Before and After - less than 10 weeks apart!
Chaos has become my companion of late. It wasn't welcomed as I am naturally an "in control" sort of person, at least I like to be. Maybe it's just another lesson in life that I have to learn? Following my last blog in February the roller coaster continued. My young horse has amazed everyone with his recovery following having part of a hoof cut away to clear what had appeared to be the tiniest spec of seedy toe but which was found to be very extensive and compounded by multiple pools of abscessing - no wonder he had been sore! Picking him up from Nantwich vets and seeing the extent of the damage I had virtually written off our plans for May and probably June. However he amazed everyone, throwing such growth that after 10 weeks there was nothing left to be seen. We have to thank a number of professionals for their support namely Eadaoin from Nantwich vets, and Nick Hill and Paul Jackson for their regular trims and advice, and Eddie and Debbie from Thunderbrook Feeds. The combination of the right feed,and the use of the track system to maximise movement and stimulate growth plus good old Mother Nature who made sure that all the positive ingredients were directed towards healing the damage and we got to saddle up early in May. With high demands from my job it may not have left much time to prepare but we did make it to Martin Blacks clinic at Doncaster and aim to be with Buck Brannaman at Aintree unless fate steps in again. And less than a month now until Dave Stuart returns to the UK for what we hope will be Summer.
In other news the Outlook database has been laid to rest and I have now started from scratch with Mailchimp so please check your inbox (and junk folder just in case) to see if you have received the newsletter. If you haven't but wish to be added do drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
The time thieves have been at work again, the Revenue took their chunk although I confess it was my own fault that I had left completion of my own accounts to the last minute so I should not be surprised that they took longer to put together than they should have, Then Patrick, as is becoming the norm, decided to add more demands on my time involving a lot of poulticing and stabling. Let;'s hope that is now at end!
The 2015 schedule of events is already under way and there are more events and details yet to add to the diary so please keep calling by to check them out. With regular visits from Nick Hill, and Tina Griffen, the launch of the new Trec obstacles in the playground, a repeat of the Parelli Weekend Camp with Josh Steer and our annual highlight of hosting Dave Stuart to come in August it promises to be a fabulous year. If the universe is kind then Patrick and I will get to take part in clinics with Martin Black in Doncaster, Buck Brannaman at Aintree and around 24 days with Dave at Dudgeley - please keep everything crossed for us!
Meanwhile I have another set of accounts to put together which I fully intend to get sorted before next January!
When 2014 started my plans were to continue to put a foundation on my youngster Patrick with 2 major diary events – a May clinic with Martin Black and as much time as I could fit in with Dave Stuart during his UK stay through July and August. Both provided more challenges and progress was made although not absolutely as planned. Horses constantly remind us that they are in charge of the timeline and whether it’s the length of a learning curve or a health question they invariably have the final say which is what happened bringing our summer to a premature end. As frustrating and disappointing as it was I always try hard to accept that the universe may have other plans and that a few of my angels may be steering me to other (safer?) places and what is the point in lingering over the negatives anyway as they will not change, time to get back up, dust off and move on.
2014 also brought the opportunity to connect with a particular friend from my past. Many years ago he helped me back into the jumping world after enforced career and family breaks had left me somewhat rusty. His quiet and simple approach to cross country training in particular probably was probably one of the turning points in my approach to horsemanship in general though I didn’t maybe recognise it at the time. Now he is helping me with a different approach to horse health and hoof care in particular. If you didn’t catch any of Nick Hill’s clinics here then check out the calendar for 2015 as he is returning.
Lots of changes have been made in the layout of the paddocks ready for next year. There are now a set of permanent turn out pens. My resident 3 now have a simple track system around the perimeter with stone and gravel not only to benefit their hooves but to keep the “muck run” operational through the wettest part of the year. The excess earth taken from the track has been put to positive use in 2 places – a new super-sized bank and the Coton Canyon which now needs some landscaping works to add finishing touches. A few new jumps, a bridge and a pool/sunken road are currently bedding in ready for summer clinics.
