End of an era

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Millie & Me – the end of an era

So after threatening Millie Moo with the ‘For Sale’ advert every few months or so over the last few years I actually got to the point earlier this year of writing it, and not just writing it but posting it, and not just talking about selling her but I actually sold her *sobs hysterically*.

I can’t remember exactly at what point the threat became a reality but it was honestly the most heartbreaking decision I have ever had to make in my life. The fact of the matter was I wasn’t enjoying having a horse anymore, I had lost confidence around her and as much as I adored her (and still do) having a horse is too time consuming & expensive to not be having fun or reaching your goals. I knew Millie needed a more experienced owner and I needed a horse that had been there and done it and didn’t answer every question with ‘Why?’

I felt bad putting her up for sale and felt guilty that I couldn’t give her the home for life I had imagined when we bought her, I felt disappointed that despite all my efforts and all my dedication to her we just hadn’t progressed as I had planned and I felt incredibly sad that for whatever reason Millie just wasn’t the right horse for me, not at this stage in my life anyway.

I went backwards and forwards in my head with different options for Millie:

  1. Find a field and let her live her life as she wishes (eating and not being ridden) but apart from that feeling like a massive waste of her life, I just don’t have the time to go check on her twice a day and I would have got myself into a stressed mess worrying about her.
  2. Put her on loan as a broodmare – this was my top option. Millie had successfully bred one foal already, she would readily welcome a career break and she was stunningly good looking (albeit a little temperamental). This all sounded great until I thought about ‘what if she doesn’t get pregnant, will she come back? Then what?’ ‘What if she is treated badly, she will just be a breeding machine’, what if she dies during foaling’ – all these things went through my mind and I realised she probably wouldn’t be part of someone’s family and she wouldn’t be loved and they wouldn’t care that she can say please and thank you. That made me sad. For all her faults I loved Millie and she was a huge part of our family and I didn’t want her just being a broodmare. Also she hadn’t actually proved herself to be any good at anything yet so there was an element of guilt about just adding to the horse population just because I was too sentimental to say goodbye to her.
  3. Sentimental yes but also very conscious she could very easily fall into the wrong hands and end up at dealer yard after dealer yard so the majority of enquiries I received never even got a reply. I had 16 year old girls wanting her on loan for the summer, they assured me they were established and confident riders as they had been having lessons at a riding school for 6 months! I had older women wanting a nice, quiet hack as they had lost their confidence with their last horse – what part of NOT A NOVICE RIDE isn’t clear? I had people wanting to ‘fix her’, ‘break her’, ‘tell her who’s boss’ and ‘take her on as a challenge for the summer’ – no thank you! Firstly you don’t ‘tell’ Millie anything, and secondly she didn’t need ‘fixing’, she just needed someone that wasn’t going to be intimidated by her and someone that was used to highly strung sports horse types that had the time, patience and experience to channel Millie’s erratic energy into something half productive and who would love her for the sweet natured horse that she was and not get despondent with the two steps back that were inevitably going to happen every 6 weeks.

Thankfully out of the blue one night while I was sat on the beach with a beer contemplating what an earth I was going to do with Millie and thinking that I would just keep her after all I received a call from a lovely woman called Chloe who had noticed Millie’s breeding in the advert and who had other horses with her bloodline who were just as quirky and she described Millie down to a tee.

It was apparent from that quick conversation on the phone that Chloe loved her horses very much, they all had characters which she embraced, they all had their ‘funny’ days which she ignored and above all they were all happy, healthy and part of her family.

We (Millie & Me) met Chloe, she was kind, knowledgeable, ambitious and straight away Millie listened to her and for the first time ever someone had a proper plan for Millie’s future.

Millie had a new mummy and I was relieved that someone like Chloe wanted to take a chance on her, I was excited as I did and still do truly believe Millie is capable of great things with the right person.

It was the hardest goodbye even though I knew it was the right decision for both of us. I had thrown myself fully into Millie and hated the feeling of giving up on her. I knew she would never be replaced in terms of character and I loved her whole-heartedly so it was no surprise that tears, tissues and quite a few more tears dominated the morning of Millie’s departure.

We waved her off in her big lorry through bleary eyes and watched her disappear up the lane and I stared at my phone until Chloe called to say she had landed safe and sound and was stuffing her little furry face.

She did land safe and sound and is loving the routine of her new home – in her head she is already a competition horse bless her. She is coming on leaps (literally) and bounds but I’m glad to report she has lost none of her character and still has her madam Millie diva moments.

I look forward to my weekly Millie updates from Chloe and can’t wait to go see her strut her stuff next year. They love her; they see the amazing little horse the other side of the temperamental madam and they have embraced her ‘special’ personality traits.

