Monday, 23 June 2014

Another ODE!

On Sunday we competed in a team competition at our Riding Club Area Horse Trials.

We had a dressage time of 9.30am, and with a 1.5hr journey time meant it was an early start!

I packed an enormous picnic (one of my biggest fears is running out of food!) the horse and a whole boot full of necessary gear, add one husband and two small people and we were on our way.

We managed to get there in plenty of time, so found the loos, Secretary tent, burger and ice cream vans, then set about plaiting the horse.

The dressage warm up was huge which was rather nice, especially if you do a proper warm up. Myself I usually just have a good canter round then walk around aimlessly getting in people's way! (not intentionally, everyone else just seems so focused and very few of them actually look where they're going)

Our test went well. It was nothing special, a bit flat and quiet, but as I have been trying hard to keep everything quiet and relaxed, it was just what we needed. We managed a score of 39.5 which I was delighted with, especially seeing as my aim was to get below 40. We got straight 6's except for my riding which I got a 7 for.

We went back to the trailer for a short breather and a change of tack, this is when I realised I had only brought 3 brushing boots with me, which was rather clever. Thankfully little mare only has front shoes on, so we just put front boots on, and didn't worry too much about it.

Little horse seemed a bit warm and flat, until she saw a jump! Then suddenly perked up. We produced a fantastic round, the best she has ever done and the best I have ever ridden. Huge smiles all round.

It was starting to get very hot by the time we went xc, so we kept the warm up brief. She stood in the start box snoozing and giving cuddles to the starter who thought she was very cute. 

As soon as we got going she was flying. This horse really loves her jumping. We jumped lots of things we've never seen before, and due to navigational error managed to approach a fence from the side. Thankfully my mare is a saint and thought nothing of jumping this fence from less than a stride away. We decided to go the trickier route at the water which meant we ended up with a stop, but I still think it was the right decision, because we need to see different types of jumps, and she is good enough to go once she's figured it out, which she did. We then stormed home, with a total of 40 faults - 20 for our stop and 20 time faults.

The rest of the team also did well and everyone felt pleased with their results. Unfortunately we didn't really get placed (6th out of 6 isn't really a place) but everyone felt they had achieved something which matters more.

Sadly, I really am bitten by the eventing bug, but just can't justify affiliated prices. So desperately on the hunt for some unaffiliated One Day Events in the area. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Sunny evening riding lessons, a picnic tea and impromptu ballet lesson.

I had booked a riding lesson for Wednesday evening. I can't really afford lessons weekly, but try to budget in some kind of training each month.

A friend of mine has started riding our gelding, and I thought us both having a lesson would be beneficial.

As is always the way, my poor husband had had to swap on call duties so ended up being on call that evening. But a picnic tea and a warm, sunny evening meant the children were quite happy sat outside the school while we rode. I had only occasionally to answer to "Mummy!" Or to  bellow across the school at them to quiet down or get out of the long grass as the horses (well, the gelding) thought they were monsters. They had a wonderful evening staying up late and running around. At one point my daughter was giving her brother and two other liveries a ballet lesson.

The lesson itself went well too. The mare and I are continuing to make progress with our flatwork, and my friend and the gelding seemed to achieve a lot too. Poor thing was made to do sitting trot though, and when asked how she was feeling the next day, said she woke up wondering if she was in labour, or whether it was the sitting trot! (Decided it was the sitting trot, mostly due to her not actually being pregnant)

The kids are a little more tired and ratty than usual from their late night, but mostly coped very well. It's always nice when things work out better than expected!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Finally pulling it all back together.

Today is Sunday. The day of rest supposedly. Unfortunately for us things had been slipping for a while, culminating in a messy house, huge mountain of laundry, no actual food in the house and a slight feeling of despair!

I was feeling a bit flat after an amazing eventing training session on Friday which was a very long day, and the fact my little mare had gone lame the very next day. Takes the wind out of your sails a bit.

Top priorities today:

1. Laundry, before the mountain takes over and we have to resort to clothes made out of feed sacks in a post apocalyptic type scenario.

2. Food shopping. Because, you know we like to eat, and when you end up feeding your darling children dry cheerios and chocolate cake for breakfast you know things are getting rather desperate!

3. Horses (obviously)

4. Bath children, yes even though it is the school holidays!

5. Cook the family a proper meal to ward off scurvy, rickets and general malnutrition.

6. Claw back some kind of order in the house any way possible.

It is now nearly 10pm and I have achieved the following:
- Horses (mare looks a bit sounder)
- Clean children
- Food shop
- Cook nourishing meal for the family (roast chicken, mash potato, carrots and spring greens, gravy)
- 2x of laundry (still about 10 to go)
- Cleared kitchen side, all dinner stuff away or in dishwasher
- Kids in bed
- Slightly questionable rock buns made for our walk tomorrow.

That will do nicely.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Training Day

A couple of months back my friend sent me a link to a British Eventing (BE) training day coming up. It included flatwork, showjumping, and cross-country tuition from Olympic event rider Sharon Hunt, information from BE, a goody bag, training ticket to allow you to enter a BE80 event, and information in how to go about it. All for only £40! it was also based in our area (well, nearly 2 hours away, but in East Anglia still) I booked in immediately!

I had been really looking forward to it. I had planned how I would do child care, I had looked up the distance on the map, and it was very exciting.

Things never really run smoothly though do they?

Childcare had to be rearranged due to a school inset day. There were various road works on the route, and we had had a setback and knock to our confidence only a week before when I had taken the mare to the riding club for some team training, where we proceeded to demolish the showjumps. I had misunderstood the session, thinking it was just flatwork, so left behind our jumping bit and hunting breastplate, which apparently makes more difference than I realised!

The horse has also gorged herself this week and appears to have turned into a hippo. Sadly she is a bugger for jumping the electric fencing, so keeping her to one section is nigh on impossible.

Anyway, Friday morning my alarm went off at 4.30am, I picked up my gear and got to the yard for about 5.20am. Thankfully the mare had stayed clean over night (we nearly fell out over the state of her on Thursday evening!) We were on the road for 6.30am. Sadly I seem incapable of correctly following a sat nav, so we had a few detours, and at one point I honestly thought it was wrong and we were going to be lost in deepest, darkest Norfolk for days!
However, we managed to get there somehow, still with plenty of time.

