“You haven’t lost your smile at all.  It’s right under your nose, you just forgot it was there”.  I have absolutely no idea where this quote comes from or who said it – so apologies to all concerned – but it’s so flipping true.  In my last blog Goodbye Tiny, I had come to terms with the fact that however lovely Tiny was as a horse around the yard and despite how great he was to hack, we just weren’t developing a partnership in many other ways.  Ways that actually were really important to me.  I’d realised he wasn’t taking me forward in my confidence levels and I wouldn’t do the things I really wanted to do either.  At least not comfortably.  So I sold him, thankfully quickly and to a lovely home so I didn’t have to worry about him or his future… and then found Dudley.

Dudley has been with me for just a few weeks now.  It’s remarkable how quickly something can feel so right…

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Theres many horse folk that believe you should let a new horse settle in for a period of time before you start working him.  There’s also many who believe that you should get straight on with it and discover right away what you are dealing with.  Despite my nerves at times I’m one for the latter approach, let’s get on with it.

Dudley arrived home on a Thursday evening and Friday morning we went for a hack.  Saturday Tony had got a lesson booked in with his 4 year old, Moose, and we decided to slot Dudley in too.  The kind of work that Moose would be doing would suit me as I got to know Dudley.  I started the lesson saying to our teacher that I didn’t want to jump really today and I’d just pootle about whilst she focused on Moose.  I’d had a grid-work lesson earlier in the week elsewhere with a lovely little horse that had really gone well, but I just was content to get a feel of Dudley and go with the flow.

By the end of that first lesson I’d done a fair bit of pole work together with some grids and I came away with a grin on my face, some confidence in my new mount and a desire to do it again!  I think poor Tony must have breathed a sigh of relief as we loaded up to come home that day…

Dudley is bigger than Tiny, not just in height either.  We’ve not measured him yet but I’d imagine he’s pretty close to 16.2.  I’d initially dismissed him as too big when we saw him over his stable door when we were at a small sales yard in Cornwall to see a 15.3.  We’d been told about Dudley too but we’d gone down really to see the smaller horse.  He wasn’t quite what I wanted, but as we’d driven quite a way to see the other one I was persuaded to pull out Dudley too.  I’d loved what he looked like in the pictures we’d been sent by his owner and hopefully you all know that I’m a big fan of coloured horses.  I’ve owned quite a few in the past.  All sport horse types.  As soon as I got on him I realised he didn’t feel as big as he looked, he’s quite short in front so I didn’t have a huge long neck in front of me I’d had with other larger horses.  He was mannerly and responsive and I just felt at ease straight away.  There was no turning back from that if I’m honest.

Tony realised he was in trouble too as this horse was a LOT more money than the others we’d seen.  There was no doubt though, he was going to be coming home with us soon!

Once he was back that Thursday night we had another good look at him.  He was deceptively fit despite the fact he’d clearly been eating too many grass pies lately.  Having a bit of a grass belly was just another good reason to get on with working him from day one as it meant I could get to know him while he was that bit chunkier too!

It’s very early days in our time together, but we’ve now had 2 additional lessons together and each time I’ve finished the grid work or jumps with a huge grin on my face.  I can trust him down to a fence, which I felt I couldn’t entirely with Tiny for some reason, which means I can concentrate more on my pace, rhythm and line to the fences and leave the physical jump to the horse.   We’ve hacked in company and on our own.  We’ve opened gates, met cattle, farm machinery and more.  We’ve cantered in open spaces on our own and in company and he just behaves so well.

Today we did a fun ride.  I’ve not ridden one of these for probably 20 years or more.  It was an adventure for both Dudley and Moose – who was on his first ever pony party.  The terrain was a bit steep in places but both horses behaved really well.  I was able to get a real feel for what Dudley might be like out hunting with other horses around, approaching or leaving us and whilst jumping too.  I jumped most of the cross country fences they’d put out, but sadly not the one in front of the photographer as it looked a bit flipping big as a first jump to me but we went on and did the rest!!!  The ride served a purpose for both horses and we were really happy with how they’d both gone.

I’m not counting chickens but just letting each week progress.  There’s more lessons ahead and fun rides too.  We may even aim for a show in August but that’s a long way off and clearly our main aim is hunting.  Typically rugs don’t fit and neither does my saddle at the moment so I’m back in one of Tony’s thats not too bad until Maxine is back out this week to hopefully resolve that problem.  Rugs, well, there’s plenty in Tony’s hoard that will do for now.

Until then I’ve got a lovely stash of 6’3″ rugs that are in near perfect condition if anyone is interested!!

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Until next time…

Rachel xx