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  1. Jay explores plastic 

    Gosh, it has now been 9 weeks since little Jay arrived, and life is good!

    As I said in previous blogs, I bought Jay knowing he had a history of problems, and I was fully expecting a horrid, torrid time while we settled in. In actual fact he has been...... brilliant!

    We did have one setback; as my old saddle <BLOG_BREAK>did not fit I decided to invest in a lovely, bespoke, made-just-for-Jay, expensive saddle. He did have some white patches on his back when he arrived, but with daily massage they have disappeared completely. He is muscling up nicely on his back. The saddle company came, measured and photographed Jay, and left me with a loan saddle, which the representative said fitted beautifully.

    I was so happy; because my old jump saddle did not fit I had hardly jumped Jay at all, so no time to waste, the next day I went jumping. We had a one hour lesson, and right from the start Jay was out of sorts, very reactive. He was shying and leaping around, spinning, cantering on the spot, hmmmm. Jay really had NOT done any of this before, it was totally out of character, and took me by surprise.

    You know, if Jay did not have a “reputation” then I may well have twigged that the saddle was a bad fit, and I am thankful that I realised that he was merely “reactive” rather than acting with any “malice”, as I did not artificially punish him. HOWEVER, I decided that finally Jay had shown his “true colours” and needed to know who the boss was. I made him pay attention and do his work. In fact Jay worked HARD for an hour, and he did settle somewhat and jump OK, but he was distracted and I was not having so much fun.

    Imagine my horror when I got home, took the saddle off and found a HUGE lump, about 5 inches long and big enough that I took a clear photo. Poor Jay. I was mortified that I did not listen to him. Here I am declaring that I would ride the horse not the reputation, and the very first time Jay was in trouble, I did not listen, but went back to his history. At least I know that even though Jay was in pain he did not resort to vicious behaviour. He was reactive not malicious. Not a single buck or rear, just throwing himself around.

    Jay needed a week off just for his back to subside. During this time I was able to take time to feel him out on the floor more, to have him generally less reactive. To learn to change reactive to logical and thoughtful. Work like the lungeing we do, but not round and round, it is driving up and down the school, sometimes on two reins making figure 8s, so we have to think. We have been doing some long reining too.

    Jay also has a new regime of work in hand, to help strengthen his back legs, but it also puts me in the position where I am driving and moving his feet. We do stepping backwards, stepping sideways, turns on the fore, as well as our normal obstacle course on the lawn. I do not like the feel of Jay in his reactive brain, and so I am more aware to have a connection with him before we work every day.

    I did try to have a play with Jay and Plastic one day, see the blog photo. I carried the plastic out, then found I had dropped the second lunge line (for long reining), so I unclipped Jay and went off to find the rein. When I got back Jay had unpacked the plastic, dragged it around the school, stamped on it, scrunched it up and nested on it, then had a good roll. So, he seems to be OK with plastic! Instead, with this session we had a play with “join up” and finished with Jay following me around like a big dog, stopping and starting like my shadow, over the plastic, and following while I was clashing noisy bin lids together.

    As Jay’s back improved I decided that while he is maturing then maybe a fancy close contact saddle is not the best idea, and purchased a traditionally flocked saddle from a local supplier. Even after a week off, when he was back in work Jay was back to his normal self. We jumped at home, went round a BS British Novice class at a show, rode in his canter field, and even got placed in another dressage, at a new venue to Jay.
    In the show jumping collecting ring Jay was steady and calm, in the arena we had a knock down at the first fence, then went clear on the remainder of the course. In fact there is a video of Jay in the British Novice and on Youtube, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNPuPhODKX4 although you will see that there was no Zoom, so it is all a bit at a distance.
    In the dressage we had a funny incident. We were trotting around the collecting ring, happy and content, when suddenly Jay was distracted, he was stamping his foot, and tossing his head. Lesson learned for me, I immedietly stopped to see what was wrong. Jay tried to scratch, I was not sure what was wrong as he was throwing his head around, and eventually he crouched low and brought a back foot round to his face. It feels kind of funny when a horse is tucking his back foot into his throat lash while you are sitting on his back, and I leaned forwards to see exactly what he was doing. I then saw "it", a huge horse fly latched on under his jowl. I was able to ask Jay to stand back on his own four feet while I leaned right forwards and swatted the dratted fly. Jay immedietly relaxed and went back to work, what a superstar!
    Jay's back was not quite right still, not bad, but the lump was up and down a bit. I decided to give him more time off and he was only ridden once in the next week after that. Then back to work, a Cross country lesson, a long ride out over open farmland away from home, and to make three lorry trips in three days we also had a jumping lesson near Nottingham.

     For the jump lesson see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDBUeLs5KDU

    You can see that we are keeping it low and fun. I know that separately both Jay and I have jumped much bigger, but with the saddle issues we have not done a whole lot of jumping, and we are still forging a partnership.

    As for the Cross Country, well, we both did our best! HOWEVER we were not even on the same page, so I guess it will be a while yet before we are out eventing. Jay jumped everything I put him at, but he was a touch extravagant for me, and I found it difficult to keep my balance! Good old Jay, he was so forgiving, he kept catching me, scooping me up and setting me back in balance, what a superstar!
    Our ride out in the countryside was BEAUTIFUL! A lovely sunny day, just me and my horse and acres of lovely farm tracks. We rode along fields of corn that were "popping" in the sun. Then along tracks between fields of Bamboo, the breeze making strange wispering sounds. There were fields of tall grass, with grasshoppers chirping as loud as you like. We trotted in the long grass, Jay lifting his feet like a hackney horse! We cantered alongside a stream, under trees in dappled shade and out into an open field, where we opened up our pace a little. We wound our way through ponds, and at one stage we were totally lost, trying to identify the various farms. Gosh, I am so lucky to be able to ride on this part of the world, it is not a "right of way", it is by permission of some fantastic farmers who leave a strip of mown grass by the side of each field. To me, this is the essence of enjoying my horse, a lovely adventure, borrowing Jay's strength and athleticism and sharing the adventure between us. Jay was just so genuine and gallant. I am lucky!
    As for Jay’s general behaviour, he has still not done a single buck, rear or run off in the 9 weeks he has been here. I do not have an explanation. I guess we are happy together. Actually sometimes it is like HE is holding MY hand while we are out and about. He has a calmness about him.
     I have confessed to people that as soon as I first saw Jay it was like recognition between us, almost like he was expecting me, waiting for me even. I was sold on him on first sight. It was like a deal was done between us, over the stable door. I just had to try and explain this to Vere without sounding quite barmy!

    I am not saying that Jay is not sharp, as he can be. He is sometimes startled by rustling in hedges, and he is so athletic that he does not have to do much before I am loose in the saddle. HOWEVER, so far, he has caught me. Nice horse! We also had another incident where we parked his lorry next to some dog kennels and obviously Jay thought he was off hunting. He leaped around in his lorry, but not for long, and no damage done. I told him that compared to other horses I have seen getting excited in a lorry, he was a pure amateur! As soon as the dogs settled down then so did Jay, and then he worked well when I got him off and rode him. In fact that was the day of the jumping lesson on the video, and you can see he was focused and wonderful.

    Maybe this is just a honeymoon period? Maybe in winter he will be “naughty”? I don’t know, but I am enjoying Jay’s company. I guess that is all that is important really.


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