Dressage lesson


At last I have found a fantastic place to learn dressage, a Lusitano stud, where the horses are designed for dressage and are incredibly well schooled, where the instructors are dressage and where watching them schooling is a delight.

The horses know all the dressage movements so that you can feel how it should feel to ride a particular movement and so can recreate it on a horse that hasn’t done it before.

This is a breath of fresh air as many yards offer riding lessons where you will never progress beyond a certain level as the horses are green, unschooled or are simply not conformationally capable of doing anything that resembles any dressage movement in the book.

You can’t teach a horse how to ride a particular dressage movement if you have never felt how it feels to ride that particular movement yourself. It is like the blind leading the blind!

Yet, too many places are happy to give lessons using instructors that can’t teach to any significant level, using horses that can’t do very much, and no matter how often you go or how much you spend, you will never make significant progress.

Such riding schools are great for having a go or teaching your kids how to sit on a pony, but not great if you really want to progress your riding.

Don’t plateau, find a great trainer! Also find a school master (horse that can do) who can teach you too and the sky is the limit.

If you want to do more than walk, trot and canter every week, find someone who can teach with horses that can do.

When you find yourself plateauing, it’s time to make a break and take the next step. Find a great trainer. They’re out there. It is just a question of finding one or more than one.

There will be no more plateauing. Plateauing has been replaced with progress and a diet of jacket potatoes due to the price of aforementioned progress!

Don’t plateau. There is nothing wrong with jacket potatoes.




Two Socks


I squidge through thick mud, the colour of chocolate mousse with the consistency of custard. It must be nearly lunchtime as even the mud is making me hungry! My next thought is, there must be something you can put down to make field entrances less boggy, and there is, rubber matting especially for field entrances, but there isn’t any here, or if there is, it has been submerged under the mud.

I look up at Socks, a giant of a horse, whose head and neck obscure my view to the right completely, We are heading back to the main yard, just the field entrance to negotiate and the road.

However, this proves to not be so straightforward as we wade through the mud. Socks doesn’t like the mud any more than I do.

It would appear that I am sinking, and sinking! Socks keeps walking and I would like to keep walking with him but as I take another step forward my foot leaves my wellie behind, almost forgetfully, so now I am hopping. With a horse giant in one hand, my wellie stuck in the mud about three feet away, I struggle to keep my socked foot in the air.

If I can stop briefly on the wooden boards at the field entrance, I may be able to hop to my wellie. Yes, I can hop to my wellie! This idea might have gone according to plan, had Socks not decided that he was not going to walk on the aforementioned pieces of wood that Becky had put down especially for him earlier in the day in the field entrance. Not only will he not walk on them, but he won’t go anywhere near them.

So I hop, trying desperately to reach the boards before I put my socked foot down in the mud. Meanwhile, Socks avoids the boards with the same determination as me, but where I want to reach the boards, Socks is trying desperately to avoid them.

Socks strides on. Meanwhile my socked foot hovers in the air and…misses the boards and splidges into the mud custard.

Socks stops and turns, giving me an odd look as I hop, wellieless with a dripping, muddy sock.

I heave my wellie out of the mud and put my muddy socked foot inside my wellington boot. It squelches.

This is not a good feeling!






Farewell Ted


There is a God. Ted the Teeth and Back Legs Bella have moved yards.

We heard it rumoured and no one knew if it were true… but it is.

Laura has actually moved them to a livery yard down the road, which has more grazing.

Well, I say down the road, it was still a reasonable distance for her to walk them down there in headcollars.

This rendered me speechless on two counts, firstly that they had gone with only a  week’s notice and secondly that they had gone on foot in headcollars.

Thankfully and incredibly they made it in one piece. I imagine that Laura has a few bruises as Ted had allegedly bitten her before they’d left the yard.

Ted and Bella are in a field together, which on the one hand is good as they love each other madly, but on the other hand isn’t so good as now they’ll be even more inseparable.

That said, the last time they shared a field, one of them kicked the other, leaving a horse shoe shaped swelling, which bled. Strangely, it was Ted, who kicked Back Legs Bella, if I remember rightly.

I arrived as Laura was saying goodbye, having packed the last of her possessions in her car.

