Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Adios 2013... You've been a good one!

My last post was somewhat reflective so even though we are on our final day of the year I won't focus too much on looking backwards. However, for anyone that has had a tough year I would like to recommend one thing... I started a jam jar last January, into which I placed every single good thing that happened to me this year. Every time something not so nice has happened I have opened and read my jam jar and it has really changed my perspective on how I let the negative things remove the magic from the good. It is something I will continue to do over the next year as I really think it has made a difference to my views.
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It has been a very busy few months here, I've been abroad with work a fair bit which meant poor Buddy was somewhat neglected. However, I will be starting a new job in January so am having a couple of weeks off in the interim which has been lovely (although is going far too quickly for my liking).
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Frosty hacks on furry ponies
We have had some very sad news on the yard as my superb YO lost her horse of a lifetime this week in a freak accident. It is horrible when something like this happens and puts everything into perspective. She has been such a huge support to me and has welcomed Buddy and I so warmly into the yard so it make it seem more unfair that it happened to such a lovely pair. So please spare a thought for her and give your ponies an extra cuddle when you see them - I certainly did :o( 
We did venture out a few weeks ago to a local dressage competition, Buddy was a bit of a pickle and decided to freestyle his first test including several GP moves that are unnecessary in a walk and trot test! He still managed to come 7th out of 30 despite the inattention (the judge was being polite) although I have to admit I was disappointed as I really wanted to have a successful last go at that level which I know is very spoilt brat sounding as I would have been jumping for joy with that result on my old horse! He did redeem himself in the prelim and managed to come 3rd so I was very pleased with that - he is getting more consistent at this level now although the canter is still hit and miss. We also qualified for their winter championship but I decided to not go as we just weren't prepared and I would have been disappointed to not perform our best.
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Butter wouldn't melt (he'd almost deposited me at the end of the school!)
Buddy's feet are continuing to do well, although the change in weather has affected his capability somewhat - although I know it shouldn't be enough on its own - and he is feeling slightly more sensitive on stones than he was a few weeks ago. I am treating for thrush as he has a nice (!) central sulcus split opening up on one of his front feet which is now starting to close since treatment started so I am hoping that will be the end of it. He is feeling rather well, is sound and landing heel first so I'm not hugely worried but it is something I am keeping a very close eye on as I know how fast things can change.
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Schooling in the rain
Despite this I am tentatively planning my 2014 season. Aim number one is to have a happy, healthy and sound horse. Aim number two is to continue having lots and lots of fun. Competitively I have a few aims for this year...
  1. Complete a Novice dressage test
  2. Score over 60% in a Novice test
  3. Complete a one day event
  4. Be consistently jumping 1m+
 I would love to look back next year and have done the above but I am not putting any pressure on either of us as I know how lucky I am to be just riding my horse so every single moment is a precious one.
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Happy New Year from Buddy and I!

Monday, 18 November 2013

What a Year!

It was Buddy’s anniversary of arriving at Rockley Farm on Saturday and after a wonderful video (which definitely didn’t give me leaky eyes) from Nic and a guest spot on the Rockley blog this morning I thought it was apt to reflect on the last 12 months.
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My first visit to see Le Donks
Buddy’s diagnosis last September called an end to all my competitive hopes and wildest dreams of competing at a 1* event and after a grim prognosis from my vet, plus my previous experience with my last horse, I was convinced that PTS would most probably be the final answer and I was devastated. After contacting Nic and feeling that glimmer of hope that things *may* not have to be as devastatingly final I still didn’t dare to dream about anything and my competitive aims were shelved and the objective of just being able to hack my horse out comfortably and without bute was the highest I dared to aim for. I missed Buddy terribly whilst he was away and I think it would be fair to say that only the cold winter nights I would have far rather been covered in mud and freezing cold rather than sitting at home feeling despondent and rather depressed!

As time went on and Buddy’s feet began to change that glimmer of hope got bigger and bigger. Each blog post was read, re-read and read again. My first ride at the 6 week point was awesome (and terrifying) and then the 8 week soundness was a dream come true. On one of my last visits I remember Nic saying that she thought Buddy should do an event in the 2013 season (or words to that effect) and whilst I nearly fell off in surprise I also felt full of happiness and pride that my little donkey had the potential to fulfil all my dreams despite everything he had been through.

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We have been on an onward trajectory ever since, every time I think of our first competition I feel very proud and I owe Nic so much as without her and all her hard work Buddy would probably have been PTS or been a fluffy teddy bear in a field and I would have been horseless, heartbroken and miserable. We’ve had highs and lows but since we moved yards in June and I have been surrounded by incredibly supportive people who want us to succeed all the bad things about being barefoot have been taken away and we are headed in the right direction.

Go Buddy from Nic Barker on Vimeo.

