DiDi an Irish Huzzy
DiDi has a turn.During the ride out DiDi had been playing up a little. She’d been reaching and tugging down on the reins which normally indicates she is anxious. On most of such occasions when she has foamed up around the mouth, seemingly she wants to expel the liquid. Some days it is an issue, on others it is not. However nothing too bad had happened on the ride and we reached the yard safely. Once in the yard I turned her back towards her stable and we stood where earlier she had been groomed and tacked up - all very normal. Getting down off the saddle is these days for an Old Man a cautious move, because he can’t readily swing his right leg over her butt. Neither does he leave the left foot in the stirrup iron, Western style. So the acquired method is to swing one’s upper body across the neck of the horse, and then grab the flap of the saddle down by the girth with the right hand. This is to avoid dropping down onto the ball of the foot. The attendant concussion would provoke arthritis problems within a few days. There is no fast dismount for the Old Man. But DiDi knows the game, we have played it often enough,
Now we were facing towards the back of the barn with the entrance to her stable a few feet over to the right. Just as I was lifting my right leg, in preparation to dismount, she moved forwards and turned towards the stable door. She had never done this before in 18 months. Of course, she knew it was her stable. I was caught in “flagrante dismounte” - neither in the saddle nor out of it. Instantly I straightened up and I grabbed with my right hand for the right rein. DiDi proceeded to walk forwards towards the open door of the stable. For her, the bar over the door was no obstacle whereas for me it was a serious barrier which had to be avoided. I lent forwards and ducked under the bar as we passed into the stable itself. What was she thinking about? It was at this point that I must have called out. Oh, I don’t know what I shouted, it wasn’t conscious me speaking. It was that sub conscious part of the brain which was saying -” Oi, you’ve lost the plot, you silly old Git And now we are going to hit the ground.”.
Once in the stable, - a 14 ft square, rubber matted haven for DiDi, there I was, still up on her back. That is simply not the place to be mounted on a horse. I remember our going round in circles. I had both reins in my left hand. Who knows what I was doing with the right. All I could think of was, “don’t go out through the stable door.” - because I’d have to duck again or be decapitated. I remember counting three times round the stable, which did not exactly take long. Then Jennie appeared. She called out to DiDi and she grabbed the reins down by the bit. DiDi came to a halt. I slid off the saddle whilst Jennie held the reins. I was breathing very fast. My heart was pounding.
Then I went over to my Irish Colleen and asked why she had done what she had done. Jennie said she had had her eyes out on stilts. Poor dear, she was frightened. There was no way I could tell DiDi off, she was obviously highly distressed. The thing to do was to get her calm. I stood by her head. I talked to her as quietly as I could and slowly we both calmed down. Jennie led DiDi off back into the yard and walked her around. I untacked her and within a few minutes she was back in her stable standing calmly munching on a hay net. Panic over.
But what had happened? I simply don’t know why she had decided to move off in the middle of the dismounting process. She usually stands perfectly still. Just why on this occasion did she decide to move when she knew full well that I was still aboard? I’ll never know and no one else was watching to tell me later. When she had started to move - just as I was at my most vulnerable posture - I felt distinctly uneasy. That was the way to hit the ground in a rather indelicate way. I was going down.
Then there was the bar over the stable door: which could decapitate me if DIDI made the move too quickly. Oh yes, there was good reason for me to panic. And panic my sub conscious brain did. What words I called out, are probably not repeatable. I don’t remember. It was not me speaking. It was that part of my brain which is constantly telling me: “OI! horses are dangerous and unpredictable , why do you play with them?” To DiDi , the actual words didn’t matter: it was the panic in my tone of voice.
The reins, well I had them in my hands, but whether or not I had a light firm contact, I don’t know. In truth probably I didn’t. All I do know is that DiDi was running round in a 14ft square space - not spinning nor whirling - she was running. OK, I know horses, don’t run. I had not practised this manoevre before. But when I looked at my hands, I’ll swear that my hold on the reins was pulling her head to the left, not to the right to follow her movement.. I had been trying to stop her but DiDi was in panic mode too.
In my head I was saying to myself: - “Godden, you are going to come off and then she is going to trample you with those steel shod hooves. Don’t fall off.” And I didn’t.
It was Jennie from the ground who stopped DiDi and not me. Of course, I was subjected to the verbals like: - “how did you get her into this state? “
In 33 years of riding, this was the first time I have been caught out like this. I must be losing it.
Apart from the shout, I did not get angry. But it was most likely the instinctive shouting which caused DiDi to panic. My leaning forward to get under the bar must have added to her fears. “What is he doing?” she must have thought.
