Monday, July 10, 2006

Herbs comes home

That same Thursday that Herbs passed the vet check, the credit card came out and shopping began in earnest. I picked up two rugs from my nearby saddlery as Herbs was coming with an empty wardrobe then headed for the yard to make his bed. That evening Kate came along to another saddlery with me and we picked up bins, buckets, bucket covers, haynets and anything else we could lay out hands on.

Friday morning was spent at the stables, trying to get everything ready for his arrival and Chris did an amazing job of keeping me calm whilst getting excited with me about every 2 minutes. I must had driven her mad - sorry Chris!

Herbs travelled beautifully, courtesy of Julia who wanted to check out his new home, and he arrived at lunchtime on Friday 30 th January. A nice warm stable awaited and he was treated to lunch once he had settled a little. The carrot part was quite entertaining; Herbs had eaten his first carrot only the day before after much coaxing and was still very suspicious of these strange orange things in this lunch bowl. Polo's? Forget it -why on earth would anyone want to eat those funny looking things? Soon enough carrots were the best thing ever but it would be another 18 months before he took a risk with the Polo's.

In terms of condition, whilst quite a happy chap, Herbs was very under weight. Julia bought him from Ireland and had stabled him at her place for just over a month so hadn't had any chance to fatten up after arriving in England. He was clipped out and undoubtedly did the whole boat journey without a rug and so probably dropped a lot of weight just during that time.

It was my job to "fatten and fitten" him and so I started him on three square meals and day and unlimited hay. Alpha A, Cooling Mix, Garlic, Oil and lots of veggies made up his Breakfast, Dinner and Lunch - I think he thought he was in heaven! On the Monday 2nd February 2004 I put him out in the field to graze and meet his new friends - how scary was that? Tail held high he galloped around the field like a lunatic, setting everyone else off, before finally calming down enough to sniff a few new people and then stamp around some more. He wasn't out very long, a gentle introduction was necessary and at Julia's grazing was restricted to one day a week so I knew he would love being out every day even if it wasn't for long at first. I had that first week off work and spent the week getting him settled before I had to go back.
Here are some pictures of Herbs that I took that first weekend which show just how underweight and un-muscled he was. And how dark grey back then!

And these were taken 1 month later on 1st March 2004...

Oh, I forgot. That weekend that he came home, he couldn't be turned out straight away because he needed worming so I walked him around a little but had no tack at all so couldn't even think about riding him. The farm has a huge sandschool so I let him have a run around in there on his own on Sunday and he galloped around like a lunatic, he kept coming back to the gate to see me before setting off flat out again for another circuit. Looking back it was a completely stupid thing to do, I was just so lucky he didn't decide to jump out and didn't hurt himself.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Find.....

Warninglid - Julia Greenall's stableyard....... the first part of this story is so quickly told...

Firstly I was introduced to the light bay - lovely; then to the mare - lovely; then to the grey - love at first sight.I was completely hooked.

This little dark grey horse was very poor in condition but had such a lovely eye I felt an immediate bond. He was described as the calmer of the 3 (good) but with very little experience albeit willing. I watched him being ridden first and the rider was clearly very good so I was a little apprehensive but after the events of the morning I was hoping a little more luck was on my side.

I rode for a while in the school, this little grey horse (ok so he stood about 15.2hh at the time but he was so poor he has to be described as little) had basically no idea and was scared stiff. He couldnt turn off the leg on either rein and couldnt understand what the contact was all about. This is a reflection of myself as a rider, as I said I saw him ridden but to feel him ridden by me was quite a different thing. I never saw myself buying a green unschooled, inexperienced horse but without a shadow of a doubt I was hooked.

I arranged to hack him out that coming Friday and kept my fingers crossed for the next 3 days that he wasnt sold.The hack was 30 minutes or so, just in walk and trot as the ground was so hard a canter wasnt possible. He was sharp and so worried but so genuine that I was just as hooked. I promptly went home to ask around for a trainer to come to see him so that I had an expert second opinion on whether he was right for me, and indeed even worth buying.

