glenatron: (moody othello)
There were things about October 2005 that have shaped my life ever since. One of those things was that the Sequoia album came out, as I mentioned a couple of posts ago. But the biggest one, far and away the biggest, was that on the nineteenth of October 2005, Othello stepped off the horsebox onto the yard and I had a horse of my own for the first time.

A decade is a long time but I feel that I have spent that time well as regards my progress with horses. They were already central to the life I shared with my wife but having my own, in spite of my inexperience and general beginnerish awfulness ( paired with deep enthusiasm ) was a really big deal for me. Othello set me on the path of becoming a horseman, and the grief and pain of losing him fixed me on that course in a way that perhaps nothing else could have. The understanding of loss that I had gone through, gave me a connection to Sari when she lost one of the horses in her life a little later that year, which was how we first came to know one another.

Since then I have ridden colts in Texas, trained up a truly amazing trail horse, taught more than a handful of people about the basics ( and sometimes the less-basics ) of horsemanship and become a passable hand by British standards, albeit still the most average rider you will ever see. I'm working on that part. I have made some enduring friendships - including most of the people who will be reading this - and met a lot of brilliant, smart, interesting and sweet natured horses.

I have reached a different place now - that bright incandescence of enthusiasm is more of a steady glow now, it has resolved into part of me and, as you might have noticed, I am slower to share my opinions these days. It's not that I have lost confidence in them - I know more than I ever did and I am clearer about what needs to be done in many situations than most people are, but I have gradually learned that I can't help most people or their horses. If someone asks for help I will do what I can to assist, but I don't really feel that I have much to prove now. My horses tell me that I'm doing things alright by them and although I know that they are my life's work, I also feel that I need to focus on things that might make me a more immediate profit for a little while. Something that will maybe enable me to afford to spend at least a few years doing what I love most of all. I have used a lot of years up already, but with luck and some smarts, I think I could make enough to cross that bridge perhaps. If I can focus this dissolute mind on a couple of significant projects, at least.

Nobody goes through a decade of their life without being changed by it, but the horses, the change they have brought about in me has been so overwhelmingly positive. Every time I get to the field to be greeted with whickers and whiskery velvet muzzles, I am profoundly grateful for the grace that they bring and the person that they have helped me learn how to become.
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
Yesterday was the appointed date for my birthday present from [ profile] herecirm which was a Shire Experience day with Waldburgs Shires. I hadn't realised when I read my promisory note but she had gone the extra mile and got me a day of my own, this is because she is awesome.

A day with big horses )

It was a really enjoyable day, I learned a whole lot ( although I only recall a tiny fraction of what I was shown and taught ) and the sheer amount of experience and knowledge that Elf and Dave have to offer is remarkable. Anyone interested in working heavy horses would really enjoy taking part in one of their training days.
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
A couple of weeks ago, while she was on holiday in Austria, [ profile] herecirm got a last minute request to ride the Shires over the bank holiday weekend in Romsey. They were really short of riders, to the point when she volunteered me as a person who could sit on a horse, I was accepted as a one-day member of the team. Consequently, last Sunday saw me riding big moustachiod Harvey in front of an audience.
Illustrated version )

glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
There is an endeavour towards selling the house where I've been living for a while, which has involved a lot of tidying up over the last few weeks. This lead up to an open day this weekend. The entirely wonderful [ profile] herecirm came down a day early and won points with my mum by being awesomely helpful while I was at work.

The ponies have been quite happy in their new home. Cash is being hilariously adorable. Unfortunately Zorro is still lame and worse for having more space. He is booked in for an MRI next week, so I need to find transport to get us there and back. I have to accept that given his age and type, along with the ongoing nature of this lameness, I have probably ridden him for the last time.

On a brighter note, teaching remains fun and next weekend is studio time with The Patient Wild.
Illustrated Version )
glenatron: (Cash)
Two days of taking down and putting up fences, putting things in the car and driving up and down the lane, emptying out stables and old fields and keeping an eye on horses have culminated in Zorro and Cash being on a new yard, Small staying on the old one. Sad to break up a herd that have been together for some time- Zorro and Small had shared for five years until Zogs went onto box rest late last year- but it's what needed to happen.

