Lady B - 16'1" Bay Mare

I haven't ridden a horse since I was a child. My younger Sister was always mad about horses and although my Mum and Dad didn't have a lot, they worked hard and they made sacrifices when we were kids in order to scrape together enough for us to have a week on a horse farm in Devon for our Summer holidays. I was never very keen and usually participated under sufferance so when I got older, I had nothing to do with horses in my teenage years onwards and I never thought I would again. But one should never say "never". A short time ago, I got back into horse riding because I was introduced to a horse called Lady B - a big, beautiful, bay Mare with a fine lineage and pedigree. She had the kindest eyes I've ever seen in a living creature and yet she was wilful and strong and a little disobedient and so quite perilous to handle. I fell in love with her immediately. When I agreed to ride her and look after her I thought I had a good idea of the commitment I was taking on but I was wrong. So wrong!!

A horse is like a big baby that never grows up. They are totally dependent on their owners. We've cross-bred them to the point where most breeds are not hardy enough to simply be turned out in a field 24/7 and look after themselves as they would in the wild. In the Summer, they need fly-repellant spray and fly rugs or they get bitten to pieces. In poor weather, they need turn-out rugs lest they get cold or wet. They need fleeces to wick the dampness away if they do get wet. They have different weights of stable rugs to deal with different temperatures. Their diet is a science in itself. They are prone to so many illnesses and conditions. They get Sweet Itch, Colic, Abscesses. 'Flu', or even Strangles. They get mudrash if they get too muddy, they can get Laminitis if they eat too much grass (I would once have laughed at the idea of a horse having too much grass), they get stressed; they windsuck and crib-bite as a sign of anxiety or just boredom. They get spooked at the most innocuous things.... a wheelie bin, a traffic cone, a McDonald's bag blowing across the road. And their instinct is to RUN AWAY!!!!!! The fact that you are sat on a horse will not stop it bolting or doing something dumb if it gets scared and so you have to be ready for anything all the time or you'll end up picking yourself up off the ground and running to try to catch the silly thing! I've learned that already from painful personal experience!

Despite all of the above and despite the tiresome mucking out before and after work EVERY day and despite the inevitable decline in personal hygiene resulting from constant proximity to horseshit, I wouldn't change a thing. Lady B has been a saving grace for me. She has reinstilled a level of discipline in my life that was beginning to disappear. She has taught me that kindness pays. I've learned that to control a horse, you have to earn their respect and their subservience. You can't demand it... you have to win it and a horse doesn't care one jot how high up the career ladder you've climbed or how much money you have or don't have; they judge you on the qualities that actually matter. In the wild, these animals are herd animals; they group; they have a pecking order; and they have a leader. And you have to become accepted as their leader. In many ways, they're very similar to Humans.

Horses are absolutely the most magnificent creatures. They have amazing hearing and vision; they are SO physically powerful; child-like in some ways and yet incredibly aware and intelligent in other ways. A ton of bone and muscle with its own mind and with a predisposition towards willfulness and unpredictability is a far greater challenge than controlling an inanimate mechanical object such as a car or a plane. I've (perhaps predictably and pathetically?) done a lot of male-andropause-type things in the last decade but, for me at least, jumping out of an aeroplane, flying aerobatics, throwing a racecar around a track, powering past a line of traffic on a motorbike, white water rafting etc., etc. come nowhere near the buzz I get from galloping on a horse. I have no idea why more men don't ride. Man and horse have worked together and gone to war together for centuries. Careering headlong at breakneck speed on a horse is a very macho thing to do; the power in the beast and the feeling of letting the horse have its head over uneven terrain really is an adrenalized experience which I would commend to everyone. And at the other end of the scale, gently grooming her as I watch her quietly munching away at her hay net in her box and hearing all the little noises she makes whilst I'm just brushing her is such a tranquil, meditative process, it's almost spiritual.

I've had my fair share of teething problems with Lady B and I'm certainly not complacent enough to think that I've got her totally under control, but I would never want to. Part of the fun is being on the back of an animal that can revert to its primal/wild instincts literally at the drop of a hat!

