I got Packenham (Paddy for short) - an ex point-to-pointer in May of 2012, after having a break from riding of about 20 years. There have been some ups and downs (mostly downs) over the past 18 months & this is our journey together from Paddy being a racehorse to hopefully eventually a riding horse!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Lightbulb moment??

Over the last week I have felt really down - had a lot going on, and then paddy has not been going well at all and I have been getting more & more despondent about whether we will ever achieve anything!!

I was looking forward to my lesson with Jon with some trepidation as I had not been able to work paddy in canter without it all falling apart!! Jon hot on him first and of course paddy did not buck at all!! I then got and and we did quite a lot of work getting a more active working trot, using poles to help him activate his back end and lift his back. This felt good and I found it very helpful to feel what his trot should be like - I am someone who needs to feel how things should be, rather than be told!!

We then moved up into canter and yes he bucked a couple of times, but then he settled and continued to work really well. Jon had to remind me to sit up, support him with my hands and ensure I keep my legs wrapped round him & it seemed to work!! Then went on to do circles at either end with simple changes through trot at x and paddy did them really well, and even his downwards transitions weren't too bad!!

By the end of the lesson I felt more confident and hopeful that we might get somewhere after all!!

This process has helped me come to a few conclusions as follows:
1. I am too nice with paddy - I have been so worried about asking too much from him that I have allowed him to pootle round looking pretty, but he has not been working through his back, so I need to ask more of him in order to develop his muscle and now I know what it should feel like, I will be asking for more activity from him.

2. All this is new to paddy and yes it is hard work for him, but if I don't ask for more he will never get strong enough to do more advanced work.

3. I need to do all I can to build up his topline. His neck has muscled up amazingly well, and although he has put on some muscle from his withers to his tail, it is no where near enough and therefore he is just not sting enough yet. I  have started strapping him to help muscle development, and I am going to do more pole work to help this, plus carrot stretches etc. I have also restarted using a band round his bottom when schooling which creates resistance and makes him work harder when he's being ridden.

4. I need more regular lessons as having them monthly is not enough. If anything goes wrong in between I am liable to let things drift which means that they get worse and I end up losing confidence, so plan to try weekly or fortnightly lessons until we are more established.

5. It will take time and there will be ups and downs but I need to remain hopeful that we will get there in the end. I need to persevere rather than give up.

6. I need to set goals to work towards, particularly in the form of competitions as this helps focus me and helps prevent me from allowing things to drift along.

Here's a couple of videos of Jon riding paddy yesterday:

Long awaited update part 2

As mentioned in my previous post I had booked a lesson with Jon Bard - he asked me to just warm up how I would normally and then he asked me to canter on both reins - I was not looking forward to this as his canter, which was one of passus best paces had deteriorated so much I dreaded doing it, but I did try and true to form paddy bucked, kicked and generally behaved like a nob...... Then Jon said he would have a ride on him - cue huge sigh of relief from me!!

Paddy still did the bucking and kicking with Jon, but he did manage to get some decent canter, so I then got back on & we worked on getting a much more active relaxed trot, so that he bunches up less when cantering, I did manage some canter where he did not kick and go disunited so was really pleased with this.

I booked a lesson for the next week and over the week have hacked him and schooled him - my attempts at canter still had him bucking so gave up on that it did work him we'll in trot.

I was planning to take him to do 2 prelim tests at Milton at the beginning of November but I am starting to think that if I can't get him going well enough there's not much point - paddy has had so many ups and downs that it is getting very hard to keep motivated - particularly when you see others improving and going out and about and doing really well.....

Hoping that the next lesson with Jon will help!!

Long awaited update! Part 1

It has been a while since I put anything on the blog and quite a bit has happened since I last posted, some of it good and some not so good. 

Since I came back from holiday we haven't really done loads, I was meant to be taking paddy to Over show, but the weather was awful with persistent rain, so Gillian & I decided not to go - showing is bad enough but showing in the rain is definitely an experience to be avoided if at all possible!!

