A Guide To Shedding Tools!

It has come to the time of year when those of us who have unclipped horses are being punished for letting them grow their own rugs over winter.  Suddenly they are like bird nest machines, shedding hair everywhere and sometimes they need a little helping hand! Over the years I have used plenty of different gadgets to help Pea to shed her winter fluff so here’s a low down of our recommendations. All of these have been bought with my own money and my opinions are certainly my own and based on solid use.

The ‘Cheap and Cheerful All-Rounder’

These metal ‘shedding blades’ are pretty cheap (from £4) and effective at catching loose hairs and sweeping them away especially when you open them up like a scythe! I wouldn’t recommend using one of them on sensitive areas or legs but they do a decent enough job on the body and double up as an excellent tool to remove dry mud!

The ‘Sorry I’ve Found Better’

You know what it is like, you see a video on the internet of something looking amazing and you get sucked into buying it. That’s how my YO and I ended up ordering StripHairs from America a few years ago. When they arrived, although we were in slight shock that we’d spent so much money on what is essentially a rubber block, we thought they were great but they are hard work to use and have been far outclassed by more recent purchases! I know StripHair have changed the design of their blocks and I can’t comment on the new ones (they cost $39) but if I wanted a shedding specific tool I would certainly buy…

The ‘Best In Test’

I bought a SleekEZ two years ago with my Eqclusive brush pack (they cost £19.95 individually) and I haven’t looked back! It is so effective at taking out the hair that is ready to be shed and is so satisfying to use. The difference in all of our horses’ coats from the year before to the year we used these in the lead up to our riding school vet inspection was incredible. Because it is essentially a ridged metal blade coming from a wooden block, you have to be careful about pressure, particularly in more sensitive areas.

The ‘New Classic’

Although I use the SleekEZ on most of Pea’s body I turn to my Eqclusive curry comb (£7 each) particularly for her tummy and legs. It is the perfect reincarnation of a traditional rubber curry comb with a solid rubber structure but soft tips. In circular motions it teases all the ‘shed ready’ hair out of the coat, gets rid of any mud and provides a sort of massage for your horse.

Do you have any other shedding tools you could recommend?

Six Months In The Saddle

At the end of February it will have been six months since I started riding again with my new hip so I thought it was about time I looked back on what Pea and I have achieved in that time.  There are lots of links to past posts in case you have missed any!

C20B850E-10C8-448D-8604-611361A2933B.jpeg

September (Month 1)

In all honesty, in September the key achievement was getting on and staying there for more than ten minutes!  I found it really hard to sit in the saddle in the first place although it gradually got better as each ride went on and each time I rode.  By the end of the month I managed to trot my way round an Intro dressage test for Dressage Riders Online.

October (Month 2)

I found riding quite mentally challenging in October because I felt guilty about how little I was doing.  I was still only riding for ten to fifteen minutes at a time.  However, at the end of October, I cantered for the first time since my operation.  It was very uncomfortable!

A798D6FF-136C-4B22-A03E-83BCB04CED51

November (Month 3)

At the beginning of November we took Pea to Lyneham for my first lesson in about six months.  My instructor rode Pea for a while and then I did and I went away feeling on top of the world.  I had a few weeks of feeling really good about my riding (although I was still finding cantering really challenging).  However, at the end of the month I had a bump in the road where I was in pain again.

December (Month 4)

After feeling so positive about my riding for most of November, December was a bit of a flop!  I had a really good lesson at the start but then I was away house sitting and had two bouts of feeling really grotty so I didn’t do much ‘proper’ riding.  I did do a Christmas yard hack into Bourton on the Water to sing a Christmas song in the river and take my boyfriend for a ride on Christmas day.

DC877396-A00F-4099-A8C2-9B904A4DE2F4

January (Month 5)

January was a much better month for riding.  I took on the Bronze Top Barn Challenge which meant I rode (or did groundwork with Pea) for at least three hours each week.  I also entered and completed my first competition with my new hip (which was also our first competition away from home and in an indoor arena) and had another amazing lesson with my instructor.  Everything was a bit disconnected and wonky at the competition but Pea started working so nicely in my lesson and I finally felt like she was starting to accept the contact and become supple.  This continued when I was schooling at home too and I was strong and comfortable enough to be riding for longer.  I’ve certainly found that a longer warm up has been beneficial and the difference in my leg since my hip replacement has meant that I’m still comfortable enough to keep going afterwards!

