06-29-2012, 07:06 AM
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Be Nice to your Equine - it’s bigger than you.
In my adult life I have enjoyed four sports namely rowing, flying, scuba diving and horse riding. The hard exercise of rowing is very good for the physique but the sport itself is boring. One important consideration is that there is minimal risk of injury whilst rowing except perhaps from a heart attack. Flying a small plane is not that dangerous either and probably presents a lot lower level of risk than driving a fast car on a crowded motorway. Diving is fraught with dangers to the novice but all bar one hazard can be avoided by getting out of the cold, salt, sea water as soon as possible. On the other hand the risk from The Bends is getting out too quickly. Incidentally the risk from Great White sharks is minimal, especially as man is usually to be found in relatively warm shallow water less than 40 metres deep. Nevertheless I used to think it was a very dangerous sport until one day in 1975 I discovered horse riding.
Playing with horses is a whole different deal. One does not need to be even on a horse to be hurt by it. When mounted the horse rider sits upon 500 kilos plus of an amazingly powerful spook mobile fitted with an accelerator and brakes, neither of which can be guaranteed to work even when the rider presses the correct buttons. The steering wheel doesn’t always work either. Surprisingly the rider is not glued, screwed, clipped, tied, slotted, wedged or in any other way firmly attached to the hunk of flesh and muscle writhing between the rider’s legs. Safety belts are not supplied. The genius Newton foresaw centuries ago that if the horse was really motoring and it stopped or turned with or without giving the right signals, the rider, a separate entity, would proceed at the same speed in the original direction. In which case Newton pointed out that the rider would hit the ground with force relative to the speed at which the horse had previously been galloping. The faster the horse was going, the greater the force of impact. The result would be very much of a lottery Everything in the human body when subjected to overwhelming force will break, it is just that some bits break more readily than others. A rearing horse can choose to discard its rider merely by standing on two hind legs.
The human body is a magnificent feat of biological engineering although in fact it is nothing more than a walking, talking container topped off by a brain set in a boney cage. The carcass has a pump to make the blood flow round the brain; lungs to pump air to the brain and a built in waste disposal system. The functionality of the Brain is controlled by the Mind, itself an amazing computer which doesn’t need Intel chips or Microsoft software nor even mains electricity. Luckily for many of us the Brain is not controlled from the heart. If the Brain doesn’t like the sport of horse riding then, unless the rider is Arnold Schwarzeneger, it generates fear in the Mind of the rider. We humans usually take heed and stop doing what the brain doesn’t like us to do. But this all singing, all dancing, all moving, marvel of a human body has a few weaknesses The rules are that if the Brain doesn’t work properly then various bits and pieces of the body don’t work at all. That doesn’t mean the body will die. It could mean that the Brain lives on but that it shuts down certain activities of the body. The result can be both inconvenient and unpleasant for the Mind. So be advised, the Brain doesn’t like its cage rattled and it gets very spiteful if you do not protect the head in which it dwells The nervous system, arguably the tentacles of the brain, is also very touchy about being interfered with. It too can act mean. Now of course you can say : ‘so what?’ Well, if that demon Brain wants its revenge then it will shut off some key functions which most humans seem to enjoy such as: walking, talking, seeing, hearing, touching, feeling, eating, and sex. The Motto must be: don’t bang your head.
The Brain will with time inevitably switch itself off but with careful management it can be made to work for 85 years, maybe even longer. If it really wants to be nasty to its tenant (the Mind) the Brain will keep ticking and lock the Mind up in a prison of flesh blood and bone. So if you don’t ever want to wind up laying flat on your back, wearing smelly wet knickers, dribbling and unable to feel anything, even the nurse taking your pants down, then please think more cautiously about the serious risks you take whenever you get within six feet of a horse.
