Sunday, 1 November 2009

3 months on...

Well, I'm definitely pacing myself as far as the blog is concerned. It's a month since the first posting but then I'd hate to bore you with too much detail too often. So, where are we at? Well, the purchase of the farm has been on then off then on then off and for now it is on. We have a final deadline of Nov 30th to find the deposit and then April first to find the balance. Our main house in Kingham is under offer so that's a big relief as I was beginning to wonder if it would move at anything close to our asking price. We took a fairly substantial cut as it was and add to that the fall in sterling against the euro we're cutting things fine to say the least. Well, that's just the way it is. I keep telling myself if it is meant to be then it will happen as long as we do what we can to make it happen. Goodness knows I have tried hared enough not to buy it but each time I say no it just comes back again. The bank are making some fairly good noises about lending us the difference we need to make it a going concern and I was hoping to have an offer in principle by now but alas am still waiting.

It's been an unusual week as the girls and Julie have been in the UK for half term. It's been nice to have some time to myself but to be honest there is not much left of me at the end of most days. I just about have enough time to get in, feed the cats, eat, write my notes, have a bath and then fall aching into bed. I have a medley of aches and pains that I won't bore you with and I seem to be getting a cold too as we get an Indian summer here with cold mornings but 18-20C in the daytime. The girls seem to have had a lovely time of it anyway but I hope there won't be too much of a backlash when they come back here. It will be a while again before they return.

The horses are all mainly well. Spirit has a bad leg and we don't really know what caused it and both Raffle and Spirit are not eating much. Willy (my teacher) is being mysterious about what might be the cause of the problem telling me to study my horses. It's been 3 months now since I have been working with Willy and I would say that I'm pleased with my progress, not ecstatic and not depressed just pleased in the knowledge that there is so much to learn. I am now fairly confident in shoeing a horse which is not bad for 3 month's work. It's not perfect of course but it is good enough for my own horses and not bad for 3 months' practice. The riding is proving a real challenge as I learn to ride not with my hands which I have hitherto done but with what is known as your 'seat', basically your bum, legs and lower torso. It's quite a habit to let go of and it really involves trusting the horse to do its part but not giving it so much freedom that it just runs away with you. I suppose it is quite a good paradigm for any relationship. Trust and respect are absolutely core and have to work both ways for it to have a chance. With horses it is just magnified 10-fold as the animal is quite capable of killing you with a single kick or bolting headlong until either you, it or both have a serious accident or worse.

I think that is what most fascinates me about horses is what they can teach me about life in general. I hope in future to run courses using horses to help children and young adults learn life skills. It is quite easy when doing something as tough as this is for me to get down and mope about but I really make every effort now to start every day positive, get up after every fall convinced it will go well next time and always keep the vision in mind. It is too easy to get stuck in the day-to-day goings-on. It is certainly the most challenging thing that I have ever done and I am used to learning fairly quickly. In fact that's my problem. I learn the basics really quickly and then get bored. Boredom is not a word I use often here.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

In the beginning...

Well, it's now been almost exactly 2 months since I started my real training so there is a lot to catch up on, far too much for a first post. Firstly I should say thanks for coming to my blog  and I hope it will be interesting enough for you to want to come back each week or so to read it and add your own comments. Training started inauspiciously the day of my birthday (August 1st) as I mounted my stallion Samson for the first time in a while. Jane and Chris, good friends from Kingham, were hear on holiday. I had been in the manege with him on the ground just to see how he was with me and he was as good as gold, following me everywhere and doing exactly what I asked him to do. So I got on him as you do but far too relaxed and not at all concentrating as you need to especially a powerful 1.68m stallion with a mare on heat in the field next door (I wasn't aware of this at the time). So it was no surprise that he took off, heading for the mare leaving me after a bit of bucking and rearing languishing on the floor wondering jsut what had happened. In the meantime he was heading for the field, jumped the fence as if it wasn't there (He easily jumps 1.70m), chased off the 2 immature stallions and had his way with the mare! Luckily, it seems, 8 weeks on that no lasting damage was done but it has taken all that time to retrain him (and me) that such behaviour is unacceptable. To say that that was the good bit of the day sort of shows you just how the rest of the day went. Out on the ride he tried to mount the other mare I was riding with. I came off again but luckily kept hold of the reins this time so he couldn't have his way. Back at the farm (Yes we did return in one piece) and in the washroom, the events of the day have got Samson excited and as I tied him up I didn't quite close the catch so he wandered free. At first he couldn't quite believe his luck then realised the chance he had and tried to mount Raffle the mare he'd just been riding out with who was standing right next to him. Stupidly I tried to catch his head (he had no lead rein as he was tied to the chain) and got caught on the knee by the mare telling Samson she wasn't interested. Amazingly it wasn't broken but it took a good 3 weeks to heal. Eventually back on horses I think I came off about 20 times in the next week or so but it calmed down and for over 3 weeks had no falls at all. The last fall of any significance I had was 10 days ago and the severe bruise has flared up so I'm at home right now.  We did have one major scare out in the 2 man sulki. We bought a Trotter, Asterix, when we arrived as a training horse as he was very cheap and due for the butchers because he couldn't run fast enough. We've taken him on and put him back in order (muscular problems were stopping him achieving his large potential) and recently started putting him back to work. This was day 3 and he had been really good all the way around. In his previous existence he had been severely beaten in frustration so he was exceedingly nervous when he came to us. But just as we nearing the farm and coming up a dirt track the post van came around the corner too fast and had to break very suddenly. This was way too much for Asterix who promptly turned around and headed off in the other direction. To cut a long story short Willy and I were both fine and the horse just got some nasty brusing and scratches on his left hind leg but it could have been much worse and was yet another reminder of the nature of this work. Since then I have been riding a lot in all sorts of situations, mostly young stallions, so I'm getting very good at not getting bucked off and not panicking if the horse rears or attempts to rear. There's a lot more to it than the riding but I in order to retrain treated horses I need to be a competent rider even if not an excellent rider. It would be nice to have the luxury of time to learn dressage and show-jumping skills. Maybe next week!

The process of learning to work with horses is quite an interesting one as I deconstruct my old ways in order to let new ways in. Willy has the most amazing ability to notice almost everything of any note which goes on around him be it with horses, people or even chickens. This ability has come from his lifetime of work with horses who, due to the fact they are a flight animal, have had to develop the most acute senses in order to survive.

Apart from horses, Julie's leg is getting better but stubbornly refusing to let her off the crutches so we really need to keep focussed on doing as much as we can. The girls are settling in and today Phoebe had her first friend round from school which is lovely. Manon's parents are very good-natured too and I can imagine they could well become friends in the future. They are doing well at school and particularly enjoying the English lessons where they help the teacher actually take the lesson which is a great confidence boost for them.

The French are all very welcoming and we feel very at home here. As we all get better at French it will help us make closer friends. So that is all for now. Happy blogging.