February (Month 6)

February was meant to bring my second competition of the year and my step back up to prelim (which I was competing at before my hip replacement) but first we had snow and then the equine flu saga exploded so I haven’t been out competing and I haven’t been out for any lessons.  It has been really frustrating because I feel like things were just starting to fall together and now they are on hold HOWEVER Pea has been schooling really nicely at home.  She is a lot more off my leg and seems to be working more correctly.  The big achievement this month has been our hacking.  I haven’t always been confident about hacking but this month I have been going out for 60/70 minute hacks ON MY OWN (with Pea!)  A massive achievement for me.

Next Steps

I’m hoping to get back out again in March providing my yard owner is happy for that to happen.  I want to be confidently riding prelims with passable canter movements by the time the summer comes so lots of practice, some lessons and trying out some more competition venues is on the ‘to do’ list.

Back To School

It has been another big week for me!  I started my new job (back in a school) on Monday and today Pea and I went for our first lesson since my hip replacement.

I’ve had a few really sluggish and frustrating schooling sessions recently and I decided I am better enough to gain something from a lesson.  I feel like I’ve got use of my leg back but I’ve completely forgotten how to ride! I spoke to my instructor and we agreed that she would ride Pea for half the time and I would ride the rest.

It didn’t start particularly well – we haven’t taken the trailer out since before my operation, we have a different car and just generally hadn’t quite prepared that side of things!  Once we’d located a key for the hitch lock, botch job attached the correct number plate to the trailer and pumped up the tires, I made my boyfriend drive along the yard track and back to convince me I was happy to put Pea in.  We have a bad track record of trailer outings being a bit stressful and this one was no exception.

HOWEVER, once we were there (only five minutes late) it was all worth it!  My instructor rode for a while which is so good for Pea because she doesn’t often (ever?) have anyone riding her who can actually ride!  She’s had fairly limited proper schooling in her ridden career and definitely showed that.  I then got on and had a lesson.  We are working on getting Pea more forward, accepting the contact and becoming more supple.

F40DC75F-E794-4D2D-9A19-7CF0D2FFC8F6

I am SO aware that my instructor riding Pea set her up to go better for me than she does when I get on cold but it still wasn’t easy, I still had to find those buttons.  I feel like I rode better today than I did in my last lesson (before my operation) so I’m feeling very positive about where we are going riding-wise and I left with the biggest smile on my face!

C1814198-A3B6-4A61-B88C-942E4374D22F.jpeg

As you can see, being a fluffy, unrugged wild pony isn’t very conducive with being a dressage diva.. Pea was SWEATY.  If anyone has any bright suggestions as to how to deal with it I’d love to hear them – it is too cold for proper washing, is clipping my only option now?

Living My Life!

So here we are, nearly a week on from that top doctor advice that now I can ‘go and live my life’..  I thought I’d give a little update on how life is going.

The Downs

  • I’m fully back in the swing of my work schedule now.  I work 9.30-5.30 in one job and then work as a private tutor in the evenings which means..
  • I am SO pushed for riding time.  The evenings are rapidly getting darker and although I’m still only riding for short periods of time, when I ride after work on non tutoring days I feel so rushed!
  • Rushing is not good for my still recovering body.  After feeling so knackered from walking and mucking out ONE stable I have been doing some reading on how much muscle you lose from inactivity.  I am very much still getting my strength back, if I rest between activities I am ok but when I’m rushing I end up in pain or with cramp! It upsets me that this time last year at my old job there were 20 stables to muck out between two of us and this year I can barely do one!