I am not taking anything for granted, I appreciate every second with my amazing horse and each sound day is a blessing but after being at the RRR in September I realised that I cannot live my life being haunted by what has been before. Buddy is sound today, back competing (and getting 8’s for his paces) and if we hadn’t been on the journey of the past year I wouldn’t have a second thought about planning for the future and pushing the boundaries. So, in celebration of that, I have written down my event plan for next season (in pencil as Buddy is still a horse and you never know what might happen!!) and my training from today is planned around that first event date in March 2014. My long term aim now is to qualify for Badminton Grassroots if Buddy settles into being a barefoot event horse.

Happy anniversary Buddy, you are my horse of a lifetime, here’s to many, many more!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Back on Form!

I'm pleased to report that this weekend was far more successful than our trip last weekend! We were on our own again and off to another new venue, although it is only 2 minutes down the road so it is very convinient. We loaded well again and we were on the road and there in less than 10 minutes. 

We had entered Intro A and Prelim 4 as I like him to do two tests and hang around for a bit. I thought I'd got my timings better but despite being at the venue with 50 minutes before my test I still only had 15 minutes to warm up which was ok but I'd rather have had 20. My YO was still around as she'd had a young horse do their first test and so I nabbed her to call for me as I'd not had time to visually run through my test before going in and didn't want to forget it.
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Posing by the lorry and looking fluffy
Buddy had a good look at the viewing gallery and had a nosey at the judge in her box but settled quickly and did a very nice test which I was pleased with. I would like a bit more activity in the walk but that will come. Back to the lorry, put Buddy in and made sure he was settled before going and getting a cup of tea. The facilities at Fairoak are fabulous and it's definitely somewhere I will go back to (my husband is annoyed he missed out on cake and paninis).

They hadn't got my score up so I went back to the lorry to take a look at my second test and make sure I had it in my head. It was soon time to get back on again and I did a shorter warm up this time, just a good stretch, trot on both reins, some lateral work and a quick canter on both reins and then straight in. I was really pleased with the test, we fluffed up the first canter but I think it's becoming a bit of a 'thing' for me so will need to work on that. I also semi forgot what I was doing and so thought I'd just trot to the next marker and then realised I had to go all the way round the school so picked up canter again. It was a bit messy and earned a 3 plus the comment 'problems' but never mind. Second canter was the best I could have hoped for and was as good as I'm getting at home so that made up for it! Walk was a bit lazy (but not as bad as last week) but I was really, really pleased with him.
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Check out those ears!
As I came out one of the ladies running it said we'd come second in the first class which was fab so I went back to the lorry and sorted out B before going to get my sheet. We'd actually ended up on the same score and collectives as the winner but the rules of the RC are that highest place goes to an RC member which is fair enough but it would have been lovely to finally get that red rosette. 

Scores weren't ready for the prelim so I took Buddy home and went back for my sheet once the class was finished. Well Mr Buddy, despite our rubbish first canter, came third! I was gobsmacked as the judge is well thought of in our area and she made some lovely comments and gave Buddy an 8 for his paces in the collectives which I was super chuffed with.
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Big Grins!
I really appreciate every second I have with Buddy and it's times like today when I think back and just am amazed that we have come so far. I am very lucky to have such a wonderful, kind horse who I can just have fun with and enjoy. He really is my horse of a lifetime and I feel very priviledged.

We're planning on going showjumping next (at the giddy heights of 70cms) as I don't think Buddy was overly impressed with doing dressage two weekends in a row so watch this space.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Definitely Stressage

Buddy and I set out for our very first solo dressage outing last weekend. It was a bit lastminute.com as I had made the decision the previous week but hadn't really had time to practise as much as I would like. Our canter is still a work in progress but I get moments of amazingness and he is getting the strength to be able to hold it for longer periods of time but Buddy needs the match practise as he can die on me when I go in for my test so we need to overcome that. Charlotte doesn't have anything to worry about yet.. maybe in a few months ;o)

We had lovely lazy times so I had plenty of time to prep on the morning of the show and B was looking very smart when we left. I have never been to a show on my own before so totally underestimated how long it takes doing things on your own so I was running late for my warm up and only got 15 minutes. It was peeing with rain the whole time and our warm up was tense and crabby with occassional moments of oh so nearly there. We just weren't on the same page but I didn't have time to do anything about it so in I went.

The test was, as expected, a bit bleurgh. His trot work was super and earned him 7's and 8's but his walk was lethargic and he broke in his canter which pulled those marks down. I was annoyed with him as he can do so much better but wrote it off. It was our worst test to date and scored us just shy of 55% which although it sounds terrible on paper, actually wasn't too bad and we finished in the top half out of 30 competitors. 

