Since my last entry (and since I said an emotional goodbye to Millie Moo), both of us have moved on to pastures new.
Millie is is doing AMAZINGLY well up in Staffordshire and I couldn’t be happier, she is a little dressage diva with a bright bright future ahead of her.
We bought a lovely chestnut TB called Red who is everything Millie isn’t – he answers every question with “OK i’ll try”, will stand for hours at shows just contemplating the world and then go and jump his heart out. We had a flying start to our relationship and spent 9 months competing successfully around the local shows, dabbled in affiliated classes (no issue for him but a stark reminder for me of how I need to up my game), we were having regular lessons, going to clinics, flew round the Wye ride and tried our hoof at XC – all was going well until one day in May he just decided to down tools and pack it all in. Cue a summer of extreme napping, rearing, sweating, not going in the ring, not jumping anything, smacking me in the face when he went up in the air, being a danger to himself and other people and baffling all around him as he had literally been the perfect horse. I will do a post about a year long difficult journey but long story short we found ulcers, he improved, we were jumping again, he then went lame, then started napping again, found ulcers again, currently treating them and desperately waiting with everything crossed that after all this the lovely, genuine horse we fell in love with to come back..watch this space.
Millie & Me is a diary, blog, ramblings, updates, whatever you like to call it about our progress, ups, downs, few steps forwards, many leaps backwards, obstacles, achievements, many photo’s that we take of ourselves when we should be training and probably an airing ground for our (my) many frustrations on our journey together towards some form of dressage and or show jumping dreams. The journey is a slow burner, the dreams, at the moment are just that, dreams. But there is a lot of love & dedication (on my part), and the odd day when Millie may give me just a little something in return…(if I have a pocket full of carrots)
I appreciate Millie and Me will be of little or no interest to anyone other than Millie and Me so I am writing for my own enjoyment and to hopefully look back one day and to see how far we have come.
Who are we?
Millie: a 10 year old, bay, Dutch Warmblood mare (KWPN name Vioya M). Good breeding, in fact great breeding (Sire is No Limit who is by Indoctro. Very popular show jumping stallions, Dam is a beautiful chestnut KWPN mare (Rioya) who has had her own, eventful journey since arriving from Holland). Most of Millie’s siblings are high achieving, high earning competition horses. Millie is a non achieving, non competing, non co-operative madam who is oblivious of her family’s success and has no ambitions of her own to join them in their international quest for frillies and prize money. Millie loves her food, her field, spending my money and can say please (I wonder how many of her siblings can do that eh!!) I contacted Millie’s breeder in Holland who said there was nothing medically wrong with her she just didn’t make the grade and didn’t have the right attitude to be a sports horse. He sold her and never got the money. He didn’t sound too concerned by this which tells me she wasn’t sold for an awful lot. Probably sold with quite a few other horses that didn’t make the grade and whom for many probably spent their final days at the Findus factory awaiting their fate. Millie made it to Kent. Minus a passport but with lady luck firmly on her side.
Me: my name is Alex, I love horses. I am way too old to still have a pony obsession but I am somehow more consumed now than I ever was. I have loved horses for as long as I can remember. My mum and dad also love horses. They met through their horses. So not liking horses was never an option for me. I got my first pony (Timmy) when I was 6 years old, we were constantly out of control, he was a complete bugger and had the nickname the Black Devil around the Kent show grounds. We bolted our way through Pony Club camp, bucked our way around the local shows and kept up with the best of them out hunting. Timmy taught me to ride. From then on I had a roller coaster ride on various steeds from Gipsy who permanently had her ears pinned back flat against her head and would drop her shoulder in mid gallop and watch me fly out the side door. Jacko the wonder pony who was a flashy chestnut Welsh Sec C who would randomly launch into freestyle Lippizana leaps when he fancied (usually at the end of a dressage test), or spin around at lightning speed in the middle of the road (that was if we could actually get him out the gate and on to the road) but boy could he jump! He could jump so well in fact when we sold him he jumped out of his new field 2 weeks later and into a passing train. He was a drama queen but didn’t deserve to meet his maker in such a traumatic way. Barnaby – my beloved Barnaby, a rescue trotter who had injuries galore but would try his hand (or hoof) at absolutely anything – I loved him wholeheartedly. Willow the massive ID x TB who could take on the world but was scared to death of black and white cows (very inconvenient when we lived next to a dairy farm) and Bendicks of Mayfair who wasn’t mine but who gave me the opportunity to join the BSJA and get some experience of affiliated show jumping. Small horse, massive jump. We jumped our way around the country chasing points until I graduated from Uni and began chasing other dreams. I was 21 and London, ladies and travelling were calling so horses became a thing of the past….until Millie. Darling Millie.
