Sunday, 18 December 2011

Garth jumping....

Was having fun tonight making a video of us riding the horses in the frost today and thought I'd post this other You tube video of Garth and I in action last year at Howe Country Centre in Fife. So you can all see my lovely horse who is the subject of many a blog post. He jumped really well in this class but rider error meant we got four faults at the last fence. I am going to try and make some more videos for this blog - hoping to get a video camera in my stocking so here's hoping Father Christmas is listening!

Fooling around with the horses...

As some of the country lies under a blanket of snow - here at home we have been visited by Jack Frost every night so everything is frozen solid. The arena resembles a concrete car park. This weekend the weather was so gorgeous that Julie and I were not to be foiled and we headed up to one of my fields that has such a good grass covering that it was brilliant to ride on. There followed a great fun workout which finished with us popping a little cross country jump for fun. My horse Garth and Julie's horse Jerry, were fresh as winter daisies as they hadn't been ridden for a week and we got the feeling they enjoyed the ride as much as we did. This was the first time Jerry has jumped a natural fence since he left the racetrack - looks like he and Julie will be heading for the spring hunter trials!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Drawing the story...

I can't remember how young I was when I first became aware of horses. My parents were completely non horsey, although my dad had ridden once as young lad, my lovely mum, although she was bought up in rural Wales, had never had anything to do with them and to this day remains nervous of them. I, on the other hand to their slight bewilderment, became obsessed with them at the age of 6. I had no chance of having a pony back then and it was long before we had computers and instant images, so, as a voracious reader, I took to devouring any horse or pony book I could get my hands on. I was entranced with the fictional lives of the characters in all the Pullein-Thompson sisters' books, who were probably the most prolific and famous horsey authors of the day when I was very young. Although even then, their world of hunting, baggy jodphurs, endless picnics and jolly japes was fast being consigned to history, I still wanted to be one of these children, living their idyllic, adventurous lives but most of all I wanted their ponies. I also knew off by heart back then all the instructions in my 'Manual of Horsemanship', although I had yet to set a  foot in a stirrup.

Sisters Josephine, Christine and Diana Pullein- Thompson, their books enriched my childhood.
Then I moved onto the Jinny at Finmory stories by Patricia Leitch - anyone of the same vintage as me will remember these stirring stories about a red-headed girl who lived in a huge old house in the north of Scotland and into whose life, through a circus lorry crashing (you'll have to read the book), came an arab called Shantih. I had not long moved to Scotland myself and was about the same age as the fictional Jinny when I first read these stories and they enthralled me. Her parents were seeking a new life in the north like mine were but they sounded way cooler because they let a wild, rough lad called Ken come and stay and he sounded pretty exciting too!

As much as I enjoyed reading the stories I also loved looking at the illustrations in all these books. There were some fabulous illustrators at work back then. Back then in the days before desktop publishing, photographs were still very expensive to use and print and illustrators were very important. Many of the books I was given dated back to just after World War II and although some might have a grainy photograph on the frontispiece, most were illustrated with glorious drawings and prints.
I grew to love the wonderful work of the likes of Stanley Lloyd who illustrated books like Primrose Cummings' 'The Chestnut Filly', 'Silver Snaffles' and Betty Cavanna's 'Spurs for Suzanna' and Harold Eldridge whose wonderful drawings illustrated Walter Farley's 'Black Stallion' books.

A Stanley Lloyd illustration from my copy of 'The Chestnut Filly' by Primrose Cumming
At about the age of 8, I had been given a fantastic little book first published in 1941, which I still have to this day, by the superb artist John Skeaping RA called 'How to Draw Horses'. Skeaping was a sculptor and artist who was married to fellow sculptor Barbara Hepworth. I loved his drawings in this book, I adored the way he could convey in a few simple lines, a horse's power, grace and more importantly bring alive its movement. I started practising drawing horses and soon covered every available surface with my early attempts and when I was lucky enough to get my own pony, (see earlier blog), I used to lie in the grass and sketch him in his field.

A Skeaping illustration from his book - 'How to draw horses'

One of my earliest masterpieces, in the style of a Skeaping!
As I got older and started scornfully discarding those book I considered beneath me as a sophisticated  teenager, I did keep some of my most treasured horsey books and to this day they are the pretty much the only childhood books I have. I also started actively collecting antique books that contained beautiful or humorous equine illustrations. I have always been a very visual person and indeed now work as a designer on a magazine dealing with images and photographs every day. Back then though, as a schoolgirl I enjoyed art and although I am not particularly talented and I never cracked drawing the human figure (that still bugs me today), I really enjoyed trying to capture the structure and liquid movement of horses.

Getting better - I was a bit older when I did this one.

Today I still doodle horses on paper - if I drift off in a meeting or when I have lost interest in a phone conversation. I rarely finish a drawing off properly though as I like trying to capture their spirit - much like Skeaping, but sadly with only a minute modicum of his giant artistic talent. I will occasionally find the time to do a finished piece and for these I prefer working in mono - pen and ink or pencil in particular and I have drawn a couple of friends' horses as a present for them but I much prefer free-style doodling.

I will occasionally try a more detailed drawing
But I still prefer trying to capture movement in a few hasty strokes.

A real treat for me remains, in rare quiet moment when there is no one on the yard, to take a sketch pad into the stables and make some quick drawings of the horses. Drawing the curve of a neck or the turn of a head can give you a real feel of a horse you know well, in a completely different form than a photograph can. If I come across an old sketch I can usually tell what horse I was drawing even if it is just a few lines and the horse itself is long gone. When you try to draw a horse you feel it's weight and its peculiar physical structure but you try and capture a sense of it as a living being - and trying to translate that, however amateurishly, onto paper fascinates me.

Illustration from a lovely 1925 book on hunting 'Hullo! is that how you ride?' I wouldn't like to be the poor horse though.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Storm force...

Phew that was a storm and a half this week - wind speeds here were phenomenal. I would tell you what they were but the wind monitor on the boy's weather station blew away! You could play that kids game where you open your jacket and use it as a cape to lean into the wind in Batmanesque fashion. I had a good look around the morning after and one of the big horse sheds is missing a skylight and the bit that fixes the gable end down (no idea what the technical roofing term is) but worst hit is my little greenhouse which looks like Tracy Emin got her hands on it and turned it into a piece of artwork entitled 'Greenhouse I threw Stones At'. I can see it now in the Tate Modern. There's not much left of it at all. All in all though we came of lightly considering we live on top of a hill and I am quite relieved to see that there is no worse damage, although I think we may struggle to get a roofer as there are lots of properties far worse hit around here.

