Wolfie the Wonder Horse!

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

Monday, 31 May 2010

The saddler called today, he's still working on the saddle, so it looks like it will be the very end of the week before he brings it up for fitting. There's a Le Trec competition on near Lochgilphead this weekend. It's a championship qualifier so the horses entering are vetted on Friday night, do the 12km orienteering on Saturday, are vetted again on Sunday morning and then do the obstacles on Sunday. One of the girls from the yard is taking her horse, just to enter the level 1. Another couple of girls are hiring horses for the weekend from a local trecking centre which leases trail horses to take part. I thought about going up and leasing a horse as I've sold my Wintec saddle (I think it's gone to a good home and the lady who bought it seems really pleased with it) so I could afford it. It would be great fun and would let me experience what is involved. But, there's really only one horse who I would want to be riding and that's Wolfie. I know I'm biased, but he really is a lovely horse to ride. A big part of it for me would be the challenge and excitement of doing it together with Wolfie. He's an exciting, fun horse to ride and to spend two days doing the Le Trec would be brilliant. Regardless of the way this year has turned out, Wolfie wouldn't be ready anyway to do the two days this year. He would be coralled over night and I would camp. It's a lot to ask of any horse not used to it never mind a youngster. Hopefully if we can get a few one day competitions or training days under our belt, then we could have a go at a two day competition. Maybe next year. I hope they get good weather.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

The Lone Ranger

I woke up today tired, with another headache. I went to look at gravestones for my mum which was not a nice way to start the day. I didn't do any work with Wolfie today, just gave him a scratch and his tea and turned him out. Zoe came up to ride Buttons. I gave her the reins which were attached to his headcollar. I bought him a little snaffle bit, but he doesn't seem to like the nutcracker action. I think he has some remembered pain from when his teeth were sharp. I managed to pick him up a little mullen mouth so I'm going to try putting that in and building up the length of time he has it in. If that goes ok, I will long rein him in it. For the first time, Zoe managed to steer Buttons and ride him around the school in walk on her own. He was a little cheeky at first and tried it on, but she's a little bigger and stronger now. Once she managed to get the desired action from him (walking forward) it gave her much more confidence in her ability to ask him to do things. Buttons has a mind of his own, he's not bad, but he has a strong character, I like the way pony minds work. He's also very used to being led everywhere and having someone walking beside him and naturally thinks he should be where people are. Long reining should help encourage him to go forward on his own. Zoe thinks that he has a bit in his mouth. She's been sent home with her homework to practise lengthening and shortening her reins. The countdown begins until Wolfie's saddle arrives.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Umbrella and rain.....not a good combination

I rode Wolfie bare back again on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday we did a little work again mainly in walk and on Tuesday we just ambled around and then hacked along the tracks and picked some hawthorn. Wolfie loves hawthorn. It hasn't even flowered yet, but he adores it. I was going to ride him tonight, but when I got to the yard he was full of beans. I took him into the school to do a little work first with the umbrella. He was good, still very cautious of it but will stand near it and touch it whilst it is on the ground. However, it then started to rain. To Wolfie, the umbrella is 'safe' whilst it's on the ground not moving, but the umbrella on the ground, not moving with rain hitting it is most definitely not safe. The sound of the rain hitting the umbrella turned it into into a completely different object to Wolfie, most certainly a horse eating object, and he wasn't entertaining it at all . The rain went off and he was able to go back over and inspect the umbrella and give it a good sniff and even tugged at it a little. I decided to end it on a good note and turned him out to enjoy a little rain on his back. He went out and rolled in a big muddy patch, got up and exploded. Bucking, galloping, spinning, rearing. He did perform some nice canter pirouettes. The other horses just disappeared off to the very far corners of the field out of his way. Good call not getting on him tonight and so long nice, clean bathed horse, it was nice having you for a few days.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Baths and bare back

I bathed Wolfie today, he was okay, but I did it quickly before he got too bored. He has a lot of dapples this year. Zoe came up with Susan and we went for a walk with Zoe riding Buttons. A dog ran out of a garden straight up to Buttons' front feet and head, he was very good and didn't move, just looked at it.

