Tired and happy

After volunteering at Summerfield Stables on Wednesday we took the founder, wonderful Ros, and her great-god-daughter along to meet our three beasties. What a lovely time we had! 

We all groomed and tacked up, introducing each horse to Ros who was very kind and enthusiastic about them all. This is why Summerfield is so lovely, because the founder (and her daughter George who now runs it) have this lovely ethos of sharing the joy of horses with others. Where some may see problems or unnecessary effort, Ros sees potential and an animal that deserves a kind home. She loved Skye (“good strong mare”) and noticed very quickly how attentive the horse is, how well our budding connection is going. Felt very gratified by that. Skye even did perfectly for picking her feet out, with Ros at front to hold and entertain her (more than can be said for the following day, when she really wanted to plant those forefeet and it took us a while to get them picked). 

We all three went up to the dressage field for a play and so that Ros and the kid could see what we were each working on. And ultimately, although we’re all at different stages and approaching it in different ways, we’re all working on the same thing. Self-carriage. We are each trying to encourage healthy movement (or at the very least, trust, confidence, and mental relaxation) in our horses. 

Skye was very stimulated by the rich rye and clover in that field, so we didn’t have as much concentration as usual, but she was still great. 

The kid then rode one of the ponies and we all went into the jumping field. I was just in-hand grazing Skye and chatting, but I did lead her over some ground poles and between jump wings. I realised I hadn’t done that, in that field, since the first week I’d tried it to test the waters. What a difference. She was willing with a little coaxing even in that first week and I imagine, to the outside, it wouldn’t have looked much different. She still looked at them and hesitated when doing it this week. But the feeling I got from her was wildly different. Much more confident. Much more prepared to give me the benefit of the doubt. 

Yesterday, again after volunteering, a couple of us went down and had a walking hack (Skye in-hand) for about an hour. So I’m shattered today, but in a satisfied and happy way. 

Things of note: 

  • She went through the bollards without hesitation (this is only the second time we’ve tackled them). She’s a quick learner. 
  • Slower and less sure at first, think because it was with different horses (her favourite, Monty the cob, wasn’t with us). 
  • Loved the bridleway, once again, and we’re wondering if it’s because it’s softer going? She doesn’t seem footsore, but she is still only a couple of months back into roadwork and her posture/fitness still needs a lot of work, so perhaps her joints or feet feel the road more than the mud of the bridleway. Or perhaps she just finds it more inviting. 
  • Once again, after the bridleway she had more confidence. Our hesitant walk changed into that lovely, “we’re going somewhere with purpose!” walk, so we both got a good little bit of exercise. 
  • She shied a couple of times, doing her splayed leg thing much to the girls’ amusement, and I reflected again that one would probably be safer on her back than beside her. My poor toes were at risk a couple of times! 
  • We even had a tiny bit of trot. It was more of a jog, but… her neck stayed forward, down, and out! A nice horizontal balance. So that’s promising. 
  • Oh, and after I felt that her back looked a bit flatter and up for the exercise. Truly, never underestimate the power of purposeful walking and just getting the miles in. 
Once we got back, the girls had a brief go in the dressage field as they’re both trying to improve their horse’s trots at the moment. It’s the usual story, the horses brace and lift their heads (dropping/bending their cervicothoracic spine) in a protective move. My friend’s pony did it even as soon as he felt like trot would be coming (ie: when the reins were gently shortened to maintain a contact before asking for trot). But he walks lovely and big and swinging, especially after a recent McTimoney visit. So we tried trotting him from a walk on a long rein and oh, an instant improvement! A beautiful looking trot, nicely balanced, which was described as feeling “floaty… and it never has before.” And all because he didn’t feel the need to protect himself from the contact. This is a pony who was previously ridden in a three-ring gag with martingale (logical) and quite inverted. But he’s got such potential. It’s that old thing, we need him to seek out the contact happily, not have it imposed upon him. 
Before returning them to the field, I borrowed a friend’s saddle to see how Skye feels about having one near her and put on her back. Answer: fine. She had a “what the…?!” sniff of it, but couldn’t have cared less really. Given how she feels about the bridle, I wasn’t sure if the saddle would have similar associations. Placed it gently, but then moved it around, dropped the girth, reached under, smoothed the numnah and pad, rattled things, and let the girth run across her back when I took it off again. Horse didn’t batt an eyelid, was too interested in stuff happening off up the field. Very pleased. 
Back in the field, Skye was pissed off! Her field is rather bare. She’s gotten fatter this last month but even so, she is annoyed that she can’t access the clover on the other side of the fence. It gave rise to some lovely expression though, and it’s a pleasure that she’s starting to tell me these things. She’s starting to consider me as someone worth sharing her feelings with. She wears her heart on her sleeve, as it were. I’m happy that she feels confident enough to express anything except worry! 
So a wonderful couple of days. 
Oh, I find myself miffed this morning though! I’d collected up my drawings at Summerfield yesterday, thinking to get them photocopied today. Then they need cutting out and laminating. But, stupid Hampshire, I’ve picked up the wrong stuff and all the drawings are still at the stables. Sigh. I’ll need to do it next week as the week after we have another pony camp and I really want to have these bits ready and available incase they’re wanted for teaching. The weather has certainly been unreliable, and these sorts of educational games (selecting bits of tack, sticking superficial muscles onto my diagrams, things like that) are definitely good rainy-day options. 

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