In her last blog, Nat had just brought home her new horse Polly. Here, she explains how their first few weeks together have been and why the Diva might not be retiring just yet...
Polly has been with me for four weeks now and I'm absolutely smitten with her.
I don’t generally fall for horses that easily, if I’m honest. I usually find that they grow on me over time and then without even realising it, they've embedded themselves under my skin and I suddenly can’t imagine life without them.
The last one who stole my heart this quickly was the Diva, who just planted herself firmly into the centre of my universe and never left.
I have that same feeling of connection with Polly and, even more crucially, she seems to quite like me as well.
Getting to know each other
What I love about the first few months with a new horse is that period of getting to know them.
They all come with quirks, even the most placid of animal, and it’s these little character traits that I love finding out about.
Polly is no exception. She doesn’t particularly like to be ‘fussed’ in the stable and during her first week, she decided that she wasn’t keen on having her hind feet picked out.
I must explain that there's a reason for this. Back in the winter while with her previous owner, Polly was found one day with a rather horrific skin injury to the inside of her hock.
It has healed amazingly well, but obviously she had to endure quite a bit of fiddling in this area at the time, which has left her not particularly keen on things happening with her hind legs.
The day after she arrived, I set about getting her into her new routine that involves an evening groom while she’s having some hay.
She looked rather put out when I went to pick her hind feet out and the next 30 minutes was spent quietly following her around the stable with my hand on her leg, only letting go when she stood still.
I must add that what's hilarious about this mare is that the sweet expression on her face never changes.
She was obviously rather annoyed that this irritating new human was so insistent on having her back legs, but she continued to smile in my direction as she moved around the stable, although no doubt cursing at me under her breath!
Eventually she let out a sigh and gave me both back feet. On days two and three, we were down to 15 minutes and by day four it took me only five. Day six and she picked her own feet up for me as soon as I asked and has remained as good as gold ever since.
I gave her a week to settle in, get into her new routine and have a few in-hand sessions in the school and around the yard.
Having an MOT
Next up, she had a saddle fitting and a physio session and we're now in the first stages of building her weak quarters up, which are a result of the time off she had after her injury.
She's currently doing a mixture of hacking, pole work and long-reining, plus exercises that I do with her every day in the stable.
Under saddle, she's quirky, but never silly. We hack out alone and she's demonstrated an interesting stop and reverse trick when she's unsure about something or feeling a bit nappy.
There's never any malice in it and I quickly realised that the easiest thing here is to act extremely bored by it for a few moments and then put my leg on, by which time she has decided that it’s actually far more productive to keep going forwards.
Again, that little smile on her face never waivers. She has earned the title of ‘Prima Donna’ as it would definitely appear that I have two Divas on my hands!
We're in the very early stages of our partnership, but I already feel like we have a mutual trust starting to develop and I’m rather excited for the future. The difference in her muscle tone already is astonishing and she looks and feels fantastic.
What's the Diva up to?
The Diva is enjoying hacking around the farm and has now readily accepted wearing an easy-breathe grazing muzzle when out in the field, a necessary evil now that she can no longer do the work needed to keep her waistline relatively trim.
She’s figured out a way of getting the maximum amount of grass that she can through it, but at least it’s slowing her down somewhat.
Always one for amateur dramatics, she now refuses to stand and wait at the bottom of the barn aisle when coming in each morning, because I’ve obviously had her mouth taped shut all night long and it’s vital that she gets into her stable as soon as possible to stuff herself with hay before she drops dead of starvation…!
As much as she's enjoying her semi-retirement, the downside to this is that her brain isn’t getting the stimulation it needs and a bored Diva is slightly akin to a child with some form of attention deficit disorder.
She now entertains herself by spooking at pigeons out hacking or getting hold of anything and everything she can on her way down the barn aisle and removing it with her teeth.
So, I've decided that we are going to have a little go at in-hand showing to give her some sort of job to do.
She can manage a little in-hand trot around a ring (although I’m not sure I can!) and at least it will give her brain something else to focus on.
Our attempt at this last year was a complete and utter disaster. The Diva decided that she didn't do trotting in-hand and instead I had to do a red-faced walk-of-shame around the ring, while apologising to the judge, much to the amusement of my Dad who I could hear roaring with laughter from the side-lines.
Still, it’s something to do! She'll be attending a few crash-course sessions with me over the next couple of weeks on learning how to trot up in-hand like a normal horse, which no doubt will go down with her like a lead balloon.
The last time she had to be trotted in-hand was for a vet and she had to be chased by three students, one of them brandishing a long whip…
Wish me luck!