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, 27 December 2009

More Christmas Presents.

I had a lot of lovely Christmas presents and I thought I'd show you the best ones. Firstly I decided that my owl should live high up on a shelf in my bedroom, loooking as though he is about to swoop. My farmer friends have a captive Barn Owl they were given at home and they tell me that it adopts exactly this pose when they bring it's food.



Next is a hot water bottle I was given that has made going to bed a whole lot more bearable;


Then my surprise present, if you can read what it says!!!!! I tried it in different locations:





If you click on the last photo you should be able to read it. I'm SO excited!!!! The grey was my lovely Jonesy and I out team chasing. David took the photo of the Barn Owl as it flew over his tractor one day at the top of our track.

Friday, 25 December 2009

A Very Special Christmas Present.

I recieved a very special Christmas present from a very special friend of mine in Scotland. He is quite magnificent and I will treasure him always. The fact that he was even sent at all means the world to me - that someone who was a stranger a short while ago would take the time and trouble, and care enough to bother.

He is a superstar and a hero and I hope we meet one day soon. A million thank you's for making this Christmas very special.

If you click on the photos you can see him in his full splendor. The pony in the photos was my beloved Ben, the sweetest, kindest, most genuine pony who ever walked on this blue planet.



Here he is with a new friend - a young Barn Owl I found dead when riding Grace in the summer and have had in the freezer ever since. I'm hoping to have him stuffed at some point as well, so they can stay together.

Merry Christmas.

A very Merry Christmas to all of my very special friends here.

Thank you so much, all of you, for all your endless kindness, friendship and support. Having friends all around the world is such a special thing and is very precious to me.

Do you realise, Hilary, Charlotte and Muriel, that we have been friends for several years now? Old friends indeed.

To all of you - old friends and new - thank you all so very, very much.

Lots of love to all of you.

Helen.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Magical Winter Wonderland.

We have a LOT of snow here and I love the way it stays so light at night and always looks so stunningly beautiful. I took some photos as the snow fell last night and more today, all around the farm.

My trusty, steadfast old Land Rover starts first time of asking each and every day and makes nothing of the ice and snow as cars are abandoned all around us. I can give all the people lifts who used to give me lifts and I am suddenly full of confidence in my own driving, and so far my passengers haven't complained too much either!!!!













Saturday, 19 December 2009

My Smallholder Article.

Here is a link to my article minus the photos, in the archive of Smallholder magazine:

http://www.smallholder.co.uk/shlivestock/4803220.Motivating_the_native_pony/

I would be very grateful for any feedback as I would like to try to write more articles for other magazines at some stage.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Cirque Du Cheval

Rosie has just returned from performing at The Cirque Du Cheval in Dublin, in Ireland.

Please do have a look at this beautiful photo of Rosie standing on the horse with the kindest, wisest eye I have ever seen:
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_fs8-cSyccvE/SyU7MuoJyQI/AAAAAAAAGzo/s48XcfSORWI/s1600-h/scan.jpg
and then look at all her photos:
http://picasaweb.google.com/Rosie.Jive.Pony/CirqueDuCheval?feat=directlink#
and read her write up of this event:
http://jive-pony.blogspot.com/2009/12/cirque-du-cheval.html

I know that the grass is always greener but in my dreams I AM Rosie and I can ride and look like that on a horse!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you read this, Rosie, I will see you at the panto on the 28th, at the evening performance and I can't wait!!

For me there is just something SO exciting and SO magical about the Devil's Horsemen, and about Jive Pony, that they never fail to fire me up to do more myself.

One day I WILL have my own small equine theatre!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Kindness.

I've been really moved by people's kindness of late. The immense kindness of you people here, bothering to read this blog and leaving me wonderful, sweet comments.

The kindness of some people today offering me a huge discount on some tickets for a Christmas event, because they know of my circumstances this Christmas.

The kindness of all the people I have met, spoken to and had business dealings with lately, all of whom have treated me like an old and much valued friend, and the never ending kindness of my friends at home, all determined to make this a happy Christmas for me.

