This is a picture of my favorite day ever. Here is the story.
Twelve years ago I was living happily in the north of England, with my previous humans and My Mare Gydja. I was very loved and well treated, but I had noticed that I wasn’t being ridden as much as I used to be.
One day Roger – he wasn’t My Mate yet – and the Woman arrived for a visit. They both rode me, took photos and made a fuss of me. They were kind and seemed to like me, but I didn’t like being taken away from My Mare Gydja for the riding. I pulled, tossed my head, shouted and was generally pretty naughty.
Back in the yard Roger turned to my boss and said, “We’ll take him”.
“Are you mad?” said the Woman, giving him a funny look. “He’s got no brakes!”
There was quite a bit more talking and then Roger and the Woman left.
Maybe they didn’t like me after all. I didn’t mind. I still had My Mare Gydja.
But the next weekend they were back! They collected up my stuff and packed it into their car. I followed Roger into the Stable-on-Wheels, but something didn’t feel right.
Gydja! Where are you? I whinnied.
I could hear voices, and I could still smell my lovely mare, but when the doors were closed and I was driven away My Mare Gydja was left behind! We had been together, just the two of us for five years. She was my herd, the only friend I had. I called for her as the trailer pulled out of the yard, but I couldn’t see or hear her, and eventually I couldn’t smell her either – or anything familiar.
I came to live with Big Fat Cob. After he had chased me around the field a bit and pointed out that all the hay was his we got along fine. Eventually I settled into my new home. But I never forgot My Mare Gydja
Then, two years later, one cold November day, the Stable-on-Wheels was taken from the field by My Mate Roger and the Woman. They were gone all day. When they re-appeared we wandered over to see what they were up to. I could hear something moving around inside our Stable-on Wheels, and as the Woman opened the side-door a little black fluffy nose poked out.
I couldn’t believe my nose and eyes – it was My Mare Gydia!
My Mare Gydja and I were given a special paddock, just me and her, to get re-acquainted. I was so happy that I galloped around and around the paddock tossing my head and nickering to her. She was impressed, I could tell. Big Fat Cob didn’t like being left out of the action and he played up something rotten.
I didn’t care. My Mare Gydja was back, that’s all that mattered.
Over the years I have had to learn to share her with the others in my herd, but the Woman has promised that we will stay together now until the end of our days.
Story first told 2013. Updated November 2021
I can do absolutely nothing for hours and hours but unfortunately doing nothing is not an option as Spring approaches. This is not, I have to point out because I am “full of Spring grass” or My Mare Gydja is “in season” or any other equine related biological explanation. No, the excessive level of activity in the Spring months is all created by a devious human invention. Boot Camp.
My Mate Roger tells me it’s preparation for the Shows and calls them ‘clinics’ but whatever cuddly supportive name he wants to give them it basically means being dragged all over the country in the Stable on Wheels and then having to go round and round in circles while various humans comment on the finer points or otherwise of my gaits. My gaits are fine just the way they are Thank You!
Various tricks can be used to deter the humans from taking you Boot Camp. There are obvious annoyances like losing a shoe just before said event or going ‘a bit lame’, though it has to be said that these are more a case of happen-stance than careful planning on my part. More often than not I have to accept that the Boot Camp experience has to be endured but no one said I had to endure it quietly. I make it my habit to shout, often and loudly to my mates. As a result of this behaviour My Mate Roger decided on one occasion that it was a good idea to take me to Boot Camp on my own, I was not impressed. I shouted all though the night even though there were other horses nearby and My Mate Roger was camped right next to me. By the morning I was a bit tired and My Mate Roger hadn’t got much sleep either. I don’t think My Mate Roger was happy with my performance on the track that day as this silly plan has never been repeated and one of my herd always accompanies me now when I go away.
My Mare Gydja has her own clever method for making the humans look silly. It basically involves performing perfectly the very thing your human has identified as ‘the issue’ on the first ask at Boot Camp. She went to Boot Camp a few years ago as a ‘four gaited horse who possibly due to an injury as a youngster didn’t like to tölt’. The Woman wanted her assessed to decide whether to accept that the tölt was lost or whether it could be trained back. ‘Let’s see you try the tölt’ said the trainer. She watched for a minute and then gave her verdict. ‘Nothing wrong with that tölt at all’. The Woman was dumbfounded. For an encore My Mare Gydia showed flying pace when asked to canter round the corner of the school which is not bad for a ‘four gaited’ horse! She’s a clever mare who likes to keep the humans guessing. I have my own version of this trick. I spent years pretending to My Mate Roger that I was such a tolt machine that I couldn’t trot.