Yard Move Day
Ponies felt that the new paddock contained precisely the grass they needed. As you can see, the weather was less than clement. I have never had so many outdoor tasks to perform in such heavy rain. I was soaked even with my big raincoat and my waterproof boots weren't strong vs the saturation from long, wet, grass.

Yard Move 2
Once I had finished with the arduous work, it stopped raining for a while. The new yard isn't so bad when you get to see it in the sunshine. You could almost feel you liked the place.

Yard Move 3
If long grass wasn't enough, the fields also feature an en-suite snack-bar style hedge.

When time to come in arrived, there were ructions - Cash didn't want to be first in, snorted his way around to the stables and then whinnied with such a squeally tone to his voice that the nearby bantam cockerel replied. Zorro totally lost the plot when I went to get him, barged the electric tape down and gallumphed around Cash's paddock for a while, trying to figure out how to get to his friend. He didn't seem to realise that letting me catch him would do the trick. Then when we got through the gate he did a full rear and got the lead rope caught around his front leg, then tried to canter off. This is on one side of a massive field so I wasn't going to let him go, which meant he cantered up with his nose on his knee for a few yards before my brain kicked in and I gave him enough rope for it to fall free. After that he was very prancey and intimidating, but nothing I'm not used to. Not sure it gave a great impression of either of us to the new yard owners, though. Certainly didn't leave me feeling good about much at the end of a very tough day.
glenatron: (Default)
This weekend I will be moving my horses off the yard I have kept them on for the last seven years. A pretty big change and maybe a time to look back over some of the times at the yard...
Illustrated Version )

Well, that is a lot of sentimentality on my part, and a lot of dearly missed equine friends. The yard has been the centre of my life over the last five years far more than my house or work or anywhere else, the axis around which I have turned. It was time to move though- the yard owners are looking at toning down the horses anyway, they have cattle and sheep again now - and I needed to find a new place. It breaks my heart to think of breaking up our little herd though. I will miss Small, who is one of the nicest ponies I have ever met, and I'm sure the ponies will miss one another too. This is the cutting adrift of the last tightly tied strand of my marriage and the life I had in those years.

Happily I have found somewhere just down the road, by sheer chance, so the complete physical move will be about 500 yards. It is pleasant, run by nice people and well maintained. And they have room for three horses, which is important, because there is another pony coming to join Zorro and Cash. For those of you on my friends list, this pony will probably be quite familiar to you and best of all, she will be bringing her human with her.
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
Over the weekend I got do do quite a bit of riding. On Saturday I schooled the charming Xefira. We rode up to our yard from where she lives without stirrups ( because I forgot mine and her owners' ones are too small for my great clumpy feet ) and discovered that although she didn't mind cars going past and could deal with horses going the other way, but we couldn't go through a puddle because she is a lady and ladies don't get their feet wet.

We had a lovely schooling session focussing on getting her bending and balancing nicely. One of the nice things about her is that her trot is so incredibly smooth. Just a wonderful gait to be sat on. She is such a fast learner too, which makes it very rewarding working with her.

After that I spent some time schooling Zorro including some nice work on getting our hindquarter yield, which is good in halt, working nicely in walk. We started getting it working nicely and using that to develop some smoother changes between our forward and lateral movements, finally getting closer to some of that hindquarters-in type work. We also got some really nice shoulder in with me holding the reins bridged in one hand. That was pretty awesome.

On Sunday I got to ride Xefira out. Small Pony is able to do short rides now - he gets tired but the work is good for him. As Xefira is still very green riding out with him is pretty good for her as well. We made a nice little circuit around the common in the bright autumn sun. I had a view like this:
Over grey ears
I find the way her ears are greying out in little stripes up the back. Just too adorable.

We went through puddles until her ladyship found it was easier to go through than around them. It turns out wet feet aren't actually the end of the world and a lot easier than circling around puddles indefinitely.

The only downer about the ride was the point where Small had decided to go up a path of his own choosing and as [ profile] sleepsy_mouse backed him up, we got closer than we realised and Xefira kicked him, catching him just on his hock.

He had a nasty looking cut, but he was quite sound and didn't seem overly disturbed about matters. Cold hosing and some bute in his dinner seemed to do enough that he was sound today.