We had an hour to dry off, eat haylage (Buddy) drink tea (me) and learn the second test. I had a chat with Buddy and told him I expected more this time. I think he must have listened as when I got on board he felt super. I'd left 30 mins for a warm up as he was so awful earlier and I had the perfect warm up. He felt awesome and people were telling me how smart he looked and they expected us to do really well. I was enjoying riding so much I obviously totally overcooked the warm up as he completely died on me when I went in for my test. I am no dressage expert but I'm 99.9% positive that pony club kicking and puffing like you've finished a marathon are not found on the scales of training and I don't think the judge approved.

On a positve note the canter (when he offered it) felt a million times better and the second test was much better at 60% but it was so frustrating to lose everything we had in the warm up as I think we would have been in contention for a frilly had he played ball. Again,  the class had 25 in it but we finished in the top half (just!).

He is such a tricky customer as he can be sharp in the warm up but dies in the ring - I need to practise this more to overcome it and I may have to sacrifice some tests to really get him thinking forward as this will be an issue if I let it continue. But we are out again this weekend (glutton for punishment) and so I am hoping we will return to form - as this was Buddy's first outing without a frilly and I'd forgotten what it's like to not get one (spoilt? Me? Never :op )

As this wasn't a perfect session the positive things to take from this outing are:
  1. He looked fabulous
  2. He loaded three times without an issue
  3. We were on our lonesome and it was ok
  4. Our second warm up was great
Wish us luck for Sunday - think we might need it!!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

No news is good news.. A huge update

It has been a long time since I updated the blog - I am so sorry! You can be assured that no news is good news and we have been busy doing exciting things as well as more dull things like moving house and working.
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Posing at RRR13
At my last update we were on the verge of going to have our x-rays re-done and I was a bit scared... OK, a lot scared. I still have the fear of going lame in the back of my mind and I was terrified that the x-rays would show further degeneration. 

We arrived at my vets bright and early and my vet, Chris Tufnell, had a good look at Buddy’s feet and watched him move.  He was showing as 1/10 lame on a circle on the hard in the car park but his feet were going through a wonky phase (typically) so I wasn’t concerned but, most importantly, Chris wasn’t bothered by it at all and was really pleased with how his feet looked and at his improvement.

I think I have spoken about Chris before but I am so very lucky to have him as my vet. He is so incredibly supportive and shows such an interest in what Nic is doing and they still speak regularly which is great. Anyhoo.. there were other vets from the practise there, as well as some visiting vets, and Chris showed Buddy off to them all. The best bit of all was when we spoke to a highly acclaimed racing vet and he looked vaguely interested but then he saw Buddy, the warmblood, stomp off barefoot over Chris’ stone drive (which is more like Brighton Beach than Rockley tracks) and his eyebrows shot up his forehead and he seemed far more interested!!

But I guess you all want to know how we got on... well, for me, I set my own expectation that best case scenario was that there was to be no change to our pictures from last year.  At that point we had been home just over 6 months and without shoes for 9 so an expectation for huge changes would have been unrealistic. However... there were changes – good ones!! It was clear that there was bone re developing on the navicular bone and the pedal oestitis is improving. Don’t get me wrong, the changes are TINY but bone is the last thing to change so this gives me a huge amount of hope for the future. I am planning to get them done again in two years purely for my own interest and it will be great for the Rockley project.
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View of pedal bone - Sept 12 & Aug 13 comparison
After that I was on a bit of a high and we have continued jumping although we haven’t had our competition debut yet as I was on a competing ban until we moved. We are in now so I’m pleased to report there will be competition reports heading onto the blog very soon.
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View of LF Navicular bone - Sept 12 & Aug 13 comparison
The other most exciting thing that has happened was the Rockley Rehab Reunion. I have been aiming for this since I saw the video this time last year when I was spending evenings sobbing into my pony’s mane, wishing for a resolution and the video gave me some hope that it *might* not be the end of the road. Things have obviously improved hugely since those October nights and we were there with bells on! I was helping to organise it so was slightly anxious whether everything would come together but I needn’t have worried and it was fabulous.
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Buddy thinking he knows better doing a bounce in a one stride double
Buddy thought it was THE BEST THING he has ever done in his life and was rather wild for the whole weekend but it was oddly rather nice to have him feeling well and so very happy although I’ve told him he will have no excuse next year! As well as it being lots of fun (a couple of us regressed to 12 year old girls cantering everywhere we went) it was great to meet other rehabs, share experiences and see how amazing all the ponies are at all different stages of their rehab. 
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Buddy's first jump out of water - lack of scope is not an issue we have!
If you haven’t seen the videos via the Rockley blog then I highly recommend that you have a look. The slo mo footage has had around 10,000 views, is being talked about worldwide and is fascinating viewing. The horses on the video are all rehabs bar one and range from just completing their 12 week programme to being a few years in. The coloured cob galloping up the hill went home in April/May time and was 100% sound the next day.  Its emotional viewing so get the tissues at the ready! The round up video shows a bit more of what we got up to and shows Buddy having a naughty ohmygodimsoooooexcited moment.

RRR2013 from Nic Barker on Vimeo.

