Monday, May 30, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
So the horse I'm to ride was to arrive on Friday or the weekend, the time was pretty vague. With all there was to do around the farm, i thought this was going to be just enough time to get everything 'ship shape' in time for the arrival. As well as that the boyfriend was to come up on Tuesday, it being his one week in the country before he was off overseas for the next regatta, he would add some much needed manpower to the jobs that needed doing around the farm, as well as getting to spend some time with him while he was here.....this is when things all started to fall apart....
The boyfriend arrived on Tuesday at midday as planned, he'd been here an hour, before the phone rang. When i answered the lady on the end of the line answered with " hey the job on the movie set has been moved forward to tomorrow are you still available?" SH$T!!!!! okay this job was a good one $500 for a days work, and a few of these jobs each year defiantly help supplement my income, plus there fun as you us uslly get to put on a costume get you hair and makeup done, and get taken a world away from life on the farm. But this week was not exactly ideal time to go down to the big city. could i fit it in?? after a brief discussion with the boyfriend, we decided i should do it, and come back to the farm Friday morning in time to finish putting sawdust in the stables...
This was a good plan until i found out i had to be at location at 5.15am, on location being 4 hour dive away. Meaning a drive down that night and a 4am wake up when i got down there. But somehow i managed, finishing riding, teaching my afternoon lessons, preparing the horses for my absence, packing my bags and getting in the car for the city by 6.00pm. The long suffering and much loved boyfriend drove us down, having just caught the bus that morning he spent 6 hours on the farm with me only to drive all the way back down to the city.
Movie job was easy, the early start was not, but by 9am id finished work, as the second half of the days shooting had been cancelled. All id done was run screaming through smoke and rubble, while the 'baddies' chased me. Not bad for 3 hours of work, and a nice little booster to my bank balance. It also meant that id get to spend the whole day with the boyfriend, bonus as time with him is precious and very hard to co-ordinate as we are both extremyl busy people with unusal schedules.
Later that night, while having dinner with his family, the phone rang again. "hey look i can drop that horse at your house tomorrow, I've got friends coming up your way, is this OK?" sh$t!!! i thought, but the words that came out of my mouth we "okay that's no problem, i look forward to seeing the horse". You don't complain about schedule changes, when you have world champions asking you to ride their horses, even their second string horses that apparently buck occasionally. Now i just had to figure out how to get home before the horse arrived..
So the next morning found me again driving home, along the winding state highway from the big smoke to my little farm. This time in pouring rain, and i mean pouring, to the point you can barely see out the wind screen. Halfway there i got the text from mum.
Place flooded, cant get in or out, stuck at home.
Excellent. So i had a horse on the way up, that i wouldn't be able to actually get to my property, this was not going to be a good look. I continued driving, with the miraculous hope that maybe it would stop, and the water would drop in time for the horses arrival...
No such luck, by the time i got home the road was almost closed, and our driveway was completely impassable, with as much as 10ft of water flowing over it in places, and the flat paddocks of the neighbors, completely under water. There was just no way i could get a car, let alone horse in, and besides the horse couldn't be dropped off because the truck would come to a dead end at the flood waters and be unable to turn around. I made the call, admitting that i couldn't actually receive the horse today, because unless it was a seahorse, i didn't have anywhere to put it. Luckily the guy understood, he had somewhere to keep it and the people would drop it off, flood waters allowing, the next morning. Then cursing my stupidity for wearing my city clothes home, i procedded to tramp my way in the rain,through a high bush track that wound alongthe back of the neighbors property, to a smaller a creek, that i jumped, and then make across the wet paddock to the house for the night.
Well it all ended pretty well, the horse got dropped off, the riders partner came along to show off the horse and give instructions for what they wanted done with it, he ended up riding the horse in, while i carried his two little toy dogs through the creek. ( i hate impractical dogs, although these were cute). I had to laugh though, after i had a ride on the horse, i turned the hose on to wash the animal down, and typical to my farm, not even a trickle came out, we were completely out of water. mud and floods and not a drop of water in the tank. Embarrassed i apologozed, mumbling a lame excuse about having to pump water and wash the horse later. Why this has to happen, when i try to make it look I'm running a professional stable, I'll never know. It was bad enough having to take the horse to the least muddiest patch of grass to ride, after slogging through need deep mud just to get in the gateway.
But they left the horse here, so i must have done something right. Its a gorgeous big buckskin, and expressive moving handsome fellow, who has become inseparable from the Shetland and the sheep in his first 24 hours on the property. Matai has tried desperately to meet him, putting on his most welcoming voice ( different from his 'stallion' voice he now uses to try and seduce mares). But big buckskin just ignores the little brown stallion across the fence, staying right behind the Shetland and the sheep.
