Recently it was the Endurance GB South West Christmas ride — this year the ride that never was for us. Each year we get dressed up in a tasteful Christmassy-themed outfit and enjoy a wonderful pleasure ride around the stunningly beautiful Lanhydrock Estate.
Wizard and Dilmun have been preparing for this, their only Endurance GB ride this year, for quite some time and the day before they were scrubbed until they were gleaming white and their tack was duly decorated in the Christmas tradition. The boys were very excited when they got dressed in their travelling gear; Dilmun was doing little half rears at his stable door and the ancient Wizard was cantering on the spot.
Then disaster struck — the trailer said “no”! It quite simply would not let the horses in. After turning out the disappointed boys, Robert and I set off without either the horses or the said trailer (now an enemy!) in order to deliver some flyers and take a few pictures of those lucky riders who were able to enjoy the ride. The trailer has now gone to hospital!
All the horses have just had their teeth checked and had their annual (or bi-annual) vaccinations and, in Chiara’s case, this was followed a few days later by an intensive physio session and lameness check. Thankfully she wasn’t exhibiting any signs of lameness either on a straight line or on a circle on both hard surfaces and in the school. This has somewhat put my mind at rest and the final thing is to sort out her saddle.
It is a busy time for little Chiara with all this going on followed by being carefully shod again and having a try on session for a new saddle. Unfortunately, because she has had a long holiday (three months) on plenty of good grass, she is not quite the shape we are aiming for in the competition season. This of course makes the fitting of a saddle really hard. There was one saddle that looked a good fit for her so of course I had to sit in it. So with bated breath, I climbed onto a ramped up Chiara to test it all out. It was great and felt wonderful to be on her back again, albeit only for a few minutes. Obviously it would be silly to buy a new saddle when she will change shape again over the next couple of months, so she will do a lot of the basic conditioning work in walk and trot by initially being led from one of the boys.
Somebody suggested long-reining Chiara — yeah, right! Initially I dismissed this idea as ridiculous; nobody could keep up with Chiara in trot and walk would be a mission. However, on reflection perhaps I should try this as I could up my fitness at the same time: could I, couldn’t I?
OK after dodging that curved ball, it is ride and lead time with Dilmun and Wizard taking it in turns to be the ridden one. It is no mean feat to ride a fit, ancient Wizard and lead a full on Chiara in howling gales and driving rain, but I am determined to religiously ensure that Chiara gets her walking in every day for the next three weeks. Just to make logistics more complicated, Fantom will come back into work tomorrow and begin his walking. As this routine means two ridden sessions per day, one first thing and one as late as possible with stable work in between, there is not much left of the daylight hours so I now have a new sub office: my tackroom. A haven where horse meets work!
I have decided to have a few private lessons to work intensively on my position, especially straightness following surgery so that I will ride as well as I possibly can.
It’s almost Christmas! We have a tree — in fact it arrived in my view rather early. This year the boys have decorated it, fed up with my ‘hurl the tinsel at it, pick up what doesn’t stick and hurl again’ tactic (in my view an energy efficient approach). This is also my approach to the dreaded clipping (yes, I had to have another go). I always say very loudly and clearly that clipping is for practical reasons and not for beauty as an excuse for my dodgy lines and clipper marks as well as rather moth-eaten heads. However, secretly I suffer from clipper envy as I look at almost everyone else’s beautiful straight lines and shiny hairless bodies and heads.
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As this is my last blog of the year, it is time to thank my amazing sponsors Feedmark, for all the support and help I have received this year from them. Also I truly appreciate my wonderful back-up team: crew Anderijn, Robert, Katherine, Graham, Jo, Andrew, John and Jane. I have a fantastic physio, a great saddler and the ever-patient Jamie the farrier all working together to keep my horses happy and healthy: I am one lucky person!
For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine out every Thursday