This is my new blog to continue my journey with my Dales Ponies. It will also be the story of my building a new life for myself, alone now, except for my friends, horses and dogs, since my partner died in March 2009. We had lived and worked together, mostly twenty four hours a day, for nearly 28 years and I have never lived alone before. It is a tribute to my wonderful friends that I am still here, still sane(ish) and ready to re-invent myself. I love them all more than words can ever say and can never thank them enough for all they have done and are still doing. It is also a tribute to Alexandra Kurland and 'The Click That Teaches' that I know how to save myself now. To new beginnings.......

Friday, 28 August 2009

Video of Saphire.

Saphire is a four year old who has been here for a couple of weeks now. She was described as dangerous and aggressive by her former trainer whose yard she came here from. She has had a couple of sessions of targeting and this is her first matwork session, which I chose to do to tackle her issues of rushing, not thinking about what her feet are doing, pushing back into pressure and getting impatient when asked to stand still.

Saphie's young owner is a natural clicker trainer with a real understanding of timing and the need for patience and waiting for the desired response. I only did the whole session myself because she wanted to film it. I'll put up all the clips but they're a bit like watching paint dry! I think that the first and last clips illustrate the difference in Saphie's attitude and demeanor by the end of the session - not that she was bad at the start. I think that for a four year old she is quite exceptionally tolerant and easy to work with, and she picks things up like lightening.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Dales Demo..

I'm doing a little clicker training demo for a small group of friends children on Friday afternoon. I'm planning on decking my ponies out in ribbons and doing some things at liberty with Bella and Jack, then giving them little pony rides on the long suffering Grace. Grace loves small children so she will be in her element.

I need to work out a snappy routine, so they don't get bored (the children that is, my pones never get bored when clicking is involved). I'm thinking some mirroring me leg crossing and going sideways, and going backwards and forwards, standing on a pedestal, Spanish Walk, a retrieve or two, jumping at liberty, plus a bow at the end.

I'm hoping that someone will take some photos and maybe even some video, so watch this space.

I'm more nervous about this than I am my driving test in three weeks time (not really but I'm pretending that I'm not the slightest bit nervous about that!!!!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

My Hay.

Last post about hay, I promise! I turned it again this morning, then my friend showed me how to row it up and did one field while I did another. His brother then arrived and baled it with his huge Heston baler. It was then loaded onto a trailer with their Manitou and, after the first trailer had been unloaded I was allowed to tow the empty trailer back up there with my tractor, then told to tow it back again loaded! This involves some careful clutch work through some narrow gateways but it went really well. I was a bit worried when I got back to the yard and had to pass one of my liveries husband's new car!

The hay is now safely stacked away in the barn. It was a very long day but I was beaming from ear to ear throughout! I don't think I've ever had so much fun and satisfaction from a hard day's work before. It has done so much for my confidence and self esteem.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Horses and Friends.

I promise thaat I will start writing about what I'm doing with mine and other people's horses as soon as the novelty of helping with my own hay is over, which will be tomorrow, as we are baling it then, all being well with the weather.

I told one of my friends that people were asking to hear about the horses again and he said where would horses be without hay? Very true!!!!

I turned it again today and, me being me, asked if there was any reason I couldn't do it in a different way, which seemed more logical to me. He said it was always done the other way but to try it and report back. It cut my turning time in half and meant that I was certain I hadn't missed any.

That's what I love about my friends. They are all enablers. They believe in empowering people with the information and confidence they need to try to do things for themselves. I asked my farrier once to help me work out something with the Land Rover and he said that I should wait until a mechanic could show me properly. My friends would all say "Of course, we'll soon work that out, lets give it a go!" I LOVE that attitude and it's one that I try to carry over to people I help with their horses.

I have come to the conclusion that the secret of being happy, fulfilled and confident, for me, is to always try to be brave. If it all goes pair shaped but I know that I did my best and gave it my all, then I can have nothing to beat myself up over.

I treat the horses I work with as trusted friends unless they prove otherwise, and they so far have all responded to the responsibility with respect and courtesy, and usually with affection too. I find that the people I meet these days do too. I look at most people and they seem to shine now, in a way I never noticed before. I was so bound up with horses that I never noticed how lovely, kind and generous most people are. I don't know why I never noticed before.

