Sunday, 17 February 2013

A weeks of firsts

Buddy has now been home a whole week and it has gone without too much drama. I've been repeating over and over that we are not 100% over all surfaces and it seems to have finally sunk in! We've had some lovely hacks out, canters in the countryside and have even had our first lesson. 

The benefits of barefoot this week have been that I've been able to sneak over grassy bits (and empty children's playgrounds - I know, I know!) and we've not left a trace of our trespasses ;0)

As I said already, we had our first lesson today. It was a real baby steps re-introduction to school work and I was very aware of not pushing him too hard so we only did about 30mins and although he wasn't as sweaty as other horses I felt it was plenty to be getting on with for now. Main objective was to work on me a bit and I was wearing one of Centaur Biomechanics new jackets which have fluorescent lines on them which help to highlight any wonkyness and ensure you are riding as effectively as possible. Our particular jackets had been used by the senior eventing team before coming to us and mine was worn by the eventing god himself, Mr Fox-Pitt, so I am hoping that if I keep wearing it then I will be able to ride like him (and maybe my legs will grow several inches). I have to say they weren't the most flattering of garments (as you'll see from the pictures) and are more designed for your uber thin dressage rider rather than your more average sized rider with a bit more round the middle than ideal!! However, I found it a very useful tool, particularly when looking in our mirrors and my instructor found it useful to see the bend in our arms was being maintained.

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Buddy in his XC colours not really looking like a horse written off three months ago

Buddy was decked out in matchy matchy (I have a slight obsession with saddlecloths and boots/bandages) and so was looking very smart and decided to show off a bit. He was slightly wild when I first got on and found the other horses trotting and cantering past to be very exciting! He soon settled and we had some nice work, with my instructor declaring he "was moving the best she'd seen" which is a massive compliment.

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Buddy and his friends with two riders showing off the Centaur Biomechanics jackets

I'm back to work (boooo) next week so it will be harder to fit in the variety of work he's had since coming home but I'm hoping they'll be back out for a few hours every other day so I'll be able to stick to the two on, one off rule that Nic used. If not, spring is nearly here which means the clocks are close to going forwards and life becomes far easier.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

He's home!

Last Saturday we collected Buddy from Rockley and, as per my last post, I was so excited but also slightly terrified. Buddy can be tricky to load so I was anxious that we would spend hours trying but the biggest thing I was concerned about was that Buddy is now completely my responsibility... I was panicking that I don't know enough and what I'm going to do if it all goes wrong.

Buddy wasn't as excited about him coming home as I was! He sulked as soon as his travel stuff started coming out and wasn't happy about leaving his best friend, Giant Dave. Loading wasn't a massive issue so we were on the road pretty quickly. 
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Looking unimpressed
Luckily the journey was uneventful and we arrived home in about 3 hours and, in typical Buddy style, he came off the lorry to a chorus of neighs from his old friends and wandered into his stable like he'd never left. 

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Saying hello to my MiL's horse
The last few days have passed in a bit of a blur. On the Sunday we hacked out for the first time and managed a trot and canter which was fab. He is still not 100% over small stones and so there were moments where he stumbled a bit but Nic has assured me that once he has his complete hoof he will be fine so I just need to monitor him and make sure he doesn't become more ouchy over those surfaces as there may be an underlying reason behind that.

He went out in the field with his friends on Monday and came in absolutely PLASTERED in mud... Proper liquid mud! There was only one thing I could have done so out came the shampoo and buckets  and Buddy had his first bath of 2013. Our YO had decided to shut the fields as the ground was just horrendous so Buddy will have to wait for his next hoorah! We did have a couple of massive positives as we had a visiting farrier who wanted to have a look at his new feet and he showed his apprentices why they were good examples. Then an eventer and dressage diva who rides for my YO came, also full of positive comments, and let slip that her youngster will event barefoot and she had an old horse that went up to Novice barefoot. Excellent news!

Muddy Buddy

So, onto today... The rain over the last few days has washed a lot of teeny stones onto the roads and so Buddy wasn't 100% at first. Wandering down the drive I had a hundred and one reasons why he didn't feel quite right running through my head. Was it the grass from the day before, was it the hay, did he pull something being a loon in the field...? I very nearly called Nic as I was on my hack and nearly turned around but as soon as we got on the road he felt great and was fine on the grass and mud.. Stones are proving to be our nemesis at the moment. I am going to continue to monitor Buddy and if he deteriorates in the next day or so then I will know its the hay and will have to do something about that.

It didn't help that as soon as we got back it was mentioned that he looked funny... I'm feeling so anxious about everything it is the last thing I want to hear as I know everyone is watching our every move and each time I get him out the box I'm scared. I hope this is just coming home anxiousness and it will get better in time...

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Bar vs Bare
So, to cheer myself up I took a picture of Buddy's feet with his old bar shoes... As you can see from the picture his feet wouldn't fit this shoe, his heels are far more developed and his whole foot has changed shape. I find this all so interesting but I'm going to find it tough when there is so much negativity.

Friday, 8 February 2013

One more sleep....!

Buddy has finally reached his last day at Rockley and I am going to pick him up first thing tomorrow. To say I am excited would be the understatement of the century but I am also incredibly nervous as I am in charge of his well being all on my own from now on and I just know it it not going to be easy. One of the reasons I sent Buddy to Nic was because I felt I didn't have the level of knowledge to be able to transition him myself and that will follow through when he comes home. Nic is incredibly generous with her time and I know that she will be there for us throughout our journey and will be an invaluable sounding board as I have no one near to me who understands the complexity of being barefoot.

It is a scary prospect and I am also nervous about what other people will say. I know I shouldn't care and I've developed a much thicker skin since I made the decision to flout tradition and go on an 'alternative' journey but it is still hard when you are surrounded by people who think you can only be a happy hacker (without any roadwork) if you take the shoes off. I am praying that the proof will be in the pudding and we will be able to show people what a barefoot horse can do but I know that there will always be someone who makes a snide comment the second we go a bit footy, make an ouchie step on a stone or slip in the mud regardless of their own horse's performance. 

I understandably follow Nic's blog daily (if only to see if I can spot Buddy in any of the backgrounds!) and it is another valuable resource that I have used as evidence to share on my Facebook profile to maybe help educate people as to why I am doing what I am doing. The latest posts have just compounded why I chose this journey..

Nic is in the process of writing a series on angles, break over and sole depth in her rehabs and barefoot horses and yesterday was her first post and featured Buddy as the example (you can read the full post here and today's follow up post here). The changes his feet have made in the last twelve weeks have been astounding. My old farrier told me Buddy had feet that were predisposed to being long in the toe and I now know that was rubbish! Given the opportunity Buddy has taken his toe right back, is growing a much tighter and steeper angle to fall in line with his pastern axis, and his heel is now the widest part of the foot... Doesn't sound like a horse that is incapable of growing the best shape to me!! But the best bit about Nic's post was that I could say THIS IS WHY I HAVE CHOSEN THIS PATH!

I'm not sure if it will make a blind bit of difference but we shall see.