As I’m still waiting to get a start date for my new job, I’m trying to make the most of my empty days in other ways. Fortunately, horses always need looking after, so I made two trips to the yard last week instead of my usual one.
Tuesdays are the charity’s “development day” – a day earmarked for the horses to have some “fun” work, and to have any necessary maintenance such as visits from the vet or podiatrist. I really like this concept – it’s a lofty ideal for many bigger businesses, but my friends are in a position where they’re starting fairly small, and I think that as they’ve started the habit now, it should be something they can maintain. The horses do also get a full day off – absolutely nothing is demanded of them on Sundays, when they are fed and cuddled and left to their own devices.
So Tuesdays have been my regular day for getting to know Prince and putting him through his paces. Last week, we worked in the barn for the first time. There’s no arena at the yard, and for most of the year working in the field is fine (in fact, it’s good for the horses and humans, as it gets both used to focusing on work rather than the footing), but due to the recent wet weather, we’ve now reached the point where it’s really not fun to slop around in the field trying to achieve something. Fortunately, there’s a small barn which was formerly just used for storage, but has a beautifully thick straw carpet, and houses all sorts of equine toys and obstacles.
Prince worked well in the barn, though we both got in a slight muddle when I tried something new and we weren’t too sure how to accomplish it. This happens quite often when I try to take a new step, and it’s just a case of going away, thinking about it again and trying something different. I think it’s that I need to break it down a little more, but it could’ve also been down to our mood or the environment being new.
I went back on Thursday, which is a session day for the charity. Those aren’t something I can discuss – therapy is different to teaching people to ride, and whereas I don’t mind writing vague posts about things I’ve done or learned whilst teaching, it’s not appropriate when it comes to therapy. I will say, though, that it’s a great thing to be a part of. Watching the clients and horses work together is very rewarding, and it’s an exciting part of my future.
I’m not qualified to properly assist, but I can fetch horses and move equipment around. One of my main jobs last week was to entertain the pony who wasn’t working – the little mare was restless in her role of being present but not receiving any attention, so I took her out of her pen and had a little play with her. I’ve worked with her on line before, and she’s great fun because she’s very energetic and expressive. I moved her around for a while, giving her a few things to think about before putting her back to give us both a break and me a chance to continue watching the ongoing session.
As I had one eye on the session, I kept the other on the resting pony, and was a little alarmed when she seemed to flop onto the straw! I was concerned that she might not be feeling great, although I hadn’t over-exerted her, and it was clear that she wasn’t having a roll. Fortunately, she just went to sleep. In fact, it was a very deep sleep! I was quite flattered, not only that I’d managed to exhaust her so completely, but also that she felt comfortable enough with her friend working nearby and four people in the barn with her that she was able to lie down and sleep – a very vulnerable position for a prey animal. And best of all, she was no longer trying to clamber over the fence and disrupt the session.
Prince came in for a play between sessions. His owner hadn’t seen me with him before, so it was interesting for her to watch us. She commented on how well our relationship seems to be coming along, which was nice. The weather constantly changing and occasionally howling outside proved to be a slight distraction for Prince, and keeping his focus was the usual challenge. It’s very important to him that he feels safe, and when you put new things in front of him, he still doesn’t always remain calm, so that’s a big thing to work on as we continue to progress. But it’s great for me not to have to be hauling my feet out of the mud every time I want to take a step!
Although work is necessary and I’m looking forward to starting my new job (hopefully soon!), it will be a shame to potentially lose the horse time I’ve been fitting in. But the days are getting longer again, and hopefully the fields will get drier and therefore slotting horses around my job won’t be as much of a mountain to climb. I’ve also got my fingers crossed that, rather than telling her friends how exhausted she was, the little mare will have mentioned that I was a lot of fun – the last thing I need is for them to be reluctant to work with me!