I came away with a feeling of having been involved in something really special and it helped remove a block I’ve been having about Buddy’s capability. I still worry about him going lame, I’m getting better but it is always there, and to see him coping with everything when I just let him get on with it just helped me to remove that mental block. There was a great guy there too who came all the way from Northumberland and was meant to stay just for Saturday but ended up staying for the filming and he confirmed Buddy has ‘perfect feet for him’ which made me grin a lot. I met some great people, laughed til my belly hurt and was inspired by each and every owner and their horses. 
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New friends Bailey, Felix, Chester, Buddy and Rolo at RRR13
I cannot wait for RRR14 – we are moving location to Boomerang – and we will be having an open day on the Saturday so do get in touch if you would like to attend.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Just call him Tigger....

I was so excited waiting for today to arrive, it was a big test for Buddy and I as it would be a proper jumping session, on grass, on our going lame anniversary.
I hadn't jumped a course on grass for a long time and I had no idea if Buddy had (although I was doubtful) and I knew he hadn't seen anything like what we were going to do - it was set to be an interesting session and I just hoped he would behave!
In the week leading up to our lesson I had another jump in the school where I managed to combine three fences together at a height bigger than I could jump on my own two feet (!) so I was feeling confident and ready to attack whatever we were going to face.
We were a mixed group who included a rider who had never done anything like it, a new combination and a more experienced pair. The mix worked really well and the group were all tested with tricky lines and accuracy questions rather than height which meant that everyone had to use their brains and ride.
After warming up over a small cross pole the instructor threw us right in at the deep end and we were riding combinations and angled fences. Buddy was incredibly keen and was loving being back and pinging over fences - his ears were pricked the whole time.
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Flying Donkey!
He didn't make life easy for me and my eye is well and truly out so there were some moments when we weren't on the same page entirely but once I got my act together and helped Buddy out it felt great. I stuck to mainly trot coming into the fences as I wanted to keep control of the situation and not get sucked into battling against him rushing, he is a big young horse and controlling all that through combinations can be tricky and I want to make as many positive experiences for him as possible.

In the end we practised combinations, a coffin, corners and skinny barrels and I was so chuffed with him - there is plenty to work on but we've had a while off so I will give myself a pat on the back and critique later on. I'm just going to enjoy the buzz for now.
We're back at the vets on Wednesday for the x-rays so it will be exciting to see the results of those - hopefully we will see some positive improvements.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Bouncing Buddy Returns

It's been a while since I updated the blog and a few things have happened in the meantime so this one may be long - I suggest grabbing a cup of tea (or a suitable beverage for a Sunday morning!).

Buddy's feet have continued to improve, the hard ground is doing wonders for his feet and he is having constant stimulation whilst he is out and it makes a difference compared to sloppy mud. The very last slither of old hoof has broken off from the outside wall on both fronts but we are following the same thread as last time and the inside is hanging around a bit longer - just as a reminder I think. I could trim it off but I love the fact that he self trims so I'm going to leave it, its not impinging his movement whatsoever so it'll come off when it's ready and not before.

Since my last blog we have also started jumping again *insert big grins* and, although they have been tiny compared to what we were jumping last year Buddy and I have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and, most importantly, Buddy stayed sound. So, after this success, I decided to accept an invitation to the XC ride at Stratfield Saye. It was a 10 mile ride through beautiful estate parkland with woods, fields, river crossings - you name it and the ride had it plus 25 or so XC jumps. 
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Handsome Donkey
My plan was to see how he felt and I was prepared to not jump unless I felt the conditions were right. On the day I was slightly anxious.. Buddy had never been on a fun ride and I hadn't done was for about 20 years! But I have total faith in my pony, he is so sensible that I wasn't overly worried and I knew if I had to I would just kick on, let him have a hooly, and then he would calm down. As it was he was just a bit bright when we started the ride, striding out and looking all around, almost amazed that there were horses in front, behind and everywhere. After a nice walk and trot there were a few teeny jumps that I thought looked ideal so I told my companions I was jumping but to be wary as he hasn't seen an XC fence since May last year and was definately going to balloon it. As predicted he launched into space but I was prepared with my jockey length stirrups and so we landed together on the other side to a chorus of 'wow he's got some scope!' hmmm yes.. over a 2' nothing log.. silly pony  ;o)
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The three amigos at the end of Stratfield Saye XC ride
As the ride went on we had a brilliant time, we didn't press on too much but we enjoyed some canters and plenty more jumps. It was a brilliant education for Buddy as he had horses jumping next to him, cantering and trotting past and away in front and he was just brilliant. At the end of the ride he was mentally tired but feeling like he could go round again (or at least half way!) and my companions commented on how amazed they were that he was barefoot, had led all the way and stomped over some pretty unfriendly terrain. Big grins from me.
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Chillin' on his birthday
Then onto this weekend and it was Buddy's birthday yesterday - he is now the grand old age of 7. We celebrated with extra scratches, an extra handful of alfa pellets and a lovely evening ride. I definately didn't buy him a new dressage pad to add to my collection as I have been banned from buying anymore matchy matchy by my husband.. But *if* I had I would be very excited about that arriving for our next outing ;o)

