My horse it has three gaits, three gaits has my horse!*

I’ve gone and given it all away in the title again. Yes, we cantered, but to rewind and tell things in order…

When I last posted about his progress we had the trot back, with some roundness and a right bend but an absence of left bend in trot. Shortly after that post I started getting that left bend back too. Overall he didn’t feel straight, but he felt like he could move better than he had. We didn’t increase the time of the workouts much – we’d been doing 20 min. of walk with a tiny bit of trotting, and we moved that up gradually to spending the majority of the time in a good trot with lots going on, and improving the quality of the walk too. I think it was Wednesday of last week, for the first time, I thought, “This is a trot I could think about cantering from. I wonder how far away we are from that?” On Thursday in a corner with a good trot, Drifter gave a little lift to say “How about a canter?” I declined, because we were seeing the physio again on Friday and I wanted to get the green light from her first, but it felt great that he was offering it.

When the physio came she was delighted with his progress. The trot up looked much better (and it’s so much easier to trot him up now we’ve done all this in-hand trotting and he’s used to the idea and how I ask and what I expect) and during the hands-on portion she was similarly pleased. She was happy for us to start introducing a little canter again and to start increasing the length of the rides. She also reduced the pole work to twice a week, which was very welcome.

I was a bit apprehensive about cantering again, our canter history being a bit chequered, and our last canter together ending in him falling over. He had the Saturday off to let his back settle from the treatment and then on Sunday I went out thinking, “If he feels good, we’ll try that canter. If not, it will wait.” He was full of beans and he felt great under me. He felt much straighter and he was clearly happy to move. So we had the canter. Only about 5-10 meters in each direction and back to trot, but on both sides we had a nice transition up, the correct leg and a rather smooth little canter. Awesome!

Since then we’ve had two more rides. In the first we cantered about 30 m. in each direction, had a rest in trot and walk and then did that again. The second, this morning, we did quite a lot more because he was so full of energy he would not come back to trot! He was a lot of horse today. The wind was whipping around, the mares in the field (one of whom is in season) were all calling constantly and he was calling back and he had so much energy. We had a 25 min. ride, as I had planned, I got off and did the trotting poles (in a fan, for a change), during which I tripped over a pole and he spooked at that and pulled out of my hands and ran off to the far end of the school, luckily not breaking the new reins although he did tread on them. He freaks a little when he trips over a pole but apparently if I get my striding wrong that’s a much more scary thing for him! Once he’d realised there was actually nothing scary he responded to my voice and stopped for me to get him and sort him out. He still seemed to have so much energy that I got on again for another 10 min. Energy-wise I think I could have finished off with 20 min. lunging and he’d not have been worn out, but rehab.-wise I didn’t want to have him doing any more. He was swapped onto a field with marginally longer grass this week so perhaps that, together with the wind and the mares, has him buzzing. If it lasts I’ll be cutting his hard feed for a bit, but he’ll get a chance to prove he can calm down before I do that.

I mentioned the new reins… I love them. They’re more solid than my old ones; less floppy. I feel much more definite with them about whether I’ve got him in my hand or not. I love the way they feel in my hand; the way they help me be firm on what rein length I want to give. I think they look better than the old ones and, the icing on the cake, they’re even easier/quicker to clean. I could not be more pleased with them, so I’m really thankful that D didn’t destroy them this morning!Twcrosse, Shepworth & show clothes 139

It’s already hard not to give in to D and go straight into cantering everywhere like a crazy beast, but at least for a few more rides I want to show some restraint with the canter. I’m really pleased with the way the trot’s coming along now. I think we could rock a walk/trot dressage test tomorrow, assuming we warmed up carefully, and no one would know from watching that only a few weeks ago we couldn’t trot for more than a few strides. Hopefully before long we’ll be able to start really working all three gaits again, but for now, I’m just happy to have them!

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*And had he not three gaits, well he’d still be my horse.

Trotting on

Drifter is doing quite well. He is now able to trot for sustained periods, on the bit and with reasonable rhythm. He has a good right bend but is not able to give left bend while in trot except for very brief instances, although in walk he can do it. We’re still out with the trotting poles every other day, but we’ve both sick of them. If I’m not on his case with them he will try just stopping instead of going over them, and he still trips over them and trashes them occasionally. All being well we’ll see the physio again this Friday and I’ll ask when we should start reintroducing canter in our ridden work. He’s also putting a lot of work into starting to produce his winter coat, so it won’t be long before I have to have him clipped … and clipped … and clipped. Ah, hello autumn!

