Battle of the bulge

A feeling of connection to all things begs the big questions, ‘who are we, why are we here and where did we come from?…..The wild Welsh weather has shot to the other end of the spectrum and, for most of last week, we enjoyed a full blown heat-wave with temperatures up to 29 degrees. I am a Factor 50 girl (every day of the year), so I wasn’t caught out by a shortage of sun cream but surprised myself by baring some flesh. Thankfully, living at 700 feet, there is usually a breeze and this took the edge off the sweltering heat. Previous to that, we had three days of continuous rain, day and night; no let-up, not even for a second.

The boys have been living out 24/7 more or less since Talisman’s competition in April and they are loving it. However, it’s the ‘battle of the bulge’ as both horses have expanded waistlines on the new spring grass. I am topping all the pasture like crazy, especially before I move the boys onto new grazing but by the time a few days have elapsed to allow the cut grass to dry (so it doesn’t pose a colic risk), it’s almost too long again!

Taz is retired, so he has no chance of burning off extra weight except through occasional impromptu outbursts in the field and a couple of free-schooling sessions a week and Talisman has 5 weeks to go until his next 120K race. While I like him to carry a little bit extra (I am certainly not keen on the ‘underweight look’ before the start), it’s a fine line as it will take longer to get his heart rate down for each vetting during the race if he carries too much weight.

So, the new routine is 4 hours in the turnout arena first thing in the morning with muzzles on to stop any fence chewing (I have failed to stop it any other way), then 7 or 8 hours in a corral in their fields followed by ad-lib grazing overnight.

On the days Talisman is working, he misses the arena phase (no complaints there). In addition, he’s on just one small feed a day (down from three large ones before the last competition), only enough to include his supplements and remain palatable and he goes on the walker every day for 40 mins wearing the Equicore system to improve his core strength and straightness, whether or not he is working.

As conditions change (the ground for training, the weather and pasture) so management conditions change in the preparation for a competition which makes life interesting but challenging!

Fitness is coming along well for both of us. Talisman is doing quality work four days a week. He had 12 days off after the April competition, then light work for two weeks, so fitness training started from quite a low base (relatively speaking) but he is back up to canter intervals in the undulating fields at the top of the ridge and trotting half the way up the 500 feet rise to get there. He’s feeling perky and enjoying his work which is a relief because he wasn’t impressed at having to exert himself, a couple of weeks ago! There are no exceptions for the weather; we train in all conditions from strong winds to heavy rain and extreme heat. I don’t want to avoid anything we might have to compete in, though it results in quite a lot of washing and drying! For my part, I am doing three days a week training and as soon as I finish this blog, I will be heading up to the ridge myself to do a run in the brewing storm (weather warnings have been issued so the boys will be in tonight)!

On other matters, the property has come alive with fauna and flora and is starting to look like my own private ‘wild-life reserve’. Various endangered birds have been spotted (I know nothing about birds but have been learning from ‘the bird-man’ who you may remember installed a number of bird boxes, which are now mostly occupied) and the number of feral cats has increased – the word has got out that this is feline nirvana!

I love it here. There are many times in different weather, eg. the sun or the wind, or when listening to birdsong, noticing the wild life, watching the cats play, while I work outside, when I seem to meld into nature and can’t distinguish the boundary between me and it!

One of my favourite times is going out late at night to put an extra rug on the boys and spending a moment with them communing with the stars. Everything is so peaceful and the glittering sky seems to come down to the ground. There is definitely a feeling of connection to all things and it begs big questions such as, ‘who are we, why are we here and where did we come from?

There has also been a LOT of physical work recently which I think of as incremental fitness. In addition to the usual plentiful harrowing, rolling and topping, the annual removal of the muck heap has also taken place. It had grown rather large and sprouted a lawn on top! Six loads were removed which left a lot of spillage on the yard so, after each load I scraped the muck off and swept up, as leaving it all to the end (which I did the first year I was here) is a huge job that takes days. In between, I painted! I discovered an old wheel in one of the outbuildings shortly after moving in and this is now having a colourful make-over and will shortly adorn the yard or the garden. Lastly, strimming has been done under all 10 acres of fencing but as the grass was quite thick and won’t rot down easily, I now have the job of raking it into piles, collecting it in the trailer and making a bonfire. Oh joy!

With the roof of the listed barn complete, the next project starts in a week’s time which is installing a biomass central heating system. No longer will there be a risk of hyperthermia (inside the house) in winter. Hurray!

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