• Gillian Keegan

The first week with Bucee

Day 1 - Spooky Mcspookerson

He's clearly furious about stopping for a photo when his lunch is waiting

The first day of my lease! I feel a bit like I'm getting into a car after passing my driving test. I'm not really sure how it all works here - he's mine, but do I still use the grooms? It takes me ten minutes to find a head collar, I'm getting lots of bemused glances.

On the horse, we work in the main jumping arena - the others are wet and puddly. It's the largest arena I have ever ridden in and we feel very special! Sixty horses, here for a competition are in yards, hidden from view, but clearly very present to Bucee! He is Spooky McSpookyson, we spook at the arena gate, slam on the brakes at a jump wing and have a mini bolt for 5 strides in the canter. We have a few nice trot strides in-between. I work on using my seat to slow down, leaving his head alone, engaging my core, slowing my breathing and rising. He concentrates, we both live. The lawyer laughed when I told him "they've probably stopped sedating him now that we've transferred the money!" Ha Ha, lesson tomorrow, thank goodness!

Day 2 - I've moved in

I turn up officially today, complete with my box of stuff. I belong, grooms!! I have rope halters, boots, lunge lines and a grooming kit and stake out my place in the tack room. I get Bucee from his stall and start tacking up, arguing with a groom about noseband tightness as another groom puts on his saddle and tightens the girth in a very workmanlike fashion. The boy vigorously objected and tried to take a chunk out of my arm. There's lots going on in preparation for the show over the weekend, but we deal with it and manage to walk in a straight line with minimal eyes popping out of our heads (both me and Bucee!). We work on transitions in the trot today, sponging the inside rein as we increase and decrease my rising speed to extend and collect whilst maintaining a soft frame. I tend to get a bit tense in my shoulders and upper arms but I focussed on relaxing and letting the weight drop through my seat, letting go and breathing. He really listened towards the end and we only had one spook, albeit a big one. Note to self, grab mane not reins. Overall, a great, confidence building day. Kisses for the Bucee boy.

Day 3 - hungry peacocks

We are really not dealing well with the show prep around us. Walking out of the yard today to the arena was clearly the most petrifying experience Bucee had ever had. I suggested he walk forward, he said 'absolutely not' and performed a 180 degree spin Torville and Dean would have been proud of. I suggested, again, that going out of the yard was the next 'big thing' and he told me, in no uncertain terms, that he questioned my sanity. Why on earth would you leave this safe place, with other horses and food to go outside and potentially get eaten by a peacock?

I hopped off at this stage, not game to trust him not to do anything more serious, and led him ears pricked and on monster watch. Two kids were having a lesson in the dressage arena so we hopped in with them, hoping Bucee would feel safety in numbers. And surprisingly we had no spooks! It just goes to show that how your horse starts often has no bearing on how you finish. We had been having issues with our canter transition. I was asking for canter, but we were getting a few strides of boneshaking trot before falling into an unbalanced, flat lope. It turns out that I just wasn't quite pressing the correct button - I slid my leg slightly further back and, boom! 'Hell yes, I understand now!', said Bucee and canter we did. High fives all round.

Day 4 - frazzle dazzle

We were supposed to have a lesson today, but my instructor had seventeen kids to prepare for the competition so we decided that his head may not be quite in the right place! I started off with groundwork, I want to get Bucee used to standing at still at the mounting block calmly, not being dragged there and held. He was very bemused at the whip - why is this woman tapping me? He tried to kick it a few times before getting the message and moving his quarters. It was also useful in understanding areas of tightness with him - he found it very difficult to move away from his right shoulder to the left, but moved easily to the right from the left shoulder. We'll do some carrot stretches and lateral work to help this.

Then, I hopped on, and we had a really nice ride in the arena again, Bucee holding it together, despite there being trot ups taking place just next to us, and a general air of excitement. I wanted to make the most of there being lots of horses around and decided to lead him around outside the arena to soak up the atmosphere, I was busy looking around for everything that he might jump at and didn't even consider the small concrete step I went down to be an issue before I was hit in the back by 600kg of horse!!! The step was a huge fence according to Bucee, and one that needed to be jumped, the only problem being that I was in the way. Ow ow ow, I stayed on my feet but I was stared at by many, many Indian riders. Then, a bit giddy from his cross country debut, Bucee decided to throw in a huge spooky buck thing and nearly pulled my arm off, ow again!!! We walked back to the yard a little frazzled! Tomorrow is another day...

Day 5 - the trouble with monkeys

THE SHOW IS ON TODAY!!! And I don't feel like riding amongst it all, so I decide that it is a good day to lunge him. There is a covered round yard that I haven't been in yet, so I put his boots on and we head out. Once in the round yard I discovered two things, one, that Bucee has never been lunged, and two, that when a family of monkeys jump on the canvas roof of a building that you are standing in, it is incredibly loud and incredibly scary.

Holiest of molies, huge booms came at random intervals, the monkeys making shadows on the sand surface as they jumped up and down and had very loud, screaming arguments. Bucee froze and looked at me. I discovered that he had no idea what lunging was, he decided that it was all too much and launched himself into the air a few times. GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!! I hate this moment, when your horse has lost his s**t and you need to get hold of him but it's literally the last thing you want to do as you're worried that he's going to plunge right on top of you. Stomach churning yuk.

Holding my new kite in one hand (who was literally shaking now) I carefully edged my way to the door in order to slowly open it. I needed to make sure he didn't see his escape route and barrel through it, taking me out at the same time. Pushing the door with one foot, and holding him steady with the opposite arm I manage to keep things reasonably calm and still, then we take a deep breath and walk out. I'm actually pretty pleased with him for being faced with that and still (sort of) being able to listen to me.

Outside the yard of doom, we did some more groundwork until he was calm again, then I decided to take a break and watch some showjumping!

The round yard of doom

Day 6 - Moet your troubles away

Today we are heading to meet the Lawyer's colleagues for brunch at the Taj hotel in Bangalore so I am having a day off horses (maybe not a bad thing!). Brunch was delicious, and we had free flowing Moet, so all my monkey troubles were distant memories by the end of the afternoon! Brunch is a big thing here, and most of the large hotels provide a full brunch buffet each Sunday with entertainment for the kids. We had the most amazing paneer in butter sauce, tandoori grilled prawns, biryani and garlic butter naans - a happy day!

Day 7 - Clean up, rest and get weighed!

Mondays are rest days at the yard. All horses have the day off and get turned out, tack is cleaned and everyone is weighed. So another day off for me!


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