Messy Christmas

11 12 2013

Since I really haven’t been making the most of my stable-visiting rights since I was made an official volunteer at the riding school, this weekend I saw to put that to rights. I won’t lie – on Sunday morning I snoozed after my alarm went off and struggled to get myself moving when I eventually did get out of bed, meaning that in the end I didn’t make it to the stables until about 11am, but it didn’t really matter in the end – when I got there, they just seemed really happy that I’d come at all.

As it turned out, it was a really good day to show up. Unbeknownst to me, the school was having its Christmas fayre, and they were really busy as a consequence. Admittedly this meant that I saw some things that made me cringe and feel sorry for what the poor equids had been subjected to – mostly, there were horses pulling carts decked out to look like sleighs while wearing antlers, and two of the small, white ponies were on display in temporary stalls with tinsel plaited into their manes, Santa hats secured under their head collars and red and green glitter glue on their hooves. Poor things.

The day proved to be utterly delightful in spite of that, and I bit my tongue and told myself that much as the horses concerned deserved to have had their dignity spared, the day was helping to raise the profile of the school and make money that would go towards their keep. My first job of the day was leading pony rides, which was a nice job I could live with, and all the better for it bringing me into direct contact with the ponies!

I was paired up with Paddy. In terms of appearance, he is practically indistinguishable from Elvis, so I mistakenly thought that that was who he was to begin with (and apologised to him afterwards when I realised my mistake). I have ridden Paddy once before. He is a very cheeky and random wee fellow. The Interchangeable Emma who handed him over to me warned me that if I didn’t watch him he’d try to ‘get’ me, and demonstrated that he just really loved attention, specifically in the form of you pulling your cuff over your hand and vigorously rubbing his lips with it. She demonstrated, and it was clear that he really did love that, so I did the same and got a similar response. From that, when I was stood not giving him attention, he would attempt to nip at my arms with his teeth, but I gently bopped him on the nose before he ‘got’ me and t0ld him off for being rude. After that he decided to lean on me instead, and one of the Interchangeable Emmas told him off for being lazy. Heh. He was an awkward bugger when I was leading him, frequently stopping and having to be dragged on forwards, but I was surprised by how easy I found it to talk to the children as I was leading them around, which was a requirement of the job. Many of them hadn’t ridden a horse before and were understandably quite nervous, but I think they all left with a smile on their face, which is good.

Following that we led the ponies back in and untacked them, and had a break for lunch while the raffle and nativity took place in the indoor arena. I looked in on a bit of that while I ate the homemade soup I’d taken with me, but as soon as I had finished eating I went charging off to be around the horses again, partly to be around in case anything needed doing and partly just because I wanted to be around the horses. Here, I interacted with Blue, the friendly-but-spooky horse who only the instructors are allowed to ride, who was watching all the people intently, and locked onto me as soon as I neared his stall, nuzzling at me as though for reassurance. I gave his neck and withers a rub and his lips went all trembly, and he inclined his head towards me, until he’d obviously decided he wanted me to change sides, at which point he made this clear in the same way cats do when you’re scratching them behind the ear.

A passing child who seemed to know all the horses rather well told me that the reason why Blue is so nervous is because Benno had kicked him. I think he’s probably just an insecure young horse, really, but Benno kicking him can’t really have helped much, especially as he’s relatively new to the school. Benno was in the next stall sticking his nose out, so I went over to say hello, but all I got was haughtiness, so I went and fussed Dandy instead, the tall, inquisitive bay horse I spoke of in my previous entry on volunteering. He was similarly receptive to me as Blue, and that was lovely. I overheard someone saying that Bramble was in the outdoor stables, so I went off to say hello to her, calling in on Paddy on the way past, who pricked his ears up and walked over to brofist me with his nose. I think I made a friend!

When I called in on Bramble she had her hindquarters to me, but the horse in the stall next to her, who I didn’t know, had his head out, so I went and said hello to him. His (he might have been a she, I don’t know!) reaction to me was very much, ‘Ooh hello, a person!’ – he seemed delighted that someone had come to see him, but since I was no-one he knew and I didn’t have any food he quickly lost interest and went back to his hay.