At some point in the horse buying process you really do have to get real you see; I have seen so many riders who own difficult horses I was determined that although I was completely obsessed by this little man, I wanted an honest opinion from someone who didnt know me so that the whole process could be completed objective.

Kathy Gentles agreed to come and see him on the Sunday that week. A rider at the stables rode, then me. Kathy saw his sharpness and worried looks, ran a hand over every part of his body and declared that seemed a kind horse, suited to me and very much worth buying

The deal was struck and all that remained was for me to arrange a 5 stage vet check for this handsome, skinny, Connemara X gelding known to the stables as Herbie.

Herbs was vetted on 29th January 2004 after a night of very heavy snow during which time I spent hours panicking that he wouldnt be able to be seen. Fortunately the school wasnt frozen and he passed the vet with flying colours

Herbs came home on 31st January 2004.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Search.....

Oh Boy, how many magazines did I check out?

I remember sitting with Kate one day having searched through the Sale section in Your Horse, ringing what felt like loads of possible horses but in fact was probably no more than 6. That's adrenaline for you, once your mind is made up, you want want want!

At that time my focus was on buying a willing happy hacker. Never having had lots of experience at schooling and being generally crap at canter in the school I was well aware of my own level of ability - that being mad fun over the countryside, jumps included and I didn't want to over horse myself. Also, I was well grounded from the point of view of giving a horse a great home but not holding them back if my ability or limited time wouldn't afford them the career they deserved.

I rang loads of people but the search pretty much comes down to just 3 visits.

Firstly, I went to a stables with Kate and rode a dark bay mare, about 15.2hh which was fun but she really was too small for me so although I was extremely excited as she was the first I tried I knew I had to say no.

I rang loads after that and you very soon get to know the honest people from the dealers pretending not to be and you certainly get a feel for the kind of people you would or wouldn't feel comfortable meeting. The horsey world can be rather strange and over the years I had at least got wise to that! With
having only weekends to look, often by the time I got ready to visit the horse was promised to someone else or I got the impression the owners weren't quite what I initially thought they were - and if that's the case, who knows about the horse.

At one point during the search I had a week off, and I was determined to work out once and for all what kind of horse I wanted to buy. I rang an owner and arranged to look at a dark bay gelding in Kent. I met him in the stable and said hello but didn't immediately feel a great bond, the owner's son rode him in the sand school which had rather low fences and I did clock that he was rather motorbike-like in canter. The rider took him over a fence at a ridiculous speed and I started to get a feel for what my ride might be like. I mounted and rode quietly, trying to suss him out a little but with absolutely no intention of jumping. A walk and trot around the sand school on both reins was just fine until I asked for canter. VERY strong on the left rein but I kept asking back to trot then up to canter and back again and he settled a little. I changed reins and trotted a little then asked for canter on the right rein (oh crappedy crap) - he was so unbalanced we headed straight... FOR THE FENCE! Quite honestly I had no chance of turning him away, a better rider would undoubtedly have been able to handle it but I know my limits, so I bailed out rather than jump the fence and end up galloping off on concrete. The horse tore around the arena for about ten circuits until he could be calmed and I confidently told the owner he wasn't for me....

Spookily, when I got back to the car there was a message on my mobile. During the search period, I had checked out a number of stable yards and met some old friends. At my preferred stables, Helen had suggested I contact a particular riding school who often sell on their schooled horses. I had done so and the owner promised to call me when they had visited a dealer they regularly use for finding them new horses. The message confirmed that the dealer had 3 horses I might be interested in.

Fresh from disappointment and a rather bloody finger getting trapped in the reins I rang back. The three horses were a papered light bay Dutch warmblood, a dark bay inexperienced mare and an Irish grey. I was so cheesed off with the last visit I went straight there......