2021 Goals!

Reading last year’s new year goals is almost comical. I intended on having a busy year competing in different venues and was looking into doing dressage to music. I wanted to improve my flexibility and seat too. Oh and throw a nice big DIY party for our wedding! Needless to say, I achieved none of these.. I have spent more of the year NOT riding than riding, my exercise routine has been massively affected by both COVID and being pregnant and our wedding party was cancelled (though we did get married!)

Who knows what this year will bring! At the moment we are in a tier 4 ‘lockdown’ and it looks like from a national point of view, the first few months of this year at least will be largely restricted by COVID. On a personal point of view, I’m due to have my baby in a week or two and Pea is currently a roughed-off, fluffy bog pony. I have no idea how early motherhood is going to be and how I’m going to be able to juggle that with pony ownership so I just have one goal for 2021 and anything more than that will be a bonus!

Balance

This year I aim to achieve some kind of balance between being a mum and ‘normal life’. I want to be able to ride again in some capacity and get Pea back to looking as loved as she is!

2020 – A Year In Review

Looking back at the beginning of the year, it is hard to remember the normality we experienced in January and February. Pea was prescribed uphill canter work to strengthen her back so after one dressage outing, we focused on trips to the gallops. I also made a much longed for investment in a second hand dressage saddle – not realising at the time that it would spend most of the year in our downstairs cupboard!

When the first lockdown hit in mid March, I made the decision to stop riding. Everything indicated that the last thing the NHS needed was people falling off their horses so that was that! Though it was a worrying time with the yard being closed to business, for those of us who were allowed to go, the peace, quiet and sunshine was pretty nice. Being able to walk empty pavements to the yard was also pretty awesome!

The sunshine continued into April and I dabbled with leading Pea to the river, lunging and attempting some in hand and liberty work. Things were somewhat more complicated in May though as Pea had a strange period of being poorly – chokey, coughy and all very worrying for me. Part of her recovery involved moving to the long grass so when she seemed to be better I decided I needed to start riding again and get her waistline under control! That happened to coincide with finding out I was pregnant but I got back riding for a good few weeks anyway. In June, having told a couple of people about the baby, I lost my bottle for riding and stopped.

Pea did a bit of hacking for the yard during July while I was a total sleepy zombie. We did continue to go for walks and I spent some time pampering and primping Pea in preparation for her big role in our wedding photos in August. The yard was well and truly open again so I kept anti-social hours trying to avoid people but keep connected with ponies! Returning properly to work in September and the days getting shorter made that even more difficult.

The last few months have not been very easy when it comes to spending time with Pea. Work hours have been long and daylight hours short! Normally I’m happy to stumble around in the dark but it has been different this year needing to think about someone else’s wellbeing. I also had a spell of isolation which was horrible – never in the time I have been a horse owner have I had to stay away from Pea like that. The mud and my growing baby bump (as well as a herd move with bigger, grumpier and hay orientated mares) have also made things more difficult. This is also the first winter that Pea has remained naked since I’ve had her – she is SO muddy and SO fluffy but ultimately has got her own waterproof system in place and is probably fatter than every previous winter too so she’s ok.

The Next Chapter

I was hiding a little secret when I last blogged and although that secret has been shared to some for a while now, it is recently fully in the public domain – we are due to have a little addition to the family in January!

Returning to riding

Pea was poorly back in May – I’m still not sure what it was but the vet thought she had had choke in the field and that is why she was struggling to chew and coughing. We had moved her onto the long grass to make her eating easier and when she seemed better and lockdown was starting to lift, I decided that it was time to ride again. Weight management has always been an issue for Pea and I knew riding would help to balance out the grass. I chose a day to do it and got myself psyched up.. Then found out I was pregnant on that morning!

Riding when pregnant is a very personal choice. I had always said I wouldn’t want to ride when pregnant but I got back on that day and carried on for a good month until I lost my bottle. It is no coincidence that the day I lost my bottle was the day after I had told a couple of close people. I haven’t got on since and I won’t.

