Monday, March 28, 2011

Sad goodbyes

I remember like it was yesterday, when the tiniest, most angelic looking buckskin baby was born on our farm. Her birth was kind of special, she was her mother's first child, and her mother wasn't the smartest cookie in the jar, for all that she was the sweetest most mellow mare on the farm. When she was about to give birth, she managed to find the steepest part of the paddock,and just stood there obviously flustered, she never lay down,the foal just slid out, plopping to the ground. While the mare still confused, just walked away to graze.

we called to her and the sweet and confused palomino, walked back to sniff at the wet slippery pile of legs steaming on the ground. She looked at it with an expression "oh look a baby! how did this get here?" and suddenly realising her job, and maternal instincts kicking in, began to lick the infant clean.

But this mare had given birth on the side of a very steep hill, the foal feeling life and warmth, it wanted to stand and get milk. Usually these first crucial moments of mare and foal bonding, i just watch from the sidelines, nature is usually pretty good at sorting things out on her own. But i watched this wee foal, as it rolled, somersaulted and finally tumbled down the hill, again and again, i couldn't stand by anymore. With some human intervention from my mother and I, the foal was carried back up to a flatter a spot, where it finally mastered its legs and drank. But after its tumbling entrance into the world, this little filly would always be our little Tumble, and the name stuck.

Tumble she has always remained to us, affectionately shortened to tumble bumble, tum tums, or tumble bug. the little fine featured buckskin filly, grew into a beautiful sooty dapple grey. She didn't grow that much though, she was meant to be a horse for me, but never grew past pony height. In the scheme of things this worked out well, as at least it meant i wasnt tempted to keep her, as i do have to sell some, to survive. Well to be honest, i was tempted, but couldn't justify keeping her.

Tumble has played her own part in the Wild Horse Project to. She was Fern's very first friend, the horse i paddocked with her to help her settle into her new life. Because Tumble has always been the calmest, sweetest and most sensible natured equine on the property.

Later it was Tumble, that accompanied the wild stallion on his adventures. Galloping along the beach, climbing sand dunes, and exploring forests. She was his constant companion, mature and sensible beyond her young years, leading the stallion around all the new places.

So now almost five years from that night Tumble rolled down the hill . She has sold. I'm sad, it was inevitable, but when i drop her off to her new home on Friday, she will no longer be my Tumble bumble, but the pony of a new and very happy 12yr old girl, there will definitely be a tear in my eye!

Friday, March 25, 2011

being the best you can be is always something to aspire to

Its raining again, so I'm reduced to sitting inside feeling useless. Usually i ride in the rain, but after three days of the nasty stuff, even my most surefooted horses are slipping around like there on skates, so every ones having a day off. It been weather wise, one of the strangest 6 months, i don't like what all this wet weather means for the coming winter.. But on another topic..

I went to the ballet the other night, I'm not a huge dance enthusiast, but i love to watch anything where someone has pushed themselves to the limit of physical ability and strives to be the best they can be, it really inspires me in what i do. My brother, just competed in his first world championships at age 16, in his chosen sport, the work he put in, hours, driving, everything he gave up to push himself to the top, inspired me. I would go watch some his training with a guy who was a multi world champion himself, the work they did, always left me wanting to push myself that little bit harder. There is something so special in watching any athlete push themselves, that drive, seeking perfection, pushing their body, watching someone at the top of any discipline is to me truly amzing. Because i know how hard it is to strive to achieve at any level.