The plan for the day was as follows:

9-9.30am flatwork riders A + B
9.30 -10 flatwork riders C + D
10 - 10.30 flatwork riders E + F
10.30 - 11 flatwork riders G + H

11 - 12 showjumping riders A, B, C, D.
12 - 1 showjumping riders E, F, G, H

1 - 2 lunch and a chance to ask Sharon questions.

2 - 3.30 xc for riders A, B, C, D
3.30 - 5 xc for riders E, F, G, H

Let's say I was rider A.

The flatwork was kind of as I expected, general riding and Sharon picking up on little things. In my case my tendency to turn my right hand in, and raise my right heel. She also encouraged me to ask for more from the canter, and had us cantering 15m circles in an effort to improve my riding of the mare rather than just letting it happen. So pretty happy with that. It's always nice to know you are at least vaguely on the right track.

The showjumping I was a bit worried about. I was concerned there would be a huge course of smart, brightly coloured showjumps set at 3ft and us expected to be able to jump them effortlessly. As it turned out there was a set of rather tired looking jumps in a field with slightly too long grass, I immediately felt more at home! Sharon had us all cantering over 4 poles spread around the field, trying to establish a decent canter and keeping it. Then a tiny x pole was introduced to this layout, then we had to jump two small uprights on a related distance. Then a small course. No jump was any bigger than 2'6" which was perfect. I tried hard to get a bigger canter and keep it consistent and actually ended up jumping quite a flowing round. This is quite an achievement for us as we tend to lose momentum on the turns and go full pelt at the jumps. I have to work very hard on aiming slightly right of the jumps as I constantly drift left. I think we managed all but one jump on the right stride, and that one wasn't too bad, just missed the stride a bit and muddled through. But it was a huge confidence boost for us both.

The other horses in the group were a mix of young and old and the riders were similar ability, but with a range of experience. It was a good group.

Over lunch we had the chance to speak to Sharon about eventing in general. She really knows her stuff and was happy to share her tips and experience. We talked about making the step up to BE events, and what is different about them. The level of fitness needed, and where to go for a good first time outing.

The afternoon was so much fun! We went out onto the XC course and started off with a canter, then popping over a dinky little hedge, everyone managed this fine, though one of the horses, a 5yr old, was quite suspicious to start with, even though he could step over it! We moved on to a ditch, which I took my time over, letting the mare take a look if needed, but she was quite happy with it. We ended up giving the 5yr old a lead over and over the ditch which was hugely beneficial to us too, as it made ditches rather dull, rather than something that we 'might' have a look at. There was a rail one stride after the ditch, so we progressed onto ditch and rail, then brush, ditch, rail, which went really smoothly for us. Unfortunately two of our group fell off at the rail, one taking her bridle off with her, which caused a bit of excitement! Thankfully everyone was ok. So we moved on to a row of small jumps. The mare was having a wonderful time at this point and flew. She didn't fight me at all, it was really enjoyable. We nannied the baby horse over these too, then popped down and up a step, then did step then rail. Then linked about 5 jumps together and popped those.

Some of our group started having some problems with the next jump. It was a beehive type jump, but with spooky cut outs in the front, and some horses really don't like those. The mare would have jumped the moon if I had asked her at this point, so jumped this little jump beautifully. The others mostly popped this ok, though one horse took a huge dislike to it. It took a lot of Sharon's different tactics to get the horse over it, the horse was actually being quite naughty, and so we did some more leading. Eventually it jumped it twice, to the huge relief of the rider!

Next up we headed to the water. This was also not very straight forward! All went in fine. We walked through, trotted through, stepped down into it, stepped up out of it, then popped a 90cm skinny table/roll top type thing with flowers afterwards which I really enjoyed doing because my mare, Alice was just being a dream to ride. Unfortunately the baby horse had a bad time at the skinny, having decided at the last minute to bank it! Both horse and rider tumbled but thankfully got up unscathed. We then led them over some little uncomplicated jumps to get their confidence back.

We finished up doing a 90cm ditch, stride, roll top combination, which although not quite right we jumped ok.

I don't think I've ever felt so proud of my little horse as I did that day. She seemed to enjoy it as much as I did, and I am almost considering a BE80 attempt.

After a bit of grass and a good wash off we headed home. Alice got turned out into the field with her well deserved feed and lots of grass, and I headed home, picking up my children on the way. We got home at 7.30pm and only slightly late for the children's bedtime. I bribed them with stickers to get ready without fuss, read them Hairy Mclarey and gave them snuggles, before collapsing in a heap on the sofa still wearing my breeches. What a fab day!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

A long time coming,

But we finally we made it to a One Day Event!

Bright and early Sunday morning I was loading up the car with an extortionate amount of gear, dragging fat sleepy ponies in from the field, and armed with a new bag of plaiting bands I set to plaiting the Mare's mane.

We had a short journey up the road and managed to get there at 8am, ready for dressage at 8.57am.

The dressage warm up was lovely and big, but full of horses! There were 3 arenas currently on the go, so 3 x the amount of horses I'd expected! Being grass it wasn't flat, and round the outside were some lovely dips and slopes, which was ideal to get the Mare paying attention to what we were doing. She was lovely and calm too. The test itself was a bit of a dog's dinner. When under pressure I tend to ride a bit with the handbrake on, so the test was a bit stilted, no real flow to it at all, and I didn't feel particularly in control during the canters. However, we got a score of 40.42 which put us about middle after the dressage.

Quick swap of bits, front boots and hunting breastplate on and we went to the showjumping warm up. We had a bit of a trot around, jumped all of the warm up jumps then came out for a wander around the lorry park. My husband and kids arrived at this point and settled themselves by the showjumping ring to watch.

The showjumping was causing quite a few problems. It was in a large ring, but was a very twisty and tight course with very little room to turn. Competitors were getting eliminated and knocking up huge cricket scores.

I had another trot around the warm up, jumped the upright from the other rein and then waited for the one in front of me to finish.

Our round was very messy. I think we got every jump on a bad stride, coming back to trot between for the turns. But despite hitting the planks pretty hard, we finished clear with just one time fault. More luck than judgement I feel!

Back to the trailer for a drink and clothing change. I was shaking at this point, whether from nerves, adrenaline or lack of food I have no idea, but it was unnerving.

