2015 hasn’t got off to the greatest of starts – I have had a most agressive and debilitating cold; Drifter has had a return of his soreness in the right hind quarter. That said, I am getting to the point where I can breathe again, and he saw the physio yesterday so I hope both of those things are behind us now.
Happily, the cold doesn’t seem to have knocked my recovery back, and may even have helped it by forcing me to rest and keep resting rather than trying to get back to normal. At work I am almost back to working a full standard week – next week will be back to normal. I’m pretty sure the novelty will wear off fast, but it will give me a sense of achievement to get to that milestone.
With the pressures of my health and Christmas, my 2-year anniversary of owning Drifter has been and gone unremarked on the blog. To be honest, around the day itself I wasn’t sure I wanted to think about it – I didn’t buy a horse thinking I’d spend months too ill to ride properly, paying others to exercise him when I couldn’t and feeling guilty about his reduced level of activity. I felt like we have been a bit cheated in these two years by the times the weather, his health or mine got in the way of our journey together. But then I realised that stuff is the journey. I’ve never been an owner who measures our time together by what we achieve under saddle. If others are wondering why we’re not yet doing canter pirouettes and flashy lateral work and flying changes, they can go and jump in a water obstacle. If they want to change their horses on a regular basis because they “aren’t performing,” that’s their lookout, but mine is not just a vehicle to win prizes on. And in our own way we have achieved a lot.
Here are some things we can do this January that we couldn’t do last January:
We can get the right canter lead first time, every time.
I can bath him without tantrums (his or mine!). He still hates being wet, but I know what he can tolerate and I can manage the situation to avoid pushing him too far. I know when to back off or praise to give him a little reward for good behaviour and when to push on and make him put up with it.
I can brush his face in a manner he can tolerate. Again he’ll never actually like it, but with the cheap nail brush, he can tolerate it.
We go on the bit for the vast majority of ridden time, even in canter.
We can how some stretch in a free walk on a long rein.
We can do stuff in the stable with the door open. He knows not to go through the door. I know if he moves I can stop him with a word; or failing that I could get him back without hassle. I realise this is not best practice and that if something freaked him out beyond sense he wouldn’t hear me and could get himself into trouble – but it’s nice to be able to work on trust rather than knowing that if I didn’t bolt that door behind me he’ll be off like a shot.
We can do tiny amounts of bareback trotting without either of us panicking.
On my side of things:
I can sit the trot. Only for short periods, but I’ve stretched and loosened and worked away from the horse and now I can sit the trot acceptably for short periods as long as I don’t realise that’s what I’m doing. I must not think, “Sit the trot!” If I cannot avoid thinking, the thought has to be that rising is too much effort, and I’ll just lazy along for a bit before I start rising. This has been aided by the fact that rising has been too much effort lately!
I have learnt to accept that Drifter has to put up with “less-than-ideal” sometimes, e.g. a rider who can’t physically give him as much exercise as he would like because of her health, but that overall he still has a good life and is probably better off with me than he would be in parallel universes where either I didn’t buy him or I re-sold him at some point.
In the saddle I’ve improved my “feel” and control of individual bits of his body. Having had to spend more time than usual riding in walk, I’ve had much more time to think about matching up what I feel with what his legs are doing. I’ve had more time to notice, for example, when he falls out through the shoulder – what I was doing to allow that and what I need to do to prevent it.
So I think we’ve got plenty to be proud of.
I feel like this post “should” end with goals for the year ahead.
Goals just set you up for frustration when the universe kicks sand in your face. We’re just going to potter on, doing what feels right one ride at a time; booking a lesson when I want advice on something, learning from D in between. If we can manage to maintain decent health this year that would be great, but even if we can’t, we’ll still achieve something, even if it wasn’t exactly what we expected.