What Lockdown Has Taught Me

So, firstly apologies for taking so long to blog. Life has been so hectic. Things have changed a lot in many ways and not in others. Lockdown has been such a strange experience and one that I hope we never face again. It has however given me time to reassess my life in general and my horse goals.

I Love Working

This might sound weird but Lockdown for me, meant I was furloughed. This is weird experience. Initially it was a bit like a holiday. I quite liked it. I got loads of stuff done. Having recently moved house, I actually had the time to unpack properly and set the house out just as I wanted. After 3 weeks, depression set in. I am not going to lie, I know I was very lucky to still have a job but for me, not working was so alien. I also freelance a fair bit for cash and this also dried up so I was losing money and had nothing to do. I did occupy myself, I set up this site. But something was missing.

Once work started moving again, it was worse. I just wanted to work. Thankfully I am now back as work and I appreciated my job more than ever.

I Waste So Much Money Eating Out

With all the restaurants shut and being locked down, I stopped going out. In the first month, while I was still ‘working’ or just on furlough, I saved so much money. I even started a LISA and put some money into my other savings account.

Will I go back to eating out so much? Probably not, I know live outside of town and so it’s not so easy. I will still go out a bit but I will monitor it so much more. We do get a takeaway every two weeks to support local businesses that we love and want to still be there when this is all over. The first Thai was just pure bliss. I love Thai food and I had missed it so much.

I Can Live With My Mum

So as a single late 30-something, buying a house is very much at the front of my mind. My plan to buy with my Mum has been quashed due to stupid rules over her age and mortgages. However we are still planning to live together. I moved out of home 20 years ago and never went back. Mum moved in, just before Lockdown as she was vulnerable. And we didn’t kill each other! Amazing as we had planned she’d move in and I would be at work so it wouldn’t be so intense. So if we can cope with me being at home all day with her and not being able to get out away from each other, then we are ok.

Lockdown Didn’t Really Change My Day To Day Life

Sad but I actually quite liked being in quarantine. I like horses far more than humans anyway. Thankfully as my yard was DIY, I still could go there twice a day and so my daily routine started and finished the same. I know I was so lucky to have this and I did treasure it.

I Really Missed Training, But Not Competitions

So with my riding, I have had to accept that until I find another horse, that I won’t be doing anything other than light hacking. Poor Nickel, at 17 and being massively high mileage before I got him, just wants to retire. We have come to a compromise, in that he is happy to hack slowly but does not want to school. He is so much happier for it. But I miss schooling so much and I do fear what effect this is all having on all the good work we had done. Nevertheless, as I can’t afford to just buy another, I have to suck that one up.

Competing, I don’t miss that much and that surprised me. That would probably change if I had something exciting to produce.

I Can Exercise At Home

My body is a bit wrecked from years of abuse mucking out. But I knew I had to do something to keep moving, so I didn’t get fat. I started doing the Joe Wick’s PE With Joe. I might not have been his target audience but it helped so much. The first two weeks, I was in agony. 13 weeks later, I am loving it still and it’s a habit well formed. Even since I have gone back to work, I try to do at least 3 sessions a week. I can no longer use not being able to afford the gym as an excuse.

What Next

So as we move to getting out of Lockdown, I am hoping that I can keep up with my fitness work. I would love to find a nice loan horse to get going with my schooling again. I also think that I will be far better at budgeting and spending my money far more wisely!

What are all your thoughts, what did Lockdown teach you?

The Secret Night Life of Nickel

Nickel’s night life is not something that I usually think about. However a few weeks ago, I noticed that Nickel’s bed was weirdly scuffed in the morning. On initial investigation I thought that it looked like he was struggling to get up after sleeping. All the marks pointed to this. Coupled with the fact that Nickel’s arthritis and associated problems have meant he has had to retire from full work recently. So there was me, thinking this is it, this is how it ends.

I was worried and chatted with other liveries about it. We decided we needed to actually see him getting up. Now this is hard, he is very secretive. You will rarely see him lying down at all. One kind livery and work colleague, offered to lend me their nature camera. This works remotely to start recording/take pictures when it senses movement. Woo – A cracking idea, but getting the footage was far harder than it initially seemed it would be.

Night 1

Camera now in my possesion, I set about putting it up. Nickel is very angelic and rarely fiddles with things in his stable or pen. To the extent that he has a box of his gear and his most used rugs in his stable all the time. So I thought the camera would be safe….

The rest of the night the camera was pointed up the pen and recorded very little.

Night 2

The next day, I placed the camera on a much higher part of the pen and thought that I had got it all set up perfect. However this time my technical skills had let me down as I had flicked it on to photo only. Therefore was not much use but I did see that he had been down four times during the night including on his bad side. And so things were looking good.

Night 3

Replaced the camera in it’s position. Carefully selected video mode and left him to it. The next morning on investigating the footage I found the SD card had filled up and stopped recording shortly before Nickel’s sleep time. Every night he started his lying down sleep around 11pm, 1am then 3am.

Night 4

Hallejuah – finally I got the footage I wanted and weirdly the answer to the scraping was not at all what I had thought.

What I learnt from filming Nickel over 4 nights –

1 – Nickel sleeps a lot, mostly sitting up

2 – Nickel notices a whole lot more than I ever gave him credit for. He is known as the watcher and likes to be in a position where he can see the comings and going of the yard. His attention to detail in the pen was amazing to me.

3 – Nickel can get up and down with no problems, even on his bad leg so I do not need to work about that.

4 – The weird foot scrapes on the floor were caused by him play fighting with his neighbours next door. There is a gap of nearly a foot at the bottom of the pen and he was playing grab the headcollar of the ponies next door. This playing also involved digging with his front feet. I didn’t put this footage into the video as it includes footage of horses that don’t belong to me.

