Sunday, 26 August 2012

*crackle* *crackle* Is this thing on? *crackle*

I was a bit over-optimistic about my recovery, it actually took a MONTH for me to feel normal again!  Anyway, 10 days ago I took Finn out for a hack, he did his usual trick of walking off while I was mounting, this time before I'd even swung my leg over.  He then got a bit un-nerved by the human wobbling along beside him trying to get her foot back out of the stirrup (the dangers of riding in hiking boots...) and started to trot - fortunately "WOOOOOAHHHHHHH!" worked, otherwise I'd have face-planted into the tarmac.  Attempt number two was successful and we had a nice hack to the end of the village and back.  I'd planned to go further and was all high-viz'd up, but I'd forgotten that the Scottish schools went back that day and after the circus of getting on from the normal picnic table, I didn't fancy trying to remount after the gate with a bus shelter full of kids and parents watching me!

So this morning I decided it was time for Mr Finn to learn that I wasn't like his previous owner (18, weighs about as much as a twig, very athletic, able to jump on a moving horse with absolutely no problems) and took him into my neighbour's school armed with a pocketful of carrot sticks.  As it turned out, being fed carrot sticks in return for standing still while I leaned on stirrups, bounced up and down beside him with one foot in them and then being rewarded from the saddle when I was finally up is just about Finn's ideal schooling exercise and after 10 minutes he was standing like a rock in the middle of the school on a completely loose rein :o)  He's obviously been taught it before, it's just not been enforced for a while.  The next step will be to see if I can replicate the lesson outside the manege, but as long as I have suitably orange bribes on me, I think all will be well!

We only had a short schooling session after that, we'd done what I wanted to achieve, so we walked a few shapes, I practiced a bit of trot (my balance is slowly coming back) and then we called it a day.

I was thinking about bonding the other day.  Merlin seems to have appointed himself my bodyguard when I'm in the field now; he'll walk next to me or just behind me as I push the wheelbarrow around (unless I've just moved the electric fence!).  I'm not sure if he's really bonded that closely or whether he's just protecting his food source from Finn though ;o)  However, he'll really try his hardest to do anything I ask him to these days, which is a real change from when he first arrived.  It gives me hope that one day I might be able to hack him out once I have my confidence back properly.  Finn hasn't bonded enough to want to try for me yet, but it's still very early days - he's only been here two and a half months and it took Merlin two years. 

Robbie the farrier came out to do their feet the week before last.  Merlin was, as usual, good as gold, but Finn was a slightly different matter and played up, not wanting to stand, snatching his feet away and generally being a bugger.  Robbie has been his farrier for a couple of years, so knew that Finn could be problematical but was definitely trying it on as he didn't usually act up quite that much.  Every time Finn snatched a foot back and walked off, I made him trot a circuit of the field - if he chose to move, he was going to be made to move more than he wanted to - and eventually we got the job done without too much grief, but this is something I need to work on.  Robbie has shown me the trick to getting reluctant cobs to lift their feet and Finn will now give me a front foot loose in the field (previously I could only get him to lift the backs).  At the moment I'm either lifting it, holding it for a moment and then putting it down or lifting, tapping with a hoof pick and putting down and I'm sure we'll get there eventually - Merlin was a sod with the farrier when he first arrived.

What else?  Finn has two new rugs courtesy of eBay, a fleece cooler to dry him out and a shower sheet to go over it.  Both almost new, the most expensive was £14.50 including postage :o)  But he's been moulting like mad over the past fortnight and the bristly clipped coat he arrived with is now mostly gone, replaced by a lovely soft, thicker coat which is far more waterproof and windproof.  As long as we have a dry, cold winter, he probably won't need rugging, but at least I now have some options on hand if he does.  Both of them have lost a little bit of weight this week, Merlin's down to 467kg and Finn to 402kg, but they're both looking good.  If there's another loss next week I may start them on a handful of breakfast each again.  At the moment they're having a handful of Speedibeet, half a handful of Greengold and two heaped spoonfuls of the homemade yeast/linseed/magnesium mix in the evenings and that's it.