Wolfie the Wonder Horse!

Wolfie the Wonder Horse!
Wolfie, 24/02/08

Saturday, 20 December 2008


Despite my best efforts and intentions to keep Wolfie in consistent work, the weather has just been too awful to really do anything over the last few weeks. The horses had to spend 4 days in their stables as the yard was like an ice rink and there was no way of getting them to their fields. The surface in the school froze and now with such heavy rain, the ground and fields are like paddy fields.

Wolfie comes in about 3pm, and I usually get up to the yard around 4pm. When I've been arriving I've noticed that he's been really unsettled and anxious. Thinking that it was probably because he's hungry and it's nearing feed time, I have started leaving a bucket with a little chaff and carrots for him and some haylage for when he comes in. Wolfie is handled by the girl who works there, the owners of the yard and the girl with the horse next door will change his rugs or bring him in if she's up before me. I think it is good for him now to let him get used to being handled by different people. I wouldn't let anyone else work him, but leading and changing his rugs etc, I'm confident in him now that he can behave and is well mannered. Leaving the feed for him doesn't seem to be making any difference. I arrived at the yard the other day, and although he can't see my car coming from his stable, he knows the sound of the engine. I just got out of the car and was changing my boots when he started whinnying and calling. I went over to the stable and he'd got himself all wound up. As soon as I get to the door I can see him visibly relax. I normally just give him a scratch and start mucking out. He follows me around the stable for a bit and then begins munching his haylage. The other night I was changing my boots next to the car and my friend was leading him in from the field, he spotted the car and near enough dragged her off her feet to get around the side of the car and then refused to walk with her back to the stable. I don't really know what to do about that. I'm sure that he knows now, that no matter what, someone will always feed him. With him having been starved it has always been an issue. Even when he is out in the field and I'm walking around, he stands at the fence and shouts to me or gallops down the fence line following the car when I drive away. I don't know if it's because when he was so ill at the start, and was on his own, I was all he had. I became his herd and we spent a huge amount of time together, trying to care for him. He's not a cuddly horse, but likes to be scratched and likes you just to be around him. He doesn't want me there all the time, he's confident in himself and likes his routine. It just seems to be when he knows I should be there (he's an excellent time keeper) and when I am there he just thinks I should be with him.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Wolfie is fed half haylage half hay at night. I've always put his feed/ hay etc on the floor for him to eat, which he seems to prefer. I try to mix the hay and haylage so that he can have enough to keep him occupied during the night. It's a long time to be standing with nothing to do and if he's occupied the less likely he is to get up to mischief. He eats every blade of haylage and then plays with the hay, dragging it through his bed and burying it at the back, resulting in me having to throw away large amounts of hay every day, and with the price of hay at the moment I can't afford for him to be wasting it. He can't have haynets as he paws them and ends up tangled up in them. I thought about various alternatives including a hay bar, but decided he would just haul the hay out and chuck it on the floor or destroy whatever the hay was kept in (wolfie has rubber everything in his stable). My dad kindly fixed up an old hay rack and fitted it in his stable. The plan being that he could still have his haylage on the floor, but the hay would be in the rack, so it was there if he wanted it, but he couldn't waste it. He was less than impressed when I brought him in, snorting and pawing the ground at the hay rack. He didn't touch a blade of hay out of it the first night, however the next night and last night he has eaten a little. I think the cold weather has helped, making him a little hungrier as I thought his haylage protest would go on for longer. However, I may have won this hay battle, but I very much doubt I will have won the war I'm sure it won't take him long to start pulling the hay out of the rack and dropping it onto the floor.

I was thinking about getting a waterproof exercise sheet, however decided on a fleece sheet in the hope that keeping him a little warmer may make him less inclined to leap around. I got a cheap one out of the saddlery and put it on him yesterday before going for a hack. He looked like a little race horse! It seems to do its job, as although he was still like a bouncing ball, he was much less tense through his back and hindquarters.

I've decided to try and be really disciplined and ride in the school 3 times a week (weather and ground surface permitting) and then hack twice at the weekend. It's difficult as it is an outdoor school and the flood lights create shadows everywhere. Wolfie normally spends his time spooking at his own shadow. I rode him for half an hour in the school tonight. It took him a good ten minutes to settle, but after that he was fantastic. I have started to ask him for a bend. We concentrated on 20m circles, serpentines, figure of eights in walk, with alot of halt transitions in between. Towards the end I asked for a couple of strides leg yield from the three quarter line back to the track. By the second attempt he had really got the idea and managed a couple of correct strides. He was really trying tonight and with both of us concentrating on something new, he started to really work through his back, walking really forward with that big long free stride of his.