This is the start of the next chapter for Millie & Me, I believe we will both get there in the end – we just couldn’t do it together…

I miss Millie, I think I will always miss Millie but as one ramp goes up, another one comes down and off that ramp stepped a handsome, chestnut TB gelding.

The future’s bright, the future’s Red!

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Stressage Anywhere

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Stressage Anywhere – Prelim 19 April 2013

 

This was our first attempt at Dressage Anywhere (actually no that’s a lie, we did ‘attempt’ it once before but Millie was having a particularly camel like day and we were having a personality clash so we didn’t even get around to pressing the ‘record’ button, so just by getting it on camera this time was a very good achievement in itself)

 

The concept of Dressage Anywhere is simple, you learn a test, practice it, grab a camera that has a video function (99% of cameras these days) grab an unsuspecting friend, partner or family member to press record and happy days – 4 minutes later you should have a decent quality video of yourself and your equine dance partner floating around the arena like Torville & Dean, upload it, wait for lovely positive comments on score sheet, take constructive criticism the way it’s meant to be taken from the not so positive comments, set oneself a plan on what to improve on for next month and get back out there full of inspiration and start training.

 

Sometimes it doesn’t go like that though. Sometimes goes more like this. Half learn a test on commute to work, practice once that week (where do the weeks go), panic that you only have one weekend left in the month to get this bloody thing filmed and entered, grab a camera that has video function (but unfortunately and to your horror does not have zoom or focus functions so you and your beloved steed just look like brown ghosts (midget camel ghosts at that) loitering around in circles at the end of the arena, attempt next day with different camera, slightly better quality video but horse decided to add in some freestyle head banging at E, some ‘fall out of canter so badly your nose runs along the ground for 10 strides’ at X and was adamantly determined to get as close to the camera as possible at the final halt and give the judge our best ‘I’m doing this but I’m really not happy about it’ face as we salute, realise that’s as good as it’s gonna get so upload anyway (easier process than expected-hurrah), wait 24 hours to receive car crash score sheet and see how many negative comments £12 can buy you these days (actually quite a lot you’ll be pleased to know), take negative comments badly, vow to give up on the dressage, but then notice right at the bottom  (through bleary, tear stained eyes) that the judges have mustered some form of positivity in their comments and have written ‘attractive horse’, and not only ‘attractive horse’ but ‘attractive horse that shows much promise’ (…..in trot…..) , waits patiently for Carl or Charlotte to call saying they are in desperate need of an attractive horse that can trot, carry on waiting whilst re evaluating dressage dreams and writing FOR SALE advert…..

 

Oh and we got 64% *which I am secretly quite pleased with considering the mad panic, the technical problems faced, the sporadic head banging episode and the general inability to do any of the movements correctly or in the right place*

 

In the words of Yazz ‘the only way is up’

Only fools on horses

Pictorialist B&W photo of a cowboy falling off a horse at a rodeo.

 

Whilst sat on the train listening to my neck grunt and grind every time I move my head to the left or right and wincing each time I lift my left arm I start reflecting on what actually happened on ‘Good’ Friday and why I have been out of horsey action the last few weeks.

 

Essentially it was the combination of a Jager bomb hangover, a Bailey’s coffee (to combat said hangover) and a rather flighty and unforgiving mare (at the best of times).

 

Turn of events went something like this:

 

1. Dragged self to yard with full intentions not to ride as knew I wasn’t safe to attempt being in control of a live animal (especially a large live animal that has a tendency to take full advantage of any second I do not have my full wits or physical ability about me)

2. Sat in tack room nursing tiredness and hangover and had my rubber arm twisted to partake in Baileys coffee round (seemed like a very good idea at the time)

3. Decided (after caffeine and alcohol fix) that riding was most definitely now the best idea ever *grabbed tack and exited tack room abound with new found energy and enthusiasm*

4. Approached stable, Millie actually rolled her eyes at me (as if to say “look at the state of you, if I play it right I can get myself a nice little 2 week holiday’)

5. Tacked up, acutely aware I was a little fuzzy around the edges and the nagging feeling that maybe lunging was a better idea returned.

6. Ignored gut instinct and doubtful voices. I was tacked up and ready to go! A nice sedate schooling session would undoubtedly blow away any remnants of a hangover (little did I know in 5 minutes my hangover would be a distant memory and the least of my problems-in fact memory altogether became distant)

7. Led Millie the mule to the school, so far so good (although I must point out as I went through the gate the last words I muttered to the other person in the school were “I’m not sure this is a good idea”. It would become apparent I couldn’t have been more right about anything)

8. Played tug of war trying to get horse towards mounting block.

9. Got mounting block, hopped up onto block, horse moved 3 foot backwards.

10. Hopped off, moved mounting block 3 foot backwards.

11. Repeated the above 3 times.

12. Patience wearing thin (Millie and me often play this game and after a few musical mounting block moves she gives in, stands perfectly still, I jump on, she gets treat, all good)

13. Attempt 5 and hurrah, stillness, took up reins, still stillness, hopped up onto block, still stillness. All going well until….

