Wolfie the Wonder Horse!

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

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Dear to me is my bonnie white (grey, black and brown) steed; Oft has he helped me at a pinch of need. - Sir Walter Scott

I gave Wolfie Monday and Tuesday off.  On Wednesday we hacked back down the line with H and J.  As we approached the bridge Wolfie stopped and started backing up.  J. took the lead and crossed the bridge.  Wolfie was hesitant, he walked forward and was really trying for me, he didn't want to cross but he wanted to answer what I was asking.  Just as he was at the edge of the bridge and about to step onto it, a cyclist appeared right behind him.  That put an end to that so I got off and led him over.  He walked calmly with me.  My plan is to approach the bridge, stop him on my terms and get off and lead him over.  I will do this and hopefully be able to get closer and closer each time until he will confidently stand at the edge of the bridge.  I wont attempt to ride him across it until we've built up his confidence again and he realises that it's no problem for a courageous horse like him.  The bridge itself is not the issue, it's what's happened recently on either side of it. 

We hacked again on Thursday and on Friday we went for a nice hack up the hills with H and J.  We had a nice canter across one of the fields.  Wolfie got a bit excited and was stuck bouncing and bucking on the spot as J. cantered away.  He leapt forward and soon caught up though.

I've been thinking recently how far Wolfie has come this year and then I realised, he's only really been ridden since we got the saddle, which was a little over 2 months ago.  I've also been thinking a lot about his schooling (or lack of it).  I take him in the school maybe once a week at the most.  He has been giving me some beautiful, powerful work out hacking, but  I've never been able to achieve this in the school.  The more I thought about it, I realised that pretty much 99% of what Wolfie knows and has learnt has been taught outwith the school.  Even his long reining has been done through the fields.  In the school, he is tense through his neck and back.  He tries so hard to please and do what is asked of him that he ends up tieing himself in knots and it is almost counter productive.  It's so glaringly obvious that he's sensing it from me.  Once a week I take him in the school, my head full of plans of what we are going to do and work on.  It's good to have plan, but I'm so intent on making things interesting and working on different things, that I'm sacrificing all the lovely work he has produced.  I turn it into a huge event and he doesn't understand.  I'm putting unnecessary pressure on him and struggle to get the basics, the things that come naturally without thinking about them when we are working in the fields.  He is picking up all this from me, I'm different and I'm probably riding differently.  I had thought about taking him in the school more often, just for 5 or 10 minutes before we hack, so that it isn't such a big deal, but then I thought, he's going to be in the school so much over winter and once the clocks change that I may as well just leave it until then.  I need to ensure that I mix the schooling with ground work and keep the focus at the moment on straightness and relaxation.  I rode him in the school today, warmed up in walk on a loose rein for 10 minutes.  We worked on transitions in walk and trot and I gave him plenty of rests on a long rein and made much of him, just trying to get him to relax and soften.  There were a lot of people at the yard this morning who haven't seen Wolfie being worked in the school for I don't know how long (probably  because we only do it once in a blue moon).  They were all very complementary about how well he was going and how lovely he moves.  It was nice to know that other people can see an improvement, but also disappointing because he can go so much better than that. I've had a taste of just how well he can work and I want that all the time.  I just need to be patient and consistent until he finds his feet in the school.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Streuth mate there's a shark in the water...........