Horse riding is all about enjoying the close company of a 500 kilo plus, four legged, hairy beast which happens to be strong enough not only to carry its playmate but also to run and even fly through the air whilst bearing the load. The horse has the mouth of a crocodile with the grip of a vice. Many horses are fitted with shoes of steel which can strike out and with ease break any bone in a human’s body. The horse can react instinctively in a microsecond to any threat and will take off at 20 mph in any open direction at the twinkling of an eye. It hears its rider from hundreds of yards away and might well have been previously warned of the human’s proximity by vibrations through the ground from footfalls It can smell and identify the odours each human emits however faint. This creature has lived amidst mankind for thousands of years and knows its predator inside out. If it wants to harm the human, it knows exactly how to do it and it will remember for decades everything, good or bad, you or your kind have done to it. What’s more for nutrition it doesn’t need a can opener, a cooker or a fridge because it eats grass and therefore doesn’t compete with its major foe for food. That was a clever move by the species. Feel sure that in a ring, the bare knuckle boxer would lose any fight with a horse.
We puny human weaklings are no match for the horse in strength or power. And we should take care to protect the vulnerable parts of our body. Riders should use to the maximum benefit the large brain we were born with, as it is our only defence against this magnificent creature. Protect it at all times. We should also be thankful that the horse was given a hoof instead of a hand and that whilst it can “whinny” it cannot spell the word in any language.
The riding hat won’t save every head; the protective jacket won’t protect every bone; the gloves won’t save the hands, the knee pads won’t save the knee joints and the boots won’t save the feet. When riding we have to leave the neck completely unprotected together with the wrists, fingers and the ankles. We need those fingers to write even on a computer. Let us hope the horse doesn‘t turn nasty or we humans are doomed. Take away our fingers and make us walk on four legs and we are dog’s meat.
To summarize: the equine has humans well and truly sussed. Once it had emotionally blackmailed us carnivores into not developing a taste for horse meat then it knew it had won the battle for long term survival on a World where mankind reigns supreme. When horses chose to become the servants of humans, they were and they remain smart cookies. Horses for their own survival tolerate humans.
So, riders when next you mount your steed, I suggest you be nice to it. The horse has the innate capability to seriously hurt you, if it wanted so to do. Personally, even when dressed like a riot policeman, before I mount up I always allow my horse to give me a muzzle nudge. If she uses her teeth rather than her tongue I am a little more careful as to how I handle her. She might be feeling miffed.
06-29-2012, 09:26 AM
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A day out with the Monmouthshire Hunt
Pictures speak a thousand words. These photos were taken on one of the ridges in the Black Mountains in South Wales. It is an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and as such is protected from further development. The few locals make their living either as livestock farmers, or from tourism and sometimes by supporting the second home owners. Interestingly for riders, there are four trekking centres along the length of this one valley. If you are a competent rider, then it is a magnificent place to ride on one of the locally trained, sure footed cobs This is not the terrain for fancy Thorobreds, rather it is the homeland of the Welsh Cob. The hillsides have barely been touched by mechanised farming although the vegetation has been shaped by sheep, deer and rabbits. In the summer months it is a glorious place to visit but in mid winter it is best to stay at home unless you are one of the hardy types. Access to the area is by private car or bike, there is no public transport. The visitors stay in boarding houses or pubs as there are no modern hotels nearby.
There are two fox hunts which work this ground. It is a fact of life that foxes kill lambs in the spring, so either the hunt chases them or the farmers shoot them. The local farmers will defend this policy. However without the fox there would be a plague of rabbits, so there is a careful balance for man to reach. Venison is also a source of income but the numbers of deer allowed to run free must be managed carefully. Buzzards and hawks of various types fly overhead. There are no other predators except man.
On the day, the Hunt had met in the grounds of the Abbey - an settlement founded in 1100 AD by a Norman knight. Today the roofless ruins still stand but in the grounds there is a pub, a guest house and a small tea room plus, importantly for horse riders, a trekking centre. It was from here that I hired Murphy, my trusty steed for a day of hunting.