Today i whizzed through the chores, rode horses, then packed me and the dog in the car by noon, and head to the annual poultry show. This is something we go to every year, usually with mum, but she happened to be away, so i took the dog instead. It is truly amazing to see how many shapes sizes and colours, chickens, ducks and pigeons come in. compared to horse showing poultry is much more affordable, some of the supreme champion birds would have little for sale signs on their cages. how much did they sell for? the lofty price of around $20 dollars, a horse would have about 3- 5 more zeros on the end of that sum, if they were that successful. I wouldn't help myself, even though i need more animals like a hole in the head, i cam home with a beautiful pair of Rhode Island Red chickens, and two little white ducks to add to our flock of birds already at home.
So i have neglected the wild horses, having done no more with them this week than throw hay over the fence. Sometimes it feels like I'm never going to get around to furthering there training, but hopefully with the chaos of the show season and this particurlarly busy week over, i will be able to do something more exciting than feed them.ill keep you posted....
Monday, May 23, 2011
In fact this week is a bit of a mad panic, someone important has asked me to train there horse. I'm thrilled it is an amazing opportunity, as the person is Olympic medalist, world champion and a bit of a big wig in the sport. As well a great horseman and trainer in his own right.
Its not my horse training skills that have got me worried, but the farm. While it works perfectly well for my own horses, its a little bit rough around the edges kind of place, even though its vastly improved from when we first arrived, we can only fix it up little by little. I mean it still doesn't have electricity, phone lines, and the driveway has a creek crossing through the middle of it. The stable while functional, are not flash, and the paddocks still have patches of gorse, not the immaculate manicured pasture you dream about. What if he takes one look at the place and takes his horse back with him??
fingers crossed it all works out, as the training i receive in exchange would help me unbelievably. Training horses from scratch and breaking them, taming wild horses etc, is a totally different ball game from competition riding.Some riders are great competition riders, but don't have the patience for training, some are great trainers but don't cope with the stress of competition. They are two very different aspects of the horse world, some riders can do both. I think the truly great riders who continuously produce horses horses to an international level are probably both. But not everyone is..
Training and taming horses, you can learn a lot just from doing it or watching people who know what they are doing, and experimenting yourself. Competition is different it gets to a level, where its not just about who can stay on a horse as it flies over jumps, or spins on a dime, or prances around a ring. Its not just natural ability that wins you ribbons, far from it. Ability gets you so far then you train, practice, learn, train and practice some more. unfortunately you cant get there on your own, you need lessons, advice and dedication. I know i can tame a wild horse, break it in, ride it and train it do jumping, do dressage,work cattle, lie down, bow or do any other trick, if i set my mind to it. I know i can train and compete a horse and be very competitive to a certain level. but the next bit if i want to get there, i will need help, if i want to be really good not just locally but nationally and above i better get the best training i can find, so i can learn what skills to practise and practise to make myself and my horse as good as i can possibly be ...
I think this is true in any sport these days. Even a sprinter doesn't just run fast, Its no good to just be able to run quickly in a straight line, you have to know all the techniques as well, so you maximise every little bit of your performance, because there are thousands of other people out there who can run just as fast. Horse sport is the same, thousands of people can sit on a horse well, thousands of horses can jump well, you got to learn the skills to perfect every aspect if you want to win the big stuff. Jumping poles in a gorse paddock at home only get you so far.....
in my round about way, I'm saying that this guy, in exchange for putting some training in his horse, is going to train me, as I'm in that point where i need that little but extra guidance just to push myself to the next level and get the most out of my performance. otherwise i might find myself years from now, still at the same level i am today, and if I'm going to do this horse thing i want to be good at it, not average. so again this week is a panic to get thing on the farm ship shape, in time for the arrival of trainer and his horse, i need this to work out....
Monday, May 16, 2011
So the wild horses....
Matai, the last few days has been one sad stallion. Horses being herd animals do not like being alone, especially if they have grown up in a herd situation. Matai is no exception, and with his favorite and constant companion, Milo, gone to live somewhere else, the little wild stallion moped around the paddock, calling desperately to any horse o human he saw. He has been a lonely boy, standing in the corner of his paddock looking down the driveway, or across the farm, waiting for any sign of the return of his friend.
