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My journey with Abbey & other horsey bits 'n' bobs

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Happy New Year!

It’s been over a month since my last post which shows just how busy the holiday season has been. I hope yours has been as filled with fun, family and friends as mine.

That last post talked about how I was going to bring Abbey back into work after a short break, getting her back up to fitness so that we could continue our journey with dressage and jumping.

It hasn’t quite happened that way, we’ve not been as focused and dedicated as perhaps we should. Instead we’ve been big kids, having fun and not worrying too much as ‘progress’.

Instead we’ve enjoyed winter wobbles around the fields. In England it’s not been a winter wonderland, more of a muddy sploshy swamp.

As we approached the Christmas break our hacks took to the roads and became increasingly festive.

Every cloud has a silver lining; the rain did provide some cross country water opportunities.

Abbey enjoyed some time with her fieldmate’s owner who hacked her, schooled her and even popped her over a fence or two.


We squeezed in a little schooling but it was all very low key, The main focus was to focus on stretching over her topline and using that back end.

Today we welcomed the New Year with interval training. We shouldn’t really be cantering at this point but, hey, it’s still the holidays and there’s nothing quite like a good canter in an open space to blow the cobwebs (self induced with alcohol!) away!

I hope you’ve enjoyed the holidays as much as I have. Here’s to a fabulous 2019!

Getting hands-on with a charity massage course

It’s been an intense day full of learning with Sue Palmer, aka The Horse Physio (and who’s husband, Simon, is a partner in Ethical Horse Products).

Designed for horse owners, the course consists of introductions (met some lovely, interesting people), introduction to physiotherapy and massage, some anatomy, some massage techniques and practice on both people and ponies.

All the group members came for different reasons; from developing relationships with their horses to keeping their horses free from tension between visits from a professional physio.

I’ve tried learning the names and locations of different muscles before but they’ve never stuck. This evening, however, I can name 7. I can also find them on a living horse and know where they attach to bone. This is in no small part due to ‘Dollar’, my new equine friend:

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“Hey!”

After studying pictures and scientific drawings in the classroom, we headed to the stables to practice identifying the muscles on real horses (by drawing them on in chalk).

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“Very funny. You’d best not have drawn anything rude on my bum!”

After lunch we learnt some massage techniques and practiced them on ourselves, other students, and finally the horses. I think Dollar enjoyed some of it!

At the end of the day we’ve all come home with new skills, more knowledge and a routine to use on our beasts at home.

Together we’ve also helped Riding for the Disabled Association support two people ride horses for a year.

Big thanks to our tutor, Sue Palmer, and to Stourport Riding Centre for the use of the ponies and facilities.

Check out this video to find out more:

Some mini breakthroughs

Having had weeks of banging my head against a break wall what with the travelling, the ulcers and lack of work, we’ve finally had some mini breakthroughs.

For the second time we’ve been round the block and I’ve unloaded a dry horse. Today I think she even trembled a little less. After unloading she calmed down extremely quickly, allowing us to tack up and head to the school…

…where we had another breakthrough. I’ve been trying not to nag and demand a response to my leg, and today there was so much power I didn’t know what to do with it!

To celebrate we went for a little hack round the farm tracks to cool off. I must have been feeling brave as I was riding in a bareback pad!

I’m thrilled; they were just the little success to make me feel like all the effort is worthwhile and that we’re getting closer towards our goals!

New year and a new me!

We’re less than two weeks into 2018 and so far it’s going well.

Abbey is back in work and she’s remembered the vast majority of the novice work that we were doing last year. It’ll be a while before she’s fit enough and strong enough to move the work on but it’s a great start.

The fitness work is hacking only at the moment – a) it’s supposed to be the best way to start them off, and b) the fields are a swamp.

Continue reading “New year and a new me!”

Abbey’s bouncing back

It’s been a busy week for me and a good one for Abbey.

On Wednesday I went to Horse of the Year Show (see my report here). I got up early to see the Connemara class and was delighted to read later this week that Skaergaarden Delicious Love won the overall M&M championship (click here to find the showing tips I picked up).