Hunting over this terrain calls for special riding expertise. Most of the chase takes place up on the ridges. To get up there the horse has to first climb the steep, loose sandy tracks. The terrain is largely covered by bracken and pitted with rocks, clumps of vegetation and holes created by rabbits and foxes. The dark areas of vegetation usually indicate the presence of a bog, some of them quite deep. The local horses know where to put their feet down safely, the visiting rider will not have a clue. Once the huntsman blows that horn then the horses are off and surprisingly the unevenness of the terrain does little to slow them down. One minute you will find yourself on a sandy track, the next minute in a sea of bracken. One minute you are going uphill and the next you are going downhill. You’ll be lucky to catch sight of a fox and you‘ll spend the day chasing a pack of fox hounds and a man in a red coat.
But there is a saying: “what goes up must come down” and towards the end of the day the huntsman will direct the hounds back down the steep sides of the ridges towards the lane which runs along the bottom of the valley, The horse will be too excited to walk, and the slopes are too steep to canter, so invariably horse and rider find will trot downhill on a sandy path at a 45 degree angle on a 45 degree slope. The horse will be fired up with adrenaline, the rider will be exhausted as he or she starts the descent and the muscles will be utterly destroyed by the time the bottom of the hillside is reached. It is impossible to sit in, nor to rise to the trot, so the rider stands in the stirrups with the knees clamped into the knee roles of the saddle. The rider dare not lean too far forwards, otherwise the horse will be put on its forehand; the rider must lean back to help keep the horse and rider in balance. The horse must be allowed its head to balance itself and for that reason the horse is given full control of its neck and thereby both the freedom of direction and speed of pace. There is no horn to cling to on an English saddle. If the duo falls then both horse and rider will roll down the side of the hill. The feet are rammed home in the stirrup irons and one foot, is held higher than the other to cope with the sideways angle of the hill. The legs are wrapped tightly round the barrel of the horse to stop the rider from sliding forwards on the saddle. It is the grip of the calves and the under thighs which keeps the rider in the saddle. The rider preys that the horse doesn’t lose its footing for if it does, the horse might break a leg and the rider will wind up crushed underneath the animal. It is one of those moments in a lifetime which the rider will never forget. There’s no subtlety, no style, no grace; it is a terrifying yet exhilarating ride. This was exactly the situation where my coloured horse Murphy excelled. He get me down without putting a foot wrong but in the process he destroyed my strength. I was physically shattered by the descent from that ridge.
A regular criticism of ‘Murff ‘was that on a normal trek he was lazy. His day job was to carry riders up and down to the ridges. Unless he was chivvied along then he took it easy. He was also his own man and if he didn’t like the rider’s style of riding then he would rebel. But on this day I saw another side of him and I could not have found a better partner for the day. For this sort of terrain he had proved himself to be absolutely superb. We had good reason to believe he was bred by Gypsies and if this is the stamp of horse they choose both to ride and pull their carts, then I can well understand why. That’s him, in all his feathered splendour, impatiently waiting at the pub for his master to return.
Some folks get the impression that Fox Hunting in Britain is one of the class dividing sports. When hunting over this moorland ground, nothing could be further from the truth. The rider was judged not by what was worn, nor even the look of the horse rather the couple of horse and rider were judged by whether they could keep up with the Master. There were no jumps but there were bogs and I know which of the two obstacles is the easier to negotiate. It was largely because of this day’s outing with Murff that when the opportunity arose I bought Joe who was his stable companion, Joe, who was a Gypsy bred horse of a very different stamp.
06-29-2012, 02:52 PM
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[QUOTE=Barry Godden;1572213]Be Nice to your Equine - it’s bigger than you.
