Saturday, 24 October 2015

One Year On...

A year today, my big, beautiful bay Thomas was put to sleep, following the discovery of a large tumour wrapped around his colon during colic surgery. It was very sudden. I was away with work in Greece at the time, and coming home was one of the longest flights - it felt like I was flying to the moon and back...

Together, after completing our first BE100, safe and sound.


After a couple of days, I ventured back to the yard, where I was welcomed with lots of friendly faces, support and caring friends, who were all there to help me through & lift me up.

After a few weeks, I'd come to the conclusion that I did want to carry on riding and would like to get another horse. But this time I wanted to do what I'd wanted for a good few years - bringing on a youngster for myself. Not one that had been started or ridden away, but a freshly broken 3 year old, that can't walk in a straight line, understand coloured poles & fillers, & doesn't quite yet understand life.


I started my search.

With some solid words of wisdom from a certain well respected and reputable member of the coaching team for Team GBR, I stayed local, was patient to find the right horse, & made sure I saw the good, the bad and the ugly!!

I was fortunate in the meantime to have the ride of a 15 year old, 15.2h super cob - he's flashy, he jumps and defied the definition of cob in every stride! I really enjoyed being able to continue to ride, schooling and jumping throughout the week, and enjoying long hacks out on a weekend.

My search for a new steed started with a 3 year old, not yet broken from a producer and breeder. The horse was reasonably well bred for eventing, although nothing that jumped out. However...it was MASSIVE! Already standing at what looked to be taller than Thomas (17h)! Would this one even fit in my horsebox!?! It had good engaging hock action, and floaty paces. He had a lovely temperament & seemed a laid back, easy going sort... Unfortunately, he wasn't being broken until the start of 2015. So my search continued...

Over the next week or so, I enquired about two or three 3 year olds, broken in the summer of 2014, hoping that they had been left out after breaking. They hadn't so were all further along in their education than I wanted. I also found a lovely horse via a friend, but the owner had no plans to break her until late into her 4th year....and she was a mare.

Another couple of weeks passed, and I hadn't seen anything exciting. I'd been to see a 3 year old in rural Northumberland, but had been race broken, then left. He was poor, weak, and left on the hills. While I wanted a project, I wasn't quite looking for this! & I was interested in sending away for re-breaking to suit ridden work. He was also called Thomas, which in all honesty I think is the reason I went to view him. This viewing brought back a lot of emotion, and really got me down, so it was a couple of week before I saw another.

In the meantime, I'd called a couple of places in Ireland with some nice 3 year olds currently being broken, and not at silly prices! Andrew & I agreed to take a trip to look in Ireland in the new year if there was still nothing over here by then.

I went to a yard in North Yorkshire with youngstock of every age from their stallions and mares. This was really interesting to see how the bloodlines developed at each stage, and with eventing 5 year olds, how the end result turns out. There was a 3 year old (unbroken) and 4 year old (broken and left a year) that interested me. However, breaking wasn't due to start to January (it was mid-December), and really the 4 year old was a year older than I ideally wanted. We agreed to recontact when he was starting to break the bay 3 year old...

My enthusiasm was starting to fade... I'd seen nothing that excited me, and all recommended contacts didn't have any stock in.

I'd shown the huge bay horse to one of my vets, the vet who looked after Thomas. He agreed it was far too big, but he said he had a contact. A girl who imported horses from Ireland, looking for her next dressage superstar! He said she had a good eye for a correct horse and won't put her name to anything she isn't 100% with, conformation or behaviour.

I'd called her in November, but she had nothing, but just before Christmas I got a text to say her contact in Ireland has good a nice 3 year old, gave me some details, & asked if I was interested. Yes I was, but only bring him if she would ordinarily. 

After 10 days in the UK, I went to see him, expecting him to be too small, grey and too heavy boned. From the off, the contact said there's no pressure, he's a nice horse and I will just work him more and see what I get. A week later I was bringing him home!!

I've now had Louie just over 9 months and recently done a post on our time together.

During the year since losing Thomas, I've felt heartache and pain, that I didn't really think you could feel over the loss of an animal. I've found out what a fantastic support network I have in the people on my yard, from just being quiet around me to really supporting me when ive had a low day. 

My family were also amazing. I don't think all my family and friends 'got it' about my love of riding and horses until they saw my emotion of losing Thomas. I will admit that I was difficult and a wave of emotion, finding the loss of a lifestyle (not just a friend) very difficult. Simple things like coming home from work and being at home felt very strange, and not being busy on a weekend... What was I to do with all this time!?!

Having Louie hasn't been easy, I work 9-5 Monday to Friday, & I'm lucky if I've left the office by 5.20 most days!! I've worked hard, & patiently, to make sure that we spend time doing things correctly - what's a few extra weeks to do something when we've years together!!! It's not always easy, but coming out the other side of a difficulty, even a simple one, feels great.

Best of all, I sit on my horse, knowing that I've taught him everything he knows, and that no one else can take reward for how well he does (or bad on the hard days!). The decision of a just backed 3 year old daunted me slightly, although I wanted to take on the hard work, but it is without a doubt the best decision.

One year on, I have a friendly, cheeky, talented, willng horse, that I can't wait for our future together.




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