I then had a Matt Cox lesson, where paddy went really well - he is improving all the time. We are currently working on leg yield, shoulder in, medium trot and canter loops, building up to counter canter.

We then went cross country schooling the day after at ickworth which I will put into a separate post as it was an interesting experience!!  

He was great in the Matt cox lesson, but when I schooled him at home in the following week, he started bucking in canter and changing legs and going disunited, so of course I thought I had broken him!! Managed to get the lovely Mish Brooker out to see him and she found that he was a little sore along his back, so sorted that out, after which I thought he would be better.....spoke too soon!! Had another lesson with Matt and in the trot work paddy was going well, but canter was awful! He just bucked, kicked out  and kept going disunited - I was so disappointed as canter has always been one of his best paces. After this he seemed a little unlevel on his dodgy foot (he hit a jump hard at ickworth) so this meant that we were not able to go the the Rockley Rehab Reunion, which I was really looking forward to. I gave him a few days off, then hacked him and he seemed a lot better, then bought him in from the field to ride and his hock was really swollen & puffy - trotted him up and he was more stiff than hopping lame, so cue cold hosing and more time off with him mooching round the field. This also meant that we had to miss the ROR inter county challenge and a lesson with Matt. 

I finally managed to get back on him for a gentle hack at the end of September and he seemed to be sound thank goodness!

At the beginning of the week I schooled him and whilst his trot work is coming along nicely, his canter seemed to be getting worse. I am at a bit if a loss as to what's going on other than he is finding things more difficult, so I booked a lesson with Jon Bard, who teaches Gillian so that I can get some help with paddy......

Nest instalment in a new post :-)

Monday, 11 August 2014

Holiday's over!

I got back from Yorkshire on Saturday afternoon and decided that as the weather was good I would ride Paddy, particularly as the forecast was horrid for Sunday. 
I was expecting the worst as I hadn't ridden him for over a week, but was amazed that he behaved himself, wasn't stupid and settled down to work - he also felt better for his week off. 

I didn't do too much with him, started off in walk, circles and spirals, plus transitions, then moved up into trot, again worked on transitions, leg yield and shoulder in. I then went back into walk and did transitions within the pace from collected to medium to slightly more extended.

He was very happy to finish & get his dinner!!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Matt Cox lesson

So off we went to our first lesson with Matt Cox. Paddy was good to load - probably because he had daisy next to him who he thinks is lovely!
Went into the indoor arena at Rosewood stud & he was very spooky and snorted at everything! Had a chat with Matt & told him all of Paddy's problems & I think he was surprised at all Paddy had gone through in the last year as a half!

We started off in walk, then up into trot & he got us leg yielding on a circle, then doing shoulder in on a 15 metre circle. This was to stop Paddy from hugging the wall and falling out through his shoulder. I did actually admit that I didn't know whether I had been doing it right but it appears that I had been. When doing tis paddy really started working across his back, but because it is such hard work for him he couldn't maintain the outline we wanted for very long. We were aiming for a fairly low head carriage with him working from behind in order that he lifted his back. When he did achieve it he felt lovely, with more cadence and suspension. 
Lots to be working on before our next lesson which is in May. 

Of course Paddy couldn't maintain his good behavoiur for very long, because as soon as he spotted the horses outside who were in the next lesson he kept neighing to them & wouldn't shut up!! He aparently only needs to glimpse another horse before he thinks it's his new best friend!!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Paddy's feet 14 months since his shoes were removed

I haven't done an update on Paddys feet for some time so thought I would post today as he has had his first trim since December 2012. I have to say the farrier was very shocked when I told him how long he had gone without a trim especially when he saw that there was nothing to take off from the walls at all - all that work he's done on smooth hard surfaces has certainly kept them trimmed, although the edges were looking really ratty where bits had chipped off, so the farrier did just what I told him to and left his soles & frogs alone and just beveled off the edges a little to neaten them up. This was mainly  because we have our first competitive endurance ride this weekend and they have to be checked by a farrier & I didn't want to be thrown out because if the state if his feet.....though even if they don't look pretty, they are obviously functioning far better than they ever did with shoes on!!