I then did a little in hand work with Wolfie in the school with the umbrella. Wolfie hates umbrellas. I've been doing a little with it over the past week. We're now at the stage where he will go over and touch it, when it's up in the school, but if you move it or try and pick it up, he will back off snorting. A little more work and I'm sure he will be fine.

I then decided to ride Wolfie bare back. I've been thinking of doing it all week, what's the worst that could happen, I fall off, I haven't came off Wolfie yet, but it will happen one day. I decided today was a good day as it was very warm and he was feeling the heat and looked quite lethargic. I got on at the mounting block and rode him into the school. He seemed a little hesitant at first, probably felt strange and a difference in weight distribution but he settled into his stride quickly. He was very good. We just worked in walk mostly and did some flexing and straightening exercises and then some leg yield and the beginnings of introducing shoulder in (we have also been working on this from the ground over the past week). We did a little trot work, he has an amazing big bouncy stride and apart from a few whizzy moments, he worked nicely and was focused on what he was doing. I haven't done much sitting trot with him under saddle, so need to build this up. He also hasn't been in the school for ages. It was fun. I'd forgotten how much more aware you are of your body, position, movements etc when you don't have stirrups or a saddle. Wolfie responds to your seat and weight aids beautifully. I spent years riding without stirrups and bare back, and it's all still there, I spent half an hour concentrating on the work we were doing, feeling his movement, the lovely swing through his back and for the first time in ages for that short time, I was the old me, where nothing would distract me from schooling a horse and for that short time, my huge weight was gone. I felt light and my horse felt very light. I then rode him around the yard and he was very good. I'm planning on doing some more bare back riding this week. I don't know about hacking him out, but maybe I'll take him a walk along the tracks. I wanted to get a photo today, but there was no-one at the yard when I was riding, maybe get one during the week, as proof.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Bath Time

I bathed Buttons today. It was still really hot at 2pm when I got to the yard, so I thought I would have enough time to do Buttons. He was really good, just using buckets of water and a sponge. It's the hose he doesn't like, not the water. There's nothing really that phases Buttons at all, but he's scared of the actual hose pipe itself and he's nervous of you sweeping or skipping out around him. I often wonder if someone's chased him at some point. He was bathed with tea tree and aloe vera horse shampoo, just to try and get rid of some of the residual scurf from his winter coat. He shines up like a little conker. The weather is supposed to remain hot over the weekend, so Wolfie's next.

Monday, 17 May 2010


I played Football with Buttons yesterday. The ball was too small and light and kept blowing away under the fence, it was just a child's football. Zoe came up and she kicked the ball and Buttons went haring after it, he was getting really into it. I need to get him a bigger ball. There is a ball designed for horses called an equi spirit ball. It must be reinforced as in one of the videos I watched, there was an 18.1hh horse practically lying on top of it. I imagine they would be very expensive to buy. Was thinking if a human exercise / gym ball would do instead, but it might just burst. There are some great videos of horses playing with the balls. I think Wolfie and Buttons would both love it. Check out this little guy in the link below, he's having a 'ball'.


Sunday, 16 May 2010

I was looking at video clips on You Tube today and came across these clips of mules which have been clicker trained. I don't know how to copy the links so you just click on them to see them. I have always had a bit of a fascination for mules, despite only having ever met one once in my life when I spent a summer working in Wyoming.




The mule performing dressage movements at Liberty is brilliant. Three time canter, lateral movements and moments of self carriage. That mule could perform a nice dressage test. They are being rewarded for carrying out desired actions but look as though they are enjoying the work and the interaction. The girl working with them treats them with real kindness. Their ears are hilarious. What can I say, I want a mule.

Apparently mules are much less tolerant to dogs than horses and are capable of striking out with any of their hooves in any direction, even sideways if needed. Mules exhibit a higher cognitive intelligence than their parent species. They also aquire greater height and endurance than either parent. Mules are highly intelligent and the stereotype of the mule being stubborn appears to be somewhat unfair.