The other thing I'm now convinced of is that horses are telepathic. Or at least so perceptive as to seem like they can read your mind. If I am in any way trepid or undecided, she picks up on that and becomes skittish. If I'm not in the mood to ride or have things on my mind, her attention wanders too and she's all over the place. If I'm down mood-wise, she seems to reflect that. So what I've learned is that I have to show total confidence, I have to clear my mind, I have to be my Alpha-male self and I have to have fun and then she is focussed and lively and 'connected' to me in a way that I wouldn't have thought possible before forming this bond with her.

Just a small selection of the plethora of Horse food supplements. It's like an equine 'Holland & Barretts'! I'm amused by "Stroppy Mare" for the hormonal mare!! Wonder if this works on Human females?

August 2017

We went on our first 'hunt' on Boxing Day 2017 with the Holcombe Hunt (which I'm told is one of the oldest in the country and traces its lineage back to 1086!). Not chasing anything living of course as I wouldn't have participated. I don't really fancy chasing down an innocent fox and letting hounds rip it to shreds. That's not my idea of fun; or fair. No, they simply lay an artificial scent for the hounds and everyone tears off cross country as a group. It was great fun and the closest thing to a wartime cavalry charge that any modern man will experience. I wasn't sure how she would behave in a group but Lady B did me proud. Even though she hasn't been worked in the same way as some of the regular hunt horses, she kept up with the leaders and we almost galloped ahead of the Hunt Master at one point (which is apparently a big 'no-no'). She was mightily tired and getting a little fractious by the time we got home late in the day and I have to admit, so was I. And we were both a bit stiff the following day but it was a very worthwhile experience and one which we'll probably repeat.

26th December 2017

No more work please! I give up! I'm knackered!! ..... A happy horse rolling in the all-weather round pen.

April 2018

I've had Lady B for 2 years now and I can confidently say that she is totally under my control.

She obeys my every command (except when she wants to do something else).

She is tuned-in to the slightest gesture or verbal command that I give her and we ride as if we are one - man and horse combined (except when she's distracted, not listening, tired, being lazy, being wilful, being disobedient or just ignoring me).

She always willingly runs to me when I go to bring her in from the field (except when she wants to continue grazing or stay with the other horses).

She is very tidy in her box and I've trained her to only poo in one place to make it easy for me to muck-out (except when she decides to shit all over the wall, in her water bucket or over the top of the stable door).

She jumps perfectly every time (except when she refuses or throws me off).

She always goes into and out of her box with no bother (except when she simply doesn't want to!).

1. "No way! I know it's dark now but I still won't come in!!" 2. "Give me another horse nut treat puny Human or I WILL bite you!" 3. "Stubborn?? Moi???"

Maybe I've just got a teeny bit more work to do with her yet?

August 2018

Lady B seems to like the snow !!!!!

31st January 2019

Nothing like a good canter around a nice green field

July 2019

Lady B hasn't been well. In late July, she came up lame (not entirely unusual for horses - it's like us pulling a muscle or twisting an ankle). Usually, after a bit of 'box rest' a horse will improve and become sound again. However, in Lady's case, she seemed to get worse and eventually, reluctantly, I called in the vet. It's difficult to detect where the problem lies (as, very much like a small child, a horse can't tell you where it's hurting) and I initially thought it was a problem with her left shoulder as she had an issue with a pull there a couple of years ago. The horses had been charging around in the field together (as they do) and I put 2 & 2 together and got 5 and assumed she has simply twanged an old injury. However, on closer inspection, the lameness appeared to be coming from her right foot. The vet diqagnosed an abscess in her foot and set about trying to drain it by cutting a hole in her foot. The result was a bloody mess and her stable looked like a field hospital with blood, bandages and syringes strewn all over. Despite the concern over an invasive procedure, I was relieved that the problem was an abscess (which can arise spontaneously and are very common in horse's feet) and that once purged, the problem would be resolved.

