Too Busy Having a Life…
… to blog about it!
I’ve been walking, riding, doing house stuff, visiting friends, shopping (ugh), working on final edits of the book… that kind of thing. I’ve even been too busy to keep my horse diary updated, so I’ll just do a brief overview of horse activities, along with one detailed highlight. Non-horsey readers can jump to here if they want to skip all the heavy-duty horse stuff!
After Aero’s day of… um… hypersensitivity in the woods, I rode him in the arena the next day. We ran through our ground exercises in the round pen first, finishing up with an attempt at liberty work. The problem is that he’s had 10 years of being told “you must stay out on the circle when you’re being lunged and you’re not allowed to come in to me.” Now with the travail sur sol, he’s supposed to turn to face me when I invite him to stop, so that he’s ready to pick up the next command. Yeah. That’s going to take a while.
I took him into the main arena and mounted and we set off. He was full of beans – not anxious, tense and fearful like he was this time last year, but a sort of YAY! What are we doing next? Can we canter? Oh. Ok I’ll leg yield… can we canter now? Oh. Yeah, I’ll do a few walk/trot transitions. Tum-ti-tum… Oh sorry, you mean you didn’t want walk/canter?
I had a sort of slowly dawning realisation that day – not a light-bulb moment, maybe a candle moment. I feel unworthy riding this horse. I feel that when he does something that I haven’t asked for, it’s my fault, because I’ve pushed the wrong buttons. And yeah, that’s partially true – but he has to start figuring me out as much as I’ve been figuring him out. Yes, he’s more horse than I need, but he’s the horse I’ve got and I’m the owner he’s got, so I’ve got to get over this feeling that he’s “too good for me” and that he “knows more than I do.” So when I ask for something (walk/trot, for example) and he gives me something else (walk/canter), I go back and ask again, the same way, and I make sure I get the answer I want. And do you know, I think it’s working.
The other thing I’ve been trying very hard to do with my arena work is keep my hands up and ask the horse to work into a contact with my hands at that level all the time. Not easy. For years, I’ve lowered my hands and basically pulled the horse into an outline – not forcefully, but it’s not the right way. If you keep your hands reasonably high (“Carry your hands!” my friend Naomi used to shout at me!) then when you play with the bit, the action is on the corners of the mouth and the tongue. If your hands are low, the action is on the bars of the mouth, the tongue and the corners of the mouth – much more severe. This whole concept is a re-education for both me and the horses, so yeah, that’s going to take a while too.
I’m driven mental with bloody bot-fly eggs on Aero. Every time I scrape them all off, there’s another batch on his legs the next morning. There was a cold snap two weeks ago and I thought that would kill them off, but it wasn’t severe enough and it’s been really warm ever since, so they’re still around. Still, it’ll be cold soon enough…
Flurry has been working away nicely with no issues. Our ground exercises are improving, he is more responsive to me but there is always an issue with getting him to start paying attention.
The farrier came and trimmed them both on Tuesday. I hadn’t done any hoofcare since his last visit, so he took quite a bit off and both horses were a little footsore afterwards. This is the one niggle I have with this guy, he’s really good and very willing to advise and guide me, but I don’t like the fact that the horses are tender after being done.
At the start of the week, MC rang and asked if I’d like to join her and two other liveries on a ride at a nearby forest. They had been exploring and had found some lovely woodland trails. We would have to box the horses over and she offered to take Flurry in the truck with Quieto. Hell yeah was my response. We need to leave the farm at about 12.30, she thought. We would load Flurry and then drive down to her house and pick up Quieto, and the other liveries, Mr & Mrs Endurance, would leave the farm at about one and meet us on the road.
I got up to the farm way too early. I brought Flurry in and groomed him, but he was miraculously clean. He’s got a very respectable winter coat now, although he’s not quite at his Teddy Bear best yet.
Then I sorted out all my gear and piled it in a heap, ready to go into the truck. After that, I took Flurry for a pick of grass while I waited.
And got distracted by this guy chirruping on a bale beside me.
MC arrived and we ate our picnic lunch. Then we waited some more.
Finally, Mr & Mrs Endurance arrived. While they went to get their horses, MC and I loaded Flurry and set off to collect Quieto. He loaded no bother, politely said hello to Flurry as he went in, we shut the ramp and went back out onto the main road again, to find Mr & Mrs Endurance behind us. Perfect timing! Only an hour later than planned!
We arrived at St Martin les Eaux at about 2.30 and we all set to work tacking up.
These guys flew overhead – geese, migrating to… somewhere? They were flying East/West – maybe from Eastern Europe to warmer parts of Southern France and Spain? We could hear their honking and the whish of their wings as they flew along.
Once everyone was ready, we headed into the Forêt de Pelissier for our ride. The Endurances had promised that all the trails were great, with a sandy surface, but their horses aren’t barefoot! Sure, the trails were better than in the woods near the farm, but they were still pretty stony.
After about fifteen minutes, I was ready to put Flurry’s boots on, but they assured me that the trail would improve in a few minutes, which they did.
Then they disimproved again and I gave in – I hopped off and put Flurry’s boots on. I’d brought the Renegades instead of his Cavallo Sport boots, as the sport boots were a bit tight and tough to get on the last couple of times and I thought the Renegades would be easier to fit quickly. I was right, they were on in no time…
…but right after these photos were taken, he stepped on one as we went through rocky ground and ripped the cable out. Stuff it, I said, he’ll have to go barefoot, but actually the ground was very good for ages after that so it wasn’t too bad.
We passed right through the HQ of an operation called Geosel. A friend told me about it afterwards. It’s a massive storage facility for methane and crude oil, buried right into the eastern end of the Luberon. Rumour has it that there is enough oil stored there to power France for several years. That’s a lot of oil! My friend has hiked around the forest a bit and she told me that when you get close to the storage areas, there are sign saying encouraging things like “If you hear a sound like an explosion, run like hell.”
Noted. I’ll remember that next time.
After passing through the Geosel office compound, we climbed a hill towards the site of an old chateau. There are traces of the old ruined chateau around, but this large house was built on the site in modern times and subsequently abandoned – when they heard about the millions of gallons of oil being stored underneath it, perhaps. It was discovered that there’s a very rare species of bat living in the roof of this house, though, so it has been re-roofed in a bat-appropriate manner.
I guess the bats don’t realise they’re living on top of a whole pile of oil.
There was a stone tablet saying something about La Mort d’Imbert – the death of Imbert. I looked it up afterwards. Imbert was hopelessly in love with a young lady called Laure, daugher of an inn-keeper in St Maime, who fell in love with and married Audibert, the nephew of a local lord. In a rage, Imbert waylaid them on the road and contrived to kidnap Laure with the help of six ruffians. He kept her prisoner while Audibert sought help from his uncle the lord. Audibert returned alone and was met with the six ruffians and Imbert who all attacked him. It seemed hopeless, but Laure was clearly not one of those heroines who needed to be rescued. She escaped from her room, grabbed a kitchen knife as she left and stabbed Imbert between the shoulder blades, killing him. The ruffians ran off and she and her lover made their getaway on horseback…
Did it all happen here? Who knows! Good story, anyway!
Finally, we made our way back along more stony trails until we returned to St Martin les Eaux.
We had covered 12km in two and a half hours. The longest ride I’ve done in a while and my ass was killing me again! Forgot the damn cycling shorts…
Phew, this has been a long, rambling post! Thanks if you managed to read this far!
À la prochaine…