An Eric a day...
We had our last visit of the year to the yard the other day from Eric Mackechnie who comes to keep me on the straight and narrow on the flat. Eric is a great teacher who really knows his stuff, among many other things he is also a World Class Development Para Equestrian Dressage Coach. Since he started coming here a few months ago I have started working my horses far more constructively in the school as he has filled me with ideas and inspiration. In between the hard work he also makes me laugh a lot which is never a bad thing. It is so easy to get into the same old rut of a riding routine when you constantly school on your own so it is a real treat to have someone standing on the ground while I ride all three horses one after the other. I am really looking forward now to doing some dressage with all my horses in 2012. A few of my livery clients are also enjoying lessons with him including Fiona who keeps her horse Dougie with us. Eric is showing her a way forward with her horse which makes sense to both of them.

Eric and Fiona chat about the lesson, I don't think Dougie is interested anymore though :)
That's the spot mum, Dougie enjoys having his sweaty neck scrubbed after he's worked hard!

Monday, 5 December 2011

No foot no horse....

An old saying but still so true, I had my blacksmith here the other day and we were chatting about my youngster Amelie's dam, Cavalla. I had to retire her from competition at an early age when she went lame and it was attributed to incorrect shoeing. Ever since then I have taken a keen interest in the way my horses are shod. The farrier involved was, I hasten to add, not the one I use now.

Those of you who've been reading my blog may know that my first ever post was in fact about losing  Cavalla earlier this year (read it here). I bought her as a rising 5-yr-old and conformationally she was pretty good apart from slightly upright front pasterns but nothing that put me off buying her. She had good, tough feet and I had a Master Farrier shoeing her, so all was well - or was it? Over time it appeared to me that her toes were getting a bit longer but when I mentioned it my blacksmith reassured me saying that they were fine and that he wouldn't want to be taking any more off them. Not knowing as much back then I accepted his explanations - he was after all a professional.

By the time she was 9 Cavalla and I were enjoying competing regularly up to 1.20m classes. Then she started intermittently to go slightly lame on a front foot. Due to her age my first thought was that it was navicular however, further investigation led to a diagnosis of  degenerative joint disease or DJD, in the affected foot. My devastation at this news from the vet at the renowned Dick Vet hospital in Edinburgh was compounded by the fact that, in his opinion, the disease had set in due to incorrect shoeing for her conformation. To say that I was upset is to put it mildly, I had trusted my farrier to do a good job, but looking at the X-rays with the vet it was easy to see the damage that having a broken pastern/hoof axis leaving a long toe and unsupported heels, had done to the internal foot structure - poor Cavalla's pedal bone was at completely the wrong angle.

Foot balance is crucial
The vet explained that he saw quite a lot of this long toe/low heel shoeing and that it caused real damage but, he explained, some horses cope with it for a long time if they aren't working too strenuously or jumping bigger fences. My mare had been jumping fair sized fences regularly though and her favoured landing foot, which by far the worse affected, couldn't cope with taking the weight of her body plus the rider's time after time on an incorrectly angled foot. The prognosis was gloomy - although the vet explained, a lot could be done to slow further degeneration by completely rebalancing her foot.

Cavalla jumping as a 7-yr-old - she was quite extravagant over her fences.

Unfortunately this extravagance only exacerbated the damage done by landing on a badly balanced foot.

Cavalla was expertly shod at the vet school before she left - the farrier worked with her X-rays in front of him. She was fitted with special eggbar shoes to support her heels and her hooves were trimmed to be much more upright to suit the natural slope of her pasterns. In fact I was amazed at how short her toes were trimmed compared to previously. The farrier told me that for optimum results they would need to be shorter still but such major change had to be done slowly so as not to be trimming sensitive parts of the hoof and also to allow the underlying structures to resettle into the new balance. We were moving house at the time so I found myself a super new farrier and Cavalla was re-X-rayed twice over the next few months so he could see what was happening. This re-balancing was so successful that over the next year she became sound with shoes although she was never again sound without them.

What happened to Cavalla?
I retired her to the field and after a long discussion with the vet in Edinburgh I decided to breed from her as she was a talented mare with a superb, gentle temperament. Before you shout at the screen - but why would you breed from a mare with DJD? The expert vet told me that he considered the condition had been caused by incorrect shoeing and that there was, in his opinion, no reason why it would pass onto any foals. He did advise me though to check any potential stallions carefully for slightly more sloping pastern conformation. So that's what I did and Cavalla's story had a pretty happy ending - she went on to breed me a few super foals, who all inherited better pastern conformation and none of them have had any problems.

Cavalla was shod every five weeks for the rest of her life and in the end lived to the ripe old age of 21. It was only during her three years that her DJD started to bother her and this was at first eased by raising her heels on rubber riser pads between her shoe and foot and then later by a low level, daily dose of bute. When it became clear that the condition was progressing and pain relief was no longer working effectively I made the decision to have her put down. What I found most distressing at the end was that, apart from that one bad front foot, she was in rude health.
"It was a salutary lesson for me back then and one I have never forgotten. I am now incredibly fussy about the pastern/hoof angle in all my horses"

It was a salutary lesson for me back then and one I have never forgotten. I am now incredibly fussy about the pastern/hoof angle in all my horses and make sure that they are shod regularly, for their personal conformation, to ensure that they are never working on long toes, low heels. For some this means being shod as often as once a month if they have fast growing feet. I have had a super farrier now for many years and he looked after Cavalla for the last 10 years of her life, it was his care and attention that helped her remain sound for so long as an old lady.  He was also fantastic at replacing a thrown front shoe as soon as possible, as without it she was very lame and for that I am really grateful to him.

These days I like to take all my horse's back shoes off over the winter even if they are working and sometimes the fronts as well, if they have good feet, as I now believe it is important to give hooves a break from metal and nails and let the hoof structures work as nature intended. I am not evangelical about this though and there are certainly horses that need shoes to work comfortably, I have owned plenty myself over the years. I am just lucky at the moment that the horses I have, have good tough feet.

Listen to your instincts
So although there are some superb farriers out there, if you have doubts that yours isn't making as good a job of your horses feet as you would like, then don't be afraid to ask another recommended farrier to have a look - in my experience most are quite happy to give you their private opinion. I made the error once of not listening to my gut instinct with disastrous results for my horse - and that's not a mistake I will make again.

So here's to good farriers everywhere!

Friday, 2 December 2011

A livery yard owner's life for me....