Laura will be missed, but she will be remembered her by the remains of Back Legs Bella’s stable, a tower of moulding straw near the hay trailer and the space where her cabinet has gone from the covered rug area.

I have to say it’s not quite the same without the meanest pony in the paddock, but at least I’ll live to see Christmas!


Bucked off


As I sail through the air, blue sky, more blue sky and more blue sky, I think this is slow motion or one mighty big buck…

and then thud. I land in the sand, upside down, kind of on my head and do an unconventional forward roll.

Tosh carries on bucking and rodeo-ing round the track in such a crazy way I have to put my hand up and wave at him from my spot in the sand to make him change direction and not gallop over me.

Dazed, I pull myself over to the fence.

After three lunatic laps, Tosh comes to a halt in the corner of the arena: his reins tangled but not badly as he is wearing a martingale.

I catch him, get him to step out of his reins and walk him round the arena twice in hand and then climb back on.

Springing  back up on this 16.2 hh from the ground isn’t a problem. I must have more than the usual amount of adrenaline coursing through my veins.

I walk him round, hop off, straighten his pad and numnah and go and get on the mounting block to do it properly and finish on a good note.

I can’t help thinking, ‘what a shame!’ This is the best he’s gone. Admittedly, I’ve only sat on him about five or six times. He’s always been stiff on the left rein and tried to evade in left canter, but to think he even struck off on the correct leg for several left canters and this was my last ask before cooling him off. He even cantered a few strides before he got rid of me.

Am I asking too much of him? He’s a retired race horse and not a youngster. Would he be happier just hacking out? I’m sure if I ride him a few more times I’ll get what he’s trying to tell me!

However, I’m not overly looking forward to schooling him again. I can’t remember the last time I came off on the flat!

Sand does make for a soft landing but even so, I am getting through a goodly amount of Arnica and when any one comes near my back I almost scream.

I can’t help but feel there is something not quite right with this horse. Is it really just the thoroughbred in him? Or does something hurt? Apparently he’s been seen by a back lady and his back is fine?

I ponder the ‘have you got a body protector?’ question posed before I got on him the first time. And think this doesn’t sound like his first handstand!

Note to self – Google body protectors and make sure there is an infinite supply of Arnica, Deep Heat and Radox in the house!

Now, just how much are those inflate on impact body protectors?

A pig tale – part 2


The pig was through the gates and back on the farm. Fantastic!

But then… which pen was hers?

The pens stretched as far as the eye could see and we couldn’t just put her anywhere.

I jogged or rather slithered up to the farm building at the top of the hill, while Liz played British Bulldog with the pig – it must not reach the road!

At the top of the hill there wasn’t a soul about. However, on the horizon was a dot. The dot grew bigger and bigger and as it grew so did my euphoria as I realized that it was the pig man on his tractor.

The pig man got closer and closer, mud splattering and water spraying.

I waved at him. He waved back. And carried on waving and driving.

With my waving becoming crazy and my wellies sinking in the mud, the pig man stopped.

“You’ve got a loose pig,” I shouted above the noise of the engine.

“A what?”

“A loose pig!”

“You better climb in!”  he said.

Not standing on ceremony I pulled myself up into the cab of the tractor, a new experience.

My mother always said ‘don’t get into strangers’ cars’. There had been no mention of tractors.

We bounced down to Liz and the pig: the condensation running down the window.

We reached Liz and the pig and jumped down.

Meanwhile, Kerstin from next door had driven round the other way in her Range Rover to head off the pig.

She stopped to talk to the pig man.

She talked and talked and the pig ran off down the track.

Liz and l looked at each other in disbelief and yelled, “the pig!”

The pig man splashed after the pig, Kerstin drove off and Liz and I waited in the driving rain.

Finally having caught up with the pig, the pig man brought her back to us. He looked at her tag, ran his finger over his chart and he nodded, the rain dripping off his nose.

I think he could have managed but as he was rurally handsome, we helped him get her back to her pen and her piglets.

He said, “She’s slipped under the wire, the ground being so muddy.”

All I can say is, next time you’ve got a loose pig, I’m your girl!





