Feb 2004, before I had my own horse, riding Gimy, my friend Marianne's Trotter, not actually sunny but look at the nice dry ground:
Feb 2005, with Gimy and Marianne's TB, Faco, in a not at all muddy field......
Feb 2006, my first year with Gandalf, he was having a hooley with Gimy, blue skies:
Feb 2007, Ali and her pony Flecha, more sun, nice dry ground:
Feb 2008, we rode the horses to the lake for a picnic, sun:
Feb 2009, back to the lake:
And again in Feb 2010, cold but sunny:
February last year, bit of a blip, we actually had snow, but the sun was still out!
This year? All I have are lots of photos of filthy, soggy ponies hacking out in the rain....

Ah well, it can't go on for ever, can it?

Monday, 11 February 2013


So far this year we are doing quite well on the distances, 130km for Gandalf, pretty much all on the roads as it's so wet, so his hooves are getting a good workout. He's very footy on gravel and stones as his feet are softer than usual thanks to the lake in the field, but he's fine on the tarmac.

Have started using a new app to track rides, it gives you all sorts of interesting data but the calories burned bit seems to be wildly inaccurate (unless of course it means calories burned by the horse)!

You can check it out here.

This time last year we had only done about 30kms......

The girls are doing well too, Sky's done less than Kinna with 45kms....

....and the big eared one has clocked up 70 odd kms.
Yesterday she went off lead rein for the first time and was quite happy to bog off into the distance, she can move a lot faster than Gandalf!
So we're doing pretty well at keeping everone exercised in spite of the weather. I actually managed to ride six days out of seven last week, unusual for me.....
Not doing so well at keeping everyone clean, but they clearly don't want to be white horses, do they? ;-)

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Grown up girls.....

Have done a bit of hacking with the girls this week. In the rain. And hail. And wind......and the odd bit of sun.

Kinna first, she was fine, never flinched when my hat blew off past her ear (twice),  we had an extra dog along (rumour has it that he's Choccy's dad), cyclists in rain ponchos, Ali in a long plastic mac that would have terrified Fina 2 years ago, a couple of canters and the only time she spooked was at the plastic fence flapping as we left our place - the one she sees every time she goes out the gate......

Then yesterday it was Sky's turn, she was silly about the grass too. Here's her vid from yesterday, displaying some fancy footwork to avoid leaving any grassy areas. Her methods of resistance are less spectacular than Kinns, she seems to favour the going backwards technique! As with Kinns we will do lots of repetition and she'll get the message. When she's walking nicely and not trying to get to the grass, that's when we stop and let them graze, she's not as hard done by as she thinks she is.....

The bridge is a handy TREC obstacle, to be tackled only on foot til it dries out a bit!

So pretty pleased with the two girls. As Ali was saying yesterday, it's far easier dealing with their little evasions than having to deal with a nervous wreck like Fina was when she first arrived. After that, even Kinna's rodeo doesn't bother her as it's predictable......

Friday, 1 February 2013

Memory lane.....

An old schoolfriend sent me some photos recently. When we were kids, she had ponies and kept them at the stables where I learned to ride. You may remember me lamenting the fact that my parents never took any photos of me on a pony, but hers sure did.

So no pics of me, but plenty of's my friend Sarah on her Connemara, Seamus

Another friend, another Helen, with the two escapist ponies, Clocky and Tumbler
Sarah and Helen hacking in the woods, the pony in the middle is Fothergill, the reluctant jumper:
And finally, a pic in the school of Fothers, actually jumping something!

Can't remember who the girl is riding him, obviously she was better at it than me!
I think Chester might be a reincarnation of Fothers.... ;-)