As for 2015 targets – once again it will be to Progress my Horsemanship. With Martin again in May and Dave in July and August there is now the awesome opportunity to ride on Buck Brannaman’s first ever UK clinic at Aintree in June. Just hope that 1) I can get enough homework in place before hand to be able to make the most of it and 2) that the universe and my angels are willing to let me take part – I may not tell Patrick about it too far in advance just in case he has other ideas!
Wishing you all a wonderful year, hope to catch up with many of you along the way
I somehow managed to lose October! Life remains as hectic but as inspiring and mostly fun as ever. The hoof care clinics held in October were a great success and already we have Nick Hill returning for another in November. Tina Griffen is also teaching in November and we have dates in the diary for 2015 so please check out the diary page and keep visiting for the latest news. On a personal front my youngster Patrick has been out of action recently but I am hopeful we will be saddling up again this week before the winter finally arrives! Ooh and just to wet your appetite a bit more there are new obstacles sprouting up all over the place - lots of Trec type challenges and things that will test your horsemanship and help develop your horses confidence. Bigger bank, a canyon, bridge, gate, and more jumps are just a few.
The last month has been a nightmare on all fronts. First Patrick went lame. In our vets words – he appeared “crippled”, and so our student time with Dave Stuart came to a premature end. Then my laptop on which I depend for everything suffered a hard drive failure – apparently I am one in a million – shame that I don’t share the same success with my lottery tickets!
Patrick is now on the mend though not quite back in work and the same can be said of the laptop as another 2 hard drives later I am now painstakingly having to restore individual files since the Microsoft System Image Restore and the File History restore both failed. I am not convinced that everything will be saved and the most worrying part at the moment is my mail history, calendar appointments and contacts. If I can get this out as a mailing as well as on the website it will be a miracle.
Our Summer season finished this weekend with a Trec weekend – something new for me and with it came a bunch of great new people who all have fun at the top of their agenda. The plan is to host a series of workshops in the Spring so watch this space. There are still a few dates in the diary for this year.
Niki Hardwick will be here this weekend (28th Sep) with a Harnessing and Harrowing Workshop. She will hopefully bring Rosie along to demonstrate and then students will have a go at preparing their horses to put principles to a purpose.
On 16th and 17th October we will be joined by Nick Hill and Albert Villasevil for “Diet, Movement & Trim”. This will now include an introduction to boots. Participants on this clinic can take up a half price option to attend the Saturday 18th event during which there will be the opportunity to observe professionals learning to select, fit and adapt boots including the high performance Floating Boot which Albert helped to develop.
Tina Griffin is returning on Sunday 26th October offering individual or shared lessons. While the ground stays in good condition we intend to make full use of the playground so it may be possible to get some more practice in with the fixed obstacles as well as working in the arena if you wish.
And of course it’s never too early to tell you that Dave Stuart will be here for another Horsemanship Experience Weekend from August 21st to 23rd 2015. You can put your name down now, no need to send a deposit yet, and you will get first option in the New Year when we send out more details.
Anyway I need to get back to sifting through emails and trying to recover some more data. See you soon!