Sunday, 16 November 2008


Wolfie did a pretty impressive rodeo horse impersonation today. He was really fresh and the air was icy cold. I dismounted and worked him quite hard from the ground before getting back on. I think I'm going to have to work him before getting on in the future, just to take the edge off him a bit. He has such a soft responsive mouth and is readily accepting and looking for a contact. I remember an instructor once describing the feel of the reins between the rider's hands and the horse's mouth as being like a knife slicing through soft melted butter. For the first time, I can properly feel that sensation with Wolfie. I just hope I can keep him this way, it's a huge deal to be so responsible. If he gets hardened or less sensitive it will be my fault.

Bouncing Ball

Wolfie has been stabled at night now for three weeks. It's taken a good fortnight for him to settle into his new routine. He accepted it pretty much straight away last year, but that's probably because he had been on box rest for a long time and he's a lot fitter and stronger this year. It's been a struggle over the last few weeks with the weather, dark nights and mucking out to keep him in consistent work. Where he is stabled, the horses get all year turnout, however due to the weather last week they were kept in for one day. By the time I got there after work, Wolfie was doing the wall of death around the stable. The only hard feed he is getting is a little chaff and sugar beet, nothing heating, but it's clear that he needs to be turned out every day, even if it's just for a few hours. He's just a fit, healthy 3 year old with a very active mind.

It was a nice day yesterday, so I decided to long rein him down the railwayline. We went out with Wolfie's next door neighbour Jake , who was being ridden. Even though Jake is a lot bigger, Wolfie has a much longer stride and a faster walk, so we took the lead. Wolfie was like a little bouncing ball or it was like he had springs in his feet. We haven't been out properly in ages and he was obviously full of the joys of life. I half halted him and did a lot of halt/walk transitions until he eventually settled. He does have the most amazing forward going walk, I almost have to jog at the end of the long lines to keep up.

Wolfie's mind is always active, if he gets bored, you end up with a potential battle on your hands. I try to prevent him from getting bored by setting him challenges. This can be changing direction, transitions, going up or down steeper inclines, through puddles, over ditches etc. It seems to work and keeps his mind on the job in hand. If he gets bored, he tends to stop, try and take his boots off or chew on any tack within close proximity to him.

There were two horses in the field next to the line who came galloping down to the fence. Both Wolfie and Jake had seen them, although they did not look overly concerned. Just as the horses stopped at the fence, one of them must have stood on a branch and snapped it. Both Wolfie and Jake took off at a flat out gallop, me at the end of the long lines with the sound of Jake's hooves thundering in my ears behind me. The whole thing must have lasted less than a minute, but was in slow motion. I remember thinking if I manage to stop Wolfie, and don't get dragged to the next village, Jake will career straight into us. I managed to get my wits together, my whole body weight behind him wasn't going to stop him, so as a last ditch effort, I used voice commands. He stopped instantly. Jake ground to a halt just behind me, so close that I could feel his breath on my neck. I'm glad Helen decided to ride him in the Myler bit yesterday. Wolfie settled back down and we continued on. That certainly got the adrenalin going and also was a sharp reminder that you can never become complacent or let your mind wander for a second when out with horses. Jake couldusually be considered pretty much bombproof, but it just goes to show. Wolfie enjoyed every second of being out and returned home tired but happy.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

We are family

I found the picture of Wolfie's maternal grandsire on a website. His family tree on his dam's side can be traced back about twelve generations of pure bred highland ponies. His sire's side only goes as far back to his grandparents. Looking at the photograph of Macgregor of Achnacarry, that look or expression on his face is Wolfie all over. Wolfie has definitely inherited his father's movement and action, his mother's mane and the appetite of the highland! As a foal, he was the same colour as his sire. He is now termed as blue and white but he still has one splodge on his hindquarters of dark chesnut brown.