The Ups

  • Although my brain is still stressed about work, money and time, I feel so much more relaxed about my leg.  I’ve been moving and sitting however I want and so far haven’t had any dodge moments since my restrictions have been lifted.
  • I’ve adjusted my mindset when it comes to my riding and it has made me feel much better.  My first ride made me feel like I had gone so far backwards and then as I did more to try to rectify that I was worried I was overdoing it.  I had some great advice that if I thought I was overdoing it.. I probably was and that aching is ok but not pain.  So I’ve stripped back my expectations and I stop when I get to the pain stage.  I’m treating my riding as though I’m starting from scratch again but am pleasantly progressing at a slightly accelerated rate than I did this time five years ago (when I first started riding!) I did something this week which was very exciting but I’m going to have to wait until next weekend to write about it.. watch this space!
  • I’m getting the hang of our new camera and so is my boyfriend.  We both love photography so it is nice to be able to take better quality pictures for my blog and social media.  We have a Canon with a 18-55 lense but are pondering what longer lense or waterproofing equipment we may need in the future (British Dressage Championships in the rain was tricky) – if anyone has any top tips please let me know!
  • I’m generally feeling more positive about the future with my scrummy pony, snazzy camera and bionic hip!

896B308E-CA8E-46E1-9A7A-0692B0A83ECB.jpeg

Back In The Saddle Dilemmas!

As I said in Week Ten/Day One I’m back in the saddle. After my initial upset at how much I’m having to start from scratch and how painful and uncomfortable my first ride was, things have improved gradually. On my second ride I trotted, on my third ride I managed ten minutes, on my fourth I hacked out and on my fifth.. well the achievement was that I’d ridden the day before and I was able to ride again!  Slowly but surely my leg is starting to hug Pea’s side rather than stick out awkwardly and my body is starting to remember what to do (whether it is doing it or not is another matter!)

It has been quite a challenge to reprogramme the part of my brain that thought once I was riding again I’d be able to just crack on. At the moment I have short stirrups and eye-sore heels (as you can see below), my bum is nowhere near as deep in the saddle as it needs to be, my riding sessions are very short and the idea of riding five times a week is a pipe dream! Pushing the negatives aside, as I said – it is all getting better every time I ride even if the pictures aren’t showing that!

0B0FEE36-7802-48EC-941C-4A0F6B0502F5

The question is – what should I be doing? My physio has advised me to walk as much as I can and I am meant to be strengthening my muscles, in particular my core. She also gave me permission to ride which is meant to be helping me to stop collapsing through my left side (as I am doing below!) The problem is, every ride involves lots of walking in order to get Pea and turn her out after which hurts and tires me out and the riding does the same. I don’t know if it is possible to quantify the right amount of walking and riding for where I am in my recovery right now. The old adage of listening to my body isn’t working – if I listened to my body I wouldn’t be doing much at all which completely goes against the idea of building my strength. I don’t know where to draw the line!

1DD3A7B2-E73C-4D57-937B-0ABFEEFFB0C5

My next physio appointment which was meant to be next week has been pushed back to the beginning of October (due to staff training) but I am seeing my surgeon a week tomorrow.  In the meantime I will just have to try to achieve a middle ground between what I want to do and doing nothing!  Putting my worries to the back of my mind – I’m just happy to be back on board!

2F88FB29-6A4E-45AA-905A-F75B9603F753.jpeg

 

 

 

Week Ten/Day One

At ten weeks post hip replacement this morning I felt like I had pretty much bossed most normal person activities (walking unaided, driving, cycling, working and sleeping on my side).  Now I have attempted what feels like the last piece of the puzzle (riding Pea) I feel like I am starting a whole new journey from day one.

If we rewind to this morning, I had an appointment with my physio.  Last time she saw me I still had a crutch some of the time and I hadn’t started driving yet so for me to bounce in on my own she was pretty impressed.  She pointed out that although I’m not as wonky as  I was, I’m collapsing my upper body to the left because that is how my body is stabilising.  Obviously this isn’t what I should be doing so I’ve got lots more tough exercises to do to straighten me up and strengthen my core and need to spend a bit more time in front of a mirror to check I’m doing it right!  I asked her what she thought about me riding and she said that if I felt I would be ok, it would probably be good for me to get back to it.