A pig tale


Liz appeared in the door way of the stable; water dripping from the brim of her hat. She was brandishing a shavings fork.

“Can you help me? she gasped.

Taken by surprise I said, “of course,” zipped up my jacket and stepped out of the warm stable I was mucking out into sheets of driving rain.

I followed her at a jog.

We had run half way to the road when Liz started gesturing.

Cars were slowing and stopping. A traffic jam had already formed and a barboured man was directing the traffic. In fact, there was quite a commotion.

Liz still couldn’t speak.

The barboured, traffic man asked, “Have you lost a pig?”

“A pig?” I looked at Liz, who echoed, “a pig.”

The barboured, traffic man looked at me expectantly, as if anticipating me to claim responsibility for the pig.

“It’s most likely from the farm across the road,” was the best I could offer, nodding towards the fields full of sties opposite.

The farm was not very far away, but I had never touched a pig in my life and I wasn’t sure Liz had either.

How had it got out? But more to the point how were we going to get it back?

“Here piggy, pig. pig, ” cried Liz.

The pig took no notice and rooted in the undergrowth by the side of the road.

“Here piggy, pig, pig,” cried Liz, waving her shaving fork. She moved forward. The pig ran off and then rooted in the undergrowth by the side of the road.

We checked the hedge to see if the pig had come through it. There wasn’t an obvious hole in it. That was good – she must have come through the gate. Though, I’m not sure that was actually good.

“Here piggy, pig, pig!”

Meanwhile the pig rooted in the undergrowth around the tree trunks.

The barboured, traffic man with frantic arms intermittently slowed or stopped irate drivers who thought 60 mph on flooded country roads was acceptable.

Or they did until they encountered the barboured, traffic man.

Meanwhile, Liz and I attempted to guide the pig along the road back to the gate.

Liz waved her shavings’ fork and I wiggled a fallen branch and we both ran to position ourselves to keep the pig moving forwards in the direction of the farm.

In the driving rain, Liz and I slowly edged the pig out of the undergrowth and guided her along the road and back through the gates to the pig farm.

No sooner had we guided the pig to the road, than she dashed back to the hedge and continued rooting.

Liz had clearly never touched a pig either.


Ted the Teeth


Ted the Teeth is a Welsh Section A pony or should I say show pony? He’s rising five and just over 11 hands, in fact I think he is 11 hands 1 inch. And do you know what? He’s the meanest pony in the paddock.

There are younger, crazier horses at the yard, but this pony is the one I dread leading to or from the field the most. Why? Well, for the reason that he is the one that actually goes for you: he bites and not in a playful nipping kind of way, but in a tear the sleeve off your jacket, rip your ear off, maim your face kind of way.

He has always bitten and bitten to bruise, but now he is faster, fiercer and more on target, and now he goes for your face. He has always reared, but now he rears to strike.

His antics were questionable even when he was on loan to the sweetest, kindest little jockey, Grace: he’d try to squash her against the wall when she was trying to tack him up; he bucked her off every time she sat in the saddle – usually more than once per session; and he’d bite her when she led him in or out.

Little Grace was too nice for Ted the Teeth. She even cried when she stopped loaning him.

If I were her, I’d have celebrated! I think her mum probably opened a bottle of Bollinger!

But now Ted the Teeth isn’t doing any work, while his owner, Laura is feeding him just as much, so he’s getting fatter and meaner.

He’s got so bad leading him out that you really can’t take your eyes off him to open the gate as he is now going for your face. I can just about cope with a bitten, bruised arm, but not a bitten face.

The sad thing is that Laura is a what you see is what you get girl, who would do anything for you. More sad is that she can see no badness in Ted the Teeth.

Sadder still, I struggle to see a glimmer of goodness in him.

In fact, I can’t believe that Laura has managed to end up owning Back legs Bella and Ted the Teeth. How unlucky can one person be?

I’d love to be able to say, ‘Sure, I’ll bring them in for you,’ without my heart sinking!

What is worrying is that she seems to think that doing no work for a period of time will do Ted the Teeth good. Yet, she is talking about sending him to be produced for showing.

Let’s hope she finds a yard that’ll have him soon!




Larry has Mud Fever


Larry has mud fever, weeping crusty scabs on the back of his pasterns.