Bramble’s reaction to me, however, was off the scale, and was really what made my day, all in all. When I returned to her stall door, she was facing me, but was stood having a wee. I’d already called out, ‘Hello, Bramble!’ before I’d realised this, and her eyes were fixed on me as she went about it. She looked so pretty in spite of the activity she was engaged in, and I got my phone out to take a picture of her once she’d finished her business, only she didn’t give me a chance to take a picture, for as soon as she was done she marched forwards to the stall door, stuck her head out and demanded my affection, nuzzling at my hands, resting her poll on me and gently nibbling at me with her lips, sniffing at my face, companionably exchanging breath with me and inclining her head with trembling lips as I stroked her withers. She seemed genuinely happy that I was there, and considering that she is known for being a grumpy and obstreperous mare, that was really lovely.

Eventually I tore myself away from Bramble to go and see where I could help out. The visitors were already dwindling in number by this stage so it was mainly a case of commencing clearing up. I went around to the RDA yard (this is the one on the opposite side, which had been closed to the public for the purposes of the day) to see if there was anything I could help with; Li’l Legs, the smallest pony, was being manhandled back to her stall, and let’s just say it was fairly clear that she wasn’t happy at having been made a laughing stock with her embellishments. Only when they took the tinsel out of her mane and sponged off the glitter glue did she calm down, after which she retired to her stall, where she stuck her nose in some hay on the floor and quietly sulked, leaving her roommate, wee chestnut mare Lily, to handle the PR. In the next stall was Maddy, who was not in a good mood. She pinned her ears when I said hello to her, and was attempting to bite Lily through the bars in front of her stall (although she couldn’t actually reach her).

So, I helped by sweeping up all the discarded tinsel, glitter and other rubbish. I was amused, as I did this, by the way that all the horses were intently watching what I was doing. As the public filed out and the fayre drew to a close, I moved on to sweeping up outside while the Interchangeable Emmas mucked out the stalls, and pushing the wheelbarrows to the muck heap. The muck heap is quite a feat of engineering; it’s just a pile of manure that’s been strategically built up so it has its own ramp for you to push the barrow up along to the top. Quite the baptism of fire for my new Doctor Marten’s boots. Heh.

Other than that, I was mainly involved in sweeping, filling water buckets, cleaning out feed buckets and putting them out to dry. With it not being a normal day, we finished early so I was able to walk home in the light. Of course, I did all my my chres with frequent breaks to fuss and talk to the horses. Heh.

I promised a happy anecdote about Duke, didn’t I? Well, mid-afternoon we took another short break. Feeling slightly awkward as I did about spending this with a bunch of people who knew each other really well in which I was the odd man out, I made an extended trip to the bathroom. When I came out, I could see through the glass of the fire door to the yard that he lives on that he had his head out of his stall (which I have never seen before) and was looking right at me. Quarry was doing the same in the next stall along, and they looked funny both looking at me, so of course I went to say hi to both of them in turn. While it was nothing like the reception Bramble had favoured me with earlier in the day, Duke seemed genuinely happy to see me, and graciously accepted my fusses. (Quarry did too, but there was nothing unusual about that.) Furthermore, later on as I made my final water-check and went in to top his buckets up, he actually looked up from his hay and acknowledged me as I entered his stall.

I am sure that all the affection I received from the horses on this day was really just a result of them being a bit stressed about the yard being busier than they’re used to, and seeing a calm and familiar person who was on hand to give them some attention was of reassurance to them. Nevertheless, it’s still nice, and I’m loving that I’m getting to know all of their personalities.

I suppose you’d like some photos?…

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3 responses

14 12 2013
The Dancing Rider

I have nominated you for the Sunshine Award. Visit my “A Bit of Sunshine” entry to pick it up if you like! 🙂 I love the humor in your entries, as well as the honesty!

15 12 2013
Soapy Photo Girl

Why, thank you! That’s lovely 😀 I have a bit of a busy week ahead of me, so I shall claim my award some time once the midwinter holidays have begun 😀

10 01 2014
anythingforhorseandrider

I hope you win the “Sunshine Award,” your blog captures the essence of the horse! Benno looks soooo bad!! Reminds me of my very naughty pony, Buttons. He is such a trickster. He lives to have attention showered on him. One day I chose another horse to ride, and he decided to let me know his great displeasure and bit me on my butt while I was haltering the other horse. With that, he galloped off and looked backward at me as if to say, “That will teach you!”
Hey, hope you can get a chance to participate in my contest on Anything for Horse and Rider Facebook page. You could WIN $100 bucks!! I am not kidding!
In the meantime check out the horses, tack, horse businesses on http://www.anythingforhorseandrider.com
Thanks!

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