First trimester

Peoples say you’ll be tired and sick but nothing actually prepares you for what it will feel like. I was exhausted and, while not physically sick, nauseous throughout the day with little warning or cause. There were pains, twinges, funny feelings and the most overwhelming anxiety I have ever experienced. Only having a handful of people to share your feelings with is also tricky but I didn’t feel ready to share with more until the 12 week scan.

The wedding

By the end of June, weddings were permitted (under significant COVID restrictions) and we managed to get our notice of marriage appointment just in time to keep our 15th August wedding date. Our plan was to get married at the registry office with our mums watching (2 guests allowed!) and then return ‘home’ for some photos with our parents and our special pony. After four weeks of summer holiday having dress fittings, rustling up some hair and makeup plans (not my forte) and still being completely exhausted despite the apparent blossoming you are meant to experience in the second trimester, that is exactly what we did. It was a pretty unique wedding experience, we got ready in the same house (just the two of us), drove to the registry office in our beloved Freelander, had the little ceremony, went back ‘home’ for photos and then were in our comfy clothes and driving to Devon by the afternoon. It was very special and the important thing was that we got married (with the baby bump and Pea as part of our day).

Where I am now

A few days after the wedding we had our 20 week scan and found out that our baby is cooking well and he is a little boy! I can’t say that the anxiety has gone (at all!) but I feel more and more mentally able to prepare for having a baby now than I did before. It has also helped to feel him move. Gathering a few baby bits is amazing too. Being back at work has been pretty full on though so this stage definitely has its own challenges.

What about Pea?

Pea is absolutely fine, she is doing some gentle hacking at the yard and I still see her daily. I do feel deeply guilty that I’m not giving her more of my time though. In the evenings I just need dinner and bed and at the weekends the yard is so busy which doesn’t really work when I’m trying to keep my distance from people. I don’t quite know how things are going to be for the next few months but Pea is a very important part of our family so I’ll have to work things out as they go along!

Where Have I Been?

In all honesty, nowhere!  As lockdown eases gradually, it seems logical to record my experience since this all kicked off in March.

Like most people I have found this whole ‘staying at home’ a mixture of incredibly difficult and somewhat revolutionary!  I have used my allowed daily exercise each evening to go to the yard, be with Pea and do some mucking out!  The rest of the time I have stayed at home with the exception of a few trips into work when I have needed to.  Only in the last week have I been back in work full time rather than working from home.  All of my family live far away so I haven’t seen any of them in real life during this time.

The lowlights:

  • I have really missed normal work!
  • I miss seeing my family – particularly the little ones who are growing up so quickly
  • I’ve had to be careful with my hip – sitting at a desk all day and then doing a day’s worth of exercise in one go has been slightly challenging for it!
  • Having to cancel the wedding we had planned and not knowing whether we will be able to still sign the piece of paper on the date or not.
  • The (almost goes without saying) total anxiety and fear of the virus and what it can do!  I’m lucky that I don’t have to do the food shopping in my house but I am more and more terrified of having to fuel my car.

The highlights:

  • More video chats and phone calls with family than ever before.
  • The push to be imaginative with exercise for me and Pea including far more walking than usual (though I’ve started riding again in the last few weeks).
  • More sleep (on the nights the anxiety lets me sleep!)
  • Being forced to stay at home at the weekends has given me the chance to get on top of the housework and spend more time with Alex.
  • Realising just how lucky I am to have the family, friends, job, pets and health that I do.

What’s In My Grooming Kit?

Over the years I’ve had my horse, Pea, I feel like I’ve refined the contents of my grooming kit to cope with all weathers and all events – am I missing anything?

Coat care

SleekEZ – An absolute necessity at this time of year – the best thing I’ve found for helping to shed a winter coat and we’ve tried plenty!

Metal curry comb – This will be out of my grooming kit for the summer months but right back in for winter as it is the best thing for dry mud on hairy ponies.

HAAS brushes – I have the white/grey/coloured pack from Eqclusive.  The Schimmel brush (the first in the pack) is particularly amazing and I also keep the second in my everyday grooming box though I reserve brushes 3 and 4 (the dreamy sheepskin Diva brush) for my competition kit.

Curry comb – Forget traditional rubber and plastic curry combs, this “New Generation” one (from Eqclusive) is so good for mud, hair and using with the HAAS brushes to clean them after each stroke.