When mounted the horse rider sits upon 500 kilos plus of an amazingly powerful spook mobile fitted with an accelerator and brakes, neither of which can be guaranteed to work even when the rider presses the correct buttons. The steering wheel doesn’t always work either. Surprisingly the rider is not glued, screwed, clipped, tied, slotted, wedged or in any other way firmly attached to the hunk of flesh and muscle writhing between the rider’s legs. Safety belts are not supplied. The genius Newton foresaw centuries ago that if the horse was really motoring and it stopped or turned with or without giving the right signals, the rider, a separate entity, would proceed at the same speed in the original direction. In which case Newton pointed out that the rider would hit the ground with force relative to the speed at which the horse had previously been galloping. The faster the horse was going, the greater the force of impact. The result would be very much of a lottery Everything in the human body when subjected to overwhelming force will break, it is just that some bits break more readily than others. A rearing horse can choose to discard its rider merely by standing on two hind legs.
Hysterical I really laughed out loud!
06-30-2012, 11:22 AM
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My Kingdom for a Horse
There was to be a fun ride up in the woods in a couple of weeks time and I was asked by the girls in the barn if I would be dressing up my horse Joe. After all it was an event organised by the Hunt and it was traditional to look smart. I had entered Joe and this was to be our first public outing, I knew he would make his presence felt, so it would be a good idea for both he and I to look spick and span.
Cleaning his tack and making his coat shine would be easy enough but his hair might prove to be a problem. Joe’s mane was not fine and silky like that of an Andalucian, it was coarse with the texture of a fine polypropylene string. Only the long white feathers around his feet were soft. He was typical of his type, namely a common cob. The mane hair did not lay down flat rather it sprung out of his crest in all directions. Of course that’s fine for a horse which was bred to live out on a mountainside but at this event he would be mixing with all sorts of ‘hoy-poloi‘, namely thorobreds, warmbloods and fancy hunting horses of all breeds. The owners would have spent hours preening their horses to be worthy of the fashion show which to a certain extent this event had become.
Joe was there for the fast hard ride and in my mind there was no doubt he, the thug, would make good time around the coarse. But what to do about the mane? A couple of horse owners even suggested that I hog it, that is, to cut it down to the crest of his neck. But I was not going to cut off a perfectly practical head of hair merely for fashion. For me, a man who had lived with a bald head since early adulthood, that would be sacrilege. I could never understand all the fuss about hair. Certainly a bald pate had been no barrier to my being able to pull the odd human bird or two. There again I was charming, intelligent, witty and could produce a kindly wicked smile as and when I wanted to get my own way. I also possessed ten sensitive fingers, which if I could get close enough, worked as well as the feathers of a goose. In everyday life, to me a head of hair was superfluous.
Nevertheless a few days later I was on my way to the local chemist shop. As I opened the door to enter, out came this young woman with a beautiful head of hair. She was a stunning looker. Her perfectly straight, dark brown hair glistened and moved as one, almost snake like, as she walked along. The look was immaculate, with every single hair in place. Just how did a woman get her hair to look like that?
Now I was never the shy retiring type, so obviously there was only one thing to do and that was to ask her. She was obviously an expert in matters of hair. I turned back and caught up with her. I touched her very, very lightly on the arm and asked her:
“Excuse me please, but your hair is absolutely stunning”
She stopped looked at me in surprise and then gave me a warm smile.
‘Thank you‘, she said.
“Can you please tell me how you achieved such an effect?” I asked.
“How did you make it all hang down together like that ?“
This time she looked at me a little more discerningly. She could see that I was bald. She hesitated. I could see a puzzled look on her face.
So I said:
“Look I have got a problem with hair and I don’t know what to do about it. I need some help“.
In my mind I had visions of turning Joe’s coarse thatch into Spanish silk.
‘Well’ she said, ‘there is lots of washing, combing and brushing in the morning and the evening, and on every day of the year.’
“But there must be some special hair conditioner or shampoo which you use?”
‘Well there is, but that’s part of my secret of success’.
“Please“, I said. “I promise I won’t tell anyone else“.
Again she hesitated and then said one word : ‘Tresomme’
“What’s that?” I asked.
