So, where were we, before we were rudely interrupted by my succumbing to yet another virus? Ah yes, Drifter was about to move across the yard.
He has now moved. This occasioned some stress for me, but apparently very little for him. He seemed entirely un-bothered about the experience. I realise all that happened is that he was walked from his old stable to a new one, in an area he’d seen before, with lots of horses he knew vaguely and one he knew well, but I thought he might be stressed. I forgot that this horse has 2 mottos:
I fear nothing but puddles*
As long as there is hay, all else is irrelevant
So he was fine.
Unfortunately I was not well enough to go and check he was fine, so worried about him a lot, but Mr S drove me out there one evening, literally to look at him and go home to bed again.
There was some hassle with keys to the tack room though, as I had known there would be. The process of getting a key went like this:
- Notice that all my tack & rugs had been moved out of the old tack room (where I’d been told it would remain for a week or two).
- Ask where my tack was.
- Having located it, ask if I could have a key to the locked building it was in…
- Be told there were no keys but some would be cut in the next few days
- Wait few days (as ill, not an issue)
- Harass owner about keys
- Be told there were still no keys as they had suffered a break-in and dealing with that had taken priority.**
- Wait few days more
- Receive a key, only to find that although it locks the door 100% of the time, it only unlocks about 10% of the time
- Return key, receive another one
- Find that new key locks 100% and unlocks 80% of the time, but there’s a knack to the other 20% that I think I can work with.
- Hope that knack always works!
Also his fly rug didn’t seem to have made the move. After asking the staff to look and hunting through all the other livery rugs I eventually found it with the school rugs… and someone had washed it!
Being unwell, I had to get Drifter some schooling, but I didn’t want to spend more on him than I had to and lunged him towards the end of the week when I felt I could manage driving a car again.*** I wasn’t really well enough though, and had to stop and sit down to rest several times during the grooming and tacking-up process. Lunging went OK, but he couldn’t get the canter on the right leg on the right rein. I didn’t really have the energy to care, but did note it as a backwards step.
I struggled home again, but I was pleased I’d managed to lunge him myself rather than paying out more.
On the Saturday Mr S offered to help. For the first time, he wanted to learn how to handle Drifter and get involved. He asked me to teach him to groom, tack him up and have a go at lungeing (or pony-on-a-string as I often call it).
So we did. I’d warned him that his first attempt at putting on a bridle probably wouldn’t be that easy, so he was prepared to find it difficult and so did rather well. Once Drifter was “dressed” we went out to the school. It became apparent that Drifter was going to take the mickey out of Mr S. When I lunge that horse, he always wants to trot, from the get go. He may do a circle or two in walk if he’s feeling particularly dozy, but really he just gets on with trotting if I don’t suggest anything to the contrary. For Mr S, instead of trotting round, he just stood there. Or took a few steps like he didn’t understand what he was supposed to be doing. I took over and “woke him up” a bit and then passed him back to Mr S, who got on a considerably better now Drifter wasn’t pretending to be stupid. We agreed it was best if Mr S didn’t ask for canter, so I had a quick spin of him in canter, and managed to about 3 good strikes-off into canter on the dodgy rein (I brought him back to trot quickly each time to work the transition not the canter itself) which I was really pleased with and then we cooled him down.
Mr S did well and particularly enjoyed grooming. He didn’t so much like how much time everything takes. I see his point.
I enjoyed having Mr S see what it is that takes my time (I think he thought I must spend all my time gossiping to spend so long at the stables) and have him get involved. It would be really nice if in the future when I’m ill we have the option for Mr S to go and lunge him, rather than having to pay.
I was surprised at Drifter taking the mickey out of Mr S – I know horses do that, but I didn’t know my horse did that 😉 For me he was always quite idiot-proof on the lunge, even though he was the first horse I ever lunged, back in December.
I had ordered a lunging aid very similar to a Pessoa (but considerably cheaper) from the tack shop.
This had just arrived, but obviously I hadn’t wanted to combine Mr S’s first attempt at lungeing with Drifter’s first attempt at going in a Pessoa-alike, so I saved that for the Sunday. On Sunday I was feeling better enough and keen enough to get out of the house that I spent most of the afternoon hanging around the yard, and, in between resting, gossiping and looking for the missing fly sheet, I fitted the lungeing aid to him in the stable. Having done my research, I felt confident that I knew what I was doing fitting the aid (the official Pessoa you-tube video below was very useful) and knew that he might freak out when I lowered the back portion down and around his back-end.
I need not have feared. As I may have mentioned, my horse has 2 mottos:
I fear nothing but puddles*
As long as there is hay, all else is irrelevant
There was hay and nothing to fear. So we were fine. He lifted his head a few times once I’d attached the lines along his sides, to & through the bit rings and down to the roller, but he was just finding out about it, and settled back to the hay.
At this point I wasn’t even sure I was going to lunge that day (he’d been out and so didn’t really need to be exercised, and I didn’t know when there’d be a free school, it being a busy teaching day) so I took it all off him again.