Magic brush – These get rid of dried mud but are also really good for scrubbing during a bath.

Hair care

Pea’s thick, gravity defying mane is pretty hard to manage but I think I’ve got as many tools as anyone can think of to keep it under control!

Mane and tail brush – Basic, robust – also functions as an emergency hairbrush!

Mane and tail conditioner – Carr & Day & Martin Canter Mane & Tail is my conditioner of choice.

Rake – A useful tool – this thins the mane (or tail).  Mine is a Smart Grooming one and they have different grades depending on the type of hair you are trying to thin.

SoloComb – For those who are opposed to mane pulling the SoloComb is a good alternative.  It doesn’t thin the mane as much as pulling but it is definitely kinder.

Metal comb – I’m not generally a mane pulling fan but I have given it a go.  I usually use this to help me to trim Pea’s feathers – she is not a clipper fan so I have got pretty good at scissor trims in the last 6 years!

Hairdressing scissors – Perfect for trimming feathers and beards alike!

Equi-Shave – A Smart Grooming tool – some people use these on fine horse’s feathers or whiskers but I use mine for refining the trimming of Pea’s beard!

Dog trimmers – These don’t do a proper clip (and Pea doesn’t like clippers anyway) but they are useful for light jobs like beards and not-too-floofy feathers.  I am using mine to try to get Pea used to the sound and feel of clipping.  There are loads of different ones like these on Amazon and Ebay and they are cheap too.

Hoof care

Looking clean and pretty is all well and good but there is a important saying “no foot, no horse”.

Hoof pick – A staple in every grooming kit.

Hoof oil/dressing – I keep a homemade hoof dressing in my grooming kit which is made from lard, oil and tea tree.  I do have black hoof ointment too but I keep that in my competition box.

If you would like a more visual tour of my grooming kit favourites head over to my YouTube.

These Boots Are Made For..

I’m a firm believer that there are two things you shouldn’t scrimp on – your bed and your shoes.  You spend most of your life in one or the other!  

Wellies

Every equestrian needs a good pair of wellies.  I got my Le Chameau Vierzonord Neoprene Lined Boots just before I started my full time horsey job. They kept me warm and supported through the “beast from the East” and the 40,000 step days and they are still going strong (albeit with some mastic sealing a small split). They are pricey but the neoprene makes all the difference.

9593E3E3-9F42-43FE-AE26-A7FC4296485C

Summer boots

Mercifully there is a time when wellies can be put away but feet still need to protected from hooves. My summer yard boots of choice, which also double as walking boots, are the Mountain Horse Spring River Lace Boots.

7FB0629B-DFB2-4145-AC3E-D293AD3AAF34

Riding boots

I dream of Celeris boots or Deniros but for now I’m satisfied to have some boots that fit my foot and my calf after years of having one-size-fits-all boots. Mine are Tredstep although I still use my standard size Mark Todds for everyday use.

0380464B-8B5B-4395-BAA3-1200F68FBAAA

Country boots

It is always good to have something that will take you round the course walk of Badminton but also take you from a hack to the pub. My Woof Wear Fonte Verde Marvaos do exactly this: they are safe to ride in but stylish enough to wear in “normal” company!

1DF20D22-81A0-4DE4-AC11-66C3F22877E4

Smart boots

Are you really a horsey girl if you don’t like the look of tasselled Spanish riding boots for non-horsey times? I’m lucky enough to have Fairfax & Favor Reginas – I have to say they aren’t as comfortable as the other boots listed here but they are beautiful. I even wear them to work and “pink tassel Friday” is a real thing!

Shoes

I think this post has made it blindingly obvious that I’m a big boot fan but for all other eventualities there are deck shoes. I wear my Chathams to work and pretty much everywhere else.

To watch my “Spring Boot Clean” – head over to my YouTube.

Won’t Ride, Will Horse

Back in 2018, when I was recovering from my hip replacement, I wrote a guide called “Can’t Ride, Can Horse” with some suggestions for things you can do relating to horses when you can’t ride.  Nearly 2 years later, we are ALL in a fairly similar situation.  The BHS have said

“We advise that it is not appropriate to put unnecessary pressure on the emergency services and everyone should make their own individual decision as whether riding is necessary at this time.”