Cruel to be kind............

................or just bad management on my part. Wolfie clearly isn't coping with being kept in the stable for full days. The field isn't getting split until the beginning of June so I need to have a rethink. Yes, it is for his own good that I am trying to keep him off the grass (although I am not sure of the benefits of this as and am sure that he probably goes out and gorges himself over night). I'm going to try next week having him brought in at lunch time, so he's standing in for a shorter length of time. The whole situation is not ideal and to me the only sensible solution is to have the grazing restricted immediately, but it's one of the difficulties of being at a yard and I'm not in charge. I understand why people use grazing muzzles, but it's not something I would want to do and feel that Wolfie would not cope well with it. Fortunately, Button's field has much less grass in it, although I'm sure he is already stalking up for winter.

Wolfie still seems to be intent on establishing his position within the herd. When I turn him out, he looks for C. (the horse who kicks him), gallops over to him, bites him on the hindquarters. C then moves out the way and Wolfie eats the patch of grass where C was standing. I've also seen him galloping flat out after C. It appears however that C. most of the time now tries to get out of Wolfie's way and does not appear to be entering into any full on confrontation with him. Wolfie is instigating all of this, but even when he bites or lifts a back leg, there is no real intent to do any damage. I rarely see him kick and most of the time he just makes threatening faces (which to be fair are not very threatening). C. has never came in with any wounds apart from a grazed nose (Wolfie lost a tooth and almost an eye so it balances out). It would appear that Wolfie is getting his way and has moved up the line. J and M are top of the herd and they seem to have a mutual agreement in leadership. Wolfie sees himself just behind those two. I dread to think what will happen if he ever gets any ideas about taking those two on.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


I've been thinking alot about the picture of all the horses lying down. You very rarely see all of them down at the one time. Then I realised the formation they had taken. Two lines of three back to back. They have every angle covered and between them can see 360 degrees. Clever.

I attempted to long rein Wolfie again tonight. I have been having him brought in during the day to get him off the grass and been giving him soaked hay to eat. This was my proposed idea to try and restrict his grass intake until the grazing gets restricted. However, whilst I wanted to concentrate on long reining, Wolfie's 5 year old mind and body had been stuck in a stable all day. All he wanted was out in the field with his friends. Half way up one of the fields, he started bucking which escalated into complete handstands giving me a birds eye view of his back feet. He was going every way but forward. He was performing some lovely passage and half pass. Eventually I managed to turn him and we crossed another field, still performing some lovely lateral work (not intentionally) and we returned home with Wolfie bouncing the whole way. That was one argument I wasn't going to enter into with a 5 year old who has been cooped up in a stable all day. It was a combination of freshness, boredom and frustration on his part and I fully understand why he did it. It wasn't badness, just how he was feeling. If the grazing was restricted he could stay out most of the day. The issue with fat horses is so widely publisised these days, and everyone that has any responsibility for any horse has a duty of care to ensure that measures are taken to control their weight but it is still so hard to try and get people to take it seriously. I'm thinking of buying my own fencing and putting it up during the night, see if anyone notices.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Wolfie was measured for his saddle on Saturday. The spring grass is coming through thick and fast and the battle with weight begins. I have asked again this year for the field to be divided with electric fencing and the grazing restricted. The majority of the boys in Wolfie's field are good doers and could all do with being strip grazed.

I long reined Wolfie tonight. At first he was a bit confused, but he remembered. He was very good and I had forgotten how much I used to enjoy long reining him around the fields. Although when I stood behind him tonight, I was like whoa, I actually felt slightly intimidated at first by the sheer size and power of him. It's over a year since I last long reined him, he is now a very big boy. I seem to have been oblivious to the changes Wolfie has gone through over winter. We long reined up and down a couple of hills. Wolfie seemed to really enjoy it and only had a couple of silly moments one of which was trying to bounce after a couple of lambs, but for the majority of the time he listened and was very responsive. I want to continue and long rein him up the hills to try and keep him active whilst he can't be ridden. Only problem is, I can't actually keep up with him. When he's walking forward I can barely keep up on the flat, but going uphill is worse especially if he powers up it. So here's to building up my fitness at the same time.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Shouldering On

