Thursday, 23 September 2010

A difficult few days.

Echo and I are beginning to settle. I know that these things take time, particularly when we have been at a nice, well-run livery yard and it now feels like we're 'roughing-it' a bit, but we've had a difficult couple of days.

I went away last weekend for a couple of days and left Echo with the lady who owns Gizmo, the other horse in the field. We had had a good week of riding, and even ventured out for a little hack on Friday, which Echo was brilliant on, so I was feeling really positive about the whole situation. When I arrived back on Monday morning, I found Echo wandering around outside the fenced off section of the field. She hadn't broken the fence, she had just gone through it somehow!

Now, I know that Echo has history with this, but I had really hoped that we could have got this sorted before she started breaking out. That day was a complete nightmare. Every time I put her back in, she got out again within half an hour or so. The worrying thing was that there are no gates at the moment into the garden, where the building work on the stables is still being done. Not only are there so many things for her to injure herself on, she would also destroy my parents' garden!

I was running through so many ideas in my head - moving her to a livery yard...selling her! We decided to see whether we could make the electric fencing any stronger, as it was only giving 3000 volts, which all the websites say is the minimum for horse paddocks - never mind fencing to contain a Houdini-horse! The battery also seemed to be running really slowly, only giving a click every 5 seconds or so. I'm pretty sure Echo was barely being touched by it. The battery had only just been charged, so my dad took the whole lot to the local farm suppliers and asked for their help!

He then bought a new battery - a leisure battery rather than a car battery and a new earthing stake and we had a go with that. I would still like it to have a little more oomph to it's shock - it is now giving off between 4.5 and 5000 volts, which is a big improvement. It is also clicking every 2 seconds, so this should deter her a bit more. It has luckily been very mild and dry for the last few days, so I have been leaving her without a rug on, so that she definitely gets a shock if she tries to go through it, and so far, touch wood, this seems to be working. I am loathe to say that the problem is solved, as that would probably jinx it, but so far so good. Tonight, however, it is puring with rain, so I have put a rug on and am sitting here with my fingers crossed, hoping that she stays put.

There is more grass in the other section of the field, so we are going to fence this, perhaps even this weekend, but I would like to save some grass for the winter time - even if it has little goodness in it, it is still there and they will spend their time eating it!

In contrast to all of my problems, Echo has been absolutely brilliant to ride! Seriously, she's going better than she's ever gone. I now get on by my parents' front gate and ride her round the village to the school; she stands beautifully to wait to cross the road and no longer spooks at every driveway! I've now been out for two hacks on my own, as there is no one to ride with, and she's been far better than she ever was on her own before! She seems to really enjoy being out - we went out for nearly an hour yesterday, going for two really long canters along lovely straight grass tracks that seem to go on forever. Although it's all farmland, it is much less industrial than the farms we rode round in Suffolk, where every field has some kind of machinery or activity going on. She's also so far been very good with the traffic. I have to ride along a fairly main road for a little while in order to get to the path onto the farmland, but there is a concrete path to the side of the road - this is both good and bad - it's good because we are off the road and cars don't have to go round us, but it's bad because that means that cars don't really have to slow down. Most are very courteous and do, but there was a lorry that rattled past us yesterday - she tensed up, but didn't do anything. Clever pony!

She has been going beautifully in the school too - we've been working on lateral work in trot - shoulder in and travers, and learning to do half-pass in walk. I just wish I could get out and do stuff - go to riding club training or go out competing. I need to find someone who has a trailer they aren't using, or someone local who goes to things, but I've been struggling to find anyone at all who does anything! People who have horses don't seem to ride them, or at least don't hack them out and some people have been particularly unfriendly. This is a bit of a pet hate of mine - since moving to the area I have tried to be really friendly - I smile and say hello to everyone I pass in the village - and from the looks I get sometimes, you'd think I had sworn at them or something! I'm a bit stubborn really...and this just makes me more determined to be even more friendly! I WILL make them be civil!

So...there have been some bad things and some very good things. The stables are getting there. The walls are pretty much finished and by the end of the weekend, we should be ready to start concreting - which would be fantastic - at least I will have somewhere to stand her then! She is getting much braver about everything - I brought her right over to the kitchen door today, to take her saddle off as it had begun to rain and I didn't want it to sit out and get wet, and she very nearly walked into the kitchen! Another bad thing...the Red Arrows. I'm sure I'll post more about this in future, but the Red Arrows train over my village, and they fly low. Very low. Echo is getting used to this, and no longer even looks up when she's out in the field, but I'm wary of riding when they're flying, as it's very dangerous. I waited all afternoon for them to stop today. The irony of this? I then ended up riding in a thunderstorm! You can't win.

The end of this post has become very rambling and random, so I will stop now. I will try to post some photos of the stables' progress as they are looking really good now.

The Red Arrows - not horse-friendly!!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


I've moved, Echo has moved and we are beginning to get sorted. It has been quite a summer; my boyfriend and I moved out of our house at the end of July, so that month was spent moving our furniture into storage and the rest of our stuff into his parents' house. Since then, I've been gradually moving all of my bits and pieces that I'll need for the next year up to my parents', about 3 hours' drive away; lastly, I moved Echo.

