Some Happy News and Some Sad News

6 07 2015

As the title suggests. I shall start with the sad news: Soapy, the first pony I rode at the riding school where I have my regular lessons (almost three years ago now, gosh) and the one who absolutely stole my heart from the very beginning, is retiring. She’s not leaving until mid-August, but after that she will go live out her days somewhere else. It’s absolutely the best thing for her; she’s 19 years old and has arthritis in her back end, which is making it increasingly difficult for her to meet the demands of riding school customers, especially children and young riders, who she is more often paired with due to her size. She has also been lame a couple of times recently.

Because I didn’t know how long it would be before she left (I found out she’d be around a bit longer after the lesson), this evening I swapped horses with another lady who rides in my group so I could ride her. We rode for a full hour in open order, during which I found Soapy to be totally switched off. In the past she has always been a bit lazy to begin with, but then became perfectly forward-going and obliging once she got warmed up. Tonight, however, I just couldn’t get her going at all. I think my instructor got a bit impatient with me, and as she continued to give instructions I got more and more frustrated and my aids got stiffer and more pronounced until I was getting cramp in my right calf muscle from it, but then I dismounted she had a go riding her, and she agreed that she’s never known her to be as slow nor as unwilling as she was tonight. I used to know Soapy for getting the ask for canter and suddenly thinking she was Red Rum. Tonight I didn’t get a canter out of her at all until the very end. It was a bit sad, really.

The nice lady who looks after the horses on the RDA yard told me that she’d asked if she could take her, so she could retire on her yard and just live out her days in a field, where she would only be used as a light hack. She said that if she did get her, and if I wanted to I would be able to go and see her there and ride her, but I honestly couldn’t tell if she was just saying that to make me feel better because she knew I would be sad to see her go. I am sure that all regular readers of my blog will perfectly well understand the heartache associated with falling in love with a horse who isn’t yours.

Anyway, to end on a lighter note, my part-loan trial month has begun in earnest and seems to be going well. I got some things wrong on my first visit to see him (which were largely tack-related) and came away worried that I’d made a terrible impression and that his human was going to ask me not to come back, but this all seemed to be unfounded. On the human side, Puzzle (that’s his name!)’s owner is very nice and seems to appreciate that it’s more difficult to get things right when someone’s watching you, and seems reasonably confident in my ability to handle him. Beyond a small amount of trying it on to see what he can get away with, which I perceive to be a tendency common to all equids, Puzzle himself has been perfectly sweet, polite and well-behaved towards me, while at the same time not being afraid to make his opinions known. When I rode him on what happened to be that awful, stiflingly hot Wednesday evening, he was being a bit of a git, but I forgave him because it was so hot and humid; we spent a full hour in walk, riding transitions and persuading him to work in the correct outline, just to work through his stubbornness. He had quite an entertaining spook, whereby as I was trying to get him to walk right into the corner of the school he apparently wasn’t too sure about, a rabbit suddenly appeared, which was obviously TERRIFYING, and we levitated sideways before I knew what was happening. Still, I continued to be fair-but-firm once that little ordeal was over. I’m conscious that I need to be, or it will affect his behaviour towards me further down the line.

When I saw him at the weekend, it had rained over night and it was still cool and misty on the yard. I arrived half an hour before his human and the other lady who has horses stabled there, and as my first order of business went to the paddock to say hello to the equids. Puzzle spotted me coming from the field, pricked his little ears up, and came striding right over to the paddock gate, presumably thinking it was time for him to come in for his breakfast. He seemed quite nonplussed that I’d only come to say good morning.

When I came back later with his human to bring him in, he demonstrated his dominance over the rest of the herd, who were lying down, by just walking through them, making them all stand up and move out of his way. I didn’t say it out loud, but I thought to myself, ‘Puzzle, you dick!’ It’s funny, because he’s the second smallest out of the four of them and all the others are mares. Watching him out in the field with them, they do all seem to be friends, but he does swan about with his head and his tail in the air making them all move out of his way. His harem.

I led him in, gave him his feed, picked his feet out while he was eating, groomed him and tacked him up (without incident this time!), then myself and the other lady went out together for a hack around the two adjoining farms. We didn’t cross the ring road to use the bridle paths on the other side this time, but she showed me where they are. Then we practised leg yields on the paths going back to the school. I have learned how to open and close gates whilst mounted, and it amuses me every time I close a gate behind me just how well Puzzle knows what to do and how keen he is to show off how clever he is.

The two of us worked in open order in the school, and I worked in walk and trot, did ten minutes without stirrups to stretch my legs and find my seat, and then circled him and rode some shallow loops. I had to ask him to bring his nose down quite a lot as he likes strutting along with it in the air. I finished with a canter on both reins. He has trouble with it on the left rein, and struck off on the right leading leg, but I managed to circle and correct him with a flying lead change – which is remarkable, as I have never been taught how to do these, I’ve only read instructions for doing it in a book! So that was fulfilling.

After giving him a sponge bath and spraying him liberally with fly spray because the sun had come out and it was drying up by that point, we took our ponies back to the field. One of the ponies had lost a shoe, so we had a walk around the field to see if we could find it in case there was a nail sticking out of it, but we couldn’t find it. After that, us three humans all had a cup of tea and some cake (which Puzzle’s human kindly went and bought us while we were riding) whilst sitting watching the ponies in the field. It struck me as a lovely way to begin the weekend, and I could get used to it.




One response

6 07 2015

So sorry to hear about Soapy. I hope the nice lady you mentioned does take her and that you can visit her often. It sounds as though she really needs her retirement rest now.
Puzzle is very handsome! He looks very friendly too. Look forward to reading more as you two get to know each other.

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