The next couple of weeks are going to be quiet - we are in the process of moving so I am packing up the house and fitting in work and le donks in the middle. We have a simulated XC jumping lesson planned next weekend which I am super excited about (on grass so will be interesting to see how he copes with some of the turns) plus hubby has promised to come and video so there should be some evidence on camera. Then Buddy is back to the vets on 21st August for his x-rays.. I am excited to see what changes have happened but also nervous that things have deteriorated but I will share the comparisons on here when I have them.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Boiling Buddy

It's been a bit quiet here as Buddy and I have been having some R&R with some time off in the sun for me.. and he ended up having the same! The weather has been glorious and I am a real sun bunny so this weather is great as far as I'm concerned. The ground is obviously rock hard everywhere which limits our fast work to the school or the gallops which isn't ideal but the hard ground is brilliant for bare feet and I'm noticing rapid growth and great changes which I will never complain about!
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What a print!
A couple of weeks ago I was concerned that Buddy may have been getting a bit footier as the grazing at the new yard is significantly higher quality than at our old place which obviously poses its own issues for a barefoot pony. I had kept him on daytime turnout so that he didn't have too many changes in his routine when we moved but he has now moved on to nightime turnout and is in during the day. This has improved his capability over stones and when I took him out last weekend I was pleased to see that an area he had struggled with a couple of weeks ago was no longer as much of an issue and, although he wasn't perfect, it was a serious improvement.
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We have also now lost the flare that we had on our last picture update. As soon as this went his stride length improved and he moves much better without it. I had thought that it might be the case but I didn't want to interfere with what Buddy is doing and I knew that if it hadn't gone within two or three weeks then it was probably going to be a permanent fixture and we are at that tricky stage of not-quite-there hoof so I wasn't totally confident that he didn't need it. Buddy is still totally self trimming and his feet have not been touched by human hand since October 2012 which is incredible when you look at the changes that have happened and blow any theory out the water that shoeing is the best option for all horses.. Buddy is proving very much otherwise at the moment!
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Week one vs week 34 - they don't even look like the same foot!
I have also spent some time over the last few weeks reflecting on where we have come from over the last year. Part of that was due to a journey I made back to Rockley to drop off new boy Fryday. It was odd being there without either the anxiety of wondering if it would work (or how I would cope when I got him back), the fascination with observing just how my horse was managing to make himself sound and the thrills of hope when tiny steps were made back to becoming sound. It was great to see Rockley in the beautiful sunshine and catch up with Nic as well as seeing the new rehabs all on their own journeys.

All of this has happened around the time we are approaching our going lame-iversary and its incredible how far we have come. I feel like this journey has opened my eyes and I have made some new friends along the way. I am lucky that I am finally at a yard where I feel supported - my fabulous YO is taking great care of Buddy and is taking an interest in what we are doing - and Buddy is thriving. Of course, we will be on this journey forever more and I am sure there will be challenges along the way. I am still anxious to find out whether Buddy will cope with jumping - this is a mental hurdle for me as he went lame last year once we upped his jumping - but I have to try it to find out... So the jumping is scheduled for the next week or so (eeeeeek).
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Pingy pony - August 2012

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Perfect (ish) Prelim

Yesterday was another big test for Buddy and I. We've not been out since our fantastic re- debut what with moving and our slight (!) loading issues so I decided that this weekend would be good to go and practise somewhere different and also to tackle our prelim debut.

Work was manic last week as it was my company's financial year end so our riding was a bit more sporadic than I would have wanted but we practised in the school one evening and I was happy we could do the right bits in the right places and so was relatively confident we'd make it through.
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Heel first (just!)
I then realised two night prior that I'd learnt the wrong prelim test (doh!).. It was Buddy's day off so I then debated whether to take him in the school on the Friday evening or to stick with my hacking plan. I chose the latter and hoped we'd be ok - our canter isn't good enough at the moment and it was a qualifier so I wasn't going to be competitive so it was just a tick in the box for us.
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Smile for the judge
Saturday dawned and as we had quite civilised times it was a lovely, leisurely morning where I could get all my jobs done. I gave myself a 30 minute window for loading, just in case, but we didn't need it and he strolled on. Good pony and praise be to Rachel Morey!