Right front

Right front sole

Right hind

Right hind sole

Left front

Left front sole 

Left hind

Left hind sole

And Paddy looking lovely! .....not bad for a skinny thoroughbred coming out of winter :-)

We have our first Matt Cox lesson this Saturday which I am really looking forward to, and then our 20 mile endurance ride on Sunday near Brandon in Suffolk. Hopefully Team Balsham (Balsham & District Riding Club) will do well with lots of fast times & low heart rates!!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Jumping.....sort of!!

So it was with some trepidation that Gillian & I set off to Prestige Show Centre to have a jumping lesson - Paddy's first time jumping since 2012, pre lameness and back op & legs' first time out since last year. 

Paddy was on his toes when I loaded him & this continued when I unloaded him at the other end! 

With my heart in my mouth I got on him & we went into the arena, where Paddy proceeded to gawp at everything, but thankfully he didn't do anything stupid. 

Started off walking in & out of the jumps, then went over trotting poles in walk & trot, which he did well & didn't seem bothered by them at all. Then went on to do some single jumps (all very tiny thankfully!!)

Then went on to do some combinations & this is where the fun started! Paddy was giving the poles a very wide berth when going over them & it felt like he was adding in a buck mid air! I have to say it was very disconcerting to ride and I had to remember to sit up, otherwise I would have been catapulted out of the front door!

And again...

And again!....

The previous times I have jumped him he's not done this, so I can only presume that either he's feeling really good, the jumps are too small for him, or that now that his back is more free, it feels unusual. I am hoping it is not hurting him, though I think if this was the case, he would have acted up more, which he didn't. He had to use his back in a way that he has not had to for over a year, so it's all going to feel strange to him although I have got the physio coming at the end of April to check him over again & iron out any kinks that might be there. 

We also jumped a filler & paddy took great offence to it - I had forgotten that he had never seen a filler before!....any way we managed to get over it, but without any style what so ever!!

Don't like the look of that!!!

All in all I was pleased with both Paddy & I.....it was something that I really wanted to do again, but was absolutely dreading it! Hopefully Paddy's over jumping will calm down a little once he's done a bit more, and I think that some jumping will also help him use his back a bit more. 

Having looked at the photos, I can see that I look down, rather than ahead, so I need to remember to look where I'm going, otherwise I will end up where I am looking!!

We are planning another lesson in a month, then the riding club is going to be holding jumping clinics for show jumping & cross country, so the plan is to go along to these in order to keep practicing and to gain some much needed confidence!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Dressage diva

Well off we went to the Balsham & District Riding Club dressage competition last Sunday. It was the first competition that BDRC had run & I had a major part in organising it, so not only was I riding my daft thoroughbred, but I was meant to be running the day also - must be mad!!

I plaited him up the evening before so that he did not anticipate a party!

Got there in plenty if time & put everything where it needed to go & sorted out the judge, writer & stewards. Then had a cup of coffee & then got tacked up & ready to go - the only drawback was that I had got my time wrong & ended up with about 10 minutes to warm up - he then napped all the way to the arena & we had to be led there.....slightly embarrassing!! He was the calling for all his new best friends - he only has to pass another horse & they become his new best friend!! Consequently his first test (intro b) was tense, but not too awful considering. We got 60.43% for 4th place out of 5 - the judges comments were 'lovely horse & rider combination, sympathetically ridden, a little tight today, but shows huge potential - well done. 