Off we went to the xc warm up (sporting a lime green shirt - no blending in for me!) Getting there I was told I could go whenever I was ready. The warm up was blissfully empty so I had a good canter round letting her stretch and encouraging longer strides, then popped a xc warm up fence and I felt ready to go. We were only doing the 2'6" so the first few jumps were very small. 

The first half of the course she was a bit green, looking at things, jumping awkwardly, a bit unsure of things. By the time we got to the ditch the far side of the course I was unsure how it was going to be honest, would she settle and enjoy herself, or was I going to have to baby her round the whole way?  

We had a bit of a fight going into the ditch. She was trying to lock onto the rail, while I was busy trying to get her back to trot to go round the rail (that was for the next class) She stopped at the ditch unsure of what to do about it. I let her look, gave her a pat and made encouraging noises while she dithered. Still nothing, so I gave her a smack behind my leg. This seemed to make her switch her brain on, she pricked her ears and hopped over it and the little roll top a few strides after. After that it was like riding a different horse! The strides got longer and more powerful, the jumps less hesitant and she powered home. The water, skinny brush and corner were all fine. So despite our hesitation at the ditch we were clear, and without time penalties. Such a clever pony! 

We had a rather leisurely lunch sat on the trailer ramp at 11am, while the sun shone and the Mare nibbled hay and dozed.  It had been a lovely day. 

Took the Mare home for a well deserved dinner and turnout, got everything unloaded and put away and returned to the showground for the results. 

7th! Out of 27 competitors! So pleased. Our dressage sheet was detailed too which I like. We had got 7's for our canter work and free walk, but 5's for the tense and hollow transitions. Very fair and something I feel I can improve for next time. 

So plans include working on the flatwork to aim for a dressage score in the 30's next time, working on maintaining the canter through the sj to get a better jump and hopefully no time faults, and getting the Mare switched on a bit sooner during the xc. All things that are perfectly achievable. I have put our name down for the Riding Club Horse Trials team too - fingers crossed! 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Big plans go tits up!

Yesterday we were supposed to have been making our long awaited eventing comeback. Ok, that makes it sound way more grand than it is. The mare and I were doing our first ODE since our first and only one 7 years ago. Obviously a lot has happened since then, so pony stuff has been on the back burner. But this year was the year we were going to be getting out and doing stuff, and we actually have been.

So, back to yesterday and supposed plans. I had entered Isleham 2'6" ODE. I wanted to go out and do a small class and get a bit of confidence for us both, Isleham is the one we did before and is local so I know it pretty well. Seemed ideal.

These last few weeks haven't been going exactly to plan though. First we had the horse move, then Easter hols, then saddle issues, some very gung-ho showjumping practice, and finally a very depressing schooling session on Friday where the mare was badly behaved and generally being a bit of an argumentative baggage. So I was actually feeling a bit wobbly about it.

Saturday morning I get to the yard and go out to the field with my barrow of hay. The mare is mean to the poor gelding and always chases him away from any food, so I had plenty of opportunity to see that the mare looked a little wrong. But because she was eating it was hard to check this out properly. I decided to go and get my stuff cleaned and ready, then I could check her properly when I lunged her.

All tack cleaned, all gear packed into my two boxes - horse box and rider box - travel gear found, and a haynet soaked for the next morning. Go out to the horse, trot her up (one handed on a kind of circle, as you do when you are on your own) hmmm, picked feet out and felt legs, hmmmm,  bit of heat around the near hind heel/pastern and up to the fetlock, trotted our awkward circle again. Yup, definitely lame. Bollocks.

Suddenly all the wobbles went away and I desperately wanted to compete reguardless of whether she was going to be badly behaved and a bit wild!

Thankfully my vet/husband was home reasonably early so could come and see her. I was right, she was lame, it was the near hind, but thankfully it was some grit working it's way up into the white line (ouchy!) But not an injury from galloping down the road after the cows chased her on Thursday (bonus)

One sweaty grumpy owner later (i had to put the poultice on, Vet/husband felt he had done his bit with getting the grit out of grumpy mare's hind foot!) she was sporting a bright blue bandaged foot and was already a bit better on it.

It could explain the disastrous schooling session on Friday (or it could not, she is a mare after all!) Hoping all will be ok for our next ODE next Sunday, and at least I can get a bit more work into her and hopefully feel a little more prepared. All good in theory.

In reality, the mare has her own agenda. This includes going through the poultices, and jumping out of her field (clearly not that lame) Trollop.

Friday, 18 April 2014

New things!

It started with the news that had some good deals at the minute, and I have been after some nice competition breeches for a while. There I found some - Ariat Performance Breeches with knee patches in Tan for £39.99! Perfect, or so I hoped, having not seen them in the flesh, or tried them on. Still they are advertised as having 4 way stretch which I figured should work in my favour.

Next, S and another girl at the yard were having a saddle fitter out. Now I love my saddle, but I've never been 100% certain it was right for the horse. There have been niggles here and there, but I had had it fitted to her in the past and was told it was a good fit, but with needing to use a chamoix leather to keep it in the right place, I knew it needed checking again.

The saddle fitter that came out to us this time really was knowledgeable. She took the time to get a feel for the horse, watched her walk and trot, had a really good feel of her back before checking the saddle. It turns out my saddle is too narrow for my mare's broad spine, and too long for her short back. What I really need is almost a pony saddle with a wide gullet and short seat, and something called continental panels. Sadly, not much could be done to my saddle to make it fit properly. The saddle fitter doesn't really have much in the way of second hand saddles, and I certainly cannot afford a new one (well, not of the quality I want!) So I was advised to search eBay and the like for something suitable. This wasn't easy. Lots of saddles for sale in a 17 - 17.5 inch seat, but very few in 16.5 that were also jump saddles.

But then I looked on eBay on Wednesday (after a rather stressful day - kids are on Easter hols and running me ragged) only to find THE saddle. Someone was selling a beautiful jump saddle, made by a very good make, Buy It Now in the right size, for a very, very good price! Sadly for them it was because their horse was no longer with them after a field injury, and they had huge vets fees to pay. So we snapped it up, hoping it wasn't too good to be true. Then spent the next few days cursing Good Friday and bank holidays in general because I wanted it NOW!

Saddle arrived on the Saturday morning (yay!) and was truly beautiful. But was a fair bit wider than I thought. Managed to get it to fit ok with a thick prolite pad and tried it out in the school. It felt very strange, but the horse felt good in it! She was more willing to bend, and our canter transitions were instant, rather than the slight run we usually get. The next day we tried jumping in it. Again the mare seemed happy, but the pads slipped so it wasn't as secure.