We were due to see Lee Pearson again in September but I’ve cancelled our lesson. At the moment still we’re only working for just over 20 min. ridden at a time (his lessons are 45 min.), and only in walk and trot, so although it’s still some weeks away I didn’t think it would be productive and it could possibly be harmful. And I’d been wondering whether to wear my new boots…

…because Mr S got them exchanged already! They did have another pair in the same size in stock and now I have them and they are beautiful and mine and I can hug them whenever I like.

Ahem.

No photos yet as I’ve been busy and tired and all that, but I’ll get some when I can!

Sorry it’s just a brief post, but I refer you to my previous sentence ;-)

Shopping spree

I had decided to treat myself to a few things that I didn’t actually need, but things that I wanted. Not things Drifter needed or wanted, things I wanted. This doesn’t usually happen!
So I went to the local tack shop, looking for some jodhs/breeches for everyday, some medium quality every-day gloves (black), some medium quality white gloves for dressage competitions, a pair of long leather boots and maybe a brush or two.

I came out with one brush, one plain white saddle pad and some pony treats. How disappointing. They were very short on stock and the only jodhs in my size were not in my shape. They don’t stock leather long-boots, the only white gloves they had were the super-cheap ones I already have and none of the black gloves fitted me. They apologised for the lack of stock, but it was not the “treating myself” event I’d planned.
So Mr S volunteered to take me somewhere further afield.* I got on the internet and located a bigger and better saddlery with lots of lovely pictures on its website so I knew they had lots of stock. It was about 40 min. drive away and on Saturday we headed over there.
I was a bit overwhelmed, to be honest! It was amazing. They had a good range of brands to accommodate budget shoppers or premium choices and they had everything I could think of on display.
I dallied by a black saddle pad with silver trim and embroidery, rejecting it reluctantly on the grounds that it was too much for everyday use and when else would I use it? I flirted with the diamante brow bands and the patent nose-bands of the blingy keep-it-for-best bridles, thinking I might come back to them later. I scanned the shining bits and tugged on the array of reins.

I reached the gloves, and ended up choosing the same synthetic Mark Todd gloves in black and in white, thinking that although leather would be more comfortable, washing leather gloves does not seem to be something I’m good at, and it is most important that I have ones I am able to wash without destroying! Then it was on to the array of jodhs and breeches. Taking an armful to the fitting room, I found two pairs of every-day jodhs I was pleased with – one teal and navy, the other grey check. There was a canary pair I liked but they were a bit snug – I needed the size above, which they didn’t have.
And so to the boots! The wall of long boots was beautiful and alluring, but I decided the best way was to put myself in the hands of the assistant and see what she thought would fit me best. I tried Ariat, Mountain Horse and Sarm Hippique, the last of which were both the most beautiful and the best fit. It was apparent that there was no way to wear these boots over a jodhpur, so I also ended up buying my first pair of breeches and also my first white leg-wear. Yes, now I have some Mark Todd white breeches, which cost more than I think they should, but they were the only plain white breeches they had, and to do these boots justice it was time to dare to wear white. I was given some heel raises to put into the boots until the leather relaxes and the boots “drop.” In the mirror the white breeches and long black boots were one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen on my legs. The price tags meant I wouldn’t be buying a blingy bridle, but I didn’t care because these are the boots I want to treasure for years.
Boots and breeches off and on the counter waiting for me in the growing heap of my purchases (and Mr S’s new yard-boots), I headed back to the reins. My existing thin-bobbly-rubber-over-webbing reins have a small tear in the rubber from when Drifter managed to tread on them a few months ago, and also I’ve never felt they were the best reins for me, despite many riders I know raving about them. I have trouble stopping them slipping through my fingers, so I fancied something grippier or chunkier. The reins I chose are leather with a moderately chunky rubber grippy section on the side facing the horse – both grippier and chunkier than the reins I had before and they look better too, to my eye, because the rubber doesn’t show.
One final circuit around the shop, gazing at all the wonders, and it was time to pay and leave. Mr S had been very patient and it was time to let him take me home again.

The next day when I thought it would be nice to show you pictures of my purchases. I carefully took my boots out of the box and realised that there was a little part of the zip near the ankle where the stitching had broken and the zip was coming away from the leather, which I had not noticed in the shop. So I didn’t take pictures of everything because it took the gloss off it to know that my beautiful boots were going to have to go back, and I was no longer in the mood. For that price they needed to be perfect. I still love them though, so I want to exchange them for another pair exactly the same but intact!