Same with horses, watching a horse & rider jump a Grand Prix round, or a dressage rider go through their freestyle at the Olympic games, is amazing. It's not just the performance they put in at that moment. It is thinking of all the hours training, literally the years of of work to get to that point, and all that people to sacrifice. It really is amazing the dedication, the drive, and the sheer physical ability of both the horse and rider at this level. Beautiful to watch

But i also find it inspiring those, who may never ride, compete, dance at the top level, but push themselves to be the best they can be anyway. Someone who develops complete harmony with their horse or maybe the less talented horse that gives his heart out jumping for his rider, to me is still an amazing acheivement. I know my last eventing horse and i, got to 2** level together, he was physically not very talented, not fast, didn't move very well, and was small, yet we won the national series for young riders, and managed to beat out far better horses on many occasions. This little horse taught me alot about how much heart counts. He tried harder than anything i have ever ridden since, and more importantly, looked after me, i was always safe on him, he gave everything i asked his best effort and more.

I made the heartbreaking decision to sell him, putting him on the plane to another country, knowing i'd probably never see him again, i cried my heart out, and over a year later i still miss him. With another young horse about to step up to that level again, i remember this horse more than ever because to me he achieved more, physically, it was so much harder for him, than it is for the new one. Every ribbon i won on my little underdog, will always have a special place in my heart, because i know how much more blood sweat, tears and importantly heart went into it. ( this special horse is now teaching another young girl in Australia, who loves him to, they send me photos, of him taking her around the cross country, it makes me happy seeing him do low level and never having to strain himself again, enjoying asn easy life after all he did for me)

I know I'm a sucker for the underdog, the not so glamorous horse. the one that everyone else looks past. I think its part of the reason i applied to get wild horses. I'm also of the belief, that any horse can be trained, and good horses are only ever as good as the person who trains them. I am lucky enough that i learned from people who were of similar mindset to me. i would love to show with these wild horses that, you can achieve so much with your horse through understanding, hard work, and dedication. Achievement is not always that Olympic medal, but developing yourself, and your horse, to the best of your physical abilities, and having a connection and understanding together.

But i can not stand the people who ruin the achievement of others by tainting a sport, whether, by using steroids, cheating the rules, or especially in horse sports through the use of cruel or abusive training techniques. There is no achievement and no beauty in something created through pain. Whether using horrible bits on a horse soft mouth, hyper flexing them until their tongues turn blue, racking their legs, anything that causes pain to encourage performance,or this that i read today on Fugly Horse of The Day, you are an arsehole, horses will do so much for you, yet like using steroids people try and find shortcuts to success, usually with hideous consequences! Thank god we dont even have the the sport, mentioned in Fugly, in this country!!

What will these two become?? One thing for sure as long as there with me i will never subject them to any cruelty, but i will aspire to continue to improve them through good training, patience and time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Finally an update

I started out this blog doing a photo update each month, but life got busier and somehow this all fell by the way side. So finally here are some photos of what the wild horses look like theses days. Sonny is huge, remember the tiny little thing back in november he is no more, now is a big, bay colt......

i know i have new followers, which is so so exciting! So for those of you who maybe havnt seen what the horses looked like when they came from the wild , il put some photos of their first days at the end of this post.

Silver Fern, Sonny (Silverson) and myself

The wild,wild stallion, Matai.

Mother and child, Sonny, is one day going to tower over his mother, he already almost the same height!

Matai his first week with us, 8 months ago

What they looked like when they arrived......

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Creatures of habits

We are all creatures of habit. Humans and horses alike.. No matter how spontaneous we think we are, everything we do comes back to a habitual behaviours and responses. It something that been on my mind for a while, but was brought to the forefront of my thoughts, as i watched a documentary about prison inmates, while curled up sick on the couch. The show, demonstrated prisoners who would be back in prison again and again, they couldn't break old habits, and most actually felt safer in a routine and pattern the new in prison, than trying to make it in the outside world. How does this have anything to do with the rest of us and horses?

Horses are very habitual animals, if you have them in a wild setting, or even just free in a paddock situation. You will notice they keep to a certain pattern during their days. Drinking at the same times, sleeping in the same spots, grazing the same way each day. they have a set routine to their lives, and in their behaviours. As do we human in our daily lives as well. This is why with riding horses, you try and structure their work the same way, warm them up the same way each day, work them, warm them down. Especially competition horses, this structure to their work helps them at competition and gives them security because they know what to expect.