Friday, 10 October 2008

The Missing Shoe

After our fantastic hack on Sunday, I gave Wolfie a day off on Monday. When I brought him in on Tuesday, he had lost a front shoe, typical. He was only shod a couple of weeks ago, but as his front feet had grown, the farrier put on a bigger, heavier shoe on the front. This has slowed his front feet action and he has been forging a bit - a combination of the heavier shoe and him being unbalanced. He's obviously pulled the shoe off. The farrier came up today to put another shoe on. So now he's got a double clipped shoe on his near fore. When he gets a full set on in a couple of weeks, he'll get double clipped shoes on both front feet to see if this makes a difference. I find the whole art or science of shoeing horses really interesting. And it really is true the saying 'No foot no horse'. He didn't stand great tonight for the farrier, he just had a kind of 'I don't think I'll bother with shoes today, thanks' attitude.

I went to a Monty Roberts demonstration at Gleneagles Equestrian Centre last weekend. I have seen Monty Roberts demonstrating his methods about 8 times now. He gave a really interesting demonstration on two line lunging and the effects one line lunging can have on the anatomical structure of the horse. He had a young horse in the round pen moving freely. This little horse had been lunged but was not backed. She showed a definite one-sidedness and became disunited and rabbit hopped when put under a little pressure.

As part of my Equine Studies degree, my dissertation was on laterality or 'handedness' in horses and how this is influenced by age and training. Although symmetry of appearance and locomotion in the horse may be desirable, it is seldom the case. There are very few mature horses that show totally symmetrical development, with the majority showing a marked tendency for a stiffer side or a favoured lead. In the case of a quadruped such as the horse, the tendency to exhibit lateralization of posture is referred to as sidedness and is commonly displayed as ipsilateral limb dominance. This is revealed by asymmetries in the movement or weight bearing patterns of the horse. Under the weight of the rider, the young or unschooled horse is often found in the early stages of training to have one side stiffer than the other. I have been conscious since I got Wolfie to try and handle him and lead him from both sides. I always use a mounting block to get on him, but the other day I thought I would mount him from his off side. The problem wasn't him, it was me. It was completely alien to me to get on from that side and I couldn't co-ordinate myself at all. I am inherently right sided, but couldn't move my body the correct way with my right foot in the stirrup. I think I will have to work on my own posture and sidedness as well as Wolfie's.

Rockin' Horse

The last 4 months have been spent backing Wolfie. In some ways, he is so simply straightforward, you wouldn't think he was only 3 years old. In other ways though, he is very complex. He has an opinion on just about everything and will voice it at every opportunity.

I backed Wolfie by doing a lot of groundwork using the Monty Roberts Dually halter and a lot of long reining. Getting on for the first time was no problem, as I expected. However, with me now being on his back, he no longer had his 'rock' on the ground and that proved to be a bit of a stumbling block for him and a knock to his confidence.

As I had no willing victim to sit on him whilst I was on the ground, we had to persevere. I have backed youngsters in the past and worked with and ridden many, but Wolfie has been a challenge. He is so bright and the whole process has been like a game of chess with me lying awake at night trying to think what my next move is going to be. He is very independent to the point that he will not even bother following a lead horse, even when he is out of his comfort zone. The last few months have been an incredible journey for both of us. There have been moments when it has been emotionally, physically and mentally draining as he has challenged and tested me at nearly every turn. But we have got there.

The hours spent long reining up and down hills, basically the groundwork, has been the foundations and preparations for the riding. Wolfie is going really well at the moment and is proving himself already to be a lovely riding horse. Although he only stands at approx 15.1hh, he has the stride length of a much bigger horse. He carries himself in a natural outline with three naturally elevated paces; with a particularly stunning and flamboyant trot. I really only concentrate on transitions and getting him going forward in straight lines at the moment, although he has shown that lateral movements come naturally and easily to him.

I have been hacking along the tracks behind the stables, he is used to this whole area as this is where I long rein him. The local farmer has given me permisision to ride through one of his fields to enable me to get Wolfie down onto a great hacking track without having to ride along the road. On Sunday I decided to brave it. Normally taking any young horse out I would always go with another horse, but as it makes no difference to Wolfie whatsoever, I decided just to head out on our own. We had the most amazing time. It's a great track in that you can see anyone or anything coming towards you and it's good ground. We had a few nice trots and a short canter. Wolfie was brilliant. He was so soft and responsive and felt as though he was enjoying every minute as much as I was. This was a huge achievement for us as we've been a bit restricted up until now where we can go, but this opens up a whole new world for us. Hacking home I couldn't stop smiling. People passing must have thought some village had lost its idiot.