We were expecting a visit from [ profile] shanks01 in the afternoon, so I didn't ride Zorro in case he was going to be around, but he had some kind of rabbit related dilemma or something and flaked, so I hopped on cob for a brief trail ride before we lost the light. The time limit meant that from the time we hit the common it was pretty much trot and canter the whole way around. It was brilliant. Zorro was steady going but fast and sometimes it's just so awesome to be able to ride your horse and move out along these fine tree-lined bridleways. We're nowhere near the speed that Zorro can go, but we're certainly exploring those higher gears.

We got back and he was pretty warm, so after some time with his cooler on, we let the ponies into the little passageway between paddocks that leads down to their field to give them some grazing and keep them in the sun for a little while. It's quite handy as well because when the grass is longer it makes your trousers pretty wet on dewy autumn mornings, so getting it grazed down a little is a help for us.
Glow in the gateway
They didn't seem to mind.
glenatron: (Default)
The weekend before last we borrowed a video camera and took a bit of film of one another with our horses in the school. This is a brief edit from mine- it was kind of an average session, not amazing but not terrible either, so it's actually quite representative of where we are right now - starting to get some good vertical flexion, starting to get a bit of canter, me starting to get a better position but still forgetting about it from time to time. Lots of starts there. Hopefully it will be a good marker to compare with in future.

One thing I'm really conscious of after watching it is that my hands are way forward- I may as well just hang onto his ears for steering. Also in the little bit of groundwork at the start there, it's clear how lame I still am.

Double highscore to the first person to recognise both tunes.
glenatron: (zorro)
As I've certainly mentioned in the past, one of the things I find hardest about riding is going downhill. I attribute this to the fact that long before I started doing anything around horses I used to do a lot of mountain biking and I got very accustomed to having some handlebars in front of me the whole time. When you're on a horse there is nothing in front of you except the pommel of your saddle and that tends to psyche me out a little.

After the last clinic where we spent a while working on this on some reasonably steep banks I decided it was time to try and ride the whole way down to the stream that runs along the bottom of the valley by the ponies field. Most of this is a gentle descent on an old hollow lane but the top bit is pretty steep and very enclosed with holly and blackthorn growing over the path where it leaves the road. I've managed to ride down most of it, but the first forty metres of so have always been too scary for me so I've had to get off and lead there.
Another attempt at the tricky West Face Descent )
glenatron: (zorro)
We went out for a ride on the common around some of the places we visited last week, enjoying the autumn sunshine and giving [ profile] sleepsy_mouse a chance to try her new saddle out a bit more. We decided to have a little canter a bit ahead of one of the places we cantered last time, which was nearly a good idea except that our chosen stopping point was around the place we started cantering last time. And when I say "our" I mean only the humans. The ponies figured that as the path split there, that was where the race proper could begin. Suddenly I found myself in very brisk canter over very rough ground because Zorro had decided to inexplicably leave the path altogether and at that speed I was holding on more than I was steering. Small was vanishing off up the wide sandy path and I really started to worry that Zorro, who can be a tad careless about the placing of his feet, would trip and take us both down. I shouted to [ profile] sleepsy_mouse to wait up a bit but she didn't ( it turned out she couldn't hear me, and could she have heard me her brakes weren't amazing either ) so I pulled Zorro back to a walk and turned us back towards the main sandy path that Small was vanishing off up. Zorro trotted a couple of steps and then bucked in the general direction of vertical and sent me straight over his right shoulder.

So, that was my first proper fall off a horse. I landed pretty well- the ground was quite level and only really compacted sand, my ninjutsu kicked in well enough that I rolled quite safely and miraculously I didn't hurt my bad leg at all. Zorro immediately stopped, having got shot of me, and started snuffling around beside me searching for something worth grazing.

We went back over to a bank at the side of the path and after a short fight over whether Zorro was going to stand still or turn round and snack on all the grass and heather on the bank ( I have started riding out in a mecate which is fantastic for trail riding because you have your lead right there if you need it ) I hopped back on, we cantered ( nicely ) over to Small and [ profile] sleepsy_mouse and continued with our ride.