Not surprising as the relentless October rain makes for poached gateways, muddy paddocks, muddy tracks, and water filled potholes – the perfect conditions for mud fever, so what is it exactly? What causes it? And how do you beat it?

What is mud fever?

Clinical signs of mud fever are sores on the lower legs, especially round the back of the pastern. It can range in severity from a few small scabs to a lame horse with swollen, scabby, bleeding legs needing antibiotics and painkillers.

Signs include matted areas of hair and crusty scabs; reddened area of skin; small circular ulcerated moist lesions some with scabs; some discharge – can be orange goo to thick, yellow pus; scabs may remove hair in clumps; deep cracks in the skin – these are often horizontal; hair loss leaving raw looking areas which may bleed; horses with mud fever can have swollen legs; mud fever can lead to lameness.

What causes mud fever?

A bacteria called Dermatophilus congolensis, which is found on the skin of grazing animals, is the culprit. Usually, it is not a problem but if the skin is compromised it can cause problems by invading vulnerable skin and causing an infection. Skin is damaged by getting wet or scratched by thistles or sand. Pink skin under white legs seems more prone to mud fever.

How do you combat mud fever?

Keeping the skin of the legs clean and dry is key, which may mean the horse needs to be stabled for some time.

There are many conflicting views on the treatment of mud fever. Some vets are keen on using hibiscrub, picking off scabs etc. My experience of hibiscrub used on people and in hospitals is that it is harsh and irritates the skin, so if you opt for hibiscrub, use it sparingly and dilute it a lot. I would also err on the side of caution re picking off scabs –  in a hospital environment, you would never pick off a scab in the treatment of people unless the wound was necrotic. Generally a scab forms and healing goes on under the scab. Picking off scabs causes bleeding and increases the risk of bacteria entering the skin. Yes, the cream you are applying needs to get to the infection, but you need to be very careful about how you go about this.

If you are applying a cream to treat the mud fever from your vet eg Yellow mud fever cream, the area should be clean and dry. If it is not clean, wash with a mild disinfectant such as diluted dettol, extremely dilute chlorhexidine (hibiscrub) – extremely dilute as this is nasty skin drying stuff and can aggravate skin and make skin worse. Vets sometimes recommend pov-iodine wash or a medicated shampoo eg Allermyl. Don’t get the legs too wet, too often and if they are wet, dry them carefully. Pat them dry with a soft towel.

Dry the limb thoroughly before any creams are applied. You must dry the legs very gently so that no further trauma to the skin occurs.

There are a lot of creams on the market and your vet may also prescribe a cream with antibiotics and corticosteroids. For very bad cases antibiotics and pain killers may be necessary.

Any brushes that have been in contact with the infected skin will need to be disinfected.

Interestingly, some people advocate the topical treatment of the affected area with Manuka honey. I have heard of the healing properties of Manuka honey but have never tried it myself. (It’s not just any old honey, it is only ‘Manuka’ honey that has healing properties.)

How to prevent mud fever

Try to ensure your horses aren’t standing in muddy, waterlogged fields. Use electric fencing to fence off muddy areas.

Rotate paddocks to avoid poaching.

Avoid riding in abrasive surfaces eg sand if your horses is prone to mud fever.

Make sure the bedding in the stable is clean and dry.

Don’t overwash legs or groom legs too vigorously.

Consider barrier creams on clean, dry legs prior to turn out eg tea tree oil, aloe vera, honey with vitamin E, dermisol cream, filtabac, udder cream or petroleum jelly.

Some people like breathable, waterproof leg wraps eg Equiwraps.

Keep your eyes open as the sooner you spot mud fever, the sooner you can stop it turning into a costly recovery.

Larry seems to like Yellow Mud Fever Cream! There is a God!

Streaming with cold


I am streaming with cold. I’ve not had a cold in ages, which is probably why I am feeling so awful. I have forgotten how horrible having a cold actually is.

I didn’t feel great at work on Sunday, in fact in the afternoon I felt a bit sick and very tired, but I carried on and managed to get all the horses in before the rain closed in – apart from Back Legs Bella and Ted the Teeth, whom Laura had asked to be left out.