This sad display was to much for me today. I moved the Shetland pony, Coco, and his inseparable sheep companion, next door to Matai. at least he can be near another horse. Well you should have seen him, as soon as Coco arrived in sight, Matai lifted his head and came galloping to the fence, calling out in greeting as he came. Leaning carefully down over the fence, and the pony stretching his neck up as far as he could stretch, both horses snuffled there greetings, and reacquainted themselves. The sheep (who i cannot work out if its fearless or stupid) came to the fence as well, Matai never having seen a sheep before, eyed it wearily, but it then too, received the most delicate are careful sniff of introduction, as the stallion smelt it gently from nose to tail. Matai seemed to come to the conclusion that the funny looking creature may not be a horse, but a friend of coco's was going to be a friend of his.
So stallion, sheep, and Shetland are all good friends now. Matai is back to is usual good spirits, much happier for his having his old buddy Coco and his new lady friend, the sheep, nearby for company. In fact last i looked the sheep was dozing in the last afternoon light, sitting back against the fence, with Matai a few feet away standing with his head hanging low enjoying a little nap to. Coco however was doing what Shetlands do best and sucking as much grass down his throat like the little paddock vacuum that he is.
Fern and Sonny continue to learn new things. When i get back from nationals, it will be time to start breaking in Fern, as all that is now left to do is actually put a saddle on and rider her. Shes spends the days separated from Sonny now. Out of all the mares i think she is the only one to actually miss her child, and is always upset by the separation. Every evening only to happy to get her darling boy back. Calling to him and holding her tummy up as high as it will go, so her sonshine can get a drink as soon as he comes through the paddock gate.
Sonny on the other hand is only to happy in the mornings to follow the big horses to the barn, where he gets locked in a stable for the day. The draw card being his own bucket of weanling muesli, which in his world is the best thing ever, no sharing it with his mother or the other foals. He knows his stable and happily trots in their by himself each day, finds his bucket and sets to eating the soecial treat. Brushing is another pleasure in his life, and although inclined to be slightly shy, he happily stands still for anyone to come in his stable and brush him all over. Even politely picking up any of his feet if asked. By evening though, he is desperate for his mother again, and gallops back down to the paddock well ahead of the other horses. Fern will always be there waiting at the gate for him to come back. Its always a very happy reunion.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
As far as handling and riding they intimidate and awe, otherwise sensible horse people. In the competition ring a stallion does bring that little bit of ' wow power' and 'x-factor' to any performance, that lacks from a geldings or a mares. But they also scare the crap out of a lot of people to, excuse my french.
Sometime they are made out to be the baddies of the horse world, dangerous, unpredictable, killing foals they don't think our their own, fighting with other horses to the death. in fact in the correspondence course I'm doing right now, the theory work clearly states, "stallions on no occasion are to paddocked, or allowed near other horses, except mares when breeding, even in this occasion, they must be in control of experienced horsemen". While i was in Europe, we went to a barn, where most sport horses stallion are sent to be tested, pre-trained and assessed, for their stallion licensing, and performance testing. Their were 200 stallions at this stable, and not a single paddock. A lady i was with asked why this was the case to which she got the answer "do you know nothing? we would have to have a separate paddock for each stallion, and even then they couldn't be allowed to see each other, as they would most likely jump the fence and try to kill the other horses, theses horses are the best of the best, we could not take such risks!!!!"
I think what the guy was really saying was that these horses were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each, and they wouldn't risk the horses physical well being for the sake of their mental health. The horses, some of them living their whole lives their as breeding stallions, were never allowed out of a stable, arena or horse walker. His reply was funny though, because he may have believed what he was saying, contrary to opposing evidence in front of his eyes. These stallions that would supposedly rip each other to shreds, lived in stables with full length bars, on all three sides, so they could see all the other horses, next to them, and all the way down the aisle. These stallions would work in an arena with as many as 10 other stallions at the same time. If they ever got the opportunity to be close to each other in the saddling area, it wasn't ripping into each other, but a mutual grooming that took place. Most of them dozed pressed up against the bars of their stables, as to be close to there neighbor, in the next stable. Basically what i mean was most of the time these weren't savage beasts, the grooms even talked about the deep bonds some of the horses formed while they were there.
Just to add, this guy who said that the stallions would rip each other to pieces, also went on to say that in his opinion "women are not really suited to working with stallions, i do not let my female staff ride the horses out of the arena, as they are just not strong enough to control the horses outdoors, if something were to go wrong it would take a mans strength to control a stallion" obviously me and this guy were never going to get along as he was in my opinion an arrogant sexist pig!! Matai may not be as big as a warmblood, but I'm a female and it take none of my strength at all to control him, i just use my brain and don't let him get out of control to begin with.