I first rode a horse about six years ago now and I've done quite a bit since then so I was certainly due a fall, in fact I'm probably due a fair few by this point. I've never been afraid of falling off because I'm confident I can land and now I've done it for real I feel a bit vindicated in that- I've got a couple of bruises and a sore shoulder but the world didn't end, I got right back on and aside from some aches that will wear off soon enough, I'm fine.

I'm quite relieved in another way too, come to think of it- there comes a point where if you've been riding a few years and you haven't fallen off that it starts to look as though you're just not trying.
glenatron: (zorro)
Yesterday was a most satisfactory day. We took the ponies out for a slightly longer than average adventure in the autumn sun and it was absolutely gorgeous.
Illustrated Edition )
glenatron: (zorro)
Today it was blustery, which meant the hedge along one side of our school was doubly full of monsters. I've got things to a point where if the weather is normal Zorro doesn't worry about it at all but when the wind is up a little he can find it a bit anxious and will fixate on the hedge and refuse to go near it. We've worked on this a lot over the last year and I'm happy that mostly we're fine and on days like today I use it as an opportunity to work on extending his comfort zone, learning to recognise the signs that he's got a plan to go somewhere and on sitting out the spooks when they happen. In that respect it's actually very handy to have a tame spookzone where you can work on that kind of thing without having to worry about being out on the trail or the road.

The highlight of this for me was realising that after a lot of circles and serpentines ( to allow us to get into the scary zone and out again in a safe way and to keep his attention and to stop him getting straight if he did want to scarper ) I was only having to start turning my body to get him turning with me. That was a very nice feeling. Other things he's getting pretty good at include rollback turns and circles on the forehand and quarters under saddle, although the former he tends to throw in as a way to avoid backing up straight. We're also doing pretty well at the going forward then backing up then going forward again without stopping in between. It's all slow and simple stuff but our communication is getting better all the time and with another Tom Widdicombe clinic next weekend I think we're well set to do some interesting things.
glenatron: (zorro)
Today was not the conventional working day. Firstly we had a whole lot of new desks arrived from Ikea so we spent the first few hours of the morning building those, then as we got that finished a swarm of bees arrived and parked in the bushes by the front door of our office building so we got to watch hundreds of bees and then watch a beekeeper retrieve them ( one beekeeper and an office full of beepeekers ) which was really interesting. She had to use secateurs and loppers to cut through the branches of the bush they had settled in which was, to my mind, a satisfying blend of apiary and topiary.

This evening band practice was cancelled because of a lame [ profile] shanks01 incident, and as I was feeling unpredictable I decided to break the mould and spend a couple of hours with my horse. By "break the mould" there I do mean "do the same thing we do every day." I don't feel like I'm repeating myself though, and Zorro doesn't seem to mind. Well, I say that, he was pretty feisty today- first he was full of playful biting which I have realised I'm going to have to come down really heavily on if it's going to get under control so there were a couple of moments where he found himself running backwards across the school after an ill-judged nip. He really was exploring the boundaries though- it was interesting to see and reassuring that he could clearly tell exactly what it was I was asking him not to do.

We did a little liberty, which was good fun- we had some really nice clover leaf shapes around blocks with me working behind him and steering by moving his hip with my body position. That went pretty well and then we had a bit of a play with the mirroring cow-cutting type work at walk and trot and I obviously overstated something as we had a full on explosion across the school with feet and mane everywhere in classic Furious Zorro style. Then he decided to graze on the hedge ( the scary one he couldn't go near for months ) and when I pointed out that he was still on my time and we were still working we had another lap of the school with feathers and feet flying. Made me wish I had someone with a camera on hand as it was very funny indeed.

After that we did a bit of work on the longer rope with which he was perfect and a bit of riding where I started to get some of my transitions in the direction I would want them, leading off my breath and life as much as direct cues. Then I decided we could try and tidy up the blocks I had put out by roping them with the 22' line and dragging them back to the corner. Although we did that at a clinic a few weeks ago, these blocks made a louder noise and they kept chasing us and it was scary, so the plan proved a little ambitious. I dropped the rope for safety and then Zorro wouldn't go near it so we played with building up forward and attentiveness until he could step over it and that seemed a good place to stop. We had some really good work there but there was certainly feist as well.