I jumped the mare again on Monday in our usual saddle which felt hugely comfy to me, having moulded to my bum in the last 100 years or so that I've had it (ok, maybe nearer 15) the mare was like a rocket, but that's a whole other post.

Saddle fitter is coming today, so fingers crossed she can make this super beautiful saddle fit my horse and then I can get to work on the all important arse groove ;D

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Our Second Team Chase!

As well as all the excitement of the Big Move, we also had a rather exciting trip up to Leicestershire for the Fernie Hunt Team Chase.

This may have been the most fun I have ever had on a horse, even more than last time as I had some sort of control - result!

We had rather an early start. The alarm went off at 5am, but as the clocks had just gone forward, our bodies still very much felt it as 4am! Thankfully the children were at their first sleepover with a friend of ours, so two less things to worry about. My husband was also up at that time, but because of work.

As S, my good friend and sometime super groom was also riding today, B stepped in as team groom and general supporter (oh, and brownie maker - that girl has a gift!) 

We got a lift up with another team member in their box which was rather a novelty. I provided the entertainment in the form of endless wittering on about nothing in particular, and mild help with the sat nav. You know you are in trouble if you need me for directions!

The rest of the team got there within 10mins of us, so we all went to the Secretary to collect number bibs, and have our hats and body protectors checked. We then headed off to walk the course.

It was wonderful! Full of hedges and rails and things you could happily jump every day for the rest of your life. We did have a gate to open and close, a water combination, and a Pen though. The Pen is literally that, a pen you jump into and jump out of, except in Team Chasing you have to have 12 hooves in the pen at the same time. This was, erm, interesting, but we managed it, maybe some team tactics are in order for next time! The water was a rail, a few strides, then a step down into water, all managed very easily by our team.

The gate could have been done quicker, but I think it is the first gate any of us have had to do in competition for a long time.

All our team flew round clear, and the feeling going through the finish was wonderful.

Having gone only for a jolly, having gone clear we waited eagerly for our times. Sadly we were 40 seconds off the bogey time, leaving us out of the placings.

Added to all of this it was a beautiful day and we had a leisurely picnic in the sunshine sat on rugs in front of the lorry.

We stayed on to watch some of the open class. The speed is crazy! Where we were trying to get our horses back to us, gain some control, or whatever, these guys were just landing and kicking on! Serious spectator sport, and if you have the chance to go to a Team Chase to watch, jump at that chance, you will not be disappointed. The official British Team Chasing website has all the dates and info you may need

I've added the only half decent team picture (taken by B) It was a very difficult task getting them all to stand still after all the excitement! And as you can see one of our team is missing from the picture. 

Monday, 7 April 2014

The New Yard (finally!)

The big horse move is complete! Surprisingly stress free and very smoothly done. I lost my temper a couple of times, and my language while moving the rubber matting would have been enough to make a squaddie blush, but on the whole it didn't go too badly.

I had roped in a couple of friends and without them it could have been a very different story!

The horses travelled very well together in the trailer, so one stress factor eliminated.

They then settled very well in their (huge!) stables. The gelding does tend to box walk, well, box wander really, especially if he has the room to do so, and if stressed, so he has been quite busy.

The turnout didn't go as well as I had hoped, as grass is no longer a novelty, but grumpy cobs in the next door field are. Luckily I had had the sense to run a strip of electric fence about 4 foot away from the fence so they couldn't really touch - very wise move indeed!

We had planned a hack out on the Sunday to celebrate new yard/new hacking/new hacking friends, but actually it was windy, the horses were being idiots and I wimped out! Rode the mare in the (rather lovely) school instead, where she called to the gelding the whole time, and he called back. Not sure we are very popular now!

Glad as I am to be at the new place, it feels very much like starting a new job. You know what you are doing, you just have no idea of the rules, or how things work, and spend your time going in the wrong direction for things.

Could be a while before I stop feeling like the new girl!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

A Surprising Dressage Outing (and a couple of mini rants)

We did a bit of dressage at the weekend. It hadn't really been planned, I had been given a free entry for helping the riding club set up some jumps, so figured it would be good to use it as a 'non jumping' schooling day out. Sensible to remind the mare that sometimes we go out in the trailer, but don't actually jump!

As I was seeing it as schooling rather than competing, I was calm and not nervous at all. The mare on the other hand was very wound up - a combination of plaiting her mane, and the daft livery owner deciding to mow her lawn about 3ft away from us. Now, the mare is actually pretty cool with things like this, but when someone is going backwards and forwards over the same sodding bit of lawn (and sticks, stones, dog treats, the garden shed, and God knows what else by the sound of it!) It even has an effect on a bombproof horse. I struggled to get the tail bandage on, and my darling horse of 10years booted me! Thankfully I was very close behind her so there wasn't much force behind it, and thankfully she is barefoot behind. But I have a beautiful round bruise the size of a golf ball on the side of my knee (bad leg, of course) Bloody creature.

So having got the beast ready, I loaded up her, me and kids and we were ready to go. The showground is less that 10mins away, so we were soon turning into the gateway. Just a little suggestion: If you are parked right by the gate at an event, and have rather a large entourage, please do not stand in the way, and then give me a dirty look when I get close to your horse. I would suggest moving your horse slightly, and possibly asking one of your entourage to open and close the gate for someone coming in, or at least pretend you haven't seen me, rather than gawping at me as though you have never seen anything so grubby in your life. This is very small riding club dressage, and you are clearly not Carl Hester.

Anyway, we parked up, I shared out cartons of juice, hot cross buns and Nintendo DS's between the children, got changed in the trailer and away we went. Amazingly, one of my fellow liveries turned up to lend a hand, and even more amazingly, so did my husband! (who was on call, and between calls at the time)
The mare felt amazing, I had to put my stirrups up a hole as I felt I was not quite in full control with the added oomph she had acquired that day, but she warmed up well, and before long it was our turn to go in.