July has been a bit crazy. So much happening at home and away, just not enough hours in the day or days in the week to go around. August has kicked off in much the same way and we have just completed a 3 day clinic here at The Chestnuts with Dave Stuart. Dave has been visiting The Chestnuts regularly over the last 4 years. Our paths first crossed soon after I came upon the Natural Horsemanship approach. At the time I had a young horse ready to start and being almost 20 years older than when I last went through that process I decided that maybe someone else ought to take the reins this time. After researching the horse specialists in the UK it was nothing short of a miracle to find Dave was based less than an hour away during his then 6 month stay in the UK. Nando, the horse I sent to him, was a well-bred competition prospect and came with super athletic abilities. After 4 weeks with Dave he was popping small fences and offering lead changes across the arena and then it was my turn to take back the reins. On the handover weekend having been reminded that this horse could “buck a bit” I found myself in the round pen with horse on a halter and 12 foot rope, saddled and ready to mount. And there was my first challenge…
They say you only get one chance to make a first impression and boy that was quite some performance from me that I know Dave has never forgotten. I was never one for mounting from the ground anyway and it was never going to happen on that occasion. Eventually I was allowed a jump block – not much of an improvement as I slid and wobbled on it – but I did find myself on board. The embarrassment was far from over however as now the then alien challenge of riding in a halter with one rein was to follow at walk, trot, canter and back up with changes of rein and help from that other somewhat scary tool - Dave’s flag! What followed in the next 30 minutes or so is all rather blurred – they say that our brain will find a way to delete or at least suppress bad memories and I guess that is pretty much what mine has done. I survived, I learned a lot of uncomfortable truths and I brought home a horse with Dave’s parting words “Well Chris do you think this horse is for you?”
Now my husband will confirm that I can be a little obstinate at times and you may guess that I also came home with the intent that I was about to prove to this cowboy guy that he had underestimated my abilities. I am also however – I feel – intelligent enough to recognise that I was going to need help so we booked onto another 2 day course with Dave a few weeks later. Now if the first impression had been a blinder then this next one must have blown his socks off! By now my young superstar had already shown me a few different methods of how to dismount though thankfully without doing me any damage. I remember once again feeling like a fish out of water desperately trying to come to terms with using ropes and sticks and strings both on the ground and in the saddle. Dave’s words this time seemed to follow the theme of “you are riding like a victim” as well as gentle suggestions as to our suitability as a partnership. We had highs - who would have thought – except Dave and others from the same school of Horsemanship that is – that I would have been popping over a small double of fences the second only being a narrow skinny, and that we would be rating a cow (white fluffy dog toy on an electric pulley in this instance) on a just started youngster. And we had lows as I cried tears of frustration, but once again I lived so I came home even more determined I need to show this cowboy guy a thing or two to get him to change his opinion of me. One week later with some mental preparation courtesy of a friend who had me tapping and my then 3 year old and I went off on a fun ride, once again we lived but with some relief I then allowed myself to turn him away for the winter.
Time is a great healer and I guess it also allowed me to give up on the ego and come to terms with the idea that the man in the hat had been right all along. In the Spring Nando went to a much more suitable and qualified partner who had fallen for his charms having watched my attempts to ride him on that last clinic. Along came my next teacher a 2 year old palomino Quarter Horse Zac – small enough to mount from the ground – see I do learn from past experiences! On Dave’s first clinic here at The Chestnuts in 2010 they were introduced over the stable door and the plan was set for Zac to go to Dudgeley later in the year. The first few weeks coincided with my ranch holiday to Arizona so I just got to see the first saddling the night before flying out – and oh boy, this was going to be some journey (Zac has a whole story of his own to be told another time!) Suffice to say that Zac had maybe just half a dozen rides over a 4 week period that first year. He returned as a 3 year old and was handed over for again just a dozen or so rides before being turned away and then finally as a 4 year old he (we) graduated. The learning curve for me was like climbing Everest. Saddling would be my specialist subject if I ever was on the quiz show Mastermind. If it hadn’t been for Dave then I may not have lived through the process. As a 5 year old I brought him out in the Spring myself – Dave now having reduced his UK stay to only 3 months – and we had an amazing start to the year, I was so excited and looking forward to presenting ourselves to Dave in May as now ready to move up a class when disaster struck and my little horse was found with catastrophic injuries one morning and we lost him. I guess he felt he had done his bit in taking me forward and I now needed to find another new teacher.