The ponies are spending the night in another field that needs a bit of grazing down and so Zorro went straight back in there and then I fetched Small over. Small was unimpressed that I had stolen his friend and when I put him out and Zorro grumped at him he had a bit of a spirited outburst too sproinking in the air and kicking out at Zorro then trotting off across the pasture. What a rubbish day for my camera to have flat batteries...
glenatron: (zorro)
Today Zorro and I went out on our first solo hack after a somewhat disastrous endeavour a couple of months ago which ended in a full on argument with spinning, rearing and bucking in the middle of the lane. I started off down the hill on the lane, but after a whole bunch of things happened in the first three hundred yards or so ( car coming round the corner too fast, another car faffing around behind us and a big noisy tractor cutting hay in the field by the road ) and I could feel him starting to boil over a little so I turned us around and we headed off up the trail at the top of the lane instead. We had a bit of trouble getting any kind of forward momentum because he doesn't really agree with riding out alone and then there were cows which he has never seen apart from the ones across the valley from his field but those are either small or far away whereas these ones were either big or near. Having stopped boggling in astonishment at the magnitude of bovines we headed on up to the gate onto the local nature reserve. I've never ridden Zorro through a gate before but after a bit of confusion on his part and wild leaning on mine we got the (rider friendly) gate open and scooted through it. We did a very short loop coming back another gate on a nearby trail, which was harder to do- Zorro maneuvered up beside it like an old pro but when I got the gate open and asked him to back up I couldn't work out how to get a turn at the same time so we backed up and I couldn't hold onto the gate and stay on the pony. We went forward again and once I had the catch open and tried the back-up again Zorro clearly figured out what I was trying to do, nudged it open with his nose and through we went. Once again, I have a good and clever pony.

It was a fairly intense ride and pretty inconsistent in terms of going forward ( we quickly found our impulsion on the way home ) but I'm very pleased with what I got there, Zorro has proven himself to be clever and generous and willing twice in a row and that means a whole lot.
glenatron: (zorro)
We rode the ponies down the the stream today, on a short path that takes us down the old hollow lane at the bottom of the boys field to a small brook ( actually called "the smallbrook" ) that flows down that valley. I didn't ride the whole way down as the first bit is quite steep and I actually find going downhill on horseback still quite intimidating. I could do the less steep bit but that beginning I find a bit tough. Next time I think I'll be fine though.

The path is a bit overgrown and Zorro seemed to relish dragging me face-first through every overhanging holly bough and blackthorn branch he could find. It's almost as though he's trying to get rid of my ridiculous zebra-print hat cover. As a result my face and arms are liberally covered in scratches.

Anyways, we got to the bottom where the track crosses the stream and Small didn't want to cross the ford and then Zorro crossed it and Small thought it might be ok. I thought it might be worth trying to cross the wooden footbridge beside the ford so I just pointed Zorro at it to see how he'd feel about it and he ambled straight across. This proves him to be a good and clever horse and I'm ever so pleased with him.
glenatron: (zorro)
Today we had a very gentle ride out, a bit of walking, a few short trots. Nothing too much- [ profile] sleepsy_mouse had a bit of a brakes and gravity problem with Small a couple of weeks ago ( he could do gallop to halt in two strides, she couldn't ) so we wanted to do the same route again gently just so he knows he can go up that hill without needing to go top speed. It all went perfectly to plan, ponies picked up a little bit as we approached the hill we like to rampage up then settled back when they realised today was not rampage day and on we went. It was sedate and the heather is in flower so all over the heath that burned a few years ago was purple bell heather between delicate dried grass heads that just glowed in the spaces between cloud shadows on the land.

We did trot briefly through the woods and for a little while a dragonfly flew along between us, matching our speed exactly. It was that kind of day.
glenatron: (Default)
I've hardly been home the last few weeks, going from work to the ponies, playing in the school and then sorting out their evening feeds and ambling home around sunset ( currently about 9:00 ) to grab some dinner and go to bed.

Last Saturday was my cousin Anna's wedding, which was a great day in a wonderful setting. Her husband is a top guy and it was very happy. Also it featured a set from Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer, a man dedicated to the cause of introducing the queen's english to hip-hop. I strongly recommend clicking on that link. It will make you smile. And you'll be able to follow every word.