Monday, 6 October 2008

My special pantomime horse

I put Wolfie's rain sheet on the other night, I have been trying to leave him unrugged for as long as possible to allow his winter coat to come through, but the rain was icy cold. As I was hit on the head by Wolfie's rubber feed bucket, which he was throwing around the stable in an effort to alert me to the fact that it was indeed empty, I thought 'this is it', feeling slightly morose, 'it's dark, it's cold, it's winter again.' He hasn't worn this rug since last year, when it was too big. It only now just fits him, with all the straps extended. It got me to thinking to how much he has grown and developed in the last 18 months.

Wolfie is a born entertainer and performer and loves nothing better than an audience. I am so used to having his head and feet in everything that I do that I no longer really notice. It's only when people come up to me to retell tales of his antics that every day that I realise he makes at least one person smile a day. He greets anyone anyone coming up to the stables like his long lost friend, whether it is other liveries, the bin men, post man or the men fixing the road. Everyone thinks that Wolfie likes them more than anyone else, as he makes the effort all the time to go over and talk. What they don't realise is that Wolfie thinks that they have come especially to see him, not vice versa! He has such a lovely outlook on life.

During the summer I was down in the field pulling ragwort. Anyone who has ever undertaken this task knows that it is critical that it is done, but is like painting the Forth Road Bridge in that there is always another piece to be pulled. Wolfie was highly entertained that I was in the field with a wheelbarrow and plastic bags. He loves to chase the wheelbarrow as it is being pushed. I had been at it for a few hours and had piled up full bin bags of ragwort in the wheelbarrow which I had left sitting whilst I continued to pull. Thinking that he had been very quiet for a while, I turned to see him over at the wheelbarrow. He had knocked the wheelbarrow over, ripped the bags open and was now happily scattering the ragwort around with his feet! He's got a great sense of humour.

Looking at how much he has changed and grown fills me with pride. I read an article on schirrous chord the other day (the infection which Wolfie had to go to the Vet School for). It said that it is notoriously difficult to treat with antibiotics and even with surgical intervention, the prognosis is usually hopeless. Wolfie was in terrible condition anyway, skin and bone and he had a severe infection with two huge abscesses formed at his gut wall, yet he survived. I know now that although he obviously had expert medical treatment, he also wanted to live more than anything.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

New Shoes!!

A lot has happened since I last posted (I am not too good at keeping this blog updated, I know!).

Firstly, Wolfie got his first set of front shoes on. I was trying to keep him bare foot as long as possible, but it just wasn't fair as the terrain we keep them on doesn't keep their feet hard enough to go unshod and he was beginning to feel his feet. He was cold shod, but once again did not fail to amaze me. He stood like an angel for the farrier and walking out for the first time he could not understand who was clip clopping and was spooking himself. Next time, he will get back shoes on too. I don't think he will be so good being shod on the back as he is a bit funny with picking his back feet up. However, like everything else with him, I'm sure he will take it all in his stride.

Wolfie went to his first show, which meant he had his first bath. He is not overly keen on the hose and having his legs hosed, but after a bit of a tantrum, he stood and endured the shampooing. By the end of it he was unrecognisable! The little horse scrubs up well. It must have worked as he came first in an In-hand youngstock coloured class. I was really only taking him to try and expand his world a little more and to experience things he has never seen before. I was slightly apprehensive as Wolfie is a big boy now and can drag me off my feet when the mood takes him. Once again I needn't have worried. Wolfie excelled himself. I am not being big headed when I say that I have never seen a 3 year old horse behave so impeccably. He was faced with cattle, lorries, horses, tannoys, music, balloons, dogs, kids with big inflatable hammers, bouncy castles and he acted as though he had been going to shows all of his life. He was amazing. He loved all the attention he got from everyone, being a real people horse and he had his own fan club there cheering him on. I wish he was so well behaved at home!

I will post some more photographs soon.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Happy Birthday, Wolfie!!

Wolfie is 3 years old today. This time last year it didn't look as though he would see his 3rd birthday, so it is quite a big deal. He'll be celebrating tonight with a blueberry muffin (his favourite) and some carrots.