Even little habits we don't notice we do, play a big part in our horses mind and how they cope. Every day i walk up to my wild horses a certain way, scratch them on the neck, and then put the halter on. Fern the wild mare, notices if i change the slightest thing, if i walk up to her in a rush, and try to slip the halter over her nose, she rolls her eyes back lifts her head, and her entire body stiffens with tension. This is not her routine. The wild stallion doesn't sweat little things like this, however I'm sure he would notice if i changed the routine completely, and went running madly in the paddock one day, and leaped on his back to go for a ride. As this would defiantly not be our routine way of doing things, he wouldn't have any idea what to expect. Just think how out of place you feel if you routine changes suddenly without warning??

What we want to do as trainers and riders, is create routines,habits, that are good, and set the horse up with a solid foundation to succeed throughout life. As unfortunately bad habits are much harder to break, and once established, horses always tend to revert back to them. Young horses and in my case, horses that have been wild and never handled, are an absolute molding block, you are free to create what you want, because there is no bad habits for them to revert back to.

it can be things as simple, as having a horse standstill for grooming or mounting, from day one, to hold its hoof quietly while you clean it. All this you can establish the very first time you do it. the more advanced habits too, for me always making sure my young horses learn to go straight without rushing into a jump, to move off my leg, to not lean on the bit, to move happily left and right, all this is so simple to teach in no time at all, as long as the person who rides the horse is paying attention. Because all these things are just habitual responses once they are learned, we are the ones who are in charge of making sure the horses learns the right ones from the wrong.

Say you let your horse drift to the left the first time it jumps, then the second time as well, by the third time this is a well established habit. All you had to do was correct that second jump and you would have been fine. But people let it go wrong, time and time again, usually because as the rider your off in 'la la' land, and suddenly that drifting to the left or whatever else has become a bad habit is now well established and usually will to some degree be there the rest of the horses life. sometimes its not even a particularly bad bad habit, just a little routine between you and your horse, like when you finish a ride your horses know to reach around for a scratch or a treat.

Sometimes however we humans create monsters....

Because horse responses are habitual, whether good, bad, in fear, in play, aggression whatever the circumstance the horse will have a certain behaviour it exhibits time and again. I'm going to tell a little story about a horse that got out of control really quick, through no fault of its own.

someone i knew bred themselves a baby horse this year, nice person, great horse person they are not, even though they love and take great care of their animals. They loved this little foal to bits, it was really friendly and happy etc etc. They waited until it was a couple of months old to try and halter break it, which is fine, i don't usually halter break mine until there a bit older either. This is where it went wrong, and little foal learned some habits that are really going to set him back in life..

they put the halter on no trouble, but when trying to lead little foal, up he reared in the air, so they stopped pulling on the rope until he settled down. A few minutes later they tried again, same result, rearing foal, they waited and tried again, rearing foal. The pattern went on for a while. finally they got sick of this gave the foal a hard tug on the rope, he reared, this time they didn't let go of the rope, foal struggles some more, until he goes right over backwards, and falls in a heap on the ground. horrified and feeling guilty, even though the foals fine, they are flexible little animals and seem to bounce back from these kind of things. But owners decide to call it a day and leave foal in paddock with mum.

What does foal learn from this?? A) he doesn't like the halter pulling on his face B) if he struggles enough humans will take it off and leave him alone, with little harm to himself.

The pattern was repeated over many months, Foal doesn't like halter, throws tantrum, owner feels bad and takes halter off. The horse wasn't only getting bigger and stronger and so were his tantrums.A really bad habit was forming, the foal learned if something he didn't like or found scary bothered him, the more violently he struggled the faster the thing was removed. This was not a naughty or crazy horse, just a smart one. It got to the point where he would threaten to rear up, and owner took the halter off. Unknowingly she rewarded the horse every single time he exhibited the behaviour she didn't want.