So mystery solved and a very entertaining week of trying to get the footage I wanted. The model I used to get the footage is the X-Lounger Wildlife Trail Trap Camera , easy to use and very robust. At around £50 I am seriously considering getting one for myself. I definitely have a lot of respect for those wildlife videographers. I had a captive beastie in a small enclosure and stuggled!

Guide: My 10 Steps to Stress-free Summer Washing

Welcome to my 10 steps for stress-free summer washing. As the owner of grey horses for 20 years, I would consider myself very experienced in washing horses. And that’s before I count how many horses I washed while working professionally with them! The key to keeping the whole experience as quick and relaxing as possible is to prepare.

1 – Collect your washing kit

Having a grey horse and working full time means that I have had to stream line my washing kit. I keep it super simple for a summer wash, which is different to a show wash (hopefully one of those will come up soon). I aim to wash Nickel at least every fortnight if we are not competing so the summer wash is cold water simple wash. With Murphy, who was the dirtiest horse known to man, we often washed him twice a week or more.

Below is my basic kit which I keep together so I don’t need to be scratching about looking for missing items –

I use cheap supermarket shampoo, my favourite being Tesco’s Apple and Aloe Vera, mostly because it is cheap and I have yet to find a horse that is allergic to it. I also buy car sponges from where ever is cheapest as they are the best value. Usually B&M or Poundland. In my opinion sponges from the tack shops are just over priced for what you end up doing with them. I have over the years bought very expensive horse washing mitts etc but still I go back to my sponge. For heavy stains/ground in mud I use a Magic Brush. I also have a large bucket with I only ever use for washing horses, this is for hygiene reasons. Again as with the sponges, your best bet is to buy from a place like Homebase or B & Q rather than from a tack shop.

2 – Groom the Horse

This may sound silly but I always groom before I bath, mostly to remove as much mud or dust before I start which makes the job so much easier. Just a quick knock over with a magic brush, then do the mane and tail, before removing all the dust etc with a good dandy brush.

3 – Wet the Horse

It is far easier to get the shampoo into the coat if you prewash with water first, it just seems to let the shampoo ‘stick’ better. Nickel is good boy and lets me hose his head, but you may want to use a sponge to get the head wet. This is an area often missed and their heads are super greasy!

4 – Apply the Shampoo

I prefer to put the shampoo in the bucket and add water to it. I use the sponge to rub the soapy water all over the horse, being careful not to get it in their eyes.

5 – The Mane and Tail

I pay particular attention to the mane and tail as these get really greasy and scurfy if neglected. So, I do tend to use neat shampoos on these areas and really massage it in.

6 – Rinse

It is really important to rinse the whole horse really well. I will sometimes rinse and scrape twice is I am not sure that I have got all the shampoo out. Again, a hose job really, all over paying lots of attention to the mane area as this has neat shampoo on.

7 – Scrape of the Excess Water

Unless the horse is really hot, then when washing I will scrape the water off using a metal sweat scraper on the body and bailer twine on the legs and belly. The bailer twice trick was taught to me in the riding school and it is the best method to get excess water off tricky lumpy areas. Simply have a clean long piece of bailer twice. Take each end in either hand and pull tight. Then pull this over the horse’s coat including on the legs with as hard a pressure as they will take. The water literally falls off. Just give it a go!

8 – Application of treatments

At this point I will spray the tail with show sheen and the mane too if I am not planning on plaiting or pulling before the next wash. My preferred product is Canter Mane and Tail Conditioner, which is long lasting and smells nice. As it’s a summer wash this is also the time, I would apply fly spray if needed. I have always found white greys to be fairly self-repellent to flies. Therefore, I do not tend to use a lot of fly spray. However on dark coloured horses it has been vital.

9 – The Tail

The last thing before I finish the wash that I will do is to brush out the tail completely. As this stage with the show sheen soaked in, the tail will be very easy to brush out. I don’t believe in brushing tails too often as it ruins them. In the winter, I plait them up at all times unless they are competing to keep them cleaner.

10 – Finish

So as it’s summer comfort wash, the next thing to do is turn out your horse and cry as they roll in the dust……..

Nickel didn’t roll in the dust as he likes to be sparkly unicorn!

Strange Times and New Adventures

Welcome to my first blog for the new home of Adventures in Black and White. Now it may seem like an odd time to start up a website dedicated to my journey in Dressage but here goes! With the dreaded Covid-19 putting everything on hold, I have loads of time to concentrate on horses rather than work.

Adventures in Black and White was set up 3 years ago. It began to document the adventures of Oroness and Nickel in their BD escapades on Facebook. Featuring both of the ups and downs has always been important. And plenty has happened in that time, poor Nessie is no longer with us and Nickel has had to retire. So now the adventure continues.

Currently I am looking for a new horse on loan to take over the reins from Nickel. Horse hunting is a very difficult task but I have a very basic brief. The horse must be over 15.2hh, schooling Elementary and preferably have competed at that level too. I am hoping that this is direct enough to attract the right horses. I am not fussy on age or sex as from experience the right horse could be a mare or gelding and the older horses definitely have a lot to offer. So currently I am scouring Facebook, Horsequest, Right Horse Right Home and many others daily. I am always open to suggestions!

Likewise, aside from getting the brief right, I have been preparing myself. I have spent 9 years pretty much riding one horse and this really affects your riding. So this week, now we are allowed to ‘go training’, I have been riding other people’s horses. Fully complying with Social Distancing etc. This has really given me a lift in my riding confidence and helping me form a solid opinion on what I like and I dislike.

The gorgeous Sexy Simon AKA The Iron Factor

So if you enjoyed reading this blog and my ones from the past please leave a comment and have a look at my reviews page for my latest product review.