The work-life balance has swung the wrong way. It’s been building up to this for a while and although this was predictable and I know it should pass in just another few weeks, it’s rather inconvenient at the moment. Last week I lunged Drifter on Monday and rode him on Friday. That was it. Thankfully while he’s on Summer turnout regime he’s got plenty of exercise. I went to see him on Tuesday, giving him his eye-drops for the last time before I passed the job on to the staff, and saw him again on Thursday, taking him a clean fly mask and feeling that I really ought to ride, although I had stayed at work much later than I would usually. I tried and tried to persuade myself to ride but I was just too worn out and hot. I did want to interact with him a bit so I took him for a walk & little trot in hand on the track round the outside of the paddocks. Aside from the flies harassing the pair of us it was mostly a pleasant experience, although when passing one of the turned out-mares she approached her side of the fence purposefully and he decided it was time to leave, sharpish. He gathered himself to canter away and seemed to have forgotten about the rope linking him and me. He looked very surprised and stopped immediately when he felt me pull on his nose. Perhaps he thought I would have run away with him, but that’s not a mare that scares me 😉 I might have run from one of her other pasture mates, but not that one. He might have forgotten about me for a moment when the mare’s body language asserted her horse-rights, but his attention snapped right back to me at the first pressure on the rope. I felt really proud of him for that and we walked away, leaving the situation in a much more sedate manner than he’d tried the first time. Then I let him eat some grass as a reward for not dragging me like a less obedient horse might have.
It turned out that it was good I hadn’t ridden him that day (or let him canter off dragging me for that matter) because apparently the physio had come at short notice the day before and he’d been treated again, so should have only been on light duties anyway. As I’d been working late and getting to the stables after all the staff had gone home, no one had realised I hadn’t known. I’d asked a few day before when would she be coming, and no date had been arranged, but as everyone knew I wanted him treated they went ahead with it and I only found out on the Saturday that he’d been seen on the Wednesday.
His eye is looking much better. It’s still swollen, but so would mine be if 3 times a day people had to fight me to force it open to put drops in. There is still some discharge but it seems to be clear tears now – fingers crossed we’ve seen the last of the pus.
On Friday I’d decided (and told my husband) that I’d stay at work as long as I needed to but then I’d ride afterwards no matter what time it was. I was exhausted by the time I got to the stables*, but quite looking forward to getting into the saddle for the first time since the previous Friday. I’d driven there in my work clothes (cooler than jodhs and my air-con’s broken) so I started by getting changed in the toilet. I went back to the car to put my work clothes in. As usual I separated my keys to take my car and tack room keys from my house keys so I didn’t have to have all my keys in my pocket. Somewhat unusually I pocketed the house keys and locked the tack room keys and the car keys inside the car. Oh.
Sound the fanfare! Mr S to the rescue! Luckily he was on his way home and was able to bring me the spare key. The tack room wasn’t locked so I was able to groom, tack up and ride while I was waiting. Mr S said he would have been more annoyed if he hadn’t done that himself in the past, so I didn’t feel too bad, but it was evidence of my mentally exhausted state. The ride on Friday night was not great, but not too awful. Having not ridden for a week I was out of tune with him and he wasn’t in the mood to listen to his somewhat erratic rider. It was a reminder that regardless of whether his need to move is met by turnout, I need to ride regularly if I’m to improve. Also, at that point I didn’t know he’d seen the physio a couple of days before and, had I know, I might have asked him for a little less and been more willing to let him off when he wasn’t finding something easy.
Exhausted, I’d decided not to ride on Saturday, but I needed to touch base with the staff and fancied hanging out with him a bit. I dressed in shorts and t-shirt because I was so sure I wasn’t riding, and pottered about washing brushes, paying bills, tidying my stuff, checking the fit of his newest fly mask (pictured) and generally taking it easy. I became aware that the morning was quite overcast (good for a horse who might still be light-sensitive) and relatively cool, so despite my shorts and lack of a sports bra, I decided to tack up and have a little potter around the track. We had a pleasant little walk and trot around the first time and I thought we might do 3 laps. By the beginning of the second lap the flies were driving us both potty. I’d forgotten the repellent. (Bad human. But at least he had his mask on over his bridle.) A horse fly was sucking blood from my left leg and proving hard to deter because Drifter wouldn’t stop moving; he was trying to get one off his chest (literally) and generally they were spoiling our day. The long grass there was teeming with unpleasant insect life. We got away from the worst place and trotted on hoping to leave them behind. We turned the corner onto the little uphill slope and it occurred to me I felt positive about trying a little canter. I asked and he went. It was bliss not having to care which leg he was on. It was the first time I’d cantered him outside the school, so I was a little concerned as to whether he’d stop, so I asked him to come back to trot long before it would become urgent. I gave the gentlest squeeze on the reins to see if he’d notice and didn’t get a response. I tried ever so slightly more and we were back in trot. Clearly no issues with outdoor braking – what a relief! Back to walk to cool off and then we were done. Only a very short ride, but very nice.
On Sunday morning I woke early from a dream about work in which I’d realised a genuine urgent problem had slipped through the cracks. I logged on to work e-mail, read a few things from last week and found I was correct. I sent a few e-mails, knowing that at least one of the people I’d sent them to would be working over this weekend (I’m not the only one doing long hours at the moment) and then felt better having done something about it. As I was awake it made sense to go and ride early.
Taking care not to lock my keys in the car, I did so. As it was a fairly quiet Sunday in terms of lessons, there were schools available and time enough for me to put out some trotting poles. We had a good workout and I was pleased with him, but the right canter lead was still elusive. I’m losing my confidence in knowing if I’m on the right lead now, which isn’t helping anything. I’m pretty sure we had a lot of wrong leads but at least one correct. The only one I was sure was correct was really difficult to keep him going – my leg and willpower were the only thing keeping it a canter not a trot, and I can’t maintain that for many strides!
So after I’d ridden I went to the office and booked him schooling on Wednesday morning (he’s seeing the physio again in the afternoon) and us both a lesson next Saturday. Usually when I book schooling he’s ridden by whichever of the staff is convenient for them, but this time my instructor and I arranged for her to school him, with particular attention to that right canter, and then on the Saturday she’ll have more of an idea how to help us with it in the lesson. Or if he finds it easy with her we’ll know it’s me. I think she’s a little worried she won’t get that right canter lead herself, but I’m not worried. She doesn’t get much saddle time these days and is quite down on herself about her riding, but I suspect they’ll manage it together. She’s lighter than me and more balanced, both of which are bound to help him. If he won’t do it for her either I’ll spend more time working him in that canter on the lunge and then try again when I feel he’s had a chance to improve. If we need to invest time and money in this I think we should do it. If I feel like I can’t justify it I can always remind myself that it would cost a lot more time and money to sell him and buy a horse with two canter directions pre-installed. Not that I want to sell him, but that would be the alternative. Other than this canter issue he’s a perfect first horse. If we can help him over these issues, be they physical or mental, and get the pair of us able to canter in both directions well enough to start jumping, he’ll be everything I could ever have wanted.
In other news, I think he might be getting a bit fat. If I remember on Saturday I’ll ask my instructor what she thinks about reducing his hard feed a little.
*My eventful day had included turning up to give a training session with only a fraction of the printouts I’d intended to take (because the printer had overheated and given up, demanding we call for a service) then getting half way through the training session and having the computer at the trainer’s lectern blow up** half way through so I had to send everyone back to their desks half trained because there wasn’t really any way to carry on.
** Yes really. Flash, bang, gone to the great server in the sky.***
***Is that related to the cloud??