Last time I did dressage I did the same test, Novice 24, under the same judge, at the same venue. The only difference was that I felt I could actually ride this time, and my horse didn't feel like we were doing the wall of death! There were still 'moments' that I felt it was best to just sit quietly and wait for her to relax, rather than fight with her. But on the whole I was absolutely delighted with the test. I was beaming and giving my horse a lovely big pat, the judge looked at us as though we were a complete disgrace! Now usually I am happy to admit that we are disgracing ourselves in some way, but this time I felt proud of my little horse and the work we had put in. One of my pet hates is snotty professionals. Yes you may be at a very low level, but they have absolutely no idea how fucking hard you have had to work to get that 52% and a bit of encouragement, be it a smile or a positive comment goes a long way. I've written for dressage judges at British Dressage events, and on the whole, they are pretty cool. They generally give a smile at the competitor, even if they are muttering to the writer "Oh dear, here we go!" (or worse)

I felt very pleased with our test, and felt the mare had redeemed herself for kicking me. One of the most disheartening things when competing is feeling you have done really well, only to look around and discover the standard is ridiculously high. Bugger! So imagine my amazement to see we had scored 61.9% (5% higher than last time!) and been placed 3rd overall, and second in the members section, also qualifying for the local Riding Club Championship!!! I practically skipped back to the car, blue and yellow rosettes fluttering in the wind, only for my darling daughter to say "But you didn't actually win, did you?"

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A bit glum, but ending on a high!

I've been a bit down this week, mostly due to the ongoing livery yard saga. Amazing how something so good can break down so quickly and completely with only one toxic person. It's very sad, and has taken the shine off having horses at the minute. Thankfully we have only 4 weeks until we move.
With all of this in mind, my enthusiasm for riding has been waning. My flatwork appears to be going backwards, jumping isn't any fun on your own, and I have no one to hack with. Yes, woe is me.
So, with this in mind, I wasn't that enthusiastic about going xc schooling. It felt a bit like a pointless waste of time and money. But I am so glad I did!
It wasn't easy, I had to drop the kids at a friend's house at 7.30am armed with a packed breakfast, get to the yard and pretty much load straight up. Luckily I had S the super groom come along, and she really is pretty super!
The xc was at Ely Eventing Centre which is great for seeing everything. There are teeny jumps, and huge jumps, and everything inbetween. I wanted to do ditches and water, and a couple of other technical bits, and have a ping around some small jumps just to have a jolly and get some confidence.
There were 5 of us, which I think was a bit too many if I'm honest as it did mean a fair bit of standing around, but Ros the instructor was very good and took me aside for a few minutes to warm up, as she knows that is the bit I struggle with. She told the others to warm up over all the little jumps in that part of the field, changing gears as necessary. With me, she told me exactly what I needed to do, and kept me going continually between the two jumps until I had relaxed. She knows me so well! After that we were flying! We were definitely the least experienced pair out of the 5, the rest all doing/have done BE, but actually we didn't show ourselves up in the slightest and jumped everything (some even better than the experienced ones!) So proud of the little mare, she really is a star :-)

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

How to be a Horse Trials spectator.

On Saturday morning my friend S arrived, we packed the kids and a breakfast picnic of warm cheese and ham croissants and hot chocolate into the Disco (or the fun bus as it is often known) and set off for the first local Horse Trials of the season.

We had a few friends competing, so we kept our eyes and ears open for any sight of them. This proved tricky due to the thick fog, and the PA system seemed to be having some difficulties.

We had a wander around the xc course, inspecting a rather large log and steps combo that S was desperate to show me as she had jumped it the previous year. I'll admit I was suitably impressed! We then joined the congregation around the ditch (Isleham Horse Trials has a notoriously tricky ditch) where we met up with some friends in time to watch our friend (and sometime babysitter) go through rather stylishly.

The kids had started getting fed up by this point, but S is clearly a genius and had packed several packets of Smarties. This helped keep the little ones occupied for a while.

We then saw another friend arrive so went to say hello and help her get on. I must admit I was pretty impressed at how calm all the horses were. My two would embarrass me hugely!

We watched the showjumping for a bit, discussed jumping techniques, and people who we knew/knew of/knew to avoid. The problem with watching the showjumping is that your comments can be overheard rather easily!

It was cold by then, the fog not clearing quick enough, so we retreated to the car for hot chocolate and more yummy things. Luckily our parking space was right next to the xc warm up area, so there we sat for an hour watching how everyone warmed up, what tack is currently 'in' and deciding which xc colours looked good, and which made the rider look like an oversized cupcake (there were a few!) It seems that the air jackets have really taken off at the lower levels, which can only be a good thing, also five point breastplates seemed to be the most recent 'must have' accessory. Personally I like my hunting breastplate for being good for the job and not rubbing or getting in the way, the five point ones seem a little fussy for my liking (yes, even the Devoucoux ones, dare I say it) but I am very much an amateur, so what do I know! Also spotted a few Micklem bridles which I quite like the look of.

Another thing I noticed was the trend for jumping the warm up jumps at an angle. A useful exercise I'm sure, but in the hour of watching I think I saw one person jump a jump straight. Is straightness not important anymore? S informs me that her non-horsey other half pointed this out at an event last year, while she was warming up, and instructed her to do the same in an effort to fit in.

Sadly we couldn't stay there all day, as we had our own horses to see to. But a great way to start a weekend.

Last week's update

I wrote a blog post the other day all about the last week, the ups and downs and conclusions. But I couldn't bring myself to publish it. Basically it was what the mare and I were doing, a bit about going to watch Isleham Horse Trials (and how being parked next to the XC warm up provided at least an hour of entertainment from the comfort of the car) in fact I probably will write about Isleham. The rest was just whinging on about the stress of livery yard politics. No one wants to read that shit. Anyone who has horses on a livery yard knows only too well the stressful situations you can find yourself in, no need to bore anyone.

Anyway, the horses finally got some grass! How wonderful it was to see them outside in the sunshine, eating grass and being horses.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Jumping Exercise

We have a small arena, and at this time of year, only half of it is usable. This can make jump practice a bit tricky.

The mare is very easy to actually jump, in that if it has poles you just point and shoot! Turning and general control however are not our strong points. Neither is anything 'unusual'

With this in mind I wanted to practice the bits we found hard. So this jumping exercise is perfect. Four poles set up in a + shape, with a jump stand on the outside edges, and a stack of tyres in the middle (a block would have been the obvious choice, but you have to work with what you've got!)  This took up about the same space as a 20m circle.

