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  And so we begin! - Kindly written for World of Horses by Karry Gardner

Isn't she  lovely!
Dear Readers

I would love to be able to tell you my mare has behaved so impeccably that she has won everything in sight, blinded judges with her beauty and that I am riding like the Goddess Diana .

Unfortunately , that would be an outright lie because 'Miss Tiã Maria' , having settled comfortably into her new abode has, after three months of never putting a hoof wrong, has suddenly thrown a great big hissy fit and decided to be very naughty indeed.
It all came about because Small Boss (Charlotte) was building up to their first outing when she suddenly thought that she had better look at the BD test she was preparing for which happened to be Novice 37.

Novice 37 contains counter canter (easy peasy) ; it also contains rein-back which 'Miss Tiã Maria' mistranslated as 'lets rear a bit' and throw in a nap for good measure. I told you there was a language barrier !

Now , I can now cope with most situations (Tiã spooks in slow motion which gives me ample time to grab my balance strap on my saddle) and even slight rearing because MGB used to do it when she felt trapped in front but I loathe and detest napping.

Perhaps someone out there, maybe someone from British Dressage , can explain to me of what value rein-back actually is in a the training of a novice horse. Having invested lots of time and effort into making sure that Tiã goes forward into the contact, I am now confusing the poor horse with 'now lets go backwards'.

Most horses can perform most of the movements used in the scales of training naturally but I have yet to see a horse position itself on a square halt, take three of four steps backwards and then trot off with its head between its knees in a straight line . Maybe you know of a horse that does this thing . I can see the value of the movement later on in training because you want your horse to obey you in all things but maybe it’s a bit much expecting a novice horse to be able to do it at this stage.

Suffice to say, at the time of writing, I haven’t ridden my horse for over two weeks now and I suppose this is the great beauty of having your horse on a professional yard is that when something goes very, very wrong , I have lots of back up in the shape of the Bosses.

Small Boss has dressed Tiã up in bondage gear (side reins underneath her legs like a martingale) and running reins . Now it takes me longer to dress Tiã each morning than it did to dress five small wriggly children in school uniform , make three completely different packed lunches , get myself ready, drive to 3 different schools etc. You know the drill !

Not only does Tiã wear all the gear, she has to have her mane neatly braided each day to stop the reins from pulling it out .(Charlotte complained about mouthfuls of mane restricting her cursing abilities) . I can put an Arab plait in her mane in 3 minutes flat now . And to think one of the great attractions of having an Iberian horse was that I would never have to plait again .

Generally, we don’t do gadgets at the yard. Big Boss once had dinner with the great Artur Kottas of the Spanish Riding School who when asked what he thought of the use of running reins said "I don’t mind the use of the running rein if you are a good rider; but then if you are a good rider, you should not need to use them !". So we resort to gadgets only when there are no other options left.

We think that Tiã is going through a transitory period both physically and mentally . She’s clever (too clever according to Charlotte) and sensitive and she’ s trying is all on for size. I suppose she is a stroppy teenager and I may have to re-christen her "Kevina" .

I don’t think she was fed a lot in Portugal because she has certainly changed shape since she got here . Her neck used to have a break in it around the fourth vertebra which made it look rather weedy and she was very herring gutted. I suspect that giving her very little food meant that she was infinitely more rideable .

Certainly, she was very unfit when she arrived as ten minutes on the lunge in trot brought her out into a muck sweat and now stuffed full of food and feeling confident in her surroundings , she is thinking "Hey, I like it ‘ere . Zeese pipples , zey geeve me ze good food ana nic-a bedroom. What else canna I get away wiz!".

Another thing we have discovered is that she has been beaten at some time after someone has got off her back as she had a tendency to shoot sideways away from you as though someone had dismounted and then hit her so we have spent another two weeks sorting out that problem. She now stands as still as a rock when you get on and off her.

My husband on hearing that I had not ridden her for two weeks asked me if she was really the horse for me and was I not tempted to sell her to which I retorted - When you got ill or a bit stroppy, I didn’t get rid of you did I ?. I just toughed it out until it got better !

Yesterday, I watched her and the beautiful Felix lovingly groom each other over the stable door Felix stropping her neck with his tongue until her neck was soaking wet whilst Tiã closed her eyes in ecstasy and accepted Felix’s devoted ministrations and it brought a tear to my eye (ahh!).

Today the vet came to give her a ‘flu booster and he took one look at her and said 'Stunning', then he walked around her and said 'just beautiful !'. He gave her the jab (she stood on her front end like a Lipizanner in the Spanish School whilst he struggled with the syringe between his teeth whilst dodging her waving front legs ) and afterwards dropped a kiss on her white nose promising her that next time , he would bring her a nice horse treat to soften the blow (or the sting in this case) .

I have never, ever seen a vet respond to a horse in that way in my life and he was a big, burley Scotsman.

It’s true you know, that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man (or woman) and although things have not gone as planned over the last month , I couldn’t part with her now.

I loved MGB and thought that I couldn’t feel the same about another horse ; just goes to show how much I knew !

Next Time : Tiã and I go back to school - six long months of lunge lessons every day ahead of us - OUCH!

Until next time...

Karry Gardner
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