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.......

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Mary Wanless Symposium and Kate in her new rug.

I bought my new horse, who is now called Kate, a new rug yesterday. It's a bit bright but Crystal has the same rug and at least they won't get lost while wearing them!!!

I haven't had time to do anything with her yet as Mary Wanless and Dr. Hilary Clayton had a one day symposium at a yard a few miles away from us today. I went there with three of my friends and had a great day out. It was very interesting, especially Dr. Clayton's exercises for unlocking the horse's core, through stretches and muscle lifts that anyone can use. I bought the book and DVD and also a support belt to try to address my not being able to stand upright without thinking about it anymore.

Dr. Clayton called the exercises pilates for horses and spoke of also trying to develop exercises using very specific muscles for remedial work in horses. I asked her afterwards if she had come across Alexandra Kurland and Microshaping, and was very surprised to hear that she had never heard of her. She asked me to write down the name and website for her.

The riding part was very interesting but a little joyless I found, with not much in the way of positive reinforcement in evidence as far as the horses were concerned. It made me even more convinced that I have found the perfect way for me and my horses to interact together.

Mary Wanless also talked of the difficulties that teaching riding and putting actions and feelings into words presents. I am only too aware that this is my downfall when I try to help people with clicker training. I get quite frustrated with myself over this and convinced that I will never have the skills necessary to be a good teacher of people but, as I found it hard to even talk to people a few months ago, perhaps the skill will evolve over time. Today certainly made me want to convince more people to give clicker training a try, to show that the carrot need not just be lack of the stick and excellent results can be obtained without the need to begin with 10lbs of pressure in each hand.

I am also wondering about the possibilities of one day doing some sort of corporate clicker training days to show managers more sympathetic ways of managing their staff, as quite a few of my friends suffer from poor, unsympathetic and unappreciative management at work. I become more and more convinced that politeness and empathy at all times and in all circumstances are the ways to produce happy horses and happy people, and are the best way of motivating both to exceptional levels of co-operation and effort.

Heather Blitz was the expert rider at the symposium and spoke of the need to hold her frame in the face of all onslaughts from the horse - never to let it change her body alignment no matter what it was doing beneath her. I aspire to do that too but I also aim to try and hold my values of always being polite and understanding whatever horses are doing, reinforcing the things and attitudes I'm looking for and ignoring the rest whenever possible. I want my horses to love the learning process and to try their hardest for me because they want to. Clicker training gives me the tool to achieve that.

I listened to someone talking about National Service the other day. They said that the job they did was the sort of job they would have loved had they been allowed to choose to do it but, as they were conscripts with no choice in the matter, they moaned and groaned about it constantly. I want my horses to be volunteers and not conscripts. I hope that one day I can produce exceptional results with my horses to show that this way works even in ordinary horses, managing to produce extraordinary results from them.

Friday, 23 October 2009

What am I like?!!!!

Ok, it's now official, I have bought another horse!!! I am SUCH a loose cannon now that I don't have David to restrain me!!!!!

She is indeed the youngster previously owned by my macho livery owner. She is actually 5 years old, now that I have her passport, but was only backed a few weeks before she came here, which was just a few months ago. She is a part bred Connemara and she has only been ridden in a Western saddle and hasn't had a bit in her mouth yet. She also needs to lose a lot of weight!!!

I have been fighting the urge to see if he would part with her for some time as they have a total personality clash. She is very bright, brave and strong minded but in a kind, friendly way. He is very persistant and stubborn and was absolutely determined that she would do as she was told. Unfortunately she likes to be asked and not told and gets frightened but angry with it when she feels threatened. She has taken a few kicks at him, which is totally out of character for her. and thrown her toys out of the pram on several occasions. The penalty for that was endlessly being chased around on the end of a lunge rope and being hit when she got too stroppy. That might have worked with a more timid horse but it was never going to with her.

Her previous owner was offered some free grazing elsewhere and was going to turn her out for the winter while he went off travelling. I was relieved that he was leaving, for many reasons, and tried to just ignore the mare but he asked me to turn her out for him on Monday and I couldn't get over how much the look in her eye reminds me of Bella when she was that age. I found out what he paid for her and offered to give him his money back (£2000) which I thought was over generous!!!! He said he needed more because of all the work he's done on her!!!!!!!!!!