The small jumps helped us to concentrate and for me to sit quietly and not over ride. Because of the jump layout the mare was listening to me instead of fighting, which was rather nice! I should have planned my routes a bit better though, to get more of a flowing round. It was a little disjointed at times.

We then attempted the tyres in the middle. This surprised us both as I half expected her to stop, but she jumped it with a lot of space to spare (beautifully basculed too) However, she then proceeded to stop the next few times. I think I wasn't being assertive enough going in to the fence, so she quite rightly said 'No'
We popped a couple more of the straightforward jumps and I asked again for the tyres and this time she went. We jumped it a few more times (still bigger than necessary) and then called it a day.

So now I know I need to get her used to spooky and unusual jumps. Time to get out the feed bags!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Half Term Holiday (also known as the week we will never speak of again)

This week has been a bit shit if I'm honest. It has also been Half Term. In the space of one week we have had:

1 x  disastrous trip to IKEA - daughter got very travel sick and vommed up onto the restaurant floor (there are no words to describe that moment) Also, the main thing we went for wasn't in stock.

2 x trips to see family, which was nice.

2 x trips with the trailer, which went very well despite getting stuck in traffic for 30minutes (seems amazing that the mare was cool about it, considering the travelling stress we've had with her)

2 x dressage lessons - very grateful for these, and I have learnt a lot, but also made me feel a bit useless. Well, I made myself feel useless, but I'm working on that, it is just a slight inferiority complex.

1 x outbreak of slapped cheek disease -technically two cases (both kids) and both my husband and I feeling a bit ropey. Probably wasn't travel sickness at IKEA after all....

2 x fantastic hacks.

1 x husband away for the weekend at a course.

1 x hour spent with the kids falling off their bikes.

1 x car crash - in which I realise why I love my Tank as much as I do.

Also, several hours of Wii and kids television, extortionate amounts of bribery, cakes, sweeties (and calpol)

Thank God they are back to school tomorrow!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Dressage Boot Camp (and a huge wake up call)

This week is half term here, so a month or so back I decided to kill two birds with one stone. As well as take the kids to visit family, I would take the horse too. This way we could see family spread out over two days instead of crammed into one, and I could get some much needed tuition at the same time.

My grandma, aunt and great aunt are all amazing riders, my grandma and great aunt are also riding instructors. They are all really into dressage.

Now, the mare and I can trot around looking pretty, but it is far from correct. I have been working really hard at riding her with my seat and leg, and trying to leave my reins alone, and I thought we were improving. It definitely felt better. But dressage is our weakest phase.

But by the end of our first session with my aunt I honestly felt like I had never sat on a horse before. My reins are always too long, so I was made to shorten them, and put my hands more forward and opened wider (I am guilty of keeping my hands pretty much in my lap) this immediately made me feel unbalanced. I was nagged about my right heel creeping up constantly, my inclination to just push the horse forward at all times (and so unbalancing the horse) and you don't want to know what was said about my canter transitions!

Day two saw an improvement, and we did things I didn't think possible - travers, walk to canter off a demi pirouette, shoulder in etc. Don't get me wrong, none of it was pretty, but now we have some extra exercises for schooling which was the plan. I felt enthusiastic and couldn't wait to see the videos!

Well, that was a bad move. The videos looked nothing like it felt. I looked like a sad sack of potatoes, and yes my reins are way too long, and my poor horse looked like some overworked nag from Victorian London (ok, one that was finally tracking up, but still) I can't believe the weight and muscle she has lost since our jumping lesson a few weeks ago (I compared videos) it is truly baffling! She is getting more food that she was(fibre based) she is so full of energy that I have decided to try her on the gelding's magnesium supplement to see if she relaxes more. I can't understand how she has lost so much!

So the plan for the next few weeks is to work on my new exercises in walk and hope it builds up some muscle and helps us both to become more supple, and take her out for walks around the summer paddocks for grass and more slow exercise in the afternoons.

So all in all, the dressage boot camp was a bit of a wake up call in more ways than one.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

A spanner in the works.

So I made the mistake of thinking things were going well.

We are now possibly looking at having to move yards, and as every horse owner who has ever had to rent somewhere knows, there is little that is more stressful.

There is somewhere quite perfect, two spare stables, 2 acre field with year round turnout, excellent arena with a good jump selection, one of my best friends, and several other horsey friends, good hacking. Perfect, except it is half an hour away.

Do you jump at the chance and accept time will be tight for the next couple of months until the kids finish school for the summer (have I mentioned that our favourite National Trust property is only 10mins from this yard?) And that horsey outings will be limited in order to cover increased fuel costs? Or find somewhere else more local, and hope you find one of the rare good ones?

A year ago I would have been content with a field and a couple of stables, or even a decent field shelter, but now things are starting to happen, I'm giddy at the thought of a real life decent arena without an almost year round water feature!

If the yard I am at was going to stay the same, I would never leave. But there are rumblings from the powers that be and we are all uneasy. When the longest standing members of the yard have put their names down on the waiting list of the local all singing, all dancing livery yard, you know it's time to worry!

I sense some sleepless nights ahead.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Bumbling along quite happily

Things have been going pretty well here at the moment. Busy, but in a good way.

The mare and I have been really enjoying our schooling sessions. Well, I've been enjoying them and she has been going well, so I'm guessing she isn't too bothered at the very least. We actually had a jumping lesson last weekend due to the showjumping being cancelled (weather related) and it is starting to feel like we are actually improving. By that I mean that I'm improving and the mare is starting to listen to my opinion occasionally. She is looking very fit at the minute, despite the fact we haven't been doing any fast work yet, so my plan for the next few weeks is to try to bulk her up a bit before we start the actual fittening work towards the end of February.

The gelding has got a new love in his life. The girl from our yard has taken over exercising him while her horse is on extended box rest. She rides him three or four times a week and he adores her, possibly because she gives him attention (and carrots)

The weather is starting to take its toll a bit here, but we are lucky compared to so many others. We may have to keep our horses in their boxes more, but at least the boxes are dry! We can also still see our paddocks, so a few warm and windy weeks should see a return to the grass for our beasts. Spring isn't far off now.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Juggling competing and being a mother (inspired by the H&H article)

In Horse and Hound this week was an article about mothers juggling competing horses and having children.