I had a busy morning helping out at the yard and when it was over, I managed to get Pea in, brush her and get ready to ride.  I had built up in my mind that as soon as I was given the go ahead to ride, my body would be ready and that riding would mark the end of my proper recovery time.  That wasn’t really the case.  Getting on was fine but I couldn’t sit properly in the saddle as my hip just wouldn’t open up as wide as it needed to – it felt stretched and it hurt!  I had a walk around the arena and I felt my bum settle down into the saddle more rather than being sat on the back like it was at the beginning.  My leg wasn’t exactly hanging down, I didn’t feel like I could push my heel down, there was a funny crunching feeling when I moved and it hurt.  Dismounting was fine, I practically laid on Pea with my legs together then swung them round together.

4C3C5281-6B25-46E3-BB56-8F10317E1F6D.jpeg

I got off feeling pretty devastated – I didn’t expect to be cantering round the arena but I did expect to be able to sit and walk comfortably.  I had to hark back to my own advice on positivity from the other day and think I’m probably still in the wallowing stage though I am very aware how lucky I am to even be sitting on a pony!

D9434B37-1B9B-4CD7-B18F-2886B794F86B.jpeg

I need to wind my expectations in and realise that the return to riding is going to be a long journey.  Today was day one, stage one – sitting on my pony.  It might take me weeks to be able to sit properly, or trot, or ride for more than a few minutes.  I’m going to try to be patient – after all, I’m 26, Pea’s 12, all things being well we have many many more years together.

Any words of wisdom to help me with this would be most welcome – there is a trustly booklet from the NHS for hip replacement recovery but I’m yet to find a returning to riding one!

Tack Tales

Today I am taking up the challenge from Haynet and Equestrian Co to write about my tack because a.  I love talking about anything and everything to do with Pea (if you haven’t read her story please do) and b.  I would really love to win a tack trolley to help my post hip replacement body not have to carry so much!  For me, each piece of Pea’s tack is special.  It represents her new (or now not so new) life as a single human owner.  It represents me and us and the sheer joy of PopPea (our totally cringe couple name).

The Bridle

Long before I bought Pea (while I was leasing her), I bought her a Kincade flash bridle from Countrywide (RIP).  It was no different to the bridle she had already, aside from the fact that it was my first proper purchase for her (numnahs dont count!)  It is now hung on the wall in my spare room/study with our rosettes.

The Browband(s)

I learnt how to make patterned browbands out of ribbon when I first started leasing Pea in April 2014 which was the start of a series of girly browbands for Pea.  I have always run with the theory that if I’m going to have a pretty little mare, I can get away with pink, sparkles, patterns and all things girly.  Once Pea had gone through blue and white ribbons, pink ribbons and all sorts of other bright and beautifuls, I treated her to her first diamonds (ha!)  In November 2015, Rachel (my top hacking buddy) and I celebrated our birthdays with a trip to Your Horse Live.  It was amazing, we loved it and I came away with the most tasteful sparkly browband I could find!

6473AB5F-ACD7-4927-9862-661542037214

The Saddle

This was the biggy.  Once I had bought Pea (in 2016), I needed and wanted to get her a saddle of her own.  The saddle Pea has before I bought her used to belong to a different pony.  It fitted fine but it wasn’t altered to fit her and it certainly didn’t fit my bum very well!  I opted for a Thorowgood T8 Cob GP saddle.  I wanted to buy new but my budget was pretty limited having just, for the first time in my life, bought a pony!  We had a few Thorowgoods at the yard and I liked the flexibility of the changeable gullets.  The Thorowgoods we had were T4s and I had seen far too often how long it takes for a suede seat to dry out after a rainy hack so I knew I didn’t want one of those.  The day the saddler came to fit my saddle was the day I truly felt the difference a saddle could make.  At that point I could barely pick up canter but with my new saddle, I was cantering all round the school!  My saddle genuinely went home to bed with me in the early days.  I loved it then and I always will however much some people frown upon it for only being part leather!