I said no way and tried to ignore her again. She was supposed to be leaving tomorrow and so, when he asked me to turn her out again this morning, I thought I'd have a little play with her in the school, as it wuld be my last chance. She hates being in the school with him so I was sure she would be difficult.

One of my friends caught me in the act and was all smiles watching us. The mare is definitely another Bella - a superstar in the making. Her attention never wandered for a second and she tried her heart out to please.

I said a few rude words because I had hoped she'd throw a strop and let me off the hook!!! I text one of my farmer friends, who has been hearing the story from the start and has taken great interest as he knows her previous owner from years ago. I asked him if they had plenty of haylage to sell me, as if I bought her I needed to know that I could keep everything fed. He said if they ran out he'd find me some more.

I asked him what he thought of the whole thing, as an unbiased opinion, and he said that he knows nothing about horses but she looks like an expensive horse to him and if my inner feeling was that I should buy her to go for it!!!! He is so cautious with money, mine included, and used to be so anti horse owners that I couldn't believe my eyes! Now I just tell everyone that it was his fault - he made me buy her!!!!!

I haggled but got nowhere with her owner so I caved in and paid his asking price - £2500!!! I still can't quite believe that I did it - it's so crazy and the last thing I need is another horse - but I had to somehow. It feels right. Where I'll find the time or the energy for all of them heaven knows!

Everyone here thinks that I paid too much but they all love the mare and would like her for themselves. They are all asking to watch me train her, to see her learn in real time, and offering to video sessions for me too.

My friend who was watching this morning said that I made it look so easy and the others agreed. It's funny but I'm genuinely just beginning to think I might be any good at this and only because they're all telling me so. I never thought of myself as severely lacking in self confidence and self esteem in the past but I think now that I always have been. I've always come alive when I'm with my horses but I've never really believed that I'm any good with them. I told my friend this morning that it was the mare making it look easy but she said that I always do, with any horse. Time will tell but they all really believe in me which is so lovely of them!!!!

She was called Rush before but I need to think of a proper name for her. I will also need to find a nice owner for her eventually but in the meantime I'm going to have a lot of fun with her, learn a lot, teach a bit hopefully and with a coloured horse to ride I can really pretend that I'm Rosie!!!!!!

Here she is a few months ago with her previous owner's other horse who also started to misbehave and was put out on loan to a girl who gets on great with him!

Very Exciting News!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have some very exciting news to tell you but I'd better make it official first!!!!

To give you a clue it concerns this horses and a trip to the bank

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Laughter and Inspiration.

I had to put this link to a short video of The Devil's Horsemen at The Horse of the Year Show that Rosie put on her blog on here. It's Rosie on the grey horse at the beginning of the video and she looked every bit as amazing as she does on the video. I love the music too and would love to know who it is, if anyone knows? The video gives me tingles up my spine every time I watch it. It's everything I aspire to with my horses - in my dreams anyway!!!!

I have been having a wonderful, happy time here. I feel anxiety free almost all of the time now and full of hope for the future. I have managed to make and keep all my friends, old and new, throughout all the madness and insecurity I've suffered with, which must have been the greatest test of friendship imaginable.

One of my friends and liveries said, when she arrived tonight, that all she can ever hear as she walks up the drive is the sound of laughter. We do all spend a tremendous amount of time laughing. There have been a few tears as well (not mine) which, having only lived with, and almost exclusively talked about anything that mattered with, a man for many years, I have found quite difficult to deal with but I'm getting there now. At least the tears have not been caused by me, I hope anyway!!!!

One of my two farmer friends, the first time he came to do the cattle after David died, leant on a gate in the cowshed talking to me and a single tear fell from the corner of his eye and ran slowly, unchecked, down his cheek. I'll never forget that because that's what happened to David when I was saying goodbye to him when they switched the ventilator off. He was sedated so I don't know how much he understood but it was the only tear he shed in hospital.

That single tear of my friends has meant so much to me. He has always kept things normal and cheerful whenever he's been with me since then, no matter how bad a state I was in. I'll never forget that, or how much he has done to keep me alive and sane(ish!!!!).

It may sound really sad to say it but I really do miss having male company always available - the right kind of male company anyway. I do still talk to my farmer friends a lot by text message, and have a lot of laughs that way, which is the next best thing. Hopefully they will both be coming to fence the school soon because, best of all, I love having them both here together. They often have me crying with laughter then and I have so many good memories stored up of all the times we spent together which, in the circumstances, says an awful lot about the sort of people and company they are!!!