Thursday was dressage schooling. I’m having to get used to Abbey’s new way of going. She’s so chilled that I’m having to generate energy and engage her hind end through exercises rather than containing the anxious energy that she’s been giving me for the last couple of months.

Determined to get more ‘ping’, Abbey and I headed to the school again on Friday evening and I’m please to report that there was a small improvement.

Continue reading “Abbey’s bouncing back”

HOYs’17 – a review

Horse of the Year Show is, for many, the pinnacle of the showing calendar.  It started yesterday and I went along to do some shopping and watch the Mountain and Moorland Connemara class.

It’s my fifth visit and I was delighted that the organisers have changed the timetable for the Mountain and Moorlands on the Wednesday morning. The Fells & Dales are the first in the ring, and the New Forest Pony and the Connemara Pony classes have been split.  The upshot is that I get an extra half hour in bed 🙂

It was a shame to see only 10 New Forest ponies come forward – they are an iconic breed, versatile and suitable for adults and children alike.  In comparison, 39 Connemara’s competed in their respective class.

I’m no expert on showing nor on the Connemara breed, so I won’t comment on the entries, however, as an enthusiastic amateur keen to show my on Connie, it was very interesting to see how the professionals do it (more on that here).

Considering how early it was, there were lots of spectators and a great atmosphere .

 

The tradestands open at 9am, so after watching these showing classes we headed to the shopping.

There were noticeably fewer shops this year, and as usual, there were quite alot of non-horsey stands (from makeup and nails, to massagers and exercise machines). I’m not saying this is bad – the massage machines were very good, and welcome after a long day – just an observation.

In the main, the majority of the equestrian stands were good quality and I spotted some new, innovative products as well as some bargins.

Continue reading “HOYs’17 – a review”

More than just a fun ride

Sundays weather was glorious – highly usual for the UK especially on a bank holiday and we made the most of it with the local fun ride.

The 10 mile ride took us through some beautiful countryside with freshly cut stubble fields, bridges, streams, pastures, picturesque country lanes, woodland and some gallops.

The ride was well organised with stewards every mile or so. They were on hand to point the way and deal with any emergencies.
My friends pony has recently had some time off and his fitness levels meant we needed to take it slower than we normally would. 

That meant it was a great training exercise for Abbey – sometimes we go out and mainly walk. It’s not always exciting. 

Where we did trot and canter, it was very controlled. Abbey had to go behind to discourage any racing (which she did with manners). 

We also saw other horses cantering just in front of us and had trains passing within 100m.

These events are much more than a ‘fun ride’ they are a fabulous training exercise in a safe and controlled environment. 

Abbey second in her first novice 

Today we stepped up and did our first novice dressage test.  I couldn’t be more delighted with Abbey, the girl really tried and came home with a blue rosette for our efforts.

We warmed up with a prelim test – scoring 69.80% including an error of course (yes, I had a reader and still managed to go wrong!).  Interestingly the judge noted a lack of suppleness on the right rein as well as the left, as well as lack of suppleness through the transitions.

Continue reading “Abbey second in her first novice “

Showjumping lesson

Over the passed week Abbey’s not shown any signs of being ‘poorly’ and the lump has continued to decrease in size so yesterday we went for a jumping lesson with a new teacher.

Abbey loaded but was trembling from the moment she got on the box. Not sure why – perhaps I was tense or anxious or perhaps she was just in one of those moods.

It was no surprise that when we got there Abbey was rather wound up. 

She was tense as we warmed up and the teacher advised that I let her have a good look and give her the time to see everything. She also said to concentrate on forward rather than round.

We’re still struggling with bend on the left rein and this teachers advice was to give more with my outside rein while opening the inside hand and using my inside leg.  It worked and the canter on that rein improved as a result.

We didn’t have one refusal but we did have some hestitations. When I get these the RI suggested opening both hands to channel Abbey towards the fence.

We also worked on keeping my shoulders up going into a fence and keeping my reins (I often let them slip) as I ride a course.

The take home message was to work on maintaining the rythym all the way to the fence, not letting Abbey rush or firing her into fences.

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