Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bearback Riding or Saddless

My instructor Vincent Dempsey from Blackberry Stables, introduced me to a new technique - Bearback Riding or riding without a saddle. This was to teach me both balance and stickability.

Stickabilty - meaning that I am more stuck to my saddle and therefore less likely to fall off. 

The prospect of riding without a saddle was both exciting and scary. You have a bridle and reins and a mane to cling onto but that's it!!

So Vincent popped me up onto Trigger the troublesome little 12.2 hands high pony. Firstly we walked in order for me to gain my balance as it is very much a different sensation riding without a saddle. Walking was fine after a minute however given its slower and gentler nature added to its easibility. Then Vincent asked me to trot Trigger and to just treat it as if I was doing sitting trot (with a saddle). I thought for the first few strides I was going to pop off as Vincent is shouting "Relax into the movement, Relax". Later filling me in that yet again the bodies natural reaction goes against you when trying to ride. If you tense up which tends to happen when one gets nervous and riding without a saddle and stirrups will induce a sense of fear or apprehension. When tense your body goes ridged and therefore bounces around on the horses back instead of flowing with their movement. In other words you and the horse must move fluidly as one and then you wont bounce or bob, you will just gracefully flow in time together.

Well I can tell you I was as graceful as a rag-doll with a two year old as my puppeteer!!! The more I tried to grab with my legs to hold on, the more I would bob and flail however I did manage to stay on board. Trigger was very good to put up with be smacking, bashing, flapping and flopping about while I learned to stay on and get my balance.

Ah the bliss when you would get your balance and relax, you feel in time with your horse and your both fluidly floating along together. Until of course moments later and you lose you balance tense up and grip with your legs and the cycle of bobbing, bounding and bouncing continues until you relax and regain your balance again.

Plenty of practice in trot later and Vincent decides "OK Clodagh I want you to canter". Gripping on the only thing I can, that being my resolve and my nerve, I indicate to Trigger I want to canter. To my surprise as he took off it was MUCH easier to canter bareback than it was to trot. I elated as Trigger and I canter around the arena in harmony. Vincent disturbs my bliss with "Now Clodagh I want you to REALLY RELAX and come back to trot". Me now thinking no problem!!!

The minute Trigger broke into trot I was bobbed that high up that I thought he wouldn't still be under me when I came back down!!! I clung to Triggers mane and gripped with my legs, of course doing everything that you're not suppose to however my body's survival instincts I have learned are very strong and my body doesn't like to override these safety mechanisms. I then realised that one of the hardest moves riding bareback was to come back from canter to trot. In dancing terms the tempo and the steps change very quickly and if you miss your beat you'll flounder. It would be like going from waltz (i.e. canter) to fox trot (by its name gives it away as trot).
Bareback riding on Trigger
Bareback on Trigger
So off I go to practice my bareback riding on Triggs and hope that he puts up with me!!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Painful Paddy's Day

This is a moment I wasn't sure whether to record in my blog however upon reflection its a very important moment in time and in my life. 

St Patrick's Days morning, I had sorted out how my day was going to pan out and all the different delightful things I was going to get up to. First thing on the list was go horse riding so I went down to the field to catch in Shadow {a young horse needing to be brought on so i didn't want to break with her training as horses love routine and thrive on it}. So head collar in toe I headed off to catch Shadow. Jack (the dog at Blackberry Stables yard) came with me. Both of us trundled down the lane happy with the sun on our faces and blessed with a beautiful day ahead. This blissful moment of day dreaming was broken by a distressed puppy's bark. Lola who was the new puppy of the house owner who lives at the entrance to the field where the horses live. As I heard her bark I was alerted to some danger as:

  1. I had never heard her bark before (she wasn't a yappy type of dog)
  2. The tone of her bark was one of trouble upset. 

When I came up to Lola's house I was asking her "What's wrong Lola?". Once I saw her I could see she was barking at something in the field behind her house. It was at this point, when I could see what Lola wanted to alert me to that all my blissful day of plans were shattered by the sight of one of the horses down in the field right by the gate. 

I ran around to see Moss, Vincent's retired hunter (owner of Blackberry Stables). A beautiful chestnut gelding lying down at the entrance to the field. I ran to him to see was he breathing and he was but he was very weak. I knew he was conscious so I ran back to get his owner Vincent Dempsey and to alert him of what had happened. 

We gathered different tools and things that Vincent thought he may need trying to preempt the cause of the situation. Scissors in case he caught his leg in his rug, a head collar to help him up and so on. When we arrived back I was hoping Moss would be up and walking but no he was where I had left him.

We tried to get Moss up but he was too weak and Vincent knew that the vet needed to be called. I made Moss more comfortable by putting hay under his head while we sat to wait for the vet. That time with Moss is the closest I have ever come to see death and the moment is something I still find it difficult to put words to.

When the vet came he told Vincent that his heart was too weak and he said he would be kinder to put him to sleep. Vincent didn't want Moss to suffer so he said to go through with it. I asked if i could say as I had grown very found of Moss. Every time I went to catch a horse I would always bring him a little something and he'd smile at me (well he'd pull his lips back and it looked like a big toothy grin). Vincent said I could stay and that Moss would like that. 

That is as much as I can write because it was very difficult to experience however on the other hand I am glad that I was there to witness his passing and be there for him. 

RIP Moss Dempsey

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Morning Catch Hazardous Happenings

I caught more than the horses this day!!
Easy Peasy! the two I need to catch right beside each other - Think again!!
One beautifully sunny morning I went down early to catch in two steads, Tubs and Oscar both needed for lessons that day. Tubs proved difficult to catch. She as much as said "Oh no, you must be mistaken I'm not working today, now go away till I work on my tan". You'll see from the photos below that a horse will always tell you when they are just not that enamored with you catching them, the tell tale signs are:
  1. They look at you see the head collar and put their ears flat back on their head.
    (horsey translation - stay away from me)
  2. They will turn their hind quarters or their bottom towards you. This is a threatening motion as they are letting you know if you don't leave them alone they may kick you. 
  3. General look of unease and not wanting to be caught by you.
Tubs spots me and puts her ears back - (warning not to come any closer)
Tubs: Ears back and walking away from me
Tubs finally turns her bottom towards me as her final warning to stay away
Tubs spys the treat of a carrot I've brought for her and her ear go forward to let me know that shes considering my offer

After Tubs gave me the run around for 10 minutes Oscar being the gent that he is proved to uphold his dapper nature and was easily caught. A welcome contrast to Tubs moody morning displays!!

Oscar the dapper gentleman in the front and Scooby behind
So with both capaills caught I was walking back up the field and unfortunately tubs smelt the spare carrot treat I had in my pocket. I WAS going to treat them both to an 'On the Go' snack. However before I had time to administer my tantalizing treat. Tubs leaned her head into my pocket, her nose confirming that it was indeed a carrot hidden in there. In her excitement she stood too close to me. The next thing I felt was the pain shooting up my leg emanating  from my foot. Yep the lady had full on stood on my foot. I shook it off thinking it'll be OK 'I mean how bad can it be'. For the rest of the day my foot felt very tender and quite sore. I decided to wait until that night to inspect it further as I thought if i take this boot off will i get it back on again?????
Ta Da both caught and heading yard bound

My instincts were right when I took my boot and sock off this is what I found. 
Later to be found (two weeks later in fact) that I had indeed sustained a broken little toe out of my early morning dalliance with the lady Tubs. 
The other thing I found out was that supposedly there is zero one or even the medical profession will do for a broken toe they say just leave it to heal!!