Running the livery yard in the summer is fun - endless hours of daylight, happy relaxed clients enjoying spending time with their horses and each other, schooling, hacking and competing, happy horses, peacefully grazing. Everything is green and lush and clean in the endless sunshine. (Ok, I may be exaggerating about that last bit - this is Scotland after all). However winter here can be long, the horses all come in at night as we are on an exposed hill and, although some clients have been lucky this year - the mild autumn has meant their horses have only just come in at the beginning of December - they are now all in overnight. This means time is short during the week and people are rushed, especially in the mornings. This is a DIY yard so the place springs to life at about 6.30am, with various shifts of people coming and going until it goes quiet again at about 9am.

If I am working from home then I am lucky in that I can ride at one or two horses before 9am as it is only a short walk from the stables to my office in a shed in the garden and one of the pleasures of winter is riding in crisp sunshine. I'm not so keen if it's freezing, wet and windy though. If it is a day in the office in Edinburgh though I need to get up and get all my beds done, feeds ready etc so that when someone kindly brings my horses in for me in the late afternoon, everything is ready for them. We have a friendly system going here where people help one another, which means that someone will always bring in your horse or turn it out for you then you return the favour. Most of my clients don't have the luxury of being able to ride early during the week, so mornings are a flurry of rug changing and turning out.

The only residents on the yard who couldn't care less how cold it gets.

Groundhog day
When winter first sets in everyone is cheerful, there is a real sense of satisfaction in seeing your horse tucked up in a warm cosy stable, munching contentedly while the wind and rain blow outside. Then most people here are looking forward to a good break at Christmas when they can hopefully enjoy some riding. After the festive season though, as winter grinds on, a sort of grim slogging determination to get through it can set in. February is definitely the month when it seems to me that everyone on the yard seems at their lowest ebb. The winter has been long and it can be far from over, small niggles take on major significance and as the yard owner it can sometimes feel like you are experiencing your own Groundhog day!

Everyone gets tired and I am no exception - last year when I had seven horses to do there were days when the sleet was horizontal, the tractor and all the troughs were frozen and I could be spotted stomping around, muttering darkly into my scarf about selling up and moving to the Caribbean.

The one I really do feel sorry for is my lovely husband Nigel. He is the one that has to go out in all weathers and fix everything. As he used to farm in the Scottish Borders he is used to the vagaries of a Scottish winter but I am still grateful that most of the time he just rolls his eyes when I add another thing to his list of things to fix, pulls on his coat and goes out to sort it. If it is going to be a two man job then he is helped, as often as not, by our great friend Tom, who keeps Nigel's occasional tendency to the slapdash under control with a raise of an eyebrow that signifies 'I think we'd better fix it properly'. Last year our old hayshed collapsed under the sheer weight of the snow sitting on it. Nigel and Tom had to carefully dismantle the unsafe bits so that it didn't fall on anyone but we still had lots of straw in one end holding up part of the collapsed roof. For a couple of month I played a game of giant Jenga - taking bales from all around hoping that the roof wouldn't fall in on me. It has left me with a permanent tendency to duck inside the tractor when I pick up a straw bale.

Days of daffodils
Then at last March comes and the days imperceptibly begin to lengthen and the first tendrils of spring can be seen in the ground and felt in the air and magically everyone seems to chill again, the horses sense it too - they quite literally get a spring in their step on the way to the field in the morning and they stop hanging around the gates in the afternoon .

My favourite time here is when the daffodils come up along our drive - it heralds the start of the glorious long days of summer when the sun only sets for a few hours and so my dreams of a Caribbean idyll recede once again - although I'd still like a holiday home there if anyone's got one going spare!

Now in print...

Exciting news - I can now report that I am a bona fide columnist! My first one appears in the January issue of Horse & Rider, it is a magazine that I have enjoyed reading for many years now. There's nothing better than relaxing in a scalding hot bath on a winter's night with a copy - although I do emerge resembling a prune, albeit a clean and fragrant one.
When the editor Alison Bridge first asked me I wondered if people would want to read about my life as I am not a celebrity rider but she assured me that my somewhat hectic life would definitely be of interest so I have given it a go. I think there will be many readers who, like me, have to juggle life around to fit in their beloved horses. The issue is out now - if you buy a copy then flick to the back page column and let me know what you think. The one thing that was really difficult was to condense everything down into 400 words - writing a blog is completely different you can waffle on for as long as you like.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

If your horse was a film character..

If your horse was a character from a film who would he be? 
Garth my jumper is definitely a Tony Manero, John Travolta's character in Staying Alive. Picture him swaggering around in his tight white flares knowing all the girls are swooning over him. That's Garth when he's not had enough work. Last week was deadline week at Scottish Field, the magazine I work on as a designer. It is a monthly glossy lifestyle magazine run with a small team on a tight budget so it is all hands on deck when we are putting an issue to bed. When I get home after a long day in the winter I am more interested in going up and kissing the kids in bed before settling for a glass of vino in front of the fire than venturing out into the dark on a horse. It must be a middle age thing although I still think that that phrase has more to do with kings, queens and knight of old than me. My horses are all tucked up by Julie, fed, rugged and munching haylage.
So last week Garth just didn't get enough work even though he was ridden on Thursday and then had a hard  flatwork session with  Eric Machechnie on Friday.
Eric's lessons have been a wake-up for me on the flat. I am sure many of you that school on your own like me most of the time, ease the throttle off without even noticing don't work quite as hard as you maybe could. Eric is challenging not only my riding but my brain too with new ideas and exercises.

If Garth was a film character he's be Tony Manero strutting his stuff!

Flying along..
This time we did a great flying change exercise which Garth loved, into and out of counter canter. He adores flying changes as he finds them easy and you can feel his enjoyment. I used to have to get right off his back when it was weaker and he would change late behind or put in a huge buck. Now he bounds into them with gazelle like enthusiasm, I just have to sit still so I don't get punted out of the saddle.
So he worked hard but not enough to make up for a life of Riley week so going showjumping on Saturday wasn't the best idea I've ever had.
I did swither about going as I knew he would be fresh but as the venues around me seem to be holding less or no bsja showjumping you kind of have to go when you can. I realised I probably should have stayed at home when even our warm-up became a diplomatic exercise in containment.

We went into the ring, I gave him a pat, the bell went and woosh we were off . Over one and two then we shot past fence three, correcting that we missed a tight turn to five, Garth was in a world of his own enjoying himself hugely unlike his rider. Exterminated - we left the ring.
I had only entered a 1.05 as I knew I might run into trouble. Ronnie Brady, a great rider and now trainer whom I have known for years came up and gave me some sound words of advice. He suggested I went in HC and told me not to pull against the horse when he pulled me into the fences by bridging my reins and holding and them low so that when my hands were pulled forward they ended up on the horses neck basically making him apply his own brakes. Not something I have tried before but it worked a treat. Garth set off with fire in his belly ready for round two of fun and games but found that when he pulled I didn't take him on but the reins anchored against his neck. We ended up jumping a nice rhythmical double clear.