Eventually in despair the lady got help from me, thinking she may in fact end up shooting, or never being able to handle her much loved foal. it was not the hardest problem in the world to fix. As soon as she pulled on the rope, i pushed foal forward before he had the opportunity to throw himself backwards. The instant he took a step in the right direction, we rewarded him by giving him a little break. It really only took about 45minutes to reteach this foal how to lead. But he is always going to have a learned habit in him, to struggle against any new kind of pressure, to try and escape rather give in. Even with tying, for the first time we took caution, placing him in a spot he couldn't hurt himself, because as soon he realised he couldn't get away, he struggled and reared, genuinely terrified, because suddenly the halter wasn't taken off and throwing himself all over the place didn't remove the pressure. But he did learn and after a minute's struggle, stood happily without fear.

People make mistakes, i make heaps all the time, i know every new horse i train, i do a little bit better than the last. This person did a terrible job with this foal, she could have done so many things better from the the very beginning, but next time hopefully she wont repeat the same thing. The foal now weaned, will be a nice enough horse, hopefully in time the bad habit of his will fade away completely. Its just a shame because we as humans are responsible for so much of our animals behaviour, yet rarely do we look to our own habits to see if they are the cause.

What are you habits good or bad? how aware of them are you??

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I hate being sick, not that, I'm sure, anyone actually likes the experience. Four days later and I'm only just recovering enough to uncurl from my ball of misery. i wouldn't actually mind so much except, i had plans for this week, and it the busiest time of year for me, a few days off sets me back alot. Why cant i get sick midwinter, when things arnt so hectic??I was going to start riding the stallion, Matai again. There is to be a 5 hour trail ride this weekend, organised as a fundraisers, for the recent earthquake appeal, and it was my goal to take him on the ride, as it would be a really relaxed fun event, through some beautiful coastal scenery.

Alas, i don't think either if us will be quite up to it. Although Matai is amazing temperament wise. He is still to young to be dragged out of the paddock after weeks of no work, and be expected to behave, stay focused with mares and other horses all around, and with know real riding fitness, i don't want him getting saddle sore.

So disappointed, as it was going to be a great opportunity to show off him and these amazing wild horses and how versatile they are. but turns out it just isn't to be, ah well this is just the way with horses always unexpected setbacks and challenges to overcome, as I'm sure any horse person is well aware of....

Monday, March 14, 2011

the animals we love.

It was a bad weekend, fighting off fever and chills, while riding two horses around cross country courses on Sunday, was not fun. in hindsight i probably should have just stayed home, but i didn't,and survived the experience anyway. both horses did their best with a rider that was definitely not on her 'A' game. it's also that time of year, when you having trouble remembering if that all elusive thing called 'sleep' really exists. Weekends involve early mornings and late nights, weekdays involve early mornings long hours, trying to catch up on all the work that is slipping by, due to constantly competing. It does get exhausting at times.

I'm not sure if its because I'm still under the weather, but i feel like curling up on a couch and sleeping, and hoping someone else will miraculously do all the jobs on the farm and feed all my horses for me...this unfortunately is not going to happen. Its only only me on the farm, so its only me who can do all the chores. But on days like theses, their is always something to keep me going. Whether its my constant companion and source of endless love and affection, Lucy the dog, or the cat that accompanies on all farm jobs, or at the moment, the wild stallion who's grazing in the backyard and keeps trying to climb the porch to come in and say "hi". these animals, with there very simple needs keep me going. I know its sounds cheesy, but its true. I think most animal lovers know what i mean to.