I said in an earlier post that I'd write about my new plan and I haven't done so yet. It's to organise monthly horsey coffee mornings here, with talks and demonstrations by various people. I had in mind my horse dentist, his wife who does some sort of light therapy, someone who does equine massage, a person locally who used to ride with The Devil's Horsemen and teaches stunt riding, etc (only found out about her today - very excited about meeting her!), my horses doing some clicker training, etc. etc. I've only mentioned it to a few people and people are already ringing me up to enquire about it.

I told one of my friends today about all of this and she said that my dreams all seem to be coming true. I really think that they might be. To think that just five months ago I thought my life was over - colourless and empty forever.

It just goes to show that you should never stop trying and never give up hope or belief. Please may I always be as bold and brave as I feel right now, tackling life head on but with care, friendship, understanding and affection for everyone I meet, human and equine alike.

My views out of the tractor windows today while turning my hay:

My haylage which I didn't help with because I didn't know I could!:

Meggie's answer to getting out of the sun during our lunch break:

Monday, 17 August 2009

A Fantastic Day.

I had SUCH a wonderful day today!!!

My friend came first thing to remove the wire from the Haybob. It took forever as there was miles of it and it had got right into the gears. He was as patient and understanding as always and he just has a knack of saying the right thing to make me feel better. I asked him if he had thought it would take so long, as he'd come so early, and he said that he'd thought if I couldn't get it out he wasn't going to like it. I could have hugged him because it made me realise that they probably don't think that I'm a useless liability after all. He had also said, when he showed me briefly how to do the job, that it wasn't really fair on me to expect me to manage with so little help and instruction but I had somehow forgotten that until today!!

He also said that yesterday had been manic at their farm so my doing the turning here had been a huge help, as he had been able to sort me out when it was too early to combine, bale or turn anyway, so I had saved him valuable time inspite of the wire incident.

I didn't get the sack and was trusted to be let loose with their Haybob again and today I managed fantastically!!! With Meggie's help I turned the whole lot without disaster, plus I decided to turn the bits I missed yesterday twice, to catch up. When they text to see how I was doing I could answer, truthfully, 'NO PROBLEM AND I'M LOVING IT'!!! My self esteem was sky high, for once!

This evening I helped to introduce my newest livery's horse to targeting and the clicker. She's a four year old warmblood/TB cross and she caught on in seconds. We started in the yard then took her into the school and she touched and followed the target wherever we put it, from on the ground to high in the air, straight away. I also did some pressure and release work, backed up by the clicker, and apart from one tiny hint of a strop she was soft and compliant throughout. She came here with a bit of a reputation for being stroppy and sometimes aggressive so her young owner and I were thrilled with her, and she was pretty pleased with herself too!!!

So I am now competant to be left alone to do a tractor job, with only Meg to help me, and I have hopefully started another horse and owner along the road to a better understanding and enjoyment of each other.

Not a bad day's work by anyone's standards, even mine!!!!!

The view down my fields:

My tractor plus my friends Haybob ready for action:

Meggie on her lunch break:

My herd:

Two of my new liveries:

Megs the Land Rover driver:

The view in my rear view mirror, thanks to one of my farmer friends. They have given me my life back:

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Anxiety and Depression.

I am really disappointed, after all these months, that although I am absolutely fine when I'm with other people - the life and soul of the party most of the time - when I'm alone I often still get this feeling of losing my grip on reality and not knowing which way is up anymore. Everything has changed so dramatically that I wonder if I've dreampt it all sometimes.

I've gone from one livery to eight, with two more coming. The whole farm is comparitively tidy and under control, along with the house and garden. I'm surrounded by close freinds that I can and do talk to about anything and everything, some of whom are new. I drive tractors, cars and Land Rovers, having driven nothing ever before. Mostly it's all positive and good - but it's all very different and odd still, and such a steep learning curve.

I had a go at turning my own hay today. One of my farmer friends brought his hay tedder and attached it to my tractor, and spent some time showing me how to use it. They are flat out combining and baling straw at the moment so I thought that at last I could do something really useful to help them and myself.

I'd nearly finished and was really proud of myself when I picked up a length of wire that was hidden in the grass and it got so wound up inside the machinery that I had to abandon the job and return to the yard. As I text him to explain and apologise I had the same old sinking feeling of being useless, incompetent and needing rescuing yet again. I have never in my whole life wanted to play the helpless female card and I keep on being forced into it, and it's just SO not me!!!!!