My lodger is moving in at the end of the month and I'm really looking forward to that. He is really sweet natured and very understanding to talk to, despite being so young. His girlfriend is wise far beyond her years and is a constant support to me too. She sorts me out and keeps me happy and optimistic whenever I need a bit of a boost.

My other farmer friend came to see me last night and I told him about how I was having to adjust to being mainly with women and that I hoped he wasn't going to cry, no matter what! He said only if I stamped on his foot!!!!! He told me he had been shopping with his son the night before and had bought new socks and pants. He then showed me his new socks, which he was wearing, but, thankfully, refrained from showing me his new pants!!!!! Phew.........

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Fitting Everything In.

One of my liveries and friends brought her mother here with her the other day. I have very much wanted to meet her as hearing stories about her has inspired and intrigued me.

When she was about to turn sixty she decided that she wanted to backpack around the world for a year, by herself (her husband died some years before). She decided to learn how to shoot a gun, ride a motorbike and ride a horse, in case she needed to do any of those while travelling. She mastered the basics of those then set off and had a wonderful time. I thought that was so brave and inspiring.

When she was here she asked to see a quick clicker display and I was very keen to try and impress someone I admire so much. I took Bella into the field and did all the usual routine, including the bow, then decided to see if she would stand on the trough. When I tried this with her before she wasn't convinced that it was safe so I left it as I knew Jack would do it, and never got around to trying again.

Mother and daughter watched me encouraging Bella to give it a try, which only took a couple of minutes as I have done it so often with Jack now that I was convinced that it was safe and a reasonable request for her. When she stepped up onto it we got spontaneous applause and cheers. They seemed more impressed with watching her master that than with watching her do her well practised bow.

The mother said that she had never seen anything like that in real life before, only on the television. I was on cloud nine from that!!!!

I have been rushing around madly all week having sacked my solicitor and taken over the dispersal of David's estate myself. A few months ago I wouldn't have said boo to a goose and now I'm phoning partners in firms of solicitors and telling them that I no longer require their services!!!! I can't believe myself most of the time these days!!!!!

As a consequence my ponies have been left without attention yet again. Today Bella was seen in the field from some distance away, standing with her front feet on the trough. I think that she just may be trying to tell me something!!!!

My farrier came tonight to trim all their feet. I showed him Bella's bow and Spanish Walk.He used to be in King's Troop and spends a lot of time on film sets with a stunt team he shoes for. I told him that I want to teach Bella to lie down next and he told me how they do it with the stunt horses. I told him that I wanted to get her to volunteer to and not to make her do it and he said that it would take years as horses didn't like lying down on command. I told him I'd have her doing it before he comes again and asked him to make a bet with me about he. He wouldn't do it!!!!!!!

I think it's time I got on with it. Life is all about prioritising, isn't it, and training my ponies has been far too low down my list of priorities for far too long now. They deserve better and so do I. The house and farm are well under control and my business looks sustainable and comfortable. I have won the friendship and affection of everyone here. I can afford to slow down and relax a little now but I think that trying so hard and caring so much has become rather addictive because I get so much back from everyone all of the time.

Maybe earlier mornings are the answer because I really do want to be able to spend as much time as possible with everyone here, plus give my ponies my undivided attention whenever I'm training them. To that end I'm off for an earlier night than usual now, once I've been out and said goodnight to my ponies. Telling you about my next round of plans for new friend and business making schemes will have to wait a little longer!!!!!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Videos of Grace and Reinless Halts.

I got up early this morning and found the time to ride all three of my Dales plus longrein Crystal. I also managed to talk a friend into videoing Grace and I doing reinfree stops in the field. I love doing this so much! I hate feeling old and doing this sort of thing makes me feel like a teenager again. Grace loves it too and is now so keen to canter, having been clicked and treated for halting after the canter - a bit of reverse physcology - she has to canter to get to the bit that she gets clicked and treated for. It's almost impossible to believe that she used to hate cantering and was very unbalanced and uncomfortable in canter.

I'm also working up to standing on her back, as you can see from the other video. I have a little way to go yet but I'm using Rosie as my role model!!! I like to pretend that I'm someone I admire when I'm doing all sorts of things and with riding I've gone from imagining that I'm Camilla Naprous to imagining that I'm Rosie!! It's a bit mad, I know, but it keeps me happy!!!!!!!!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Horse of the Year Show.

