Back in the saddle!

Back in the saddle!
Emilie is infinitely more at ease and in control of the situation than I am.

 

I’m proud of husband and horse this week. The credit for me finally getting on Emilie’s back is theirs, completely and utterly theirs.

I have not been riding regularly since November 2016. My Friesian, Pilar, fell lame, and then she fell sick and eventually, she died. We bought Emilie in February 2017, and a week later, she came down with a volvulus. In July she was finally over her surgery but something had gone wrong in her back: She’d be lame in a completely random leg every other day. After another hospital visit and a move to a farm with far more acreage for her to roam, she was finally declared healthy in late March 2018.

During all that time, I sat on my fat ass. It didn’t get any less fat.

Therein lies the problem. I can barely walk. I do yoga, but after more than a year of not riding, my legs are weak and useless. Last time I tried to get on a horse my knee flat out refused to push off the ground. I fell down, and I hurt my leg enough that I couldn’t walk at all for two weeks.

They make me so proud

I got into water gymnastics to strengthen that weak knee, and the husband built me an 80 cm stepping stair. I can slide from it to Emilie’s back and not have to push off at all. Together, we introduced Emilie to the stepping chair and explained to her that all she needs to do is stand there and open her mouth. Then I’ll fumble around and climb on board while all she needs to worry about is how fast she can eat carrots. Emilie thinks this is a pretty good deal.

My timing is less than ideal, as usual. I can barely cling to her back – forget proper riding! – due to weakened muscles and chronic pain. Emilie is barely saddle broke and has no idea what the signals and cues actually mean. It’s like that old joke – for inexperienced riders we have inexperienced horses.

For now we rely on the things we taught her from the ground while she recovered. Follow the husband. Walk shoulder by shoulder. Listen to verbal cues, they don’t change whether they come from the ground or on your back.

We’ll take the long road together. She’ll help me get my ability to move back, and I’ll teach her what she’s supposed to do. She’s cool with this. She loves solving problems and figuring out cues, and getting rewarded. It doesn’t seem to matter to her whether I’m sitting on her back or on a chair next to her, as long as I keep talking and explaining to her what I want.

The only thing Emilie doesn’t like is the saddle girth. She tenses when the saddle is put on her back and tells us she’s worried about it being tightened. But as long as we just tighten it a few holes at a time and give her time to wait and relax between holes, everything is fine.

The Murderkittenz meet the sun room

This past week was kind enough to sport a few days of bright sunshine and high temperatures. We promptly took the chance to introduce the terrible two, the murderkittenz Miv & Piv, to the sun room of our new house here in Pjedsted.

The sun room has been closed off since we moved in in November last year. It’s essentially ‘just’ an outdoor area fenced in with tall glass windows and a roof, with no insulation or heat of its own. But now April is here, and it’s time to start enjoying it!

Piv loves high places. The higher up she gets, the better. It didn’t take five minutes before she jumped around and explored the rafters.

But of course she also needed to explore on the ground level.

The previous owners of the house left various pieces of oldfashioned tea sets sitting around the rafters for decorative purposes. I think it looks rather neat so I didn’t remove them. Piv has not disappointed me: Of course the littlest murderkitten is too dainty to push things off shelves.

Miv, on the other hand, is keenly aware of his own eight kilos, and has not even made the attempt to get up into the rafters. He explored ground level carefully instead.

The kitchen window opens up out into the sun room. The kitchen window is now cordially known as Miv’s personal cat door.

This is how Piv gets up there. Sproing!

Even the top rafter, with almost no crawl space, was thoroughly explored. Many flies were caught. The sun room is also now guaranteed spider free.

Cats aren’t the only people who love basking in the spring sun. The husband and I took lunch out there while the kittenz explored.

Gotta admit it. Miv may not be small and elegant like his sister, but in his own steamroller fashion, he’s a handsome cat.

Piv remains the porcelain doll of the house, though.