While I applaud H&H on doing an article like this, I also find myself wondering where the mum with limited support is. I'm sure many of us would be more interested to read about the one who has to beg, borrow or steal a babysitter, who has to fit 6 hours worth of work into 2 and a half, the ones that have to ride in the dark once the darlings are tucked up in bed, while the rest of us are enjoying a glass of wine in front of The Great British Bake Off, than the ones who are lucky enough to have a yard at home and grandparents or a nanny living on site. Fair play to the dressage couple who did the yard while the kids were still asleep in the mornings. Anyone with small kids knows how precious sleep is, and to get up while the children are still fast asleep takes a lot of dedication!

What I personally would like to read is a series on how professional families work. A different family each week, with a rough timetable - who feeds the horses and at what time, who does the school runs, does the youngest sit in it's pram outside the arena or does it go to nursery? But then I am incredibly nosy, as well as trying to pick up some hints and tips on how to manage myself!

What I will say about the article is that it came across as very wholesome. Where was the bribery with computer games and sweeties? Where was the forgetting the time and having to call a friend in a panic to pick your child up from school? What about having to wait around for vet/Farrier/hay delivery in the pissing rain and dark feeding your children biscuits from the tack room and making them run up and down the yard to keep warm?  And not one mentioned the school run outfit! Do you go along in your jods and mucky boots, with hay in your hair and stuck to the back of your sweater, with green slobber up one arm and other dubious looking stains? Or do they have time to shower and dress in something suitable as to fit in with the other school run mothers (and fathers, but they seem immune to the whole 'appropriately attired' dilemma)

Where do they stand on maternal guilt? You have had a competition written on the diary for more than four months, and then your daughter has a ballet exam booked in for the same day? What comes first? Do you feel guilt over putting your competition first, or resentment for missing it to take a 6 year old to a ballet exam?

I'm some ways I imagine it's easier if it's your job as the justification is there, you are not gallivanting, but working. Can you break into horses as a job after having children?

I know one thing, this year could see us getting creative with the childcare as the mare and I get out and about competing more, and the husband has a new role that will take him away nearly every weekend.

So, any hints and tips gratefully received!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Accepting being an amateur (I won't)

On Sunday we went to an indoor eventing clinic with event rider Phoebe Buckley.

After last week I was feeling pretty disheartened with horses, and if I hadn't booked my place at the clinic so far in advance I doubt I would have gone. Nothing makes you feel more like a loser than completely failing at pretty much everything attempted in that week!

So, I didn't have much faith in my abilities. I was starting to think I would show myself up, that the mare wasn't as talented as I think she is (I can be rather biased!) and that I was wasting everyones time.

My fab friend/super groom came with me for moral support and horse holding. She mostly helps by making me feel like an idiot for being nervous! That does help quite a lot actually!

But I need not have worried. The mare is truly amazing, and was complimented by PB many times. This meant rather a lot to me, having had the mare since she was an unbroken three year old and done everything myself. I really liked how PB ran the clinic, there was very little telling us 'how' to do things, but setting things up so that we had to ride or it wouldn't work. That is how I like to be taught.

Something that struck a chord with me was PB saying "I mean this in the nicest possible way, but you are an amateur, you are not going to be William Fox-Pitt, so enjoy it"

Now, much as I like to think of myself as a bit of a pro, I'm not, and unlikely to ever be. But I do still want things to be perfect. I've worked with horses a lot over the years, and was pretty good at what I did, but that was then, this is now. Then I rode horses for other people, I was paid to sort out difficult ones, or to back youngsters.  Now I am just a mum with horses to keep me sane, I should enjoy them and try not to put so much pressure on myself. I should ask for help if I need it, and not be ashamed that I am not the rider I used to.

I should. But I won't. I will carry on being competitive and argumentative and giving myself a hard time over silly mistakes. Just because I'm not going to be an international event rider, doesn't mean I shouldn't strive for the ability to be.

Sometimes being stubborn is a bugger!

Friday, 17 January 2014

There are times.........blah.... (part 2)

Sooooo...... Thursday didn't go too well. But you know, Friday is a whole new day, also sunny, no excuses.

Today I took the mare out for a little hack around the village. We were dressed up to the nines in our bestest, brightest hi-viz. Well, a bright yellow exercise sheet on her, a builders hi-viz vest with 'Daavid' written on the back in permanent marker for me (it is a vest that hangs up in the tack room, I have no idea who it belongs to, or why it has Daavid written on it)

The hack went well, lots of traffic, but that's fine, and mostly the drivers round here are pretty good. Managed to get back just in time for a meeting at the preschool to discuss the boy and how he was getting on.

After a quick lunch it was time to get back to the yard to ride the gelding.

I don't ride this horse much, as somewhere along the line we have lost our way. He has no trust in me, and I don't trust him one inch. He is not naughty, or have vices, he is just a bit of a plank, and I am quite keen on self preservation.

To get over my wobbles with him, I had organised for another livery to be there on the ground to babysit me. This has worked well in the past.

Today we very nearly fell out. Admittedly we didn't get off to the best start, a skip lorry turned up just as I was trying to get them in and proceeded to pick up a skip while I was trying to get the paddock gate open (all the woodchip) there were some rather creative swear words heard at that moment.

The moment I got on him I felt wrong, this is not the mare, I am on the wrong horse! Sadly it didn't improve. I spent 20minutes on him, all we did was walk - transitions, circles, loops etc, interspersed with some hefty spooks, a bit of planting and going backwards, some bucks, and even rearing. In other words a right little tantrum.

I know it is my fault. He needs more work, that is all it is, but since my accident and both kids, I am lacking the courage to get on and be the rider he needs. So I've swallowed my pride and asked for help getting him started. This was hard and I felt like shit afterwards, but rationally I know it is what we need. I may still physically be as capable as I once was, but mentally I'm just not up to it by myself. Bollocks.

There are times when you wonder why you bother (part 1)

This week has been pretty shit if I'm totally honest. From a purely selfish point of view.

I seem to have lost all oomph and enthusiasm for pretty much everything. Nothing bad has happened, I've just felt miserable, and my confidence seems to have randomly disappeared. Yes I know, woe is me etc....

