Monday, October 23, 2006

Where did my fur go?????

"It itches, I've got bumps, I'm bald and I feel stupid - so why does Mum keep saying I'm lovely now??? "

21st October - the clip and rug spend extravaganza. Poor Herbs, I just had to clip him, he was starting to get so sweaty during the evening training in the school that I just knew this year that it had to be done. Last year it wasn't necessary but then he wasn't working as hard as he is now and we had a real winter that we haven't seen any signs of this year. So, the decision was made and armed with my clippers the job started. Herbs was a dream, I don't think he moved once during the hour and a half that it took, just stood there and dealt with it. Bless. But, it did mean that a new purchase was necessary as the clip would put him in rugs a littler earlier than normal so I bought a new lightweight turnout as I have one, but don't like it very much and any downpours leaves you with a wet rug the following day so having two is a wise move. (plus I like buying but we won't talk about that :-) )

I think he is lovely clipped, so much less work and much less worry about whether he is put to bed so warm he sweats in the night.

22nd October - "rain rain rain, I'm Irish, but that doesn't mean I don't prefer the sun!" - thank god he is clipped and riding in the wet in the evening doesn't cause even more dramas with drying off. BUT - he is not impressed with having no fur in the field and is consequently honing his rolling blinking skills and coming in like a walking mud pat.

BBAG Pearl Anniversary Ride

Before the fabulous holiday Sharon and I were very very tempted to book to do the BBAG Pearl Anniversay Ride. For me it seemed like a great opportunity to see how far Herbs and I had come with regard to trust and control. Control is a funny thing. As a rider you want it but I have always wanted a partnership kind of control, a respect rather than fear or force.

These thoughts take me back a bit to one time when I rode Herbs in the school and he spooked at something and bolted to the other end of the school. I was mortified that I used the bit to stop him as I knew he was genuinely scared but at the same time you really do have to look after yourself.

These days I have such a bond with my boy that any "oi!" or "will you just behave" voice commands don't freak him out or scare him like they once would. In the early days I had to really control my actions with him as whilst mounted he would react very badly to even the kindest "oi!".

Now, he is far less worried. Not cocky though. I can "oi!" without a reaction but if my short crop moves it's panic stations!!

I think we have an amazing bond. Herbs know how far to push me without making me cross, and I have to say its a very long way and I will forgive him every time if I can because I am very aware that we humans have such unnatural expectations of these animals to which herd and flee are first instincts.

Having come this far, it was a definite that we would book in for the ride despite my slight worries!

The BBAG represent riders around the Bromley area, and work hard with the local council and other groups to maintain existing bridleways and have land prepared for new ones. They have been in operation for 30 years and frankly at £5 per year I consider my subscription a bargain.

Their 30th Anniversary Ride was set for 18th September and I must confess I was tempted by the ride AND the stunning rosette I would get at the end.

Sharon and I prepared the lorry the night before as usual so that we felt a little more organised on the day and could concentrate on the horses. We wanted to get there fairly early as it's always good to set off when there are fewer horses around and the event is quieter. We failed. Not badly but we ALWAYS seem to take forever to get things together, partly because once away from work it's nice to relax and not be ruled by time as is the norm. Finally we got away about 45 minutes later than we'd planned which was a pretty good effort.

The boys had loaded like pro's as they always do - it was nice to get a comment some time ago from a friend at the yard who said that it was a pleasure to see the boys load as we have the good fortune to be able to load two very very good horses who have no dramas and have such a good bond with us and each other that they just take it all in their stride.

Talking of bonds, this is probably a good time to talk about how Herbs and Coy feel about each other as buddies. They are not. They tolerate. They use each other for bravery. They give each other "the look" far more often than true buddies would. Oh, and Coy lifts his leg when Herbs gets too close. But then Herbs always gets too close and Coy is back ended so thats forgivable.

In general, they get along beautifully. The will happily eat from the same haynet and drink from the same bucket, together, at the same time, but I would say they are associates rather than friends. They are ridden together very often and are turned out together after the ride at the weekend and will then stick together in the field knowing they will be brought in together. But during the week, when they are turned out separately, they wont really have anything to do with each other. So their relationship is based on familiarity and routine rather than a real bond with each other in the horsey world.

They will worry where the other is during loading onto the box and show obvious signs of comforting each other when they are in unfamiliar places but thats about it.
I think it's a good thing that they are how they are. You want your horse to be an individual but to have a mate for comfort when they most need it, like being spooked when out on a ride. It's nice that they can learn from each other too. Coy is now much more confident walking through puddles which he used to consider absolutely terrifying, that may just be growing up and confidence but it certainly helps when the horse they are with takes it in his stride and Herbs doesn't care about puddles. Herbs is also learning to be less stressed when out on a ride. Again, that may just be about growing up but it's great that he has a brave soldier by his side when he's scared.