First up was our intro test, intro a which was the same as last time. We did a good, accurate test but Buddy seemed to die when we went inside (it was quite warm in the indoor) so the trot work wasn't as active as I would have liked. I think I need to do some canter work in my warm up to really jazz him up before we go in so I will do that next time and see what effect that has on our marks. As a result we finished fractionally below our score from last time with 66.9% and 3rd place in a very competitive class of 25.
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Pretty boy
Next up was the prelim, I took on the comments from my previous sheet and decided to wind him up a bit but then give him a break before we went in as it was getting hot at this point so I kept my warm up minimal with a canter on each rein and some sharp transitions before a walk and then a chat! As a result he was much sharper in the test and his trot work got 8's across the board which was fantastic. The canter work was a bit yee ha (as expected) but I was really pleased with the test. I watched some other tests and the standard was really high so I wasn't expecting to be placed as the were 15 in the class.
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Onward bound - yee haaaa
Took B back to the lorry, untacked, washed off, packed away and the class was nearly over so we decided to load him (knowing it'd taken us a fair while last time ;0) ) and then see where we we at by then. As it was he loaded immediately (more praise to Rachel!) and so we decided to hang around if he stayed chilled as its good practise for him. He was happy munching on his hay so I went up to get my sheet and was surprised to see we had come 5th on 64%. Great marks for our trot work but the canter let us down as I knew it would however its great to be at that score knowing that there are more marks to win with some small improvements. So Buddy continues his rosette collection... We haven't returned empty handed yet!
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Big grins and frillies
I have promised Buddy that we will start jumping soon so we may have one more dressage outing and then I'll be planning our first jumping competition (eek!).

Monday, 24 June 2013

Nearly neat feet

It's been a couple of weeks of adventures for Buddy and I as we are exploring our new domain and finding lots of exciting new places to see. Buddy has, in his usual form, settled in like he has been there all this life and has developed a new bromance with another barefoot horse. His new friend has the most awesome feet, big chunky frogs and beautiful heel first landings - its the stuff of my dreams! Buddy has put on the weight that he lost at the old yard and is starting to look really good again, he is being really spoilt and the new YO gives him plenty of scratches in the right places which he loves.

Buddy's feet are continuing to head in the right direction. We are taking on much more challenging terrain more often now and we have a couple of tricky, stony tracks that we have to negotiate to get out to our longer hacks so it has been interesting to see how Buddy has coped. He is not quite rock crunching but we are getting to the stage where he will occassionally gimp (small stones on concrete) but his stride length is only altering slightly. There is still a difference between his stride length on easier surfaces (grass, tarmac etc) and tricker surfaces (stones) but it is reducing more and more and I am confident that it will come in time. Plus we are still on daytime grazing as I wanted Buddy to be settled before I changed his whole routine at once so that will happen in the next week as well.

We are rapidly approaching our 5 months home from rockley-aversary and we are so nearly there when it comes to Buddy's neat new feet. There is a slither of old stuff left but there is some flare to the inside which I am looking at and am umming and ahhing as to whether I get the farrier to neaten it up. My gut is saying not to touch it for now but if we still have it there in a few weeks then I will re-evaluate. Its so tough as his feet have been totally self trimming since he went to Rockley and I wonder if my drive to get cracking and start jumping again is clouding my view somewhat as I decided when he came home that I wouldn't jump him until the new hoof was through and with the teeny bit thats left I think I'm like an excited child leading up to Christmas and I just want it now!!

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Wk 25 vs Wk 32 (LF Lat)

You can see with the lateral shot above just how close we are to having a full new hoof. I'm pleased that we don't seem to have any event lines coming through after the move as there were a lot of changes in his diet that I was worried mught affect his feet but *touches wood* we seem to have been lucky. I'm still rubbish at taking the pictures as his feet always look longer then in real life but we are definitely beefing up behind the more time goes on.

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Wk 25 vs Wk 32 (LF sole)

The sole shots I must get better at as I just don't seem to get the same angle twice in a row which is annoying but you can see his frog has beefed up and you can see the flare that is left on the inside and the old hoof that is stretched and rubbish (technical term!). The collateral grooves are wider and deeper which can only mean a thicker sole developing.

We are also approaching our insurance expiry date and I have my vet, Chris Tufnell from Coach House, coming out to have a look at his feet and I am planning to discuss getting some new x-rays and possibly an MRI just to see where we are at and it will be interesting to see if there are any changes or evidence of healing.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

What a difference a day makes...

After our extended loading period at our show I had decided to get some outside help as I was clearly not getting anywhere on my own! Then, as if sent by a high power, I saw a thread on HHO recommending someone locally. So I got in touch and Rachel Morey from Tarrsteps Services arrived at the yard on Friday. She was fully up to speed with our history and watched me try to load (we got halfway up the ramp and was told to stop) before she took over.
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Butter wouldn't melt
I expected Buddy to be a pickle and was ready for an afternoon loading. But Rachel was fantastic and got on top of his antics pretty quickly and summed him up immediately. She felt that his loading issues stemmed from his feet as he is willing to load the wrong way round into my lorry even though its uncomfortable for him to stand that way (as his head is wedged against the bulkhead of the lorry!!) as he turns on his better foot. Had never really thought of that so was interesting and made complete sense.

