Sunrise Skippy

Sunrise Skippy

Boy oh boy the mud has just been something else! The pathway to Skip’s field was a total bog. Especially if I was just ‘nipping in past’ on the way home from somewhere – and had no wellies in the car, that was just pure disaster!! Now nearing the end of the month the ground is frozen solid. None the less Skip is still turned out every day (exceptions for the odd hurricane duvet day!!) and brought back in at night to his big cosy straw bed. He had a few days of make shift luminous pink horse croc wearing, being barefoot he got very sore with all the frozen churned up and uneven ground, but he is feeling much better now he’s had his croc’s on! He loves going out, in fact in summer he point blank refuses to go into his stable at all! He is more persuadable in winter since all of his friends are in at night too.

Inspecting some flood damage

Inspecting some flood damage

So really it was a bit of a rubbish start to the year! Our yard runs about 500 yards from the river Dee. As I’m sure you will all be aware, there was some serious flooding in Aberdeenshire along with that in the rest of the country! The river Dee burst its banks, and boy it didn’t do it by half! With my direct route to the yard over the bridge closed, it was taking me forever to get to the yard – grr. It is heart-breaking to see the devastation that the surplus of water has caused in the area so I am thankful that our yard is where it is and not a metre closer to the river! We also very sadly lost Skip’s best friend Bex to a bad infection this month. Skip and Bex were the best of friends from day 1 at the farm and we were both very sad to lose the big orange giant. RIP Bex. So because of all these little put downs we’ve had a very quiet month this month. Some ‘downtime’ one might call it. With all of the commotion with the river and goings on of a January, we’ve barely done anything! A 2 weekly lesson, a run through of one of Tim’s exercises, some hacking and of course a minimal amount of the necessary school work (snore!) Of course there is a day or two off in there for the boyo when I am rushing around like a headless chicken trying to get ‘adult like’ jobs done too! So no competing – just chilling.

Side Saddle!

Side Saddle!

On a more fun note – we got to play side saddle this month! What an awesome experience and I think both Skip and I really enjoyed it! It’s definitely something I would like to have a few lessons in and see how things pan out!

Our achievement of the month is definitely Skip learning to lunge. As much the same in all other areas, I’m not sure Skip really knew how to lunge. I tried many times when I first got him, but the whole ordeal proved just too stressful for us both, but perseverance paid off and Skip is now lunging well. It seems like such a small thing but it is such an achievement for us both. This wasn’t our only achievement this month – In my last blog I spoke about how we went off for a lesson with team GBR Nicola Wilson? I failed to mention that Skip walked straight onto the lorry first time on the way to his lesson!! No hesitation! Boy was I proud – the whole way there, I kept saying to the girls, “I can’t believe he just walked straight on, I’m so proud of him” He may be 10 years old now but in many ways he is very baby like, and the achievements and distance he has come in just a year amazes me. He really is a one in a million horse!

Stephen Hammond Photograph also came out and took a few more picture of Skip and I so thought you might like to see them.

Skip in his Honeychop Hat!           12697319_1163360093698870_9174237283244348277_o               12716427_1163359073698972_4406327797565168590_o

So on to Tim’s exercise.

Oh boy, another complicated one!” were my first thoughts when I saw the diagram! However, I did learn from last month’s exercise, the very valuable lesson that is “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again” and I can confirm that I now totally respect this saying in the fact that Skip and I did manage last month’s ‘jumping on the W’ exercise I remained in trot and made use of our arena at home which is slightly smaller but Skip and I still managed to ride through the exercise again, this time it was a lot smoother and more accurate. on our fourth attempt! …but who’s counting?!

(pic for Scottish Rider) Tim's exersise - Photo by Stephen Hammond Photography

Tim’s exersise – Photo by Stephen Hammond Photography

So once again we set to work. I was thinking positively, after all Skip is improving more and more with all the work we have been doing lately, he might find this exercise positively easy?! I set out my exercise and referred back to Tim’s instructions… Eek, I doubted my capability for a moment. It took me a while to get the exercise flowing, I forgot where I was meant to be going a couple of times, but soon after half a dozen referrals back to my instructions, I got the hang of it. As per my normal I began in trot with poles on the ground and tried to perfect (or at least handle) the exercise before picking up the canter and incorporating small fences.

It seemed easy enough in the trot, but trickier in the canter, I think with again a sight shortage of space in our arena at home this made it more difficult so we set up 3 fences and the fourth remained as a pole throughout the duration of my practice. I managed to rope in my instructor Iona to give me a hand this month, it really is invaluable having an extra pair of eyes (and hands!) on the ground for that additional support.

Whilst in the canter, Skip really struggled to keep the impulsion on the circle, Iona really encouraged me to keep Skip going. Bless him, he tried so incredibly hard to keep going for me, and he did manage a few times but once we then straighten up he broke the flow, I guess it is harder for them to keep going when they don’t have the circle to keep their balance.  The exercise was really good for really making me use my outside leg to make my turns, and for getting me to use my upper body to also aid with the turns.

This exercise was also good for highlighting your straightness, or lack thereof into a fence. By the end Skip was anticipating the turns and really enjoying himself, so we changed the rein and did it backwards. Skip even managed some flying changes over the fences, which really is a big step for us, I was so proud of him and there was a LOT of smiles and big pats during my practice session!

Tim’s exercises are helping us in so many ways, my steering, straightness, approaches into fences are all VERY much improved. Someone at the yard even commented that they had “never seen Skip canter like that before” He is far more balanced, and carries himself more positively, soft and round, instead of dragging us around using his shoulders. It’s amazing!  I have also found that I am using my upper body more to aid with turns without even thinking about it. Its super, I really would encourage you all to give these exercises a go!

Catch up next month! Grace and Skip x