Saturday, 30 May 2009

Cuckoos Nest HT

Cuckoos Nest Hunter Trial, Open class

Youtube jumping footage now up here :-)

Jumping - first time in ages!

Felix and I had a blast yesterday at our local hunter trial.  He hasn't jumped at all this season, but his little eyes lit up when he saw we were going XC and we had so much fun.  Did the pairs with a friend (and had a runout at a skinny - DOH!) and then went clear in the open - yippee!

As you can see, we had the headcam with us but haven't had the chance to sort out the footage yet - will put it up as soon as I can :-)

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Jobs for the boys...

Just time for a quick update on what everyone is doing...

Felix and I are off to the Exmoor Foxhounds hunter trial tomorrow, and will have a whizz round, I hope more successfully than last year when F decided to jump a fence straight ahead (where I was looking) but in fact the course required a right hand turn (where I went...without Felix (!)).

Then on Saturday he and I have the job of catching racehorses as we are stewarding at the point to point - should be a lovely couple of days, with a good forecast, thank goodness.  

Ghost is still on track at the moment for doing some endurance.  He has been out on some decent rides, and seems to be having fun and is a lot fitter than he was a few weeks ago :-)

Angel and Blue,  the rehab horses, are making good progress, and we have got to the lovely stage when we can really put some miles on those hooves.  They are up to 45mins to an hour, 4 or 5 times a week, and are going out on a mixture of fields or verges and smooth tarmac.  Both are landing well, and I will post some more pics of them after the weekend.

The others are on more-or-less holiday still - hard to believe that they haven't even had a month off since hunting finished - feels like years ago ;-)  Andy takes Jacko out now and then, more for the mental exercise of going out on his own (which has done him loads of good - he is now actually enjoying being out and about even without company), but Charlie and Hector are slobbing out!

Charlie still doesn't like being out at night when its wild and windy (like Tuesday!) but can cope if its decent weather.  Hector seems to have recovered after his knock of a week or so ago, but I've decided it will do him no harm to have at least a couple of weeks to just relax.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Monsoon rain AND fog today - serve me right for posting about the rain last week (!)

It always amazes me when people say their horses are happy outside in all weathers - maybe its unusually wet up here (actually, I know it is!) but the horses here absolutely LOATHE the rain. Given the choice, today, every single one of them (and they all had rugs on) didn't stir a step outside the barn - I know, because I do the poo-picking :-)

It was so foggy that I couldn't even exercise up the lane, as visibility was down to a few feet from 8am till it got dark - clearly we were sitting in a cloud all day, so lets hope it improves tomorrow...

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Compare and contrast

...or, the joys of the British climate ;-)  The top photo is today, after a few fairly dry days, the lower photo was on Friday after a lovely week of monsoon rain (!)...  We had a gorgeous bank holiday, though, which makes up for it. 

We had friends staying so the only horses who really worked were Ghost and the rehabs.  Andy took Wacko Jacko out though for a quick round the fields on his own, which a year ago would have had him bolting for home, but the new grown-up Wacko took it all in his stride and actually enjoyed it :-)

Ghost is going as well as he has ever gone, I think, and I've had some fantastic rides on him recently.  We've entered a 26km endurance ride in 2 weeks time, so that will be his first time out as Rockley Endurance Horse :-)

Friday, 22 May 2009

"Feet first"

Sarah and I have been working on a barefoot book for the last two years, and finally its almost ready :-)

This is the cover, finalised this week, and it will be published in July.  Thanks in particular to Caroline Trayes, who is the cover girl - the full size photo of her and gorgeous George is here

Thursday, 21 May 2009

"No grass"!!

Its the time of year when people often tell me that their horses are getting "no grass"  ;-)

Usually what they mean is that their horses are on grazing which looks something like the strip on the right hand side of the photo  - incidentally, the photo is of a piece of our track where the horses can lean over and eat off the adjoining bank - its pretty obvious how far they can reach :-)

The grass on the left was mown 2 weeks ago, and had sheep on it before that but, with the current weather, its growing like crazy, of course. 