After a couple of goes the wrong way it was time to load properly. He hesitated a bit and then rushed on at 100MPH! Good that he went on but we had to break it down and go slooooow. Getting off was also done in a rush so that also needed the tortoise treatment.

Rachel got Buddy thinking a step at a time and each phase was broken down into little steps. Being on the lorry was rewarded with a treat, more to get him to breathe, lick and chew than as a bribe. Getting off was done in the same way. Buddy was thinking about everything and was getting confident with every step.

We had to be careful that Buddy didn't get too cocky so we kept time on the box to 30 seconds max and once he 'got it' we didn't repeat too often, just enough to consolidate the 'good' behaviour.

Next was my go. I was anxious that I would mess it up so I listened carefully to what Rachel advised and tried to put it all into practise. First time we got on straight away but it was too fast and a bit wonky! Second time I adjusted my approach, kept each stride slow and deliberate and exited straight. Much better. One more time for luck and then we had a break to let it sink in and also to leave enough time for a problem to develop.

After a short break it was time to try again. Straight at the bottom of the ramp.. Then B swung his bum round. I corrected and put him straight again. He stayed straight so we started our ascent. Spot on. Descent was the same. Big pats and smiles all round.

Our lesson was done and my confidence was high ready for the great move.
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Putting his best foot forward
Moving day dawned and after all my stuff was moved it was time to load. I'd had some texts from Rachel reminding me to keep calm and remember the system and she was available if I needed her to be.

So I got Buddy ready. We had a bit of a crowd so I was a bit more anxious but Rachel had said to think of the adrenaline/anxiety as a dial and to mentally turn it down - it really works! I had warned people that he may not load immediately and may revert to swinging to the right but we would get there in the end (and hopefully faster than last time).

I lined him up at the bottom of the ramp... And he walked calmly in! Text book!

I could not believe it (nor could my onlookers who were rather open mouthed!). It was a super calm experience! Then coming off the other side, despite being wired, he concentrated on me and our exit was cool, calm and collected. Successful mission all round.
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Whaddya mean I won't load
I'm having Rachel back in a couple of months to teach Buddy to load himself - now THAT will be a cool trick - one for RRR13 ;0)

I would highly recommend Rachel and her work (obviously) and if any of you are having loading issues or have tricky horses she has a lot of experience that she can share so please feel free to get in touch with her.

You can find her on Facebook or www.tarrstepsservices.co.uk

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Busy times and a couple of goodbyes

It's been a strange time here so apologies for the long delay between posts. I had a work trip to Las Vegas (sounds fun but isn't, honest!), a big birthday and then I've been catching up with work since coming back plus I've got a yard move on the cards!

We had some very sad news whilst I was away as my MiL's horse Rolo was put down after a massive colic episode. Sadly he'd been colicking all night and wasn't well enough to travel for the operation when they found him so my MiL very courageously made the right decision to say goodbye. He was a grumpy old boy but we miss him terribly and my MiL has been knocked for six by it. She's not ready for another horse right now but I hope, in time, that she may miss a pony in her life but only time will tell. For now Buddy is on call for any horse snuggles she needs.

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RIP Rolo - You'll be missed

In happier news, Buddy has been improving with the addition of bicarb into his diet and we are pretty much rock crunching. He does have the occasional gimp on the odd stone but I can't remember the last time he did it which is fantastic. We went on a yard hack over the weekend and almost everyone commented on how good Buddy looked and how well he coped with the challenging surfaces which was lovely to hear. I've been lazy and haven't had a lesson (or been in the school) since our dressage test! I've been doing lots of schooling out hacking and we both prefer it that way and Buddy is muscling up very nicely so I'm hoping to go out again at the end of the month and as soon as the old hoof goes we will start jumping properly again.

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Buddy stomping over some serious stones

As per my opening post we are, sadly, moving yards soon. The new yard will allow us to turn out overnight, has access to gallops for fitness (and fun) and some other barefoot horses which will be lovely. I will be sad to say goodbye to my friends at the yard but they understand why we are moving on.

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Buddy will be sad to say goodbye to Bert

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Foot porn.... Week 25 comparison

It's been a while since I did any comparison photos so thought now was a good time to get the camera out! So get ready for some foot porn but my photography skills still need some practise ;0)

I've kept to just the left fore for comparative purposes but if anyone wants to see the full set let me know. His hind feet are far more concave and the angle changes are barely visible so it is interesting to compare those too.

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Lateral - Week 20 vs Week 25

The lateral shots show the growth and the development at the back of the foot - I hadn't noticed this as much looking at them every day but you can see from his feet that he is using them properly now. I think we will be all new hoof around week 30-32.

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Sole - Week 20 vs Week 25

Sole shots show the deeper collateral grooves which coincides with a reduction in sensitivity as the sole should be thickening. The frog is looking in better shape than it was five weeks ago but we are still a long way from the chunky frogs I lust after!! His central sulcus is something I need to keep an eye on but I can't get my hoof pick into it so it is ok for now.