Mr S happens to be working in that direction today so he’s going to take them back to the shop tonight on his way home. I don’t have much hope that he’ll be able to get the exchange instantly – I would be very surprised if they carry identical sizes in stock, and imagine they’ll have to order a replacement. I suppose it’s lucky that I wasn’t buying them to wear on any specific date. Hopefully the customer service will be good and I can get a replacement without too much hassle or too long a wait. It’s obvious from the condition of the soles that they’ve not been worn yet, and to be honest, even if they had been worn they ought not to quibble about it. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll keep you posted, and one day you’ll see a picture of them, once I have my replacement pair.

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*Because he knows driving to places I’ve never been before intimidates me.

Photos from my coffee & lunch breaks

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As promised, here are a selection of photos from campus.

Juvenile pied wagtail

Juvenile pied wagtail

There are at least two pied wagtail fledglings, their colouring so much less striking than the adults, the better to go unnoticed. They are very shy and very fleet and I’ve only seen them when there aren’t many people around. The crow fledglings, on the other hand, are quite bold in comparison, and it was because of them that I started bringing a camera out to snap them. When I first saw them, the mother was keeping the three fledglings close to her and still feeding them. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos at the time. It was about three days before I managed to get a chance to capture them on camera (I’m not going to work at weekends just to photograph crows!) and by that point they’d stopped hanging out together as a family. But the first day I sat and watched them I saw so many differences between the three fledglings that I named them and could tell them apart. I called them Mama, Favourite, Curiosity and Larry.

Curiosity?

Curiosity

Mama’s name speaks for itself, and you can pretty much work out that the one who stuck by her side and got first bite of any delicacy she found was Favourite. At the other end of the scale was Larry. Larry looked like he hatched last and got the raw end of any deal. When Mama found food she’d give the first bit to Favourite, without him needing to ask for it, while the other two clamoured. Curiosity would get a bit after he’d shouted for it a while, but no matter how much Larry shouted she’d eat the rest herself. So he wandered off to try to feed himself. He was the first one to drink from the puddle near me and peck at the ground around it. But Curiousity is into everything, so as soon as he saw Larry enjoying the puddle he was over there drinking and pecking too. But then what was Mama doing? Curiousity shot back over to check he wasn’t missing anything over there. Larry kept on working his patch and finding his food.

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Curiosity showing a small white patch near the top of the wing

Almost all of the crows on campus show signs of leucism – white feathers which ought to be dark – and these fledglings are no different. Unfortunately it’s not come out well in these pictures. It’s a sign of dietary deficiency and in these scavengers no doubt reflects the fact that campus has plenty of dropped crisps, and other human  leftovers, but very little carrion. From a human perspective no carrion is a good thing, but for a carrion crow it seems to be a bit of an issue. All three of these fledglings do have some leucism but Larry’s is worst, no doubt because the tidbits have gone to his siblings.

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Curiosity is easy to photograph because he’s always into something

In all of them it is most noticeable when they fly, but when Larry flies his wings are striped black and white. Unfortunately photographing any of these crows on the wing on campus is really hard and I have nothing to share. They start flying towards something over there then a human pops out and they have to change their plans. Add the fact that they plummet to start their flight and they have me beaten. So you’ll have to take my word for it that Larry’s wings are pied, not black. This website has an image which sort of shows it – Larry’s leucism falls somewhere between the two bottom pictures of wings.

Larry. I think.

Larry.

Each day they look different from the day before. Favourite rarely comes down from the roofs now and it gets harder to recognise them each day as their fluffy scruffiness becomes sleeker and smarter.

Other fledglings I’ve seen this year include blue-tits, a robin and magpies (with such fluffy white tummies!) but I haven’t managed to catch them on camera. But I did snap this young thrush…

Thrush. Probably quite recently fledged as well.

Thrush. Probably a mistle thrush rather than a song thrush.

The same thrush a few minutes later and several meters higher up!

The same thrush a few minutes later and several meters higher up!

… and these two squirrels, one of which seems to have lost most of his tail…
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… before I got distracted by crows again. I’d say this one hatched a few days later than Mama’s trio, and that he may have had an even less favourable start than Larry. His leucism is visible even when he’s not flying and all of his feathers look very brittle and scruffy. But he seemed to be doing OK foraging, so perhaps his condition will improve soon. He was in a slightly different area than Mama’s family, so I don’t think he’ll be in direct competition with them.

Unnamed crow fledgling from another nest

Unnamed crow fledgling from another nest

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A decent trot

On Sunday I woke up early, ready to ride Drifter early so I’d be ready for dressage scribing duties before 10.00. One of the first things I realised as my senses slowly turned up for their day’s work was that I could hear heavy rain. Then I realised I didn’t know if he’d been turned out in a fly-sheet or a light waterproof. Was he going to be too wet to put a saddle on?

