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  1. CowsSherlock’s “A Month in the Life” ..... If anyone has wondered what I get up to day by day with my own horse Sherlock, this is a month in the life of a very busy Sherlock, day by day as we start our event season.... it is a balance getting Sherlock schooled and fit around a full time job and teaching.


    Saturday  1 May, Sherlock had his two hours in the tasty lush field, then was swapped to be turned out for a few hours more on the sand school. And that was that! Funny this month should start like this as Sherlock is generally VERY hard working, as you will see........


    Sunday 2 May,  I started with just 20 minutes schooling at home in our magic dressage saddle, schooling Sherlock with my reins in my left hand only. This is because<BLOG_BREAK> my left hand is a bit “lazy”, it feels the same as the other, but it does not do enough. So, I have started to ride the first part of my schooling sessions using my left hand only, to wake it up! After just 10 minutes riding with my left hand I have cramp and shooting pains, so it is obvious that my left hand normally does very little, Then I went back to riding with two hands, and Sherlock was a superstar, now my left arm is waking up and being less clumsy (like a child trying to hold a pen) we are bending so much better to the left.

    Sherlock then had his 2 hours in the grass field, after that this afternoon I decided to load up and take the very lovely Sherlock with me to Escric Park (see http://www.escrick.com/metadot/index.pl?iid=2197 ). He is such a gem, very good company, such a gentleman in the box.
    I paid my fees, despite the fact that there were a load of other boxes there for a carriage driving event. No, I wanted to ride, and if Sherlock had to get to grips with carriages then so be it! By the time I had watched some, and faffed about, they had mostly finished and un-tacked, so I mounted up, and we did come face to face with one. I did not know how Sherlock would react, but I should have remembered that he used to see one in his previous yard, and he was interested, but not locked up or panicky.

    We had a lovely ride out, trotted and cantered and jumped some fences. Sherlock was a real gent! He feels so malleable.


    Monday 3 May- I am entered for 2 events now, my first a BE90 at Richmond in two weeks just to start the season off, then a BE100. We hope to do 2 more BE100s before upgrading to BE Novice when I get back from America in July. Exciting times. Sherlock is muscling up nicely, still not “fit” but not a squashy marshmallow now either!

    Today we had a show jumping lesson, only my second since October.  We were jumping a bit bigger this time, just 1 metre, and concentrating on Sherlock “sitting” on his hocks and cantering with activity. At present he thinks that “sitting” must equate with bouncing too much on the spot, and if I ask him forwards it is too much, but by the end of the session it was better, a bouncing stride with forward movement, and then we don’t seem to knock the fence down. On the left rein he prefers to be behind the bridle, but I am getting sharper at spotting and correcting that.

    When we got home Sherlock had a bit longer in the grassy field, he goes out every day but has to be restricted to only a few hours as he is somewhat overweight still. I felt a bit sorry for him with all the hours travelling lately, in the past few days I have used up £140 in diesel, and my lorry is quite economical! So, nearly 4 hours out, and he was quite bloated when he came in!


    Tuesday 4 May- When I removed Sherlock’s rug this morning his tummy was quite deflated again, thank goodness. We went for a ride out through the village, just at walk and trot on the back track, as we have been quite intense lately, and then he had just 2 hours in the field before being swapped into the school, where he refused to eat his haylage!


    Wednesday 5 May- A short schooling session in the magic saddle today, it is FAB to see how the show jumping work we have done has improved our dressage too. The trot is much straighter now anyway, but the canter has improved so much. We can push on for a BIG canter, then just with a tightening of my core muscles we are back and “sitting” in a more collected canter. No pulling, no tension. Magic! Then just the meagre 2 hours turnout in the field.


    Thursday 6 May- I hired Sykehouse Arena to go and do some jumping, we LIKE jumping! Where we have lessons it is quite a tight indoor school, which is fantastic for learning containment and balance, and my home school is just 30 x 30 too, very contained, but at an Event we will usually be jumping on a large field area.  Sykehouse Arena is HUGE, and with the fantastic new surface I don’t worry about the impact on Sherlock’s legs. There is also a full BSJA course set up, so we can practice course riding (see www.sykehousearena.co.uk) . We started with just loosening up, then we worked on the canter, opening it up and bouncing it back so we keep the energy, then we did some jumping. Sherlock did not knock a jump all day, and I was smiling!