Work, home, riding, balancing it all....
I am sure all busy amateur riders get to this point in the winter. How to balance work, family time and riding time when the light and weather are against you. Since Saturday I have worked Garthyboy's socks off so next weekend we should be fine but I know we will be in this position again this winter.

What a beautiful day, hey hey...
I had planned to go back to the show on Sunday but in the end the sun was shining and it was a truly beautiful day so instead I went for a hack with Julie on her TB Jerry. I rode Amelie and we ambled along chatting, Julie has a busy new job and we haven't had a good gossip for ages, then set the horses alight up a canter track to the top of a hill with the most stunning views back over what is known as the Bow of Fife. Few things beat a good gallop on a gorgeous day.

Tara has recovered from her bad shivering episode and is happily back in work. I have eased her back in gently and she is working in the school again, I have learned a lesson and she will now be the last on the box whenever we go anywhere and the first one off for a walk around.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Dark nights and drunken loops

Amalie who has possibly the biggest floppiest ears ever!  I seem to have a landing strip on my head :)
So the nights are drawing in - boo hiss - I always struggle to adjust to riding under the lights at night. I have been subtly trilling like a bad Janis Joplin whenever my husband is in earshot, 'Oh lord won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz' transposing the words 'an indoor school' for the make of car. No luck though, he appears to be quite deaf to my tuneless pleas. In the summer I think nothing of doing a days work, getting tea for the kids then riding until 10pm but there is something about dark, chilly, Scottish nights that saps my enthusiasm somewhat! Oh well I will soon get over this -  I will just have to hope for gorgeous, sunny autumn mornings so I can ride before work.

 The horses and I have been busy doing all sorts of things recently. I had some productive jumping sessions with Ernest Dillon, Garth and I are still working on our corners in the ring - something I fear we may be doing for evermore. I have a tendency to land and not sit up as quickly as I should which allows him to run on a bit and as he loves to think he is in control of which point of the compass we are heading for, this leads to corner cutting. We are really improving though and I was delighted at our last show when we jumped a twisty 1.15m nearly perfectly. I have also been helped by a trick that a young trainer friend of mine, David Harland, has taught me, which works a treat on my intelligent grey and that is to go a little further around the corner than normal, then do a square turn back to the fence. This has a twofold effect on Garth, it fools him into not anticipating the turn as he thinks he is going somewhere else, I have to sit up more to make a tighter turn which sits him back on his hocks more. So rather than rolling around the corner like a bowling ball we make a much more balanced turn.
Ernest was also pleased with Amalies progress and declared us ready to do a bit more jumping. He said that now her balance is improving she is ready to 'learn to take me to a fence'. With that in mind we trotted over a pole to an upright then practised cantering on five even strides to a double. I had to make minimal adjustments, if any at all, as he wants her to learn to look after herself on the way to and over, the fences. I always find it quite difficult to sit absolutely still - I confess to an urge to fiddle on the way in, so I had to be really strict with myself and, apart from keeping her straight, not do much else. By the end she had slowed herself down to make the five strides easily and had stopped making up too much distance and was giving herself time to jump into and out of the double.

Flatwork for the rusty
I then had a great training day at home with Eric Mackechnie, a super flatwork teacher. I first met Eric years ago when he was training at Gleneagles as a student. He stood out among the his peers as a rider with feel and ability and a wicked sense of humour. He went on to do wow the dressage world riding a Highland pony stallion, Kincardine Ben Macdhui where he was an unusual sight amidst a sea of warmbloods.
It is ages since I really concentrated on some flatwork lessons and I'd forgotten just how hard a good dressage trainer makes you work during a session.
First up was Garth whom I thought was going really well on the flat - Eric had other ideas and, after watching me 'pootle' around, proceeded to make us work. So what I thought was an extended trot turned out to be only just worthy of a good 'novice test trot'. And my best effort at a medium canter was only just a 'decent working canter'. Phew - one hour later Garth was really trying hard and my cheeks were glowing with effort.

Tara - ok mum, I did all that work, where's the polos?

Quick tack up and then onto project horse Tara, in her first ever lesson with me. Eric asked me her history as I walked around to settle her. When I told him she was by Jazz and that she is a hot ride he said that many of the stallion's offspring are like this. Eric noticed her slightly unusually shaped hind end and I explained she is a shiverer, as he watched her work he said that this had obviously affected the musculature on her hind end as it is very tight at the moment. He put us to work on a diamond shape, rather than a circle, explaining that the turns onto a new straight line would make her use her backend and help build up her strength. He is confident that if I do correct school work alongside hillwork in our fields, that in time, I will both strengthen and at the same time relax the large, tight hindquarter muscles. At the end of the day I know that shivering is a nerve condition and there are no guarantees that work will help but I don't think that it is going to hurt.
 I was thrilled with her as she settled and concentrated beautifully. The thing that she finds most difficult is working on her own. It worries her to be away from her friends which means she can start work quite tense but she is an intelligent mare I get the feeling that she is enjoying being asked questions.
As she would walk over hot coals for food she really appreciates the handful of horse nuts she gets after each training session. No different to me looking forward to a custard cream with my coffee then.

Schooling on Champagne
Last up was Ams and Eric spotted immediately that a problem with her, due to her length and size, comes when she blocks me with her head and neck which stiffens her back and loses the connection from the back to the front. He then came up with a genius exercise for us which involves us weaving around the school in loops as if I had downed a few bottle of Champagne. The constant change of bend and from one set of outside aids to the other soon had her stepping under with a lovely free back. All my transitions also had to be made on a loop so that she couldn't block. He told me though to do all my cantering on straight lines but all my downward transitions were to immediately take me back onto the bend of a loop. Changes of the rein were all made on drunken lines, weaving from one side to the other. Anyone watching would have been getting me breathalyzed! It worked a treat though and continuing the work this week the mare has found it easier and easier to do correctly. I am really looking forward to his next visit to take this work forward it will help me get fitter too if he makes me work like that every time.

Travelling a shiverer
One thing that is worrying me with Tara is that a journey in the horsebox last week really exacerbated her shivering symptoms for a day or so. I would love any comments from anyone else who has a shiverer - did you find that journeys made the condition worse? Did you keep journey times to a minimum or was there anything you did that helped. Any comments here would be welcome. 

Weekend plans
This weekend I have some jumping lessons and then am off to cheer my son on at a rugby match. Next weekend I aim to go jumping somewhere but before that Garth will need to be transformed from a mud monster into a gleaming grey!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Moving on....

