Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Slightly AWOL!

Hello lovely readers, I'm sorry I've not been about much. After a fabulous ride on Friday afternoon, I came indoors and was struck down with illness really suddenly. All I had was a sore throat, not even a cough or a cold, but I kept shivering and felt really unwell. I was in bed by 7.30 pm! I slept most of Saturday (when we were supposed to be having our Valentines meal) and quite a bit of Sunday. Mr O has been wonderful, as he's mucked out for me, done loads of shopping and all of the ironing. The weekend has been a bit of a blur really, I've felt so strange, but I'm much better now, thank goodness. Such a peculiar illness.
However, during this time, I've finished reading, 'The Jane Austen Book Club' by Karen Joy Fowler. Unfortunately these days I'm not up on all Jane Austen's characters. The best thing to do would be to read Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey, then read The Jane Austen Book Club and you'd probably see what she's getting at and find the book a great deal more amusing and clever, but it didn't really have that much appeal, to be honest.

It's been a bit strange at home, too, as Mr O was suddenly put on a shift system at work for last week. It's just an experiment to see if they can keep up with production this way. At first it sounded wonderful, Mr O would work from 6am to 2pm and be home when it was light, so he could ride. Fab. What it actually meant was that he'd get up at 5am to leave for work, and say, "You could have Zak tacked up ready for me to ride when I get home!" Sounds good, but that would mean getting Zak in at exactly the time of day I would normally ride. I usually get Barnaby in around 2pm, wash his legs off (which I only want to do once a day for each horse) go for a ride, come back and untack him, then go and get Zak in to keep him company, and give them their tea. This works really well, but now Mr O wants me to be getting Zak in just when I would normally be out myself. I work to this time frame as I quite often have Missis' two sons after school when she's away, so I like to have everything done so I can meet them off the school bus at 4pm, but this shift system has totally scuppered my routine.
And do you know the worst thing of all? Normally Mr O gets up at 6am and brings me a cup of tea in bed, in a thermal cup with a lid on (how spoiled am I?!) that is still hot when I wake up at 7am. Because he's left for work at five, there's been no point in doing it and I've had to get up at seven and make my own cup of tea. I'm afraid this puts me in a bad mood before I've even woken up properly! So I am probably the only person delighted that the shift system has been so successful they've decided to abandon it - Yippeee!
Last Tuesday I had a conversation with Missis where she was saying she couldn't bear to watch someone else ride her horse and I said I've never had a problem with other people (instructors I mean) riding Barnaby. I suppose this is because I'm so used to seeing Mr O on him, as Barnaby was his for so long.
Anyway, the very next day I was so tired I asked Mr O to ride Barnaby for me. I helped Mr O get on and watched them sail off up the road together and couldn't bear it. I thought I was going to burst into tears. The odd thing was, Barnaby was really naughty on the ride, (snigger!) and when he came back he kept looking at me as if to say, "Why didn't you and I go? You're my mum, aren't you?" It was so fab, I think we've obviously bonded, as I used to be this way with Max. I couldn't stand watching other people riding him. He used to look at me as if to say, "Why are you allowing this?" From now on, if I'm too ill or tired to ride, or the weather's bad, he doesn't get ridden. It's as simple as that. It's because Mr O is always saying, "You don't ride that horse enough!" Well I can't believe Barnaby is in the field thinking, 'It's about time someone rode me, isn't it?'
Finally, you may have gathered that Barnaby is a bit of a bolshie sort, especially with being led on a lead rope. Sometimes he's fine and sometimes he just barges off wherever he feels like it. The day after he cut his eye, he was barging around in the stables, swung round and hit his head on a post and made his gums bleed. What a twit! A few times he's come in and decided he'd rather go in Zak's stable than his own, so he tries to force his way in through the closed stable door, leaning so hard he nearly wrenches it off its hinges. It's like having a half tonne aggressive teenager with ADHD.
I've got so fed up (and embarrassed) about this, I started to look into possibilities for prevention. The first thing I found is called a Dually halter, made by Monty Roberts, which is meant to be brilliant (and I'm sure it is) but it's forty-two pounds. Gasp! My friend Debbie put me onto a Kemp Controller, which is just a thin piece of cord that you clip onto the headcollar and clip the other end to your leadrope. I was a bit sceptical, but it only cost 7.50 so I decided to buy one.
And I have to tell you that Barnaby has been walking round like a lamb in it ever since. It is absolutely amazing. To be honest, if I'd known such a thing existed I'd have bought one years ago, even before we moved here. It looks so simple, but it has such a powerful effect on the horse. As I've said before, Mr O has been able to combat Barnaby with brute strength, but I am just a normal woman and I can't fight him. With this simple device I can make him go wherever I need him to be (or tie him up to have his legs washed) and he has no choice but to stand there. I was concerned that it worked in the same way as a Halti on a dog. This goes onto the muzzle and has a clip underneath where you attach the lead. It's great for gaining control of the dog, but it doesn't teach them to walk to heel. You haven't actually altered the dogs behaviour. With the Kemp Controller you actually alter the horse's behaviour, which is wonderful. I would recommend one to anyone struggling to get their horse to walk nicely with them.
I'd better pop off now to go and clean out the chickens. Finally, it is like a real spring day. In fact, I think I might go for a ride...
Mrs O.


  1. Hi Jane, sorry to hear that youve not been well, I do hope you are now fully recovered and managed to catch up with all your jobs.
    Im also glad to hear that Barnaby is becoming more your horse and not happy when hes with other riders, it just goes to show he sees you as his leader. With love and hugs Shirleyxxxxx

  2. So sorry you weren't feeling well. Being sick certainly creates all kinds of problems Glad Mr. O picked up the slack.

    It seems Barnaby has bonded with you. And, actually, I bet too he is happier cooperating with the Kemp Controller. I think most horses would rather be led than be the leader when handled.

    The controller principle is much like a way of using a tie rope I learned from my old farrier years ago. That kind of pressure really will change behavior as the horse learns not to put pressure on the lead or tie rope.

  3. Good Morning Jane, just wanted to let you know that Ive left you something on my blog, I do so hope you will accept it. With love and hugs Shirleyxxxxxxx

  4. Sorry to hear about Barnaby's eye and his bolshie behaviour. I had the same problems with my mare for a while and was getting quite desperate at one stage. I too contemplated control headcollars, in fact someone even suggested that her behaviour was so bad that I should use stallion chains on her. But we didn't follow any of these options, but worked on her day in day out, several times a day, for about three months. Just leading at the walk, turning, circles, halting, trotting and so on getting her to listern to us. I was lucky to have my son to help when she was particularly horrid as he is a lot stronger than I and also more persistent. And I'm v. pleased to report that we now have a an absolute poppet at the end of a lead rope instead of the horse from hell.


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