Why had she made a beeline for the stable door? Well only she really knows. I can only guess.
I know now never to leave the stable door open if it is my intention later to want to dismount just a few feet away.
I also know that I must face her towards a brick wall or some other obstacle to dismount. Also taking a short hand full of the reins is just not enough to stop her if for whatever reason she decides to move forwards.
I now think that once in the stable I should have dropped the reins and let her charge round with me aboard but somehow that is like letting go of the steering wheel in a skid. In reality DiDi could not have gone far - except perhaps back out through the stable doorway. If I could duck under the bar on the way in, then hopefully I could have ducked on the way out. I didn’t let go of the reins, if anything I took them up.
In future, no way is any food to be left in the stable, on this occasion there wasn’t any but maybe DiDi thought there was. It was, after all, teatime.
I also realize that I must be 100% sure that next time I dismount that I get it right - otherwise I am going to have DiDi panic every time I get off.
It was my fault, my fault. Mea culpa, mea culpa.
After all, DiDi is just a timid, frightened, sensitive, 8 year old Irish mare and that is just the way she wants me to keep thinking. She is young and beautiful; a delicate innocent creature from County Cork and I must protect her.
Me, well as I have said elsewhere, I either have to stay one step ahead of her, or she’ll dump me for a younger man.
ah BG another installment of pure poetry, despite it being a tale of near woe. My soon to be in-laws are from county cork- it seems we are distantly related (why yes, I think it completely rational to claim a member of the equine sort among my kin). I also had a nearly dangerous event with my Mr. today, but having read your post about your inadvertant shout to your lady, kept my head and all ended well. In fact better than well, we made real progress on a few problems which have come up since the move to the new barn. I also resisted the urge to call him nasty names (no matter how affectionate the tone) instead telling him gently I know he's a good boy at heart and was rewarded with a nicker and gentle nudge for treats when I turned him out after our session. BG a tremendous thanks to you from me and my Mr. (D'Artagnan) for helping us end another day with just a smidgeon more trust between us two.
Delta Dawn (DiDi) - a profile.
After a three month hunt, I chose DiDi from all of the horses I had viewed because her conformation was right, she was pretty and her temperament was divine. I knew she had been ridden only by one or two riders and that her last owner had done most of the training.
She was expensive, but Irish Draughts attract a premium in the UK.
The other half - Molly a Connemara - brings typical pony characteristics - smaller, load carrier, good doer, sharpness and canniness.
I don't need a 16h horse - I need a horse which can carry a 15stone man.
The Irish now call such cross breeds "Sports Horses".
I have had her for 18 months. She is everything I thought she was - but she has one other characteristic that I was not seeking - she lacks "calmness".
She can be , according to mood, skittish.
In coping with this trait, she has taught me numerous lessons and I have adapted my riding style and handling procedures to cope. I have come off her several times. If she decides to shy - then it will come without warning and off all four legs at the same time.
If she panics, then she'll move first and think afterwards.
With this horse there are to be no whips, no crops, no loud voices or raised hands. Shout at this girl and you lose.
From this trait alone, she is no novice ride.
But on the other side, you get a forward going, strong, willing, sensitive
kindly horse. Put her into trot at the bottom of a slope and she'll still be trotting at the top without any further aid. She always wants to be in front.
Tweak a muscle in the lower thigh and she'll walk on.
Resist slightly on the rein and she'll turn or stop
Show her a new trick and once she understands - then its there.
Move as if you were standing on your own feet, and she will sense and follow.
You ask this horse, you don't demand.
She'll walk off the lead at the shoulder.
She'll be led on a loose rope.
She'll go on the bit, ride in contact, or long and low.
She'd make a superb cross country eventer - but I don't jump
She does well in the dressage arena - but I don't compete.
Her paces are full of impulsion and her rythym regular.
Walk between her and the stable wall with impunity.
Put your forehead on hers and swop brain waves.
Pick up her feet, fit new shoes, lead her into the trailer. No problem
She is bitted with the mildest of snaffles and all tiedowns and restraints have been removed - long ago.
Leave her out in the winter unrugged if you feel so inclined but she does love a raincoat.
She is a good doer and will keep a good condition on grass only.
Mind you she loves apples, carrots and horse biscuits.
She attracts admiring glances wherever she goes. And, if one day put to an Irish Draught stallion, she will have superb progeny.
However, you handle this horse with kid gloves. She draws her courage from her handler or rider. She'll never refuse but she might tread around, carefully on tiptoe. A caress on the crest of the neck works wonders. She behaves exactly the same whether alone or in company.