That window really is fascinating. You can be outside in the sun and at the same time keep an eye on everything in the kitchen. This means you can sunbathe and beg for treats at the same time. Awesome!

Pictures by me, myself, and I.

That first spring day!

The first proper spring day this year arrived rather late, on April 2. We got up early to visit the horses before noon, but there was no convincing them to pay any interest to puny humans. Not on a day with a dramatic sky and warm, balmy sunshine.

First spring day under dramatic skies.
Dramatic skies is a thing on West Funen.

We could have gone out there and fetched Emilie, of course. We decided not to, however. I know how much that first spring day means to me, basking in the sunlight. I suspect it’s no different for the horses. They paid us no notice whatsoever, and mine is usually quite the attention hog.

I work with Emilie on the basis of fifty percent. Every other time we’re together, we do something I want to do. The rest of the time we do things she wants to do. Today was clearly an Emilie’s choice day, and Emilie’s choice was to stay outside with her buddies and enjoying the sun. And that’s really quite fair.

As a side effect bonus this means that Emilie is usually quite excited to see us; after all, half of the times we’re there, we’re going to do something interesting and fun that she wants to do. Whether that’s grazing the hedgerows, playing soccer or learning tricks for treats, the important thing is that it’s even better than being outside with her friends.

Only one horse could spare us a passing glance.
Only one horse could spare us a passing glance.

Winter this year has been a peculiar affair. The first half of November was warm, then the weather shifted to nonstop rain that seemed to last until February — and then, bam, an eastern wind from Siberia brought us snowstorms and freezing day temperatures. March continued in the same pattern, as if once here, Siberia would just not go home.

The red one. There, behind the white one. That's Emilie. Busy.
The red one. There, behind the white one. That’s Emilie. Busy.

Give it another month and there’ll even be grass in the pasture that’s currently resting.

Testing Stools (No, Not That Kind, the Good Kind)

I’m a big girl and I need help getting up on that horse of mine, even if she’s actually not very tall. My husband decided to be the saviour of the day and built me my very own heavy-duty stool for this purpose.

I was slightly worried whether it’d be solid enough, but as it turns out, it’s been properly stress tested. Thank you, Cassie and Lucia. If it doesn’t break under a Welsh Mountain pony, it’s not going to break under me (and I am desperately wanting to stress test it with Emilie next, just because).

Testing, testing

The stool

Winter Wonderland (it’s friggin’ cold)

February is the coldest winter month in Denmark and this week we’re feeling it for sure. I’ve been taking pictures left, right, and centre of the ponies — some of them with the snow of a winter wonderland, some of them without. We do get a lot of snow, but unfortunately, most of it only lasts a few days before melting. Temperature today? Minus five degrees Celsius in the mid-day sun.

Emilie is a beautiful girl in all her hairy winter shaggyness!
Emilie is a beautiful girl in all her hairy winter shaggyness!
Cassie the magical reindeer.
Cassie the magical reindeer.
Winter is cold, cold, cold!
Brrr.
Winter really is cold.
Well, at least the hill’s not slippery when it’s frozen.
Emilie posing with the old manor Billeshave in the background.
Emilie posing with the old manor Billeshave in the background.
That horse is a bit of a poseur on the whole.
That horse is a bit of a poseur on the whole.
Whenever we take Emilie out the entire herd turns up in minutes, just to make sure they're not missing out on anything interesting.
Whenever we take Emilie out the entire herd turns up in minutes, just to make sure they’re not missing out on anything interesting.
Sometimes things do happen, such as best friends playing tag!
Sometimes things do happen, such as best friends playing tag!
Or someone taking on the dreaded challenge of the single cavaletti. Those things are dangerous in the wild!
Or someone taking on the dreaded challenge of the single cavaletti. Those things are dangerous in the wild!
But wherever the road goes, Emilie’s still enough of a teenager to appreciate older and wiser Cassie taking the lead.
Emilie's shape and form has improved so much just in one month of free range grazing.
Emilie’s shape and form has improved so much just in one month of free range grazing.