Bond.

Non-horse people can never understand why we pull ourselves into that saddle every day. Why we would put our own lives at risk getting on somethings back that has a mind of its own?  My answer? Have you ever trusted something with all your heart and soul? I trust that horse every day not to kill me. I trust that he will look after me, He trusts that I will look after him- even if something is super scary. Where else can you get such a unique trusting bond?

Bonding with your horse isn’t something that happens over night, It’s long hard days where you feel like you have been defeated. It’s one step forward but 8 steps back with in half a breath. It’s work.

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Getting some of my confidence back was only half the battle. I constantly had that voice in my head to dishearten my every move.

Charlie is a strong dominant horse on the ground and tries the same under saddle. Even now he requires an experienced rider which at the time I certainly was a shadow of my former self.

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I spent a lot of time just sitting with Charlie. Sitting on the ground while he ate and just talking to him. Now when ever I sit, he comes over to me, puts his head in my lap and just stands there looking for mum cuddles and words of wisdom. Lately those wisdom words have been along the lines of  “Do you know where Buddy came from? His been around the ringer and I would really appreciate if you stopped picking on him”

I’d even do things like making him walk with me on fence checks, tie him up when I was busy doing something else in that area. I gave up on giving him a full brush without a bath, I soon realized all I was doing is pushing the dirt around and making him look worse.

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Then came the confidence to get on his back, with just a halter while he grazed around the paddock. These little things seemed to help with his own issues. Somewhere in between all of this, He stopped his constant head toss. Maybe a sign that whatever anxiety he had was leaving and he was beginning to put more trust in me because he felt like he could.

Bonding at one point meant being up at 4.30am in winter, in the very low temperatures. Having so much of my snow gear on I can barely get into the saddle.  It was battling with the frost, with a grumpy horse that didn’t want rugs off and a grumpy me that REALLY didn’t want to get out of bed when its -1 outside. The things we learn on those cold, gloomy and wet mornings is something I’m not sure I could have manufactured any other way. The way we ride when the moon is still high in the sky with limited light before the dawn breaks over the still paddocks. Your best friends ears are in the view of the horizon and all of a sudden, you realize how lucky you are.

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Minutes To Glory

Incredible how the feeling of time changes, isn’t it? How two minutes can feel like seconds and seconds can feel like minutes. Monday’s at work feel like days and you start to forget what your house looks like if it is a bad enough Monday.

Riding Charlie was similar. A small moment in time felt like it stood still. Those few minutes felt like hours.

I still remember placing the saddle on Charlie’s back. I remember the shake in my hands.

After having a discussion with Charlie about him taking the bit, I decided what a better time than now to climb into the saddle?

He knew I was scared. Charlie is a horse that will test you for dominance.  He likes to be in charge. My first ride lasted about 6mins. I was terrified, uneducated and wasn’t helping anything.3c2d1f53-ece5-4dff-ad5d-aefc1def9076

Charlie sat in a paddock for two years after that. Ridden once every 6 weeks for about 2mins. He scared me, I didn’t have the confidence to get on him. He knew that.

I met fellow horse people who helped to build my confidence. I started to gain a relationship with Charlie under saddle but still wasn’t enough. If he played up, I would just get off and walk him.

I was always so scared being an ex racehorse that he would just run and I wouldn’t be able to pull him up. It took a girlfriend on a trail ride to tell me she was bored just walking everywhere, and cantered off.

Charlie followed suit and took off at a canter. At that moment, you could have seen my heart pounding through my chest. I was the most scared I had been in a long time.

It was such freedom. I was giggling like a school girl, my smile was hurting my face and I think I may have had tears roll down my cheeks. I had found freedom, I had found love, and I had found trust.

I knew from that point on, Our relationship as a team could only grow stronger. My fear of being in the saddle was fading so quickly and I was starting to remember what it felt like to be a competent and confident rider.

 

The Weight Game

Ever struggled to put on weight? LOL! I certainly haven’t!

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Charlie on the other hand, did. For the first two years that I had his beautiful booty in the paddock. I could not count how many times I changed feeds. I tried so many weight gainers and I found nothing that worked for us.