Had more time to warm up for the next test, which was a classical riding club walk trot test, where the rider is marked in their riding far more than in a british dressage test - he was better in this test and he got all 6s & 7s, but I managed to get all 8s & 9s for my riding, which I was over the moon with - for a final score of 84.39% and first place out of 10 - Whoo hoo!!! Judges comments were 'professionally presented test, now needs to show more engagement and suppleness in the back & hind leg - well done'.

Then onto the third test which was prelim 4 - the first prelim he has done in a competition (mind you he's only done one other proper dressage competition!). We got mostly 6s & 7s, a couple of 5s and a 4 for his second canter because he struck off on the wrong leg. He felt ok in this test, though again he was paying more attention to his new best friends than concentrating on what he was meant to be doing - got 60.90% for 4th place out of 9, so pretty good for a first prelim. The judges comments were 'some loss of balance at canter today, but a pleasing test throughout. Now needs to improve strength and engagement behind'.

So overall I was really pleased with Paddy - he behaved himself.....apart from being very vocal! So for a first outing since he went lame (other than the few in hand classes last summer) I could not have asked for more. 

I know I need to work on Paddy's engagement & get him using his hind end & back more, but as he gets stronger through schooling, pole work & hill work, this should improve.

Apart from being chuffed with my boy, I was really pleased with myself, as I got all 8s & 9s throughout all the tests for my riding, and was the only rider to have got these marks.....having Sarah nag me is obviously slowly sinking in!!

Paddy showing off his frillies :)

Everyone had a good day & it was a very successful first competition for BDRC :)

Lesson time

Paddy & I had a lesson with Sarah last Friday in preparation for our dressage debut the following Sunday, and we both worked hard - me on my position because he is straighter and more consistent if I am sitting upright and not tipping my head down, and paddy on trying to get his hind end engaged and work across his back.

We practiced transitions a lot which currently are very stilted - he almost stalls into them. We worked on not using any rein, just using my seat and back as aids, which helped. 

His canter is so much better now, but again his transitions are poor, but eventually managed to get much smoother ones & decided to leave it on a good note. 

Now need to learn my tests! It will be Paddy's first dressage outing in nearly 1 1/2 years & we are doing our first competition prelim - not sure if I am looking forward to it or dreading it!!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Last ditch attempt at calmers

Paddy's behaviour out on hacks has not been getting any better, he's spooking at absolutely everything even things that aren't there!! 

Now, he never used to be a spooky horse & when he was in full work in 2012 he was a joy to hack, he never used to spook and only jumped at things like birds flying out etc so I can only guess at what has changed. He's is fairly fit due to all the walking he has done, he's feeling much better since his back has been operated on and he's no longer in pain from his feet. This has left me with a horse that is a a complete numpty to hack out. 

So far I have tried a number of calmers, none of which have worked. I have also used valerian (not convinced this made a difference) and at times sedalin (1/2 - 1ml) - neither of which are competition legal and I don't want to continue with. So I contacted the people at Equifeast, who went through what I am feeding him and recommended cool calm & collected magnesium free, which I duely ordered and it arrived yesterday. 

He has to have a loading dose for the first month or so and then a maintenance dose thereafter. He had his first dose yesterday which I split over 2 feeds as it's quite a lot of powder and he ate it without thinking I was poisoning him. It may need some tweaking over time in order to get the calcium & magnesium levels correct, but I have seen some good reviews about this product and know other people who have found it has made a marked difference to their spooky horses.

I am hoping that this will work as I need to be able to hack him to stimulate his feet, and would like to be able to do it without fearing for my life every time. Currently hacking is NOT enjoyable!!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Endurance - the day after

I was really worried about doing the first training ride on Paddy as it was the first time he had ever hacked off the farm, the furthest he had been and it was over the toughest surfaces he had been on since his shoes came off a year ago. I was also ultra careful whilst we were on the ride and was very anxious about checking on him the next day, thinking that he would be lame. Luckily my fears were unfounded as he was sound and had no swelling in his legs. 