So the summer of 2013 was a strange one. I borrowed a horse to start with but my body kept failing me, back, neck, hamstrings, one thing after another and I seemed to be falling apart. I got to watch a lot more though which probably was a good thing. In July along came 4 year old Patrick. Back to a UK stamp of horse – Irish Cob x TB – but still on the small side. One day his wither may push up to 16 hands if he stands on his tip toes. Now Patrick could not be any more different to Zac if he was designer made from scratch. From the totally reactive with extremely strong self-preservation instincts we now have a thinker – almost a plotter! He brings a whole new set of challenges. In many ways he reminds me of Nando but thankfully with a scaled down version of the physical attributes. Anyway, at last I think I am progressing. Not in the least that I have already mounted several times this Summer from the ground in Dave’s presence but all the lessons learned from Nando and Zac as well as my old boys Juno and Ryan who also got to share some of Dave’s clinics over these past 5 years are beginning to come to fruition.
As we closed this last weekend clinic Dave almost had my crying again but this time for a whole different reason as he offered some very kind words as to how I had progressed since we first met. That first impression may never be forgotten but I have to thank the man in the hat for putting up with my shortcomings for so long and continuing to offer encouragement and support as this Horsemanship journey continues. To be learning directly from someone who is so close to the source of Ray Hunt in particular, is pretty special and one of my biggest lessons learned has been to shut up and get out there as there is no substitute for hours spent in the saddle, and of course being able to mount from the ground helps
Lots of exciting stuff happening here in the coming months including new events to hopefully appeal to everyone. The website www.feeltimingbalance.co.uk is constantly being updated so whether you are interested in improving your Horsemanship, or want to play Parelli Games, or learn to treat your own horse using Equine Touch, or want to know more about the sport of TREC, or learn about improving your horses health and wellbeing looking at Diet, Movement and Barefoot trims, please keep checking in.
We are also excited to announce we have been asked to host a Training Day for Vets, Farriers and Trimmers here on (date now re-arranged to October 18/19th - tbc) . This is on behalf of Albert Villasevil a Spanish vet (you can find out more about him here http://www.worldhoofconference.org/?page_id=268 ) and the Company “Floating Boots” (see http://www.bootsforhorses.com/boots-horses-barefoot/english/home_47_1_ap.html ). Albert has helped to develop a high performance boot which is not just for leisure riders, but also for top end performance and offers solutions for hoof rehabilitation. I need your help in getting the word out to your own farriers, vets and trimmers – ask them to get in touch with me or send me their email address if they haven’t received an invitation – also we need 3 horses to be used to show the fitting of the boots: 1 with normal shaped/healthy feet, 1 with irregular/difficult to fit feet, and 1 rehab case – maybe a laminitis victim? Do get in touch if you wish to put your horse forward – I will need photographs of the hooves and some simple measurements plus any relevant history.
Dave Stuart is about to touch down in the UK this week but is only here for 2 months this year so July and August are going to be pretty intensive for me and my youngster Patrick. We have spent a lot of time getting him out and about including rides up on the Long Mynd and through the Dyfnant Forest. In the main all has been going pretty good but I recognise that my comfort zone is about to be stretched once more and I probably need to find some bravery pills for some of Dave’s preferred trails up on the hills! That said I am really looking forward to it and to sharing lots of the challenges with good friends. We now have a 2nd date for Dave to teach a clinic here on Sunday 20th July. The morning will be online and then the afternoon mainly ridden. You can do half a day for £70 or a full day for £135 (plus a share of expenses). If you want to do the 3 day Horsemanship Experience Course starting on Friday 8th August then we have 2 rider spaces currently so get in touch asap for either of these.
Next weekend we have a 3 day camp led by Josh Steer with Niki Hardwick getting everyone warmed up on the Friday afternoon, I’ve been setting up pens today in readiness (boy – I forgot how long it takes!) – rider places are full but spectators are welcome if you book a place in advance and I’m sure we can find room for an extra tent or 2 if you want to be closer to the fun J
Lastly – I mentioned a while back that I was about to embark on a mailing list sorting exercise, well this mail is the first product of it. My Outlook files have suffered miserably from several updates and possibly incorrect syncing to my iphone which I know to have caused duplications and the loss of several fields of data mainly from postal addresses and I therefore have very little confidence in its reliability at present, so if you have received this and do not want to be included in future updates please let me know and I will put it to rights, also if you receive this more than once. Of course the converse may also happen in that I may have managed to lose some people and that could be more difficult to correct so please feel free to forward this to anyone who you think may find it of interest and ask them to let me know if they wish to be added.
