Thursday, July 28, 2011


I'm getting to that point in my life where i can realise my strengths an weaknesses, well some of them anyway, i selectively ignore others. I know that I'm good at getting jobs done, but dint have great attention to detail, e.g i can bake a great cake, but icing it with pretty little flowers is not my thing. I can clean the barn, but my halters wont be hanging up according to colour. I know house work is a big weakness, and tidiness's may have been left out of my genetic code. But one thing i do definitely can do, is take a big hit,I'm tough, and it takes a lot to put me on the ground, or worse yet in bed. if i was a wilting delicate flower i would not have survived a month in my current career. So when i ended up not only hitting the deck, but unable to get off couch it was not a good thing.

Funny enough it was one of the smallest horses on the property that brought me to the ground. It also wasn't a wild horse, but an innocent looking little welsh pony. As usual with horses it was also my fault.

I brought two little ponies on Monday, something i have been meaning to post about, but that will come later. They are half feral, untrained, and malnourished things, that i picked up for pittance with the idea of turning them into kids ponies. Now it is always my own rule, that as soon as any new horse arrives on the property that i do basic ground work with it, to make sure it does n't kick, bite or otherwise trample people. I meant to with these ponies, but i didn't, i was busy and the only handling these horses got were taking them to and from there stable.

so yesterday evening i was leading them both to the barn, it was late, i was tired, it was the last job of the day, and mentally i wasn't on my 'A' game. Sometimes i also find after dealing with massive horses, or wild horses all day, sometimes i take the little ones a bit more casually, i shouldn't i know, but it happens, and now I'm paying for it. As also, often happens with young horses, they were a bit spooky, eyes wide open, and jumping from any leaf that moved. about halfway to the barn, as we walked past a paddock, the Shetland pony came tearing up, galloping and bucking. Well little Bramble, the more fiery of the two ponies, thought this midget horse was monster coming to get her. She leaped forwards trying to make a break for it herself, hitting the end of the lead rope, she tried to dart sideways. meanwhile her friend Cassie the other pony was on my other side, being more docile she was just standing watching the show, but she was definantly blocking the way if need to move out of range fast.

We have an old farm dog, Tonka, the worlds most incorruptible dog, faithful, stoic, and a real working dog, he accompanies me very seriously all day, helping when he thinks his services are required to encourage horses, or geese, or any other livestock in the right direction. hes also old, lately we have noticed mentally, he not as quick, and his deep eyes are now clouded with cataracts, which cause him endless frustration as hes struggles to see in the fading light, so the otherwise sensible dog, now occasionally loses his composure. He saw that horse leap forward, knew it wasn't right and sprung at it from the side to give a quick nip at his heels. Even as i went to yell at the dog to stop, the horse swung it hind end away, and in my concern to get the old dog out of harms way, i wasn't paying attention. Bramble hindquarters swung right into the lead rope, brushing her legs, now she really thought she was in real trouble, dog one side, midget monster other side of the fence, and now a snakey rope around her back leg, she wasn't going to take the time to ask questions, using every bit of power those hind legs could muster she lashed out as hard as she could, and the thing standing right behind her, was me.

I tried to move quick, but there was a horse blocking my escape route, and you can never react as fast as a horse can quick. One of those sharp, rock hard pony hooves got me, right in the pelvis. Not just a glancing blow, but square full contact, with all the force behind it. For a millisecond thought it might not hurt, then i dropped both lead ropes and threw myself side ways to the ground, and i screamed. I never scream, i never even cry, im a tough farm girl, but i screamed like never before. Never in my life have i felt such pain, like id been shot with burning white hot iron. i hit the driveway curled into a ball, and let out a sound of a dying hyena, i couldn't even cry, just a screaming wail,i didn't care who heard, in fact i hoped some one did. But as usual i was on the farm alone, our neighbors are far away and i don't think a living human sole heard me.

I have been kicked by horses many times in my career, its a occupational hazard. In fact last year a similar thing happened with another small pony, it even managed to chip a piece of bone from the femur in my left thigh, there was a bruise for months, and even now a permanent calcified hard lump remains in my leg to show for it. That kick was nothing compared to this. i just lay on the drive with gravel digging into my face, and screamed, and then cried, then sobbed and eventually could take gasping breath, but that white hot fire burned from the toe of my right all the way to my ribs, and i stayed paralysed with pain in a fetal position for what seemed like an hour, before i had the courage to try any movement. cautiously i tried my toes, just wiggling them, and they worked, i tried moving my lower leg, it hurt, but i could do it, then my whole leg, and that made me wail.

it hurt so bad, i wanted to hear car tyres on the driveway of someone coming to save me, i knew i still had to put these horses away , and somehow make it to the house, yet it hurt so bad i just wanted rescuing, even the thought of walking made me want to scream all over again. But I knew no rescue was coming, the boyfriend was overseas sailing, and none of my family were due home for hours. It was just me, and all the time i was thinking, i cannot afford to be this hurt, i had clients horses to break in. now these two little ponies, the wild mare, the olympic rider's horse to work, plus the competition season just around the corner, meaning my big horses need to be in work, i could not afford to be hurt! The thought just made the pain all the more worse.