The horse which is stabled next to Wolfie, called Jake, has been being turned out on his own for over a year recovering from a tendon injury. He was put back in with the herd during the week. I was a bit apprehensive as Jake is highland x Clydesdale and the size of an elephant. His feet are the size of soup plates! Jake has met the rest of the boys but has never been turned out with Wolfie before.
Wolfie, being the youngest, is generally bottom of the pecking order, and he also doesn't have shoes on which makes it harder for him to defend himself. He's not an aggressive horse and I've never seen him kick out at any of the other horses. He does tend to manage to get himself out of trouble and he's very quick and agile, but still it's always worrying.
Anyway, I spent a day worrying about him but needn't have bothered. The bold Wolfie spent his day circling Jake, pulling his beard, pulling his rug, and if that didn't get a reaction, then he pulled the feathers on Jake’s legs. Wolfie just wanted to play but poor Jake just wanted a bit of peace and quiet to eat! Standing next to big Jake, Wolfie looks like a Shetland!

Life for Wolfie is good just now, eating and playing. Hopefully, if the weather stays mild and dry, within the next few weeks the horses will be turned out for the summer. No more mucking out - hooray!

Friday, 7 March 2008


The dentist came up last Tuesday and Wolfie had his wolf teeth removed. Along with advice from the dentist, it was decided that he would be sedated. Wolf teeth are often removed without sedation, but we decided that as Wolfie will be getting mouthed and having a bit in within the next few weeks, it would be better that it was a pain that he did not remember or associate with his mouth. He wasn't happy about the injection as he had so many needles stuck in him last year, I think he will always have a bit of an issue with them. The teeth were removed and he seems to be fine and is eating without a problem. He'll need about 10 to 14 days to allow his mouth to settle down and then I will start to mouth him.

Wolfie is more than ready to start work. It's been a long winter and he's bored. Every night when I'm mucking out, he follows me around the stable, pulling me backwards by the hood, pulling my pony tail and knocking the wheelbarrow over (which was quite funny the first time, but now means I just have twice as much work to do as he does it several times a night). I have long reined him along the tracks at the back of the stables, just trying to expand his world and he loves it. It is amazing the difference in him, he really is a different horse and people who haven't seen him for a while are amazed at the transformation. He has gone from being shy and timid to super confident and cheeky. He has a lot of attitude and he now walks with a swagger!

Thursday, 31 January 2008


About six sheep have moved into Wolfie's field, from a neighbouring field, and Wolfie thinks it's great. He spends his time herding them around the field, but unfortunately the sheep don't feel quite the same way about their new friend! When they eventually get fed up of him, and disappear through the fence back into their own field, he looks so disappointed. I don't think he can understand why they don't want to play with him. I haven't been doing much as the weather has been awful.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Winter sucks!

It's so difficult trying to get anything done when it's constantly dark, cold and raining. I feel as though all I do is muck out and feed Wolfie, and never actually spend any time with him. During the really stormy weather last week, the window in his stable blew in. Luckily it was perspex and not glass, but he got a real fright. I think he must have thought his number was up. He's been really spooky ever since. He barged out of his stable the other morning and took himself off on a tour of the yard at a flat out gallop. He seems to be a bit more settled this week. I can't wait for the clocks to change, more daylight and the sun!!

Monday, 14 January 2008

Day 1 in the Wolfie House

Wolfgang (or Wolfie to his friends) is a Highland cross part bred TB. He's had a pretty horrendous start in life. Wolfie came to me in early May this year and ended up having surgery and a spent a month recovering in Glasgow vet school. It has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get him back on his feet and healthy again. Finally he is in fantastic health and is proving to have a very cheeky personality. Throughout everything he has been through, Wolfie has shown great courage and heart and has overcome it all. He has had to learn and experience some things at an alarming rate, but he really has taken it all in his stride. Wolfie will be three in April and after this I will start to back him. I haven't really started anything with him yet, having decided to let him be a baby, play in the field and enjoy himself after everything he has been through. I'm looking forward to the challenge of starting him. He is very clever and also has a bit of a temper on him, so I'm sure it will definitely be interesting and challenging.

This blog is to keep a diary of Wolfie's milestones. I will get some better pictures posted of him soon.