00EC1C27-BE68-4609-A119-5E0F206E61F0.jpeg

The Girth

At the same time I bought the saddle I bought Pea her own girth.  It is non slip and elasticated on both ends from Dever.  My saddler recommended it to me due to the rather round belly of Pea.  I have never had any saddle slip issues so it must do its job – it is a regular reminder of how well Pea’s diet plan is going!

The Stirrups

In the summer of 2016 I bought my own stirrups – chunky Compositi Reflex stirrups with a wide tread.  These are more a representation of my failings rather than the joy of some of the rest of our tack.  I did and still have found it hard to keep my feet where they should be, particularly my left (formerly known as my ‘bad side’!)  I figured the width and non slippy nature of these stirrups would help me.  I hope that with my new ‘new side’ and improved bionic body (post hip replacement) I will be able to graduate to Compositi Profiles instead – we will have to see!

The Bit

Until I started writing this, the significance of some of my tack was forgotton – Pea’s bit for example.  In August 2017 Pea and I embarked on our adventure to a new home and, after using the same bit from our original yard up until this point, there we started a bit (ha!) of bit experimentation.  I tried a hanging cheek snaffle after an exciting trip out cubbing but went back to a loose ring snaffle with a lozenge like we had before – simple and familiar.  I’d love to go to a bit clinic and see what bit would really suit Pea – has anyone been to one?

The (Other) Bridle

On our return home to our original yard in Gloucestershire a few months ago, I bought Pea a Micklem bridle (with a sparkly browband of course).  I had considered it for a long time and lots of my friends have or had them for their horses.  I am yet to discover whether the ‘kind and sympathetic’ design has any positive effect on Pea as I barely had a chance to ride her in it before I had to stop for my operation but it doesn’t appear to have done any harm!

3B0305A2-FC13-4A4A-BDF4-E80F4818FD94.jpeg

The Future

I dream of having a dressage saddle.  Now that I have found the discipline I want to pursue it has become the top of my fantasy shopping list and I am rather enjoying the research for it.  A dressage saddle would represent the next stage in the journey for me and Pea and you never know, we might be lucky enough to have a tack trolley to put it on!

Totally Hands Free And Tall!

Today marks FIVE days of being completely crutch free.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to maintain it so I am very proud of myself for keeping it up and the slightly scary thing is that my step count has not gone down!  I’ve walked around the farm at my old place of work and been to visit a friend’s new livery yard as well as walking to work and at my yard so I’ve tackled a range of terrain too!

It hasn’t been easy.  I have to concentrate on every single step and I feel like I am walking quite stiffly.  I have been getting tired as the days have gone on but I haven’t got to the hobbling stage so it isn’t too bad.  I had a bit of a scare today – I did a funny step on the pavement walking home from work and it felt like my hip tried to pop out..  It didn’t pop out so the muscles must be good but I’m a bit worried now – I think a call to the physio is in order to check that everything sounds ok.  I’m not sure whether I am trying to do too much.

441E2FA3-80F5-4C64-BDC1-1320439A1AF8.jpeg

The other revelation this week is that common opinion suggests I am taller since my operation!  I saw friends from my old job (who I haven’t seen since my operation) and everyone thought I was taller.  I’m not sure whether that is as a result of my slightly lengthened left leg or whether it is because I am walking straighter and not sticking my bum out so much!  Either way the longer leg and the straighter walking are good things – I can’t wait to try out my leg and altered seat on Pea in a few weeks time.  Here’s a hint of my old leg wonkiness in pictorial form!

3D9F2DCD-B66F-4968-B6A5-62D9F46EE590

I am seeing the physio on the 28th and I am going to ask her what she thinks of me riding again.  If she says yes I’ll do it – I feel ready at the moment but I just don’t want to risk undoing all the hard work and I am still on hip precaution restrictions.  If she says to wait until 12 weeks then so be it, I’m hoping to have many more years of riding left!  For now I’m spending more and more time looking back through pictures of me riding.  I made this collage for the two year anniversary of owning Pea – I hope that by January I’ll have plenty to add to document my third year of pony ownership!