Yesterday was not a good day for me. I woke up feeling very, very sad. I spent the whole day trying to remember what my mum's voice sounded like and I couldn't. My head was thumping all day, I did everything at a snail's pace, but couldn't speed up no matter how much I tried. The saddler arrived and came down to see Wolfie. I opened the stable door to lead Wolfie out and his words were ' wow, look at the shoulders on him'. Wolfie exploded out of the stable (I have no idea why) and the saddler had a good look all over him. He was very complimentary about his big sloping shoulder and length of stride, saying it was text book angle for stride and elevation and any serious dressage rider would be envious of that shoulder. (Hmph that would be all well and good if he was a 16.2hh Warmblood). However, coupled with Wolfie's flat back and no real defined wither, it makes it a very difficult fit for a saddle. The saddler listened to all my thoughts and fears on the whole saddle / fitting issue and we discussed various options. Ultimately, I have known that every saddle I have tried on Wolfie recently does not nearly fit. I no longer have any confidence in myself or my judgement that I can even put a saddle on him and know that it is even placed correctly. If I am to ask any more of Wolfie in terms of his schooling and level of collection I need to have confidence in my tack. I need to be sure that any resistance shown is not down to a badly fitting saddle causing him discomfort. Wolfie is still pretty much a blank canvas to me, the foundations are there and so far he's a happy, confident horse who enjoys his work, I don't want to ruin everything we have achieved so far by making him sore and sour. As I've said before, Wolfie wears his heart on his sleeve. He lets you know how he is feeling every inch of the way. Like most youngsters, everything has to be in black or white, and with him you cannot skip a step, but I feel he would be a horse that could easily become very angry and bitter if things weren't done correctly or he was forced into something which caused him pain.

So the upshot is, Wolfie is having a custom made saddle. This is not something I wanted to be doing right now. This was a 'one day' dream several years down the line, but I have to do what is best for Wolfie right now. The saddler is coming out on Saturday to measure him up, take tracings and photographs. The saddle will be black, and he has said I can have any choice of leather at no extra cost. The tree will be made to try and allow as much room for alteration as possible as Wolfie continues to change shape. It will be a close contact balance saddle. It will take 3 to 4 weeks for the saddle to be made and the saddler will come out fit the saddle and watch me ride in it. He will then make any final alterations. He said he will then come back out after we have been using the saddle for a few weeks as a follow up call to check it. The saddle comes with a 2 year guarantee (the majority of saddlers only offer 1 year guarantees) and the tree has a lifetime guarantee. After much discussion with the saddler I have decided on the Wallace GPD which has a medium deep seat and straight cut flaps. The panel has been designed to give maximum comfort for the horse, allowing an excellent fit while allowing freedom of movement around the shoulder area. It is a general purpose saddle but straighter cut like a working hunter type to free up his shoulder but also means we can still jump in it. I love tack and leather. Normally, I would be so excited by the thought of our very own custom made leather saddle, it's a dream come true, but right now it just feels like another set back even though I know it's the only way forward. The saddler then went off to fit J's new saddle and I was left with Wolfie, who was looking particularly pleased and happy with himself as my world once again came crashing down around my ears.

Fortunately, J's new saddle was a good fit on him and only needs reflocked. H came down to see me after the saddler had left, with her jaw on the ground, she said the saddler had commented that Wolfie's shoulders are bigger than J's. I'm trying very hard at the moment to think of the positives of Wolfie's shoulders. With his huge stride, he covers alot of ground, so we can hack in half the time it takes every one else to do the same route. I mentioned to the saddler that I had to have Wolfie's bridle customised as even his head doesn't fit a standard size. He laughed and said that it's the complicated ones that often make the very best ones.