14. Put left foot in stirrup, put weight into left foot, go to take right foot off block, horse swings quarters away from block and I am in a very vulnerable situation. The right choice (and the choice I woulda, shoulda, coulda made had I been in correct thinking mode) would be to quickly take foot out of stirrup and start all over again.

15. I didn’t make the right choice and the above didn’t happen. I instead decided to swing my right leg over and completely misjudged the height of her rump (admittedly not helped by her still moving away from me).

16. Gave said rump a rather hefty boot as I attempted to swing leg over.

17. Knew as soon as boot met rump that she wasn’t going to go “ouch that was uncomfortable but I know you didn’t mean it so I’ll forgive you and stand still anyway”

18. Oh no, instead I felt a whole hunk of 16hh horse rise underneath me with an almighty grunt, saw ground and sky rapidly swap places as I was catapulted somersaulting into the air and landed head first with an almighty thud (although don’t actually remember landing, just grateful it was soft landing and away from angry hooves)

19. Next thing I know I am back on board (can’t remember getting up or getting back on…)

20. Feeling very vague wandering around the school and wondering what all the letters are that are placed randomly about the place, I was struggling to spell anything with AVKESHCMRBP & F!

21. Tried desperately to remember my name, horses name

and what I had done the night before (could not even remember indulging in the Jager bombs)

22. Decided I was probably safer on the ground so got off, called for help and spent the rest of the evening in A&E!

23. Went home from A&E and wrote FOR SALE advert.

24. Never posted FOR SALE advert (I’m obviously addicted to the pain)

 

Although afterwards I felt deflated and defeated (emotions I have become rather intimate with since owning Millie), the overwhelming feeling I had wasn’t fear or anger but pure disappointed (mainly in myself). Disappointed we had gone back to square one with the mounting issue, disappointed I had made the wrong decision about riding that day, disappointed I was feeling contempt towards Millie again after being very happy with her over the last few months and just generally disappointed I had forced us to take a break when things had (for once) been going well and I was starting to feel that lovely warm fuzzy, unfamiliar feeling of…..progress.

 

I think it just reiterated that I can never take Millie’s calmness and good nature for granted or rest on my laurels with her. Millie is unforgiving, she doesn’t allow mistakes and human error to go unnoticed and as soon as you start to relax around her she will make it very apparent that she is not, and I don’t think ever will be a predictable, bomb proof neddy you can faff around and afford yourself to make mistakes in front of.  She will, always, be quicker than me. She will, always, (and without apology), take pleasure from seeing me fail and she will, always, be just one step ahead of me.

 

Whilst I must admit that I (mostly) have learnt to embrace and enjoy the challenging side of Millie ownership (and she has without doubt taught me more about horse psychology and my own behaviour than any other horse) there are just some days I would like a horse that will let me be a little clumsy around them, allow me to take a little longer to mount, not answer every question with ‘why should I?’ and not jump out of it’s skin every time a pheasant struts past.

 

I wholeheartedly know if Millie was to swap places with a well behaved, predictable, safe as houses pony *daydreams a little bit* that I would become frustrated and bored, and I know I wouldn’t get the same ‘this is the best feeling in the world’ feeling I get when Millie decides to play ball and does her little floaty trot, or the same butterflies I feel when I look through her little pointy ears when we are out hacking. But I would be able to go and have a night out with my friends without being hospitalised the next day and that sounds pretty bloody awesome to me!

Show Jumping – how very dare you!

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So when we bought Millie almost two years ago (how time flies when you’re having fun) the plan was that within a year we would be competing enthusiastically (even if not successfully) at local shows, we would possibly be part of the riding club teams, would have done the odd hunter trial and would most definitely be jumping at home on a regular basis. None of this has happened.

This is mainly down to me and I am aware of that, I don’t have the same amount of time to invest into training as I did when I was 21, I am not half as brave as I was when I was 21 and I cant dedicate each and every weekend to driving around the country going to every show possible (as I did when I was 21) so Millie’s show jumping training has been pretty non existent. This saddens me as I love jumping, but I love jumping on a horse that also loves jumping.  Millie wasn’t really jumping when we viewed her, but had apparently done a little bit with them (but then probably decided she didn’t feel the need to do it). But I decided to take a chance on her and thought ‘how hard can it be to get a horse (that was incidentally bred for show jumping) over a jump!?’

The answer = harder than you could ever imagine.

I didn’t have grand ambitions, I wasn’t asking Millie to contemplate the Olympics, heck I wasn’t even asking her to contemplate a whole course of jumps but the answer was still ‘no’.