Personally, as you’ll see from my March Madness post, I decided to stop riding a few weeks ago but I have found plenty of things to do instead and have lots of ideas that I haven’t got to yet.

Most of these assume you can still see your horse/go to the yard. Under current UK rules, you are still allowed to tend to your horses -as that is essential to their welfare – unless your yard owner says otherwise or you are ill/shielding/self isolating as long as you follow social distancing rules.  I am in no way encouraging anyone to travel unnecessarily.  Please use your own judgement as to which of these are suitable for you.

Exercise

With the health of your horse in mind, if you are not riding anymore and intend on roughing them off, you need to decrease their exercise slowly.  If you are hoping to continue to exercise your horse – while the government still permits it – these ideas work too.

  • Walking in hand – I am aware that this isn’t an option for everyone but if it is safe to do so, walking your horse in hand is exercise for both of you!  Make sure you use a bridle rather than a headcollar if you are actually going somewhere!
  • Lunging – Lunging is generally considered to be a pretty safe way of exercising your horse (as long as you wear gloves and a hat).  Just be careful not to do too much as going around in circles does put strain on your horse’s joints.
  • Groundwork/Liberty/Trick training – There are so many activities you can do with your horse on the ground to improve your bond and have fun!
  • Stretches – If you don’t already do this with your horse, now would certainly be the time to start!

D482D838-0EC2-42DF-BEA9-10E01ABDD92D

Help

  • Buddy up – With key workers working more than ever, parents having their children at home and travel being restricted it might be worth buddying up to help others with their yard jobs. At my yard we are spreading our visits through the day and sharing some of the jobs while there is no staff
  • Adopt/sponsor – Some equestrian businesses have lost nearly their entire income probably for the rest of the year but still need to feed and care for their animals.  Many – my yard included – have set up adoption or sponsorship schemes so if you have a few pounds to spare, this might be something you can get involved with.

D1047999-779A-41A1-9C6C-3D42ED12C78B

Spring clean

  • Grooming – Now is the time to help your horse to lose their winter coat and to get rid of that winter grime.  I’ve tried out a lot of shedding tools but my favourite is the SleekEZ.
  • Bathing – The weather has improved and now seems like a good time to be giving them a spring bath.  Even though we won’t be going out to any lessons or competitions, I can’t wait to get my Carr & Day & Martin Stain Removing Shampoo out to turn Pea’s brown legs white again and set her up for a cool summer rather than a sweaty, hairy one.
  • Brushes – If you’re going to get your horse clean, now would also be a great time to clean your brushes.  I have some much loved Eqclusive Haas brushes and I just hand-wash them in a bucket of warm, soapy water then hand them on the washing line to dry!
  • Leather – Give your tack and your boots a “birthday”.  If you’re not going to be using them for a while, it makes sense to give them a thorough clean and think about how to store them without the risk of them getting mouldy.  Carr & Day & Martin do a product called Ko-Cho-Line which has been produced for this very purpose.
  • Rugs – If you have got the skills and equipment, now would be a great time to mend and wash your rugs but at the very least you can sort them and store any that you won’t need for a while.
  • Washing – It is not just rugs that need washing.  If you are not riding, you’ll be free to wash all your numnahs so that they are squeaky clean for use on the other wise.
  • Trailer/Lorry – We won’t be using our horse lorries and trailers for a while so it is a good opportunity to tidy, clean and sort them out (if you are able to access them without breaking government rules).  It is also worth considering the security of your vehicles as, while there are less people out and about, there seems to be a rise in thefts.

DEB6D80E-7699-45B0-B995-8FE3128CDCFA

Other

  • Photos – As well as sorting out your own photos (getting some printed and backing them up) why not check out official competition photos from previous events and order yourself some.  I’m sure the photographers would appreciate it in these tough times.
  • Evaluate – There is little point in planning a competition schedule at the moment because we have no idea when we might be out and about again but it is a good time to look back at the last year/season and reflect on what went well and what you intend on doing differently next time around.