Charlie wasn’t being ridden at the time, So I was confident that I wasn’t working the weight off him. I was at a real loss as to how to make my big boy look healthy.

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After two years of trying so many different types of hay and feeds, I was lucky enough to get Charlie into a paddock about three weeks into spring…..WELL! Hel-lo Big Boy!!

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Now, Thoroughbreds are the athlete of the horse world, but Charlie retired from his racing career in 2010 and had not only kept that slim racing build but had lost all the muscles I’m sure he had whilst in work.

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The above photos were taken about three months apart. I’ve now know that an extremely important part of Charlie’s diet isn’t alot of different hard feeds. He just needed time spent out in a great pasture with spring feed… but with that spring feed, comes the spring attitude! For those that didn’t know, the shorter the grass, the sweeter, and in spring, that is not in short demand!

Spring grass to Charlie is like what I imagine a naughty child that drank 5 cups of red cordial in a row then still proceeded to eat an entire lolly bag. Keeping up that demand after spring is a different thing altogether, It’s hard to get weight on, but once it’s on, it’s all about maintenance!

I think its time to talk about riding him, Don’t you? Keep an eye out for our first few ride stories, but, in the mean time, let me know about what works for your horses in those dry seasons or if you would like to know what his currently being fed as a maintenance !

 

Getting Charlie Home

Are you a here and now kind of person? The kind of person who makes a life time decision in seconds? I am.

So, No surprise to anyone when I came home and had purchased a horse. A horse that was two hours away and I had nothing. No float, no gear and no bloody idea.

It was two weeks later that i decided a trucking company was my best option.Trucking companies are a life saver in times like these! They certainly took (some) of the stress out of moving/buying a new horse, Not having to load, stress about how long they have been traveling or the horses well being, trucking was the best option.

I had managed to find a family member with a spare paddock big enough for Charlie, With a dam! Charlie turned up a day later than he was meant to, I doubted if he was ever going to arrive. It was July, middle of the freezing cold winter, in the dark.

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Charlie unloaded from the truck like a bull in a china shop, neighing as loud as he could to see if he had any new potential herd members. His response was from a goat named Snowflake who bleated his little heart out to Charlie’s worried calls.

I spent 45mins that night walking Charlie around the fences on a lead rope, over and over. In a hope he would work out I was showing him the boundaries and he wouldn’t go through a fence over night. Charlie was more concerned about finding where the bleating was coming from.{8B5214D2-139E-47C5-8B36-8149EAB3DA1C}.jpg

I left Charlie for the night to settle in and return in the morning. When I first arrived back in the morning, I released the amount of weight he had lost since I had seen him two weeks prior. I didn’t know where to start with that.

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Finding Charlie

Ever read a brutally honest buyers story? You’re about to. I’m in no way shape or form scared to admit that I had no bloody idea what I was doing.

I had only had brief discussions with my partner about buying a horse, something I had missed for years. When I found myself driving two hours away to a horse I knew nothing about, I wanted to turn around. I had woken up that morning with no intentions of getting out of my Pj’s, let alone traveling down a highway.

Hindsight is such an incredible thing, No? Looking back and thinking about it, An off the track thoroughbred (OTT)  probably wasn’t the best purchase for someone with shattered confidence. I couldn’t remember the last time I had even ridden a horse.

I met Charlie’s owner at his paddock as she was riding him around, all I saw was this big beautiful dapple grey. I missed things like his head tossing, his anxiety, lack of trust is in rider and his attitude of needing to win every battle that a rider laid in front of him.

I was shaking like a leaf in a wind storm as I placed my foot in the stirrup and proceeded to swing my leg over the saddle. I’m still unsure what surprised me more, how quickly my knowledge of HOW to ride came back or how much  confidence I really did lack now. Our first ride I didn’t go faster than a walk, and I didn’t go further than 50m from the gate. I had already decided he wasn’t the horse for me before i had even dismounted.

How did I end up buying him? I ask myself the same thing. I don’t know how it happened. It was somewhere between dismounting and staring into those big brown eyes that trusted me to touch him all over, not his current owner and the look he gave me when I thanked him for keeping me safe even though we were both nervous. Nothing could replaced the Charlie hug he gave me that day.