Horsey people are at their least attractive in summer
I honestly couldn’t tell you when we’re at our most attractive, but I know for sure that summer sunshine makes us exceedingly unappealing. Because we’re working all the time, and it’s physical work, we basically just spend the entire day sweating. Which, in turn, means that hay and dust gets stuck to us, our hair goes flat, our shirts stick to our backs, we smell even worse than the horses, and we attempt to cool down by wandering the yard with jods rolled up to the knees and socks rolled down to our boots.
And today was a hot day. So I was incredibly unattractive throughout. We fetched horses in, and then Kayleigh and I went and poo-picked four fields on our own. Two of which are rather large, I might add. And did I mention it was hot? We were seriously gross by the time we dragged our barrows back up the killer cross-country hill. Urgh!
We replenished ourselves (me downing two bottles of water in quick succession) before saddling up some ponies. And I mean that in the literal sense, as Kayleigh chose to ride Jack and Sonya had requested that I ride Blossom again today. That pony is so naughty when you go to tack her up, trying to avoid the bridle and stamp on your toes to get you to go away. Cheeky!
We got on eventually though, and it wasn’t until I had started walking Miss Blossom around that I remembered I was supposed to have lunged her before I got on. Oops. I figured I was in for a penny in for a pound, so I just carried on. Our first bit of naughtiness occurred when she jumped at a loud bang on the other side of the fence. That one jump obviously triggered something in her head because she then decided to play the pogo game. At which point I thought “sod it, she’s warmed up enough” and kicked her on into canter to ride her through it. She calmed down from that episode, and we worked around the arena in trot, establishing a good rhythm. I also played with the trot a little today, getting her to slow it right down and then letting her push on for a bit before bringing her back to a regular trot. She worked really well, responding so much better off my leg than she did yesterday. She must’ve processed something from yesterdays session, because she came out today with a much better working attitude.
We didn’t have any more pogoing until I asked her to canter a large circle, and on the final quarter she swung her hindquarters out to the left and starting bouncing. I growled, kicked, and we carried on. Apart from that, everything was just grand. Canter transitions were much sharper, the canter felt balanced and regular. In fact, all of her transitions were crisper and cleaner than yesterday, as she went off my leg almost immediately rather than me having to nudge her a billion times. She also listened to the schooling whip properly today rather than ignoring it completely like she did yesterday.
I love ponies, I really do. I think they’re cracking! Blossom is an ace little pony and today I really enjoyed her. She’s got a few bits and pieces she needs to learn and grow out of, but on the whole I think she’s fantastic. I enjoyed the session this morning so much that now I just want to get on her every day and keep working her. It’s a weird feeling actually. Like an itch I can’t scratch.
I hopped off her after about half an hour, because she’s only little and is still building in strength and stamina. But Kayleigh and Jack kept going, so I stayed in the school holding Blossom and watched Kayleigh, trying to give her some tips to help her get right lead canter. Bless her, she was trying really hard but Jack had decided to take the piss completely. I gave her the pointers that made sense to me, the things that get it to work for me, and she was certainly able to keep a more regular trot and get some better inside bend, but he was still carting her off on the wrong leg in canter. Andrew, who had come in to college to get signed off for the year, had been watching us ride and stepped forward to offer some suggestions to her. Which seemed to really work, as he had a fresh approach and it just seemed to click in Kayleigh’s head because she managed to get the right lead canter. She told me she felt a bit gutted about the whole session, like she hadn’t done very well at which point I told her not to think like that, and to remember that ultimately she had achieved her goal. It might have taken some time, but she didn’t give up, she got what she wanted from him, and it means that next time she’ll be better equipped to deal with whatever is thrown her way because she learned today that she does have the stamina and the determination and the ability to do it.
I ended up covered in stuff this afternoon. I had to syringe Maguire’s Danilon (painkiller) into him because he is refusing to eat his breakfast which means he’ll end up suffering again. That was great fun, as he decided to try and eat the syringe along with the stuff I was squirting out. I ended up getting it (and a fair bit of saliva too) all over my hands and arms, as he very thoughtfully shared it with me. He swallowed most of it though, so hopefully he’ll stay comfortable. Kayleigh and I also then had to wash some eyes, because of the flies this time of year. Victor does not like having his eyes rinsed, even though it makes him feel better and removes all the gunk from his recent infection. So I ended up with half a thing of salt water down my arm, side and leg. Thanks Vic. Fortunately, Lucy was much better behaved and allowed Kayleigh to rinse her eyes out without soaking her in the process. Why do I always get the difficult ones hey?!