............Or a crazy person throwing rocks.  I took Wolfie out for a hack this morning.  We rode the short distance along the road, past the 'scarey' house and down onto the track.  Wolfie was forward going and energetic.  He crossed the bridge without hesitating and we had a few nice trots before turning for home.  We were approaching the bridge and were maybe 10 feet away, Wolfie was relaxed and forward when someone threw a rock (or more like a boulder) into the river.  I couldn't see what or who was there but they were continually throwing rocks into the river, one after the other.  The river was high and flowing fast, the noise and splash was loud and echoing.  I can only describe it as sounding almost like a gun shot.  Wolfie reared straight up, walked backwards while rearing, came down and went straight up again.  He then plunged into the undergrowth, panicking, cantering sideways, backwards and leaping forwards.  I managed to get him back onto the track and jumped off.   I thought if I could lead him close enough that I could see what was happening, I could try and ask the person to stop.  Crossing that bridge was our way home.  The noise was relentless and by this time Wolfie was even further from the bridge.  As I stood next to him every time a stone hit the water every muscle in his body would tremor and he would leap off all four feet.  I couldn't get him forward and I was worried he was going to spin and bolt in the opposite direction.  I looked at his face and saw his eye.  My little horse was absolutely terrified.  He looked so babyish and so scared.  I felt awful.  I couldn't have known this would happen and he wasn't really in any danger, only what he perceived to be danger, but still.  I had to try and work out what to do, and how we were going to get home, but firstly I had to get Wolfie out of this situation, give him comfort and take him back to somewhere where he felt safe.  I managed to turn him and led him away from the bridge, the noise still echoing around us.  At points it was as though he was going to bolt, and then stopped himself.  I managed to get back on and we walked back down the track.  The only other way home was along the road.  I've only ever ridden him this far along the road with another horse, but we had no choice but to do it on our own this time.  He felt like a coiled spring, but he settled and walked home bravely along the road with no spooking.  His ears were pricked and he seemed quite pleased with himself.  Although, he is a spooky little horse, once he's taken fright at something and reacts, he tends then to leave it behind him and carry on.  He doesn't get completely wound up, and start fussing or being neurotic.  He's not had much luck recently and had a few frights which will have dented his confidence.  H. said that it happened to her when she was out riding and J. slipped down onto his knees after panicking.  If it's enough to panic J. then it must be pretty scarey.  I don't think Wolfie will overreact to this.  I'll make sure I hack out with H and J to give him a little support.  J is good at being Wolfie's wingman.  However, we got through it and I'm sure it can only strengthen our partnership.  I fully expected to get home and find he'd knocked or cut himself on one of his legs, the way he had been lunging around, but not a scratch on him.  I've just got the Equilibrium stretch and flex training wraps and he was wearing them.  They were expensive, but they've already proved their value and that they do provide protection to the legs.

On a more positive note, we've had a good week with one schooling session and some nice hacks. Our gate opening and closing skills are getting better and better.  Wolfie takes it quite seriously.  You always shut your gate. The boys got their annual vaccinations on Friday and Wolfie managed to let the vet stroke him on the neck.  That's real progress!

Wolfie's a funny one.  Although he is spooky at some objects, he's also very brave and inquisitive at others.  I've seen him stick his head in the drivers window of the lorry which is resurfacing the road next to his field.  Smoke billowing every where, the smell of hot tar and loads of noise and a man with a big stop and go sign, not a problem.  But ask him to walk across freshly painted white lines on the road and he'll be snorting and spooking.  I suppose it comes down to what he perceives as danger.  

Buttons is doing great.  He makes me smile.  He's such a happy pony and so bold and confident.  Zoe rode him today and we went out for a walk with H. riding J.  Buttons seems to be the only pony J. doesn't scowl at.  Buttons was taking 3 strides to every one of J's but he didn't lag behind.  He really doesn't realise that he's only 36 inches tall.  I'm sure he thinks he's sizes with J.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Spooking and spinning

Wolfie's been busy this week, we've hacked, lunged and had one schooling session and introduced some pole work.  He's been very good, although now he's generally working more in trot and canter than he has done before, he seems to now think that we should just go everywhere at a very, very fast trot or canter.  I have to be very careful to vary the places where I trot and canter, so he doesn't anticipate it all the time.  He's becoming much stronger and the hacking and hill work is slowly helping to build him up and strengthen his hindquarters.  Today we went again for our early Sunday morning hack.  As we were walking along the road, he has to pass a house with very high hedges which he can't see over.  There were children playing in the garden on a swing set, a lot of noise, people and a dog.  He could see movement through the hedge, but had no idea what was going on in there.  He stopped, neck again rock solid and started backing up straight away.  He walked forward two steps and reared and span so we were facing the opposite direction.  If there had been another horse with us that could have blocked us in or led us past the house it would have made a difference, but it was far too dangerous on the road to wait it out or try and force him to go on.  I got off and led him the last 20 yards down the road onto the track.  It's the same scenario, if he could see what was there, I think he would accept it.  I'm not really concerned about his spooking, it's mainly because he's not getting out enough to experience and face different things.  When I hack during the week, I stay on the hills as the road is too busy as the time I ride most people are going home from work.  The rest of the hack he was outstanding.  He crossed the bridge quite boldly and he gave me the best trot I think we've ever had.  It was one of those moments when everything just seems to click and fall into place.  He was working through from behind and beautifully soft on the contact and through his neck.  He was totally on my aids and felt completely relaxed.  Now we have to aim to transfer that level of work to the school and build up consistency in the work he's being asked to do.

Wolfie got his new shoes on Thursday.  He's gone up a shoe size and now has Equilibrium shoes.  They are still quarter clip shoes, but are supposed to be designed to allow correct fitting of the shoe on the hoof and have a safed off toe to allow correct breakover and equilibrium.  They are popular with farriers who want to shoe the horse in a natural balance way and are supposed to offer a midway alternative between drop forged natural balance shoes and traditional concave shoes.  I meant to take a before and after photograph of the old and new shoes, but I forgot.