There are some benefits of Boot Camps though. Fleygur Fans come to visit and give me treats, I get to stare meaningfully at the tent entrance so that the humans feel obligated to feed me hay as soon as they get up, still wearing their pyjamas
….and then there’s the horse whisperer. She dispenses wise words and wisdom to My Mate Roger but what she whispers to me is for my ears only and I’m not telling.
Check out what she says at 3mins 30secs
Boot Camp season approaches!
Read “Celebrity Lifestyle Part One” Here https://littlevikinghorse.com/2015/03/01/a-celebrity-lifestyle-part-1-its-all-about-food/
The Easter Show is the first show in the Icelandic Horse competition season. Icelandic Horses are shown in our natural state, hairy with full manes and tails, well why mess with perfection? However at Easter we still have most of our winter coats, and clipping is allowed for welfare reasons so some interesting hair cuts are on show.
I tolted next to that pretty little chestnut mare at the show last year, and apparently she is for sale http://ihsgb.co.uk/sales/horses-for-sale/
We arrived the day before the show started and My Mate Roger set up camp, a cozy tent, blow up bed and sheepskins for them, and a tiny little paddock with practically no grass for us. Quite how I am expected to be awesome in these conditions is beyond me. Well, okay My Mate Roger did provide some haylage and there were two bucket filled with water. The Woman complained that she had to keep filling them as Blondie was convinced they were there just to provide entertainment and kept picking them up, tipping the water out and waving them around. Eventually they were replaced with a bigger version which Blondie couldn’t tip over.
Gradually the field filled up with other horses in little paddocks, and humans in lorries, tents, caravans or just sleeping in their horses stable on wheels! There was a good deal of chatter, hugging and comparing notes about what everyone had been doing over the winter. Of course being a celebrity horse most people knew what I had been up to anyway, but still lots of humans came over to admire me.
There was a really good turn out for the show, and some people had come a long way just to watch us awesome Icelandic horses in action, but I was not feeling my best, and My Mate Roger was concerned. I felt a bit down, and didn’t even eat all my haylage and that had My Mate Roger really worried. He didn’t want to make a fuss, so he quietly withdrew me from one of my classes, saying that we wanted to focus on just the one. I don’t like to make a fuss either, or worry my fans, so I am only mentioning this so you understand why I didn’t do much at the show. I am sure that if I had been feeling myself I would have brought home lots of rosettes.
However we did enter the T1 Tolt class. In this class you show one round of slow tolt, change the rein and show fast tolt on the long sides of the oval track and slow on the short sides, and then one round to fast tolt. It’s a very demanding class, and I was competing with some of the top horses, and many of the riders and horses have been to the World Championships!
I put in a good performance, and although I didn’t initially qualify for the final I had only just missed out, so when another horse was withdrawn I was offered a place. My Mate Roger declined for me, he said I had done my bit, and was not on top form. In my excitement last year I went from Beginners level straight to Pro, I have done the T1 now and proved I can be a sports horse if I want to be, I have decided I am going to semi-retire and be a part time Sport horse as my real expertise is in rambling. At the next show I am going to enter the Intermediate classes as I haven’t done those yet.
I have done my bit and this show was Blondie’s turn to shine. He was entered in two classes, the Beginners Tolt and the Pairs class where you ride with another horse and show walk, trot, tolt and canter. Each horse gets a mark for each gait, and the best mark in each gait is used to score the pair overall.
Blondie qualified for the final in the Beginners Tolt holding the lead position, and then he rode in the pairs class. He and his partner horse won sixth place in the pairs and the Woman was very pleased with him, not because he showed all the gaits well, he didn’t. He didn’t trot at all and he cantered on the wrong lead, but she was pleased with him because he behaved well on the track and didn’t get over excited, he tried to do as he was asked, and he did canter all the way round the track, instead of pacing when asked to canter which he sometimes does. Blondie was really tired after the first day at the show.
The next day was finals day and Blondie had to improve his score, or at least stay the same to win. In previous shows he has always done less well on day two, but he is older and stronger now, and I had taught him all I could, it was all up to him…and he won! For the next show he will be in the Intermediate classes competing against me!