One of my farmer friends hurt his back recently and wasn't feeling very well, so he and his wife went away for a couple of days. His brother gladly stood in for him, doing all his work as well as his own, without even thinking about himself. He always thinks of others, never of himself, and there is nothing he wouldn't do for his brother.

When he returned my farmer friend gave me a present he'd bought for me while he was away. The fact that he'd even thought of me while he was away in itself nearly moved me to tears. He apologised for it being a strange gift but he thought it might be useful.

It is a Swiss Army penknife, bought in a gunsmiths while he was on holiday, and it is my most treasured possession. I never go anywhere without it.

Today one of the horses here, who can get so wound up she would, to quote a Parelli-ism "Kill herself to save her own life" managed, while she was tied up, to get the lead rope wound around her neck and nearly strangled herself. We all rushed to her but she was leaning against the wall and the leadrope was under huge tension. The farrier was here and even he was panicking. My knife was in my pocket, as always, and is very sharp. It sliced straight through the rope which pinged apart it was so taught around her neck. If it hadn't been for the endless kindness of my friend, thinking of me even while he was on holiday, the outcome could have been quite disastrous.

I have been talking to someone online recently who I have told things about myself to that I haven't told anyone else in the world. He has done the same to me. I would like to buy him a Swiss Army Penknife, in case he should ever need one as badly as I did today. I don't have his address and I'm not sure whether our friendship is real or in my head. So much has changed for me this year that I do struggle to know what's real or imaginary sometimes.

He has read some of my blog and if he reads this I hope that he might email or better still text me his address. The trouble is that, unlike me, he doesn't believe in the inherent goodness and kindness of people anymore as he has suffered and been betrayed too often, and at too young an age, to cope with the loss of his dreams and his purpose in life. If he knew the people that I do - my friends at home and all you friends of mine around the world on here - he might find the strength and the courage to leave his hurt and cynicism behind and begin to make his dreams come true again, as I have done.

The best Christmas present he could give me would be to let me buy and send him a Swiss Army penknife, like mine. I think that it would take such a huge leap of faith for him to do that that it might be the best Christmas present he could give himself as well.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

My Christmas Present to Myself.

I've been feeling a bit odd for the last few days. Christmas was never going to be easy and, as I told my farmer friends, I've decided that the only way to tackle it is to "throw myself into the spirit with gusto, or should that be Bisto?". Luckily for me they are always there, at the end of a text message, to give me something to laugh out loud over. They used to think I was looking for sympathy but know me so well now that they know thats the last thing I want! I just want to be reassured that everything is fine and normal, and I'm only ever looking for distraction from my thoughts and something to laugh about, and they always come up trumps. I still couldn't manage without the pair of them.

My Manitou was collected by a lovely man on Tuesday and I went to supervise the loading. The man I bought it from has become a good friend and is coming over for a meal with the man who collected my bull for me, who is an old friend of his. It's such a small world!

I really love my Manitou. It's the first vehicle I've ever bought and I'm getting to grips with it really quickly, and driving it makes me feel confident and capable. It's a vast improvement on the loader tractor and much more suited to the jobs I need to get done. I got a huge grain bucket with it, which I've parked outside the barn to muck out into. It holds 2 days worth and saves on pushing wheelbarrows through mud, and as I'm mucking out up to 10 a day at the moment it helps no end.

I also got a grapple, a bale squeezer and pallet fork tines thrown in with the machine. I told you that the previous owner is now a good friend of mine!!!! Here are some photos:
On the low loader ready for the 25 mile journey home:

Back home:





I've also taken up a new sport, in an effort to get fitter for vaulting.
http://www.cani-cross.co.uk/cc_whatis.shtml
I'm trying to talk other people into joining me but failing dismally at the moment!!! I bought a harness at the local feed store today and they are alfriends of mine there. They asked what it was for and when I told them they'd all heard of it but when I asked them all if any of them fancied giving it a go I was deafened by the yells of "NO!!!" I get the feeling that they all think I'm sweet and harmless but more than a little crazy!!!!!!

I tried it for the first time tonight, firstly just with my Golden Retriever, Sophie, who is far too polite and won't pull, os then I tried using a pair, adding Meggie in, and that was a big improvement in pulling power. I'm going to try using Flora as well tomorrow.

