glenatron: (Iris)
Yesterday evening we needed to get things done at the yard and I wasn't in a riding mood, so Iris' evening work was to come in and do a bit of groundwork. A few weeks ago I had done a short groundwork session that ended up with a bit of liberty stuff and she did really great while she stayed with me, so as I had a [ profile] herecirm and a camera I asked her to do a bit of video of that:

Last time, after we had done a bit of liberty, Iris had realised there was some grass around and went off to eat it, and when I went over to catch her she ran off to the other end of the arena at top speed to eat there. I figured she might opt to do the same thing again, so we adjusted the camera and filmed some beautiful dappled mare running in slow motion, that just needed a sweeping soundtrack to add to the sentimental effect:

She really is a very special horse.
glenatron: (Iris)
I haven't updated here for the longest time, which makes me a bad imaginary internet friend and I do apologise. The reason is mostly that I have been very busy with layers of busyness on top of further busyness. This is not a thing of which I am proud but it accurately describes where I am at right now. And so, from busyness, onto business. The first order of which is: A grey mare!

It is now slightly over a year since Iris arrived and it would be accurate to say that every time I ride her she gets a little bit better.

We haven't done as much as we probably should have in the last few weeks, which is absolutely my fault, but whenever we ride out she is forward and willing and sweet. Sometimes we have to stop and stare at ghosts for long periods ( and then either sneak past on tiptoes or crawl past with our belly most of the way to the ground ) and she is prone to moments of inexplicable doubt regarding everyday things like walkers or signposts, but by and large she is as good as I could possibly wish her to be and often better. Since Marty Mule came to stay she has seemed a little jealous of him, I think he spends most of his time playing with Cash and she is far too dignified for such antics, which has actually made her a lot more affectionate towards me. She seeks me out in the field and asks for my attention and for scratches too. It's very sweet.

Under saddle she is calm and accepting of the aids in general, but we have a way to go before we achieve real softness although she is starting to get a handle on it and certainly in the school I can do all the steering I need to by looking where I want to go. She accepts the bit way better than she used to ( but at first she was terrible at that, so although she is probably a five out of ten now, she was a minus-three when we started ) but she still has a bit of pull there and I don't always get down to her feet as quickly as I maybe should. These are all work-in-progress things, however, and she certainly feels like a really good riding horse right now. I just know that given another year of steady work she will be an extraordinary riding horse.
Illustrated version )
I would like to take her out on more adventures, but right now the horsebox is being repaired for it's MOT, and by "repaired" I mean "having the chassis almost entirely rebuilt because it was so rusty throughout" which will doubtless be inordinately expensive, but hopefully should get us back on the road to ride with Steve Halfpenny and Kathleen Lindley next month, which I am very much looking forward to...
glenatron: (Iris)
On Sunday I finally managed to do something I have wanted to try for the last five years and actually rode my horse to cattle here in the UK.

There aren't many places that one has the opportunity to do that in this country - the only one I know of is Bar S in Kent who are about seventy miles away, so when I saw they had a cattle clinic there I booked myself onto it for mid January. Then it rained for the entirety of December, January and most of February and they were pretty much too wet to do anything. Last weekend was the first time that they actually had any dry enough space to ride in and as it was the going was quite muddy but workable.

We unloaded and it was nice to be around a group of friendly western riders with a common interest in trying some practical western riding rather than the showing disciplines which are most of what one sees here.

The specific event we were working with was ranch sorting, where people work in a figure 8 pen with numbered cattle and two riders. The goal is to get as many cows as possible from the pen with the herd in to the other, in numeric order. One rider typically maintains the gateway and makes sure that no previously sorted cows come back, the other rides into the herd and sorts out the numbered cows then guides them to the gate. Letting an out-of-order cow through is an instant disqualification and the game has a tight time limit.

As the most total n00b there, I was teamed up with Stuart, who owns the ranch and was consequently excellent at sorting and moving the cows. We watched from the side of the ring while everyone else had a try - Iris with her ears fixed on the cows - and very quickly ( ninety second rounds go by quickly ) it was our turn.

First time around we just worked on being able to approach cows and move through them, which Iris thought might be impossible. We were better on the gate in our second round, because that mostly required a bit of forward and backwards, which we can usually manage, although the day did make me realise our accelerator is a bit sticky. With Stuart sorting cows out and us keeping them sorted ( and moving to cut off other cows from diving through ) we got a lot through, though I don't think that speaks ever so much of my skill. On our second attempt at sorting we managed to get a single cow out and through the gate, although it took us a lot more time than the round limit, nobody minded and the whole atmosphere was very much of supporting people at improving.

