OWN A PONY DAY, YO (part one)

29 12 2012

So yesterday I got to own Tara for a day, and it was AMAZING! I’m aware of my own tendency to write 1,000 plus-word entries about one hour lessons/hacks, so I’m going to break this up into more than one entry. Here goes…

To be honest, I’m still feeling all a bit overwhelmed about what an awesome time I had. It was cold and dark and overcast all day, and it had rained really heavily early in the morning, so since both schools are outdoors and uncovered the place largely resembled a bog, but I didn’t care in the least. I really, really enjoyed myself.

Damian and I arrived promptly after a brisk walk the long way around the muddy country park, the only adults in a large group of young children. This turned out not to be nearly as weird as either of us expected and if anything it was the one or two parents who hung around for the day rather than going home and letting their kids get on with it who annoyed us. (Really annoyed us, in fact, but less on that.) The children were all perfectly pleasant and polite, and for the most part we had our hands too full with our horses to really interact with them much anyway.

The first tasks of the day were laying out the hay in our given horse’s stall into a bed, then stringing up a hay net for them, filling their bucket of water from the big steel trough, and finally getting a bucket or sinkful of feed ready for them. Standard, really, but it was nice to be doing work for horses again, and I was excited to see Tara again as it was. So excited, in fact, that when a particularly little girl excitedly shouted, ‘Are we going to get the horses now?’ to one of the staff after we’d all been issued with head collars and lead ropes and I laughed, Damian said, ‘You’re laughing because that’s your internal monologue, aren’t you?’ I couldn’t honestly contradict him.

When we approached the paddock, which I’ve never seen before, we were split up into two groups: Those assigned to ‘boy’ horses and those assigned to ‘girl’ horses. They had been segregated by gender into two sections; I understand that the riding school horses are all gelded so I have no idea whether or not this is common practice. I remember feeling giddy when I spied Tara up ahead through the trees (the paddock was wooded and had a steep incline immediately after the gate), wearing a fetching burgundy winter rug. She turned over, looked in my direction (probably just wondering why there was a group of people standing there), and my heart skipped a beat. Then, in typical Tara fashion, she turned her attention back to the cage of hay she’d previously been nibbling at.

I felt disappointed when it was explained to us that because the field was especially muddy, they were going to go into the paddock and fetch the horses for us. (It later came to light that this was not because of the mud at all, and was in fact because the staff didn’t want dozens of excitable children buzzing around the horses while they were outside.) So I watched as they went in and collected and lead the ponies, two at a time, to the gate, thereafter handing over the lead ropes and instructing them to take them back to their stalls.

I turned my attention to the other field with the boy horses. They didn’t need to be collected; from what I saw, Saxon lead the herd down to meet the party of individuals who’d gone in to fetch them (including Damian), and they all seemed quite eager to go out. Saxon was unbothered about having his head collar put on, and the only hitch for them seemed to be that his half-brother Harvey (who wasn’t participating) wanted to go with him and blocked their way out of the gate. Heh.

Finally, when all the little girls had their ponies, my former instructor asked me if I wanted to go in and collect Tara myself, so of course I said yes! It wasn’t too muddy going up the incline to where she was stood, but as I reached her and she turned to look at me, giving me that acknowledging look that horses you’ve met before do, I stepped in a particularly marshy bit of earth and my foot sank in ankle-deep, and I had trouble recovering it. It felt like one of those moments in an American teen movie where a nerdy boy embarrasses himself in front of the girl he likes. Tara didn’t move away or try to make a break for it as I had been worried she might, so I took my position under her chin and went to put her head collar on her. She was fine with this at first, but as I was going to fasten it over her head decided she wasn’t playing and backed out of it, then walking around the other side of the cage that had hay in it. My instructor exclaimed, ‘Oh, Tara,‘ and tried to herd her back to where I was standing, but I decided instead to walk towards her in the other direction around the cage and meet her head-on. This worked well, as by this point she was paying attention to what the instructor was doing and not me. She was no trouble as I led her back to her stall, not even – to my surprise – as we passed a large tractor driving past us through the yard. I had the biggest grin on my face as she walked along beside me. I walked her into her stall and to her feed. I barely had time to remove her head collar before her nose was in it.

