It’s poor form for a blogger to take an unannounced hiatus, but it had to be done. My life is still pretty unremarkable, in that the debacle with my new job failing to be able to give me a start date rumbles on, so my days are actually startlingly empty, but that perhaps is an explanation for the impetus to blog being lacking! Not that I intend to blog a lot about my day job when it finally starts, but when you have very little going on, motivation towards other things tends to drop too, and that’s the hole I fell into.
Happily, the equine side of my life is only getting busier. This continues to shock me, as well as delighting me: when I chose to stick in the UK for the year, I didn’t think I’d get this far with what I’m trying to do, but circumstances have dictated that I’m suddenly heavily involved in a project I really enjoy!
During my time away from the blog, the charity I’m working with have scheduled their events for the summer, which sort of means I’m a little bit out of retirement. We’re running two open days in June, and two play days (one in July, the other in August) – those are exactly as they sound, a toddler-style play date, except we bring our horses and play horse games rather than bringing children! Well, children may well come with their ponies, and some of our kids on our programmes will hopefully be in attendance, but it’s about playing games with your horse and having fun with friends. And eating cake. Because, why not?
So preparations are well underway for those, with me busily contacting media outlets (if you’d like to cover our events, please let me know!) and getting quotes for branded t-shirts and proofreading our new website (hopefully coming very soon). And on top of that, I’ve still been trying to get to the yard twice each week in order to help with sessions and develop the horses. Then around all of those things I eat, sleep and try to maintain a social life without an income – it’s a tough job sometimes!
One of the constants in my life since November has been my work with Prince. The initial reason for me being asked to ride him (because that’s always been the intention, I’ve mostly been unable to due to our lack of riding surface over the winter) was that he’s a horse who needs to be in work, but his owner has taken a hit to her confidence. Prince therefore underwent a full re-start with a Parelli instructor, then was handed back to us to continue with his journey. As the winter trundled on and I wasn’t able to ride, we all doubted the timing of the re-start, pretty much wishing it had been left until the Spring, so that I could then retain the momentum which went with it, but hindsight is a wonderful thing! Instead, I plugged on with what I was able to do, which was lots and lots of ground work.
The ground work has improved enormously with the recent beautiful weather – I’ve been able to work for longer periods outside with him on a longer line (you really are limited with what you can do when you’ve got an anxious horse who has a huge capacity for work on a short rope), and a few weeks ago, my friend’s bareback pad was duly retrieved so that we could build up to getting him back under saddle. Despite having had nothing around his (massive) belly since early November, Prince reacted well to the cinch and bareback pad, and I carried on for a few sessions, waiting for the saddle to also be produced from storage.
That happened last weekend, and I got a refresher lesson in tacking up – Prince’s saddle is a Western one, and much fancier than the ones I’ve used at camp! It’s got lots of latigos (leather strings which are used for tying all of your kit to your saddle… I assume for cowboys, this is things like tents. I see them as useful for hooking up things like my lunch) and a breastplate (I’ve never fitted an English one, nevermind a Western one). And we didn’t have Prince’s proper cinch, so it took a bit of adjusting to use the one we had, but the intention wasn’t to ride, so I wasn’t bothered about it being perfect and rideable, I just wanted him to wear the saddle and be comfortable in it, then put him away again.
The biggest challenge was swinging the saddle on from the off side! It’s the Western way, because you have more stuff attached to that side of the saddle, so to swing the cinch, breastplate and other detachable bits over the horse doesn’t make sense. I’ve got a great rhythm and muscle memory for swinging Western saddles on from the near side, but it’s weird to reverse the action. So that took two attempts. Fortunately, Prince is only 15 hands, so it’s less height to have to throw it than some of the 16.2 hand horses from camp, but I’m definitely out of practice! The best news is that he reacted well to being saddled again, so off we went to do some work.
It’s probably the best session Prince and I have ever had. From the word go, he was relaxed and connected, giving me what I asked for and showing some confidence. Although my plan hadn’t been to ride, it felt right to hop on for a few minutes, so with a little help from Jo to play around with me stood on the mounting block, I soon got on. I took my time, having Prince relax by the mounting block and rubbing him all over before mounting up – and when I did, I took the time to hang over the saddle and rub him again before swinging my leg over and settling down. Almost as soon as my backside hit the saddle, he blew out and relaxed – Jo and I almost cheered.
I had Prince amble across the field in his halter, asked him to back up, requested a bit of lateral flexion, posed for some pictures and then dismounted again. We got a highly positive five minutes of saddle time – another building block on the way to future success, and the first time in 2015 that I’ve sat on a horse! It was a long wait, but now we have a new target in our sights: 12 July sees us host our first play day at the yard, and I may even be so bold as to ride him in neither a bridle nor a halter…