Enjoy the Summer with your horses
Sometimes when you feel you are taking a leap into the unknown it’s not quite what you expect. When I first was introduced to so called Natural Horsemanship it felt so different that I actually lost all confidence and belief in the knowledge I had previously gathered over my lifetime. I felt inept, clumsy, uncoordinated and it took probably 2 years before I started to recognise that much of what I already knew wasn’t at all that different and by combining the old with the new I could accelerate my learning until it started to feel comfortable.
This week I have experienced the opposite situation. When Ryan was pushed into retirement at the age of 19 through lameness 4 years ago his shoes came off and at the same time I looked into the then almost alien concept of having horses barefoot. Yes he had had shoes removed for periods of his working life usually when injured or rested but even then I recall it being a last resort as his feet would invariably crumble and “I wanted to save them”. So I bought Sarah Braithwaite and Nic Barkers Book Performance Barefoot and with every page I recognised so many issues that Ryan had struggled with over the years and oh how I wished I could have turned back the clock there and then. But still I only made a few almost token changes. Yes I reduced some of the sugar from their diet, yes they all got to experience some varied terrain (in the shape of a central paddock becoming a car park which meant they always got to cross it daily) and I took permission from the PB book to leave the trim with my farrier since that would have been a major step for me after 30 years in the same safe pair of hands. So the book went on the shelf and we continued more or less as before. Meanwhile a few young horses came into our lives and I played with the barefoot idea, not shoeing until I felt it necessary. My other old boy Juno joined the shoeless herd last year as he too succumbed to Cushings and lameness and inevitable retirement. Some interesting points at this stage were that Ryan after 4 years without shoes now had a set of solid feet for the first time I can recall – the walls and soles always used to resemble cheese, soft and crumbly. He was so improved that he has recently started light hacking (aided by some boots in front when on roads). Juno though has had less success, requiring almost daily attention to remove small stones collected from the car park surface which cause him great discomfort. Young Patrick briefly wore a set of shoes last year after being a little reluctant to hack out and my need was to eliminate discomfort as a possible cause.
So here I was nearly 5 years on from my introduction happy to congratulate myself on our success (with Ryan) but increasingly niggled by thoughts that I should be doing more. So why wasn’t I? Well I always like the happy comfortable place where I let someone else take the responsibility, in this case my loyal farrier who has so many years of training and experience and has always gone out of his way to help me in times of need. No way was I going to become a trimmer – dodgy back, not knowledgeable enough, not strong enough etc. It was suggested by some I needed a proper barefoot trimmer but I was unwilling to buy into that – there was no supervising body, no recognised qualification (at least not one that involved a 5 year apprenticeship), seemingly no end of apparent experts on social media though many of them seemingly disagreeing with the next and yes it would still be that big leap of faith.
This week things changed…
An old friend who I used to train with in my eventing days got to come visit for a couple of days. We had 18 years to catch up on although thanks to Facebook and email it seemed like picking up where we left off yesterday. Here was someone who had my utmost trust and respect and who could also count many years and many miles of experience behind him and whose path now is firmly in that of using a Natural Trim. Those many miles include regular visits to many countries including Spain, Estonia, Bulgaria, Israel, Egypt, Africa, and the US helping educate horse owners and professionals including farriers and vets in improving the care and welfare of their animals through diet, movement and a simple trim. So he set about opening my eyes and my mind starting with how simple it would be to set up a track system within the confines of our property without impacting on the way we need to use it for events held here through the summer. We then looked at the diet I was using – surprise surprise, it had crept back to where it had been 5 years ago, I was using additives and ingredients and quantities that were unnecessary, no wonder that so much comes out of the other end when you pump so much in to start with! And worse still no wonder all 3 horses are overweight L
And then we looked at their feet. Generally not bad, 8 weeks on from their last trim and still well balanced, pretty much self trimming from the terrain and work they do but yes room for improvement as on looking at a few photos I found from last year the 2 old boys particularly show more separation than was evident back then – so the question was “what had changed”? Well Juno has been retired and therefore has been a lot less active. And yes that diet has been on the generous side for all of them. Life has gotten a bit cushy as I make it very inviting for them to spend time in their stables (they free range 24/7 so can choose) as usually there is MORE food in there as well as water and other luxuries like a fan to deter the midges. Hmmm how interesting….