It really wasn't my fault and would probably have happened to him too, but he would have known how to take the machine apart to untangle it. He doesn't have time to come and sort me out and it would have been quicker if he'd done the job himself in the first place, so yet again I'm a liability instead of an asset!

I'm really tempted to say "S-d it!!!" and stick to horses and things I know but that would be such a cop out. Its just the endless humiliation of getting everything wrong. They are so kind about it but that makes me feel worse, especially when they're forever mopping up after me. I just wanted to get one job done well and done right for a change!!!!

I'm also beginning to worry that I'm all the time trying to be something that I'm not and modelling myself on my two farmer friends - trying to be capable, reliable and competent at everything like they are - and I've lost the ability to work out who I am now. A lot of what I do seems to turn into a major drama or I lose all sense of perspective and think that it has.

I had a terrible incident with a vet recently, when I tried to get some old ewes who are struggling put down. He made a complete mess of it and then got the sack, both of which I felt a lot of guilt over, and still do. He wrote to me twice over it, apologetic and friendly letters, which increased my sense of guilt and I spent most of the day after the second letter, when he told me he'd been dismissed, in tears over it. The ewes were pets and old friends of mine, and I still have two of them who really need putting down but I can't face it at the moment, but I never wanted him to lose his job. I don't trust myself to make decisions anymore but know that I have to. Being in charge is unbelievably hard and I know I need to toughen up to survive, but it's easier said than done. Since David died I no longer have it in me to get angry over anything and find it hard to be assertive now.

I asked one of my friends why they all put up with me and she said that it's because I'm good company ..... most of the time!!!!! One thing's for sure - it's never dull and boring around me!

I now eat a reasonable amount and am still too thin and I think it's because of this sense of always being on adrenalin to a greater or lesser extent. It's why I work every possible minute I can and try to keep my mind from thinking unwanted thoughts, which is a constant battle when I'm alone.

On a positive note one of my farmer friends and I spent most of Saturday clearing the school ready for fencing after harvest has finished. I had a go at driving his Manitou, which I absolutely loved, and watched him fell a dead tree which was very exciting and dramatic. I had a brilliant time, the school looks massive and so much better, and I'm so grateful to him for all his time and trouble, and his company.

My aforementioned farmer friend said that if I can survive this I can survive anything and I guess he's right, and survive it I will! I'm just so fed up with feeling lost and disorientated! I'm so impatient to feel confident, relaxed and happy again. I WILL get there but it's taking SO long!!!!!!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Meggie, Super Dog and Tractor Dog.

If you click on the pictures you can see her properly.

We were really enjoying ourselves clearing round bales out of the school when the tractor died. I text my mentor and he said it had probably run out of fuel, even though the fuel gauge says its a quarter full.

They are in the middle of combining and working flat out while it's dry so I'm stuck until he can come and show me how to bleed it. Luckily it conked out at the back of the school so it's not in the way. I feel really guilty, needing rescuing yet again but no-one told me the fuel gauge might be faulty!!!

I am SO looking forward to the day when I know how to do all these things and don't need sorting out every five minutes! My main inspiration is my role model and I am determined that one day I will be a female version of him - the person everyone else turns to to sort everything out for them. I really HATE feeling like a helpless and incompetent female. He and his brother are so kind, sympathetic and understanding but it still makes me feel useless. It's all been a good lesson in not being too proud but I wish they were interested in horses, so that I could impress them for a change!!!!!!!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Rebels and Heroes.

I wrote near to the beginning of this blog that two of my friends had come here like knights in shining armour, on tractors instead of white chargers and wreathed in diesel fumes instead of mist. They became my heroes and they still are, and always will be, no matter what, and I tell them so regularly because I have learned to tell people how much I appreciate them while I still can.

One of them text me yesterday, after I told him that I had managed to get my historic Land Rover up to 53mph on the flat and deliberately made a speed sign tell me to slow down. He said that I made him laugh, in a nice way, and that he thought of me as being "the held back rebel with a cause". I LOVE that and for me it's something to live up to. Please may he and his brother, my other hero, always think of me in that way.

I had my first try at driving one of my tractors today, all by myself, and I absolutely loved driving it. It suddenly occurred to me that I am now becoming more and more like the people I most admire and that maybe I can find a little more self containment and comfort in my own company by becoming a hero for myself.

