Spice turns 6

It was Spice’s birthday last weekend but with the rigmarole of my car breaking down and having to get rescued from Sheffield we missed the celebration. Anyway, I thought I’d make the most of the opportunity to give a little progress update on young Spice.

Spice on his arrival day

I bought Spice in July 2020 directly from his breeder so he’d never lived away from home. I was very keen to give him appropriate time to settle in and feel confident in his new surroundings before starting any real work with him.

In September we started ground work and by the first week in October we‘d managed some tiny rides on the yard and just down our drive. Unfortunately, I then had a very bad accident off Fern, my other baby horse, and on the doctor‘s orders I had a riding ban until January. This meant that Spice had to go back a few steps and we spent the winter going out in hand and walking everywhere to see a bit more of the world.

Spice lunging in the cavesson with roller

Whilst it was a bit frustrating at the time, I’m sure it did us both the world of good as we were able to build a relationship and expose Spice to lots of things in the big wide world. In January I was allowed to start riding again and he went really well, picking up quite quickly from where we left off. After just two weeks back into proper saddling work I was back on and we had a short meander in our local forest in the middle of January.

He was really rather good on this little ride however I felt that I was massively being tipped downhill and I couldn’t really understand why because it was the same saddle that I had used in September previously. On inspection it seemed that Spice was having a big growth spurt - he was as bum high as a two-year-old. Since I’m quite a tall rider anyway (178cm) and Spice has always been borderline in being tall enough for me long-term, I certainly didn’t want to do anything to jeopardise him growing to his full potential. Nor did I want to damage a young horse’s skeletal development, which is not actually fully formed until they are six years old. So Spice got turned away again and this time I actually didn’t do anything with him at all and he was just completely left alone in the field.

By the end of March I could tell he was starting to get rather bored with this lifestyle and so I decided to reassess him and he did seem to have levelled up. I started him a bit more slowly this time as I felt he was a bit more tense in each of the steps I take in my backing process. He also went really girthy which was unusual because he hadn’t been in any of the other periods of work that we had done.

I spoke to my physio and I’m so glad I did as she came out to see him and he was actually very sore through his thoracic sling. This turns out to be very common in young horses when they go bum high as they tend to frontload making the whole front end quite sore.

After his physio treatment he had two days off and then I went to tack him up again and he was a different horse - back to his normal self and so much happier. I was really, really pleased that I hadn’t just pushed on. Since his treatment we’ve now managed to progress to ridden work with ease and we’ve had a handful of hacks, a few on our own and a few in company. I’ve also ridden him at home in the field as well as incorporating our normal pole work and other in hand work such as long reining out etc.

First sit April 2021

The thing that has surprised me the most about him is just how brave he is and what a confident young horse he is. This is especially lovely because I know that I’ve had a big part to play in making him who he is today.

He is so happy to go up front and lead the other horses often passing scary objects which the older horses have established as spooking hazards and he’ll just go through without question. He’s also so brave in traffic and very, very honest. It makes such a change for me as Chippy is not the best in traffic!

My plan for him going forward is to continue getting out and about and going in the trailer to various places. I’d like to get him to a pole clinic and if I can potentially even an unaffiliated dressage competition - just to keep getting him out and about and seeing more horses in lots of different settings.

I’ve also reached out to my riding instructor about having a few lessons at home in the field. I feel this is probably our weakest area at the moment as he is so happy to go out but does seem to find working at home rather boring and so can be a little bit behind the leg.

Schooling is a really important part of all of my horses’ routines and whilst I don’t believe in schooling every day of the week, I do like to do it maybe once or twice a week and I’d certainly like to be able to do it with Spice efficiently and effectively.

I’m hoping a few lesson are going to really help us in this respect. I don’t believe we need to be riding around aimlessly for an hour, an effective 20 minutes will be just as valuable in improving his suppleness, balance and general riding manners.

My goal for the season with Spice was to get him out to do one or two novice graded rides. He’s actually going so well at the moment I’m thinking he might even get all three done this year but we’ll see how we get on. The ground is incredibly hard at the moment and even though we have had two little trots under saddle so far, I’m not keen to start doing lots of trotting just yet with the ground as hard as it is on such a young horse with unconditioned legs.

I will definitely be aiming him for a pleasure ride in June though all being well 🤞

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