The third time we went into the herd, something clicked with Iris and she realised that she was here to chase these cows and that they would move when she moved them. Everything changed in a moment- suddenly she was enthusiastically pushing the cows around and turning quickly to mark them once I made it clear to her which one we needed to beat. There was no longer any feeling of heaviness to our steering or transitions and we were able to get several cows through - in fact I think we were allowed quite a lot of extra time because Iris had so clearly cottoned on to her job and was doing so well.

Grey mare and cows
Iris having figured out what I was trying to ask her to do.

After lunch we went back out and when I was tacking up Iris attention was already fixed on the arena where we were going to be working and after that our rounds got smoother and way more effective, although there were one or two moments where she got a bit over-excited and kicked a cow that was passing behind her, so we might have to explain that isn't a great strategy.

I had a really fun day and Iris seemed to enjoy it too. It certainly reinforced my view that if you have the chance to work cattle with your horse, regardless of your normal discipline, it is well worth taking.

It made me so proud of my horse and so impressed with her ability to turn herself to anything I ask of her, she really is about the best mare that a person could possibly wish for. I am already planning to go back next month for their next cattle clinic.
glenatron: (Iris)
I have about a million things to post about, but I am also totally fired up about this game writing project I'm working on so that is consuming much of my attention and evening computer time at the moment.

However tomorrow Iris and I are hopefully - assuming nothing important falls off the lorry on the biggest motorway in the country - going to go and spend the day learning to do cowboy stuff tomorrow. I'm almost excited but also fairly nervous.

Also you can hear the BBC Berkshire Introducing show from this evening where The Patient Wild feature on the demo panel at the end. Having your music judged on air like that was fairly intense if I am honest.
glenatron: (Iris)
I've been hella busy with some freelance work stuff over the last few weeks, especially as for a fortnight starting on December 21st we lost power for some part of every day. When you are trying to work on a computer from home, routinely losing electricity and internet connectivity for up to three days at a stretch makes things difficult. Also our house is electrically heated, so it got a bit nippy after a while.

Anyways, there were some pictures I intended to post then and failed, so here they are:
illustrated version )

After almost two weeks of rain, we have had a dry day today and another is forecast tomorrow. I hope to go walkabout with my fine mare once more.
glenatron: (Iris)
Just a few random pictures from the last few days that I am putting together as though they add up to a post:

Illustrated version )
glenatron: (Iris)
On Friday I went out on the kind of ride that is the reason we own horses.

A bright morning and a fine horse with long legs for running )

Today I finally persuaded [ profile] herecirm to go for a ride on Iris and my mare was impeccably behaved throughout, very nearly.

A fan of winter sun )
glenatron: (Iris)
The last week or two the swamp at our yard has returned to it's summertime status of arena, so I've done bits of schooling with Iris. After reading this piece on skeletal injuries I was very conscious that we need to work on our correctness a little, so for the last few days I have been working with real focus on softness and balance.

As ever Iris comes through beautifully- she is starting to learn to release her poll, which gives the chance for softness to start reaching through her body ( I have an idea that relaxation in a horse stops at the first brace, so if they are resistant in their mouth it won't reach back to their poll, if they are tight in the poll they won't be relaxed down their neck and so on ) and that smoothness to start permeating her movement. I've also been working on straightness around corners and on circles. We have an ongoing dispute about whether she can turn without leaning like a motorbike, but all these things get so much better with time.

I am also acutely aware that I am not really a good enough rider for her, so I'm applying my attention closely to the feel I get through my seat when I ride, what happens to bounce me around and cause me to lose connection with her and what I need to do to correct it; almost always more relaxation in the back and don't let heels creep up - both pernicious and beginnerish habits I should have long since shifted. Unfortunately I don't learn to change a quarter as fast as Iris does, so it's very much an ongoing effort, but I am confident that if I can keep my focus and remain mindful in my riding, I will improve, if gradually.

Today, as we trotted smoothly and softly through racing clouds of fallen leaves torn from the trees by the winter's first real gale, it felt like we have some pretty awesome places to be. My responsibility is to ensure we reach them.
glenatron: (Iris)
Now if you look at my previous post, my forecast was "hilarious fiasco" so lets see what we achieved, shall we?

