I just wanted to post a little update for you as I just haven’t been inspired to write for the last few weeks. There was 2 main reasons. Number 1 was I was having such a fab time with Gracie I just wanted to be out there doing it & take the pressure off a bit by not capturing every moment. Reason number 2 is that just as the UK & many other countries seem to be getting back to normal France have gone back into lockdown. So now we are living under curfew and lockdown! I found that the more time I have to spend at home the less creative I am.

So what has been going on?

I have been having a brilliant time with Gracie. I have been having weekly riding lessons with Kate. I am loving my Wednesday afternoons when I don’t work and have the whole afternoon to go to the stables before curfew and we have started jumping and hacking. On a non horsey note I have had my first covid vaccine! Woohoo!

Work, work, work

Since Gracie was backed in December we have been working hard on our flat work. In our weekly lessons with Kate we have been working on the usual basic things as well doing an intro online dressage test (walk and trot) each month as we are on the yard team.

However as the months went on, things seemed to get harder and not easier. Gracie seemed to sour in the arena. We (Kate and I) thought that she seemed to have trouble bending her neck. So Gracie was seen by a French Osteo Emilie who keeps her horse Vasco at our yard. I was pleased with what Emilie did and Gracie seemed better after the treatment. However that didn’t last for very long.

Gracie is very willing. She is kind of like a big puppy! But there were a few rides she would not do anything that I asked her to do. If I wanted her to go slower she’d speed up or if I wanted her to walk, she’d trot. Our last 2 dressage tests had ended in tears. She would go around the arena with her head in the air like a llama pointing outwards despite us working for weeks on our inside bend. When we had brought her home from my instructors after she was backed, she would work in an outline in walk and trot easily and comfortably. However fast forward until now and it was incredibly difficult to get any shape other than one that resembles a giraffe or a llama! Her balance didn’t improve at all.

As the weeks past I realised that we needed to do something as my lovely young horse didn’t seem to be having a very nice time in the arena anymore. At first I wondered if she was just testing me after having a professional back her or I wondered if she just found the stuff we were asking hard so she’d be sassy in response.

Jazzing things up a bit!

I started to hack Gracie out with my friends and on my own to get her out of the arena. That is going well. At first she was a little nappy going out of the gate but that has improved a lot. She now goes out on her own around the lanes near the yard & we have hacked on the road once with company. I wanted to get her out of the arena & she seemed to enjoy the change. I started to do very small jumps in the arena as something different, which Gracie seemed to enjoy. However she was so unbalanced she knocked the tiny jumps frequently and we nearly had a nasty fall from her tripping over one of the jumps as we were convinced her head was so high she couldn’t see it!

Osteo visit number 2

With all of the above I decided to ask Kate to have a ride on Gracie. To see what she thought of her. Kate had to work hard to get her to go nicely just as I have doing. Riding.every.single. stride!! Which made me feel better as it obviously wasn’t just my riding then! Phew! Kate asked if she was always as stiff in the neck and I explained that she was & that although she is very calm to ride she is also very tense! So we decided to get Kate’s osteo to look at her. As now the more we thought about it, the less we thought that Gracie would just stop trying to please us.

Boy I am glad that I did get our Osteo to see Gracie as it turned out she was actually quite uncomfortable. Her C1 linked with her skull had rotated and she was blocked in her sternum which the osteo explained is why she was finding it hard to work in an outline now. She said it was like a chicken and egg situation. As Gracie found it hard to work in an outline as she is only 5 years old and weak, she changed to work into a position that was not good at all for her and had actually started to affect her hamstring muscles in her hind legs. Then when I asked her to go back into an outline she couldn’t as it hurt. So it had become a viscous circle for poor Gracie.

The osteo gave me some horse pilates exercises to do with Gracie regularly and suggested that I give her 3-6 months off to grow, prevent her from souring and to mature. Which would also hopefully prevent her from getting any injuries further along the line as she would be stronger in a few months when we restart riding again.

My World Crumbled

I must admit I was mortified that things had gotten this bad. I knew that things were more difficult than they should of been but I didn’t realise how such a short time of ridden work (November-March!) had made Gracie so uncomfortable.

I must admit thinking selfishly I didn’t know what I was going to do as riding Gracie is what has been keeping me going during this pandemic. She keeps me busy and focussed and thought of not riding really frightened me.

But of course if Gracie needed it I would do it. The Osteo had said about doing in hand work with her during this time. Even in hand hacking with her to build up her strength, but to be honest this did not interest me in the slightest. I wanted to be back doing our lessons, jumping and hacking!!

Our plans moving forward

I was so glad that I listened to Gracie giving me these warning signs that something was off. I’m glad I have a friend like Kate too who coaches me but also gives me such solid advice that always puts Gracie first.

After doing a bit of online research and chatting to some friends I realised that actually, this short term pain (for my part) will end in long term gain. Gracie will come back a stronger horse, that is more mature with a body that is ready to be ridden. Hopefully all the things we struggle with now will be a lot easier after a bit of time off and then a few months of hacking after that. I realised that I won’t be able to ride her as I had been doing realistically until 2022. She just isn’t strong enough to cope with it yet. That timeframe also caused me a lot of upset though I must admit! What an enormous set back that I hadn’t planned for. But she needs it so Gracie will get it.

Meanwhile I am going to film my online dressage on Lissy (Smartie’s owners other horse for those in the know). I will go to my French coach’s yard for some jumping lessons when I am able to after the lockdown has lifted and I will get into in hand hacking and try some Equi – Feel which is in hand work with some of the girls at my yard with Gracie. I actually need a little operation to remove a cyst, which I have booked in 2 weeks so its actually perfect timing for Gracie to have a little break as I will be out of action for a while too. It also means I am more free to visit my parents in the UK who I haven’t seen in nearly 1.5 years due to covid as well as soon as it is allowed and safe to do so.

I like to think positively, with this it took me a few days of upset but I got there in the end. I always think that things happen for a reason and we will come back better and stronger than before.

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