And so what do I need to change and how will I achieve it?
1) Diet, diet, and diet! Seems I will have enough in my bins to last till next year at least! Quantities are going to decrease to a fraction – little more than needed to add in any medication required so the odd handful not several scoops. The ingredients will change to simpler options so the big feed companies turnover may take a hit! The beautiful wrapped haylage will be replaced by equally beautiful but more beneficial hay. We are blessed with a local farmer who produces old fashioned quality meadow hay (his haylage was pretty much the same I hasten to add but by its nature not as suitable albeit convenient).
2) Movement & Exercise – they need more – a lot more. Since my lifestyle and time is restricted by the continued need to pay bills I am unlikely to find any additional time to ride/exercise so they need to do more themselves. We have laid out a draft plan for a track system which will encourage them to move around a lot more, water, hay, salt will need to be sought out not presented so readily. Watch out for an invite to a “Paddock Paradise Party” where I will provide the food and drink and you can bring a sledgehammer to knock some posts in J
3) Trimming – and this is the surprise part which I found a little mind blowing. It was demonstrated how little needed to be done (remember this was after 8 weeks). The basic assessments and rules were simple to follow. As were the techniques and tools required. I am not out to lose the fabulous relationship I have with my farrier as I will ask him to keep an eye on my efforts. Farriers are not the “devil in disguise” at least mine isn’t.
So what I thought would be a step too far now seems little more than a shuffle – my perspective completely changed, all in a matter of 48 hours. We are all on the same side – the horses!
I hope my views and thoughts above do not offend anyone, farriers or trimmers, (no intention I assure you) but I wanted to try and explain what had held me back for so long. If anyone else is out there is interested Nick has offered to come again (what’s an 800 miles round trip between friends!) and we will put on a course over 2 or 3 days either along the lines of what I covered above to give you a better understanding of what to look for or maybe something in even more depth eg the chance to work on cadavers etc – you tell me what you’d like and as always I will try to set something up without it costing megabucks.
With grateful thanks to Nick Hill of www.cloverroseequine.co.uk for your time, patience, support, passion for your subject, and above all friendship.
Light nights and even some warm days - what more could we horse people ask for! My young horse Patrick is now settled back into work after being turned away to grow on over the Winter. He is regularly hacking out with support from one of the old boys Ryan who has been brought back from retirement to perform his new role. Every ride has been different - this horse is definitely going to make sure I up my game. His first party was down at Dudgeley Farm last week for 3 days with David Zuend, then we had visitors here on his home patch last weekend with help from Tina Griffen and there are more arriving to join Sally Bretts clinic this next weekend. The event we are currently preparing for is 4 days with Martin Black up at Doncaster at the end of May which will be a big test with a lot of horses together in an indoor arena. I'm hoping not to provide the "crash test dummy" entertainment this time ;-)
A hastily arranged talk with Maxine Easey and Christine Worthington at Whitchurch on The Performance Trail Horse was very well attended and I think everyone went home knowing better what they needed to do to prepare themselves and their horses. Maxine also introduced the concept of Positive Reinforcement training and this would seem an excellent way to go about some of those preparations! We have now managed to secure a weekend in June here at The Chestnuts for an intensive 2 day course on "How Do Horses Learn?" which Maxine has presented all over the country and even draws repeat students as there is just so much content to take in. See diary page for more details.