Now if you had let a few mares loose on that premises, and opened all the doors to the stallions stables, I'm sure all hell would break loose, no denying that. But in more normal settings i think stallions can act like normal horses, if you know what your doing, and keep your wits about you.
They are just horses after all. In fact i know so many cases of stallions being just fine living with other horses, obviously they will live with mares in a herd or breeding situation just fine, but there are other cases. Matai, for example, lives with Milo the new forest pony gelding, hes also lived with the Shetland pony, and theses days, Sonny the weanling, is put out with both Milo and Matai, during the day now, for a bit of 'boy time', and to ease him into the weaning. Matai has never tried to 'rip him to pieces', put him in his place, yes, with a nip or push, but that's as aggressive as it gets. In fact more often, you find Matai leaning over the fence as the foals walk to the barn, scratching and grooming them, or sniffing noses, if they come over to say hi.
My old boss, kept his stallion with a 30 year old pony for company. Many people will put young colts in with an older stallion, to teach them some manners. I also know people who run a whole group of mature stallions together, and they function just as a bachelor herd would in the wild. Given enough room, and the right conditions, i don't see a problem with stallions being kept together at all. In fact somewhere recently, i read an article about a study done in Europe, that proved, that even stallions that had lived there whole lives isolated from other horses could adapt to living in a group. They just stabled them side by side an slowly weaned them into living in the paddock together.it took a few days to sort out a pecking order, but this never escalated into fighting, in the end there was no problems
Like most things, there is going to be bad individuals, a rogue, or bad egg. But these are not the general rule. There will also be thousands of horses, and yes stallions that are aggressive, and unpredictable, but most of these horses, are just exhibiting man made behaviours, from a artificial environment. Not even taught basic manners and handling skills, some of these horses, are boxed up 24/7 only allowed out for breeding duties. We wonder why they turn into testosterone fuelled monsters??? I know of one place where the breeding stallion, is locked in his box all day then when it is time to collect semen from him, they just open the door and he runs down a raceway to the 'dummy', does his job, and only then is calm enough to handle. It doesn't need to that way at all.
You can see horsemen riding stallions, working mares in season from there back. Matai is very well behaved to be around. There are competition studs, that are just fine out and about with mares. Basically there are thousands of great, well- behaved, socialised stallions out there. Just like there are some people who think normal horse behaviour is bucking, biting, and trampling their handler, because they haven't understood it can be any different.
yep there will be some wild stallion out there that drives off or kills foals that aren't his own, but their will be plenty more that care about all the babies. They are entire horses, with all their hormones intact, and as Matai's little foray showed they are going to try and get to mares given the chance, but it doesn't mean they are bad or aggressive by nature.http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JKKWF0ZUGk i found this on another great blog today, which is actually got me thinking about the whole stallion thing.....have watch, apparntly the stallion the guided the foal back to its mother and safety....
oh and heres the blog i saw it on well worth a look http://http://blueskiesandgentlebreezes.blogspot.com/2011/03/stallion-and-foal.html
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
But as it always seems, you cannot enjoy a moments celebration around here without something ruining it. Just as i watched the results go up on the scoreboard, my mother rang to inform of the latest disaster on the farm.
Matai, the stallion has been nothing but angelic since his arrival from the wild. We have had no problems with him trying to get to mares, or breed or anything like that. Until this weekend, when i wasn't here.
I thought id left him somewhere stallion proof and safe, behind good fencing. Apparently my mother though, didn't quite get around to checking him on Saturday, and by Sunday morning she noticed he had pushed ( or a gate had been left open) a gate open, gone across the fence in the next paddock that was down, through a creek, over another fence ( although there was some flood damaged places where he could have just stepped over), up a very steep hill and through dense bush, and arrived in the paddock, with my lovely Thoroughbred broodmares, foals, Fern, and my dressage mare. Where he was spotted hanging around a very in season bay mare.
Fantastic. Although, i love Matai dearly, i don't not want any mix breed babies of his. Especially not from mares I'm saving to breed to lovely sport horse stallions in the spring.
But apparently he was a good boy, coming down the hill with the mares, and allowing himself to be caught and quietly led away, from the females, who were acting like low class tramps and doing there best to distract and entice him back.
Him and his paddock mate were then transferred to the stables to await my homecoming later that night. I was not happy to be having to deal with a rogue stallion, after a long weekend in the mud, and a four hour drive home. Especially after he ruined my joy at wining!