Wolfie doesn't like any form of grooming or brushes.  I think he is very ticklish and he gets nothing out of being brushed.  He likes to be scratched, so I use a hand garden rake which he loves.  It looks like an instrument of torture, but he likes it.  I normally scratch him and then give him a curry to try and shift the grease and dirt.  The photographs below are of Wolfie today being scratched.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

I set off this morning for a hack on Wolfie.  From the minute I got on, he was acting very spooky, shying at things in the hedges, open gates, things he generally sees every day.  I just put it down to the fact that he's had 2 days off in a row.  We headed down to the railway line and as we were about 20 yards from the wooden bridge he stopped suddenly.  Normally I have found that if I give him a couple of minutes to look at something, give him time to gather information about the object he is looking at and assimilate the information, he will walk on, normally without any further shying.  Not today though, his head was raised, every muscle tight, his neck was rock solid.  He has crossed this bridge a good few times now and although he's not fully confident at it, I found his reaction today strange.  I asked him to walk on and he started to back up.  Normally if he gets to this stage, the next thing he will do is half rear and spin.  I didn't want this to escalate to that today and undo all the confidence I have already installed in him in crossing the bridge.  Training is a fine line between creating new challenges and establishing a safe environment and I never want to demand so much from him to the extent that I discourage his generosity.  I didn't think he was just being silly, there seemed to be more to it than that.  Trying to keep my adrenaline low, I dismounted and walked him towards the bridge.  As I got closer I saw that on the other side a bike and cycling helmet were propped up against the side of the bridge.  I slowly led Wolfie across the bridge and as I did, I noticed that the owner of the bike was down the embankment at the river edge, almost under the bridge fishing.  I hadn't seen any of this from the other side of the bridge, but Wolfie had obviously seen or heard something.  I think if the man had came out and been visible, Wolfie would have been alright once he realised it was a person, but from the other side, it could have been a big horse eating alligator.  I got back on and we continued our hack.  I rode up into the forestry to explore a few tracks and see if we could find some new hacking routes where we can have a trot and canter .  We found a brilliant track which we walked along and then trotted and cantered back.  There were a few hills, low branches and fallen trees we had to negotitate.  Wolfie was brilliant and evidently loved it.  He really wanted to go and as I held him back he put in a few leaps and bucks, out of frustration I think, but the track was too twisty to go too fast.  We hacked home and Wolfie crossed the bridge boldly (the fisherman was gone).  We were out for just under 2 hours.  Wolfie was tired, but he marched home with his ears pricked.  I'd really like to be able to take him down and stand him in the river, but so far I haven't been able to find a place which would be safe enough for him to go sown, the bank is really steep.  I'm very impressed at how skilled he become at opening and closing the gate at the yard.  It's completely not horse friendly, but Wolfie has mastered every manouvere he is required to make to allow us to open and close it.  Clever boy.  

Sunday, 1 August 2010

I'm pleased to say that I've still been managing to ride Wolfie consistently, dodging the rain.  Wolfie was up to his old tricks in the field yesterday, galloping around and winding the others up.  At one point he had his head down, galloping flat out, bucking and corkscrewing, that he didn't see M lie down and start rolling.  By the time he spotted him, he had no option but to jump him and jump him he did, taking off at the other side to do some more bucking.  Poor M stood up wondering what on earth had just happened.  I don't know what comes over Wolfie sometimes.  I love watching him when he's like that in natural self carriage, neck arched, performing movements I just wish we could transfer to under saddle (that doesn't include the bucking), but honestly, no wonder he gets injuries.  He's not aggressive to the others, but he certainly winds them up and herds them all the time, keeping them moving.

We went for a good long hack along the old railway line today.  I timed it early enough that the road was quiet and there wasn't many cyclists or dog walkers around.  Wolfie was good, a little hesitant before crossing the wooden bridge, but once over he crossed the second one no problems.  We alternated between walking on a contact and walking on a loose rein.  The ground was good, so we had a few trots, he was bouncing into the transitions and felt powerful.  He definitely enjoys working at faster paces.  There isn't a great variety of plants in Wolfie's field and he loves sampling the local delicacies when he's out.  His favourite at the moment is the purple heads of thistles and rosehips.

Having a good look at the bridge

Buttons has been good.  Zoe is back from holiday and I think he was pleased to see her.  Especially since she brought with her a bag of wild berry flavoured horse treats which he took a real shine to.  He was good being ridden today. 

Hello Buttons

J. came back from the vet school on Thursday and is pleased to be home.  He looks well and hopefully will continue to recover quickly with some rest and recuperation and lots of TLC.