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Welcome 2013!

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Just back from a walk wA LOT has happened since my last blog, the trouble is once there is a lot to write then it is harder to start. So, I guess to catch up a little is better than not to write at all, so here goes.....

We left in November where I was back from physio, and into jumping in a big way. Not actually jumping big fences, but jumping a few times a week as I have missed it so much. To balance the work for Jay and for me, I also started walking both Jay and my 8 month puppy,Talos, around the village together. Its like walking a big dog and a small dog (although Talos is quite big now), for all three of us to get some exercise.  Both of them walk well around the village in hand separately, so it was quite easy to join them up and make a lovely time of it. We did this quite a few times, it just seems so companionable to go for a walk with both my boys. A lovely photo of us as we came back is on the top of this blog.

My favourite saying is, “A happy life is just a string of happy moments, but most people miss the happy moments through looking for the happy life”. Needless to say walking out with “the boys” was a long and happy moment. Time and time again.

Wed 28 Nov, an extract from an email....

“Last night I rode Jay in the dark and wind and rain, he is just so attentive and generous. He worked like a true superstar. We did lateral work, medium trot, and a WONDERFUL canter. In fact I would say it is the first time we have been schooling and when in canter I apply my leg with an upward feel to my body, his canter has stayed relaxed and swinging, and we have had “more canter” as in more bounce, more engagement, more continuum of energy, with NO increase of tension, no loss of balance, no flattening forward.

The jumping lesson today, however, did not go exactly to plan. Hmmmm, I think I worked Jay a bit hard last night, he was OK today, but felt quite lethargic, plus when we stopped he was a bit stretched out, and reticent to move off.  He was obedient, jumped "well" but was not really enjoying himself, he felt a bit earthbound and had lost his “Jayness”. As he was not at his best we finished early,  then more pleasing to me, we had a play instead!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEFaWljc0Oc&feature=youtu.be “

Jay  seemed a bit out of sorts after that lesson. I was a bit worried, but he was being a real gent, was sound, did everything I asked, very obliging, but really not happy. He did not even want to play  with his giant football, and that is serious. Then...... hey, when did he get a splint on his off fore?????? I know Jay’s legs like the back of my own hand, and this new.

I suspect that in my keenness to get jumping after a year off with my hip I have just been a bit enthusiastic and caused a splint to form. At least time out at this time of year may be frustrating, but it is the best time of year to be off with short days and unpredictable weather. Plus it is pretty stress free as splints are pretty standard for competition horses, and not normally any trouble once formed, and with this one it is well away from his knee and Jay was not even lame.

Jay initially enjoyed his time out, but then Jay seems to enjoy resting, working, playing, sleeping, eating........... just about everything apart from wormers, and even then he is very tolerant. He was turned out for a few hours each day, had some Shiatsu , and also enjoyed his  Equissage pad. 

One thing that we started to do for Jay was to split his food up into three feed stations in his stable, as he was stabled for longer. One feed station is his feed dish, which does not last long as he does not get much hard feed. Another feed station is his normal haylage ration, in a normal haynet. This haylage is very dry, more like dust free meadow hay than haylage. The third feed station is his haylage net by his door, this net is made with tiny holes, and has posh seed haylage in, the smelly type with polished stalks.

The reasoning is that in this way Jay gets to choose his forage from a choice of different products in different locations. It is as natural as I can get in a stabled environment, and was from reading an article that stressed that the horse being able to browse and select from options is a great boost, even in such a limited fashion. Jay certainly seems to enjoy the choice, and it was not so hard to organise. It is something we will consider for winter anyway, I suspect it will fall by the wayside when Jay is free to graze in a field again in summer.

Jay stayed relaxed even on limited time out, and one day I even took some photos of him in bed. Jay quite often refuses to get out of bed! I guess we are showing trust in each other, and a total disregard for the camera flash!

Only a few sleeps until Christmas

In fact Jay managed 3 ½ weeks of time off, before the young man decided that he was ready for work. Hmmm, I would have preferred him to be off a bit longer, so I started to look for ways to keep him exercised and amused that did not involve riding, galloping or jumping.....

I spent a bit of time with him on the school, but as you can see from the pictures, it was not without fun and games. Still, it was only a small splint, and Jay had not been lame..

.Playing..

 more playing

 

 So, to Christmas day, and Jay still off but bored, so we had a play with teaching him to lie down. He seemed happy being laid down with me around, but it was a new idea to initiate him doing it at my suggestion. I took a film, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTqC6yqKhuE&feature=youtu.be

This made Jay steady up, and think some too, so on 4 Jan we had another play and Jay decided he could actually stay down a while.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diOeXFvFQik&list=UU0lJP-CVlvm1ywFllb-umLQ&index=4#

Jay was not to be defeated however, he seemed ready for work, and watching him cavorting around in his paddock I decided that it would be less stress on his legs for him to actually come back into some form of work. After a couple of light lunges I climbed aboard for some schooling and it felt great to be riding my boy again.

