Wolfie the Wonder Horse!

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

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.