I do feel guilty, because i have done nothing with Matai, the wild stallion, since his show, a few weeks ago. Sure he gets handled and fed and a few pats each day but other than that hes had no further training, riding or handling. Yet everyday he waits and gives a big neigh of greeting from his paddock, and comes up for his cuddles and scratches. If you are to busy and walk by him, he gives you this huge doe eyed look, that melts even the most hardened of souls. Now the wild mare Fern, neighs to you, and does her best ' butter wouldn't melt in my mouth expression', but I'm not fooled by her, she wants food. Shes not to fussed if you don't pay her attention, as long as you don't forget to drop off her feed bucket or hay as you go. the stallion, never really seems interested in food at all, he comes to hang out with you, feed bucket or not, and genuinely seems curious and happy to be around you, content with life.

These little things when you put some much, blood, sweat, lets be honest tears and money into these creatures, does make all the difference. Because unlike my lovely Lucy, horses aren't really prone to emotional displays of affection toward you, in the way that dogs are. It makes me laugh that out of all my horses, the wild stallion, and one old crazy Arab, are the two most affectionate. The only two that seem to go right out of their way to come and be with you.They make up for the others that really only want the food and the occasional scratch.

So yesterday, I arrived home from the show, exhausted, disappointed with myself and my performance, feeling like i was burning from the inside out with the flu, pretty much like i wanted to have a big cry and a bit of a very rare for me 'female meltdown' that all girls seem to have when we get a bit too stressed. But the stallion gave me a huge whinny of greeting as soon as my car came to a stop, trotting all the way to the fence to say hi. This cheered me a bit. i unloaded the horses, dumped them in their paddock, did a rough job of finishing everything so i could go curl up inside for the night. The last job for the day was to top up a big bucket of water, for the stallion and his mate, who are grazing, what is supposed to be a backyard, but really is just knee high grass, with a few ornamental plants and fruit trees scattered around.

While waiting for the bucket to fill, i gave up all energy, and sat, then finally lay down on the grass to wait, arm over my eyes. As i lay there i heard the shuffling, soft thud of hooves, as Matai came to investigate my strange behaviour. Peeking out from under my arm, i saw the obviously perplexed expression of one little brown stallion, as he snuffled at my boots, then worked his way up,to breathe is hot, earthy breath in my face. After convincing himself it was only mum being weird, he stood happily over me, stomping at the occasional fly, while i gazed half comatose from the grass underneath, thinking to myself that no matter what " at least one horse loves me". No matter how bad i felt he was still happy to seee me.

Eventually i did manage to drag myself off the ground, the stallion still there, only giving me his big doe eyes again as i stood up. The doe eyes, work anytime, i went and gave him a big hug around his thick hairy neck. as well as a a good itch under his mane where i know he likes.

This morning again as i ventured outside i got, a huge whinny of greeting, as if to say " I'm so Happy to see you again", as the wild stallion trotted up to say hello. Even in my sorry state it put a big smile on my face, you cant stay sulking inside when you get that kind of greeting in the mornings. So somehow I'm going to get through the day, because its true, those animals we love and the little things they do, sometimes make everything possible.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

ahh the glamourous life

Urghh! i just got back from my one social outing of the year, and still in my party dress, changed the oil on the generator, in the dark. Started the motor, so i could get some electricity all the way to my house, and managed to finally turn my computer on, so i could have some connection to the civilised world, through this great invention called the Internet. After a long day of loading and unloading hay, worming horses, treating one very unhappy and large foal, then scrapping dried wormer out of my hair and skin at the end of theday, doing all those things that people don't envision, when you tell them you ride horses for a career.As much as i feel so privileged to be able to live the life i lead, its not all galloping your horse across wide open fields, with your hair blowing gracefully in the wind. Its hard slog most of the time, especially when you start getting involved in the breeding side of things, young horses are a lot more work than i think most people realise.

Its that time of year when all animals need drenching. We also have one foal (not the wild one), who unfortunately has had a hernia operation, which hasn't quite gone according to plan, requiring a bit more care than anticipated.Poor big sick foal, had to have her belly sprayed with iodine, and a antibiotic injection in her neck, neither is a pleasant procedure for her, and teaching her to stand somewhat still for it, is always a challenge, but it must be done. Again trying to hold a struggling, strong foal, as you try to spray her belly, is not what people envision when working with horses.