We had a few rides and then had a trip out to do some schooling in a nearby arena. It was close enough to just walk to, so no exciting lorry trip, but I am still smiling from riding that Sunday as Jay was great despite a shoot being conducted almost next door. Yes, a shoot, with loud bangs from close guns......It was funny actually as sometime the guns were making me jump, but not once did Jay turn a hair. They were awfully loud and close. Jay is gun proof! That is so good, especially as he is just back from a break.

The next week we stretched ourselves a bit more by schooling in a further arena, including a box trip out. Jay is generally very good, but after a break I like to re-familiarise him with all the exciting things in life gradually. For instance on the first day just being ridden was exciting to Jay, but not so exciting he had to show undesirable behaviour, possibly because I had pre-paved the way by a bit of light lungeing to get him in the right frame of mind. The second outing, walking to an arena, was quite exciting too, but not TOO exciting, possibly because we had pre-paved the way by riding a few times on our own school. By the time we had a box trip too, that was exciting, but as we had already had some recent experiences then it was great.

I guess this is strengthening Jay’s chains of knowledge. I know he had DONE all of these things in the past, but I also know that if the first time I had wanted to ride him I had boxed him to a strange arena first then it would have been an overload situation, and we would have been in trouble.

I guess it is dependent on your outlook as to your attitude to this. I operate from a position where I believe Jay to be kind and generous, that he tries his best at all times. He is a horse, but if he can please me he generally does, I suppose I set it up that Jay knows it is easier in the long run to just do what is asked....and he is generally confident that he can do what is asked.

If I overload Jay then I believe it is just that. He can become overwhelmed. And I do not find it productive to try to FORCE him to comply, he only ever seems to go off on one when he is overwhelmed, so I don’t suppose me getting all aggressive with him would reduce that feeling of overwhelm. It seems far more productive to give him new experiences in bite size chunks, so he can feel confident that when I ask something of him, he will be able to cope.

Well, best laid plans.....our next trip was to box to an open field to practice work in the open, and Jay did indeed experience some unexpected overwhelm here, as we arrived he went absolutely barmy! I don’t know if it was because we were just 100yds from the M62, or because we parked next to a road where there were cars passing, or that he thought that he was hunting, but he threw himself around, and leaped and bucked, still in the lorry, until he had broken a partition. It was flapping, Jay was flapping, and I was quite cross!

We managed to get him off, and once out he was very “up” but typical Jay he did nothing to hurt me, even though he was at the side of the road in a headcollar. I walked Jaystar to the open field. Here I lunged until he was cool in his head, it didn’t take long, not to wear him out, just to have him concentrating. We then bridled Jay and I mounted up and he was an absolute superstar. We did schooling, and then some canter work. Jay was super smooth, super good, but not at all fit and I did not wish to risk an injury, so we just did a steady canter. Jay did some supreme work.

Jay schooling on an open field adds some Va Va Voom, much better quality, just as obedient, but his fire is lit, and he was moving splendidly. In fact there was an area of long grass, and when schooling in the long grass he was very posh indeed.

I like that Jay is pretty transparent, so I did not mount up until he was ready. And, when he was ready that was it, great work, no mishaps. Jay really does seem to take care of me, I guess we just need him to learn to take care of his lorry too! I still don’t know what caused the overwhelm, but together we worked it out, no aggravation between us, Jay was careful of me and I only had a mild bit of crossness about the partition, but no loss of faith in him.

It was after this that the weather once more broke down, snow and ice. We have kept the school clear and have managed some light schooling, just enough to tick over. I guess this is for the better as Jay has come back to work after his splint a bit earlier than I anticipated, so a slow start is good. This is Jay making "Snow Angles" on the one day we did not get the arena cleared...IMG_3934

On Friday we pushed the boat out and had a jump lesson in an indoor school, our first time jumping. We just did a grid, but Jay was great, he felt on top form. This week was also my birthday, and as my present I now have a podium for him to stand on.

In America we worked with these, and initially I did not see the point, but it is partly an exercise in trust and obedience, has the horse “thinking in his feet” as in concentrating on the here and now, in his body, rather than staring into the distance on some imaginary mission. It also is helpful to familiarise horses with the different surface, which is similar in feel and sound to a trailer or lorry ramp.  I would not have bought a podium just for that though, we do stuff like that all the time with equipment that cost a lot less. I have noticed that horses seem to LOVE standing on a podium. I think they stretch their backs off by lifting up.

The photo is of Jay on his second Podium encounter. We had a stretch on the podium, then some work in the school, then a stretch then some work. Co-incidentally he worked really well! We shall see if the podium works out to be a real secret weapon in his work. I can just imagine now the authorities deciding if the podium is an illegal “schooling aid”  at competitions!

Stopping for a stretch

So, next?

Well, we will continue to re-establish Jay’s chain of confidence in ever more busy situations. This year we hope to go out jumping and eventing. After a year out that will take a bit of re-establishing back to our previous level, although a year of pure dressage has us in a far better basic schooling situation. With all the play we have done we both have more confidence and faith in each other too.

It will be a balancing act with Jay’s confidence, my confidence, his fitness, my fitness, our education, and don’t forget the FUN. After all “a happy life is just a string of happy moments” and I don’t wish to miss the magic moments along the way through chasing some abstract competition goal.

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  1. Gail

    Excellent! To a year full of a string of happy moments!

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