It's been a while since my last post. I felt so flat after losing my gorgeous mare Modetia that I haven't really felt much like posting, however life, as they say, goes on and so the blog goes on.

Brilliant Blair
I had a fantastic trip to Blair Castle Horse Trials with Garth (Kilmeadan is his jumping name) and the boys. My truck the Green Goddess was loaded fit to burst with horses - mine and Gill's and everything that two small boys and a not so small mum might need for three nights in deepest darkest Perthshire at the end of summer when you don't know if you are going to be bathed in late sunshine or sloshing around in the mud. My husband was muttering darkly when I left, about women who pack as if they are setting off for a month. In the end I was vindicated as it turned out we needed everything from wellies to sunscreen.
Blair is a fantastic event and if you have never been then go - it is well worth it. Set in the stunning estate of Blair Castle at Blair Atholl it is a great mix of top class eventing, showjumping, native ponies and shopping. Eventers have to be really fit as the course is surely the steepest in the UK.

Ears pricked and enjoying himself - Garth in the 1.10 at Blair.

This was the first time that I had jumped Garth on grass for well over a year and I was a little nervous about how he would go. He is a strong horse out in big green spaces so I also packed half of my bit box. In the end he jumped very well. Predictably strong on the first day - by day three he settled and was totally rideable. We were placed a couple of times and the worst we had was four faults. He qualified for the 1.10 final on the last day and just had an unlucky one fence down in that.

Gill keeps a few horses at my yard and at Blair her lovely youngster George, with David Harland riding, belied his years by winning a class and jumping some fantastic rounds - he is a very talented and his laid back temperament left him unfazed by crowds, marquees and the general bustle that you get around the rings here.

The organisers all worked hard to make the event run smoothly and my only grouch is that the collecting rings got like ploughed fields. On the Saturday a make-shift collecting ring for one arena was hastily roped off in the lorry park. While the warm up area for the other arena fared slightly better, neither was ideal and on the Sunday I only jumped one class even though I had entered two, as I felt that my horse had done enough work in that sort of ground. Competing at Blair is expensive and I do wonder if perhaps some sand or something could be spread and left so that the rings don't suffer from the rain as much.
Happy times at Blair

This was the first time that I have gone away to a show and taken the boys with me and it was brilliant having them there. They had a ball and apart from the battery smoking when I tried to hook up the TV (Yes I put the red to the black) all went smoothly and we will definitely do it all again next year. Staying in the truck, rudimentary though it was, was a great laugh and Pam and Julie from the yard were staying on the campsite - Pam was a brilliant chef and there was much hilarity around the BBQ in the evenings and I must thank Julie for doing all my warm-up fences for me over the three days.

Back at the yard..
Back at they yard my youngster Amelie is coming on a treat. I had a very constructive lesson with Ernest Dillon a while back who told me to spend a month just picking up a contact but making sure that I kept my hands very still and quiet and letting her get used to the fact that it was going to be there no matter what. It worked she has stopped fussing with her mouth every few strides now and I can now work her with a longer, softer neck and can even get her to really stretch down so that at last I can either work or relax her topline muscles.

The grain fields around us are now cut - so I have also been really enjoying taking her for a canter around the stubble. She has some stride once you let her move on. Fergus my lazy lurcher gives up trying to keep up and just plants his backside down when he's had enough and waits for us to come around again - I can see why the rabbits around us feel particularly safe!
A great read with some fab photos!
I am going to sneak in here a quick mention Ernest's brilliant new book which is out now - The Complete Showjumper.  I agreed over a few glasses of the red stuff to help with the images and so I spent many hours of summer evenings photoshopping the montage images together for it. Garth and I even make an appearance on one page - see if you can spot us! If you are interested in show jumping it is a brilliant handbook to have, full of practical information and tips. You can get a copy from Amazon or get a signed copy direct from Ernest's website.

Fergus causes chaos...
Talking of Fergus he gave my lovey project horse Tara, the fright of her life a few weeks ago by leaping out in front of her in the school. She hadn't seen him lying lurking in the long grass and to be fair neither had I. Being a hot-headed chestnut mare she needed no excuse and shot off at a rate of knots and unseated me, a couple of big bucks to follow saw me planted in the sand. Ho hum, meanwhile Fergus had calmly laid back down in the long grass waiting for his next opportunity to cause chaos. No harm done and Tara is getting used to him, as all the other horses have. It's funny but once new horses are used to the snowy white blob that bounces around the school with us they are much less spooky in general. Discretion is the better part of valour though and I have ditched my dressage saddle and gone back to riding her in a jumping saddle so that I can get my stirrups up and jam my heels down as there isn't much in front of you when she spooks. She is proving to be a really intelligent little mare and her paces are fabulous. She naturally comes through from behind and pushes from her hindleg, although at the moment that means she then falls on her nose so we are doing lots of work within paces and transitions to enable her to balance through her own exuberance.

Strictly Come dressaging...
I have been nipping down on the odd occasion with Amelie and Garth to do the odd dressage test. Garth has done well in some unaffliliated novice and elementary tests, managing to keep calm and Amelie behaved brilliantly at her first ever show and her first time indoors. Apart from gazing up at the roof like a tourist at the Sistine Chapel she behaved brilliantly. However too many years of jumping have left me with lots of small positional faults so I am looking forward to some lessons with a super trainer Eric MacKechnie, who is coming over to put me through my flatwork paces - he might have his work cut out for him!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

End of days....

Well that's it I have lost my fabulous horse of a lifetime. Modetia didn't make it in her struggle with laminitis, having looked like all was going well she suddenly looked pottery again over the weekend and new x-rays yesterday showed that her pedal bones had rotated to within a couple of millimetres from the soles of her feet. The minute the x-ray flashed onto the screen I stopped listening to the vets talking and it all became background noise as I looked at my beautiful horse and knew that we had reached the end of the line. The vets took an x-ray of the other foot but it was immaterial I knew that I had lost my horse and that is  truly awful feeling.
In top form at Blair Castle.