I'm also being given a multi trainer by a friend and I'm trying to buy a cheap rowing machine on eBay, to improve my upper body strength over the winter. I'm also looking for a Pool table so my young lodger can teach me and my friends to play. I hate having nothing to do in these long, dark evenings and the more people there are here the happier I am.

My vaulting roller is a bit too short so I need to find some straps to extend it a little. I've been riding Bella and Grace and doing a little with Kate (who will now walk along with me just about anywhere totally at liberty. She reminds me of Bella at that age so much) and Jack as and when I can. Crystal will have to wait until the Spring and for longer days.

My article was published, with two photos, and I've had loads of favourable comments about it. I'll put a link to it when it goes into the magazine archives.

I'm feeling much more confident and more positive for the increase in exercise and for beginning to master my Manitou. I've got so much energy at the moment I wear everyone else out and they're all younger than me!!!

I was going to cancel the dating agency membership, as going on it makes me feel a bit unhinged and out of control, but I guess it's only talking to people after all, and I love to do that, so I'll let it run until the end of the month but I won't rejoin after that. I think that my life probably does have everything I really need now and looking for even more seems a bit greedy somehow!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Wasting Time.

I think I've been having a bit of a brainstorm lately. I've got a barn full of beautiful, eager horses and 3 lovely dogs who don't get enough of my attention, a barn full of lovely cattle including a very handsome bull, a yard full of fantastic friends, with more friends everywhere I go, and what have I been doing?

I've been joining an internet dating agency for farmers!!! Why? My life is so busy already and I don't want to go anywhere or leave here for more than the odd hour at a time. What do I possibly think that the added stress of trying to fit someone else's needs into my life and time would achieve, for me or for them? I have SO many things that I want to do and to achieve, SO many plans and dreams for the future that I need to work on, SO much to be grateful for and to nurture.

I think that winter is to blame, especially at weekends. The long, dark evenings inside when it's too cold, dark and dismal to do much outside and everyone's gone home to watch the tv by 5 o' clock, which really isn't my thing at all.

For the first time in my life I really don't HAVE to fit in with anyone else and I'm free, but I guess it takes a bit of getting used to and adjusting to, but I can do that. I've done so many things already.

Habit is a difficult thing to break, for people and for horses. Habitual patterns of behaviour give feelings of comfort and of security. The longer established the habits are the more comfort and security they give and the harder they are to abandon. My comfort and security came from being one half of a couple for nearly three decades. I like sharing things and I don't really want things to be 'mine'. I liked them being 'ours'. No wonder then that I feel the need to find someone else but that doesn't mean that it's the right or the sensible thing to do. I have a sneaking suspicion that it would send my anxiety levels right through the roof and I might even end up getting moody, bad tempered, and less sensitive to other people's feelings - things I try never to be.

Maybe one day when I'm old and can't lead as active a life with my horses finding another partner would be the right thing to do but I believe that if I did find someone else now I might end up not following all my dreams and end up looking back on what I might have done and might have made happen with regret - that I was too busy chasing the wrong rainbow and let my dreams slip away, just as they began to materialise.

I feel especially guilty about Bella. She is so super intelligent and so keen to be my soul mate in our life together, and I've let nearly a year of her life go by without me being there with her mentally. It wasn't avoidable but it doesn't have to continue any longer. She's been so patient with me already.

I think that normality is very hard to abandon and change is very challenging, and my normality has changed forever, but the freedom I have now in my life will become normal in time. It already is compared to a few months ago and it really does all depend on comparisons, doesn't it? Everything is relative and nothing is forever. It's time to make the very best of what I have and prove to Bella that I deserve her.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

I am buying a second hand telehandler, a Manitou, like this one:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/MANITOU-MANISCOPIC-725-TELE-HANDLER-FORKLIFT_W0QQitemZ280431159049QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUK_BOI_FarmingEquipment_RL?hash=item414affe709

I have sold my loader tractor because it keeps on breaking down and I need a reliable machine to keep the cattle fed plus the Manitou is useful for so many other loader jobs too.