    Friday 7 May- I have arranged with a very kind neighbour to use his haylage field to canter Sherlock. As it is for a haylage crop I stick to the edges, but it is only a few hundred yards from my home, just perfect. I would guess it is about 3 acres or so, and like the rest of the land around here it is totally flat. So, today, we had our first canter workout in our new field.

    I think I miscalculated just how hard this would be for Sherlock, we did a trot warm-up and 3 canter laps on the right rein, then moved to the left rein, another lap at trot, and started to canter, and Sherlock was VERY tired. So tired in fact that we had to leave it at just one canter lap to the left and a trot cool down.  Sherlock has done a lot of arena work, and a few longer rides out, but I guess that does not fully equate to being fit in the open to work.


    Sat 8 May- Today I travelled Sherlock to another arena to practice Dressage, as we have our first BD competition tomorrow, but while we were there we also had a jump over some unfamiliar fences. The dressage went well, if the tests go like that tomorrow then I will be pleased. Andy read the tests out to me, and I think I have learned them both, I don’t like to have a caller, and a caller is not allowed in BE (British Eventing) competitions anyway.

    The jumping was also good, we just did a few fences, but we included a water tray that is quite the shiniest water tray you ever did see, and some very scary tall brush fillers.


    Sunday 9 May- A FANTASTIC day! We travelled to a local venue who run BD (British Dressage) competitions for our first BD tests. I have not registered Sherlock BD, but it is a little known fact that you can compete at an affilliated BD competition without being registered as long as you just compete in the Open Prelim. So, this venue had two Open Prelim tests for us to ride.

    This was Sherlock’s first competition of the year, his first party since October. I was not sure how excited he would be.....but he was fine. He did have a sticky moment as we went towards the collecting ring, he saw the other horses, the lorries, and the posh outfits and for a moment he was stunned that he may actually be at an event. He stopped and looked around, I think looking for the show jumping and cross country, then relaxed and walked on. He was a bit “wide awake” at first in the collecting ring, a few minutes where he was just looking for an excuse to be a bit silly, but there was nothing other than horses working well, so he settled to his job.

    In our first test we had the old thing where he warms up well, then we go into the arena and he feels just a little less confident, and drops behind the bridle. Once he has done this I have to either smile and allow us to float round with less engagement than I would like, or take issue with this and have more engagement but also more tension. As we have not competed for so long I allowed us a lovely relaxed time, and as the test went on we tactfully brought more engagement in. The test was very pleasant, accurate and flowing, and I was very pleased.

    For the second test I was more demanding, but from the warm-up onwards rather than suddenly hijacking him with strong direction in the ring. Sherlock tried so hard, he was actually very tired with holding himself so beautifully, so much so that I didn’t know if he had the energy to complete the test as well as all the warming up. He was a star, pulled out all the stops, and is a horse and a half!

    As Sherlock had played my game so well, and as it was so hot, I did not wait for the results, but instead took him home for his 2 hours in the lush grassy field. He deserved it. David went shopping in the afternoon so I asked him to collect our sheets, and I was happy to see two glorious red rosettes, and prize money, when he returned. I guess he can’t do better than winning both classes first time out!


    Mon 10 May-Today I took Sherlock to our new gallops, but as this was our first time to them and I didn’t know them I just wanted to canter until we have their measure. They are local to us, and in a straight line. I also didn’t want to canter hard after Sherlock tried so hard yesterday, his core muscles must be tired like my tummy muscles, surely? Sherlock was SO excited, he was lovely, he REALLY wanted to GO, but I held  him, and he held his face vertical, and he kept his speed right, but he decided that it was none of mummies business what his KNEES were doing, and he was cantering with knees flashing up so high, that he actually cut the top of one of them with the other flashy foot! Silly pony, but he was really well mannered, just enjoying moving his body and being extravagant, but not rude. The cut is just a surface wound, no problem for the future.


    Tuesday 11 May- Just a 15 minute lunge session today. I don’t lunge purely in a circle, we do a circle and then go large, driving up and down the school. I think this is better for their joints and mind than drilling in a pure circle. A less strenuous day today, with some turnout.