‘Go into the shop’ she said, ‘they stock it’.
“Thank you” I replied. “You’ve probably made my Boy look special“.
‘Your Boy?’ She asked.
“Yes “, I said, “My horse, Joe. I can’t get his mane to lay down flat.
There is a special event coming up and I want his mane to look like yours “.
The woman looked at me straight faced and then burst out laughing.
She said: “Now I know what is meant by ‘My Kingdom for a Horse‘.
With a wave of good bye, she went on her way.
I went and bought the Tressomme at ‘ginormous cost‘. All that money for a bottle of hair detergent. I took it back to the stables to see how it might work on Joe. I warmed the water and followed very carefully the instructions o the label. Joe stood patiently and allowed me to faff about. Then I rubbed the mane dry with a towel. I knew that Joe would not stand still and let me use a hair drier, nor could I fit him with a hair net. I would have to wait and see.
Did it make any difference? Not in the slightest.
On the night before the ride I had washed his hair with the fancy shampoo, rubbed him off dry and trimmed him up the best I could with scissors, as usual. There was to be none of the traditional ‘back combing and pulling of a mane ’pulling’ for we fellas.
The following day we rode up to the forest and met with some lads from the local hunt. Joe behaved like the jovial thug I expected of him He barged his way past horse after horse and came home past the finishing point at the gallop. Over a course of fourteen miles of narrow twisty woodland tracks, we overtook something like forty horses in one of the fastest times of the day. We had a lovely time and we had been lucky not to be banned from future events.
Maybe the Tresomme worked after all.
06-30-2012, 11:41 AM
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Just to prove a point - herewith a head shot of The Boy.
A 'bit of rough' as some ladies might be wont to say.
Certainly no long haired Lothario.
(A bit like his Dad in his younger days, shall we say)
07-05-2012, 07:01 PM
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I watched her go round and round the ring. She and her partner made it look all so easy. I had worked with her on many an occasion but the fact was that if she had the right partner then she could do it and make it all look oh so easy. But I couldn’t follow. It didn’t matter how much grace I tried to put into the performance. I didn’t feel good. She, bless her tried, but if I missed even the part of a beat then she had to catch me and adjust for me. She always did manage but it meant that she in turn was just that fraction off beat. And it showed.
Each time I dressed her up and got her ready for a performance, she looked at me and asked whether I was up to it. I always managed to look away as I answered and my words were always positive because that was the only way to answer. My job was to get her ready. She must look good and at her very best It was to be her show, not mine.
She was the star event All of the ungents had to be applied and she had to smell fragrant. Her hair had to hang down nicely. It had to glimmer, it had to shimmer. The judges were going to critique how she moved. She had to be in perfect balance. Her timing should be impeccable. Every twist, every turn, every stop was to be perfect. I knew she could do it. She knew she could do it But I knew I couldn’t do it with her and so did she.
So she was off to the show with young Kate. Kate knew exactly how to wow the judges. Kate knew what would appeal in my girl’s performance. Kate had been there before. Been there, seen it all, got the Tee shirt.
So I stood back . Kate would take my girl into the ring and I would watch. It was up to me to make she looked good - it was up to Kate to make her move. Just a squeeze here and nudge there. Everything to be subtle and delicate
And on the day that’s how it went - perfect. She won against all the odds. She got a rosette and I got to pin it over her stable door. Was I chuffed! Magic. Well done Girlie.
Does it matter that I can’t sit on her whilst she does it. Not really. As long as I don’t think about it.
What it is to love a dressage horse.
07-06-2012, 09:03 AM
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DiDi a dressage diva with a twist
I have hundreds of photos of this horse. But this one came to light a few days ago. There she is doing her stuff and cantering around the arena in celebration of coming 2nd against a lot of very fancy warmblood competition. She espies a highly dangerous rosette and she plants both feet in the sand and stops - instantly. The rider was lucky to stay on.
It was just one of DiDi's little foibles
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