Now foals are defiantly cute little things, but they grow big and strong fast, and like children they have to learn a whole bunch , and you as the human are the one in charge of teaching them, and making these first crucial lessons the right ones. If your inclined to be a bit on the soft side of discipline you can quickly end up with a baby horse who has learnt all the wrong things, trust me i worked with enough spoilt foals, these things can be truly monsters.
Wrong lessons that horses can learn quickly, or really any animals, and are so preventable, it is just simple stuff. Not letting, them nibble on you, or push or shove even in play, when you first halter them they cant learn that they can pull loose and be free, or turn their hind end toward you in aggression. These little things that seem harmless at first turn into bug deals later on.the sick foal had to learn to stand still for injections, and today's lesson, for all three babies, they had to learn to allow themselves to be wormed.

The wild foal, is a great study in what a animal learns from its mother. Sonny exhibits the same reactions as his mother, in just about every situation. They use the same expressions when meeting other horses, both when worried instinctively turn away form you, rather than turn and face you, and many more funny little things. I know these are learned behaviours, because i have watched Sonny develop them over time.

His mother Fern is almost head shy, but shes actually happy to be rubbed all over, if allowed though, would much rather be looking the opposite direction. She doesn't like her nose being touched, i have taught her this is something she must just deal with, and it wont last forever. Sonny didn't have this behaviour to begin with, but the more he observed mum, the more he copied, its not a horrible flaw, just a funny little quirk they have, but one they learn to deal with, as you must be allowed to touch there nose. Sonny is happy to be haltered, but screws up his face, and looks away for just a second, as the halter slides, on or off his nose.

So worming, where your putting a big tube right in their mouth, is something that put both mother and son well out of their comfort zone. Fern though, has had it before and while not enjoying the experience,stood quietly for it. Sonny on the other hand was distressed. happy to have the big tube touch him, but rolling his eyes right back, and trying to move away as it came near his face. But the worst thing you can do in these situation is reward this behaviour by taking the 'scary' item away. So i just kept the tube there, until he stopped moving his feet, then took it away for a few seconds, rewarding the action of him standing still. Repeating this a couple more times, until he didn't move, even when the terrifying tube touched his nose, he was soon relaxed about the whole thing, blinking and licking his lips. next step was easy, tube in mouth, push the trigger, worming done. he pulled a sour expression, but stood quietly. it really is simple as that. None of these jobs have to be hard, but people make them hard, because they don't want to take the time, or don't want to be the 'mean' one.

But isn't that what being a horse person is, especially when you want to be the owner of one of those "O so Cuuuute" baby horses. You put in the miserable hours stacking hay, take the time to teach the lessons, treat the wounds, give the injections, do the time, so you can enjoy those blissful carefree moments of riding freely, in harmony with your horse wherever your heart takes you??

Monday, March 7, 2011

Wet winter weather

There can be knowing denying it any longer, the weekend dealt me a hand of misery and on getting home last night, i had to scrounge around for exta blankets, this morning found me putting on warm pants and a jacket....All these signs,point me to one thing, winter is on its way.

My weekends was one of the most miserable i can remember, in fact i know i have never ridden my horse in such bad conditions. With over 400 entries, on cross country day, less than 50% even started there horses. In my division of 25 only 10 started the cross country and only seven finished, including me. It rained the whole weekend, cold, biting, unrelenting rain, that forced dampness into everything, nook, cranny and remaining dry space. Horse yards turned to knee deep mud overnight, and every big horse truck was towed from location by a tractor, as some people found themselves sunk down to their axles in mud by morning..

