What’s Eating Domino Ponyy?

5 02 2013

Suddenly I find myself with absolutely loads to write about! In the space of three days, I’ve been horse riding in Nottingham, to a donkey sanctuary, and resumed my riding lessons in Leeds, this time having (just) made it on time! However, this run of equine good feeling sadly came to an end today as the news finally reached me that my adoption horse, Will Scarlett, sadly passed away on 29th January following an onset of severe colic. In the short time since I’d adopted him I’d grown rather attached to him and was beginning to form plans in my head to visit him and Felicity at their home sometime this summer, so needless to say I am greatly saddened by this news.

Nevertheless, life does go on, and I mustn’t allow this tragedy to overshadow what a lovely time I had over this weekend with a selection of delightful equines who are still very much with us. Because both Ellie and I were back in town, a trip to see the horses at Woodside was organised between the three of us; other friends were invited but unable to attend. This time, I didn’t actually know which horse I was going to get ahead of the event, because my prior observation that Domino always looked fed up in the stables but cheerful while she was being ridden had made me curious to ride her myself. When he made the booking, Damian asked for Tara or Domino for me; it was confirmed that we could have the horses we’d requested, but not which one I would have!

In the end, it turned out that I had Domino. Naturally, Ellie had Urby and Damian had Saxon. Amy joined us on her rental horse, Nirvana. We took a fairly sedate hack through the woods. Domino, in spite of being a similar height and build to Tara, had noticeably different conformation, but seemed perfectly active and forward going, at least to begin with. She was a bit bouncier in her walk, but had a lovely smooth trot that I eased comfortably into rising with very quickly. She is quite clearly not as clever as Tara, however; whilst Tara would negotiate the steep decline at the start of the trail by looking to see which route was the shortest, Domino seemed to purposefully pick the longest, walking right along the very outside of the track, and her more judder-y gait made it, well, quite terrifying, frankly. On no other horse/pony before have I been so glad to get to the bottom of that slope!

Our first couple of dramas involved Nirvana. Following the recent snow, she was wound up like a spring and just wanted to go. Because of this, Amy was given the lead and allowed to canter off along a nice flat stretch. We caught her up at a trot, but it was obvious she was struggling to slow Nirvana down, and the two of them would shoot off ahead of us and pirouette in the middle of the trail while we caught them up. The fun really started when we approached a mound that I understand to be where the more advanced riders practise cantering and galloping, though; Amy went shooting over this at a very fast canter, and we lost sight of her completely. We walked on to catch her up, but as we reached the other side of the mound another hack group appeared and advised us to stay where we were while they galloped up the hill as a ride. As Domino was unfamiliar to me and I was unsure how she’d react, I preempted any trouble from her by turning her around to face into the bracken so that even if the sound of hoofbeats excited her, she’d have nowhere to go. Saxon, on the other hand, saw his friends running up that hill and wanted to go with them. Thankfully Damian maintained good control of him, but it excited the other horses, who all also took this as a cue to run, and was not helped by the emergence of Amy fighting to transition back to a walk on Nirvana. Heh.

The final drama was between myself and Domino, I hate to say. As we came off the road and back into the woods, I started to feel her mouth moving through the reins; obviously I couldn’t see what was happening, but it felt like she was trying to work the bit out of her mouth. Unable to bear the thought that her discomfort might be my doing, I loosened the reins; all this did was lead to her tossing her head. So, I tried shortening the reins. The chewing and the head-tossing continued. I squeezed on both reins and gave her a light tap across the shoulder with my whip, which stopped her temporarily. However it really started up again when we came to take that steep incline again from the bottom up this time. At this point she started violently tossing her head up and down and it started to affect my balance in the saddle, so I found myself holding onto both the reins and the saddle for fear of coming off on that steep slope. Having steadied myself I sat up straight, leaning forwards into the incline and pushing down into my heels more than before and placed my hands either side of her neck, still holding the reins. This did nothing to control the motions of her head, but it made me feel better balanced. A couple of times following this she just stopped and refused to walk on. Once we were on flat ground again I asked her politely not to bolt or do anything silly and gave her a long rein, but this just lead to larger swings of her head, ultimately resulting in a drop of pony saliva going flying into my mouth. Had she been any other sort of animal I probably would have been grossed out.

We rode the horses back into the school and dismounted. Domino had a lesson with another rider, who came to collect her from me, straight away afterwards. She asked me how she’d been, and I reported the general active-and-forward-goingness to her along with the excessive head-tossing. The lady said that the active-and-forward-goingness (that’s an adjective now) was uncharacteristic of Domino, but that the head-tossing was something she is known to do a lot.

So, I think I’ve cracked what’s been making Domino sad: She doesn’t like her bit. My lottery-jackpot horse acquisition fantasy has now extended to her, as I think I would buy her, retire her as a riding-pony and keep her as a companion pony. Or, just get her one of those plastic bits for foals and see if that helped; apparently Nirvana still has to have one, and she’s 16!

As is obligatory for these visits, we hung around the stables afterwards being horse-groupies and fussing Saxon and Urby. Urby is still very spoiled, but seems more amenable to Ellie than he is to others. I could tell from the look of recognition he gave me that he remembered I had had Polo mints for him before, and he lost interest in me after frisking me and finding I had nothing similar about my person on this occasion. Saxon, as always, was like a gigantic puppy who was just glad of any and all attention from anyone. Heh.

I dropped in on Tara on the way out, of course. She was doing her usual damsel-in-distress act waiting for the feed bucket to arrive, and completely ignored me until after it had come and she’d eaten, at which point I returned to say a last goodbye, having changed out of my riding boots and poured myself a hot chocolate from the insulated flask I’d taken with me. She snorted on my face a couple of times, and then, when I turned away, slurped up all of the hot chocolate out of the flask lid cup I had in my hand before I saw what was happening. Then she went back to pointedly ignoring me. Hah.

Photos as usual are courtesy of Damian; my camera is broken and his phone takes better pictures than mine!




One response

27 02 2013

Reblogged this on gsug and commented:
Great pictures thank you. 🙂

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