So its worth realising that if you live in the UK and it looks as if your fields have "no grass" its probably not because you have your own special desert micro-climate.  More likely, its because the grass has all been eaten by your horses  and they haven't left much in the field :-)  

At this time of year, a horse on a 1 acre starvation paddock getting "no grass", may in reality be eating 1 ft of grass x 1 acre every 2 weeks.  Bear in mind that you would expect to cut 5-10 big bales of hay or haylage from the same area over 3 months, and that is actually quite a lot ;-)  

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Ghost instead

I was supposed to be taking Hector jump schooling today, but he has knocked a hind leg, low down at the coronet, and is not 100% sound on it, so thats been called off.  Hex is a complete pansy and even the slightest bump is enough to affect him, so I am not too worried.  Last year he was lame for a week because he has skinned himself above the hock - any of the others would hardly have noticed the same injury (!)

So instead, once I'd exercised the rehabs I took Ghost for a proper spin, 8 miles up and down Shoulsbarrow with plenty of space for a blast or two.  I took the GPS with me, as I am still playing about with it, and I was quite impressed with the old boy - top speed of 23.1 mph when I let him gallop up a fairly steep field :-)  He did run out of puff before the end of the hill, and we trotted the last bit, but he was on fine form.  

I am going to give him a shot as the Rockley endurance horse 2009 so will up his work now and take him on a couple of pleasure rides in the next month or so, just going quietly (if we can!) to see how he feels about the whole thing...

Monday, 18 May 2009

Voting with his feet...

...Charlie voted with his feet tonight.  Most nights, I let the other boys (Felix, Ghost, Wacko Jacko and Hector) out into the field and they all zip along, happy as you please, but recently Charlie has been the last to leave, and has stayed hob-nobbing in the barn with Bailey, Angel and Blue till I have gone back to fetch him.  

Last night, he seemed happy enough to go out, then changed his mind and rushed back to the gate - before changing his mind again and mooching off with the boys, looking worried.  He has been coming in every morning absolutely at a flat-out gallop (including down the drive, like the Charge of the Light Brigade, solo version), obviously extremely concerned about the danger of missing breakfast...or possibly that the foul weather would continue outside...

Tonight, Charlie made it very clear that life in the field,  outside the barn and track is not for him - at least not at the moment.  Too wet, too windy, and (judging from his yawns this afternoon) too tiring really - all that wildlife, deer tromping through in the middle of the night and the risk that breakfast is served at sunrise, or even when its still dark and that by being in the field he is missing scheduled mealtimes...(I've told him its not the hunting season any more and that breakfast is now served later...)...

Since the grass is growing like mad, and its quite possible that he knows what is good for him, I have let him choose for himself, and so tonight he has managed to stay in with the in-crowd, on the track, after all :-)   He seemed profoundly relieved...(!)

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Rockley endurance horse short-list!

After the excitement of the GH I am now eyeing up the boys and working out who is my most likely endurance candidate.  My reasoning goes something like this, so all input is appreciated :-)

Charlie: on hols, and will be hunting again in August, so no go.  Also would be v sad going miles and miles on his own with no hounds... :-(

Felix: on hols, and will also be hunting again in August, so like Charlie really could do with a break.  Loves going off on his own but disapproves of bling and pink bridles.  Has a super low heart rate but like Charlie would be disappointed by lack of houndies...  :-(

Hector: not on hols, but should really be learning to jump... Happy going out on his own but has fully functioning built in GPS which tells him at all times where the trailer is.  Optimum speed is often disabled when GPS flashes up error message about direction :-) Appeared reconciled to lack of hounds at Golden Horseshoe, and quite liked the bling (he is orange after all).

Wacko Jacko: ruled out on account of hound fetish  - hunting is really what makes his life worth living :-) and wildly bizarre front feet, which would be likely to cause sleepless nights for attending vets and farriers even when he trots up sound (!)

Ghost: loves being out on his own, has hound phobia so lack of them in endurance is a huge bonus.  Nightmare to ride in company but fine as long as he can overtake things...Pretty good heart rate but is 25 (or maybe 26) years old... 

OK folks, who from my motley crew gets your vote?  

The long hot summer... forecast by the Met office is conspicuous by its absence...

Blue, Angel and I just got saturated when out exercising and its still raining now...All horses currently in the barn refusing to go outside (they are rugged too !)...I am now in the house refusing to go outside... :-)

Rebecca's GH performance (my original post and her comments are here) seems to have really made waves, and lets hope there is lots more of the same next year.