But as i walked up to the barn, i heard this little voice call out from the darkness, the same welcoming note which he always gives me. His head silhouetted in the darkness and ears pricked forward in greeting. It was hard to stay mad, after all he probably thought he'd been doing a fantastic job of doing just what a stallion should. instead he got a hug in the darkness, and a whispered scolding in his ear, as he stood and snuffled the back of my shirt.
Part of me thinks this is always the way, just a few days ago, i was telling the vet what a great little stallion he was, and how we had no problems with him trying to get to mares. I'm eating my own words right about now. next Tuesday, we will be having another vet come out, to administer a little injection to all the trampy mares, to ensure there will be not little Matai's running around next year. There will also be some serious thinking by me as to whether one little stallions testicles still need to be attached to his little brown body for much longer....
To be honest, Matai is not very big, and all my mares are very large, Fern apparently stayed well away from him, probably her wild instincts kicking into play there, so i doubt any successful breeding actually took place, but better to be safe than sorry i think
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Our driveway is a conversation starter that's for sure, usually the first thing anyone comments on when they first arrive at the farm, and today was no exception. The driveway in question is a little bit rough to say the least, last weekends massive rain, have deteriorated it further. We have a little creek crossing that you have to drive through followed by a windy uphill stretch squeezed between overhanging trees, with steep drop offs on each side. It really does have its challenges. First timers to the farm, usually chicken out at the creek and come the rest of the way by foot. So full credit to the vet for braving the drive.
Today was the big vet day, the foals were all getting there first vaccination and general health checks. The wild stallion, Matai, was getting his first horsey health check and jabs as well. Big day, and a good check to see just how well behaved all my horses really are. Vets with there poking, prodding, stethoscopes and needles, are good at bringing out any little loopholes you'd missed in your horses training.
We have three foals this year, Sonny, wild Ferns baby. Satisfaction, a little sport horse colt, the youngest of the three, and last of all Hope, another sporthorse filly, that is also the sister to the beautiful Viva, that i lost last year. I had all the mares, tied and lined up in the afternoon sun, the foals just roaming, and causing mischief as they do, when the vet drove up.
A new vet, which I'm always a bit suspicious of at first,but got thumbs up in my book. Satisfaction, dozing in the sun nearest her car, was first. Little Satty, is the quietest and also the best looking of the three babies, hes like a big fluffy teddy bear. We joke that he is all beauty but no brains. The Vet walked up, looked in his mouth,listened to his heart, guts, and he just stood there, enjoying all the attention, a quick jab and he was all done. Defiantly the easiest of the lot. Next was Hope, she again just stood there, although i did put a halter on her, as shes had a few jabs before. She then hung around like a bad smell, trying to get the vet to itch her bum, as the vet was administering the next horse. Hope is defiantly the long legged diva of the bunch, walking off in a sulk when she was ignored.
Sonny is a big big boy, solid, and the oldest of the three babies, he's far more developed. He is now at the stage where he is leaving his baby days behind, and instead tries to put on a brave face, even though he is the shyest of the three, and the least comfortable around strangers. Haltering him, he stood there, very still, eyes wide, but determined to be brave, as the vet and I, leaned over him chatting away. He kept an eye on his mother who was standing near by, as if to check that she was still OK and that he was doing the right thing. "god his little heart beating a million miles an hour" exclaimed the vet, i knew it was just that he was a little nervous, but the vet fooled by his good behaviour, checked Fern, his mother to see what her heart was doing. She was normal, and happy enough to be checked out. After Sonny, getting a thorough check, she was satisfied.
Next was the jab, and that did cause him to do a little jump, meaning a second attempt had to be made, he stood there very wide eyed and tense, while the vet to her credit, did a great job of desensitizing him and rubbing him, so the second time he just stood there and accepted the injection. Poor boy he did have the sweetest most concerned expression on his face, but got lots of scratches and exclamation over his bravery.
" Oh yea this is my very wild stallion" i said as the vet came out into the paddock, where i was standing, with my arms around Matai's neck. "haha yea i can tell, he looks pretty wild" vet replied. Said stallion was just standing dozing in the sun. As i slid the halter on, the vet checked him over. Looking at his teeth, we discussed his history, how he came from the wild, his age and his general temperament. She was impressed, commenting on his wonderful nature, and by his teeth confirming my estimate that he was about four years old.
"well he's a picture of good health now, and that temperament of his, is just amazing. You've done some pretty good work with that one." vet mentioned as we left the paddock.
Awesome. That is compliment enough. Healthy and well behaved happy horses, i must be doing something right.