    Wednesday 12 May-Today we were once again in the magic dressage saddle riding through a dressage test as on Friday we have our first EVENT, an BE90 at Richmond! David called it for me and I think I have it learned. Sherlock tried hard and was quite happy too!


    Thursday 13 May-Sherlock had a few hours to munch grass, he is up to 4 hours a day now, but on Monday David scalped the field with the lawnmower (and collected it too) so there is not as much grass, and it has nice stripes (!). Then he had a few hours in the stable to deflate his tummy, then this afternoon I had a jump. Sherlock was a star, I can really keep him short into a fence, it is lovely. We did make one error (on the left rein, off a corner to a diagonal treble, and he, guess what............. yes, he dropped the bridle. So, we were no longer travelling, the jump was rubbish, I lost my balance), and Sherlock actually swerved to pick me up, and still made the second and third parts of the combination. After that he was right back in his stride, the only one upset about it was me! He really is quite understanding, and the next time we did that jump I kept him in his bridle and it was all fine. We did a clear round at a higher height than for our event  tomorrow, so all is looking good there too.

    I have just finished, my lorry is packed, I will be up at 3am to leave at 5am. Brrrr, a 3am reveille on a day off- not good!


    Friday 14 May- Early start, and to Richmond Event, arriving as only the second lorry there! I like to be at an event with 3 hours to spare, it takes me an hour to walk the courses, there is always a bacon sandwich, I have to stud up, and then there is time to think still. Plus if we do get caught in traffic we have a buffer so it is all happy.

    Richmond has the dressage in a field, then the show jumping is on an all weather arena, then the XC is obviously out and about. The ground was very hard but the organisers had done a Fab job with slitting the entire XC course, and as we walked it you could really tell the difference.  The only complication I could see was that the organisers did not want studs to be used on their show jumping arena surface, we had to remove them for that section, we only had ½ an hour between sections, and the sections were not close together.  Hmm, well generally Sherlock is surefooted, so I thought I would risk dressage in minimum studs, then the job would be easier.

    Mistake! Sherlock went to the dressage warm-up like a champ, ignored the two “mad horses”  one of which was bucking and the other going VERY fast, and went to his place. I then asked for trot, and Sherlock was straight into his stride, swinging and lovely. Then we turned and went downhill, and at the bottom he slipped. It was like dressaging on glass, poor Sherlock could not move well and stay upright. He ended up shortening his stride and being all unhappy on the corners. My fault.

    We went into the arena and did our best,  it was not how Sherlock CAN go, but he kept us safe and upright and we were reasonably accurate. The showjumping went great, Sherlock was happy on the arena surface, and we cantered round for a clear round. The Cross Country was great too, Sherlock  was straight out of the box and into his stride. This time we galloped round for a clear round, well inside the time. We came second, finishing on our dressage score, and I know that if I had not compromised on the studs then we could have won. That is not important, we had a lovely day out, Sherlock had a great start to his season, he was happy and proud.

    There is a nice photo on http://www.chrislax.co.uk/2010/Richmond%20Horse%20Trials%20may%202010/Friday/BE90/Cross%20Country/Camera%202/11am/slides/KA6Q7060.html



    Saturday 15 May- Sherlock was so good in the morning, David was up at 4.30am to feed (I guess David was good too!), and I was up at 5am, but had my shower first. When I finally got to Sherlock at 5.30am, he had already gone back to bed, and was laid there refusing to get up! I did my thing where I go in and demand he “get out of beddddddd Sherlock”,  but no, he did not just ignore me, he did something better. I was sitting by his side, and he wrapped his head and neck round my body and pulled me close so I was on his legs, leaning on his shoulder, and there he held me in a headlock! I mean he really wrapped himself around me, pulled me close and rested his head right down my back while I was off balance leaning on his shoulder. A Horsie Hug!!!

    I told Sherlock that Mummy does like him just a little bit!

    Sherlock had a full 11 hour day in the sun in the field, and his tummy is huge.