More summer pictures )
Every news report from every quarter of the world seems pretty bad at the moment but there is love and ponies and it's high summer in old England.
glenatron: (zorro)
Yesterday we made a sudden decision to go down to the New Forest and watch a day of Steve's clinic there ( full report on the one we rode on is in progress, I promise ) which was really interesting- great to see him working with different people and horses and both Steve and Irena seemed pleased to see us, which was really nice.

Today we decided to take the boys out for a hack on the common in the blazing sun and it was absolutely brilliant- both ponies were very well behaved and there were very few people around. On the way back we have a long uphill which Lou and Small like to canter up. I've not done much cantering but because I'm pretty solid in walk and trot it isn't different enough to worry me. What I wasn't expecting was that Small pony would open up and vanish off in the style of a pony that could make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. Once he realised what was going on Zorro kept pace quite nicely and I put the reins in one hand, held the front of the saddle in the other and enjoyed going a whole lot faster than I ever have on horseback before. I even got to do a bit of steering as Zorro thought he could save some time by diving off the path into the bracken and cutting the corner. I have no idea what he would do if he actually got into the bracken but there are far too many rabbit holes around there for me to have any interest in finding out. Luckily our steering is pretty good at the moment, even off the one rein and he had no problem with slowing down once we had caught up with Small pony. Very exhillarating.

Then we went off for a lesson with Julian ( My position had slipped a little but not too badly given the somewhat long time since my last lesson there ) and then over to visit our friend Karen and buy a car off her. I'm now the proud owner of an aged ( but relatively low mileage ) Toyota which will probably be called Friendlycar. Funnily enough, in order to borrow enough to pay for the lorry I had to take a minimum £2000 loan, which means that I had just enough to pay for the Toyota out of the difference. It's easy to superimpose some kind of imaginary order on these things, but that really does feel like it was supposed to happen. Usually when I feel that way I'm proved wrong in expensive ways but it does all fit together pretty well.
glenatron: (zorro)
Yesterday we had lessons with Julian, riding the charming spanish horse Carel again. I really enjoyed that- by the end of my lesson I had the feeling as we trotted that I wasn't just being carried along by him but that I was more integrated into the movement, really with him. It was an absolutely amazing feeling, something I don't think I've ever had riding before, truly exhilarating.

We went on to visit Joseph pony over at our friend Kerin's yard. Joe was in a somewhat cantankerous mood- he hasn't had to come in and be fussed for a while and it took a whole lot of reminding him who was in charge from [ profile] sleepsy_mouse followed by a lot of scratchies from both of us to remind him that people are OK. While he was in Kerin took the chance to let her young one, Gold Dust, in to Joe's field with Gold Dust's field buddy Lottie and Joe's field-buddy Cheyenne.
There was a certain amount of running about )

Today of course, there was a bit of unseasonable weather here. I don't recall having inches of snow in April before- I know it's snowed late, but it doesn't usually last at all. We still have a bit of snow in the shady bits of the back garden now.

Pictures from today )

We also learned that the boys' field is still good for toboganning and spectated as the family who own the yard and a few friends combined a little plastic disc-toboggan thing, a waterskiing rope and a quad-bike in one of the paddocks with hilarious consequences.
glenatron: (Default)
It's been a good weekend- we have been able to ride both days, cunning use of various weather forecasts suggesting it would be sunny Saturday morning (maybe an exaggeration but it didn't rain) so we got up early to ride out and did a little hack on the common on Saturday, getting back to the yard just as the heavy weather really kicked in.

Today was much sunnier than either the BBC or the Met Office suggested it would be so we took the boys out for a rather longer loop around the common.

It was really nice to be riding out and Zorro was really mellow and happy when we got back. I think this was mostly because he was knackered but he is a horse with a very strong work ethic so I think he actually really likes having a job to do and knowing he has done it well. I find the opportunity to work on my riding for a couple of hours at a stretch immensely valuable as well as enjoying being outside with our horses in the gorgeous scenery with the feeling that spring is really starting to uncurl.

At one point on today's ride it started to rain, but the sun was still shining and as we were riding into the light it was as though it was raining diamonds. Simply beautiful.
Of course, I didn't get any pictures of that )

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