With three horses under her wing, Nat explains how Polly's training is going, why the Diva is a master of escape and who's keeping the Hooligan happy in retirement.
It’s safe to say that my motivation, as it does when the nights draw in and the sky is endlessly grey, is waning.
I'm also spending so much time with a hot water bottle jammed down my top that I consider us in a relationship.
The Hooligan has, thankfully, put his weight back on. I popped up last weekend to put a lightweight rug on him, in anticipation of bad weather this week, as he stood proudly in between two mares, who follow him around like he’s some sort of equine version of Johnny Depp.
The fact that I could go up and put a rug on him in the middle of a field is testament to just how relaxed he is now.
Trying to do the same thing when he was turned out at the yard would have largely involved him running around like a wild-eyed snorting beast, while I stood in the middle, holding onto a rug and wondering how many lasagnes could be made out of him…
The Diva (or should that be Houdini?)
The Diva, who has worn her grazing muzzle happily all summer, has now decided that it looks better as a novelty necklace.
Because she can no longer work, the muzzle is the only weapon I have in our never-ending battle to control her weight.
I was less than amused to arrive two mornings on the run to find her looking stuffed and content, with the muzzle hanging proudly around her thick neck, like some sort of medallion of obesity.
Fortunately, bale string is a wonderful thing and I've managed to attach her muzzle to a field-safe head collar. Nat: 1. Flo: 0. For now.
The new kid on the block
Polly is still amusing me with her (very forthright!) opinions. She’s also getting fit.
Anyone with a horse who’s got a bit of blood in them will know this isn’t necessarily a good thing. When Flo was fit, she was super rideable, flexible and absolutely on the money.
When Polly's fit, she resembles Tigger on a pogo stick. My aim, for the last few weeks, has been to try and achieve a long and low frame.
I’m pleased to say that we have achieved this in every session, but we’ve had to do an awful lot of bouncing about to get there.
She has to be ridden quietly and conservatively, and very much from your core and seat. I’m taking full advantage of this and expecting rock hard abs by Christmas!
Like a typical mare, she can change from day to day. We had a super session last week and aside from a two-minute period after the first canter where she coiled up underneath me, she was swinging along almost tension free for most of the session.
I decided to take her around the fields for a hack the next day, a reward for the previous day’s good behaviour. It was an after-work job and so I'd set aside 20 minutes for a relaxing walk.
You can imagine how unamused I was, forty-five minutes later, to be reversing in circles on an extremely indignant animal who had taken exception to the trees, or at least something in them.
With my stubborn head on, I decided that I was sitting this out for the foreseeable, and if we were still there in five hours, so be it.
Fortunately, Polly is starting to realise that she may well have met her match when it comes to having opinions and quite sensibly she decided to give up after another ten minutes.
She did, however, make her thoughts about the situation known by her insistence of jogging sideways for the rest of the way, but as I figured that sideways was preferable to backwards, I chose to overlook it on this occasion… despite the fact that the coffee I had consumed prior to getting on board was slowly making its way back up.
A different kind of trip to the vet
I was very lucky to be invited to an open day at Leahurst last weekend.
This is my local equine hospital and a place that I've spent far more time in than most people. I was probably one of the only guests who could have actually lead one of the tours without getting lost!
As we were going round, I did start to wonder whether the rest of my group considered me some sort of horse abuser, when at every single station a vet would ask if any of us had encountered a serious injury or health issue relating to that particular area of expertise and my hand went up.
Yes, all ten stations. It was embarrassing. Anyway, the day was fantastic and if they run them again and open them up to members of the horse community, I thoroughly recommend it.
I intend to get Polly out to her first dressage test in January - the plan is that she'll do a few months of Intros in the second half of the winter season and then we'll attempt some Prelims next spring. Spring. That might be the operative word if Polly has anything to with it!
‘Til next time,