I have had Modetia since she was a fiery five year old and she was looking at me now a beautiful 17 year old. I never thought that I would be lucky enough to own a horse like her - she made me feel more alive every time that I rode her - she loved her showjumping - never refusing any reasonable question and generously helping me out with her scope when I put her into a less than perfect spot in front of a fence. Her forte was 'clapping her hands' - when she was feeling really good she used to take great joyous leaps into the air and bound along for a few strides. These bounds were never difficult to sit on rather you just felt sheer joir de vive welling up through her and it always made me smile. Apart from when she decided a crowded collecting ring was the place for this party piece! She also used to spin 360 degrees quick as a whippet and when she was a youngster and I wasn't paying attention she landed me on my ample derriere more times than I care to remember. But she was brave as a lion over a fence and I will never forget the feeling of power and confidence she gave me.
Could I please come out out of this horrible weather I am not meant to be an eskimo.
For all her sharpness she loved attention and one unforgettable memory is the sight of her happily enjoying the attention of four small five year old children all diligently brushing different bits of her. She wasn't a fan of bad weather and if she heard rain on the roof in the morning would just keep her head down when the other horses were getting put out hoping that no one would notice she was still  in. She also bred me two stunning foals although I suspected she didn't enjoy being a broodmare as much as being ridden and so in her later years she returned to work and thoroughly enjoyed looking after two friends of mine over fences. I also still enjoyed riding her as even in her late teens, although the spin was slower she still enjoyed clapping her hands together on a sunny day.
Modetia as a teenager enjoying turning a hoof to something different with Ferne.
All these things and much more will leave an ache in me for a long time. She was such a healthy horse all her life that it never occurred to me she wouldn't be an old lady pottering around the farm for years to come and goodness me I will miss her. Part of joy for me in having horses is developing that deep relationship with them that means they become a huge part of your everyday  life.
So as the vet and I walked her down the field today to her end of days it was, as it always is, a mixture of gut wrenching sadness at the death of a beloved horse and relief that you know you can end their pain.
Life was for living for Modetia - and that's how I will remember her.
Thanks to some good friends
My thanks to my friends on the yard who helped make her last few box rest weeks more comfortable with their care and grooming sessions for her, and to my super vet Ainslie Smith of Eden Vet Practice in Cupar who gave her the utmost care and attention.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A lapsed member of Horse Collectors Anonymous..

So that's it I am a fully paid up member of HCA (Horse Collector's Anonymous). I had to join because having got my horse numbers down from 11 to 4 I got the shakes - there was no cure to be found - and yes you guessed it I collected a horse. My husband looked up from his rugby review smiled sadly as you do at the afflicted and urged me to go to attend a meeting as soon as possible. He reasoned that I could then confess to the assembled circle that it's been two years since I last collected a horse. The other members would understand the willpower that takes, they would smile, nod knowingly and congratulate me on lasting so long and urge me to keep the faith. I would draw strength from them and their stories and leave the meeting refreshed in my resolve to keep my horse numbers going down and not up. But I never got to that meeting (I think I went to a show instead) and that's when I lapsed - I couldn't resist and so there's a new chestnut face in the field.

No not the one in the video above that would really be something as that's Jazz, the numero uno dressage stallion in the world, but it is a daughter of his. Tara arrived all the way from Wiltshire a week or so ago. It was no good I just couldn't resist getting a project to work on but I didn't want a youngster, I already have one of those to bring on, so Tara is an 11 year old 16.1hh KWPN mare by  Jazz out of a mare by Weltmyer. Her blue blood breeding shows - she is a good looking red head who definitely resembling her famous dad.

Tara settling in and yes that really is blue sky in Scotland this summer!
Vital statistics
So the downside - well it's not really a downside but I did say she was a project. Tara has pretty much been a broodmare all her life apart from a couple of months ridden work - when she proved to be hotter than a red hot chili pepper. At this point you may be thinking I should have attended that meeting and stuck to my no collecting resolve rather than getting a fizzy chestnut mare. But she moves, she really moves, she floats like a butterfly and I hope that after a while she won't sting like a bee. I am hoping that the chill out factor that kicks in with horses like this when they live here will work once more. So the plan is to let her settle in for a few weeks during which time I will gently lunge her to start giving her stronger muscualture and then I'll gradually reback her and, with no deadline to stick to, bring her into work slowly. So far she has settled in really well and is already great buddies with my young mare Amelie.

Tara settling in.

So there you have it my new addition a project with no pressure on either me or the horse - she will either be a good-un or not there are no huge expectations.

The news - some good some sad
The good news is that Modetia is continuing to recover from her laminitis - I still have to have her re X-rayed but she it moving freely now and is even giving the odd buck in her box - which is great to see. She is coping very well with her box rest but is getting thoroughly teed off with her diet of ancient soaked hay and oat straw, especially as everyone else is now on this years sweet smelling hay. I would love to be able to explain to her that as the old addage goes, I have to be cruel to be kind, especially as she has taken to mugging anyone who goes past with a haynet.
Bob - he will be missed by everyone on the yard.
The sad news is that the lovely big gentle giant of a shire Bob sadly had to be put down last week. He never recovered from the kick to his hock. An infection set into the joint - never easy in a horse and in the end his owner Pam who battled with it for several weeks made the tough decision to end his pain. A really sad day for her and everyone on the yard he will be missed.

Delivery to HCA
In the meantime my lovely husband though has determined to deliver me to the next meeting of HCA himself he is taking no more chances that I may lapse again!
Happy riding!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A spot of gardening on horseback....

I have enjoyed a couple of jumping lessons with Sandra Low Mitchell since my last post. Took Garth my experienced horse and Amelie my home bred youngster for her first ever lesson off the place last week. Garth was fresh and spooked every time we went past a new filler that looked like three giant psychedelic liquorice whirls. I sort of saw his point. Every time you looked at it it seemed to move and swirl around. Was enough to make me feel dizzy, however he soon settled and jumped well with his usual enthusiasm.

Garth relaxing in the field with his buddies Jerry and Reuben in the background.

Amelie takes things in her stride
Amelie delighted me by loading and travelling like a pro and when I took the ramp down she was nonchalantly chewing hay. Mounting I expected her to revert to her alter ego as a giraffe, but she was a star and took everything in around the strange school, including the full set of bright jumps, she even ignored the liquorice whirls and coped with a horse beside the school that trotted with us in a sort of pairs dressage every time we rode up the long side. I was thrilled.
I haven't really jumped this horse yet as she was tricky for a while on the flat (see older post). Sandra started us off with a small cross pole - no bother, so we graduated to an upright followed by an upright with a Scottish flag filler - after an initial look she put in a massive jump. Then onto an oxer and, as she was growing in confidence, we finished by stringing it all together into a small course with a scary fish filler fence to finish. No real hesitating just lovely bold brave jumps. I couldn't have been more chuffed.
I took her back again for a second lesson last night and she was even better. Happily popping the scariest fillers, she even jumped the huge 4ft wide water tray full of rainwater. I caused much amusment by nearly ending up sitting in a large muddy puddle yards after the water tray when Ams swerved violently to avoid getting her feet wet.
As the mare is very enthusiastic in front of fences and still has a tendency to throw her head up Sandra made me sit light but very upright into each fence, so that I am not tempted to push her over them at all with my upper body - holding onto a neck strap a few strides out from each fence also helps as I can use that as well as my reins to ease her up a little. This helps to take any pressure off her mouth so she learns to stay relaxed about her jumping, and helps me sit even quieter when she takes a huge leap. We just need to concentrate on trotting quietly into each one until she learns that we don't need to speed up to jump.
My friend Julie shared this last lesson with us on her handsome TB ex- racer Jerry. He is a lovely horse and she has done a fantastic job of bringing him on during the time she has been on the yard. He used to ride like a hollow board of wood but is now soft and supple with beautiful paces. He also  hacks out happily now (he used to go backwards as fast as he went forwards) and enjoys gallops on the beach. However he is still pretty suspicious of scary fillers and tonight Julie did a great job of sitting very tight until he was popping more confidently over everything.
Julie and Jerry the ex-racer looking good in a dressage test.