6F98CA69-2D9B-480A-9590-40B97FBFDCAD

Nearly Normal

In one week it will have been two months since my operation which sounds like an awful long time!  I have started to realise how much I have wished away the last two months and am almost surprised to find myself on the uphill to November birthdays and Christmas (my brain still works in school terms).  Things are certainly on the up and I’m getting closer and closer to ‘normal’.

  • I’m working a lot more – now a day off is a treat every few days rather than a near everyday occurrence!  Although it would be nice not to have to work, working more is definitely making life feel more normal.
  • I am doing more walking (at least 5,000 steps a day).  I’ve moved on from using my crutch and then picking it up to do some unattended walking to leaving my crutch in the car or at home and going about my daily business ‘hands free’.  The other day I walked to see Pea, noticed some ragwort nearby so ended up doing two trips to the field in order to dig it out.  Digging was an interesting one – new leg on the fork or on the floor?  I did a bit of both!
  • I’m wearing proper clothes!  The heat wave is over and the good old English rain has arrived which has prompted me to ditch the summer dresses I have been wearing since my operation.  First, I went to leggings (I couldn’t quite face seams near my scar) but I have since rocked jeans, socks, trainers and wellies though I have had to have a bit of help with putting them on!

0CC7E125-0452-438B-BD2C-4E9C2452EF03.jpeg

Yesterday I decided to put my ‘nearly normalness’ to the test.  It wasn’t a normal day.  It was a wonderful, special day – the wedding of a very good friend of mine.  I didn’t want to be that person who made a big scene by rocking up to church with a crutch and my own cushion and I certainly didn’t want to be one of those people who sits at a table all night without dancing.  I am proud to say that I did all of the wedding stuff without using the crutch I had stashed in the corner and I danced the night away (albeit carefully) until nearly midnight.  Don’t ask me how I managed to dance without breaking my hip precautions.. the important thing is I didn’t dislocate my hip!  It was a really lovely day and I was so glad to be a part of it.

B19D968B-4225-49C4-B99A-870BB5BC604E.jpeg

Nearly normal is good.  Normal will be even better.  I’m so looking forward to being able to paint my toenails, shave my legs, tie my laces and most importantly, ride my pony!

Ride And Drive!

Sadly the riding I’m doing isn’t exactly the kind I have been so missing but it is something.  In Week Six – (Partial) Freedom I mentioned that my physio suggested I try cycling.  I couldn’t quite face wobbling around on a bike and inevitably ending up on the floor.  Luckily a wonderful friend has lent me a turbo trainer so my recently neglected bicycle is now installed in the living room.  With each rotation of the left pedal my new hip gives a little click feeling but it seems to be ok.  I’m going to slowly build up my cycling time to get these muscles working!

31D908DA-46B6-42DE-BD7B-BCF3AF26A9B1

I am also very much back driving.  The first time I drove on the roads I just went down the road to the yard (a five minute or so drive).  I felt quite panicky, there were motorbikes chasing me down the hill and then on the way home I had to do what felt like a million hill starts in slow moving traffic.  Aside from the slightly dodgy first drive, things are back to normal driving wise.  With the extra freedom that comes with independent travel also comes a bit of anxiety; I am quite nervous of walking in busy places worrying that someone might knock me over and I generally feel a bit vulnerable being alone.  I’m sure this too will pass and I will get back to being strong and independent!

I’m so desperate to ride Pea again.  The other day I climbed over a gate and thought that if I could straddle a gate, I could probably get on a pony.  I have set myself the restriction that until I can do everything myself (bring her in, turn her out and muck out her stable) I shouldn’t be riding.  On Tuesday I made a leap towards this; I got to the yard and Pea had been on a ride so she was in her stable.  I left my crutch by the stable, took her to the wash area, hosed her off and then took her out to her field.  Walking crutchless when you’ve got a pony to help at any sticky points is all fine until they spot a tasty bit of grass..  The other problem was that when I had turned her out, I had to walk back to the yard with nothing to help me.  I was fine but not particularly straight and smooth.  I also had to stop lots of times to rest!  Not sure what I would have been like if I had ridden as well but I guess I will find out when the time is right!

996BA96E-9405-493D-8A53-E32B26B58BE1.jpeg

%d bloggers like this: