Let me get you up to speed.
Before I regale you with todays antics, I should probably catch you up on the past couple of days. Did I post on Tuesday? I don’t think I did! Okay, let’s go.
I rode Blossom again on Tuesday, before work. And, apart from a minor disagreement in which she said she didn’t want to listen to my outside rein, and I firmly told her she needed to (at which point we played the pogo game), she was fantastic! She learns so fast, it’s amazing. The leg yield was brilliant on both reins, needing no rein direction on the right rein and only a tiny bit on the left. She picked up turn on the forehand overnight, moving straight off my leg in the right direction first time! And the canter transitions were smooth and bounce free. The canter was more forward and required less leg, the trot was more rhythmical and consistent, we had better inside bend and basically the little lady was an absolute star! She’s a real gem of a pony.
Yesterday, (we’re on to Wednesday now, keep up!) Tillie and I went adventuring as it was to be our last day to see each other before I depart for the Emerald Isle and then beyond. By beyond, I mean Devon. So we agreed we’d spend the day together and at Tillie’s suggestion we thought we’d try the West Midlands Safari Park.
BEST DECISION EVER.
It was amazing. I’ve never been to a safari park before, and I absolutely loved it. We saw everything, and were oohing and aahing at every turn. I got the hang of the whole safari driving thing pretty quick and stopped worrying about the fact that there were people behind me. And I took a lot of photos! We saw…
A baby Nellyphant:
An awesome Sea Lion called Callum:
and Hippos, to name but a few:
By far the most exciting part of the entire day, however, was when we got the chance to feed the giraffes. Okay, so I have a thing about giraffes. Similarly weird to my thing about paperweights. I just love them. Giraffes I mean. Well, paperweights too, but we’re on giraffes now. I think they’re gorgeous. If you look at them bit by bit then they seem to be one of the strangest creations on the planet with their insanely long legs, odd shaped bodies, ludicrous necks and peculiar head lumps and bumps. But then you look at them as a whole, and they’re pretty goddamn beautiful. I think so anyway.
Absolutely stunning animals. So graceful and gentle and quiet. If I could be any animal, I think I’d be a giraffe.
We had three of them around the car at one point, as Tillie and I were both holding out our hands laden with food, squeaking with delight as they came and oh so softly and sweetly nuzzled our hands for the pellets.
Their lips are so soft and velvety, it’s amazing! I just sat there, grinning, mumbling “I’m feeding giraffes I’m feeding giraffes” to myself. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a happier moment. I just felt ecstatic, all because a couple of giraffes came and nibbled pellets out of my hand.
I could have stayed there all day to be honest, just sitting there feeding giraffes. It was the absolute highlight of my day, and probably of the year. New job? Finishing college? FEEDING GIRAFFES. No brainer.
Yesterday evening (we’re still on Wednesday, slow down) was our awards ceremony. So we were required to wear nice clothes and go along to the main campus in Hereford to awkwardly walk across a room with people clapping to shake a hand and receive a certificate. Having experienced the much more terrifying experience of my University graduation, I wasn’t too bothered by the whole affair, but I knew some of the girls were rather nervous about being on show.
In the end, it was so casual I ended up getting the giggles. Because whoever was in charge of the big screen kept getting it wrong and either skipping through the slides too fast, or going backwards instead of forwards. When it came to our little group, Cha went up first to get hers as she was the only Level 2 attending. And then the six of us were lined up (not everyone came) and went up amidst the applause. What I didn’t realise until the start of the ceremony, was that they did other prizes for a couple of students in each group. We’d watched the other courses go to get theirs but by the time it came to us, I’d completely forgotten they happened. So when my name was called to go and collect a prize for “Top Student” (aka teachers pet) I kinda sat there for a second thinking, “you what now, I just sat down, do I have to get up again?”
I was surprised, and also a little embarrassed, when I went up to shake the mans hand, again, and collect my prize. Because I had to go up on my own this time, and then come all the way back around to my seat on my own. With everyone looking at me and clapping and such. As I came back down to my seat I had all the blacksmiths whispering “Well done, congratulations” to me as I passed. Which made me laugh, rather inappropriately as the next speaker had already started. Oops.
The other award was the Progress Award which, in our group, went to Louise. I think she was quite surprised to get a special award as she kind of jumped when they said her name, but she deserves it as I know she’s been trying hard with her assignments and such. I was proud to see her go and collect it. And I’m proud of our whole group, because despite all the moments where we’ve wanted to collapse or quit or kill someone, we didn’t. We got through it all, we worked our butts off, and we completed the course well.
My parents and Di-Di then took me out to a pub for some supper, where I happily slugged down a very welcome Gin and Tonic before discovering I do like Camembert after all. Especially if it’s baked, on ciabatta, with red onion marmalade. YUM.
Do you want to know about today now? Okay, fine. You’ve twisted my arm.
I headed into the yard this morning to give Kelly a hand. We mucked out stables, filled haynets and changed the poultice and bandages on a horses foot and legs. We then poo-picked the fields before Kelly levelled the school and I drove over the road to wash Victors eyes. Which didn’t happen because he’s a sod. The less said the better because I’ll only get annoyed. Again.