Anyhow, yesterday was cold but sunny and I had given myself a very stern talking to (mostly along the lines of "Man the hell up") only to get to the yard and find the yard owner was having some trees chopped down and chipped. This upset the delicate flower that is the gelding, and he was turning himself inside out. The mare was indifferent, but not wanting to be outdone she was chasing him (the cow!) After I had been dragged in from the turnout area, stripped the top rug off the sweaty mess the gelding had got himself into and very nearly lost the plot with the pair of them, it became apparent that I hadn't a hope in hell of separating the horses. The gelding, or knobhead as he was temporarily known, would probably have taken the front of the stable off if I had taken his comfort blanket away, even if she is vile to him.

I was cross, and quite frankly pissed off. I had had a low start to the week, had bucked my ideas up and it was all for nothing.

The day was finished off with turning up to put the horses to bed, to find an enormous pile of woodchip in the gateway to the turnout. 40minutes of shovelling, and some very tight muscles, and I could finally get the gate open and closed.

Marvellous, time for gin. But wait, Friday is just as good! Look out for part 2 (please contain your excitement) 

Monday, 13 January 2014

A 'meh' kind of Monday

I am one of the few people I know that actually like Mondays.

I get to drop the kids off at school and disappear to the yard for some guilt free horse time. I generally don't ride at weekends, so I am desperate to get out by Monday, full of plans and enthusiasm.

Today I really can't be arsed! I've got a niggling headache that I've had all weekend that just won't shift, lots of stuff to do at home, and on top of that I attempted to loose school the mare over a grid yesterday, and it was a complete disaster. She was an absolute tramp to be honest, and I have no inclination to ride it today!

I know I'll feel guilty for not doing anything with the horses today, later in the week, but sometimes a day off can be a good thing.

I'm enjoying a very peaceful coffee, I am writing this week's meal plan and shopping list, waiting to hear back from the British Horse Society with regards to my lost membership card, and losing the ongoing battle with the laundry pile. Also need to get tonight's dinner in the slow cooker.

Hopefully some enthusiasm will return for mucking out this afternoon?

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Establishing new habits, and anti procrastination....

I'm trying to establish some new habits this week.

My biggest problem is that I procrastinate (hence the blog, great way of putting stuff off) and absolutely everything gets left til the last minute. We are rarely late, but are usually rushing.

So, with the kids back to school this week, I have been trying to get up 10mins earlier. This gives me time to get the kids ready and empty the dishy and sort some laundry. In theory. In reality, I feel I should do these things, so do them but nearly lose the plot in the process of trying to get too many things done.

Another thing I'm very good at putting off is riding. If course I enjoy it, but unlike the mucking out it is not a necessity, and I think this is why the confidence issue took so long to realise, there were always other excuses instead. But now I have a friend to ride with twice a week the excuses have stopped, and the confidence has built. I am still struggling to get enough motivation to get the gelding going though. I basically have 3 child free hours a day, which comes down to 2.5, by the time travelling etc is taken into consideration.

So, this time gets broken down into 30mins for mucking out the two stables, hay, feed on to soak, water etc. 30mins sweeping up, getting horses in, tacking up, 45mins for riding at an absolute push (if hacking out) then 15/20mins feeding and finishing up. I am more inclined to ride the mare because she is mine, and because she is easier and more enjoyable, having done more work.

The gelding is special (in lots of ways) he is kind hearted, but so daft and such a wuss! He doesn't take the piss, he is just genuinely terrified of pretty much everything. He needs a rider to say "Come on, we are doing this today" and actually mean it. You can see why I've had problems in the more recent years?

So, with my new years anti-procrastination, I am going to do something with the gelding. I am going to stop making excuses and get on with him. I have arranged for one of the other liveries to stay in the school with me while I ride him next Friday. Small steps, but I need to break the habit.

Things are going well with the mare and we need to just continue as we are, and work on brakes and fitness levels. The gelding and I need to work on getting a routine going and starting pretty much from scratch - reminding him of the correct aids and how to behave! Watch this space!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

A good day, where things seem to work, and even the Husband rides!

Thursday was a good day, the weather was bright and sunny, we had been out for a cooked breakfast, the boy had his booster vaccinations, which although a bit rubbish, were over and done with very quickly.

Both my husband and I got to ride too! This was achieved by wearing the kids out, then putting them in the car which was parked next to the school, with a computer game each.

We put some poles out in the school (I like poles a lot at the minute) and both rode slightly bigger than 20m circles. Our school is flooded and boggy in some parts, and almost bare in other parts, so a 20m circle is about the best you can hope for!

My husband and the gelding don't like schooling, but they desperately need it. Much as I think you can learn a lot out hacking, the odd bit of schooling is still necessary. Besides, they barely hack either!

So, I told my husband to follow me and the mare, not too close, but copy the same movements. We tried to get the circle actually circle shaped, we did lots of transitions, we walked over the poles, we trotted over the poles, and then we stood in the middle of the circle. I then told my husband to make the gelding walk away from us, and walk and trot the circle by himself. Which they did, really quite well. My husband sits very well, but doesn't really 'ride' the horse (hence liking hacking more) and the gelding is very attached to the mare and can be spooky. But I was very impressed with them both, and the best bit is it actually cheered up my husband who had had some crappy news. 

The gelding was then put away, and my husband came back to put the poles up into a small x pole. This was on the centre line, so I could jump it while still on the circle.

I had hoped that by keeping the approach and landing side short, she would not rush into or away from the jump. We also approached at trot and only occasionally slipped one stride of canter in just before take off.

I was really, really pleased with this, as our jumping is out of control at best, and fucking terrifying at worst!

Now the horses will have a few days off due to atrocious weather (thunder, lightening and hailstones!) and the fact my husband is working all weekend and we have to get the kids ready to go back to school. Hopefully the gelding will get clipped this weekend though, as he is a woolly bear at the moment, rather than the sleek thoroughbred he is meant to be!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

New Year's Day

New year's day, a new year, new start etc.....

Hard to feel enthusiastic about the new year when it is gale force winds and horizontal rain.

So, we did what any sensible family would do, we went to see Frozen at the cinema (amazing by the way!) followed by a huge lunch at Frankie and Bennys.

Still, I really felt that I should make the most of the free childcare and do something with the horses. So I put out some poles in a fan shape, and lunged the mare for 15 mins at walk and trot with the poles. I then arranged the poles so that there was one to go over, with one on the outside to stop the gelding running out, and keep straight over the pole. He then got 10mins in the failing light, followed by a good brush off. Would have been more impressive if he hadn't rolled in his own piss just before I went in with the brush. Just when I think he can sink no lower......