    Sunday 16 May- Another easy day for Sherlock, he had his 4 hours in the field this morning, then this afternoon Andy and Charlie accompanied us out for a ride, and we walked round the village, and came across THE PUB! Oh yes, a summer pub ride, two horses and a drink, perfect!


    Monday 17 May- Today Sherlock had a “super groom”, he loves a rough groom with a rubber glove, but recently we also bought a fancy brush intended for his mane and tail, but Sherlock seems to enjoy a “super-scratch” with it. Sherlock shows me the simple pleasures in life. He really does love his grooming. And his massage rug. We did some schooling and Sherlock just about bust a gut to do everything I asked. He was so good we only did 20 minutes, and went for a lovely ride out as a reward to us both!



    Tuesday 18 May- Another jumping lesson today. Our next event will be a BE100 event on 1 June, and so we needed to up the height to that. I LOVE learning, and learn we did, improving all the time. This lesson was again in the tight indoor school, plenty to concentrate on, turns, impulsion, straightness. Sherlock tried so hard, and I am becoming better at spotting when he drops the bridle. We finished on a clear round at 1.05m, success!


    Wednesday 19 May-Up early this morning, and we both felt wide awake and ready for our second trip to our gallops. The gallop track is in the next village, so we also have the benefit of a walk out first, then a trot up about a mile of Trans Pennine Trail, then onto the gallop area. I have decided that, for my own safety when turning round, the gallop track will be “one way” with a gallop away from home, and then a trot back. This had to be impressed upon Sherlock, but he complied, it seems he likes galloping! We are better at keeping straight now, and although we only went up the track twice I did it as if it were a start box both times, in the past Sherlock has been a bit reluctant to be straight into his stride and away, but today he was off!

    In the afternoon we had a visit from McTimony Chiropractor Joanna Nicholson. This was Sherlock’s third adjustment with her, and mine too. The first time she came I was initially quite unimpressed as it seemed that she was so gentle I did not see how it could be effective, so I booked a session for myself to try it out. Is it effective? OH YES, I could really feel the effects the next day. What I like about it is that Sherlock also feels it is gentle, so he does not get uptight or resist, even when she is working around the top of his neck, which Sherlock views as a very “private” part of his body. See more about Joanna and her work on  http://www.jonicholsonchiro.co.uk/ . After each adjustment so far I have felt a real difference in myself and in Sherlock. We are both getting stronger and more able to move. Joanna also gives me some stretches and movements for Sherlock to do, so we can work daily on his suppleness. Magic!


    Thursday 20 May- Usually Sherlock has a day or two off after the chiropractic adjustment, but each time we have had it we have felt better and better, and today I thought we could just manage a walk around the village. Just as we left home our neighbour was passing on his way to collect his dairy cows. Now these cows are a unique feature of our village, their daytime pasture is through the village and every day they are herded up and down the village street by the farmer on his pedal bike.  At first Sherlock did NOT like the cows on the roads. I guess he had seen cows in a field before, but not walking down the main street. He has got used to them, and a couple of times we have even met them and followed them along.

    After my American Adventures I was keen for Sherlock to have a go at herding cattle, so I asked if we could have a go. As this was his first time I had David fetch a camera, and we just met the cows a few hundred yards from home.

    At first Sherlock just seemed exasperated that the cows do not move as fast as him, so pushing them with his nose was easy. Then I realised that we really had been left to bring the cows home on our own, and we had to twist and turn to pick up all of the stragglers. At first Sherlock acted as if this was just an inconvenience to his walk, but the more we did the more he realised he was in fact doing a job, and he really got into it! I love the feeling when I am on a horse with a joint sense of purpose. Sherlock a cow horse, who would have thought?


    Friday 21 May-  Up and fed at 4.45, in the saddle before 6am and a schooling session, learning our test for another BD dressage competition on Sunday. We just did 20 minutes, but I am working more on keeping Sherlock into his bridle and even in his reins. I was out and to work at 7am, and back home for 7pm, but as we had only managed 20 minutes riding in the morning, and the pony is Sooooo fat, I saddled up and rode again, a hack out for 1 hour. Then, being a glutton for punishment, I filled a plastic trough with hot water, and washed both horses’ winter rugs, as I KNEW it would be baking tomorrow to dry them out, so I can store them fresh until the winter. By the time I finished at 9pm  I was bushed!