I'm really excited about it!!!! One of my farmer friends took me to see the machine and the man selling it is a friend of a friend, and fast becoming a friend in his own right. I will get so much pride and satisfaction from being able to drive and use this machine as it's a serious piece of kit!!!! I just hope the buildings are all still standing by the time I've got the hang of it! I have driven my friend's once and loved it but theirs is a much more modern machine. I'll post photos when it arrives.

I've managed to buy a cheap vaulting roller on eBay and am eagerly awaiting it's arrival!!! Today some friends and I watched a 20min video clip of last weekend's lesson with Rosie, taken on a camera we haven't worked out how to download from yet, and I felt so keen and energised again watching it. Rosie does a small demo on Grace too and I just wish I had her legs and elegance!!!!

I've had a lovely weekend so far with lots of friends for company and loads of laughter, in spite of the weather. My kitchen is often bursting with friends these days, thank goodness, and that's just the way I intend to keep it, although the washing up gets rather time consumimg!!!!!

Rosie's Blog.

I've just realised that I haven't given you a link to Rosie's blog. She writes beautifully and gets very little feedback.

Her latest post is about trick training horses and is very interesting and informative. Please do have a read of it and tell her what you think:

http://www.jive-pony.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

How to stay Warm and Snug in the Winter!!

I think Meggie is feeling the cold a bit at the moment!!!!


Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Cone Circle Training.

Rosie suggested that I set up a cone circle track like Jive Pony use at shows, so that the horse will stay inside it at liberty and I can practise vaulting on my own.

I set it up yesterday with driving cones, short lengths of bamboo and white tape and it's working really well.

I took Bella in there first, at liberty, and got her to walk, trot and canter around in time with me but slightly further in front of me than for our usual liberty work, with me holding onto imaginary vaulting roller handles, so she'll be in the right position to able to pull me on board. She very quickly worked out exactly where she needs to be to get clicked and was trotting and cantering powerfully and enthusiastically beside me, after waiting for my lead to set the pace. I found out that I heavily favour the right canter lead myself and will have to work on the left lead!!!!

Kate was next, again at liberty, and she was very spooky so I just slowly and methodically chose my own pace and stuck to it, and clicked her when she was where I wanted her to be. She began by stopping and staring at things then trotting to catch me up, or spooking and zooming off then coming back to join me and I let nothing she did change what I did, she just had to fall in with me if she wanted to get clicked and treated. This very simple job with no pressure or penalty for getting it wrong and praise and treats for getting it right is just what she needs after so much pressure from her previous owner. She understood the job in hand very quickly and was totally chilled out and relaxed in a short space of time. She hated going into the school with her previous owner but I had a job getting her to leave it yesterday!

Jack has had very little work for a while now and was full of the joys, cantering around bucking repeatedly and really enjoying himself. I stayed in the middle circle out of the way until he had sobered up a bit then did the same as with Bella, plus a little Spanish Walk and started to teach him to bow. He settled really well and gave me his full attention by the end of the session.

With Grace I just worked on running with her and keeping her well up in front of me, and on getting her to keep going when I run towards her. I noticed in the videos how much more cadence her trot has than it used to have and timed my clicks to try to encourage that as well.

I really like the cone circle. All of them were happy to stay inside it and if they got a bit fresh I could step into the middle circle out of the way. This is particularly useful with Jack as he can't see me properly on his bad eye side and does cannon into me occasionally when he's not concentrating on me. I hate to react to that or for him to see me flinch at all as I never want him to think that I'm nervous of anything when he has to trust me to make up for his partial sight in one eye, and it can be hard not to when you have nearly 600kgs of horse veering your way!!!

It also allows me to give Kate all the freedom she needs to make her own choices and decide that she wants to work with me, which is exactly what she is consistently choosing to do already.

I'm going to try Crystal in there tomorrow. She can still be a bit sticky at times to keep going forward so I want to work on enthusiastic forward movement through choice rather than as a result of pressure with her.

At this rate I'll have so many vaulting ponies I'll be spoilt for choice!!!!!!!!!!!!