Now, onto the ride....

We arrived at the farm where the pleasure ride started and parked up when it was still quite quiet - despite being later than we wanted ;-).

There were a couple of boxes there and we were able to quietly unload the boys and relax a bit before tacking up. The beauty of these rides is that the BBAG organisers are there on site whilst you ride so there is little worry about leaving your box and belongings there when you ride.

We tacked up and prepared to set off with a mindset of keeping the ride quiet so as not to excite the horses too much. This was to be part of their training from the point of view of "this is fun because we are somewhere different but not a party" - a term I've adopted from a trainer at the yard!

We walked to the starting point which was a large field and bless him, Herbs was shaking all over with nervousness. We started to walk around the field and he settled but we were constantly aware of other horses ahead ("I want to catch up mum!" or behind and kept things as quiet as we could. That first field led us to a second and we grew a little in confidence so had a little trot.

Ok, this might sound pathetic, but you have to remember that Herbs and Coy are rising 8 and 9 and have rather a lot of energy from being very fit but little experience out and about.

The ride progressed to yet another field - all credit to the BBAG for getting us off road so much! - and we cantered on this one. The boys behaved impeccable and at this point I think we both knew we had two very good boys on the day.

As if it couldn't get better the ride progressed to a bit of road through to a bridlepath and we met up with a couple of girlies we see around our local area occasionally, one of which I rode with for some weeks when I was taking group lessons at a local riding school. We chatted for a while and they rode on ahead of us at which point the ride came to an end if you wanted or progressed to a number of fields on the other side of a road.

Well who in their right mind would pass up an opportunity to continue a ride onto land that isn't normally rideable when their horse is being so very very good? Not us!! So we rode on and even took the opportunity to gallop up a hill before wondering if we were lost because the land was so vast and returning jubilant to the farm in search of the promised Bucks Fizz and rosette.

We rode for about two and a half hours and we couldn't have asked for better behaved horses so this ride will go down in the Herbs Blog record as a major achievement and one which I hope/feel will set us up for many more sponsored rides and pleasure rides with confidence.

And you know what? Whilst we were chilling out after the ride letting our very sweaty horses have a nice munch of hay and a drink we witnessed some people having very great dramas trying to load their horses for the journey home. We waited to load ours so that they had some space and in the end time was ticking on so we gave up and walked ours onto the box with ease. What confident and happy horses Herbs and Coy are - I'm so proud.

The day ended with big smiles and happy horses munching in the field. Finally, I think our experience of a pleasure ride is a happy and settled one.

Here are some pics of the event......................

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Stuff about me, by Herbs

I used to live in Ireland
I didn't get much grub
Or a nice warm stable
All cosy and snug

Now I get a nice warm bed
And three square meals a day
I play all day with my friends
Then munch big nets of hay

I really like those orange things
And things with stalks are scrum
But if you want to give me titbits
Please first ask my Mum

Food I Love.....

  • Stud Muffins
  • Mint or Herb (I think they made them especially for me) flavoured treats
  • Any nuts or cubes
  • Orange things
  • Things with stalks
  • Most stuff that grows in the ground
  • Walkers Ready Salted crisps - best eaten in private, uncontrollable things happen when I eat them :-o
  • Swede and Parsnips
  • Polo's and Extra Strong Mints (makes my breath lovely but Mum says I shouldn't have too many because of fillings - whatever they are)
  • Sugar Beet - mmmm yum, why do I only get it in winter??
  • Honey, scrummy mummy thank you, more please
  • Crispy fluffy hay - its grass really but dried up. I don't know how they do it but I can eat loads and loads and almost go pop sometimes

Food that is wrong.....

  • Banana's - wrong (as Adam would say - he knows who he is, Mum worked with him)
  • Medicine of every kind - no horsey should have this horrible stuff put in their dinner
  • Chocolate - yeuch
  • Brocolli. You can live on it, but it tastes like sh*t so why bother
  • Turnip. I will eat it but its pointless

Things I don't like.....

  • People growing - my Mum can explain, and no, I don't mean her because she's lovely :-*
  • Being told to be sensible when I really want to be a lunatic
  • My mane being pulled. I prefer to look like a loo brush than have it pulled out
  • Being groomed when my new coat is coming through - ewwww, its annoying
  • Being bitten. I've had enough of midges, they target my bits and it's NOT NICE

Things I'm good at.....

  • Staying (reasonably) sensible if my horsey friends in front of me gallop off
  • Learning stuff. I never get naughty when I'm in the sand school and I do try. Some things are hard though and I get confused
  • Leg yielding! I like that, its easy
  • Opening gates, I'm getting really good and I really listen to what Mum wants me to do
  • Not diving off to eat grass when I've got my head collar on

As I think of more things I will add them to my list just for you. Right now, I need to get back to munching my hay because otherwise I might not finish it by morning and that would be very WRONG!