    Saturday 22 May- up at 4.30am to feed early, so I could be riding before 6. We went to our local canter field, and worked on keeping Sherlock in his bridle whilst cantering in the field. It worked so well on the corners, that we became like a coiled spring in the corner, and maybe were a bit faster than I realised on the straight. I will attend to that. The field this morning was BEAUTIFUL, we set off before the sun rose, and it came up as we entered the field, and we had the mystical “Sykehouse Fog”, where the fog is thick for about 18 inches deep, and everything is totally clear above that. As we cantered the fog swirled and made mystical shapes, and it is just fleeting, as within 10 minutes of the sun coming up it is all burned off. It would have made a STUNNING photo, the cantering horse, swirling fog and slanting sunshine.


    Sunday 23 May- A BD dressage competition today, about an hour’s drive away today. I only entered one test as I am teaching later, so we worked hard from the start. Sherlock warmed up beautifully first time, then we had had a breather and he was not so happy about being picked up again, he said he had an itchy nose, and was a bit cross when I told him that he could not scratch his nose this instant, we have to work now, and he stayed a bit cross for the remainder of the warm-up. His crossness just manifested as a little tension, nothing much, just not quite as smooth and “up” as before.

    In the test I was very particular about Sherlock NOT dropping his bridle, every time he tried I corrected him, which led to us not performing the smoothest test ever. It was accurate though. There are some photos on http://www.jumpforit.co.uk/pr23may10/index.htm?1

    I did wait for my sheet this time, and we had won, another lovely ribbon, and more prize money. What a hard working horse! It was so hot today that Sherlock was lucky, we were boxed back up for 11am before it was too hot, and in the heat of the day he was turned out relaxing instead of working.


    Monday 24 May- Today a Cross-Country lesson! Firstly I asked for some help with setting my pace as I seem to be riding quite fast at the moment, and yes I am right, I must only ride at that pace when in sight of a rosette. Other than that I am to slow down so Sherlock can have more time to assess his fences, and so that the hard ground does not jar him up. For a video of us at our first XC play this year, going too fast but having fun, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiM4cwArYuU

    We then did a start box, and, just like at Richmond he was out and straight into his stride. We then did some combinations of fences, all straightforward, and Sherlock was enjoying himself hugely. He would stand and talk while I was “instructed” then each time we turned away to work he set off with a real sense of purpose and energy, he was feeling very pleased. One time I was jumping down a big step, and I slipped my reins too much, and we had to do a left dog leg at the bottom to a roll top, and we had missed it really, Sherlock was busy congratulating himself on a job well done at the step, and I had no reins, but I said “woah” and looked at the roll top, and moved my legs, and he looked round, saw it and DASHED to the left to jump it- what a SUPERSTAR!

    Another time we were down the same step and to a bigger rolltop on the other side, and we were a bit close to the rolltop, but not uncomfortable, but he had to USE himself, and the stride afterwards he squealed and exploded a BIG buck, but just in good fun, nothing bad, just so full of life. We did some VERY skinny skinnies, again Sherlock was so happy to oblige.

    We did not do too much as the ground was hard, but Sherlock was having enormous fun, he was totally “on side” and whenever I “dropped the baton” he caught it and ran for me. When we finished he was proper proud, all snakey neck and light on his feet. Even back home, after I cold hosed his legs for twenty minutes, he was still all snakey neck on the lawn on the way to his field.


    Tuesday 25 May- This morning Sherlock’s legs were cool, hard and wonderful. I do believe that cold hosing will take a lot of the sting out of legs if you have worked on hard ground. He spent the morning in his field.

     In the evening I did not want to work Sherlock hard, but I wanted to impress upon him who is the mum, as since the XC he has been very snakey neck, as though he is playing to be the boss. I like character, but I know that with Sherlock, you give him an inch, then you regret it! So, we re-confirmed some ground work, we have not done so much of that since we have been having such fun riding. I just lunged, mainly at walk, but a couple of times he has locked up when I have moved him form rein to rein, so this is what we played at, out on a walk circle, stand still while I go to him, then I stay STILL, and Sherlock moves back, across and to the new rein. He finds it hard when I get to stand still and he has to be malleable. But we only spent 10 minutes, and he was as soft as soft can be.