The rain was pretty heavy on the drive over but when I got there I found his body was dry, so I set to with my grooming kit. Once he was tacked up I threw another waterproof sheet over him to get us to the indoor school. It was really rather wet. Drifter is not really keen on wet, in any situation, but once I got him inside and took the rug off (and my raincoat) he seemed much happier.

I got on and he felt so very forward and willing and free through his back. He felt more like my horse again. His walk swung along happily… until he suddenly tensed up. Even as I was thinking  “Oh **** what’s he done now?” he relaxed again and I realised we’d gone under a leak in the roof and a big cold drip had suddenly attacked him. There were quite a few substantial leaks and he wasn’t going to risk trusting them again! He snorted at them and headed away from them, while I, just as determined, insisted that he at least had to go near them, even though I didn’t make him go under them again once I’d realised where they all were and just how much water was pouring through them!

We did about five minutes of very forward walking (well most of it was forwards, apart from arguments about how close to drips it was safe to go) and he managed to offer a reasonable bend on each rein and happily went in a much better outline than he’s offered recently. He seemed so comfortable with this that I asked for a trot earlier in the ride than I have recently, because he felt like he might want to trot. And he trotted so much more nicely than he has for weeks. It was reasonably balanced and in a reasonable shape and he didn’t try to stop. I bought him back to walk and tried the same on the other rein, and the improvement was there also, so we did more trotting in both directions. We did almost five minutes of almost constant trotting and it felt so much better. At one point he even chose to go beautifully on the bit. The trot time we’ve had in the last few weeks has all been either totally head-in-the-air-hollow or nose-in-the-dirt-on-the-forehand so I hadn’t dreamed he would have this for me today.  He would happily have offered more, but I brought him back to walk and cooled him off. I felt although we only did about 12 minutes (rather than the 21-22 I’d been planning to aim for)  he’d done such quality work I didn’t want to do too much too soon. Perhaps I should have done another 10 minutes walk after the trotting but I felt we’d both enjoyed what we did so it was a good place to stop. Also I was aware that I still had scribing duties to prepare for and time was ticking.

Once I had him back in his nice dry stable, untacked and fed him an apple, I went off to get sorted to scribe. But unfortunately so many entries had withdrawn because of the weather that the show was cancelled.

So I didn’t get to try my hand at scribing, which was disappointing, but it would have been so much more disappointing if I’d been going to ride in the show, and at least I hadn’t bathed and plaited up and dressed up for it. Ah well. So bad luck to those of you looking forwards to a post about scribing – you may have to look elsewhere because I hope that by the time there’s another chance to dressage, D and I will be back on our A game and I’ll be heading down the centre-line rather than sitting looking at it.

 

The return of the equine physiotherapist

We saw the physio again on Friday, and it was just what we both needed.

We began with in-hand walking up and trotting up – and she was immediately pleased with the progress in the way he was moving. She explained that last time she’d seen him he’d been trying to keep his back flat and immobile but now it was flexing properly and he’d stepped under nicely in the downwards transition to walk.

That was a pretty good start!

Drifter was much more fidgety during the manipulations this time, but I’d mostly attribute that to it being feed time, and him not getting fed yet. Like me, he does not deal well with this!

While she worked on him we discussed that I’d been struggling to get him to understand that the point was to trot over the poles not to jump. She said it was OK to walk him over them if that was what it took to get each limb stretching up and over individually. That was great news as it means a) I can easily do that knowing he’s getting benefit from it and b) I don’t have to get out of breath so much as with running alongside him for 10 minutes of ideally constant trotting! I stopped feeling bad about the time when I’ve had him walk over them because I can’t run any more without a breather. And then she said … “He’s made good progress so you can drop the trot poles down to every other day.”

[cue Hallelujah chorus!]

Ahem.

On her previous advice I’d been gradually increasing his ridden time starting from 10 minute rides, and had managed to get him up to 20 minutes, but that felt very hard. Also I felt like that was not much progress, but she seemed satisfied which was very reassuring.

The other thing I wasn’t feeling good about was the trotting time under saddle. After 15-20 meters he really wants to walk again. I wasn’t sure whether to push him or let him stop. The physio’s advice was to just trot for 10 or 15 meters and come back to walk, but only walk for a few strides before going back to trot again. She said now is the time to start asking more of him in terms of how he carries himself, and encourage him back towards his normal trot, even if he can’t maintain it for long.

Once she was done Drifter was fed and turned out. I was ready with a camera in case he went bronco-pony again, but he just sniffed noses with the horse in the next field and settled down to grazing.

The physio will be back in a little over a fortnight. I’m sure Drifter is feeling the positive physical effects and I can tell you for sure that the psychological effects on me from her visit have been massive. We are getting our money’s worth here!