Ams earned a bite of the good grass.

My new sport - gardening on horseback...
Amelie and I also managed to do a little gardening together this week. I had tried a few times while riding Garth to break off some low hanging branches around the school but he was having none of it  - shooting off the minute I so much as shook a leaf. So I though I would try on Ams. She stood stock still under each tree even when I stood right up in the stirrups wrestling like a demented Alan Titchmarsh with some bigger branches. Nor did she move a muscle when the branches brushed her sides when I let them drop to the ground. Now that's what I call unflappable.

Modetia wondering where her next haynet is coming from but she is much sounder and doing well.

Modetia doing well
Modetia is ensconced on her beach bed of sand and is much sounder with her new shoes on. She is not out of the woods yet, but she appears to be doing ok. She will be rescanned in approx five weeks and that will be critical - if the scans show the pedal bones haven't rotated anymore she will have two more months inside on her road to recovery. Luckily she copes brilliantly with being in - she has always liked being stabled especially if she can hear rain on the roof and as long as she is tucking into some hay she is fine. She is not particularly keen on the hay being soaked for 12 hours (this remove most goodness to keep any weight off) but appears to have philosophically decided that it is better than no grub at all.

The road to Rowallan
I had hoped to take Garth to Rowallan last weekend to compete however he managed to wangle a few days off by giving himself a small nick on in inside foreleg. Although he was sound on it there was some heat and a little swelling and a tendon boot would have rubbed so discretion meant cancelling even though he was all washed and my clean tack was hanging up in the truck. I consoled myself with taking my two boys down to our local farm shop for a coffee and huge cream scone. Oh well!

Coco before she left - Fergus is sitting in the background wondering when I am going to stop hugging horses and get him his tea!

Onwards and upwards
This weekend I am looking forward to some lessons with Ernest Dillon who is up on his monthly visit, I am also looking forward to hearing how Coco is. He bought her from me recently, she is a beautiful four year old I bred out of Modetia by a Selle Francais stallion, LS Napeny. I am really going to miss her, as I hate selling my horses but it is time for her to start her career and she has gone to a great home where she will  have every chance to reach her full potential. As the weather is so wet at the moment we are decamping for this weekends lessons to an indoor school not far away. I am taking both Amelie and Garth whose leg is fine now. Hopefully we can get to a show the weekend after.
On Sunday the family might troop to the Highland Show as long as we don't need to wear waders all day! Is summer ever going to come to Scotland this year?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Bad times for Modetia


Bad news this week for my gorgeous 17-yr-old mare Modetia. She came down with what looked like a colic and or a urinary infection just over two weeks ago. Although my vet and I were suspicious of laminitis there were no symptoms other than an odd stiffness to her gait to substantiate this. There was no pounding digital pulse, no heat in the feet and the whole of her body looked stiff - like an extreme azoturia. So treatment was conservative, antibiotics to clear up the coca-cola coloured urine and a big dose of Danilon twice a day for pain and inflammation relief. She had two sets of bloods taken over the next week which were all normal, apart from slightly raised liver levels in the first one, which had returned to normal by the second one.
We decided that daily turnout on a short grass paddock was easing off her joints so I continued with this for a few days. Unfortunately she suddenly got incredibly stiff and lame again so I called the vet and he decided to bring in another local vet who could come and X-ray her feet as the spectre of laminitis loomed again.
To my dismay these showed that her front feet are both showing signs of pedal bone rotation with the right fore being particulalrly bad with a greater degree of sinkage.
It means that the next few days are critical for her. We need to stop the pedal bones from any further movement. Both vets are also think that this is a possible case of EMs or a metabolic laminitis as the mare was semi-fit, not fat or overfed and working right up to the time of this attack.
It was recommended that I put her on a sand bed so yesterday my friend Tom got up at 7am and took his tractor to the local quarry and came back with four tons of sand. He managed to reverse straight into her pen and then Julie and I, in a work out worthy of any gym bunnies, smoothed it all out to make her a bed that is at least 6" deep of cool sand.
The special Imprint shoes fitted

Working with the farrier
My fantastic farrier , Dougie Crawford came this morning and fitted her with a pair of heartbar Imprint shoes. He was sent a set of her X-rays so the shoes could be expertly fitted to give her maximum relief. Dougie recommends that I leave these shoes on for upto 10 weeks, as he knows the mare's feet are incredibly slow growing and thinks that the longer we can leave them on the more chance her feet will have to start healing.
Hopefully there will be no more dramatic deterioration over this time and then she can be x-rayed again to make sure that we have stopped any further pedal bone rotation. If the pedal bones have stabilised then all well and good we keep on with treatment of box rest and she will then be fitted with metal heart bar shoes. So as long as her pain levels are controllable and there is no further dramatic pedal bone rotoation then there is hope for  her.
Modetia in her specially bedded sand box. The sand supports her feet at all times which is very important.

More tests
Last night I starved her for 12 hours so the vet could take more blood samples - these are going to Liphook Equine hospital where they will be tested for things like diabetes and other metabolic upsets. They are also going to test for Lymes Disease as she had a tick bite a while ago which left a large lump under the skin and I have read that this can be a cause of founder in horses, so we may as well cover all bases. Obviously I am hoping to find out the cause of the laminitis as otherwise it will be difficult to control long term.

Modetia is my horse of a lifetime. She is 17 now and I have had her since she was a just broken five year old. She was imported from the famous VDL stud as a youngster by the Low Mitchells from Balcormo Stud. She is by of a stallion called Highline out of a mare, Godetia. I had a horse for sale at the time who had grown too big for me and the plan was to buy a new youngster once he had sold. Then Sandra Low Mitchell called me one day and said, 'I am sitting on your horse why don't you come over and ride her'. Now when Sandra says that if you do go over - you better have your cheque book ready as she is rarely wrong about the sort of horse that will suit you as a rider.
Modetia showing how careful she is over a fence.