    Wednesday 26 May- Today we went to our canter field, but in a dressage saddle and we just trotted for 20 minutes. We did lengthen and shorten, transitions, and most of all being able to re-balance in a straight line without using corners to help. It was FAB, just in a simple trot around a filed we had so much fun and exploration. Then we had a walk around the village, and Sherlock will just have 2 hours out today.

    This morning I was so proud, I pressed hard and FELT SHERLOCK’S RIBS. He has had his haylage restricted, not a usual thing for me, he has had 4 hours to grass, an 8lb net for the rest of the day, and about 10lbs at night. With just half a scoop of mix twice a day and a rice bran oil feed balancer. Plus his herbs and Garlic. When he runs out of Haylage he punishes me by digging up his bed, as if he were searching for a sceric of haylage underneath.


    Thursday 27 May- A dressage workout today, David called my Shelford test so I could learn it. I am finding the balance with my left hand, firstly it was too giving, now it does block some, I hope soon to have found the balance!


    Friday 28 May- This morning we went to Sykehouse arena for a jump. Firstly we had the horrendous job of prising Sherlock out of bed. After he did not get up the first two times I took some video, just propped the camera on his feed dish. He was VERY sulky, but, he did then get up, and half an hour after this we were working in Di’s arena.

    Sherlock was a winner before we even jumped. There was a lot of work going on to lay water pipes around the arena, and Sherlock was aware, he asked my opinion, but when I said it was all OK he just got on with his work. There was a mini digger at the fence side with Russ in it, digging and jigging, and he was OK. Then a man dragged a 20’ long pipe along the side of the school, like a snake, and he was OK. We also had a tractor around the arena. Sherlock took my advice, went to work and was great. Again I found it more difficult to maintain the pace and balance in a larger arena, but again we finished clear round a course of fences at 1m to 1.05.

    Good Man!


    Saturday 29 May- This weekend I am attending a coaching course in Leeds to assist me in my teaching. This meant that Sherlock was up and out early, then I went in to “De-horse” myself to go to the hotel. As I walked down the drive later I looked at Sherlock (no surprise there!) to see that some big birds (crows?) had DARED to land in Sherlock’s field. WELL, Sherlock does not SHARE his field, and I was treated to the sight of Sherlock all squealy and snakey, CHASING and STOMPING at the birds, until he had successfully chased them all off! He is a one off isn’t he?


    Sunday 30 May- This morning when I fed Sherlock early on everything seemed well. 40 minutes later, and all was NOT well. Sherlock was very agitated and his bed was turned right over, a real mess. There were  huge new scrapes up the side wall, to my eye height. Sherlock was entirely covered in poo, and was so upset with himself. I washed the poo away, and he was very well behaved, but he did not want to be brushed, and his back muscles seemed  sore. I guessed he must have gone back to bed after breakfast (as he does) and then he was cast. When I turned him out he ran up and down, so I stayed with him until he calmed down (treading divots), then when David came home off nights at 7am I had to calm David down at the state of the field, with divots and skid marks!

    In the afternoon Sherlock seemed fine when he was brought in, and in fact Andy and Charlie accompanied us out on a ride around the village on what was a very blustery evening. I kept it at that today as we have the event on Tuesday, and if he was a little sore from being cast then a walk out will have eased any stiffness.


    Monday 31 May- Sherlock was fine overnight, I think the getting cast was a one off thank goodness. He went out this morning, then this afternoon he was in a few hours for his tummy to start to deflate before riding, then we went to the canter field. As before we went in the dressage saddle to do some development work, we worked on walk/ trot/ canter and the transitions in between. Also on the transition between free walk on a long rein and picking him up for medium walk again, as he tends to anticipate and want to trot. We also practiced halting and saluting, as he can lose his attention during this.

    Sherlock was fabulous, and felt wonderful. He certainly feels fit and well and ready for the BE100 event tomorrow. The evening finished off with tack cleaning, ironing shirts, cleaning boots and packing the lorry. Tomorrow I have some new “magic spray” to help with plaiting, my least favourite job.


    And that was Sherlock’s May 2010!


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