From my own point of view, I am just eyeing up the boys here and seeing who is the best candidate for "Rockley Farm endurance horse"!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Mud, mud, glorious mud...

It POURED with rain yesterday...which was fine because I spent much of the day trimming horses in south Devon and didn't have to exercise horses up here :-)  However, the track and fields, which have been beautifully dry for the last month or so have suddenly reverted back to squelch and sludge, at least in pockets.  

The horses, of course, are delighted with this, because before the rain it was midgey and itchy and now they have been able to roll and roll in the mud and plaster themselves in it, thus keeping off the flies which have left for warmer and drier climes now anyway...

Trust me to have 4 horses here at the moment which aren't even grey, they are snowy-white - or at least supposed to be...I rechristened Blue "Brown" this morning, and Jacko is also sporting a fetching partial-skewbald look.   Ghost miraculously was only black underneath, so was fairly easy to clean up, but I am very glad that I took his photo earlier in the week, because he ain't so sparkly today (!)

I've left the others to dry off, in the hopes I will be able to brush off the worst and exercise this afternoon :-)

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

An old one, but a good one

Ghost has been off work for a while now, partly due to my time constraints but also because he injured himself a few weeks ago. 

I decided today though that it was high time he came back into work, and its a lot easier now with the hunters on holidays to sneak an hour out with Ghost. 

I was trying to work out how old he is - I am not sure if he is 25 or 26 this year - but he is on very good form, either way.  A bit porky, admittedly, despite getting no hard feed other than his minerals and about 3 alfalfa pellets, but striding out today like a horse half his age.

Not bad considering he was diagnosed with navicular syndrome and was in remedial shoes 7 years ago ;-)

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Another day at the Golden Horseshoe...on foot this time!

I had a free afternoon today, and a friend was competing in the 80km ride, so I went up to spectate at the GH.  Its always fascinating watching a high level competition, especially when its a discipline you aren't familiar with, and the endurance bods know a thing or two about horses and competing (!), so it was a very interesting afternoon.   

I'd seen some of the riders who finished today at the start on the first day, and while there were some beautiful horses in superb condition, there were also one or two who didn't look fit enough, to me, for the terrain.  However, the weather was great for the horses (though somewhat chillly for those of us who were standing around!) and most seemed to finish happily, even if some appeared a bit tired. 

On a very positive note, I saw one lovely barefoot horse, which finished the 2 x 40km event with a Gold award AND the fastest time in the class.  They had to present to the farrier (not the same one as had been there on Sunday), who commented "Nice feet.  Why don't you shoe them?".  And yes, it was a serious question :-)

There was an awesome Exmoor pony in the same event, unshod behind and an absolute little powerhouse :-)  I think that ended up with either a silver or bronze award - no mean feet when you have legs about half as long as any other horse on the course ;-)

The friend who I went to cheer on recruited me to trot her horse up for her, which was nervewracking to say the least, as he is a so-and-so to trot up (fair enough, probably reckons he has done enough during the day not to have to run up and down AGAIN at the end of it!) but they also finished with a Gold award, fabulous result!  It was such a fun day I'm almost tempted to get into endurance....!!

Monday, 11 May 2009

And finally...

...for the GH, here is a photo that some kind person took of us at the start :-)

Golden Horseshoe footage

Here it is folks - Hector, Bailey and Jacko out on the pleasure ride :-)

GH footage now on Youtube!

Its here and I will also link it back to the blog once its updated properly. 

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Golden Horseshoe pleasure ride

Well a perfect day, weather wise, for the GH pleasure ride - sunny, breezy, not too hot and the moor was looking absolutely breathtaking. 

We had a friend riding Bailey, I took Hector and Andy took Jacko, and we set off breezing along, as you do - but after the first few canters we realised that Sam, who has been riding Bailey regularly, was getting very out of breath...
 Bailey can be strong, and although Sam is very fit and active, she doesn't ride more than once a week, and I hadn't realised how much the ride would take out of her... 

Andy offered to swap with her, as Jacko is as light as a feather, but she was determined to stick it out, all credit to her, and over the next hour or so she and Bailey relaxed and began to enjoy themselves. 