Millie’s Sire is called ‘No Limit’; she has a brother called ‘No Worries’ and another sibling called ‘No Problem’. Millie should have been called ‘No F*cking Way Am I Doing That’

A little blurb about Millie’s (well known show jumping) sire that made me giggle and wonder if Millie was in fact adopted and no one told her:

“He has won numerous championships and classes – with a wonderful careful and scopey jump,”

 

“He seriously is something very special and is exciting news for British breeders – he is passing on his own abilities to his offspring.”

In all seriousness I know Millie has the ability to negotiate a course of jumps, in the right order and with some degree of control (although our performance going round a clear round class last year at a local riding club show would suggest otherwise). I know if she let herself (and I let her) she would enjoy it. And I know if I was more confident and pushed her a bit harder she/we could even be OK at it.

On the few occasions I have put some jumps up at home, the level of inconsistency with Millie as been staggering, so much so that I wondered if I had tacked up the correct horse.

The week can vary something like this:

Saturday: Tack up. Warm up. Ears go forward at sight of poles, eagerly pops cross pole, my mum up’s height and Millie doesn’t even notice. Up’s height again, jumps enthusiastically and clears by about a foot. Set up a couple of upright jumps of 2ft 9 and successfully clear them (style and brakes admittedly need fine tuning but over all very happy and feel a summer of shows coming on) – I have photos to prove (in case you think I may have actually dreamt this positive experience)

Tuesday: Tack up. Warm up. Whites of eyes show at sight of poles and head shakes left and right in a ‘oh no no no’ type of way. Snake towards cross pole, root self in front of cross pole, squeal indignantly when asked to possibly go over cross pole, begrudgingly walk through cross pole, scare self by scattering poles everywhere, try again and manage to get over cross pole (hurrah). Change to 1ft 6 straight pole. Millie is appalled we have even suggested such a thing so has nervous breakdown and gets put back into field to get over the trauma.

Thursday: Tack up. Don’t warm up as can’t even get on. No jumping.

SHAPE UP OR SHIP OUT (or don’t shape up and just carry on doing exactly what you want)

So with winter coming to a close (allegedly) and the riding club newsletter teasing me with ‘members needed for show jumping team’ I started to go through a ‘feel sorry for myself’ phase and decided 2 years has been long enough pussy footing around and not getting anywhere and as much as I am really enjoying putting in the hours of flatwork training and would be more than happy to turn my attention to dressage if Millie decided that was her preferred discipline, there would still be a niggling desire to want to be able to go to a show and at least get round a novice course without a) swearing, b) crying, c) not jumping any of the jumps and d) doing 2 out of control laps of honour around the ring after each jump that we do actually manage to get over.

So it was decided that 2013 would be the year that Millie and me would by hook or by crook get around a course of jumps without totally disgracing ourselves (this is still in discussion) but we started with a little jumping lesson – it went as follows:

SESSION ONE OF MILLIE’S JUMPING BOOTCAMP (tantrums and tiaras)

Eventful and entertaining if nothing else. Millie predictably felt abused and offended that we had dared ask her to consider going over a jump. We asked nicely (she said no) we asked a bit more firmly (she planted self to ground shaking), we ignored her (she got pissed off), she was outnumbered and decided to have a little girly huff and cat leap over it (congratulated herself and decided enough was enough).

Once challenged she decided it wasn’t actually too torturous to go over these little jumps and I swear just for one little cotton picking minute she actually let out a little smile (although she would furiously deny such cooperative and joyful behaviour).

Things were going OK until she decided with no negotiation that she was done for the day, most horses would either slow down, or stop or begrudgingly carry on a little while longer with a big sigh but oh no, when Millie was asked, and then told to go over another jump (I say ‘jump’ but really it was a pole 6 inches off the ground) she was pretty adamant the answer was ‘F*CK OFF AND DIE’ and as she couldn’t actually say those words her way of communicating them in no uncertain terms was to launch her self from all fours into the air (a sort of buck/rear/leapy type thing), bring her left hoof up by her ear and then with all her might stamp her foot on the ground with a squeal and proceed to full on toddler tantrum. We laughed. She sulked.

So as you can see Millie does NOT like being told what to do – unfortunately everything has to be played so that she thinks she has made the decision to do it….2 years later and we are all still waiting for her to decide to load, be caught, tie, stand still for mounting, to jump and to pick up all of her feet without trying to kick me in the head. We all wait with baited breath.

We unfortunately did not progress to SESSION TWO OF MILLIE’S JUMPING BOOTCAMP as I went out with my friends and attempted to ride the next day with a hangover and ended up in A&E (see previous post) It would appear Millie will do just about anything (including hospitalising me) to not go over a course of jumps.

*Re-thinks 2013 show jumping goals and writes FOR SALE advert (again)*