This time I was less worried, but it was again with some trepidation that I checked his legs & movement today, but again he's sound and looking well. 

I am so relieved, as there have been so many low points over the past 18 months, with one lot of vets saying that he was unlikely to come sound again because of his hoof pain, and another lot saying that even if the foot rehab worked, the best I could hope for was to be able to lightly hack him because of his back. 

After all the time, money, effort & tears, it is lovely for something to go right for once!!

Paddy & Legs at the end of the ride yesterday. 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Endurance training ride take 2

After the awful weather last night, I thought that we were in for a nasty day, but this morning was lovely and sunny, though there was a very chilly wind, so off we toddled to Abington again this morning for our second endurance training ride.

Paddy was more chilled this time and behaved himself in the first vetting. His heart rate was 32 bpm (had to poke him to make sure he was actually alive!). Once this was done we tacked up & off we went. We managed to trot & canter all along the Roman Road going out, but had to walk on the road and through Chilford Hall which slowed us down a lot. Once we were back on the Roman road we again managed to canter & trot all the way back with a fairly short walk right at the end to get the heart rate down. At the final vetting his heart rate was 40bpm and we managed 8km per hour, which is the lower limit allowable in the riding club competitive rides.

We need to be able to increase our speed, but as our horses are barefoot and paddy is just coming back into ridden work after having 15 months off for lameness and kissing spines, we can't trot on Tarmac just yet and they find stony tracks really tough. Hopefully the competitive rides won't have so much of these!!

Paddy behaved himself for the most part - he was still spooky and nappy at times but a lot better than last Sunday, though he did take great offence at the stone horse eating lion statues on the driveway to Chilford hall!!

I was thrilled with how he went today.....onwards & upwards!!!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Good lesson today

Had a lesson on Paddy today with Sarah and other than a couple of spooks, he behaved himself & once I had him working he started to concentrate, which is no mean feat on the nosiest horse on the planet!

Things I need to remember are;
To use my outside rein & leg to stop him falling out through the shoulder.
Get him spiraling in and out on circles in order to get him stepping through with his inside hind leg.
When doing canter transitions use half halts to get his back end underneath him, then pop him up into canter & not shoot my inside lower leg forward. 
To keep my chin up - remember that I don't actually need to look at paddy to know what he's doing - I don't have a problem in canter but it's another story in trot!!

Have another lesson booked for next week just before our first dressage outing in 18 months!!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014


I have now got blogger on my phone, so I might actually be able to keep up with the posts!!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Weekly round up.

Paddy has been mostly a good boy this week - walking him has been a little interesting at times as he has been full of himself  - he will be ok for the most part, then will have a numpty fit at anything just as an excuse - doesn't fill me with confidence about getting on him, though made sure I was wearing my brave pants on Friday Saturday and today, and luckily he behaved himself. Walked him to start off with, then got on him, walked round the barns again, then took him in the school to do some trot work after this I took him for a walk either along the drive or the track on his own. Surprisingly he did not nap on the way out which was great.

His work in trot feels good and it was because of this I contacted a classical instructor to try to arrange a lesson for when I am on annual leave in February as I hope he will be ready by then, plus it will give me 2 weeks to give him some consistent work.

Out for a hack on Saturday;

Schooling on Sunday;

Thinking of 2014......

Was looking at horse dates and got into dreaming about what I would like to do with Paddy over the coming year, ended up on the British Eventing website checking out the BE 80T classes. There's a BE80 at Keysoe in May, and I would love to be able to do it on Paddy, but when I was thinking about it I felt myself getting anxious. The thought of jumping fills me with dread, despite the fact that I have ridden up to intermediate in eventing and done lots of affiliated show jumping and dressage, however this was 20+ years ago and since getting paddy have only jumped him 3 times and that was 15 months ago. So I decided to remind myself  of the jumping that I have done on Paddy;


I bought Paddy to event and sadly though I have owned Paddy for 2 years in April I have only actually been able to ride him for about 6 months, due to all his foot and back problems so I range from optimism to despair frequently.... I have had my hopes dashed so many times over the past year that I keep dreaming plans for him, but then end up stopping myself from having these dreams. Think I need to give myself a good kick up the backside!!