Actually, it was such a beautiful day, and the horses were on such good form, that we decided to forget about times and just enjoy ourselves.   Jacko, (formerly "psychotic and dangerous", now perfect-mannered hunter 
Cool ) was clearly up for this new style of party, and had a marvellous time, behaving impeccably.  Hector was a star, and bowling along at the back (terribly good for his manners!). 

We also met Basil, the Exmoor pony who lived here a few years ago, and whom we backed - now a little dynamo, fit as a fiddle and storming along with his rider - still with perfect little rock-crunching hooves  

Then we came across a client of mine, doing the ride on her cob mare, so there was quite a barefoot contingent.   

And once we were back at the trailers, a farrier came up, who recognised me from a talk I gave last year.  He recognised Hector too (who was at a very early stage when he last saw him), and said "what a good advert for barefoot"  .

He said he had a client who wanted to go barefoot, and he had told them in no uncertain terms that there was a lot more to it than taking the shoes off - kudos to him !

So all in all a very successful and fun day, and we got home to discover that despite everything, we did it in 2hr 5 mins (12kph) and there was only one person faster than us...  
   Just goes to show, sometimes less is more ...

Friday, 8 May 2009

Website updated...

...and not before time, I know (!)

I've put lots of new information and photos onto our main site, and given it a general overhaul, so it should be looking much more organised now :-)

In particular, I've put up details of the research project into navicular/DDFT, and some of the preliminary results.  That will of course be updated again as new horses come into the project. 

Thursday, 7 May 2009

What happened to "Summer is a-coming in?"

...surely I remember that being a folky-type song that we had to sing at primary school at the beginning of May?

In which case, why is today wet, gloomy and chilly?!?   Horses have their rugs back on and I've just come in and lit a fire after getting well and truly soggy poo-picking the track and moving haylage...It seemed so nice at the weekend, as well, despite the bank holiday...

We are hoping for better weather at the weekend because doing the Golden Horseshoe pleasure ride in the pouring rain is NO FUN AT ALL - I remember it all too well a couple of years ago (!).  

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Blue's pics

Uriel's are on the lower post, but Blue's pics are on here.  Admittedly the shod photo is not the clearest, but you should be able to see that his toe is shorter, and that there is good new hoof capsule growth which is much tighter and will bring his hoof capsule into a more supportive position beneath him. 

For more on his progress, read the lower post :-)

New hooves - one month in

Blue and Uriel have both been here about a month - Uriel 5 weeks, I think. 

I took some more photos today, and also filmed them both to see how they are progressing - its all very well to feel that they are improving, but I need to document it and make sure :-)

On the high definition footage, both of them have started to land heel first with their "good" - ie right - hooves.  This is a big step forward as they were landing toe first before, with both left and right front feet.  

On their worse hooves (left) they are still landing toe first, but its much less pronounced than before.  We film on concrete, which is not a surface I work them on at the moment, so I would expect them to be "behind" in the film where they are when they are working.  In other words, when they are working (on good surfaces) they ARE landing heel first, but they aren't strong enough yet to do that on a tough surface.  

Once they ARE strong enough to land heel first on that consistently, then we will have cracked it :-)

Here are some hoof pics from today.  This set are of Uriel, and I will put Blue's on the post above. 

Saturday, 2 May 2009

New headcam footage on Youtube

Three new clips now on the Exmoor Foxhounds bit of Youtube here:

If you look closely you can see Hector in the last one - chestnut horse, sheepskin numnah, rider in a bowler :-) and Jack and Andy, along with Charlie, pop up in the earlier ones. 

Friday, 1 May 2009

The big Blue

Blue is one of the recent rehab arrivals, and I haven't posted much about him before because, like most newly arrived rehabs, he has spent his first few weeks on the track, where the pea gravel and other surfaces ensure he is comfortable. 

I've long-reined him and led him out from other horses, but yesterday was the first day I rode him, and was the first time he had been ridden in at least 3 months.  Often, getting on a new horse for the first time can be slightly nerve-wracking, especially as I then planned to take him out on his own, but with Blue I had absolutely no qualms.  

He is very similar in breeding and appearance to our Ghost, but has significantly better manners under saddle ;-)  Because he has only been here a few weeks, he is far from rock-crunching, but he has improved already from the serious toe-first landing he had when he arrived.   More on him, plus photos, shortly.