Leaving them out came as music to my ears, as Ted is once again a nightmare, probably to do with being fed too much and doing no work.

There is a link between doing no work and being fed too much, Laura liking Ted the Teeth to look like a show pony, that is to say, fat and to keep him fat, she has to feed him a lot and when he’s fed a lot he is unmanageable. He was fed a lot before and little Grace, who was ‘loaning’ him,  with Laura’s help, was bucked off at least once every time she rode him, so she’s no longer loaning him, as finally Grace’s mum realised it wasn’t normal to be bucked off every time you got on. And so now Ted the Teeth is getting just as much food if not more, is doing no work at all, and is unmanageable verging on dangerous. God help us all!

However, my delight at not having to bring them in was tempered by Bella looking as if she was about to jump the fence any minute and bring herself in – something she has done before on more than one occasion.

I think next time Laura asks me to leave them out, I’ll make sure Bella’s stable door is open so she can just run straight in, should she jump the fence.

Laura and Chris arrived just as I was leaving. Their humour matched the grey sky and drizzle.

Laura dispatched her brooding welsh husband to muck out while she went to collect Back Legs Bella and Ted the Teeth from the field.

I walked back across my newly swept yard to see it covered in clods of earth from Bella and Ted’s feet.

I couldn’t bear to watch any more. Doubtless it would soon be covered with straw from the brooding welsh husband’s wheelbarrow.

Laura has always blamed Dave (who pronounces his name ‘Doof’) for all the straw on the main yard, which is actually hard to do now as all the horses on the main yard are on shavings.

I imagine she will have left the feed room door open too.

I think I am getting Obsessive Compulsive Disorder about sweeping and yard tidiness!

This is worrying.




Hello, Good Bye, Wow Wow


Today was a strange day at the stables, marked by the reappearance of Wow Wow, a stripey grey cat with white paws, whose trademark was his loud ‘wow, wow’ miaow.

His arrival was noted mid morning, a crisp or rather more than crisp Sunday morning; his plaintive wowing becoming so loud and persistent, you couldn’t ignore him.

At first he was timid. He stood on a bale of hay and wowed and if you moved towards him, he ran off, but then he waited.

He waited and wowed.

I’ve seen him before, only once. Last weekend I saw him trying to catch a mouse in the long grass. He crouched, waited and pounced. He looked well.

In fact, he still looks well. He is a young, well covered cat.

We watched him for a while Sunday morning. He climbed out of the haybarn, so we could see him, and slowly, slowly he crept forward. He came closer and closer.

I crouched down and Wow Wow smoothed against my jodphurs and purred.

He went to see Lucy and purred.

He was going to make us late.

Having given him lots of love and strokes, we decided we better get on. He followed us and wowed.

Thankfully, when I led leapy about Larry out to his field and Lucy put Punch out, Wow Wow stayed still and waited patiently for our return.

We had half the stables still to muck out and were being followed round by a wowing cat!

Was he hungry? Was he lost? Was he hungry and lost?

One of the dogs had killed a rabbit last week, the remains of which had been found in a stable with cat prints in the shavings. Was it Wow Wow, who had dragged the rabbit into the stable?

Two hours later Wow Wow was still moaning, so we gave him a saucer of milk. I know you’re not supposed to give cats cow’s milk, but we didn’t have anything else to give him.

He lapped it up and then he started wowing again.

Lucy went home at 1 o’clock. Her lift arrived with some cat biscuits for Wow Wow.

Wow Wow ate them, not starvingly and left quite a lot. He obviously wasn’t starving, but he was still very vocal.

Lucy left and Wow Wow stayed and wowed.

Ann and Katherine saw Wow wow and gave him some attention, while they waited for the non arrival of Justine to clip their horse, Ellie. They popped home and picked up a tin of cat food for Wow Wow.

Wow Wow tried it, quite liked it, but clearly wasn’t starving.

I went to feed the horses in the field, and wondered if Wow Wow were microchipped. Should I take him to the vet to see if he was microchipped? Should I wait and see if he lost any weight? How long should I wait? Maybe we need a yard cat?

When I got back, Wow Wow had gone.

Maybe he does live locally after all?

I hope so, he’s too nice to be lost.