Later on I did decide to have a little go at lungeing him in it. I would follow the recommendation that for the first use he should just walk in it for 10 min. This sounded very sensible to me. I took him out un-trussed so that he could stretch out before I put it on.
Unfortunately I had an audience of 3 or 4 staff members who were waiting for the lesson in the next school to finish so they could all pile on putting the jumps away quickly. Several of them expressed negative feelings towards myself using this type of lunging aid alone and inexperienced. I expressed my confidence and belief in my horse’s ability not to freak out. At least one implied that she was looking forwards to my being humbled on this count and that she’d stay well back, but another offered to hold him while I put the aid on and gave some advice. She agreed with me that the fit I’d set up for him in the stable was loose enough for getting used to it and then should be tightened once he was used to working in it regularly and I was pleased.
But have I mentioned my horse’s first motto?
I fear nothing but puddles*
He was utterly un-bothered, un-interested, un-stressed. He walked calmly round, boring the spectators to tears.
It did occur to me that maybe he’d been lunged in this kind of aid before I got him, but regardless, I was proud of him.
On Monday we used it again. After a good few minutes of walking in each direction I asked him for 3 minutes of trotting in each direction, with trot/walk transitions to keep him awake as needed. I could see him concentrating during this, thinking about how to move in it, which made me feel that he hasn’t used this kind of aid before (so more proud of him). Again, he was calm, just with that “thinking” vibe he also gives off when we do trotting poles. We did his easy left rein first, and then switched to the right rein. I could see this was a lot harder for him because it was more demanding on his weak right hindquarter. On this side he was eager to drop back to walk after only a few meters in trot. Each time I kept him going a just a little further and then let him rest in walk. In the pessoa-alike it seemed more obvious that when he brings that weak leg under he leans on the opposite shoulder and the opposite side of the bit, which suddenly made sense of the way he leans on a rider’s left arm, which has been perplexing my instructor whenever she rides him (I notice less than she does because in some ways my left is stronger than my right). I’d known he would find it hard – it was for exactly this reason that I’d bought the aid to encourage him to bring his hind end underneath him. It did look even harder than I’d expected so I didn’t ask for much.
I think that maybe we pushed him too hard on the day we rode with the shiny dressage riders, because since then he has at times felt wiggly and a bit lop-sided under saddle, like he used to pre-physio and we’d struggled to get that canter, when he had been improving. I think maybe he hurt that weak quarter again. Also there was a day when in the cool-down I noticed he was tossing his head a tiny bit when that leg came under.
So I’m booking him in to see the physio again. Sigh.
So that was Monday.
On Tuesday (yesterday) I felt well enough to try getting back on board, at nearly a fortnight after I last rode him. I had very low expectations of both of us, which often leads to a good ride, and this was no exception. I wanted to keep it to just 20 min. so I didn’t get too tired. Perhaps as a result of the lunging aid he went on the bit without needing much persuading. He was generally responsive and I was too. The improvement in my riding that I had been seeing before I was ill had all settled and consolidated in the days I didn’t ride, and it felt good. I had thought we’d just walk and trot, but things were going so well. I didn’t want to ask for the challenging right canter, but I saw no reason not to have a little go on the easy left rein. On the Sunday, when I was loitering and watching some lessons I heard an instructor tell someone “you can’t steer in canter until you can produce your canter”. I felt that everything was going so well I’d be sure to manage to produce my canter, so I had a little go. We managed a pretty nice circle (by our standards) and came back to trot. It felt so good. I felt like having that idea of producing a canter made all the difference. I had complete control of the canter from before it started to after it ended. That had never happened for me before. It occurred to me that I’d probably have a bit of control over speed within the canter as well, so I had another go, this time going large and pushed him on down the long side of the school. It worked. I realised it was the first time I’d ever asked him to go faster in canter, because he wasn’t rushing, he was balanced. When I tried to slow him down again he broke back to trot – I think I needed more leg there, but it was an amazing feeling up until that point.
Another positive in the session was that I tried a little sitting trot. As I’ve mentioned before my sitting trot is atrocious, but I read somewhere that it’s almost impossible to sit well on a horse that isn’t offering his back to be sat on. I felt like he was offering his back, so I had a couple of very short attempts at sitting on it. While the result was still poor, I felt like there were moments when I managed to move with him, and that there might be hope for the future. I kept the attempts extremely short so that he wouldn’t get put off offering his back and he seemed to handle things OK.
All in all, it was the most enjoyable and “together” ride we’ve ever had.
Tonight we’re having a night off and basking in the glow of our last ride having been amazing.
*And maybe small children. And the jump filler with painted pigs on it is slightly concerning.
**The thieves spent 2.5 hrs on the premises, according to the CCTV but were not interested in horses or horse-related stuff. They were interested in the owners’ house & cars and the vending machines, one of which had all of the jaffa cakes removed. I don’t know much more detail than this. But once they knew their horses & tack were safe, many of the liveries were very upset about the lack of jaffa cakes.
***And as I got a new, larger car only 4 or 5 days before I got ill, I was more worried about driving than usual, especially in the narrow lanes. But I was fine.