I had such a fantastic day today!!! I had my first experience of motorway driving by driving the one and a half hour journey to the N.E.C. for the Horse of the Year Show. It was a bit daunting to begin with but I soon got the hang of overtaking and driving at speed. My friend that I went with, who bought me a ticket as a birthday present, let me drive her van and didn't visibly panic at all!!!

The Devil's Horsemen were appearing at the show and Rosie from Jive Pony, who was riding for them there, had very kindly offered to meet me so I could get some more posters from her. She is really lovely and a really sweet girl. She asked about the party and I showed her the jacket I bought for Meg with 'Terrier(ist)' written on it!!! I got her to sign one of the posters to one of my farmer friends with lots of love from her, so that will put a smile on his face!!!!

The Devil's Horsemen were just brilliant as always. They did a Phantom of the Opera based show, with Rosie first in, standing on the back of a beautiful grey horse, cantering around the ring and them exiting at a flat out gallop. It was breathtaking!!!

I had a lovely time spending some birthday money on a fancy fleece rug and a headcollar for Crystal, a bling V-shaped browband for Bella, and some headcollars for all of them to replace the ones which were stolen.

I also bought a percussion massage hammer machine for my two farmer friends as one of them has trouble with his back almost constantly and the other put his out yesterday and was in a lot of pain. I had it tried out on me and it did feel really good. If they think it does any good I might have to buy myself one too.

When we got back just before dark my horses were all already in their stables, rugs changed, chomping happily away on their hay. I am very, very lucky with my friends!!!!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Barney Ridng Denny and Friends in Need.

I have been helping muck out some Clydesdales a couple of miles away from here first thing in the morning because their owner is in hospital and one of my liveries was wearing herself out doing them alone before work everyday, seven days a week, for the last three weeks, with no end in sight yet.

They are beautiful, huge, gentle horses. The two I been leading out to the field at 5.30am are called Silent and Starlight, which has been very appropriate!!! I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting them but it has taken my eye off the ball a bit at home.

One of my liveries has been really struggling and I hadn't realised how much. She has three young children between ten and two years old, three part stabled horses, a part time job, a dog and a house and husband to look after and it's all been getting too much for her. She will never ask for help and is always trying to help other people. I should have noticed how worn out she has been getting before now but she always tries to smile through it all.

I mucked her horses out for her today and insisted she let me help her more but she hates to feel that she's being a nuisance. I told her that she knows she would do the same for me, and she would! I had a chat with some other liveries this evening and we are all determined to help her, whether she likes it or not!!!!!!!! She is the sweetest, kindest person imaginable and would do anything for anyone and we all love her to bits. She is the sort of person everyone tells all their troubles to and she always tries to help and advise in a very quiet, unassumimg way.

I also have someone else here who's father has just been told that he doesn't have long to live. I thought that I was going to have trouble coping with this situation as it's so soon for me but they came up yesterday and it was fine. She was trying very hard not to cry so I took her aside and told her how I managed to keep a smile on my face in the hospital, no matter what, then went and talked to her dad about ordinary, everyday things. Another livery and I got their horses in for them and her dad rode his. He then asked me if I'd like to have a go on him, which I did, then his daughter rode him too. I told them of my plans to break Crystal to harness, as they broke his for driving too, and he was very enthusiastic about helping me.

His daughter text me later to thank me for helping and for making things feel normal and I realised that it often seems to be that loss of a sense of normality that seems to be the hardest thing to cope with. They both want to enjoy what time they have left together but they had no idea how to go about doing that or even if it was possible or realistic to try to. That's something I feel qualified to help with and it gave me so much pleasure to be part of a couple of happy hours that they had with their horses. I hope they have many, many more and that she can stay strong enough to enjoy them to the full with him. I will do everything I can to help and will always be my usual happy, smiling self for them as well as for myself.

I think that I have actually become a very strong person now, it's just a question of keeping on believing it and not panicking and texting my farmer friends for reassurance every time the going gets a little tough. Hearing from them always makes me feel safe and the relief of receiving their replies is always overwhelming, regardless of what they say, but the fact that I know how much I rely on them is not very good for my self esteem, plus any major delay in replying leaves me feeling a bit frantic. I know that I am quite tough on myself but, on the whole, I think that's a good and positive thing.

