So, a lot has happened recently. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest and lots of changes to get used to.
Things didn’t work out at The Cowshed. Unfortunately, the school, which we were promised would be finished by the end of October, still hadn’t been completed by the end of January.
We were getting seriously upset because the existing school was barely useable (it flooded, froze and was basically sand on a concrete base) which meant Hooch was only really being ridden at the weekends because of there being no light after work in the evenings. Hooch loves his work and his waistline needs it and the guilt of him doing nothing was awful.
Couple that with the fact that the fields were absolutely bare by November and the horses were fighting out of hunger and ripping each others rugs out of boredom. The fields are sloped, meaning they flooded badly at the bottom, where the gates were. You’d literally have to wade through knee-deep mud to turn the horses out and bring them in.
Hooch was frustrated and I was frustrated. I also felt bad because staff didn’t live on site, meaning once I went home for the day, Hooch would be in his stable all evening and night. And when the horses were made to come in by 2pm, I’d find myself wasting the afternoon, holding on as long as possible to wait to give Hooch as much hay as physically possible, so he had enough to keep him going all night. And then wake up at the crack of dawn the next day to rush down and make sue he was fed, again. It really was no quality of life for any of us. I’d be visiting Hooch three times a day at the weekends and as much as I adore him, it was hard work and meant I didn’t get much of a social life or time with my family. It was also a massive waste of fuel!
We decided to loosely look for a new yard and discovered that one of the Riding Club instructors had vacancies at her amazing place. We visited on a Wednesday evening in January and I was blown away with how neat and well run this little facility was. It’s a gorgeous American barn, with 9 stables and a wash bay. It’s all very clean and new looking – not a scrap of hay out of place. The horses most importantly, looked calm and relaxed and Shirley the owner, explained the importance of their routine and the way we treat them as owners.
There’s a horse walker and the most gorgeous 20×60 floodlit arena with mirrors. This is the bit that really got me, I just knew how much my riding would progress with access to these facilities and having my instructor on site for coaching and advice. It’s also a centre for riding club clinics, meaning I wouldn’t have to box Hooch up when I wanted to join in.
And the small things which really make all the difference, such as a safe, dry and clean tack room, rather than one that makes your tack go blue with mould! And a warm kitchen to make a cup of tea and watch a lesson out of the window overlooking the arena. Or a toilet. A toilet! Oh what a difference it makes not having to worry about needing the toilet when you are with the horse!
So we signed the papers and made the move on 3rd February. The catch was that this yard only offers a seven day livery service. Meaning they look after your horse seven days a week. We wanted the facilities, but had never been on seven day livery before. It was a bit scary making the jump and then getting rid of all the tools such as wheelbarrows, forks, haynets, buckets and basically all the equipment that wasn’t for riding. But Shirley assured us that we would soon relax and enjoy the fact that we don’t have to worry about anything. That she lives on-site and does lovely things like late evening checks and sends photos and updates to the liveries.
Hooch settled in really well. Michelle took part in a polework clinic with Hooch as soon as we arrived and I think this helped by giving him something to focus on and also by burning some nervous energy and making him tired for his first evening.
There’s a real routine at the new yard, which Hooch is already benefiting from. He’s a typical Welsh and he can be bargy and bolshy at times, particularly if he’s handled by a lot of people or inconsistently. At Shirley’s, the boys go out each morning, apart from Wednesdays and Sundays at the moment, to let the fields rest. On their days in, they are put on the horse walker. They get their hay and dinner (the first yard I’ve been at where they weigh your hay by KG) at the same time every day and most of the horses are ridden every day, too.
Since we’ve been there I’ve not looked back. It was quite strange at first and I’m still adjusting to the weekends, where I’ve been constantly looking at the clock and worrying about getting to the yard on time, then to remember that I don’t have to! I think that will take a while to get used to. I am thoroughly enjoying not having to get up early at the weekends though, especially if its cold or raining!
At first I was worried that I’d lose the connection with Hooch by not doing the daily chores. However, it’s been the opposite. I’ve been able to concentrate on our riding so much that I think I’ve already seen an improvement. And an improvement in Hooch’s weight and fitness, too! The facilities at the old yard meant I could forget riding after work, but now I’m riding five days a week after work! And previously, the weekends would mean long hacks, but I’d be so tired and cold from spending hours mucking out, filling haynets and water buckets and doing chores, that riding would always feel a bit of a half-arsed attempt.
Now, when I go to the yard, it’s because I want to see Hooch, or to ride, so I give it my best effort. Sometimes before, I went because I had to (in the nicest way possible, I love Hooch to bits and enjoy every minute I spend with him).
In the couple of weeks since we’ve been there, we’ve enjoyed a few gorgeous hacks together, our first lesson with Shirley, lots of schooling and lunging, one polework clinic and going on the horse walker for the first time and loving it!
I’m looking forward to being able to record this new chapter with plenty more blog posts. I’m also toying with the idea of starting a vlog channel, so watch this space!