They don't come along like this everyday 
When I arrived she was riding this beautiful sparky little bay mare - about 16.1 and sharp as a tack. I took one ride on her and that was that, I couldn't resist her. She is one of these horses that makes you feel a little more alive just by sitting on them. Always sharp and spooky she was scopey with a great line in 360degree spins, she was fabulous. The Low Mitchells had imported her after a visit to the VDL stud. Modetia went onto win the inaugural Scottish Sports Horse 3-yr-old loose jumping, held at the Royal Highland Show and went on to be broken and show style and scope over a fence.
I went on to forge a great partnership with her and we jumped courses together I never in my wildest dreams thought I would jump.  Then when I had my children she had two foals for me.
Once I got back to jumping again Modetia came back into work and proved to have lost none of her old enthusiasm, it is awful to see her in pain and reduced to pottering around the box like she is. So here's hoping that the vets find something concrete in those bloods that we can work with in the future.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Ponies and pipedreams...

Life is never dull around horses - you will have ups and downs and sometimes these all happen at once. Since my last posting Garth's splint has firmed up and he is working hard again and ready for his first show in nearly 8 months this weekend, so I am really looking forward to that, I will start by jumping a 1.05m and then the 1.15m, if all goes well. I gave him a pop in the school the other night and he is feeling great. I am one of these riders that can't resist show jumps in the school. I have to behave and not jump whatever is up everyday when I am working in there otherwise that's pretty much all I would do.
When I was a little girl my friend Linda and I used to make jumps out of any old thing around, wood, road cones, pea sticks  (granddad used to have to find more to rescue his wilting peas and beans) and I have abiding memories of the two of us in the dusk at the end of a long childhood summer day, cantering, galloping and jumping around the field on foot as the sun went down behind the Welsh mountains.
Brook - the little Welsh Mountain pony my Granddad bought for me for the princely sum of £4.

Long Welsh summers
In fact it was my fantastic Granddad, Cyril Hughes who lit the horse bug properly for me when I was eight. I had always had horses galloping around in my head but he started a lifetime's passion for me by buying two Welsh ponies from the local gypsies for the sum of £8. One was dapple, steel grey and the other a palomino. I called the grey, Brook after my grandparents house and the palomino Lightening - fine names for ponies I thought.
To my parents horror Granddad told me I could keep one and he would then sell the other. They were wild and unbroken, straight off the hills and I spent hours sitting quietly in the Orchard field with them waiting to see if they would come and sniff me. In the end I choose to keep the grey whose cheeky character I liked and Lightening was sold to my best friend Linda who lived next door to my grandparents old Welsh smallholding.
As I lived in Scotland from then on I lived for my holidays when I could get back down to Wales and spent every moment I could there. The ponies were semi-broken by a local girl and then I, in those days before the cloak of Health and safety settled over the world's shoulders, merrily got on a rode my pony. For the first year we didn't posses a saddle - not that it bothered me - I learnt to stick on and go anywhere at any speed. We were surrounded at the time by common land - big stretches of beautiful wild shrubby, gorsey heath with tracks, trails and ponds dotted throughout that anyone could use use. It was possible to ride for miles from village to village then - and that's what Linda and I did. We would meet in the morning at 9am and that's the last anyone would see of us until teatime at 5pm - can you imagine letting your 9-yr-old daughter do that now!
Brook in the old shed that was his stable - note the lovingly painted stable nameplate
We finally bought an old saddle and I have marvellous memories of hacking, with my grandpa walking, to small local shows where I would take part in the gymkhana games and then we would walk home again. I had no idea that me and my pony had no proper tack and we must have looked a funny, scruffy pair together in the ring - although I always made sure Brook gleamed, I washed him so much.
Hopelessly outgrown this is the very last time I ever sat on my beloved pony.

Over the years I grew far too big for my beloved pony but as long as my grandparents were healthy Brook stayed with them and I still went down every single holiday for years to look after him. Eventually my adored grandmother became ill and my granddad had too much to do so my dad drove down to Wales with a borrowed trailer and bought him up to Scotland where I gifted him to Ian and Elizabeth Comrie at the marvellous Housten Farm where I enjoyed weekly riding lessons for years (a whole other blog post). Brook never took to life as a riding school pony and eventually after he had reversed a whole circle with a poor child when she wanted him to go forwards, he went locally to a private home.
My Granddad Cyril at home with me and Chrissie his dog, not long before he died.
I never would have thought back then that I would end up owning and breeding some fabulous horses and running a livery yard  when I got older. I will never forget my grandparents and Brook. Sometimes, in my dreams if I am lucky, I am transported back in time I am riding my pony; my granddad is walking beside me and we are chatting together - a tall thin girl on a scruffy grey pony and an old man with a limp got from marching across Italy during the war. Although they are all long gone they remain a treasured part of my life - a time when it was just me on my pony galloping over the Welsh mountain as careless as birds in the sky.

Me and my fabulous mare Modetia competing here at Blair.

Horse of a lifetime
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post - life with horses has its ups and downs - this week my beautiful mare Modetia is struggling with a mystery illness. Over a week ago she presented with vague colicky symptoms that have since turned into what could be Azoturia or a weird un-symptomatic laminitis - she is stiff all over and unwilling to move. Although there is no heat in the feet, no temperature and nothing to show in blood tests my vet and the vets at the Dick Vet School are puzzled so we have decided to go for general x-rays on Monday to see if we can pinpoint what this illness is. As I write this she is in her stable, to all intents and purposes eating and drinking normally but pretty much unwilling to move so keep your fingers crossed for her she is my horse of a lifetime and as time goes on so the worry increases.

Bob the shire having a word in his mate, Flyer's, ear, at the farm here last winter.
Welcome home
Bob is back! Another horse on the yard a massive gentle giant of a shire, Bob, is hopefully on the mend from a nasty kick to a hock. He left here on what was hopefully to be a long term loan but due to an unfortunate set of circumstances got kicked in the field there. The vet was worried that the leg could be fractured, however his owner Pam managed to get him back to our farm and he is in the field slowly making what we all hope will be a full recovery. The hock is still very swollen and obviously causing pain but he is putting weight on it which we are all taking as a good sign.

Beach bums
Oh and I took Garth and Julie on Jerry, her ex-racehorse, for her first ever gallop along the beach. Garth and I cantered along behind her as Jerry stretched his long thoroughbred legs along the sand. When I asked her if she enjoyed it she grinned and said, 'It was brilliant all I could hear was the noise of his hooves and the wind' - result.