I think in my heart, I knew that this is where we were going to end up, although part of me had hoped that the saddler would miraculously fit a saddle and we'd be able to join in the centered riding lessons next week, I really want to try that. But no riding Wolfie for the next month. I had considered getting on him bare back in the school, but I've never sat on him bare back and I really don't fancy ending up face down in the surface at the moment and could do without any injuries. So I will get the long lines back out and we will do some ground work for the next few weeks.

I have started clicker training with Buttons over the last 2 days. It took me a little while to get my head around it and timing is crucial. I used a schooling stick as the 'target'. At the moment it is teaching him to understand the clicker. Every time he touches the target, he gets clicked and rewarded with a tit bit. Buttons is a pony that has always been fed from the hand. He mugs anyone near him and is at perfect pocket height. When I tried for the first time on Wednesday, after a couple of goes, I could actually see him processing the whole thing in his mind. He was working it out. Normally he always snuffles around your jacket, but he was standing back, and then he would hesitantly 'touch' the target, he was then clicked and rewarded. You could almost see him thinking, 'what's the catch, this is too easy'. Yesterday I took him into the school for 10 minutes to do some clicker work. When there's food involved, you have Buttons undivided attention. To say he is food motivated is an understatement. He touched the target as I moved it around. He was desperate to do anything else to be 'rewarded'. I think Buttons would stand on his head if he could if he thought there might be a 'reward' in it. It's good fun, I'm still getting the hang of it with timing and co-ordination. I've been giving Buttons a good brush every day, trying to get that winter coat out. He's brilliant, he loves being groomed and would stand all day being fussed over and cuddled.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Saddles and Centres

I hacked Wolfie on Monday. Yesterday I went to place a saddle on his back, just to try it and he scowled at me. Wolfie has never done that on seeing any form of tack. Something has pinched or hurt him during our ride on Monday. I was using J's saddle. There were no marks, raised areas or swelling, but I have a feeling the girth I used may have pinched him. Earlier I had given him a good scratch and pressed over his back and sides and he was fine, but something has definitely irked him. The saddler, Andrew Sankey is coming on Thursday to see a potential saddle for fitting and hopefully to offer some very much needed help and advice. The whole saddle issue is worrying me. I know how detrimental an ill fit saddle can be, but I just don't know what the best option is for us. Wolfie is not an easy shape to fit. I just want to do the best by Wolfie, so we will wait and see what Thursday brings.

Some of the girls at the yard had a lesson last night on centered riding. I hung around to watch H and J's lesson. I've read some articles on centered riding, but have never really given it to much thought. It is a method of teaching which takes the focus back to the rider, providing exercises on and off the horse which enhance body awareness and help riders recognise areas of tension and imbalance. It looked brilliant. The instructor just had H doing exercises in walk, but the effect it had on J's way of going was amazing. He was striding forward without the usual cries of 'leg on' and 'flexion' that you hear in lessons. H was beaming when she got off, having thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a great feeling to come out of a lesson and have achieved something. It's definitely something I would like to try. Maybe once the dreaded saddle issue is sorted out.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Growing up....... and out