In pictures )
glenatron: (Iris)
Tomorrow evening will be the first dressage competition for Team Iris. I'm pretty confident it will go well, given all the things we have in our favour:
  • I have had to borrow a bridle because I always take the nosebands off mine because they look silly with western gear and then I lose them.
  • Turns out the bridle I have borrowed is actually black, with a brown noseband. Black bridle with a brown noseband and reins to go with a black saddle is a look, right?
  • The saddle is old and treeless and well past its best but it at least falls within the rules, pretty much.
  • I don't own a stock tie or white gloves, so we're about to go out to buy some.
  • My black long boots are the cheapest possible rubber ones.
  • Until Saturday I thought it was a different test, so I haven't had much time to memorise it. I think I've got a handle on it though.
  • The only problem with my memorisation is that I keep ending up at the wrong end of the school by the end of the test and I can't quite work out why I am there. Other than that it's going fine.
  • Our corners in canter aren't very good, but mostly we can now make a transition on the right rein without a buck.

Fortunately dressage is a notoriously open and friendly sport, so I'm sure it will be fine and nobody will be judging us for our dire apparel or terrible performance.

Current forecast: Hilarious fiasco.
glenatron: (Iris)
Just a picture from this morning's ride that I was especially pleased with:

Sun behind us, trail ahead
A magnificent mare indeed.

We had a lovely trot through the woods that turned into a canter to escape from a log of peril, with occasional eel-like wiggles as we passed other potentially hazardous logs and needed to keep them under close surveillance until we were safely past. She is a real pleasure to ride already and she's only going to get better with practice. I have been working hard on staying relaxed and not picking up the reins until something has happened that necessitates it ( easy to say, surprisingly hard to do ) and - surprise! - I hardly ever have to pick up the reins.
glenatron: (Iris)
Did a short loop with Iris today down beside the local major road so she could see more traffic without being too close to the actual cars.

Illustrated version )
glenatron: (Iris)
Since my contract ended, I have tried to take lots of opportunities to ride, both on Iris and out with my student Anne, who I have been doing frequent lessons with. As she has a really nice arena and we have a slightly sandy swamp, I have been taking Iris over sometimes when I'm teaching there, which gives an opportunity for us to work, new experiences for both horses and a chance for me to use Iris as demonstration horse.

While we were there in the fine weather the other day and my dad had a new tripod head that he wanted to try out, I thought it was a good chance to get a bit of video of Iris and I together, as a marker for our progress after ( very nearly ) six months.
Video, and also some pictures from recent rides )
glenatron: (Iris)
I have been up to a broad selection of things lately, I shall endeavour to share some with you:

Last weekend we spent four days recording some new songs for the next release from The Patient Wild. In fact they will probably go onto a CD with the existing tracks ( people at gigs are often asking whether we have a CD to sell ) and we will endeavour to put them onto the usual services so you should be able to find them easily if you want to. I won't lie, this is really awesome music- complicated, intense and catchy all at once. It won't be for everyone but I feel that this band is the one that has been closest to my musical vision of any I have been part of and it is always a pleasure to be around musicians this talented. I will doubtless post more about this once we have the mixes back and they are out where people can find them.

My contract comes up at the end of the month ( which is Thursday, by this point ) and I don't yet have anything else lined up. This means that my poor abandoned mare will get some work to do while I sort something else out. Hopefully another contract will be forthcoming reasonably soon because if I don't find anything in November, the market tends to go dead in December as everyone in HR goes skiing and then with the spin up time after Christmas it would probably be February before anything much turns up, unless I want to go to London, and nobody wants to go to London. I do have a mobile phone project I've been working on for a while, so I guess if I'm not in a full time job I can concentrate on that in between horses and maybe get enough done to get it out in some app stores and make a few quid. It would be nice to be running my own stuff, but at the same time I prefer not to put too long of a break between contracts and my bank manager likes me not to as well.