For the first time in my life i awoke on Sunday, and thought about not actually completing an event. My night of very broken,cold and wet sleep, in my horse trailer, had left me exhausted, my horse not looking much better outside in his yard. Trudging around the course again at 6.30am, sinking into almost knee deep mud in places, didn't leave me reassured about ground conditions either. With a bitter salty, wind from the sea, driving the rain and cold right through my body, i felt thoroughly depressed about the whole situation, battling the elements back to the semi shelter of the trailer.Only to be met by person after person packing up and heading for home. To make matters worse even the coffee guy had given up the ghost, and hadn't shown up for the morning.

But i don't know what it is, something inside me, i think is probably just to stubborn for my own good. the thought of giving up, irked me to much.I can handle giving it a go and pulling up halfway through if it was just to wet, but not even trying would bother me far to much. Plus i needed a second qualifying score for nationals. While i do have a boyfriend, and a wild stallion, my eventing horse is the other main man in my life, and i trust him completely. I knew he was up to the jumps, is good on his feet, and could probably handle wet conditions. So after scrounging some hot tea, and breakfast, which lifted my spirits tremendously, i saddled up.

heading to the warm up area, rider after mud splattered rider passed me heading for home. None when asked had anything positive to say about the course. Still i always feel better on my horse, and still feeling like we could do it, continued to the warm up. Only to find, where there should of been at least another twenty riders warming up, there was one lone horse and rider popping over the jumps.

This was not ideal, i had to do a fast warm up, getting both my horse and me limbered up and mentally awake, before popping over the practise fences, he handled this fine, not finding the footing to hard going, deep yes, slippery no. So after angling a couple of practice fences to really sharpen up my horses jump, we headed to the start box.

As a rider and especially an eventing rider, you have to be in tune with your horse, this is whay in training at home i ride in all weather conditions.there also has to be a certain amount of trust that your horse can take care of itself, and you as a rider let it do so, and don't interfere because of your own nerves. This is what i did. Instead of pushing for time, i let my big boy find his rhythm and stay in it, the whole way around the course.

The going was deep, especially in between jumps, where you had long gallop stretches in bog like conditions. at least right before the fences the ground was so churned it actually made the going lighter. My boy cruised the whole thing in his big medium canter, not having any problems with the jumps or footing. We made it home clear with a couple of time faults, but not as many as i expected so all in all i was pleased.

I'm glad i didn't call it a day and go home. I am proud and take huge satisfaction in the fact that i finished and have my ribbon to take home, as proof that i survived the cross county at Puhinui 2011!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

what i do on weekend, what do u do?

Well its Thursday night, and tomorrow i will be heading off to yet another show. This time with my big warm blood to go eventing (dressage, cross country, showjumping, all in one).For three weeks in a row now, Ive driven to our country's biggest city to compete at three different shows. Its kind of a long haul, 4 hours each way. Competing horses is not a cheap sport, its all the extra costs, like, diesel, road user charges, food for horse and rider etc that really start to send the cost sky rocketing, rather than just the cost of entering a show, although this isn't cheap these days either. It is a continuous struggle to just break even, as prize money is very minimal. For me its also very long hours spent driving alone to and from competitions. But i do love what i do, and I'm very driven to compete, so i don't really mind the hours and cost of it all.

Their are huge bonuses to this life style as well. You get to see parts of the country, you'd never realise existed otherwise. You get to travel with your horse, and camp, and spend endless hours with your equine friend. Even though sometimes it is a bit of a lonely, you get to meet lots of new people, who are interested in the same sport as yourself and share lots of common ground. Generally its also a life style that keeps you fit, healthy and inspired to keep improving your riding. Plus riding a cross country course, is the absolute biggest adrenaline buzz i know. So you always come away, completely exhilarated.

But the things is this is my absolute passion, even if i didn't compete, i have absolutely no idea what 'normal' people do on the weekend. I cant imagine actually having spare time to do any other activities. What do people actually do if they don't own horses? or animals for that matter? or even what you do if you have animals but are'nt traveling to and from shows every weekend?

So tell me what is your normal weekend?? What does everyone who doesn't lead my hectic, crazy life style do with themselves??

