There’s an elephant in the room and its inside Dominica’s belly. It turns out we are cut from the same cloth me and her. We only have to look at food and we gain weight, it’s genetic and it’s not fair. Before her holiday, Dominica was getting a fairly normal amount of hard feed, haylage and plenty of turnout on good grass. She started her spring break a little on the light side for where I would like a just five year old to be, only marginally, but she had been working quite hard and as we suspected, was about to have a little grow. The final week of the holiday she started to look like she had been lying about not doing a lot other than watching love island and working on her orange tan, but having gone away a little light, it was a good sign that she was ready to come back into work.
Naively having previously only really having had skinny Thoroughbred’s, I assumed that as she picked up her work, the pounds would drop off. WRONG! Poor Dominica, like me, finds it easy to gain weight and impossible to get rid of it, I totally feel her pain. The grass in Ayrshire must also be the most calorific grass in the country I think, so if there’s anyone who needs their horse fattening up, mine is definitely the yard to send them too! I cannot bare to starve horses, they are grazing animals and designed to eat continuously, or at least have food available to them at all times and so even for those on a diet, I try to leave it this way. She’s now eating hay, out of a double net, instead of loose from the ground (which I must prefer), she is still turned out, but I’ve made her a new paddock with much less grass and when she’s in she also has a Silvermoor swinger, which not only gives her something to do, its also another way to trickle feed her fibre.
It does not sit well with me, but I feel I am really stuck between a rock and a hard place. She needs to work in order to get fitter and loose weight. But equally she currently has the body of a hippo, on the legs of a grasshopper and so I don’t dare work her really hard, for fear that her legs will actually snap. I read an article recently about laminitis and how as horse owners we are fairly clueless as to the sugar levels in our pasture, because it varies so much, month to month, week to week, day to day, even hour to hour. It is so true, most of us are really fixated on the hard feed we give our horses but no so little about what’s in the grass which makes up the majority of their daily intake. It would appear I am as guilty of that as anyone! I love my horses to have as much turnout as possible, I think it’s what they where designed for, it keeps them healthier and happier and as I have a taste for the sharper variety, it also helps to keep them slightly more level headed. However I obviously need to be a little more aware of the calorie content of the grass at this new yard I am at and which horses need what. I have learnt yet another valuable lesson on this journey, that its not a good idea to let Dominica gain to much weight and also, my grass is like the equine equivalent to McDonalds!
Other than the weighty issue in our relationship, Dominica is on pretty fine form. She has come back into work with a better balance and a more mature approach. I have been working on controlling the gears within the paces more, pushing for both a longer and shorter stride, particularly out hacking when she is at her most energetic and forward thinking. We’ve also started work on walk to canter transitions which are actually naturally smoother than trot to canter, maybe because her walk step is of course shorter then the trot and there for easier for her to co-ordinate and contain and also leg yield which helps to get her hind leg stepping more powerfully underneath her, which in turn helps with the work towards a more collected trot. We have also been doing some counter canter, which not surprisingly comes very naturally to her, given her naturally super balanced canter. So easy has this been that a couple of days ago, from a beautifully balanced counter canter, I asked for a change and got one on each rein. I’ve got a 20 x 60 arena set up on the grass now the silage has been cut and its nice to feel like I’m back being productive and semi professional, that is until 200 sheep come and crush my dreams…….
This Sunday we are entered at an unaffiliated show to do two prelims. I feel much more relaxed about it, in comparison to our first show……..I’m not sure that’s a good thing! the work is easier and much more secure than back in April, she’s generally much more relaxed about life and she’s definitely physically stronger, hence why I’ve entered for two tests rather than one like at the first show. It is however at a new venue for her, so a trip into the unknown in that respect, but it is a huge light indoor and is also the venue for the Scottish winter regionals. So whilst it might be a bit of a shock, it’s good for her to get to know the venue and we have to start sometime! I’ve entered two tests, but I don’t know that we will do them both, I will see how tired she is after the first and decide from there. Fingers crossed it is a successful outing……………