By this point it was around 12.30, so Kelly said I could hop on and ride if I wanted. She suggested I school the newbie, Cocoa, for half and hour or so and she’d sit on the sidelines and watch, throwing in direction as and when she felt it was necessary. So that’s what we did. Cocoa, as it turns out, is very sweet. I didn’t faff too much at the start, because I just wanted to start and get her moving rather than giving her a chance to worry about stuff. She seems a bit of a stresser, so I wanted to take that opportunity way from her. Which meant my stirrups were slightly shorter than I’d normally have for flatwork, but I tried not to let it affect my position too much.
We walked around, establishing some ground rules. Such as stopping, starting, changing direction and such. After a little while I could sense she was getting antsy, so we popped up into trot. Her inside bend was not good. At all. In fact, it was distinctly absent. She does, however, have a lovely consistent trot with a really good rhythm. So I enjoyed the pace of the trot, but tried my best to encourage some inside bend on both reins. We worked on circles, increasing and decreasing randomly, and serpentines to encourage a change of bend and to prevent anticipation.
All of that seemed to work, as her inside bend gradually developed and she started to soften a little and bend around the turns better. Some of the serpentines were lovely, and she felt much lighter as she’d stopped leaning on my hands so much and actually responded to my inside leg better. Kelly interjected at this point and suggested I pick up the canter before the mare got too tired. So off we went.
Her canter is peculiar, but then again it isn’t really. This is a mare who only had a foal about six months ago, so it’s a safe bet to say that she hasn’t done a lot of work in the last 18 months. Consequently, she is extremely weak behind and relies on her big strong shoulders to pull her through things. When it comes to the canter, naturally this is a problem. Because to get a good canter stride, she needs to be able to push herself forward by getting those hind legs underneath herself. Which, being so weak through her back and quarters, she finds hard. But she is an extremely willing mare which means she tried very hard to do what I asked. So when I asked for the transition, she tried to step through with her outside hind to push off. And when I asked her to bring the canter in a little and not go so long, she really did try. I could feel her trying to get those muscles working. But she couldn’t maintain it for long before lengthening again or coming back to trot.
This meant that while cantering I would get two or three really nice rhythmical balanced strides, and then another load of rickety unbalanced rubbish. At one point I thought she’d bucked, before realising it was just a complete lack of balance. To me, it felt like she was disuniting behind even though she wasn’t. Because we’d have a few strides of this lovely canter, and then all of a sudden her back end would disengage completely and she’d trail her hind legs behind her almost.
But, on the whole, I quite enjoyed her. It’s a shame I’m leaving really, as I’d have liked to get on her again. Because her inside bend improved so much during that session, and by the end she wasn’t even trying to look at Kelly and Amy when we rode past the benches. Plus, her saddle is really comfy!
After I’d sorted her out and cleaned her tack, it was time to bid farewell to Kelly. She was off to a funeral, and I was off to see Harriet, but it was also my last time on the yard with her as she’s going on holiday so won’t be working on Sunday and then I’m disappearing after that. So we had a very brief and “absolutely not going to allow myself to be emotional” goodbye. We’re as bad as each other when it comes to that kind of thing, so when Kelly said “I’m no good with goodbyes…” my response was, “Nope, me neither so I’m gonna go lock the tack room”. We exchanged “You’re awesome” compliments, before parting ways. I did genuinely feel sad though, because she’s a lady who has helped me beyond belief and has put so much effort into working with me and teaching me. She’s also become a really good friend, and someone I’ve really appreciated having in my life. So saying goodbye, even though I’m sure I’ll see her again, was a bit strange and sad.
Before I could dwell on that, however, I headed off to find Harriet down at Caplor in Fownhope as she had invited me for a ride. Originally I was meant to ride the lovely Lily, a sweet tempered thoroughbred mare, but she had unfortunately got a rather swollen fetlock on her right hind which meant Maddy, her owner, wasn’t too sure about her going out. So I was given the gorgeous Arvan instead. He’s such an unusual colouring, but really rather striking. I loved looking down at his beautiful creamy coat with that flopping glimmery mane. We had a really good ride, walking and trotting along roads and tracks and through some fields. We had a little bit of trouble when we first tried to set off in the canter on a nice long stretch, as I had mistakenly attached Arvans curb chain on the wrong link which meant it was tight when he tried to canter. So we ended up bucking and skitting sideways instead. Always fun. We were also having a lot of fun with the horse flies, which were out in full force! Having adjusted his curb and killed a few flies, we tried again and this time it was Harriet and Squirrels turn to have a bit of a buck and a play. Bringing them back together again, we crossed our fingers and prayed for third time lucky.
Ever the charm. We had a lovely long canter down the field. Arvan has a super comfy canter, with lovely soft gentle strides. We had a few more canters around the edges of a couple of other fields, during one of which Arvan decided canter wasn’t quite enough and a full gallop might be more appropriate. I felt him gather those quarters as he prepared to shoot forwards and fortunately had the foresight to hold him back, as we had Maddy and Ginger straight in front of us. Which would not have ended well.
We must’ve been riding for a good hour and a half to two hours, so my knees were quite grateful when we finally dismounted. It was a really lovely ride though and I’m so pleased I was able to go and do that this afternoon. Harriet has told me anytime I want to go and ride with them I’m welcome, so that’s nice and definitely something I will attempt to take her up on whenever I get the chance on visits home.
So there you have it, I think you are now officially up to date with the world of Meg. Happy? I should jolly well think so too! If nothing else, I hope you enjoyed the giraffe pictures.
I love giraffes.