We were instructed on how to groom the horses while they ate their feed. It’s interesting to note that although the basic principles are all the same, they do it ever so slightly differently from how I was taught to do it at Gakushuin; here, they do the main grooming to get all the dirt off prior to riding, as opposed to afterwards, and where I was previously taught to always have a hand on the horse when moving around them so they could tell where I was all the time, here I was told to talk to them continuously (which came naturally to me as I’m always chatting to horses anyway. Heh). When I returned to Tara’s stall she’d had her head collar and lead rope put back on and was tethered above the hay net, happily chomping away. I carefully took her rug off, showed her the curry comb and went about it. She was angelically well-behaved, but unlike Saxon (I was later told), didn’t lean bodily into the brushes as she was being groomed. She did, however, adorably stretch her face across my chest as I went to groom it, resting her chin against me. I melted.

One lovingly-groomed horse.

One lovingly-groomed horse.

Next, I cleaned her hooves. This confused me. I’d previously been taught to do all four stood on the horse’s left side, basically lifting the opposite-side’s hooves up and underneath the horse to do it. Tara wouldn’t give me her right hoof from her left side, and I initially mistook this for stubbornness. However, when I did her back-left hoof she gave it to me without any trouble, not trying to kick or anything like that. So I tried going around the other side, and what do you know? She gave me both hooves without any dramas. It felt really weird using the hoof pick with my left hand, though.

The next thing to do was tack her up! I made this much more difficult for myself than was really necessary. A young girl who I recognise as being one of the stable volunteers very kindly brought me her bridle, and I retrieved her saddle, girth strap and numnar with Damian’s assistance. However, the ensemble had already been put together, meaning that all that really needed doing was for the saddle and numnar to be lifted onto her back together and the girth strap secured on one side. I didn’t realise this as I’d been taught to tack up in stages, so instinctively I just took everything apart and placed each item on her back one after the other. I had more difficulty getting her bridle on her, but this was merely because she didn’t want to take the bit in her mouth. Thankfully, one of the instructors saw me struggling with this and came in and taught me a trick for getting the horse’s mouth open by pushing your finger into their mouth behind the teeth.

Then, she was finally ready to be lead out for our lesson…

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3 responses

30 12 2012
mellchan

Hahaha, this is actually pretty cute! Im not saying its silly, I can appreciate how you must have been feeling, but the whole situation is sooooo stinking cute!
When you were catching the horses at pasture did you loop the lead rope around their neck and then bridle or just bridle? There are many different ways of doing it, just curious :p

This post makes me really scrutinize the way I do things….in your normal lesson do you get to groom the horse? I think here most people do a deep groom before and after. Of course if im in a rush I skip the legs/mane/tail and focus really well on any areas where dirt might rub uncomfortably under tack.

I was really surprised when you said you used to do all of the hooves from the horses left side! Did you stand sort of under them….I just can’t picture it?
Here, we start on the front left hoof and move around the horse…gets to be so routine that they will hold the next foot up in anticipation.

I look forward to your next installment.

BTW, whats a numnar?

1 01 2013
onahorse

We put the head collar on by pulling it up onto the horse’s face (with the lead rope attached, but not over their neck or anything) and fastening it behind their ears.

In a normal lesson we don’t get to groom the horses, no. It would be lovely if we could!

When we cleaned the horses’ hooves at Gakushuin, we didn’t lean under the horses, they were just trained to pass their hooves under themselves (behind the left hoof) so we could tend to them from there.

‘Numnar’ is another word for a saddle cloth. Heh.

I hope that’s all been helpful! It is interesting finding out about how different places do things differently, I think; it helps you to realise that there isn’t one set way of doing things, and there are many ways of getting it right!

3 01 2013
OWN A PONY DAY, YO (part two) « Musings of an 'Insufferable Horsey Girl'

[…] Firstly, thanks are due to Damian for allowing me to use his photos from the Own a Pony Day to illustrate my further entries on this. Although all the pictures I originally used in my previous entry were mine, my digital camera started playing up and the phone on my camera is not sophisticated enough to use in dark conditions without a flash, so his pictures came out quite a lot better than mine, and there were more of them. However, I realised that I missed an opportunity to share his pictures of me leading Tara in from the paddock, which were quite amusing, so I’ve now gone back and included those in the correct narrative position. […]

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