I have passed my driving theory and now feel in control and fairly confident driving both my old Land Rover and the Mini I have my lessons in. I have driven a fairly large tractor all by myself and felt reasonably at home in it straight away. I do all sorts of DIY around the farm that it wouldn't have occurred to me to even try before and I get such a buzz from being able to work out how to do something by myself. I'm never too proud to ask for advice but I'd much rather be able to do the work myself whenever possible because I want to be like my heroes - strong, confident, capable people who can turn their hands to almost anything and make a good job of it.

A few weeks ago I dreaded being left in my own company, with nothing to distract me from all my fears and worries and the feelings of life having spiraled totally out of my control with absolutely nothing I could do about it. Today I was high as a kite on my tractor driving success and I was enjoying myself all by myself, feeling confident, capable, in control, proud of myself and sane again at last. I have felt like half a person in the company of whole people for five months but today I felt whole again.

I have spent the last five months fighting off anxiety attacks and negative feelings that threatened to overwhelm me on a daily basis. My heroes and the fact that they cared enough and liked me enough to bother about me were what kept me going. They have my undying gratitude and I will never be able to repay them adequately but, if I can keep on being a quiet 'rebel with a cause' and learn to be my own hero too, then at least all their tireless efforts will never be in vain and I will become less and less of a drain on their resources, both practical and emotional.

I want to be happy in my own company again and to feel complete again, all by myself. Today, for a short while, I did. That's a massive step forward towards a whole new, bright, independant future!!!!!

Monday, 3 August 2009


I rode Grace around to the local show yesterday. I didn't go to compete as I didn't really feel like it and my show gear is all three sizes too big now anyway, but I wanted to catch up with a few people I thought might be there.

Grace has become a people magnet - she draws people over to talk to me, even people who say they're a bit wary of horses usually. One of those people told me that she wanted to get close to Grace because of the look in her eyes, which I thought was lovely.

A mother and daughter, who asked if they could take her photo, asked all about her and the mother said to the daughter "You push her off and I'll grab the horse!", which made me laugh. Someone else said that they'd been looking to see which was their favourite horse on the showground and it was definitely Grace.

It was the first time I've ridden her at a show, as I was only given her at the end of last season and had only shown her in hand before that. She was just lovely, concentrating on me and ignoring the others cantering around, and her canter has improved beyond all recognition. I spent the whole day beaming from ear to ear.

I caught up with some old friends too and talked so much I was hoarse. One lady came over and asked if I remembered her. I didn't to start with, but she was the nurse in intensive care who switched off David's ventilator and looked after us both while he died. She said that she had been looking for me at several shows and had been worried about how I was coping on my own. She had only spotted me as she remembered I'd told her about my ponies while talking to her in intensive care, and had asked her friend if she'd seen a Dales anywhere just as I happened to be riding past. I was really touched.

People are all so kind. I get people giving me thumbs up driving past in cars while I'm riding through the village and I don't even know half of them. I had never realised before just how many kind, generous, lovely people there are out there.

I spent yesterday with Grace and surrounded by friends old and new. I was so proud of Grace and had such a wonderful day, and much of it was because of her. She is my little superstar!!!

I'd had a tough week last week, due to a bit of a disaster which was much of my own making, and had a couple of days when I was really low again. Having my friend living here and being able to keep talking about it made the world of difference and I would have really crashed if she hadn't been there.

The other huge difference has been Meggie, one of my dogs. The other two can't be left on the loose as they go off hunting and I've always kept Meggie in the yard with them most of the time. My main inspiration suggested that I stopped feeling guilty for singling her out and let her wander around loose with me, so whenever I feel down she's there beside me.

Meggie has been wonderful. She stays close to me and now is my Land Rover dog too, coming for rides around the farm, which she loves already. I love having her with me and she makes me smile and laugh often. My main inspiration now refers to her as Super Dog! I've clipped her too and she was tiny even when hairy, so it's a big title for a very small dog!

I have another plan for drawing more friends old and new to the farm, which will be my next post, and I already have loads of people interested. My enthusiasm for life and for horses is returning by the day and I have so much to be grateful for and excited about.

I have some wonderful, extraordinary friends who have kept me alive and made my life worth living again, and Grace is right up there with them.