Millie & Me: We bought Millie in May 2011. It was love at first sight (for me). I had a limited budget, limited patience after seeing quite a few horses and was seduced by her beautiful brown eyes – story of my life. She was calm as a lamb when we viewed her. Tied up nicely. Mounted with no problems. I fell in love. Took her home. Millie let me ride her twice, let me tell all my friends and family what a wonderful horse we had found, let me daydream about flirting with success at the upcoming shows over the summer and let me ramble on about her good nature before deciding she didn’t actually like being ridden. And to demonstrate her dislike she threw me off just as I was getting on one day, watched me tumble to the floor and then tried to kick me in the head – the honeymoon period it would seem was over. More quickly than I had anticipated. I took it personally until she then went on to do the same to two other people – she really didn’t like being ridden! This put me in an awkward position as the point of saving up my pennies, persuading a non horsey partner that a horse isn’t at all time consuming or expensive, and furthermore persuading her to spend her hard earned pennies on half of this wonderful creature that would enrich our lives was to ride it! This didn’t happen for a while.
As much as Millie didn’t care to be ridden, she did quite like being lunged, so we lunged, and we lunged, and we lunged some more. We lunged for 5 months. I now hate lunging. She still prefers it to being ridden but you don’t win frillies for lunging – not that we win frillies for anything else either. We gave Millie the benefit of the doubt and got everything checked, checked again, and again for good measure – the result (and this is the vets own words) ‘she has an attitude problem’. Millie is now on very expensive supplements that make her nicer, much more manageable and have in no way improved her work ethic – but you cant have everything.
We love Millie. We dont know why but she has somewhere along the way got under our skin and into our hearts. She is beautiful. She is annoying. She can be affectionate. She can be aloof. She pins me to the stable wall so hard I cant breath. She will find a slither of carrot at the bottom of the grooming kit. She nips me when I pick her feet out. She follows me around the school. She is heart meltingly cute when she wants to be. She walks backwards a hell of a lot faster than she walks forwards. She thinks of new things to upset me every week. She occasionally gives everything she has and feels like she has wings. More often than not she will give 10% of what she has and feels like a blind ostrich wearing concrete boots. We have arguments. She usually wins. She cant be told what to do. She knows when she is being bribed. She moves just enough away from the mounting block you cant get on. She stands just enough away from the ramp she wont load. It takes 5 people to take her anywhere. It takes 3 people to tack up at shows. She exhausts everyone involved with her. She expects a treat as soon as I get on (even if it has taken me 20 minutes to mount). She spooks at her own farts. But we love Millie.
My mum is still a constant support (I rather think she was hoping I had grown out of needing 6am help on show days and she could rock up at the show at midday in time to see us collect our rosettes. No chance and thus far no rosettes). My mum plaits. My mum lays a mean straw bed. My mum growls at Millie to make her stand still. My mum tells me to calm down. My mum races around throwing bits of tack in my direction while Millie throws herself around at show grounds. My mum will stand in all weathers offering words of encouragement before we go in and picking up the pieces when we come out deflated. She will say things like ‘never mind darling there’s always next time’, ‘I’m sure it felt worse than it looked’ and ‘she is the best looking horse here though’. My mum is indispensable.
