In our latest guest blog Nicola shares her story with her ex-racehorse turned successful dressage horse, King of Chav's. It's not been an easy journey, but it just shows patience really does pay off to make an exceptional team! x
Some 10 years ago I set out on the search for my first horse. I had ponies while growing up but in the spring of 2008 I took the plunge and bought my first HORSE. To this day I don’t know what it was that made me want this little ginger ex-racehorse so much, but I felt he was something special. My new horse was a 5 year old, chestnut, thoroughbred who went by the name of King Of Chav’s, yes you did read that correctly!
Having always had mares I thought a gelding would be much easier, but how wrong was I?! Chav is more chestnut mare than any actual chestnut mare I’ve met. He can be spooky, sharp and is extremely sensitive, not forgetting his amazing ability to self harm! There were times in the beginning when I thought I’d taken on too much.
Chav’s biggest ‘quirk’ is his spook. He is just so good at it and it always takes me by surprise. He has an amazing ability to go from perfect toe pointing dressage pony to leaping sideways across the arena in a millisecond, you only realise what has happened when you are facing the wrong way! I would say my stickability has been well and truly tested. I have tried numerous things to try to stop his spooking, I have even tried calmers but he was more unpredictable on them. As time has gone on and the trust in each other has grown, his spooking has lessened; I don’t think it will ever completely stop because that is a part of him. I have regrettably learned to live with the spooks, I hope that I now cope with them better than I did at the beginning. I used to tell him off but that upsets him and makes him tense, resulting in more spooking. I try not to anticipate a spook and not to react if he does spook, just carry on with the next movement because that one spook with only affect one mark and I can make that up elsewhere. If I do react then he becomes tense and the rest of the test is ruined. He isn’t being malicious when he spooks, he doesn’t want to see me on the floor, he just likes to check I am paying attention up top.
A friend said to me recently “as much as I love Chav I could never have him, he is just too high maintenance”, and she is right! Chav is not only accident prone but he lives on his nerves. I have come to realise that routine is massively important to Chav, he thrives on it, and this probably stems from his early life in a race yard. If we stick to the same daily routine he is much more relaxed, this takes the uncertainty away about what is happening next and allows him to just be horse. He is also extremely vet phobic; my vet even called him one of the worst she has ever had to treat. He even ran head first into his stable wall when trying to run away from a vet with a needle, which is extremely embarrassing when you are a veterinary nurse, oh the shame!
Another problem I have encountered is the fact that Chav is quite noise sensitive, if a venue is playing music or someone lets a door bang we will know about it. Even at home a dog walker is enough to turn Chav into a snorting mustang! About 6 months ago I decided to try him in an acoustic fly bonnet and wow what a difference. It’s not a complete fix but it is definitely my favourite item of horse paraphernalia.
It is not all doom and gloom, when it all goes to plan my little ginger ex-racehorse can strut his stuff with the Warmbloods. He proved this by winning the Petplan Area Championships last year and took me to the nationals at Hartpury. I knew he was something special!
So when the hard work pays off we are rewarded with sashes and trophies, and when it all goes wrong there is always wine. My fridge is well stocked!
If you have enjoyed reading this then have a look at Chav’s Facebook page and follow his journey to dressage diva status >> https://www.facebook.com/kingofchavs.racingreject/