The journey was good - she travelled with another horse so she was very calm, although he did eat all of her hay - it's unlike her to let anyone eat anything that she deems 'hers', but she has a particularly soft spot for this horse, as was shown when we hacked out together the day before!! I arrived in Lincoln about an hour before she did, so I just had time to check all the fencing and to check that the other horse, Gizmo, was in the correct part of the field: we decided to keep them separate to begin with, then take the dividing fence down after a day or two. I was impressed with how calm Echo was in her new field - it was blowing a gale and Gizmo was running up and down the fence calling when we arrived. I kept her on a lead rope for a bit and let her graze in hand in her field. To be honest, I think she was so amazed by the sight of so much grass, she didn't care about much else!

I left them to it for a little while, and when I went out later that evening, they were calmly grazing - each of them very close to the fence, so that they were as near as possible. Having them separate made things much easier: Echo is fed twice a day, whereas Gizmo isn't fed, as he isn't worked, so when they were separate I could just put her feed in her field; when I wanted to get her out to work her, as I did on the day after we arrived, I could just take her out of the field calmly. However, whenever I went out they were standing so close to each other that I figured they would probably like to be together. It was the evening after we arrived that I took the dividing fence down. Echo looked exhausted: she was obviously tired from travelling and felt safest sleeping near to him. They were both very calm; I'd been muck-picking the field for a little while and they both seemed chilled, so I quietly removed the fence...and all hell broke loose!

They charged around the field, bucking, leaping and galloping, as if they'd never seen each other before. I do wish I'd had a camera though - what Echo did next was amazing. If any of you have seen Monty Roberts work a horse, you'll know the natural horsemanship way of communicating through body language, to mimic the dominant member of the herd. Echo was performing textbook Monty Roberts stuff. Gizmo came over to her and she moved towards him with her ears back; he didn't listen, so kept coming and she ran a couple of steps; he paused, but kept coming, so she reared vertically, waved her front feet at him and spun round to kick out. That certainly got him to move away from her. For the next five minutes she just kept moving him around - whenever he stopped to graze she'd move him on again. After a few minutes, he was ready to do anything she told him - and even after four days, he still is! When I go to get her out of the field, she sees him coming over and turns to square up to him, so he backs off. When she starts walking towards me again, if he follows she pushes him away again - it's very handy for me - less shooing and chasing him away!

So - other things. I have definitely been spoilt over the last few years with having her on livery. I am finding it pretty hard to adjust. I'm really enjoying doing everything myself, but I'm finding the lack of facilities really tough. My parents are in the process of having stables built and they'll probably be finished in the next 6 weeks, but in the mean time, I have nowhere to take her that is hard for her to stand on and near to my stuff. At the moment, I am getting her out of her field, leading her over to near the house and sort of 'pretending' to tie her to a rather rickety fence, under a tree. I have to lug my saddle and all of my stuff over to there beforehand and then hope that she will stand still to be groomed and tacked up. At the moment, Gizmo still thunders up and down the field, calling wildly to her when I'm doing this. She takes little notice, but today she realised she wasn't tied up and took off across to him, with her lead rope hanging from her headcollar still. She's easy enough to catch, but it is really starting to get to me.

To make things even more difficult, the wind has been ridiculously strong since I arrived. Seriously, it has not let up at all. I know that horses should just 'deal' with this, but it does affect Echo's mood; it was slightly quieter on Sunday and that made a huge difference to her state of mind when I had her 'tied up'. I have to lead her through a back road through the village and across a busy road to get to the school. She is getting better at this, but is still incredibly spooky. Today, what with the wind and the escaping episode, I was feeling a bit rubbish about everything. Then, just as I got to the school, the heavens opened and it tipped down with torrential rain - I have never known water to fall from the sky like this did - it was like being under a power shower. I managed to get her under the over-hang on the livery yard, but she was spooked by the wind, so wouldn't stand still. I got on anyway, and rode in the increasingly water-logged school. She was ok, just not really listening - concentrating more on the wind and the sounds around her. The first half of our session was terrible and I was getting really frustrated, but it started to improve; the weather got a bit better and she began to listen. In fact, she felt quite calm at the end, so I rode her back to the house through the village and she was very very good. I was proud of her for that. And me.

The yard that has the school is tiny, but there is hardly anyone there. In order to solve a few of my problems, I may see if I can arrange to keep my tack there, so that I can lead her round there and deal with her on a proper concrete surface and get out of the rain if necessary. Hopefully the concrete should be down on our yard in the next couple of weeks, so that even though the roof won't be on yet, I'll have somewhere secure to tie her up, out of the field.

I feel like I'm complaining and being very selfish; I know how lucky I am to have my horse at home and to have somewhere to ride. I am just having problems adjusting to it all and finding it all a bit overwhelming at the moment. Hopefully my posts will become a bit more positive over the next few weeks...

My make-shift tack room!

Daily adventures while training my young horse.