Cars don't worry her but wild creatures do.
She is ridden with the lightest of touch. Nothing more is necessary - a slight shift of weight is sometimes enough.
There are a couple of little queries I have yet to sort out and she often presents with a conundrum to consider.
But of one thing I am sure, if she had lived in years gone by when the more traditional approach to horse handling was in vogue, she would not have made it to her eighth year. She would have paniced at harsh handling, she would have freaked out. She would have been impossible to ride. This kindly mare would have been put to stud, year after year.
There may be historical reasons for her fears but now we'll never know.
Before her previous owner, she had passed from breeder to dealer in rapid succession.
Her role in my life is to be a Gentleman's Riding Horse. In theory she is well fit for purpose. In practice she is not ready for what I used to achieve with my previous horse Joe. The two of them compliment eachother - what he did well, DiDi hesitates at; what she does well Joe would never do.
In handling her, I am learning about the modern gentle approach to horse management. Joe called for a more forceful approach. In a way it is a pity I did not find her earlier in my life.
On this thread from time to time I'll post the details of the incidents which no doubt DiDi and I will experience. Please come back and read from time to time.
You are an excellent story teller, Barry. I look forward to the next installment.
I enjoy reading about the contrasts between your two horses. Please do update from time to time, as promised!
DiDi - a pretty little thing
A young female has come into my care. She’s got four legs and a long wavy tail. She is a pretty thing and quite vulnerable. She’s been moved out of her home, away from her best friend and more importantly taken out of the care of her Mom. She has got a nice new pad at Millbrook but it is not as familiar as the one she had. The field she is now using is up on the top of a hill with absolutely superb views but it can be a little drafty on a windy day. Previously her field was down in a nice sheltered valley. I’ve tried to make her feel comfortable. I’ve tried to make sure that she gets both what she needs and a little something extra. However it is important not to give her too much because otherwise she might decide that she should get her own way all the time.
Delta is of course a young mare. She is a Celtic girlie alright. By breeding she is from County Cork, but she has spent most of her short life in Britain. She’s now being looked after by an Englishman. She is indeed a true Brit.
This is a very formative stage in her life. For the first five years she was passed from pillar to post. Her passport lists five previous owners, four of whom appear to be dealers. Luckily she came into the care of a young social worker who started her riding education. The woman has made a good job of it. Delta has done quite a lot of things in her life so far. She’s been to riding club and jumped lots of painted fences. She’s been to horse shows and paraded in front of judges and she’s been given rosettes for her good looks. She has also chased foxes but she did not manage to complete the day’s hunting. She could be described as a forward going little huzzy. My guess is that she can turn on a sixpence when the time is right. She is also very light on her feet. She is sensitive too and her skin quivers whenever it is stroked. Her passport describes her as being half Irish Draught, which means she might have some Thorobred in her genes which will make her sharper.
One does not raise one’s voice in the company of this young horse - there is no need to.
One does not raise one’s hand to this creature - it would be counter productive,
Neither is it necessary to restrain her harshly - she doesn’t run away.
The way to behave with her is quite calm confidence and a touch of firmness.
But make no mistake, Delta is a powerful animal.
She weighs in excess of half a tonne. When she arrived she was taped at 515 kilos
She can run at 25mph; she can jump over 4 feet high.
So I have decided to be nice to her
For the first week everything was taken very, very cautiously. It was important to introduce her to her new home and her new companions. She had to come to know where she lived. Interestingly one day when I led her down into the village, when she got back to the entrance of the drive, her nostrils quivered and she sniffed as if to say : “This is it”. Similarly now, when I let her out in the morning, once I slip her head collar she immediately turns around and trots briskly off to her friends flashing her tail and sniggering. She is no longer the stranger; she is now the new girl on the block.
I have been riding her in the arena. It is necessary to teach her the aids of instruction which my style of riding calls for. I use the lower half of my body to transmit instructions to her, whereas I suspect her previous owner was more traditional in using a hand on each side of the reins and keeping the legs away from the flanks of the horse. I tend to wrap my legs around the barrel of the horse and ride one handed, not a regular style nowadays in the UK. DiDi, though, soon got the message. We are not trotting yet but we soon will be. We are not going out alone yet but we are going out in company.
She hasn’t yet made any attempt to assert herself but I sense that she might be able to make her presence felt if she ever gets to feel that way.