Iris has been somewhat underworked lately, between recording and the growing dark of an English autumn, but I am planning to combine intensive teaching with one of my students with working Iris by driving her over to my student's yard ( which has a really nice arena, unlike our own muddy swamp ) and teaching from horseback. We tested travelling there and back today as it was sunny but too blustery for riding out with Iris as she is at the moment and although she was very sweaty after the journey, the wind gave her a chance to dry off and she offered some really nice work. This horse is so amazing - she just gives and keeps on giving. I feel so much responsibility to be as generous in my training and care of her as she is in her work with me.
Accompanied by sundry illustrations )
Also I read The Book Of The New Sun recently and if you haven't read it you could probably put it on the "to read" list. It is unlike most of the books.
glenatron: (Iris)
Another set of ride pictures for you today, taken by the consistently outstanding [ profile] herecirm - some day I'll tire of showing you these, maybe.
An amble around the common )
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
The weather forecast for today mostly related to gales, wind, blusterage with a side order of rain, but there was a small window in the morning where the met office had kindly drawn a nice shiny sun. Against my nature and all rationality I rose shortly after the sun and set about taking Iris out for a second trail ride of the weekend.
illustrated version- you may well have seen the same pictures with different ears in the past )
That means we've clocked up very nearly nine miles under saddle this weekend, which isn't much by the standards of the world, but is pretty good for a first few trail rides on a green mare. One thing I noticed that I was particularly impressed by is that the things that flustered her tomorrow were hardly a problem today. It seems that she learns as fast out on the trail as she does in the school.
glenatron: (Cash)
With [ profile] herecirm away working with her shires today, Iris and I had to go out without our expedition photographer today. This was the first time we have been off the yard without Sari on foot ( although last time Iris was in such a hurry that the effect was quite similar ) and it was the first time we actually went beyond simply walking to the end of the road, making a very short loop and coming back, so in a way this was our first trail ride.

Iris did amazingly well- I am getting way better at riding her through tension and realising that I really need to just give her the rein as much as possible, relax and let her find her composure through me. She spent the first few hundred yards trying to break into a trot the whole time, but I just kept bringing her back to walk and she figured it out very quickly. She snorted at a man building a step and some bags of paving stones, in fact she was snorting most of the way down the road, but those two were snortiest. I am wondering whether she has some concerns about the building trade in general. Possibly she is worried about the potential for a second housing bubble.

We got to the path onto the common ( past very snort-at-able road works ) and out onto some pathways. Iris was a bit jumpy at first, but settled. The only slightly anxious moment was when I discovered that being a hand taller than Zorro an two hands taller than Cash, when I ride her, my head is significantly higher up than I am used to. We learned this with the help of an oak tree, which was quite twiggish around my face and resulted in a lot of branches rustling and waving around which Iris wasn't sure she liked.

We got onto the path along the side of the woods, where we followed a fox for a good few hundred yards- we were walking and he was walking, so he just stayed well ahead of us and seemed to be in no particular hurry.

We left the woods and stepped out onto the fire break where Iris thought I was definitely about to ask her to canter. After a few false starts she figured out that walking was sufficient and dropped her head so we could amble on.
Iris on the trail 1
The colours are beautiful there now- heather and gorse still in full flower and the birches just starting to show sparks of bright yellow among their leaves.

Iris on the trail 2
It really is quite inviting to just go, but I want to get the idea that we can just walk places as a foundation.

We climbed one of the long hills, which is a great place for a canter but again we restrained ourselves, then looped back towards home. As we wound through the woods I discovered that we could walk through muddy puddles but clear ones are apparently portals to the dimension of danger. Not entirely sure what the deal is with that, but when we were confronted on a narrow section of track by a puddle or a fallen tree lying under the branches of a still standing tree, I thought we should go through the water but Iris wasn't keen, while I was very conscious of my earlier tree related problems and didn't want to find us hopping over the tree trunk on the ground resulting in me ending up in the branches. In the end Iris kind of scrambled over the trunk ( which was only about six inches wide) somehow managing to put all four feet on it in turn while I sort of lay on her neck.

I was ever so pleased with her today- she was certainly silly in places but it was a proper trail ride on proper trails, which I haven't done in the last eighteen months at least. It turns out I have missed it so much.
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
I spent last weekend and the latter part of last week riding at a clinic with Martin Black, which was excellent. But before I get to that, I'm going to talk a little about how we got there.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a horse box. The logic for this was that I had just got a bit of a bonus from the tax man, having overpaid last year, and I knew I would be doing the journey to Doncaster ( approximately 200 miles ) and need transport. Hiring a box for that time would have cost me about £800, so given that I was going to spend that much money anyway, I thought I might as well buy one and treat that as a £800 discount on the price I would end up paying anyways.

So I spent most of what I had on a new ( old ) horsebox, which is one of those nice Renault Master ones with the half-length ramp where the horses travel facing backwards in the middle of the van so it has a low centre of gravity. The box was in Carmarthen ( classic bit of ebay buying ) and I figured that the 200 miles home would be a fair indicator that it would hold up to a decent length of travel on the way to the clinic. It performed admirably and after a week and a bit at the yard, it was time to pack my stuff up, load Iris onto the bus and make for the north.