in the meantime, Tonka sensing my distress, had done what he thought was the best course of action to cure the situation, chasing the ponies far away for their naughtiness, and now was finding every stick on the property and dropping it on my face, so we could play fetch ( the other meaning of his doggy life), in the hopes that this was the required action to stop my howling, as in every other situation him bringing me sticks, brought a positive response from me, and gave him a fulfillment in life fetching them for me. So there i was curled up on the driveway in almost darkness, covered in a pile of wood with a dog standing over me, and ponies running madly up and down the driveway dragging lead ropes. Excellent.

i wont go into details, but i managed to hobble and put the ponies away, and make it to the house. For the first time in my life i was really hurt though, i couldn't breath properly, i was crying, i was to scared to even look at my stomach, which from the bottom of my hip to my bellybutton was swelling fast, i wasn't being tough and i felt vulnerable like never before, which frightened me. So i did what i have never done, and behaved like any hurt child, i text my mum and asked her to come home for me. in the mean time i couldn't stop shaking uncontrollably, i am a very clear headed person so i did what i thought was the best course of action, hoped in a warm shower then into bed. still shaking and now hyperventilating, i called my much more corruptible dog, Lucy, into bed with me, if no person was going to be there to give me a hug, a dog at that point, would do. I curled around Lucy, and breathed as slowly as i could.

My mother of couse is a saint, and was home within twenty minutes, i know I'm a big girl, but its still great to have your mum come take care of you,a huge bonus for me is that my mother is also a doctor. Unfortunately this wasn't the end of the drama, the mum Doctor fearing the worst, dragged me down the road to another doctor neighbor for a second opinion, apparently fearing id torn my femoral artery. Just what i always wanted my neighbor feeling around my inner thigh and pelvis (sarcasm), but he was more concerned that i had cracked my hip, and at least confirmed to my mum i wasn't going to bleed to death internally in the night. Again i wish that was the end of it, but later in the night, just when i wanted to sleep more than anythign in the world, the mother dragged me all the way to the local hospital, still fearing for the artery or internal injuries. After a lengthy wait and a nonchalant check from the nurse i was sent back home.

i survived the night, i can hobble, so i guess I'm going to live, fingers crossed x-rays this afternoon come back clean. all this for a mongrel pony that cost me $250.

Moral of the story, do the ground work on horse straight away, little bit of time to begin with will save you days on crutches in the long run. From day one with the wild horses i did ground work and they have always been amazing to handle, if id done the same with these far less wild ponies i wouldn't have to be writing this.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

to soon to young

This morning after days of rain the sun came out. I woke up feeling inspired and full of life, ready to achieve all manner of things. Then i opened my phone, and read a text I'd received during the early hours of the morning. I sat back down on the bed, and the bright light of day suddenly faded, in a 160 little letters, i got news that broke my heart.

Every rider dreads losing a horse, its not just the animal, but the hopes, dreams, goals and the journey that goes with them. To lose a young horse, a talented horse, and one that you have waited and planned and dreamed about, is devastating beyond belief. My very good friend had just that happen to her today. Hearing her news broke my heart, i completely understand the pain, and numb sense of disbelief that this kind of thing brings. Although not my horse, it was a very special one, and a mare that i have had a lot to do with, riding and schooling her from time to time.

In fact, not three days ago, i took the wild stallion out for a ride with this mare and her rider who is a dear friend. We talked the whole time about our horses, how hers was developing from a lanky young horse into a little super star. how the stallion continued to amaze us with his temperament and trainability. We talked excitedly about how this mare was going to be a fantastic dressage horse to train through to grand prix, and all her little bits of progress. Most of all her rider talked about how she was enjoying the experience of having a young horse, and the journey of training her. That journey is now over. in one freak accident. Horses are like that. one minute your on top with a bright future, next you cant believe the depths of pain you can feel.

we had the worst storm i can ever remember last night. Thunder and lightening that shook the roof all night long. Sometime during the night this little mare ran through a fence and broke her neck, dieing instantly. just like that she was gone. The extra tragic part, is that this friend made the tough decision to put her faithful old pony to sleep earlier in the week, as it wasn't coping with the harsh winter. So within 1 week she lost the two horses that were most special to her. To make matters even worse, my friend was super excited to be taking this mare to a clinic with a favorite trainer this weekend. She got up early to go get horse, but instead of picking her up for the clinic, she was met by her mother with the tragic news that she would never be seeing her lovely mare alive again.

I'm sure every horse rider and animal lover understand the pain and shock. I know i felt absolutely crushed and couldn't help crying as i talked to her on the phone. Such a beautiful horse taken way to young. I did what i could to help, and loaded up our quiet old stock horse mare and took her over, to keep the now severely traumatised pony her four year old daughter rides company. Dont let anyone tell you horses dont feel sadness, or loss or pain. This little mare was constantly looking for her companion, trying to get to where her dead freind body lay. was only all the more sad to see. Every time we have lost a horse, i know it has upset the whole herd for days! Once we made the descision to put a sick broodmare to sleep, her foal stood on the spot where she was buried for four days without moving. Horses just like humans feel greif.

