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My wife (Janette) did the usual horsey thing when she was young, then life got in the way.  She got back into them much later which is when I took it up, I was about 49. Seemed like fun so had a few lessons and did not make a fool of myself.  We each bought the other a horse for our 50'ths (we are a year apart).

 J's was a pretty Palomino Arab x Connemara mare 15hh called Shaz, who is still going  but retired now at 28, although she has become a roarer.  J really wondered what she had bought - quite a handful - we had greater knowledge of her stomach than any other part since she would stand up at the slightest whim.  She does not do NH with her since she does all that she needs and really does not have the patience - her words, not mine.

I was given a lovely liver chestnut ID, ex brood mare, 16hh.  We got on well together, quite forward going and spooky.  Sometimes we parted company, on others she would pop back up again.  Within a year or so, she developed ring bone which we managed to contain but had to keep to straight lines and give up lessons which I really enjoyed.  Another 3 or 4 years and she developed fits and had to be put down - still makes me sad. 

After many months of looking around, we found Nancy, another ID type in Wales 16.1hh, sort of chestnut/bay depending on the light.  She was 5 but seemed sensible having been used for collecting sheep off the Welsh hills.  Got on fine for a few months, then come the hunting season her true colours appeared.  Have to say here that I am not a brave rider.  When I rode I felt this energy rising through my seat and did not know how to channel it.  We swapped horses on a ride and J thought it was lovely.  Things went downhill with time.  I virtually gave up riding her.  Things came to a head when J was out by herself on her.  She just managed to phone me but was unable to talk.  I went out in the car and just caught her crossing the road with Nancy.  The horse was wheeling around and J on the ground unable to control her. We had to split the reins and one either side walked her home two miles.  She seemed to be having a fit but really it was temper.  As soon as we got her in the field she calmed down as though nothing had happened.  This has spoilt the riding for both of us especially me and is taking me a long time to regain my confidence. 

Eventually our instructor at the time talked to her mentor and found us another horse and we did a straight swap.

This is the current one - Seamus - ID x Irish sports horse, 16hh, now about 11 going on 5. He seemed such a placid, laid back horse and was happy for J to go out on him. Then one morning I received a call to say that she had been found unconscious outside the National Trust's warden's cottage and was on her way to hospital.  Fortunately nothing broken but quite badly concussed.  As far as we could make out, he had spooked doing a spin and buck and she was out the side door.

When I had Nancy we had been to see Monty Roberts locally and was doing some with her.  Doing quite well on the ground but could not carry the confidence to her back.  Tried doing it with Seamus and could not achieve join up.  He would just jump out of the ring when he felt like it.

Shortly after, one of my suppliers suggested Parelli and I took that up getting the pack etc.  Got on fine to begin with (not in retrospect) and was jumping him on line over some logs when he decided he had had enough and gave me both barrels on my left side.  Incredible pain and thought I was going to suffocate as I could not breathe. Anyway two cracked ribs and four weeks before I could lie in a bed again.

It was my fault entirely.  He was being a horse and I was not doing my ground work but doing the male thing of rushing on to the next bit.  That was October 2002.

David with Seamus

What I learnt from that, and from the Parelli conference that year, was how important it was to get each bit right before moving on.  In fact I think the most important game is the friendly one.  Once I was fit, I worked on that alone building up to a level two standard.

Apart from the reasons I gave for kicking me, the real contention is that he is an incredibly greedy horse.  I could not walk into a field without him plunging his head to the grass.  Pat says a tap on the bum but at that stage not a wise move.  The other is increasing phases on the lead rope pulling upwards the final being a jerk.  It worked but only for the moment.

For him it is a respect thing.  Until I had earned it he would not give it. It has taken a long time with him to achieve that.  Now we can walk across a field and he will not put his head down until I allow it.  Also had a lot of trouble with the circling game where he will just explode.  He came from a jumping yard where he did not perform as expected and we reckon he was lunged and rapped to distraction.  Now he associates the circling with that.  He will still do it and initially the kicks were aimed at me but now they are just big bucks around.

Sophie, Seamus and Shaz

I got my L1 last November and am into L2.  We are now playing a lot a liberty in an open field.  Cantering is going to be an issue with me especially with a dodgy back, but J bought me a bareback pad and never having ridden bareback before was surprised how comfortable is.  Have even managed a short canter.

J now has a young replacement, 5 y/o Welsh sec D 15hh called Sophie.  The younger two are doing Parelli.  J is doing L1 with hers and I am doing L2.  All are now barefoot following basically Pete Ramey's method. Should just mention we treat them homoeopathically and with a McClaren photonic torch.

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