The reality of my champagne lifestyle on a tap water budget is hitting home. For the last three years, following the birth of my son, I have been working around him at home, for myself with the horses. I took in sales, schooling and competition liveries and produced a few of my own to sell too. Following our move and a current (hopefully very temporary) lack of facilities and Angus enjoying mornings at nursery, I have returned to proper work. I’m now doing the horses in the morning, attempting to look after Mowgli in the afternoons and waitressing on an evening, in order to fund my expensive addiction. With shifts running into the early hours, it’s quite intense, but needs must and it is a price that I am more than willing to pay in order to be able to do what I love. It is the reason that there has been such a gap between the last blog and this one however! I have survived my first week, although I must look seriously rough because the nursery teachers keep asking me if everything’s ok and telling me I don’t look my usual self!
My beautiful new Makila Harmonie saddle arrived from Devoucoux last Wednesday afternoon and so Thursday was our first day enjoying our new luxury office chair. It is so light when it arrived, I thought the box was empty! As with all young horses, Dominica’s shape is constantly changing. She has know grown a decent set of withers, but being short in the back (which I love) with a powerful derriere to rival Beyoncé, I’ve had an issue with saddles slipping forward on her. With this new saddle however, the way the girth straps are positioned and the subsequent balance of the saddle seems to have made a huge difference. Although I’m still riding her in a non slip gel pad as a precaution, there have been absolutely no slippery slides of death onto her shoulders since I started using it.
On Thursday with the sun shining, I was able to school her in preparation for our lesson on Friday. She was however rather distracted. Bff Lettie has had a rather hormonal week and was dancing the macarena in the field and Dominica was well jell! It soon became clear I wasn’t going to achieve much and so my plan for the session changed. We had a walk, trot, canter each way, with plenty of transitions to try and keep her focused on me and that was about as complicated as it got. Whilst I don’t advocate bad behaviour in young horses at all, in this instance, I don’t consider that Dominica was being naughty, she was just finding it impossible to concentrate whilst her pal was putting on such an exotic performance. Exactly the same as when I’m trying to shepherd Angus into the car and a tractors driving by. The session was short and easy and most importantly no one was any worse for it.
On Thursday I also sent of my poo samples for worm counts to be done. I choose to do it this way as although it’s a bit of a faff, it prevents me from worming for no reason, which is not only a total waste of money, it also builds up the worms resistance to the wormer itself a bit like using antibiotics unnecessarily. I also like to do it this way because my vets will analyse the samples and tell me not only if worming is needed, but also tell me the specific wormer that I need to target the problem. In addition to all this usefulness it also means both myself and the vet have records of what problems have gone on and who’s been affected.
On Friday we ventured off for our second lesson. Obviously we where both more relaxed this time, as we entered into slightly more familiar water compared to our maiden voyage. She loaded and travelled well and arrived relaxed and happy and without the distraction of her naughty little sister, was back to her normal level of focus. My trainer said she could clearly see we had been doing our homework and thought that Dominica was already beginning to look stronger. We worked on similar things as we had in the first lesson, focussing on her straightness, the relaxation over her topline and not allowing just her legs to do all the work. We did lots and lots of transitions, both in and out of the pace, but also within each pace and she is definitely finding this easier now, maintaining the balance and rhythm better, but also the relaxation.
Although the canter was undoubtedly better, I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t as good as it had been at home. As with all horses, this is just a normal fact of life and whilst it feels frustrating not to be able to show how good it can be yet, it’s about the bigger picture, she is improving and with time and patience it will come. I think as I have only ever schooled her in a large field, I’ve been allowing her to choose her own line a little bit and make changes of direction in her own time in order to help her to maintain her own balance. As my lessons are in an indoor 20mx60m arena, with floor to ceiling walls, I think its just a bit of a claustrophobic shock to both of us. I know that in order for me to take the next step in helping her to improve, I must become more self disciplined about the lines and size of area I am using at home. Hopefully the ground will soon be dry enough for me to mark out an arena on the grass, which I know will really help both of us.
Dominica enjoyed the weekend off. Last weekend was my sisters birthday and this weekend was my husbands. On reflection I should have chosen a husband with a birthday around October. With my brothers in January, my sisters in February and Angus’s in May it takes me till about the end of July to recover from Christmas. This is actually the real reason I’ve had to get a job!
This week has so far been very wet, and as a result the field where I ride is strongly resembling a rice paddy. Subsequently so far this week Dominica has just been hacking. Whilst mentally I find this really frustrating as I feel like our recent roll of progression has been put on hold, physically for her and the long game it’s no bad thing. We had two good weeks between our lessons where I was able to school her Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, with easy hacking days on Wednesday and Saturday. So the reality is that a couple of quieter weeks now, is no bad thing. As with humans, slow, low impact work is important too in order to build strong, long lasting muscle tone and so walk hacking up and down hills is really beneficial. It’s easier on her body and joints and including the hills means her heart is still getting a work out.
I am hoping it dries up soon , although I have heard viscous rumours of snow…..In the meantime I will keep hacking and hope to make some visits to the local arena available to hire, that I have mentioned in some previous blogs. Our next lesson is booked for March 14th.