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Good horses born or made???

There are so many thoughts swirling around in m head at the moment, I'm having trouble making order, of just what i want to say. The wild horse show, put on by the KWHWT, has given me lots to think about, my stallion's training and behaviour while very good, still has some tiny issues that need fixing, it also made me realise how vunerable to abuse and neglect these horses are, once they are removed from the wild. but also what a great and diverse group of horses, fitting into every different niche of the horse riding world. They really do seem to inspire people, and everyone there, from all walks of life, seemed to really love and take pride in their horses, regardless of how they did. Except for one exception...who hated there horse, and swore they would never own another one. This annoyed me something chronic, not because they didn't like there horse, but the reasons they didn't like it, and the complete lack of understanding and responsibility on their part.

I'm firmly of the belief, that while talented horses are born, good horses are made. Its up to the human to make a happy, well mannered and well behaved horse. Ive never met a horse that was born nasty, or one that couldn't be improved with a little understanding and good manners (from both the person and horse). I'm not just thinking of this one person at the show, because there are so many others at all shows, and throughout the horse world, who are completely blind to there own faults, and spend there whole time blaming the horse for all the worlds problems...

Horses are just animals, and prey animals at that. They lack the cunning and brain power to be able to plan out and think ahead of ways to annoy their owner, why would they want to anyway? horses just react to whatever is going on around them. If you the handler, is stressed, irritated, and conveying those emotions into the way your dealing with your horse, they sure as hell, will pick up on it, they just don't understand the reason behind it, so therefore only react to whatever your doing, usually by becoming stressed or agitated themselves. Yelling, constantly nagging, pulling and whacking just doesn't solve anything, except to get you both more stressed, the horse just wants to get right out of there, away from the crazy handler a and the area where all the strife is occurring.

Somethings can be solved so simply, just teach you horse to lead quietly so your not dragging, or being dragged around the ring. Teach it to be light in the mouth, and make sure it understands clear aids for what it means to trot, walk and halt. To many times the horse hasn't really been taught anything and has no idea what to do, when people start swinging whips, jerking its mouth, its just plain old confused, while the human is getting upset because things go pear shaped in front of the judge. To me this is just good basic training, that you do with every horse.

I'll admit there was a couple of times, Matai spooked at something in the ring, or was worried about trotting past where all the people were sitting. He didn't do it on purpose, and hadn't planned it he was just reacting to things as he came across them. But by the last few classes he was foot perfect, and wasn't worried about anything. he never dragged me around and 90% of the time was extremely well behaved and attentive. If he did get distracted by other horses, i didn't simple hit him, or jerk on his bridle, but did little exercises to get his attention back to me. Then when he was standing happily i left him alone, to help him understand this was the behaviour i wanted. You really just have to give them a chance to understand, what is acceptable and what is not.

For me the whole show was just a test to see how well he coped with everything. he did well, you forget, that theses horses were once wild and can take a little time to get used to new people. It did the little wild stallion wonders, to have all sorts of people come up and rub, pat and lean all over him. It moved him slightly out of his comfort zone, but in a positive way, because he quickly relaxed around all the differant people, even the judge took the time to pat him and get him used to being examined. I also from time to time parked him in amoungst all the other horses, becuase he needs to know that no matter what going on he is to stand quielty, and that stallion behaviour is not acceptable. If you dont take the time time to teach them this stuff they dont magically learn it.

Talking to other people with wild horses, even though not all had gotten them straight form the wild, Made me realise that there are some kind and generous people that really go out of their way to help these horses. But there are some horses that do end up in horrible situations, because once people realise the dream of training a wild horse, is very differant from the reality of it, they giive up, and the animals end up starving, abused or completly neglected, and usally wilder than when they were first mustered. They are wild animals after all and realistically the first bit of traing and handling is probably not for begginers! Again good on all the people who do help them and KWHWT who try and keep track of adopted horses, and rescue any who are in trouble.