However, after 2 weeks of poulticing and bandaging her foot, she was no better and I was beginning to get worried. To make matters worse, I was away climbing Mont Blanc during this time (4th - 10th August) and that meant that some of the poulticing had to be done by my Sister (who also has a horse at the same yard) and Lady B started misbehaving for her and snatching her foot away which resulted in my Sister getting her own shoulder pulled! Lady is a big powerful girl and if it's a physical battle with her (which it often is!) I may win but my Sister was never going to and so she ended up injured. I came back from Chamonix expecting Lady to be substantially better but she was showing no improvement. In fact, all the confinement and foot bandaging had seemingly made her lameness even more pronounced. The vets were called back and this time a portable x-ray was used to rule out any small cracks or fractures. Fortunately, the x-rays were clear but an abscess would have shown up on the x-ray too and there was no sign. So the vet had dug a hole in her foot for nothing! Chasing a non-existent abscess! Why, oh why didn't they just x-ray her to start with?? God only knows. I had to pay for the x-rays eventually so I'd have preferred to have done so at outset and that would have saved me having to also pay for unnecessary treatment for an abscess that wasn't there. I've now had different vets to attend Lady B 3 times in 3 years and in each case they have called it wrong and mis-diagnosed but have still charged. If that had happened in the context of Human medicine, lawyers would have been involved. But I can't get too annoyed with anyone as they did what they thought was right. Nevertheless, I learn more each time something like this happens and, although I am hopeful that there will be nothing in future which requires me to call a vet, I will be more circumspect about accepting a diagnosis should we ever need to get vets involved again.

As the Vet couldn't see any problem with her foot on the x-rays, they suggested I speak to the Farrier. I had to call the Farrier to get her shoe back on anyway as the 2-3 weeks of poulticing her without her shoe had not only softened and potentially weakened her hoof but had left her slightly unbalanced. Imagine yourself walking around for 3 weeks with only one shoe on; or one boot and one slipper. It would feel weird and even more weird when you eventually put both shoes back on. The Farrier came and suggested that all Lady had probably done was to bruise her foot by charging around in the field on hard ground with the other Mares. They do get quite worked-up sometimes and career around the field at breakneck speed so his speculation about what had initially gone wrong seemed plausible. However, I now had to worry about the deep hole in her foot and the priority was to keep it clean until it healed which the Farrier thought might be as long as 2 months. The last thing I wanted was for her to get infection in an open wound. So.... more box rest. Lady won't be happy.... she wants to get out and although I know it's for her own good, I feel quite guilty confining her to her box.

A few weeks on and I'm pleased to say that Lady B is showing some real signs of improvement and I'm sure she'll be back to normal shortly. We have lost the last of the Summer but there's always next year and the important thing is that she is sound and happy. The Farrier has put 'heart-bars' on her two front feet rather than the conventional U-shaped shoe as these will increase the surface area which carries her weight and spread/reduce the pressure on her foot and they seem to have helped as she's not limping at all now - at least while walking. I've been hand-grazing her and in order to keep her foot clean and prevent the wound from getting mud and shit in it, I bought her some boots. She doesn't really like them but she knows when I put them on her we are going out so she tolerates them. I think they look pretty impressive but I'll be glad when they're not needed anymore (which will be soon) and she can go out with the other horses. I'll have to build her up again slowly because she's been on box rest for several weeks now but I would expect us to be able to go riding again very soon.

August/September 2019

Lady B has a new boyfriend - Ben and Lady make an impressive couple don't they?

Ben is the only male horse she shows any interest in. Talk about "opposites attract"?! I don't think so. They look like two peas in a pod.

What a tart! Haha!

Lady in the round pen - a bit damp after having a roll. She's still got her Winter coat as I didn't clip her this year so she feels like a teddy bear. Roll-on Summertime!l


January 2020


Lady in the Summer field on the first day of Summer turnout. The birds are singing, the sky is blue, the grass is new and fresh. Covid-19 concerns seem a world away. Happy Horse. Happy Owner.