The next show is on the 16th and 17th May again in Verwood, Dorset. There will be lots of fabulous Icelandic horses on show, and of course I will be there with Blondie. Come along and visit us. Details of the show are here http://www.oakfield-icelandics.co.uk/
Here’s a tip, of you do come the last section of the road is a track with some potholes so take it slowly. Also just when you think you must have gone the wrong way, keep going – under a bridge and follow the track, as it just goes a little up hill and to the right you will see the sign for Oakfield Farm.
Some photos of those amazing Icelandic horses are below
It’s tough being famous, emotionally and physically draining, a fact that My Mate Roger does not seem to grasp. I work hard at keeping my stout round figure, as befits a hardy feisty horse of the Vikings, but I am constantly thwarted by his scheming. Once I even had to suffer the indignity of a ‘grazing muzzle’, and that’s an oxymoron as big as you have ever seen. These contraptions are in fact ‘anti-grazing’ devises, and even with my dexterous prehensile lips I had to work extra hard to snuffle up even a tiny amount of grass. It was not to be tolerated and I showed my displeasure by tossing my head and galloping around the field, but the humans did not relent. When the nasty thing began to rub my nose I appealed to the Woman, who is always more open to emotional blackmail than My Mate Roger, and it worked, briefly. After a day without the muzzle, spent eating as much as possible, it re-appeared with a hand-stitched fleecy lining! More concerted action was required.
I attacked the muzzle with my front hoof, which the humans had helpfully fitted with a metal shoe, and after two days the webbing finally gave way. With a shake of my head I was free. I stamped on it a few times, to make sure it wasn’t getting up and set about eating as much as possible before My Mate Roger returned.
His next plan of attack was electric fencing, and this I admit has me stumped. I don’t like the stuff, having once got tangled up in it when I first arrived to live with My Mate Roger. He had arranged a nice little safe paddock from where I could be introduced to the other horses, Big Fat Cob and a big fat painted horse. Having spent a long time in the stable on wheels and not knowing where I was I thought a nice roll would sort me out, but I misjudged the fencing, got a sharp shock and when I tried to run away the fencing came with me, followed by two fat cobs and they didn’t look friendly. I kept running, and they kept chasing until My Mate Roger stepped in and stopped them , and the Woman cornered me and wrapped her arms around my neck to stop me running. I needed a treat after all that excitement and fortunately she had carrots.
I did reach a truce with Big Fat Cob eventually, essentially by agreeing that he was in charge, and if there was any food going it was his. I have had to use all my Icelandic intellect, which is pretty awesome, to out-wit Big Fat Cob and get some of his share of the hay. Method number one, and not for the faint hearted, is to gradually edge closer and closer keeping a careful eye on his ears. If they flick back stop immediately and wait for him to relax. This is repeated until I am in optimum position, close enough to reach the hay with my front hoof, but not so close so as to provoke a full on lunge and snapping teeth. Next I reach out with my front hoof and scrape some hay towards me, out of snapping range, and then I reach down, extend my prehensile lips and eat the hay spaghetti style.
Method two is far more devious and depends on the relative differences between my intellect and that of Big Fat Cob, as well as the fact that Big Fat Cob is a spooky horse who thinks that horse eating dragons live all around, where as I know they do not exist. It’s very simple, whilst eating hay I spook suddenly and run away, taking Big Fat Cob with me. Once he is nicely on his toes a small spook is enough to send him far enough away to grab some of his hay, and if properly executed just a big flinch is enough. Devious eh?
All year I battle to keep my weight on, and all year My Mate Roger battles to keep it off. Even in winter I can put weight on, while the whole rest of the heard is slimming down. My Mate Roger is baffled, but I am full of tricks. I eat stuff that Big Fat Cob doesn’t even know is edible, I am first in the queue when there are any treats going, and hang about at places I know humans will appear at certain times, and if in doubt, in the absence of food, I conserve energy by doing absolutely nothing. I can do absolutely nothing for hours and hours.
My Mate Roger has made it onto the first Icelandic Horse Society of Great Britain Rankings as a winner in 2014!
MMR said ‘I can’t take credit for this alone, behind every riding achievement is a great horse’. Well I am sure this is what he would have said if I had asked him.
The Woman also had some glory in the elementary tölt rankings. The rankings are a new development for the IHSGB.