We made pretty good progress for the first 100 miles or so, stopping at Peterborough for a coffee and sandwich and then back en route. About 10 miles later, while going at 60 along the dual carriageway section of the A1 where there is no hard shoulder, the wheel fell off the box.

I have never been driving a vehicle where the wheel fell off before. I threw the coffee I was sipping away into the corner, and we scraped along to a fortuitously placed sliproad. It should have been scary, but when it happened I was too busy not crashing, once it had finished and I got out and looked at the smoking remains of my rear wheel while I called for rescue. Happily Iris seemed fine, I was alright, we had rescue cover and I had managed to throw my coffee in such a way that very little of it spilled. It was a very bad situation but it could have been a thousand times worse.

The rescue people seemed quite interested in whether I had a spare wheel, which I did but I also pointed out that it wasn't much use because I hadn't lost the tyre, the whole wheel had fallen off and I had slid along the road on the axle. They reassured me that help would arrive in 60-90 minutes.

Sure enough, a rescue van pulled up, looked at my horsebox and said "this isn't a puncture, your wheel has fallen off." "Yes, I told them that." "You're going to need a low-loader." "Yes, I told them that, too." Fortunately my rescue company know I'm a mechanical idiot, so they ignored what I told them. It took an hour for them to locate a low-loader, then they told me it would be 60-90 minutes before they arrived. By the time they got to me it had been dark for a while and my horsebox battery was almost completely flat from running the hazard lights. At midnight we arrived at our destination, the box sliding backwards when the low-loader ramp was raised until the rear wheel/axle were on the ground, then the low-loader driving out from underneath it. The ideal way to meet our fellow campers. Iris had been in the box for 11 hours by this point.

The clinic was really good fun, but the state of the horsebox did weigh on me a little. The organisers did a great job of sorting out a mechanic and sure enough on the Friday my box vanished during the afternoon session, my friends making a great effort of rescuing my stuff while I was riding.

I also had the very generous offer of a lift part-way home at the end of the clinic from one of the other riders- she was a bit north of Peterborough, but could take Iris and I to that area. Fortunately [ profile] herecirm's parents are just a little south of there and have a bit of land with some horses on it, and had offered to let Iris stay so that was quite a good option.

We loaded up at the end of the clinic- Iris looking into the trailer or a moment, then stepping straight in - that horse so generous with her trust and I felt as though I was absolutely betraying her as she was not terribly impressed to be in there, but she was travelling with another horse and there was nothing else I could do. It was dark by the time we got to Alconbury but Mare unloaded beautifully and was happy to be out in her field. Once she settled I unloaded my gear and said goodbye to the lady who had given me the lift.

The next morning I got a lift with [ profile] herecirm's parents to the station and took a train home. That evening I had a message from the lady who gave us a lift home. Iris had been so bothered in the box that she had kicked the door hard enough to break it. I wished I had checked my mare's back legs better before I left. Later it transpired that Iris had also gone through the neigbours' fence where she is staying at the moment, so that is more fixing to pay for.

The lorry is fixed now, but it was an expensive endeavour- partly my fault because I asked them to make it safe to travel in, but at the same time, what other option did I have? It would have cost £850 just to have it shipped home and I would still have had to fix or scrap it and get Iris home somehow.

As far as I can guess, in travel alone this clinic will have cost me more than £2000. I don't exactly know how I'm going to afford it.
glenatron: (Cash)
I haven't updated for a bit because I've been crazy busy, but such is life.

Life with my mare has progressed quite well although she has missed a bit of work due to a weekend off being a geek with the live roleplayers and one riding shires. When I'm home we ride most days, however and she's doing really well. I am finally learning how to be effective with the whole of my leg rather than having that weird noobish belief that if I need to have more of an effect I need to use my heel somehow. Now I can find that feeling through my whole calf and inside leg, which is making a really pleasant change in our work. Also we have been using the snaffle bit as she's had plenty of time to heal up after her dentistry now and I have been able to get tacked up and get on without feeling that she needs any other preparation. She's a little bit silly sometimes but generally she has been outstanding and shown very little difference in her response to the bridle and sidepull, which one would hope for as they are quite similar in action.

Today I had planned to ride her off the yard for the first time and as the weather was dry we figured the plan could be put into action.
Illustrated version )
glenatron: (Cash)
Grey hooves on summer grass
I know there will have to be a point where we stop making this steady, easy progress, where the hill gets steeper and it becomes harder for us to build on the foundation that we have. But I will take this gentle, enjoyable, improvement with a smile on my face for as long as I can possibly maintain it.

July 2017

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