A horse that moonwalks for no apparent reason? It could only happen to Nat! Here she tells us all...
When my trusty ear warmer comes out of the drawer, I know it’s autumn. I also know it’s autumn by the ridiculously fuzzy coat that appears on the Diva within a matter of days.
When you pat her she emits a sort of dust, like an old lady's powder puff.
I’ve also reached that stage of the year where I hold every rug at arms-length and give it a tentative shake, awaiting the appearance of yet another huge hairy arachnid who's taken residence inside it, while the mares look on in amusement at their ridiculous human.
I've just completed a five-week physio plan with Polly to help her muscle development and subsequent weakness through her quarters.
I decided that I was going to have to be disciplined over this (unlike my inability to stick to any healthy sort of diet) and so I set up a weekly plan that involved long-reining, in-hand pole-work, hacking and stable exercises.
I didn’t give myself specific days to do these things, but I had a checklist that I had to complete over week.
This meant that I could juggle things around a bit - for instance, a ridiculously blustery day I might opt for some long-reining in the school, but equally I could take advantage of a sunny day by going for a hack.
Polly has come on in leaps and bounds and our relationship is going from strength to strength, but, quite rightly, she regularly reminds me that I'm dealing with a very opinionated mare and that complacency is never a good idea.
Polly doesn’t like change, it would seem. One perfect example of this was the day I decided to ride her in her new comfort bridle, a purchase that I made, obviously, with her best interests in mind.
I tacked up as normal and checked the fit, making some adjustments while the Prima Donna stood smiling sweetly at me.
Satisfied that Polly seemed comfortable, I headed out of the barn with her and lined her up at my mounting block.
I got on as normal, my intention to head off around the stubble fields for a hack. It was then that Polly realised something had changed.
It was in the very odd little ear-flick she did, just once, but I knew she'd clocked it. She reversed, her usual go-to trick, and we flattened my mounting block.
I immediately jumped off and checked her tack over once again, in case there was some problem I'd missed. All the while Polly beamed at me, the face of an angel.
There was nothing noticeably amiss, so back on board I hopped. We then performed 15 minutes of what I can only describe as a sort of equine moonwalking that would've put Michael Jackson to shame.
Round in circles, mini-figures of eight… if she hadn’t been being so disobedient I would've been quite impressed at the quality of some of her shapes!
Round and round we went, the only time she moved forwards was when her backside accidentally touched something that we happened to have reversed into (i.e. my poor car) and even then it was out of sheer annoyance that she'd been stopped in her preferred direction of movement, rather than any fright.
The poor old mounting block got another pasting.
Every few seconds I would get her to stop, at which point she would turn around and look at me, with the most saintly expression, only to continue with the reversal the moment I asked her to go forwards again.
Just as I was starting to get motion sickness, and convince myself that there was something clearly hideously wrong with her, I asked one more time with my leg.
Like the flicking of a switch, off we set.
I remained tentative for a few minutes, not quite convinced by her sudden change of heart, but she felt so completely normal underneath me now that I carried on with our plan and we set off on our hack, incident free.
She has remained a complete angel in that respect since then and has made no attempt to do anything similar, so I can only conclude that it was to do with the change of bridle, and since we're still riding in the new bridle and she's going as sweetly as ever, she's got over it.
It seems, anyway, that our hard work has paid off. Her latest physio appointment showed a massive difference in her muscle development and she has now developed an impressive over track in trot, a far cry from the barely tracking up shuffle that we had previously.
The only downside to this is that she has managed to pull a shoe off in the field, so she's now sporting a pair of overreach boots to save my poor farrier from having the same sort of breakdown that Tobi used to give him.
The rest of the gang
Speaking of the Hooligan, he's doing well. He lost a bit of weight a few weeks ago and we'd started noticing him cribbing on one of the fence posts, so he's now moved over onto the big winter field with two of his friends to make a start on the new grass.
The weight is going back on and the cribbing has stopped, which is a relief. As much as I adore him, bringing him home and chucking him out with two mares wouldn't be an ideal situation for anyone!
The Diva is fabulous. She had a weigh-in with Spillers last weekend and we've managed to get a few kilos off her over the summer, which given that she cannot exercise, is nothing short of a miracle.
We still haven’t made our showing debut, largely due to lack of time on my part, but that's definitely in the pipeline for next season if we don’t make it out this year.
The cooler weather has suited her and we've even managed a few short trots around the stubble fields.
I'm thoroughly looking forward to clipping in the next few weeks (sense the sarcasm), which, as all horse owners know, simply means removing hair from their animal and then spending the next three weeks picking it out of underwear you didn’t even wear that day…
‘Til next time,