One of my farmer friends has been doing some jobs around the place for the last couple of days and letting me help him. I love working with them so much. We always have such a good laugh and we all know and understand each other so well now, with loads of stored up private jokes between us. He was making a list today of all the jobs that we are going to do together and all the plans we have. That is so reassuring for me as I'm always worrying that everyone will get fed up with me and go away never to return. I need to be able to see and plan for an enjoyable, companionable future as well as enjoying the here and now.

They both get on really well with all the people here too and we all care for and look after and out for each other. There are still loads of improvements to be done around the farm but this feels like a wonderful place to be these days. The sad thing is that David would have loved it too, and loved talking to all the people here. He would have especially loved getting to know these two friend as well as I do now because he had no idea just what special, extraordinary people they are.

After the party my livieries and friends have been suggesting we have some regular social evenings, which sounds just wonderful to me. I always thought that I was the only one without friends and a social life but many people seem to be in the same boat and everyone seemed to love the party so much. Even the people who said they didn't do parties are asking for more, if a bit smaller, so we can all get to know each other really well.

Here are some photos of the lovely Barney riding Denny. He does walk and trot, and we are thinking of training him up as a stunt/vaulting dog to save us trying to do it!!!!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Party of a Lifetime!

The party was just wonderful! About 50 or more people turned up and I have never laughed so much in my entire life! I didn't have a drop of alcohol all evening but my friends made me feel like the teenager I never was, with university acquired drinking games that were just hilarious, especially as I was only drinking tea!!!

It was just brilliant to have so many friends here and to have them all meet each other. My internet friends Hilary and Charlotte came. Hilary drove all the way from Yorkshire, and back again, and Charlotte, who I hadn't met before, drove from Surrey and back. They met everyone including my two farmer friends and most of my friends who keep their horses here. It was so lovely to meet Charlotte, who I felt as though I'd known for ages, and to see Hilary again. It was so good of them to come.

I loved seeing three friends, who are not party people and don't go out much, having a wonderful time joining in the drinking games and falling about laughing. The best of the fun was because of Sapphires young owner organising us and cajoling us to join in. She is the loveliest person, wise far beyond her years, and looks after us all. Resistance is futile when she is determined to make you enjoy yourself to the full!!!

I have had a couple of people remark on how badly I walk recently, due to a bad back from too many years bent over a muckfork and wheelbarrow, but Hilary came up with the way to motivate me into trying to do something about it. She said that because I've trained my horses to mirror me if I'm downhill then they always will be too. I knew my posture was terrible but had been trying to convince myself that it didn't really matter. The thought that improving it might improve my horses way of going is the motivation I need to try and do something about it!

The party didn't end until nearly 2am but I woke up full of energy and enthusiasm today. I rode Bella for the first time in months and she was so pleased. She went beautifully and in the yard afterwards she stood with the front of her face pressed against my forehead. Her friend Russell was calling for her from the field but she just wanted to be close to me. It brought tears to my eyes and made me realise that she is a pony of a lifetime in the making. She deserves much more than I've been giving her for the last few months. I fell in love with her all over again today.

I rode Jack for the 2nd time in six months, the first being several months ago. He was so willing and eager to please, and feels so steady in his mind now. He too deserves much more of my attention. They have both been so patient with me.

I rode Grace out with Joy's owner and her daughter, Sapphire's owner, and loved being out with both of them. They really have made me feel like part of their family and I'm so grateful to them for that.

Even after having everyone here together for so long last night I still felt the old anxiety again today when everyone had gone - that they wouldn't come back and I'd never see them again. This time I didn't go in for frantic texting for reassurance. I just tried to ignore it and concentrated on my ponies and by the end of the day they had nearly all either returned or text me to thank me for the party.

I have come to the conclusion that the secret of life for me, on the whole, apart from trying to learn how to do as many different things as I can, is merely trying to hold my nerve and, on occasions, blagging it - acting as though I'm confident, in control of myself and cheerful, even when I feel the complete reverse. Those, along with making sure people know how much I care about them and appreciate them, and always being scrupulously polite and thanking everyone for everything should be enough to make sure that my friends do keep on coming back here indefinitely. The thought of losing even one of them would be too much to bear.

It's my birthday tomorrow and I'm going out for a meal in the evening with 3 friends, I told someone today that I had jokingly said that it would be a "sad singles" night out but one of them has just begun a new relationship and the other two would not appreciate the term "sad", so if they find out I could find myself eating alone!!!!!!!!!!!!