My next task of the day (oh woe is me) was to saddle up dear old Foxy for a ride. Yes, two in one day. Blossom was a request from Sonya though, whereas Fox was an arrangement with Kelly. Some of the first years were free-schooling alongside us, which while it limited the space we could work in, it focused me a bit more and was good practice for my future endeavours in which I will end up exercising horses alongside other people with no “lesson” format. At first, he was extremely sharp, buzzing off my leg before I’d even put it on and trotting like a bat out of hell. It was one big arse trot! Eventually he chilled out a little, to the point that he then tried to stop every stride. “Oh god” I thought “He’s in one of those moods”. Nonetheless, I carried on. Kelly called me over once we’d warmed up and directed me to remove my stirrups, and begin working by doing some leg exercises in halt to get my muscles in the right place and keep everything loose and supple. So off we went, legs as long as they could be, ribcage lifted nice and high, stomach muscles tight and strong, and hips absorbing every stride.
Having learned the importance of outside aids last week, I was careful to remember my outside rein, and keep my outside leg in a constant and reassuring position. Which meant we were better balanced around the corners than we have been for a while. It didn’t take long, however, for my legs to start giving up as Fox decided he was pretty much done with work. After ten minutes.
Kelly looked up at me from the bench, “Wait there, I’ll get my spurs”. She came in and attached them to my feet for me. “That’ll keep your toes forward” she said, laughing at the same time at my face. Hell yes it would! I did NOT want this horse shooting off like a rocket because of the spurs while I had no stirrups. And he did shoot off a couple of times, although neither of those were anything to do with my feet. Someone dared to speak on the other side of the fence, so we went darting off around the arena then, and Cocoa (a new and still unsettled mare) was walking backwards instead of forwards at one point which seemed to unnerve him to the point that he felt the need to canter off as fast as he could. I kept my cool, however, and we came back to trot fairly easily.
Other times, I asked for the canter, which was a much more controlled transition. On the whole though, I tried to work on his trot. His canter isn’t the most balanced or regular, but there’s no point getting him all lovely in the canter if you’re then going to be coming back down to an unbalanced, irregular, crooked trot. So we worked on the trot. We worked on staying straight, by pushing those hindquarters around the corners rather than letting them swing out and by pushing him forward into the contact, encouraging his hind end to stay engaged thereby allowing me to help him lift off his shoulders and maintain correct bend.
He worked extremely hard, trying to listen to what I was asking him to do, most of the time. At times, I could feel the engagement of his quarters, and a roundness through his back like he had pushed his back up to meet my legs rather than me having to stretch down. I maintained my outside aids better, and we got some good changes of bend on figures of eight.
The main result of the session was a dramatic improvement in his straightness and connection from back to front. I could feel him stepping through with his hind legs, and he was gradually softening in my hands, with several strides in a row of a lovely light balanced trot. He was seriously thinking about working hard, even if he didn’t quite work as hard as he could have. He’s a lazy toad, but I love him so.
I only have about ten days left before I leave Holme Lacy yard. And now, it’s for good. Because I suddenly realise that I forgot to tell you my news!
I have a job trial. On a yard in Devon. When I come back from Ireland.
Which is extremely exciting, and nerve-wracking and positive and unexpected and terrifying. I had the interview last week and I mostly just expected it to be good experience as I’ve not interviewed in this industry before. So to get an e-mail from them saying that they were impressed with my performance at interview, that they felt I would fit in nicely with the team and that they’d love to have me down for a trial, was a bit of an “ummm….what!?” moment for me.
In fact, I’m totally overwhelmed at the moment, because everything is happening so fast. In ten days I’ll have finished at Holme Lacy and will be getting ready to go to Ireland. Four weeks later, I’ll be coming home from Ireland and getting ready to go to Devon for my trial. Three weeks after that, I’ll have finished my trial and all being well, will be starting there proper.
Aah. The scariest part is that there’s still a part of my brain going “Hang on…you’re actually going to do this? You’re really truly going to work with horses. Are you sure about this?” Because half of me still can’t quite believe I’ve done what I have. That spur of the moment decision to go and study horses, while being the best decision I ever made, has totally rearranged the shape of my future. And half of me loves it. But the other half is still a bit confused as to how all this happened to me.
The point of the whole matter, is that at the moment I am making the most of every moment I can spend with the lovely Fox. Because in ten days time, I will not be seeing him anymore. I cannot feasibly buy him, much as I would love to. It would not be sensible or practical at the moment. And I cannot afford it. I love him dearly and I know that I am going to miss him a huge amount. But it is something I will move on from, because I always do. In fact, I think I am doing remarkably well considering how much I love him. Because the thought of not seeing him again does hurt, but I’ve come to terms with it in a kind of “Yes well, these things happen sometimes. You meet people, horses, whatever, and you build bonds and develop attachments, and then one of you leaves and it’s okay because you know that’s what life is all about” way.
P.s. I have a new favourite song. Look.