I also did some slo mo footage to check he is still landing heel first and I'm pleased to report we are mostly heel first but there were a couple of flat landings on his left fore. Nothing toe first though so that's good enough for me right now.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Plodding on...

It's been a quiet week for Buddy after our exciting competition report although it was a bit stressful for me! So I decided to be selfish and treated myself to a trip to Badminton on Sunday which acted as a real inspiration. I am very lucky to have a 4* rider on my team and although he started out as my instructor (8 years ago!) I now consider him a good friend so it was lovely to meet up with him and get the course from a riders point of view (he was on the waitlist for Badders this year but am hoping we'll be luckier next year). I also walked some of the grassroots course and thought it looked great, I would so love to be there one day - if only you could enter it like a normal event! Buddy and I will need to do some work on our dressage to get those elusive scores but maybe if we work hard enough we could qualify....

In the meantime we are just continuing with lots of hacking and I'm just enjoying being with Buddy. Our grazing isn't super rich which has meant Buddy hasn't shown any major signs of being sensitive but its something that is always on my mind. So every time he gimps on a stone I'm wondering if that's because he's feeling his feet and if he has a day where he's a bit ploddy at the beginning of a ride that also makes me think.
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The latest arrivals at the yard, 5 gorgeous kittens
His feet are still not as strong as they will be as we still have about half an inch of old growth left and as I'm on livery I cannot be as regimented with his routine as I would like to be so I'm tweaking his diet as best I can and just see if it makes a difference. I've upped his salt again from 25ml to 50ml which he seems to tolerate and it seemed to make a big difference when we hacked on Tuesday as he was striding out and stomping over everything (including an incredibly stoney driveway) leaving his shod companion for dust! I'm also going to start adding 15ml of sodium bicarbonate to see if that makes a difference over those pesky lone stones. I'll let you know if I notice a change.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Buddy bounces back...

Today was the day the one I've been looking forward to and dreading in equal measures... Our dressage re-debut. I say re-debut as we had a few outings together prior to him going lame but nothing particularly consistent - although we had always been in the ribbons.

First hurdle with Buddy is to actually get him on the lorry. We had a slight issue (ha ha) and he was a bit of a knobber to load. We were cutting it close and I was starting to think we might not make it but at the very last moment Buddy decided going to a party might be a nice idea so off we went. 

I had chosen a small, low key venue for our first outing and it was the place I first took Buds to so I was happy we'd not have a meltdown. The major let down is that the car park is incredibly stoney and as he'd been slightly footie I was worried we'd go gimping across the car park but, as usual, Buds surprised me and stomped off towards the warm up!

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Posing for the camera (note the stony car park)
We had about 20 mins to warm up which was plenty for a walk trot. We did some leg yielding and  shoulder in to keep him straight and even in both reins plus lots of transitions and half circle practise. The best thing about Buddy is that he is totally chilled wherever he goes so I can really ride him but it also means I stay relaxed. He is the only horse I have ever truly enjoyed riding at competitions because he's not stressy which means I can relax and enjoy it.

It was soon time for us to go in. The indoor they use can be pretty spooky and it has a open gallery where the judge sits but it is also a canteen so you often get people stomping up the stairs halfway through your test. Buds did tense up a bit but soon relaxed after a trot round and the bell rang and off we went. 

I smiled my biggest smile and was enjoying every second. Buddy jumped the light on the floor in our first 20m circle which made me chuckle and then the bell rang.. I'd forgotten to do my walk for a horse length. Bugger! Went back, carried on - was pleased with my 1/2 10m circles - and whilst I internally congratulated myself I missed my second 20m circle. Arse! You'll be glad to hear we finished the rest of the test with no more errors and although he lacked a bit of energy I was so pleased with my donkey. He tried really hard and I couldn't have asked for more. As we'd had a couple of errors and the class was pretty large I wasn't planning on hanging round for my sheet so got Buds untacked and into his travel gear ready for the journey home.

Well, usually Buds is pretty good at loading to come home... Notice how I say usually... Hmmm the little swine enjoyed the party so much he didn't want to come home. So after over an hour of trying he realised we weren't giving up so decided to load. He was a proper knobber!
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Mum why are you crying?!
But that did mean the class had ended and I could pick up my sheet. I crept up the stairs and mine was the last sheet. There was a rosette.... A blue one. It was our rosette....

We only went and came second!! With almost 67%. I promptly burst into tears... What a journey we have been on and less than three months after coming home from Rockley we were back at a competition which, for me, was more than I'd hoped for but to actually be competitive and beat some pretty smart horses (without my errors we would have won) was just outstanding.

I cried all the way back to the lorry - Buddy was forgiven for being a knobber - and I felt like I'd won the lottery.. And then some!