I gave myself a talking to and have decided to at least plan a lesson on him and then go from there......hopefully onwards and upwards!!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Paddy's weight......or lack of it!!

Thought I would post about the difficulties that I have had trying to get paddy to an acceptable weight.

When I first bought him he was underweight and had very little top line, as was clearly told to me by Jenny Pitman, who said he was nearly a welfare case!! She said this about 3 months after I had bought him, and at this point he was actually looking better than he had. I subsequently changed his feed and this, combined with proper work resulted in him looking a lot better, with more top line, however when he went lame in November 2012, his feed was cut, he could not work, and so all his weight and muscle dropped off.

He went to Rockley in march of 2013 and Nic was feeding him plenty of muscle & weight gaining feed, plus ad lib hay, but he was'nt putting on weight at the rate you would have expected, and it was at this point that we decided to scope for ulcers. The vets looked at him & said they did not think he had ulcers, but thought he had a problem with his back & so x rayed him & found he had kissing spine, which meant that he was not able to move his back & therefore not able to build up muscle along his topline.

Since he had operation on his back, his weight and muscle has gradually increased. This I think has been due to him still getting plenty of feed and all the walking in hand that I have been doing.

I currently feed him: 1 scoop oats, 1 scoop cool stance copra, 3cups micronised linseed, salt, magnesium & pro hoof. This is split into 3 feeds per day & seems to be having the desired effect.

He's gone from this in June 2013

To this in December 2013

Side ways view taken in June 2013 whilst still at Rockley 

And in December 2013

What a difference!!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Paddy feeling fresh

So I rode Paddy in his new saddle for the second time since I got it and on the whole he was just about contained. Started off walking him in hand and he was ok, but was looking for any exclude to shy and prat about. Did 10 circuits of the barns with him in the chambon and his Pilates band on and I think he only actually managed to complete about 3 without throwing a hissy fit. By the end he was much calmer so decided to get on. Did a couple more circuits ridden, then took him into the field and rode him round there. I have to say it was like sitting on a time bomb that could go off at any moment. Tried a little trot - he was not showing any signs of soreness,  however he was still explosive and put in an almighty buck!!

I can honestly say that I am not enjoying the idea of riding at the moment - I think Paddy is quite fit and is feeling very well, but unfortunately I can't do much more than walk and a little trot for a while, so there is no way of knocking the wind out of his sails, plus he is getting a fair amount of feed, which he needs in order to maintain his weight. All this combined with the awful weather we are having at the moment means that any consistent work is out of the window. It is times like these that I dream of indoor schools!!

I have a couple of weeks annual leave to take, so am planning on having 2 weeks off at the end of January and beginning of February so I can do some consistent work on him & maybe hire an indoor school or at least a school with fences round then so that I feel safer when I am on him. Plus it will give me the opportunity to get him out & about without the pressure of competition.

The other thing I am going to try out are different calmers. Paddy already gets magnesium in his feed, so any that are magnesium based will be useless, so I am looking at alternatives.

A friend recommended Pro Kalm, which can be used on an as & when basis or as a regular

I bought a trial pack of this which I will try to see if it makes any difference, but want to wait until I can ride him again as the weather this weekend looks like it is horrid again.

Another calmer I might try if the above does not work is a herbal blend

This is one that is fed regularly, rather than on an as & when basis. 
And the last one if all the above don't work is cool calm and collected, which is based on chelated calcium. 
Again this is meant to be fed regularly, and initially you give a loading dose over 5 weeks, then a maintenance dose thereafter.
All of them work out to be a similar cost per day, so it will be interesting to see if any of them actually work on Paddy