My dad still takes photo’s at shows. We have progressed somewhat from egg and spoon and sack races but not through talent or maturity but merely because 1) I am the wrong side of 10 let alone 30 to enter Gymkhanas, 2) I was always rubbish at the sack race and 3) It takes us on average 10 minutes to mount – so mounted games, even if they did exist for a 35 year old riding a 16hh horse would be an ironic discipline for us to pursue. Although the photo’s would be priceless.
Sue, my long suffering partner had no idea what to expect when I said I wanted to buy a horse. The romantic view she had of summer evening hacks, possibly via a country pub while Millie was tied up outside (Millie doesn’t tie so this was always going to be challenging). The glamourous world of Jilly Coopers ‘Riders’ where everyone was pristine, glamorous & clean (that never happens) and the preconception that horse ownership was a relaxing, mood enhancing, not at all stressful hobby were promptly blown out the window the first time she saw me pick myself up out of the sand and cry. From then on she has witnessed me getting thrown head first onto the concrete yard. Chased Millie up a hill as she was galloping towards an open gate onto a main road after escaping backwards out of the trailer. Has become an expert on the use of lunge reins whilst loading. Quickly learnt a feed bucket is a must when trying to catch a crafty, work shy mare. Has listened to the many swear words that emanate from my mouth while struggling to get Millie around a 2ft clear round course. Has apologised to the mothers of small children who also witnessed my obscenities. Tows us to and from clinics, shows, sponsored rides and patiently stands in wind, rain and snow while we go and make a complete fuckery of all things equestrian. Sue mucks out and poo picks. She grooms and most importantly she supports my 6 weekly Millie melt down. This is where I become exasperated with how slow our progress is, or at my wits end with what new antics Millie has thought of to test my patience to its limit. She watches me write the ‘for sale’ advert (knowing in her heart of hearts that Millie will most probably grow old with us). She lets me ramble on excitedly about how ‘amazing’ Millie has been today, then pours me a large glass of wine the next day when Millie is a ‘complete sh*t’. Sue will smile while I gush like a teenager in love about how much I adore Millie and then will listen to my rants and rumblings when I hit a new low 24 hours later. Sue lives our up’s and downs with us. But Sue now loves Millie too. We (Millie and Me) are very lucky.
The above are collectively and affectionately known as ‘Team Millie’ and we don’t (or rather cant) go anywhere without them.
Everyone at the yard has also witnessed the tears, the tantrums, the name calling (Millie must have thought we had changed her name to ‘arsehole horse is up for sale’ or ‘f*ck this shit’ for the first year of being with us – come to think of it she still gets called that quite a bit – usually when a trailer is involved). They have lived the bipolar relationship that is Millie and Me. They have endlessly distracted Millie with treats while I get mounted. They come together to form a human wall when we embark on loading. They offer words of advice on a weekly basis and they have seen me throw my toys out the pram and collapse in a defeated heap in the corner of the stable. They see the tender, tranquil moments where Millie is calm and we share a little stroke and a kiss, followed by the less tranquil moments when I cant get the bloody thing to move, or she pulls back on her tie ring and crashes through the peace and quiet of the yard. Luckily the more you get to know other people and their horses and the relationships they have with them the more you realise that no-one has the perfect horse, no one is completely happy with what stage they are at on their journey and everyone has melt downs now and then (I just seem to have more than other people)
As Kylie said – ‘It’s better the devil you know’ – this is true, it just takes time getting to know your own devil and some devils take longer to bond with than others. My devil came in the shape of a 16hh bay mare with a bad attitude. She is still a devil but we seem to be meeting in the middle somewhere. On some days. When she feels like it.
Would I have another mare? Absolutely not. Do I love the one have? Absolutely.