9th May 2020

When I first got Lady B, there were those on the yard who thought I wouldn't last 3 months. I'm happy to say I've proved them wrong. I've had Lady now for over 4 years and my relationship with a magnificent, powerful, beautiful creature gets better every day. No-one will ever truly know the peace, fulfilment and pure joy she has given me. Believe me, it's cheap therapy people; you should all try it.

Being there twice or sometimes 3 times a day, EVERY day without fail, feeding, cleaning, riding, grooming and knowing that however neat and tidy her stable is when you leave her at night, she'll have trashed it again by the follwing morning (like a rebellious teenager) is challenging and character-building. But when she greets me with a whinney and a nuzzle and she all but talks to me, or she runs to me in the field when I go to bring her in, or when she slips into top gear and we gallop, I can't help grinning from ear to ear. She's calming and soothing mostly and yet in different circumstances, she can be exhilerating and scary. Looking after a horse is like most things in Life.... the more you put in to doing it right, the more rewarding it becomes.

12th June 2020

Sad but true. Actually, on reflection, not sad at all. Animals are SO much better than people. No betrayal, duplicity, scheming, money-grabbing, dishonesty, disingenuity, lying, backstabbing or manipulation. You know where you are with an animal; if it doesn't like you, it bites you. If you show it understanding and compassion and care for it, it responds in kind. There's an innocence and an honesty about an animal; they're almost child-like. All an animal needs is to be treated with love and respect and it will die for you. Humans may be top of the food chain but it doesn't mean we're the best life forms on this planet. Far from it... Rats have more moral fibre and integrity than some of the people I've met. THAT is sad but true.

30th July 2020

As we come to the end of what's been an 'interesting' year, one of the constant delights over the last 12 months which has helped me keep my sense of humour (and probably my sanity) is seeing, riding, exercising and looking after Lady twice (sometimes 3 times) a day, EVERY day. She doesn't give a flying shite about Covid, Trump, the Brexit debacle, Black Lives Matter, Conspiracy theories, Boris Buffoon Johnson and his cronies, the Stock Market, the value of Sterling or even whether aliens invade. She just gets on with being a horse (Humans could learn a lot from horses). We have great fun together when we ride and although she listens to me and follows my wishes more these days, she hasn't lost her spark or her unpredictability and so the risk and the excitement is still ever-present. Nothing bothers me when I ride or even when I'm just around her. It's a totally absorbing and therapeutic time and it helps me put things in perspective.

29th December 2020

I came off Lady again today, in the school, jumping over a small jump which frankly a 3 year old on a Shetland Pony could have cleared. Terribly embarassing and it's down to lack of skill and practice. I can't believe how utterly shit I sometimes am. Lady is a much more capable horse than I am a rider and I often wonder what she thinks about the total dork on her back. Somebody once said you have to fall off 7 times to be a 'proper' rider. Well by that measure, I am a proper rider as today's 'arse-over-tit' tumble makes 8 times that I've been off her (yes, I am keeping count and I replay every one of them when I'm lying in bed de-briefing myself). I hasten to add that none of the falls have been Lady's fault and they are all down to me having my body weight in the wrong place, not anticipating or just genarally poor horsemanship. Today's debacle was simply because I approached the jump at a trot and didn't properly ask her to go into canter as I think I was looking down at the jump (a BIG no-no) and fixating. In consequence she almost stopped just in front of the jump before then leaping up in the air; I went backwards as she went up and then as she came down and I was still leaning back, her arse coming up launched me right over her head and somewhere in the journey I managed to scrape or crunch my left testicle. I swore a bit! It's a good job I still bounce quite well.

Anyway, aching bollock notwithstanding, I got back on and we did it again. The second attempt was 'clunky' and I pulled back on the reins as she landed when I really should be giving her her head at that point. The third attempt was better. So I left it at that. It's pretty clear I've got a lot of work to do.

2nd March 2021

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