The time came again for her to go out into society. In truth she set off with reasonable impulsion without much hesitation. For sure she is not easy to mount - she moves her bum away every time the rider gets up onto the mounting bloc. Some solution has to be found for this little problem.
There were a couple of mini shies but nothing to get unhappy about.
However she did start to shake her head and the shaking did not really stop until we got back to the yard. The question arises as to why - reins, contact, bit, teeth or bridle??
There was one other little thing - she drops her rear right hind from time to time - about six times in all. Why? - is it Bg’s weight or something else.?
She manages the steep tarmacced slopes but she is not overly confident. She knew when she had reached home. She preferred to trot uphill rather than walk. But there were no incidents.
It is beginning to become apparent that DiDi’s relatively limited experience in carrying riders has had the result that she is neither as competent as she might be for a seven year old and neither is she as confident. The shaking of the head is the first thing to be tackled.
At the Price of Freedom.In considering the question of “space” it came home to me just how much of DiDi’s life is controlled by me. In the US there are still mustangs grazing the ranges whilst in the UK land is invariably fenced. Over here, horses live a very constrained life. DiDi is no exception.
DiDi’s day starts around 8.30 when I move her from the stable to the 1 acre pasture which she grazes. She would have been standing across the stable with her head to the left awaiting the sound of my car. I cut up an apple or two or maybe a couple of carrots and feed her by hand whilst I am looking around the stable to check what has happened overnight. She herself gets a superficial inspection as I run my hands over her. She is led out to the field where I let her go and watch her scamper off. Part of the pasture is fenced to restrict and preserve the grass she can access. She of course knows only too well where the best spots of vegetation are located currently but for her there is a risk of laminitis Last night I had cleared up the days dung. In the adjoining field stands Samsom and down in the bottom field will be standing Zah & Mower. DiDi can communicate with them but she can’t touch either. DiDi’s field is her own and she can use it either to run about, or defecate or eat or even sleep - her one choice in life, She will be alone for the day perhaps on average 9 hours in total. In the field she is safe from other horses and from human interference.
At sometime during the day I may collect her for exercising. Mostly that comprises of schooling in the arena or hacking out in the local countryside. She will have been brought in and effectively strip searched. She will be groomed with brush and comb - all over. Then she is poofed up with fly or coat spray and hoof oil. Next comes the tacking up with saddle and bridle. She is not restricted by any leather tie downs. The bit is a soft as I can find - nowadays a French link. I might ride her or sometimes my wife does, but invariably it is I who tacks her up. She behaves well, on the whole, under saddle. By nature she is skittish and her mood has to be judged carefully. However she is also sensitive, responsive, intelligent and forward going. To give an aid is often merely a slight pressure in the appropriate place. She is normally ridden in contact with the bit although not necessarily fully on the bit. She is a nervous horse and any thing fluttering or out of place can give rise to hesitation. But she doesn’t move against her rider and for the most part she complies graciously. It is very important to sit still on her as any inadvertent shift of weight will always provoke a response. She’ll ride out alone or in company as is appropriate. She‘ll be brought back into the yard and untacked, during the process of which she will be checked over and the saddle marks brushed and washed out.
After her exercise routine there is a smidgen of tea - maybe fruit and a handful of pasture nuts. Always some taster, be it ever so small. Then if the sun is still shining back out to the paddock for an hour or so. Very often the other horses are brought in before her, in which case she’ll be standing by the gate once the last equine companion has been brought in. In the interim her stable will have been cleaned out. Fresh water installed. A small hay net, steamed of course, will be hung up. Her evening meal will be given in a bucket. Any medicine eg garlic, marsh mallow or herb mix will be mixed in with a balanced pasture mix and/or chaff. Nothing fattening whilst the grass is still growing. But she is to be left for 12 hours and she is not to be denied food over night. I’ll clear up, check her stable door. I will look over, invariably to see her standing across the stable beginning to nod. That is how I shall find her in the morning. This routine is 24/7. She is the inmate; I am her gaoler. We are both locked into the same regime.
I can always see her from my house. Indeed it is not really necessary for me to look as I know where she will be at any one time. She has exchanged insecurity for routine security. She is sheltered from the vicissitudes of life. I have created an environment where risk to her is minimal. In return she has surrendered her life to me completely. I feed her, I exercise her, I decide her regime. She has no privacy. It is rare for another rider to mount her. It is highly unlikely for any other human handler to collect her. Even contact with other equines is restricted. I believe she is taking comfort in the familiarity of consistency since she does show signs of anxiety if the routine is not followed She has her own on board clock by which to tell true time so I must not be late otherwise she frets.