RIP Tommy Girl, so sad your gone, and to all of you who have lost a good horse way to soon. I feel you greif.

Friday, July 22, 2011

the wild mare gets ridden

I rode the wild mare for the first time today. Finally. She was awesome, its a shame Ive had to put it off so long.

For months now, every time i have set aside a date to get Fern the wild mare started, something come up, i had other people horses to work, i was going away, it was impossible due to weather. Well today enough was enough. I rode this morning in the pouring rain by the time i had ridden the wild stallion, the first horse of the day, i was soaked through 3 layers of clothing to the absolute bone, there were rivers ruining down the driveway, and lakes forming in the paddock. Clearly their was to be no more riding outside today.

Standing in the stables, leaning across the back of the wild grey mare, watching torrents of water rain down from the sky, and pour off the side of the barn, i pondered what to do so the day was not a complete waste. As the way i see it every day spent inside waiting for weather to clear, loses me time and money, it also frustrates me to no end, not to be achieving anything, so much so that i grump around the house like a stung bear.

Then it hit me, the answer was literally right under my nose. The Grey horse. She needed work, i was realistically never going to have time to take her off the property and get her started in a friend round pen, so why not start here,now in the stable. As soon as i thought i knew i would do, and that it would work. All the ground work was there, she;d had a saddle on, knew how to bend and turn and all those things, i had just never sat on her.

I started by untying her from her position in the corner with the hay net. Taking her to the middle of the barn, i did a few bits of ground work and rubbing her all over to get her attention. Then jumping up and down beside her til she was happy with that, not just standing rigid but actually relaxed with me jumping like a lunatic. Next i hooked an arm over neck and sprung as high as i could, laying my torso across her wither so she was supporting all my weight. Well Fern saw me leap, felt my weight on her back, tensed her body up like a plank, and then did....nothing, she stood there, tilted her head towards me and rolled an eye to see what i was up to, and sighed out a deep breath, as if to say she would accept my mad antics if not understand them.

Well in not time i swung my leg all the way over her back, and was riding in small circles around the barn. That wild mare never worried, she just accepted what i was doing calmly and quietly. We could turn both ways, stop and walk on within five minutes, and that was that, the wild mare has been ridden. bare back and in a barn aisle, but ridden none the less.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Great Expectations

We all have expectations when it comes to life, sometimes high sometimes low.At times events will exceed expectations, other times for well short. But i find more often than not things pan out how we expect them to to. But do our expectations effect the way things turn out??

I think yes they do. Especially with horses, you see all the time in riders how there expectations affect the horse. Maybe its nerves at a show, the classic is " i don't think my horse will cope at a competition!" and sure enough the rider expects the horse to misbehave, changes their behaviour or riding because of this, and sure enough the horse does get nervous and becomes unable to cope. Now would that horse have coped if the rider though it could? Or would it have become nervous regardless? I think a lot of it comes down to what we expect, is what we get.

Stallions, people have many different expectations about these creatures. The expect them to be hot blooded, hormone driven, monsters, ready to rape anything with four legs that moves. Dangerous to be around, they really strike fear into some people. But i believe that they are only as bad as people think they will be. i always expect my 'wild stallion' to behave like a docile gelding, and he does. Of course its not that simple, i set pretty clear guidelines and quickly correct him, shoud he stray over the boundary of acceptable behaviour. But really my expectations, effect my body language which in turn effect the way my horse behaves. Nervous body language= nervous horse. Calm body language=calm horse, well that my theory anyway.

Case point- I had a little holiday down to beautiful Queenstown for my birthday, and on my return have been riding Matai every day...finally, as since he was broken in he has never been in consistent work, only a handful of rides here and there! Today i floated him out to go for a ride with a friend and her mare. I expected him to behave, but this might be a example of a horse exceeding expectations. He was amazing, he was by far the younger and less experienced of the two horses, yet he led the way down roads, through farm raceways, past tractors,across bridges and puddles,in the wind and rain, like he had been doing it his whole life. The mare was no trouble either, he even stood quietly as i held her, while his owner opened gates for us. No wild neighing, and trying to mount her, just calm acceptance of another horse. Happily walking right beside her all throughout the ride. we even jumped little fallen logs for the first time ever. he took everything in his stride.

That little stallion from the wild is one of the funnest horses i have ever owned. So dependable, willing and sensible, even though he is still really green broke, you would never know it. you feel safe from the moment you sit on him. The only funny inccident on the whole ride was coming across a herd of dairy cows on their way to the evening milking. The stallion suddenly let out a shrill call of "ladies I'm over here" only as we got closer did he realise that there were not in fact horses but of the bovine persuasion, he stopped dead in shock and watched the cows file past, with a look of surprise and amazement, his little brown eyes wide open peeking through his thick fringe, that he had so misjudged these black & white creatures with there hip swaying walk, which were not horses at all.

I know i have been on both ends of the stick expecting a horse to misbehave and it has, but today i was happily on the other end. having a horse behave just how i would expect it to and more. Go the little wild stallion