It was Wolfie's 5th Birthday on Monday 26th April. What do you do when you turn 5, well if you're Wolfie you completely change shape and outgrow your saddle. Since I started hacking Wolfie again, every time I've ridden, the bottom of my back has been hurting me within minutes of getting on. I put it down to just the way I have been feeling lately. Last Sunday we went for a hack with H and J. H was riding behind me and noticed that Wolfie's saddle wasn't even touching his back. It's tipping me forward. I check his back merticulously after each ride and thankfully we've only been walking and staying on the flat. He doesn't seem to have suffered from this, but when Wolfie starts any carry on it's normally with a wing and a prayer that I stay on and as H pointed out, if he bucks with the saddle sitting like that, not only would it be awful for him to have the saddle slam onto his back, but I wouldn't stand a chance of staying on. On Monday I went up to the yard, stripped off the numnah and girth and put the saddle on him. It didn't fit anywhere at all. I have the Wintec 2000 with adjustable gullet. I got the Wintec measuring gauge out and Wolfie is off the scale. I felt my heart sink right into my boots. It's part and parcel of having a young horse that they are going to change, grow etc, but I really thought we might have at least got another year out of the Wintec. He isn't an overly wide horse. He is in soft condition and carrying a bit too much weight, but he's been bigger. It's his shoulders, they are huge. The way I'm feeling right now, everything seems like a mammoth deal and effort and the slightest stumbling block makes me just want to chuck everything. I seriously considered just locking everything away, turning Wolfie out to grass and giving up. Fortunately H arrived after she had finished work armed with her 'new' second hand leather saddle she had just bought for J. H came along, looked at the Wintec and agreed whole heartedly that it didn't fit anywhere. She tried her new saddle on W and although it wasn't 100% perfect, it was pretty good. We girthed it up and she encouraged me to get on in the school and have a little walk around in it. I was never a fan of synthetics, but when I got the Wintec they grew on me. I could see their benefits, especially with a growing youngster. I had even thought that if the GP was working out, maybe this year we could have got a second hand synthetic dressage saddle. Sometimes I wonder what planet I live on. However, sitting back in a leather saddle was like coming home. There is nothing like it. The lines of communication were clearer, I could feel his movement much better. Obviously the Wintec has been tipping me forward, making me crooked, forcing Wolfie even further onto his forehand and restricting his shoulders, but even when it did fit, it wasn't a patch on the feeling I got in the leather saddle. H without hesitation offered us the use of her saddle to enable us to keep riding until we can find another one. I can't thank H enough for this, she hasn't even ridden in it yet! I hope one day that I can repay her kindness. The Wintec is completely the wrong shape of saddle for Wolfie now. The next step up in synthetics is the Wintec Wide, but I think that this would end up rolling. I have decided to get a second hand leather saddle, I don't think I can go back to synthetics now. We have a limited budget, but I will sell the Wintec, they seem to hold their value well and have a massive clear out and sell anything we don't need. H has been brilliant and has been trawling EBay on the saddle hunt. We think we may have found one. I don't want to say too much just now as I don't want to jinx it, but if it is suitable it will be brilliant.

We have been out hacking with H and J several times this week. I am still lacking self motivation to ride. H has been quietly encouraging me to go out with her and J. I don't mind riding on my own and usually enjoy just concentrating on Wolfie, but right now it just gives me too much time to think. H had a half day on Wednesday, so we went for a longer hack. We rode up around Lennox Castle and around Celtic Football Club's Training ground. Their football pitches are immaculate. We were wondering what we would be charged with if we broke in and galloped across their pitches. I think we settled on criminal damage and riding with undue care and attention. There is a housing development in process up there at the moment. Normally when H hacks this route, it's at the weekend and the building site is closed. It wasn't on Wednesday. There were huge lorries, road sweepers, cement mixers, pneumatic drills, dumper trucks and diggers everywhere. Wolfie led the way. Eyes and ears on everything. He didn't balk or stop, just seemed more interested than anything. He had J behind him for support. J is brilliant, he just does anything. The workmen were great and stopped the machinery as soon as they saw us, but you could have forgiven any horse for getting upset. Think extreme police horse training and it wouldn't even be close. We then went off road and took some tracks that any Le trec enthusiast would be envious off. Different terrain, steep hills, low branches, wooden bridges. J took the lead down a few of the hills to show Wolfie the way to go. On hacking home a man started sanding his garden gate with a piece of sand paper. Both horses had a massive spook which seemed ridiculous after what they had just encountered. I was completely astounded at Wolfie. I knew he had a huge huge heart, but he is proving that he has real guts. So far he is answering every question that is being asked of him. He must have been mentally and physically tired after that hack, but walked home with energy and his ears pricked. J is hilarious. He pulls the grumpiest of faces at Wolfie and you can almost hear him muttering under his breath about 'the state of youth today'. Wolfie absolutely adores J and I think deep down J has a little soft spot for Wolfie too. Wolfie is a one off, he's a quirky little horse and I can honestly say that I have never met any horse before quite like him and I know that I certainly wouldn't ever be able to replace him.