She’s got as side benefits in her employment as ‘companion to a human‘: medicare, dental care and pedicure. She has a wardrobe of coats of various weights. She has two saddles, numerous bridles and bits together with various training aids. She has her own apartment and garden to sleep and play in. She is sheltered from the unwanted attention from the other inmates. She doesn’t pay tax. However: Is this pretty dapple grey mare satisfied with her lot in life? She is after all, my prisoner. She has no choices left to make in life. Could she have done better?
Indeed, is this institutionalisation I have enforced upon her ethical behaviour on my part?
DiDi meet Lisa
For several good reasons it had been decided to introduce a new rider to DiDi. A couple has come onto the yard: Megan and her mum Lisa, who does not have a horse of her own. So it looks as though the arrangement might suit everyone. Of course the problem was telling DiDi. She would not be happy. I decided to take the plunge and get DiDi ready for the first introductory ride. However, immediately the routine was changed DiDi sensed something was up.
What’s going on? Nothing special
Why have you adjusted the stirrup leathers?Well, Lisa is going to ride you
Who is Lisa? Isn’t she that Megan’s mother?Yes
Can she ride?Of course
How do you know?I asked her
So?Don’t be silly. You’ll be OK
DiDi flounced across to the arena and reluctantly stood still to be mounted. Of course she fidgeted. I mounted and took her into the arena to warm her up. Lisa was watching, a fact that did not go unnoticed by DiDi. We had a little walk, a few trots and several stops and starts. I can’t say that DiDi was at her best. She was practising to be difficult. Her nose was up in the air and she refused to go anywhere near being on the bit
Eventually I felt her to be warm enough and I called Lisa over
Say ‘Hello to DiDi’
Lisa made pleasantries and gave the Old Girl a stroke. We then went over to the mounting block and I helped her mount up. Of course DiDi would not stand completely still. There were a few huffs & puffs. Eventually Lisa got herself settled and off she went. I told her to take it easy and just to walk around. which she did. One thing was for sure: DiDi was not going to play the game. Her nose moved from 8 oclock to 10 oclock -yet to be fair to Lisa, her seat was fine. Her hands were still enough and she was following through. Her back was upright and she was in time. Her heels were down, But all that is not necessarily enough for Madam.
I told Lisa to move up to trot and with that DiDi was off. She can move when she wants to.
Lisa noticed immediately because all of a sudden she needed to use a lot of back pressure to keep DiDi from rushing off. ‘She is strong isn’t she!’ Cussed more like it. DiDi will, when she is in the mood, do a delightful slow trot or jog and it is one that the rider can sit into. But when she wants to be awkward, she’ll take the bit and charge. If one is not careful, she’ll then try to get into canter. The rider has to be quick to hold her back. I could see that was what was in her mind. DiDi was absolutely determined to tell Lisa that she was no pushover.
Lisa had not ridden for about 6 months, so she said. It was obvious that she was getting tired. So I asked her if she had had enough. ‘Yes’ she said. I helped her down. DiDi stood still. I looked at her eyes which were wide open.
Well, what do you think?
Well, she’s not really up to it.What do you mean, you were being difficult .
No I wasn’t - not reallyOh, yes I know you could have dumped her but that would not have been fair- would it?
I suppose notAre you going to behave next time?
Is there going to be a next time?Yes probably - if you have not put her off.
Well we will see what a few startles will do
when we are out in the lanes.You take it easy with her.
A bit later on. Out of DiDi’s sight I managed o speak with Lisa. Well, what do you think?
There is more to her than meets the eye I am glad you noticed.
If she thinks you are incompetent, she’ll have you off
Make no mistake
The thing about DiDi is that not only is she a crafty devious Irish Huzzy - she has also got a big butt and as all horse riders know, that’s where the power lies. Long legs are one thing, but a big powerful rear end is what counts when it comes to power. It doesn’t help that DiDi pretends to be frightened of anything that moves, but it is all pretend. I doubt if she is frightened of anything. But if she did not flounce around then the Old Man might get the idea that he was the boss. And that would never do.
Whats An Irish Huzzy?
Irish Sport Horses Have Good Bit Of Thoroughbred Blood In Them Too:)
DiDi is by an Irish Draught Stallion from Glounbracht nr Cork out of a mare named Molly - said to be a Connemara.
As you say - she could have Thorobred blood in her veins. A visitor to the yard the other day said she looked exactly the same as her own Lusitano Mare.
All I can say is that she can shy at the flutter of a bird's wing.
She has a temperament to die for - I just wish she was calmer to ride.
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