March Madness

Last time I checked in to my blog I was riding high (literally) with my new dressage saddle and trips up the gallops.  Life was pretty easy breezy.  Since then, the whole world has completely changed with the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic.  As I use this blog to document life it makes sense to write about this and how things changed during March.

March started with another trip up the gallops, a sunny weekend and the usual “living for the weekend” attitude – life was relatively normal (with the exception of a lack of pasta in the shops!)

1FC3C448-BCA6-4F64-8947-8D4AB1BDB4EB

By the second week, I was panicking about coronavirus.  The yard runs on tourism (as does the area in which I live) and I’ve also got a lot of friends and family who are classed as vulnerable or who are self employed.  I was getting really worried about how the situation would affect everyone.  By the weekend, I was really worried about the possibility of carrying or passing on the virus and I started avoiding places where other people would be – that basically meant going to the yard when everyone else had gone or was going home but still riding.

E35EB286-F808-4E70-A7B5-0F727B888051

By the third week, the yard was set up with hand sanitising points and disinfectant sprays to use on anything that had been touched and we were told that restrictions would be put into place soon.  The news that schools were closing to the majority of pupils came halfway through that week.  I had been putting all my focus into giving the kids I work with all the support they needed and although I tried to make the week as fun as I could in the circumstances, it was really sad.  My lesson at the weekend had been cancelled and although I rode on the Friday night after work, the next day I made the decision to stop riding.  Although I haven’t fallen off for a long time, it didn’t feel right to still be doing something that is officially high-risk especially in the knowledge that if I fell onto my hip I would probably be worse off than the average person.

7164FF5B-18E6-4B8C-87CB-DEA44D6EDA50

The first week of working from home (bar some time in work) was surreal.  It was also when we were officially told to stay at home apart from for essential shopping, exercise and work.  I set up my office in the garden and the weather was beautiful.  I have to say, working on a laptop all day everyday is not my thing.  I really miss the variety and the humans!  At this point, the yard was closed to the public but in the evenings I used my essential exercise quota to walk there and walk Pea into the next village in hand – literally everyday I got asked “aren’t you meant to sit on it?”

C5559DAE-9800-47B6-BC00-6E7D79DB05AB

By the last week of March, only the leasers and liveries were allowed to go to the yard (that is a grand total of about five of us).  My weekly routine (working until later afternoon and then going to the yard) and doing some yard jobs (a bit of mucking out, sweeping, raking etc.) continued.  At the end of March Pea and I were both getting a little bored of walking to the village so I started attempting to do some liberty training with her.  Neither of us really knew what we were doing but it was good to do something!  There were also plenty of days where I just left Pea to chill in her field.

14D11335-138D-4F61-9F62-5716F7B89671

I have no idea what the next few months will hold – there will certainly be no competition blogs – but I’ll be sure to keep recording it.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected you?

Gallops Girl

For years I’ve gone to the gallops on foot with pony racing kids and team chasers. In fact, for years I did everything I could to avoid going to the gallops on Pea! I’m just not a speed demon. Things changed a few weeks ago when Pea’s chiro said we needed to do some fast work. At this time of year our normal canter routes are quagmire so going to the gallops was the only way to make this happen.

I have been twice now, once with one pony racing kid and today with four of them! I have thoroughly enjoyed both trips and even let my stirrups be hoiked up about a million holes today (definitely not up for a racing saddle).

188FE050-B870-414E-8FC5-78285D829306

It is easy peasy, all you do is ride in a straight line, no steering required, very few transitions too. There is definitely a recipe for a successful gallops experience though:

Trust – I trust Pea and I know how she works. I admit that both times I’ve been nervous incase she brought out her firey side but have had absolutely nothing to worry about. I can walk or trot her even with other ponies bombing off in front of her – she’s an absolute star!

It is obviously also easier if you can trust the ponies and riders you are with.

5C88862C-50C5-473C-ABDC-C3A6A783C3D6

Knowledge – Knowing how to bridge your reins and getting into a safe position is what it is all about.

Equipment – Neck strap! Body protector! All the things to make you feel safe.

Have you been to the gallops?

%d bloggers like this: